Chinese Democracy. Those two words have become synonymous with one of the most anticipated, legendary and mythical albums in rock history. Fourteen years in the making, by the time 2005 rolled around, production costs for the album reached $13 million and counting (according to a New York Times article published in March of that year.) All for an album few thought, aside from perhaps members of the band and die hard Guns N' Roses fans, would ever see the light of day - at least in official form.
Truth be told, many simply stopped caring after many years of numerous delays and false reporting of release dates which came and went with no payoff, save for the odd track such as "Oh My God", a rumored song from the album which was released as part of the soundtrack to the 1999 Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick 'End Of Days'.
So it was with hardened and cynical ears the rock world heard of an actual November 2008 release date set for this white elephant of an album. But also with such scepticism came curiosity. If indeed it actually saw the light of day, what songs would be on the final listing? Would the tracks be the same as the ones leaked onto the Internet numerous times? Which musicians of the seemingly cast of thousands (actually a little more than twenty) would appear? Would GNR mastermind and sole original member Axl Rose pull the plug on the whole thing altogether at the last minute?
All such questions were duly answered when lo and behold, in late November 2008, the album finally hit store shelves exclusively at Best Buy here in the United States. While no album could possibly have lived up to the huge expectation surrounding the release, amazingly it holds up as a cohesive, logical progression from the band's last full length offerings, 'Use Your Illusion Pt 1 & 2'. While seeming to polarize long term fans expecting another 'Appetite For Destruction', more open-minded listeners will find the album to be, despite the odds against it being so - one damn fine rock record which gets better with consecutive listening.
One of the major components in the creation of the album is Brooklyn born guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, who on the recommendation of Joe Satriani, joined the band in mid 2006. The only axeman to appear on all tracks of the release, either via rhythm parts or lead work, his talent cuts through the thick, at times grandiose production, displaying the guitar wizardry which has been evident over the course of a decade-plus long recording career, prior to his hooking up with Axl Rose & Co.
Nine CD's, a live DVD, numerous appearances on various compilations and being a guest performer on other artists' work have established him as a force to be reckoned with within the guitar community. The exposure afforded to him by recording and touring world - wide with one of the most high profile bands of the past 20 years is sure to spread the word on this humble, down to earth yet technically astounding musician.
Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Thal just outside of Los Angeles at the Burbank Airport, for a candid conversation punctuated from time to time with the sounds of jets taking off. Topics discussed included the aforementioned 'Chinese Democracy', the guitarist's new solo release 'Barefoot : The Acoustic Sessions', how being in one of the biggest bands in rock has changed his life, his philosophy on making music and much more.
Special thanks to Barbara Lysiak for coordinating, and a very BIG thanks to Ron Thal for doing this interview with Nightwatcher's House Of Rock!
Interview and text by Nightwatcher © 2009
May 31, 2009
Nightwatcher's House Of Rock : You have a new EP 'Barefoot : The Acoustic Sessions' out which consists of acoustic versions of songs from earlier albums. Why do an acoustic album now? How do you feel that came out?
Ron Thal : I'll tell you, it's something that I never did before. Yet, most of the time when I'm just noodling around on guitar, I'm on an acoustic, doing versions of whatever I hear. So it just seemed like something good to do. Plus, 'Chinese Democracy' was on its way towards coming out, and I didn't know what the schedule was going to be like... whether we were going to be touring, or what was going to be happening. I thought, let me just do this. Let me just start banging out some songs. It was great, because it was like doing cover versions of my own shit. (Laughs)
I was reinterpreting parts. Figuring out... okay, I've got this part that's all tapping, a high energy guitar part. How can I translate that to an acoustic instrument? I was just getting creative with it that way. Dynamically it was great. Vocally I didn't have to be so loud. I personally feel that it's the best thing I've ever done. The best guitar playing, the best singing and the best versions of the songs that I've ever done.
NHOR : Was it liberating for you to be able to revisit those songs and change them up a bit?
