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Bumblefoot: the icing on the birthday cake


The least we can say is that Radio Metal’s fourth-anniversary party was a real success. Why’s that? Because a birthday party cannot be complete without a clown to amuse the brats. True, a lot of people did make an exhibition of themselves. Like a certain wrestler, whose sudden irruption was as quick as the clout he received from Metal’O Phil. Or like a certain Eddie “I install myself” Murphy, who, after being offered an alcoholic beverage, exclaimed: “I don’t like you!”. But the real clown that night had long hair, a bushy beard, showed infinite wisdom and appeared (almost) miraculously. Nope, not our old pal J.C. (what’s up with that guy, by the way?).

At 9.42 p.m., we received the following e-mail: “I should be able to give you a call in about half an hour!”. At 10 p.m., the phone rang; on the other end of the line, the always jovial Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, taking advantage of a break between two guitar lessons to wish us a happy anniversary. With his webcam turned on, his guitar in hand and an irresistible sense of humor, the current Guns N’ Roses guitarist treated the delighted audience to a fantastic radio moment. We were thus privy to anecdotes (notably regarding a singer who used to steal his mother’s facial cream), self-derision (“You can’t tell if it’s his face or his ass!”), a crazy theory according to which his beard ages in his stead because of a deal he made with the devil, a couple of live songs, among which an acclaimed performance of Manowar’s “Blood Of My Enemies” in homage to Scott Columbus, and, of course, little pieces of info regarding the guitarist’s current affairs.

Fortunately, Gilles Lartigot, the one and only Heavy Metal Cook in the galaxy, was there and filmed the whole thing.

Spaceman: Hey! We’ve even got the video! You have a guitar with you?

Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: Yeah, I’ve been playing all day, giving Skype lessons, so it’s been good. So here we are, happy anniversary, guys!

Thank you very much! I’m going to tell our listeners who’s with us right now: we have Bumblefoot and his guitar, Guns and Roses’ guitarist, on the screen in front of us. How are you doing?

Good, I’m doing well!

Are you going to play a song for us?

I’m warming up my fingers for my next guitar student. I give Skype lessons, and I’m loving it. I missed teaching so much. I just wanted to call and say hello, see how you guys are doing. Last time we chatted was, what… Two or three months ago?

Yeah, it was in January.

That’s right, I remember. I was all pissed off because our management had just disappeared, and I had no idea what the hell was going on.

Do you have any idea now about what’s going on?

Yeah, we’re going to be headlining Rock In Rio in October, down in Brazil. We’ll see what else we’ll get to do around that. Hopefully, we won’t have to move 55,000 pounds of gear for one show, and it will be for a lot more shows. We’ll wait and see what they can come up with. Hopefully it will be something good. Until then, I’m just staying in the studio and boasting out songs every month. It’s going great, I’m having a good time with that.

You just released an Elton John cover…

Yeah, it gets all melo and everything. [starts playing and singing] I’m not gonna start singing, ‘cause the neighbors will come and bang on the wall and shit. [resumes playing] Yeah, it came out nice, that one… I’m playing Elton John, they’re gonna start sending me nasty letters… So I’ve been doing that, just boasting out songs and putting music out into the world. It’s what I like doing. I’ll be going out to Israel in a month. You know I play in a metal band called Salem. They’re a doom/death metal band from Israel, they’ve been around for a good fifteen years or more. I’m gonna go out and play as a guest in the band. I’m flying up to Israel and I’m gonna play some real metal. They’re kind of… [he growls] I can’t do it with my voice, but…

What’s the next song you’ll be releasing?

The next one is an original called “Father”. It’s kind of a slow… I don’t know if I can play it on this thing… [he starts playing] It kinda sounds like that. [keeps on playing] Yeah, that was a preview! So I’m putting out an original song, and we’ll see after that. Maybe another original. A guest singer friend of mine might lay some vocals for that; if he gets out of touring we might get a chance to put it out in time. I’m just making music, playing with people. I’ve been doing a lot of guest solos on people’s albums, flying out here and there and just playing. That’s it: I’m putting myself out to the universe and making music. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

Are you going to release all these songs on a physical album?

I’m thinking about it. Maybe by the end of the year. I could take everything, put a few extras on and do a solo 2011 comp CD of all these covers and originals and whatever else and put that together. So yeah, maybe I’ll do that. ‘Cause it’s nice to have a physical embodiment of your music, to hold it in your hands and look at the art. So I’d like to do that, yeah.

