Calin Pacatius of Radio Romania Timisoara conducted an interview with Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal prior to the former GUNS N’ ROSES and current SONS OF APOLLO guitarist’s November 23 solo concert at Reflektor in Timisoara, Romania. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On his evolution as a musician and person:
Ron: “More white hairs. [Laughs] How is it evolved? How does anybody evolve? You just learn more things as time goes on. You evolve as a person and that tends to reflect itself in everything else. So, more life experiences, more of that and just every day I try and learn something. Maybe the trying helps. You do learn something. [Musically] I’m more in the pocket with the drummer now. When you’re younger, you’re like a jack rabbit. I’ve learned to slow down and let the drummer be the boss and be the leader that he’s supposed to be.”
On what the greatest virtue for a rock guitarist should be:
Ron: “Being on time. [Laughs] That’s a tough one. The greatest virtue of any guitarist, I would say, is really just their ability to play well with others in a band and be a part of something where there’s a machine that’s bigger than any of us. We are one piece of it and that makes it what it is. I’m a band guy; I love bands. So [that would be] being a good part of a good band.”
On the unique aspects of his guitar playing:
Ron: “I think there’s something unique about every single person. Every spirit has something unique. What is unique about mine? I don’t know. We’re all just the sum of our lives; the sum of our inspirations, the sum of our experiences, the sum of our gear. [Laughs] The sum of the music that we love. So, I guess what is it that makes me unique or different? If you want to get technical about it, you could say the thimble that I use on this finger [his pinky on his right hand], that’s one thing that I’ve been doing for a good 30 years where to get notes that are higher than the fretboard, instead of pressing the string against the metal fret and the string vibrates just from that point, I keep a metal cap on this finger that when I run out of frets, I can keep going and hit that down and the string will only vibrate from that point. It’s almost like a mobile guitar fret that you could move around and put where you want it to be. It’s mobile, it’s floating the same way the fretless neck is. Whereas when you press down, where you shorten the length of the string from is the pitch you’re going to get. So, it’s more about your fingers than the frets, which is probably what brings it all together, the whole fretless thing.”
On his contributions to GUNS N’ ROSES‘ 2008 album, “Chinese Democracy”:
Ron: “The fretless guitar and some of the melodies and things like that… Everybody contributed so much. There’s so many people. I don’t think there’s ever been an album, I don’t even want to say just rock music, but in music, in recorded music, that had so many people contributing from such a vast array of time and styles and everything to create this final masterpiece. It really is. If you really break down everything that is going on in that record, there is so much. It’s such a fragile balance of so many parts that works just right. Caram Costanzo, the producer, the guy that I spent 14 hours a day with, laying [down] guitar parts, [he’s] fantastic.”
On his vision for ART OF ANARCHY, the alternative rock band that also features former CREED vocalist Scott Stapp and DISTURBED bassist John Moyer:
Ron: “It’s interesting. That one, SONS OF APOLLO and that one both, you can really hear the members of the band. You can point out everybody’s personality and they’re very strong, which is good. That’s how it should be in a band. It should be very strong ingredients that make up an even stronger flavor when you put them together. Scott Stapp, you can recognize his voice from one word. You know it’s him. The melodies that he makes are just ear-candy. They’re just sweet. Moyer, he’s just always great at making just really cool grooves, just good modern rock grooves. He’s great at that. The Votta [Jon and Vince] brothers. They’re like old-school metalheads and they bring in this thrashy energy and then I will bring in, I guess, the [BEATLES producer] George Martin-y, certain harmonies or certain melodies and other things that go on top and production stuff, plus, my own guitar playing and co-writing with everybody. We all wrote together a lot of stuff. I think it’s a nice group of ingredients. You have my weirdo stuff, just a tad. You have the Votta’s thrashy, old-school metal energy, you have Stapp‘s radio-friendly, melodic voice and very identifiable sound to his voice. You have Moyer that just modernizes and makes it all groove. I think it works. I think it worked well. The album ‘The Madness’ came out in March 2017. The title track, reached, I think up to number 23 on the charts in the U.S., which is good.”
On the main goal of progressive rock/metal supergroup SONS OF APOLLO:
Ron: “To just be ourselves and do what we do. It’s the same exact thing [as ART OF ANARCHY]. It’s five people with definite personalities, that come together, you mix them together and it forms its own kind of thing. You can hear the individuals, but they come together and it’s something more than each of us. Billy [Sheehan, bass], you know the sound of his bass in a second. Mike [Portnoy, drums], the same thing. Every drummer, he’s the one. Derek [Sherinian, keyboards], I always say he’s the best guitar player on keyboards. The things he does…and [vocalist] Jeff Scott Soto, from the first time I heard his voice on [YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN albums] ‘Rising Force’ and ‘Marching Out’, he’s just an incredible singer and a great guy. Put us all together, you stick us in a room and say, ‘All right, make an album.’ After a week and a half, that’s what we did.”
Thal joined GUNS N’ ROSES in 2006, replacing Buckethead. He played with the band for eight years and performed on “Chinese Democracy”. He has also released nine full-length solo albums over the past 23 years, most recently 2015’s “Little Brother Is Watching”, which was reissued on CD and vinyl last August by MEGADETH bassist David Ellefson‘s EMP Label Group.
SONS OF APOLLO‘s debut album, “Psychotic Symphony”, was released October 20 by InsideOut Music.