originally published at Tinfoil Music
Date: Tuesday, March 08 2005 @ 13:26:28 GMT
(editor's note: Ron has since gone on to join Guns-n-Roses)
Ron Thal. They call him, affectionately, "Bumblefoot". He is a god of the underground rock guitar scene, fusing heavy rock sounds with all manner of esoterica, experimenting effortlessly with weird harmonies, blazing speed, odd sounds, near-criminal abuse of his gear....
He hit the scene around 1990 with a spot in Mike Varney's "Spotlight" column in Guitar Player Magazine, and has forged ahead ever since, racking up 6 solo releases, various guest appearances, compilation CDs ("Crushing Days [tribute to Satriani], "Ominous Guitarists from the Unknown", etc.), and several soundtracks (including the 1996 videogame "Wild Woody"). He has also worked with various bands as producer, and now runs his own recording studio.
Ron has interviewed other players and written lessons for several guitar magazines, and has been interviewed by almost every noteworthy guitar magazine and web-site on the planet. He also keeps a full recording and touring schedule, as well as performing at guitar clinics like the upcoming "Freak-Foot" clinic at the Raleigh Music Academy in June which will feature Ron and his buddy (& fellow "Guitar Gods" interviewee) Matthias "Freak Guitar" Eklundh. You can find all sort of info on Ron's activities by visiting his web-site.
I had a chance to speak to Ron recently. Check it out!
1) What are your current projects?
Last year I bought an old house in Princeton NJ that I converted into a studio. I don't live there, it's a place to focus completely on music. I do a lot of producing - it's what I love most. Working with different artists, collaborating and creating. One artist to check out is named Q*Ball (see his web-site here). We just finished his second CD, "Fortune Favors the Bald" and it kicks serious ass. He's an electro-pop artist with a sound that mixes 80s new-wave with DJ loop kinda stuff - great songs. I've also been teaching music production at SUNY Purchase College in NY for the past year, which is cool. I gotta say though, my favorite thing to do, maybe even more than music, is carpentry and construction. When I bought the old house, it took a shitload of work and the work is never done - wanna add new circuits, redo the plumbing, put up new walls - all that kinda stuff. I love watching home shows - "In A Fix" on TLC kicks ass. Ain't that funny, usually a guy works all day doing construction and can't wait to get outta work and make music - I make music all day and can't wait to finish so I can go knock down a wall. That ain't right.
2) How does this (do these) differ from your past work?
In the past I always had my own band and went the more traditional route - release an album, gig anywhere. I would have been perfectly content with that if the band was a team, but it was usually me giving 100% commitment and devotion and other people twiddling their thumbs saying "Did ya make me a rockstar yet?" Fuck that. Now I have the ultimate freedom to do what the fuck I want and I love it. As an artist I write songs, release albums, tour with the coolest musicians, I guest on other people's stuff, play with other people as their guitarist, there's the producing thing, plus writing songs for TV and film once in a while. I'm starting to work on an instructional DVD - still at the point of gathering footage that has nothing to do with guitar, haha. Funny stuff...
3) Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?
Guitar-wise, I'm most proud of the guest solos I lay on other people's stuff. Playing to someone else's music brings out ideas I don't usually come up with. Most recently, played on Richard Daude's song for a Shawn Lane tribute CD, a guest on Chris Godin's solo CD, did the song "Fire" with amazing drummer Dennis Leeflang for a Hendrix tribute, a solo for keyboardist Mistheria's solo CD - they should all be out this year. I'll post clips on bumblefoot.com after the CDs are released...
4) Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear (live and/or studio)?
Real simple, live and in the studio. Vigier guitars plugged into a Line6 Vetta amp. The Vigier guitars have DiMarzio pickups in 'em (Tone Zone - bridge, Choper - neck). The guitars I use most are the foot guitar and the fretless. For the Vetta amp, I combine an old classic Marshall JCM800 sound with a little clean Fender sound to bring out the dynamics.
5) Who would you cite as early influences, and who are you favorite new players?
My earliest influences - the Beatles, for the beauty; and Kiss, for the energy. The first guitarist influence was Eddie Van Halen. The first thing I heard was the intro to "Mean Streets" and it screwed me up for life. In a good way of course. There are so many cool new players out there - Mattias Eklundh for one. We're supposed to do an album together this year but we're both so damn busy, it's more like an email every 2 months back-n-forth sayin' "yeah man, we gotta do that album..." Hopefully we'll be able to make it happen.
6) Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?
Don't overdo the practicing - the body can only expand a finite amount in 24 hours. An hour a day is good - spend the rest of the living and enjoying life - it will add more to your playing by giving you greater depths to derive from. And when ya practice, do more than just scales - practicing scales will make you great at playing scales, but ya might hit an eventual rut if ya don't work on your improv. And be diverse - if ya really wanna be able to put food on the table by making music, make sure you can do enough things where you're not depending on one avenue of income. Think of it like stocks - if you put everything in one and it crashes, you lose everything - don't let that happen.
7) What are your future plans?
Producing, writing, gigging, teaching, building, and maybe finishing that damn instructional DVD already. It's hard to say... ya never know what's gonna happen to change the course of things...
8) Thanx for talking to us, Ron!
My pleasure sir! Take care!