Welcome to the first edition of my new interview column for Bullspike Radio entitled The Scorpion’s Slate. Here I’ll be interviewing those who I frankly think kick ass. It could be virtually anyone from any field. First up however is not only someone I call a friend but also a guitar virtuoso who honestly doesn’t get enough credit for his talent and passion. Here’s my conversation with Ron Thal aka Bumblefoot:
JAY SCORPION: First off Bumble, thanks for being a part of the debut of The Scorpion’s Slate. Your new record Little Brother Is Watching came out several weeks ago, and it’s awesome. The video for the title track just came out, and that’s awesome. How’s the record been received so far?
BUMBLEFOOT: Thank you so much! So far so good with the album, video as well. Would like to do videos for more of the songs, and still need to do a full-blown tour, but so far I’m happy with how things are going, and greatly appreciate your support. Thank you!
JS: What were some of the inspirations for the songwriting on the record and how long did it take to complete?
BF: The inspiration came from living life, real experiences, pretty auto-biographical. “Clots” was written about doctor visits after they found a tumor. “Little Brother Is Watching” talks about how we’re all under each other’s watchful eye and the pressures it can cause. “Argentina” is a love/tragedy story about jumping into something without thinking it through, realizing that the parties involved both expected something different from the other, and how in the end the emotions turn dark, bitter, into hurting each other – it can be about any kind of relationship. “Don’t Know Who To Pray To Anymore” is about losing faith, and needing to make peace before you’re able to move forward. “Cuterebra” has some of my favorite lyrics – it compares the life-cycle of a parasitic fly to *gossip*, how seeds are planted, they grow beneath the skin and eventually surface, grow their wings and land on the next person. “Livin’ the Dream” is about touring, the transitions of bouncing between two sides of your life. “Higher” is about enjoying your life *now*, giving yourself good memories, and how certain songs can be the soundtrack to these moments. “Women Rule the World”, well, self-explanatory, haha. “Sleepwalking” is about being disassociated from your own actions, not facing what you need to. Eternity” is a ballad, about looking forward to waking up each morning with your ‘better half’. “Never Again”, a song about admitting to yourself it’s time to let go of what you need to. There’s varied inspirations that show up – David Bowie, Queen, George Harrison, Stevie Wonder, Iron Maiden, Manowar, the album is a collection of individual stories, each has its own character.
I had a few ideas for songs that were unfinished, waiting for the right home, but it was in December 2013 that the writing began, with the intentions of making a new album. It was the first time I wrote while on tour (w/GNR, March – June 2014). I’d wander the stairways of hotels with a phone writing words down, the writing continued on the Guitar Gods tour (Bumblefoot & Yngwie Malmsteen, June/July 2014), and finished July 2014. Recording began in May 2014, laying drum tracks between tours, and continued in July, all the way to January 2015. It started with drums, and 1-take reference tracks of bass, vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, as a guide for the drummer (Dennis Leeflang) to play to. The lead guitars were spontaneous, and as I began recording the actual lead guitars I realized that what I did in the reference tracks were the most honest and natural, many of the melodies on the album were spontaneous. This was the most comfortable I ever was, everything happened easily, it felt like a very direct connection from what I felt to what I recorded. In December, I threw a listening party for 100 fans at a venue in NYC, where I’d play each song, we’d talk about each song, and then I’d show everyone parts to sing together. Half the songs on the album have the crowd singing, chanting, stomping their feet, it was important to me to include people on the album. It’s not just my album, it’s their album too. I also wanted people to see the process of making the album, and watch how the songs develop, while recording the album we posted videos, they can be seen HERE.
JS: What’s your personal favorite song on Little Brother Is Watching?
BF: Hard to choose from your own songs. “Argentina” and “Don’t Know Who To Pray To Anymore”, very happy with how they both turned out, I feel like they said everything the exact way I pictured.
JS: Now for those living on Mars, you are also a part of a not so small band called Guns N’ Roses. How the hell have you been balancing a solo career and GNR for the better part of the last decade?
BF: It was difficult to do it all – GNR touring, solo recording and touring, producing & doing TV/film music, teaching & workshops, recording guest solos & doing guest performances, promoting a hot sauce line & designing custom guitar cases, volunteering for charities, and whatever else, gaaaahhh!! You juggle the best you can, and every once in while you’re forced to re-structure your life, as needed.
JS: For those who don’t know, how did you get that gig?
BF: It was Joe Satriani that recommended me to GNR, back in 2004. We hit the road in 2006 and toured pretty extensively thru 2014.
JS: What’s been the craziest and/or most memorable moment of your GNR experience? Also, what’s your favorite GNR song to play live?
BF: I always liked playing “Shackler’s Revenge” from Chinese Democracy – I played a big role in that song with the fretless solos and backing vocals, enjoyed that. And of course the classics that everybody loves. Craziest and most memorable moments? Haha, that might take a while, a lot of unforgettable moments. I think playing the Bridge School Benefit in 2012 was one of my favorites – I do a lot of benefit shows on my own, it was nice to do one with GNR.
JS: Lastly, what’s your current touring schedule like?
BF: It just keeps building itself – just getting back from weeks in Southeast Asia, home for a few days and then head out to Bahrain, Cyprus, India for a few weeks, home for a few days and head out to do Rock N’ Roll Fantasy Camp in Toronto in early June, then Raleigh Music Academy in mid-June, and it keeps on going with lots of studio work in-between. I keep an update at www.bumblefoot.com and www.facebook.com/bumblefoot and www.twitter.com/bumblefoot so you’ll always know what I’m doing and where I’m doing it.
GET Little Brother Is Watching HERE
[A photo of BUMBLEFOOT and I]