RT : Yeah it was. It was really a damn cool thing. I'd love to do a few more of those kinds of things. To do it again, grab another batch of songs, twist 'em up and make them look pretty. (Laughs)
NHOR : Are you pleased with the response you've received for it so far?
RT : Yes, but it's the kind of thing with every album you put out. You want people to freak out over it and go, "Oh that's the greatest thing I've ever heard in my life!" And I don't think I pushed it enough to the right audience. I think my audience, which is used to noodly noodly guitar shit, I don't know if they get it completely. I think a lot of them do, but then again a lot of them just want to hear a bunch of pyrotechnics and that kind of stuff. So I think it's going to be a slow move as the audience for it discovers it.
But it's happening. I'm finding every once in awhile that someone will come to me and say, "Hey, I heard your acoustic stuff. I play acoustic guitar too, and I really liked it. I never heard your music before and it's really cool." So that's good when you know that it's reaching the right ears that will appreciate that kind of stuff. That's what it's about. The whole world isn't supposed to like any piece of music. You just have to find the people that it was meant for, and make sure they get it. That they're aware of it, check it out, and decide whether or not it's for them.
NHOR : You had an online poll on your web site where fans could choose which songs were to be included on the release. How important is that sort of interaction with your audience to you, and what influence does it have in regards to what you record?
RT : It's very important. It's everything. Because of course you do this for yourself, and for your own satisfaction because you have to. You'll die if you don't. But it's for them. Once you start getting a core audience, start knowing these people, and they're your musical family, you're making it for them too. I like having them be part of it. The 'Abnormal' album was the same way. I did things to include them in different ways. I definitely wanted to do that. I had a batch of songs, and I said, "I have time for one more song, and I want you guys to choose it." I kept it really simple. "What song would you like to hear?" They all kept blurting out a list of songs, someone compiled that list, and the one mentioned the most was the one that I did. I went in and recorded that one and started the album with it.
NHOR : You just mentioned your last full studio release 'Abnormal'. That was, as are all of your solo works, a very eclectic offering, running the gamut from the very heavy to progressive, to even pop-like qualities. How important do you feel it is for a player to listen to a diverse cross section of music?
RT : I don't know if it's important in the sense of it being mandatory, like they should, and if they don't they'll lose something. But I personally think that the more you know the better you are. That's true for anything in life. Education and knowledge never hurts. Experience never hurts. Well, sometimes it hurts, but it's still good for you in the end. But the more you explore the more it broadens you as a person. Then when you go to make music you're drawing from a broader place. There's just more to express. There's a fine line between being focused and... unfocused (Laughs).
I find usually I end up having three hats that I'm wearing per album. One is the crazy guitar oriented stuff, one is super heavy, and the other one is the pretty songs. Those are the three things you're going to find on any of my albums. You can make three columns and divide up the album. These songs are in this column, those songs are in that column, and these are in this column. It just works out that way. I don't plan it that way, but it always seems to be that way. I'm not going to try and fight it. I'm just going to let whatever it is come out. Keep it pure, for better or worse. I just want it to be as honest and legitimate as I can. If I would've tried to sell more records by forcing something more focused, perhaps that would've happened, but I feel like I just need to be who I am right now.
NHOR : Along those same lines... In terms of being an artist, what effect has playing in Guns N' Roses had on you, either creatively or commercially speaking?
RT : Well, let's just say the roller coaster has sped up. (Laughs) Gone through bigger turns, twists and ups and downs... everything's been much more intense since joining. So I think it's reflected a bit in the music, whether there's a little more energy or edginess to it, I think I've become a bit more energetic and edgy as a person. (Laughs)
NHOR : Do you feel playing the Guns songs a lot has had an influence on your own music, structure-wise, at all?
RT : I think so. Anything, if you keep playing it, and it becomes part of what you do, as soon as you go to create or embellish... whatever you draw from in your approach... definitely I could feel that in a lot of my songs I was putting in guitar melodies that dance around, compliment or contrast the vocal lines in a way that a couple of years ago I may not have. I think it would have been impossible for it not to have had an effect after playing the songs hundreds of times.