Do you know what would be the best gift for the four years anniversary of Radio Metal? It would be the release date for the follow-up to Chinese Democracy!

(laughs) That is all up to the label, and when things get done, and… That’s something I couldn’t predict! There’s so much work to be done before an album can really have a confirmed release date. Besides finishing the music and the art and working out the deal and figuring out the promotion package and everything… It’s very complicated at that level. A date probably wouldn’t come until a month before. Even with me, it’s a month before. “When’s the next song coming out?” I’ll just pick a day and say: “That day!” It’s easier for me, but usually, it’s a good month of prepping from the point that you have a definite day. And you don’t know what that day’s gonna be until all the fires are put out and you say: “OK, this is happening, gotta make sure that every job is being done first”. So we got time! (laughs) I’m hoping this year. Hopefully not too far from now. I don’t know, we’ll see. Time will tell. You ought to know not to ask me any questions about Guns ‘n Roses, because the answer is: I don’t know! It will be a thousand I don’t knows! Things are gonna happen when they happen. That’s just how it is. But you can ask me when my next song will come out. I will just pick a day and tell you. Let me see… We just put one out – when was it? April 19th, the Elton John cover came out. So I would assume that the next song should come out around May 17th, I’m gonna say. That’s the date I’m coming up with right now, right here, on the air, for my next song! You’re the first to know, on Radio Metal, on this fourth anniversary special! I care, my mom cares, and maybe my wife cares, but that’s about it. No one else cares! But you heard it, you’re first! 17th of May, I’m thinking. So how’s the show being, this extravaganza, four-hour show?

It’s great! We’ve had several other guests, like Marco Hietala from Nightwish. We have French musicians, I don’t know if you know them…

Who else, who else?

The singer from Therion. Dagoba’s drummer. Satan Jokers – they’re a popular French band.

Ever heard of a band called Madonna Gun? It’s a friend of mine. It’s heavy stuff, you gotta dig it. I’m doing a guest solo for one of their songs. Check them out. They should have their album out by the end of the year. It’s good, heavy… It’s metal, it’s right up your alley! Let me see, maybe I even have a little piece of them on here. Look, I’m leaking their stuff! [everybody laughs] I’m giving you someone else’s shit for a change. Let me see… [song plays] This is not the whole song, I just did the solo and sent them an example of what it sounds like. [guitar solo plays]

That was your solo?

Yeah.

Oh, cool!

You’re laughing, you don’t like it!

I like it! [everybody laughs]

Ah, you think it sucks!

No, no. Actually, there’s a guitarist called Bumblefoot who made a song called “Guitar Sucks”.

Metal’O Phil: Yeah, he’s a very crappy guitarist. And he’s ugly. We have him on the camera, and he’s…

Bumblefoot: Actually, they can’t tell if it’s his face on the camera or his ass! [guitar solo] OK, so I’m wasting valuable air time right now!

Spaceman: You’re wasting nothing!

Metal’O Phil: We are wasting air time!

Bumblefoot: So you’re wasting my time then! I could have been eating a sandwich or something! Fuck!

Spaceman: We don’t have any sandwiches here. But we’ve got beer, wine… How do you say “saucisson” in English?!

Oh, I know what that is, “saucisson”!

So what is it in English?

“Sausage”. Saucisson!

And do you like saucisson?

Oh, I gotta say no… I know there’s a joke in there, somewhere! “Do you like sausage?!” I’m about to give a guitar lesson to a nice kid in about fifteen minutes, so I’m warming up my fingers. Making little noises… So yeah… You’re looking at my face here.

Yeah, you’ve got a nice face.

[makes funny faces] [shows his beard close up on camera]

It’s getting grey. You’re getting older, I guess!

Yeah, it’s getting grey fast. The rest of me is all right. Actually, it’s my beard that gets old, the rest of me doesn’t. My beard is ageing. I made some sort of deal with the devil: I won’t age but my beard will age for me. I will stay young forever, and my beard will just keep getting older and older. When I’m 100 years old, I’ll look like I’m 30 and my beard will look like it’s a thousand years old. It will three hundred feet long, a white long beard. And I won’t have a single blemish. It will be the year 2150. I will still look young and my beard will be wrapped around my head three times. We’ll still be waiting for the new G’n’R album. [everybody laughs] I just said that, didn’t I? Yeah, I said that. It’s a joke, it’s a joke, people! A joke! See, this is what happens: I go on your show and I start saying all kinds of fucked-up things!

