|Bumblefoot says to Brazil: "love you!"
by Bruno do Amaral
Translation by Amanda Cardoso
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is an uncommon character. Those who know him from Guns N’ Roses, surely know him as a virtuoso guitar player, since he replaced Buckethead (who left in 2004) in 2006. But it’s his solo career that shows us his versatility. And that’s exactly the side the Brazilian fans will finally get the chance to know more about, with the release of his two latest albums on Mercado Livre’s webstore (click here to visit it).
Normal and Abnormal were released, respectively, in 2005 and 2008, and show opposite sides of a psychological condition that had great influence on Ron Thal’s creativity. Those are only two examples of the guitarist’s vast number of other works, who also sings his own songs (he says he had one year and a half of singing lessons – “definitely helped”, he says).
The exclusive interview below approaches the release of his albums in Brazil, on the Mercado Livre e-shop (the biggest electronic commerce website in South America), and Guns N’ Roses’s recent passage through Brazil, for five shows in March, which left euphoric fans in Brasília, Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro.
Currently, Axl Rose’s band counts with, other than Bumblefoot, Richard Fortus and DJ Ashba on guitar; Tommy Stinson on bass; Frank Ferrer on drums and Dizzy Reed and Chris Pitman on keyboards and synthesizers. The band is now on tour in Europe, with shows in Finland, Russia and Sweden. After a short break, the band returns to Europe for another 20 dates, including several dates in Spain and UK.
Ron Thal is also re-releasing his first album, Adventures of Bumblefoot, through the Bald Freak label, 15 years after its first release. Other than that, a guitar tab book, with 200 transcription pages, done by the musician himself, is also being released. Both products will be available on BaldFreak.com. Five dollars from every sale of autographed Bumblefoot items will be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Research Foundation.
Thal answered the questions, via email, on June 8th, after a well succeeded show in Oslo, Norway.
1. How is the tour going on? How it was like to come to South America countries such as Brazil?
I think the South American tour ruined me for all other tours, haha! It was so good, nothing will ever be quite like it...
2. Did you came up with the idea to put your solo albums for sale here in Brazil and Latin America only after knowing the countries in the recent GNR tour?
I've been looking into distro in S. America for a few years, but there was never a business situation that seemed right. If I sell to a distributor who sells to a store who sells to you, everyone involved will be needing a profit and they'll each be pushing the price of the CDs higher. I'd rather be selling directly to you. I do that with BaldFreak.com, and now with Mercadolivre.com
3. How could your solo albums appeal for GNR fans who saw you playing with the band in March?
I don't know if my albums will appeal or not, that's up to each person's taste. Anyone is welcome to listen to my music, and see if they like it or not. If they like it enough to want to own a certain album, I'm making it easier for them to get the album.
4. Why just Normal and Abnormal for now? What's the story behind those two?
Those albums are the most recent, and I'd like to give people the newest music first. The music has some elements of classic rock and punk, the music I grew up with, it's part of who I am. The Normal album (2005) has an underlying concept, about being on mood-altering medication that made me 'normal', but it blocked the ability to be creative and write music. I had to choose whether I wanted to be 'normal' and at peace, or be musical but have a war inside my head again. I chose to give up being 'normal', and the next album 'Abnormal' (2008) is the continuation of the story, the next chapter of life. It was after I had joined GNR, life became a little more intense, and so did the music. There are MP3 samples on my site if people want to listen – here are direct links...
5. And what else could we expect from the new store (I mean more CDs, downloadable stuff or singles...)?
If things go well, I'll start adding the rest of my CDs, and then merch – shirts, photos, stickers, buttons, picks, keychains, mini-guitar collectibles...
6. Looks like we'll see also at least one of your tracks (Guitars Suck) making a debut in video games on the Rock Band Network pretty soon. Any plans to make more songs available?
Absolutely! I'd love to have every song available, I plan to continue adding songs to the Rock Band Network.
7. Brazil is known for poor piracy policies from the government. Do you think that would harm the sales?
It has an effect on sales, but it's a blurry line... there are people who will download an album illegally instead of buying the album. Some of those people may never have liked the album enough to want to buy it anyway, so it's not like you're losing a sale with them. But, those people now know your music, and even if it happened through illegal downloading, they might play it for their friends and their friends may like it enough to go to a concert or buy a shirt. It's hard to be sure how the good and the bad of it balance out.
8. Brazilians in general started to know you more after the release of Chinese Democracy in 2008. After 1,5 year, what's your thoughts about the album?
My thoughts haven't changed – I still think it's a unique album, personal and experimental, and no album will ever be like it.
9. We know you will be busy with GNR for quite some time abroad, but a recent article in Bergen mentioned Dizzy Reed and DJ Ashba talking about writing a new album - possibly due to 2011. Are you writing with the band too? Are the other recorded songs from the Chinese Democracy sessions scraped (no pun!)? Anything you could share on this matter?
People ask us all the time about a next album and we all speak the same truth, that we would *like* to work on another album, and hopefully will. I think some quotes in that Bergen Norway article got lost in translation, from what the band said to what was printed, to how it was translated again to other languages. Right now the focus is touring, bringing the live show to the world. After that, we'll see what's best to do next...
12. What did you think of Brazilian fans?
The most passionate, loving fans of all. They were there to have a good time, they never acted like they were too good for it, they were part of the show, they added themselves to the show with the banners, signs, giant flags, roses, singing, their loving spirit... they made the shows better with everything they gave to us, it was inspiration for us to give more to them... I'll never forget it.
13. Do you have some funny story about any of the gigs here in Brazil?
So many bras being thrown on stage during the tour, that was pretty funny, haha! I'd be playing and suddenly one would be hanging on the end of my guitar, that one of the guys in the band put there... or I go to sing and there's a big bra hanging on the mic, haha... singing into bras – pretty funny.
14. Any plans to come back here in the future with GNR? And what about a solo tour?
I would love to come back with GNR and also a solo tour - but nothing is planned, right now we're just getting started in Europe and have miles to go...
15. Did you learn some words (besides "obrigado"!) in Portuguese?
I learned 'te amo' :-)
16. Did you manage to try some local food?
Oh yeah I did. I tried so much local food that I was 10 pounds heavier by the time the tour was over. Brazilian BBQ...!!!
17. What message would you like to send to South American fans who got to know you better this year?
The pleasure was mine, I enjoyed getting to know all of you better, and knowing you has made my world a better place - thank you! AMO VOCÊS!!