NHOR : Regarding your own playing, technique-wise, how would you rate it? Are you satisfied with your progression as a guitarist?
RT : I'll never be satisfied. That's true of most guitar players. No matter how good you did that night, and you have someone come up to you and say man, you kicked ass that night! You'll be like, yeah, but I fucked up this one solo... I wasn't tight on this part... man, I've got to go practice more. Then you'll lock yourself in a room all depressed, starve yourself and play guitar for 10 hours. (Laughs) That never changes. And the day it does change, and you become complacent, is the day you start losing your shit.
NHOR : Do you think that there's anywhere to go with the guitar that hasn't been gone already?
RT : Probably. Where that is, I'm not quite sure. I think that Eddie Van Halen was kind of like the Thomas Edison of the guitar. What can be done now past what he's done? Sound-wise, playing-wise? That little fretless thing was kind of cool, but in the sense that a fretless guitar is almost like a different instrument. It plays so differently, playing along the strings as opposed to bending them. What can be done? I guess we'll find out over the next twenty years.
Usually technology plays a major role in that. There's a lot of things which wouldn't have happened if the amps didn't have enough drive to allow that sound to come out. Whether it has to do with harmonics or sustain. So I guess it would depend on where technology goes. That will definitely play at least a partial role in what comes next.
NHOR : In your personal opinion do you feel that there will be another player who will come along and revolutionize the way the instrument is played the way Hendrix or Van Halen did?
RT : I hope so. That would be kind of cool. I look back at people who died back around when I was born, and they were putting out their best work then, and there's a certain thing that makes them feel like more of a legend. I never got to see them, and I wish I could've. Then you meet someone who did, and you're like, "Wow, what was it like to see them live?!" That kind of thing's part of it. The fact that it's gone.
I suppose twenty years from now we'll be looking back and recognizing the legends of today who we might not be realizing are right now. There will be people who inspire, who innovate. But I think we may need a bit of time for hindsight, to be able to look back on it when we're not immersed in it in the moment. At that time when we look to see who did it, it'll probably be pretty clear.
NHOR : Are there any other guitarists or bands these days that have caught your ear who are innovative that perhaps people should know about?
RT : Yeah. I'll mention Matthias Eklundh. Definitely he is. For physical prowess and technique, I'd have to say my good buddy Guthrie Govan. I think actually that there's a whole generation of guitar players who sprung up in the early 90's that probably didn't get as much notice because guitar wasn't quite the favorable thing during the days of grunge. I think guys like me, Buckethead, Matthias and those kind of guys came from that school of having a bit of a fusion background, a lot of technique, with a twisted, quirky vibe. I figure it took around 10 to 15 years for everyone to get on the map and get noticed. Only a few people were aware of what we were doing back in the early 90's. There was some very interesting shit that hopefully kids will get a chance to look back on now and rediscover and appreciate it.
NHOR : You're featured on a new compilation on Magna Carta, 'Guitars That Ate My Brain', which besides yourself also features Chris Poland, Devin Townsend and James Murphy among others, and it seems as if this is a throwback to the days of Shrapnel, or the Guitar World compilations which were prevalent back in the 80's and early-to-mid 90's. How did you come about being involved in the album?
RT : It was pretty interesting. I was talking with Pete Morticelli, who runs Magna Carta, and he was teling me how Shane Gibson from KoRn was originally writing a lot of the music for it. Actually he's another phenomenal player that deserves mention. He's a monster player. What happened was he wanted to finish up the album, and he had this idea for having a bunch of songs written in different styles of metal. One that sounds somewhat like Sabbath, one that sounds like Maiden, one that sounds maybe like Opeth. Things like that. I helped him get it all together.