Metal’O Phil: People here are crying with laughter!

Bumblefoot: I’m gonna end up on Blabbermouth, and they’re gonna twist is around, and then I’ll get 800 e-mails from G’n’R fans, asking: [silly voice] “Did you quit the band?” And I’ll be like: “No, I don’t quit the band!” “Well, then, come play in Argentina!” I got to come out to France. It’s been a long time – last summer, actually. But then, just me coming out to France to play my music, I haven’t done that since the end of 2005. That was the last time; I did about three weeks touring around France. I actually played twice that year: in March and in November. It was nice.

Spaceman: It looks like you like France. You often tour France.

Nah, I hate France… Oh, wait, wait, sorry! [everybody laughs] Kidding, kidding! I thought you were a Swiss show! No, I like France, yeah. France has been good to me. You guys have liked me for some strange reason, so we have that nice, happy little thing going on. It’s a little love fest; Bumblefoot and France; Bumblefrance! I gotta coma back and play all my new songs. Or the covers.

I read an interview not long ago where you said that you might change your nickname one day. You would stop calling yourself Bumblefoot and go for Bumblefuck…

Bumblefuck? I must have had wine before the interview! But I’ve been called worse things than that. I used to be real fat, so my name was Bumblefat. So Bumblefuck… Some people call me Bumbleicious! I don’t know… What’s in a name anyway? [starts playing and singing “Strawberry Fields Forever”] I covered that one too. These are some lame-ass versions I’m playing on the radio right now, aren’t they? I should play something better. But neighbors’ll get pissed, they don’t like when I start screaming. In fact, I remember one time when I was at band practice, I was sixteen years old. And someone called the cops. Someone else was singing, we had this really high singing, he was like… [imitates high singing voice] He was higher than that, I don’t know if I can do it… [screeches] That high. And someone called the cops. The cops knocked on the door, and we were like: “What’s going on?” And the cops said: “We’ve had reports of a woman screaming.” “Oh, that’s my singer. You want to come in and see us rehearse?” And they were like: “No…” So the cops were called because they thought a woman was screaming, and it was just my singer with no testicles.

Was it the singer you were talking about, that was no good for the band?

He’s one of many. That guy, what he would do… They were all fuckin’ crazy, man! This guy, I stopped singing with him when I found out he was stealing facial cream from my parents’ bathroom! He went to the bathroom and found whatever my mother had, make-up remover or something. And he was stealing it. What the fuck?! It makes no sense. So I was like: “You gotta go, man”.

That wasn’t Gene Simmons, or something like that?!

No, it wasn’t good Kiss make-up that needed to be removed. It wasn’t King Diamond, it wasn’t Poison… The kid didn’t wear any make-up! So either he was rubbing his dick with it, or he was rubbing the shit on this face, or… Or he was wearing make-up when no one was around. I don’t know. But at that point I was like: “All right, you’re out…” But I could give you twenty singers I’ve worked with when I was a kid that all had something weird. So yeah… Oh, shit, I gotta teach this kid in like five minutes. So I’m gonna get out of this and leave you guys back to playing music and get away from my boring stories about crazy singers rubbing my mum’s make-up remover on their face when I was sixteen! So enjoy. Happy anniversary. Bon anniversaire et bonne nuit, et grand merci à toi! Oui et bonne nuit! That’s all I got! [general round of applause] Jesus, how many people you got over there?

We’ve got like forty people.

What the fuck?! That’s a damn party! Shit, nice!

We’ve got listeners who came to the studio. And there’s a dog also!

[repeats in French] Un chien aussi? Incroyable!

One last thing: would you like to choose a song to broadcast right now?

In honor of the recent demise of the great Mister Columbus, drummer of Manowar, let’s play… “Defender”, or maybe “Blood Of My Enemies”, or… Let’s do some old Manowar, something he was on. Do you guys have some Manowar?

Of course, we’re a metal radio!

Do you have “Blood Of My Enemies”? [starts jamming and singing on the song] All right, yeah, play that one!

You could be the singer of Manowar!

I love Manowar, you have no idea. I love that fuckin’ band. So, for Mister Columbus, “Blood Of My Enemies”. And thank you guys very much.

Thank you for your call, it was a pleasure!

[In French]C’est mon plaisir! You guys have a great night. Bye bye!

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Interview conducted on April 21th, 2011 by phone

BUMBLEFOOT website: bumblefoot.com

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