I hired a young guy, an up and coming producer, a really good guitar player by the name of Jeremy Krull. He wrote a bunch of songs and took care of a lot of the recording. I had my own drummer who plays on all my stuff, Dennis Leeflang, he laid down a whole bunch of drum parts, and we did about a half dozen songs. Then we got in touch with James and had all the players laying solos down. It was really cool. I got in touch with Mike Orlando, and to me, he's the highlight of the album. I've known him since we went to high school together, so we've known each other for a good twenty years. My drummer Dennis plays with him also when he plays live, I've played guest solos on his album, so it's like everyone's connected. But he's another player who deserves mention. He's a fucking monster on guitar. It's sick to watch him. With his hands, it's like watching someone in fast motion. He's just a sick, sick player. Then other guys who had their songs already mixed and ready to go brought theirs in.
Guys like Kris Norris and all those guys brought in their own stuff. We mixed it, I took care of the mastering and we got it out there. It was a really fun project. It took a while for it to come together, getting songs from people. Other people were planning to do it, then at the last minute couldn't. It probably took a year longer than we intended it to. It was kind of like the 'Chinese Democracy' of guitar albums. (Laughs) I think it took a total of a year, year and a half total to get it all together. There wasn't even that much stuff to do, it's just the more people that were involved, with 12 guitarists involved there was a lot of coordinating. Each one slowed things down a little bit (Laughs) Not by choice, it just happens that way. I found that when it comes to making music, however long you think something's going to take, multiply that by three, and that's realistically how long it's going to take.
NHOR : You were recommended to Axl and Guns N' Roses by Joe Satriani, then they sent you an email, which led to you eventually joining the band. Being an independent artist, did you ever have any trepidation regarding joining the band?
RT : And I'm still pissed at him about it. (Laughs) I did have some hesitation at first, because I had just got my life where I was completely master of my own domain in every way. My life was totally mine, and I had it balanced perfectly between teaching music at the college, doing guest gigs, putting out my own albums and touring with that. Producing other people, doing things in the studio, I had a million things going on. I had it perfectly balanced, and I just knew that if I joined Guns that the majority of those things would have to stop because I wouldn't physically be there to do it, and it wasn't something I could do on the road.
It was a question of, do I want to give up all of these things? Even though playing with GNR is a much bigger thing, it's all about happiness, satisfaction and gratification. A lot of things that mean more than being on the map, fame or whatever else. Not that I ever did it for that. It was more like I met with them, we jammed and hit it off. Once that happened, I had a personal connection towards it, and we just kept it going.
NHOR : You were preceded in the band by Slash, and then Buckethead. Was one of the prerequisites to you being asked to join Guns N' Roses, besides your obvious talent, having a nickname?
RT : You know... I don't know. I've been asked that question so many times, do you have to have a fucked up name to be considered for the band? And, I'm starting to wonder if maybe I only got the gig because of my name. Maybe they think I suck. (Laughs) Maybe they think, hey the guy sucks, he's a jerk to play with but... he's got a stupid name, so let's keep him.
NHOR : What would you say was the biggest adjustment for you in terms of being well known pretty much only in the 'shred guitar underground' then going to one of the biggest bands in the world?
RT : Some of the biggest adjustments were not having to lug my own gear. That was the first thing. At the end of every GNR show, the first thing that I'd do was I'd grab my amp and start bringing it towards the back. All the crew members are like, "Let go of that. That's our job." So, I'm like, what am I supposed to do with myself? The gig isn't done until you throw your shit in the van or the car. (Laughs) So there was that kind of thing. You know, you're used to roughing it for 30 years, then suddenly it's made so easy, you're thinking what am I getting paid for? You mean just to perform? That's not enough. I need to break my back. I need to hurt myself. Jokingly of course, although it's partially true. You mean all I have to do is show up and play guitar? I don't have to go fight with the club owner for money? (Laughs)
It's just a totally different situation than anything I'd ever done before. Because it's the only time I've been in a band other than my own. There were situations where I was offered to play in other things and I turned it down, going back to when I was 17. But there's just something about this. A little voice in my head said check it out and see how it goes. Here we are three years later... actually it's five years later since we all first spoke and started making plans. Now 'Chinese Democracy' is done and out and hopefully we'll get on the road in the not too distant future and start playing the shit out of these songs.
NHOR : Any plans yet for touring that you're aware of?
RT : Right now nothing is confirmed. Nothing is definite. If pieces fall into place, it could happen. That's the most political way I can say I know nothing. (Laughs) In other words, it could happen, I hope it happens, maybe it'll happen, I'd like for it to happen. I know a lot of other people who would like for it to happen, and if everything works out it will happen. But there are a lot of variables involved, down to every little thing to making sure that all the pieces are in place so that we can do this the right way.
NHOR : That's a very skillful way of dodging that question, I'm impressed....
RT : Thank you. I'm getting good at this. I think I'm going to run for mayor soon. I've had years of practice now. (Laughs)
NHOR : Now that 'Chinese Democracy' has been released, are you relieved that at last you don't have to continually answer the question, "When is the album coming out?"
RT : No, because now everyone's saying, "When's the next album coming out?" (Laughs)
NHOR : So... when's the next Guns album coming out?
RT : There ya go. I think it was about two days before people starting coming up and asking me, "So, when's the next album coming out?" Man, give us a chance. (Laughs)
NHOR : Are you satisfied with your performances on 'Chinese Democracy', or are there some that you wish you could go back and change?
RT : I'm as satisfied as I'm capable of being. Because no matter what I do, within a week I'm hearing all the things that I'd want to do differently. What I'd want to add, change the tone, or replay. That's always how it is. Because with any album, the mixing process is never done. It continues for years after the album's out, it's just happening in your head. And the stuff that's in your head, you can't do anything about it. You're haunted by it. So within a week of anything I do, whether it's my album or 'Chinese Democracy', I start getting haunted by little things. Like, how I bent that note, man I should've got more of a squeal out of it. Or, shit, I should've put a harmony on this. I could've had a better melody for that. Whatever it is. So I am as happy as I'm capable of being.
NHOR : Your solo albums and with your band Bumblefoot are very non-commercial in relation to what gets played on radio these days. Whereas with Guns there's a much better chance something you've played will be played on radio. How did you feel hearing something you've played on, such as the new GNR, on the radio for the first time?
RT : I think I felt hungry. I was on my way to dinner. (Laughs) It was cool. The first time I heard it there was a feeling of relief. Not just for myself, but there were so many GNR fans who were waiting for so long for music to be legitimately released. It was a feeling of being happy for them, that they finally got that, after such a long wait and sticking it out, that something was finally out there. I was pretty damn happy.
NHOR : The album recently was certified platinum here in the United States. Amongst the Guns camp, is there satisfaction in how the album has sold thus far?
RT : It's hard to say. I think it's pretty much a given, with pretty much any musician, no matter how much it sells, you're going to want to sell more. Those are the driving forces that keep musicians going. The constant striving to do more, do better, to up it even more. That's just something which is inherent in every musician's nature. So I never really asked them. I never said, "Hey Axl, are you happy with this shit?" (Laughs) We don't talk about that stuff. We talk about stupid movies, crack jokes and stuff like that.
But I could only assume that most people feel like I do. I would love to do more videos, and just shove it down the world's throat even more. I would love to get out there and play for every person that has ears and do whatever we can. Because you know, when you put out an album, it's like having a baby. You want to raise that baby for the most life that it can have. You want to do what you can for it. So it's that kind of thing. What can I do to give this baby a better life? That's pretty much how it is. So no matter how well it's doing you always want more for it. It's the paternal instinct.
NHOR : What is the one thing that people would be surprised to know about Axl?
RT : I don't know. I find that people that don't know him are the ones that have all these crazy ideas about him. The people that do know him have a lot of good things to say about him. He's got some really nice friends who have become my friends. I've crossed the line from people that don't know him to one who does, and I don't know what people know or don't know anymore. I do know that there's a lot of wrong information about him out there. It kind of bums me out to see and read things that I know are totally bullshit.
NHOR : A lot of people have this conception of the new Guns N' Roses just being Axl and the rest of you being hired hands, which I'm sure you're aware of. How much of a band is this configuration?
RT : That's just part of the whole negative crap that's part of the baggage of being a new Guns N' Roses. That whole thing of blah blah blah, they're just hired guns... blah blah blah... they're not the original members blah blah blah you're not my real mommy, blah blah blah. (Laughs)
Considering there are guys in the band who have been there 18 years to whatever amount of time it is, and considering that we see each other on a daily basis, and when we're not, we're speaking to each other all the time, hanging out and doing things together, jamming and playing on each other's albums, and doing everything band members do... I'd say it's pretty much a band. Whether people want to acknowledge that or not, that's up to them, and whatever floats their boat. It doesn't change the truth.
NHOR : How would it compare in those terms to your solo band?
RT : I would say that it's more of a band than my own band. Absolutely. In my own band, it is everything that people want to say negatively about GNR. (Laughs) My band is really me, who writes all the songs, then Dennis comes in and kicks ass on them, but then I go and play bass and rhythm guitar and do everything else besides the drumming. Then when I do play live, I do hire friends or whoever to play bass and rhythm guitar. So in my case they are a bunch of hired guns, other than Dennis, who is really more of my right hand guy. We work together, and I do things for him as well. We just have a musical relationship that's gone on for years.
NHOR : Growing up as you did in Brooklyn, I'm sure you went to many concerts at Madison Square Garden. What was it like for you to finally be playing there as a headliner? Did you ever think you'd be playing there?
RT : It's one of those things where as a child you see KISS there, with the makeup, and the bombs, the spitting of blood and everything, the fire, the smoking guitar, and you say to yourself, "Man, someday I want to do this." Then after decades of life kicking your ass, your goal is more of, "I just want to pay my rent and it'll be cool." (Laughs)
Then when it finally happens, and you set foot on that stage playing, and you've finished the show, you're like, "Alright, I did it". I pretty much remember saying that I could retire now happily. If it all ended here, I would be okay. Because it was that one lifelong thing that every New York musician wishes for. "Someday I'm going to play The Garden." To finally do it was one of those things where you feel like you've been climbing a mountain for 30 years, then you finally reach the top, and you get to stick a little flag in it.
NHOR : Going to the other extreme, what has been your most embarrassing moment onstage?
RT : One that comes to mind was when my 'Foot' guitar broke in front of 10,000 people. It was either in Greece or Turkey. I go to hit the bar, the wings start flapping, and then a bunch of wood just fell from the bottom of the guitar and landed on my feet. The bottom wing just kind of fell down and stuck there. I'm like, awww shit. I had about three seconds to absorb the whole situation of, "Oh shit my favorite guitar just died" and "Oh shit, it just died while everyone's staring at me." This is supposed to be my guitar solo, I'm standing alone onstage, and I'm supposed to play for the next five minutes, with a wing hanging down. I don't know if it was embarrassing as much as one of those "Oh shit" moments. It takes a lot to get me embarrassed, but I'd say that was one where things didn't go as planned. (Laughs)
NHOR : As a solo artist you've long embraced the Internet as a way to get your music out, even going as far in the days of Napster to putting your own tracks on the service for people to download for free. How do you reconcile your very liberal attitude towards downloading with the obvious commercial concerns of being on a huge release such as Guns N' Roses?
RT : Here's how I feel about it. File sharing is a wonderful thing, as long as an artist has a choice in the matter. That's really what it's about. When I did it, it was by choice. It's one thing if you want to give people something, but it's another thing if people take from you, and you feel that your freedom has been taken away. To give or not give. To me, that's part of the issue. People should have the right to give away and share their music for free, or at any price. That's pretty much where I'm at. I think that when people steal the music, if it were a way for them to discover new music they probably wouldn't have bought anyway, it's not like you're losing a sale, because they had no intention of buying it anyway. If they liked it that much, and felt supportive enough of the artist, they'll spend the $10 dollars and buy the damn thing. If they really don't give a shit, they never would have bought it. For them to hear it on their own computer by stealing it, as opposed to hearing it over at a friend's house and still not buying it, or borrowing it from someone just to check it out, I don't think you're losing a sale. It's just that it's all right in our faces now, and it becomes an issue of being violated before your own eyes. (Laughs)
There's nothing you can do about it, but at the same time I think it has reached some sort of epidemic proportions to the point where it used to be just major bands that people were trading. Now a band that is just barely supporting themselves, an indie band that supports themselves by releasing albums, and has spent thousands of dollars out of their own pocket, and people are taking it... nothing is safe anymore, and I think it's hurting a lot of bands that aren't getting the support they would have if people weren't stealing their shit. There are a lot of small indie bands who are being hurt by this.
NHOR : Even big bands are being affected by it. Do you have any estimate on how many sales were lost by GNR for 'Chinese Democracy' due to illegal downloads?
RT : I don't know. All I know is that my last CD 'Abnormal', about three weeks after I released it was when I first started finding torrent files of it. I checked one, and there had been 1,500 downloads just of that torrent of it. That file was on the Internet for about a week. So it's at a point now where I don't think you can fairly assess the success of an album anymore by its sales. You have to assess it by its downloads. You have to start asking the philosophical question, is it how many albums you sell, or is it how many copies people have? How do you assess it now? Is it only SoundScan that you're going to consider legitimate? Because if that's the case, yeah, GNR went Platinum, but if you go by how many people just torrented a copy as well, it's probably quadruple Platinum.
NHOR : How long do you give the music industry as it has been of surviving? Do you feel it's on its last legs?
RT : I've always said that the music industry is a flawed system and it needs to go. It hurt artists, and nobody was benefitting. I know artists weren't happy, and the labels weren't happy either, so it wasn't working for anybody. Something needed to change. I would like to see what I've always wanted to see, and that's a more direct connection between the artists and the fans. To cut out as many middlemen as possible, and keep it like that. That's what I started doing, as soon as the technology allowed it. Just get on the Internet and go directly to people.
NHOR : With your reputation in the guitar scene, and the past several years now in Guns N' Roses, having three signature guitars and being featured in all the guitar magazines, undoubtedly I'm sure you have many aspiring, and even more experienced players coming up to you asking for advice. What is the biggest aspect you get asked regarding your playing?
RT : I guess it would be, "How do you get those high, squeaky notes?" (Laughs) Then I show them the whole thimble technique of just having the metal cap on your finger so when you tap with it, it's almost like, instead of fretting down on the neck you're past the neck and it's like having your finger act like a fret, and pressing it against the string for notes that are beyond the fretboard. That's one thing that a lot of them ask about.
NHOR : What advice would you give to a young player just starting out?
RT : As far as playing, I'd say be happy. Do it because you enjoy it, and let that be the main goal. Don't be too concerned about being successful, being famous, getting laid, or whatever. Other toxic goals might interfere with the purity of spirit that you should have when you're making art. Keep it real. Keep it honest, do what you love and express yourself. Fuck what anybody else thinks. Just do it because you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, there will be other people who will find your music and enjoy it as well. Remember that you're making it for those people. Don't start making it for the people who don't like it, do it for the people who do.
Think of it like a menu. There's some guy who doesn't like lobster, but you keep it on the menu for the people who do. You don't remove it for the people who don't. Make music for the people that do like it, and for all the ones who don't, they're going to voice their opinion and who gives a shit? Their opinion means nothing, because it's not meant for them. They're giving an opinion on something that they don't like. So what's the point? It's pointless. So that would be my advice, to not let all the naysayers and people who do nothing get in the way. Don't let them take away your happiness.
NHOR : Is there anything else you'd like to say to all your fans?
RT : Thank you for keeping an open mind with all the wacky things I've done. Whether it's chopping guitars down into strange things, or making strange music, or playing with Guns N' Roses, I hope they enjoy it, and I hope to see them all soon and share the experience together.
For more information on Ron Thal go to this location http://www.bumblefoot.com/
For more information on Guns N' Roses go to http://www.gunsnroses.com