Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal: The Culture Brats Interview

Guitar god Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal is releasing his tenth solo album, Little Brother Is Watching, on February 24th. Last week, we had a chance to speak with him about the new album, collaborating with Scott Weiland and Run-D.M.C.'s Darryl McDaniels, Guns N' Roses, and his dream music festival. Here is an edited version of our conversion (I had to cut out all the fanboy stuff where I talked about seeing him play live):

I saw on Facebook where you were giving your new CD your first listen a few hours ago. How did it sound?
It sounds just like it's supposed to (laughs). Which is funny, because I remember years ago I did one CD and they actually put the wrong music on the CD. They put one of my other albums on it. I started sending these out and people started writing saying, "Um, dude. Something isn't right." And then I had a friend that I produced his CD and it went to the manufacturer. Halfway through the CD, it switched to this other band's stuff, all this Latin music. I think it's gotten better in the digital age, but human error, things happen, so it's always good to check. I had an hour ride home so it was perfect. I pretty much finished listening to the whole CD as I pulled up to my door.

I've been listening to it today too and I've got to tell you it sounds really awesome.
Oh great. Thank you.

You stated that Little Brother Is Watching is about life in the digital age. What led you to tackle that topic?
Just looking out the window and turning on the computer. This is our life that we live in, you know? It's the next phase. The government would watch the powers that be, whoever it was—and I'm not this big government conspiracy dude or anything like that, but it's a reality that they have the eyes and the ears—but the thing that was not anticipated years ago when people were predicting the future was that we would have the technology as well where we can watch each other and watch those who are policing us. It's pretty interesting living in a time where everything you do can and will be posted on YouTube for the world to see and judge and enjoy. This is how we live now, part of normal life.

This is your tenth solo album. How do you feel it stacks up to the rest?
I like it! I feel like this one is a lot more melodic. I guess it's a little more grown up in the sense that it's not trying to be anything, not trying to prove anything. I wrote the best songs I could write and tried to perform them the best that I could and really cared a lot more about the space and dynamic moments within the songs and multiple melodies working with each other between guitar lines and vocal lines. I just tried to make it a lot more musical and I think it's less about the angst and the energy and it's more about melody and emotion.

You recently collaborated with Darryl McDaniels of Run-D.M.C. How did that come about?
Yeah! That dude is great! It goes back to the band Generation Kill. They've been working with Darryl. The singer of Generation Kill, Rob Dukes, is an old friend of mine and he told me about it and said they were looking for someone to take care of production and mixing and we started working together. We got one song done called "Lot Lizard," a real nasty song that sounds great. I threw in some fretless guitar solos and stuff in there as well. It's a nice collaboration. It's some really cool dirty rap metal. It's dark. The stuff is definitely dark as far as subject matter and how it makes you feel. It's got some creepy stuff going on. You just got to hear it.

When can we hear it?
Now that is a good question. I know they're in the studio working on some more tracks and some writing and getting some other stuff done. They're going to be getting me some more music to play around with then hopefully they'll start sharing the stuff and giving people some sounds very soon.

You also collaborated with Scott Weiland, Disturbed's John Moyer, and Jon and Vince Votta as Art Of Anarchy. What brought that group together?
That started off with Jon and Vince. They're brothers, one plays guitar and the other plays drums. I've known them for about eighteen years and I've been producing all their bands that they've had. They wanted to start their own music company and the first thing they wanted to put out was a supergroup-type album. They wrote the songs, I brought them into my studio and we tracked all their parts and then I laid all my parts. John Moyer came in and laid the bass stuff. Scott did one song and then he decided to do the whole album. It's all about the music. It's really... it's an album. It's some really interesting stuff. A good solid rock album and that should be out hopefully by May or June. It's something that's been in the works since 2011. It's been a long time of just taking our time with it and trying to get everything right.

Let's talk Guns. Appetite was such a pivotal album and I'd just like to know what it was like joining them.
It seemed very normal. I always had my own band and was doing everything a band does: touring, putting out music, and everything. Every once in awhile, I would play with other people. Interesting people. I played with Nancy Sinatra. Lita Ford. I never joined another band, though. We just had a run or a show or I would even just pop up as a guest for one song. This was the first time I was going to be joining another band. Originally, I turned it down when we were talking about doing it eleven years ago. In 2006, we started talking again and I was like, "Alright, what the hell." We got together in New York. We jammed together one night on three songs. They were like, "You want to do another three tomorrow night?" "Alright, sure." I pretty much knew all the songs already because who doesn't? We jammed seven times and hit the road. For me, doing that kind of stuff is pretty normal. You get together with people and you make music and the more unexpected the situation is, the more fun it is. And that's what makes being a musician something that never gets old, never gets dull. You can never predict who you might be jamming with at some point and what an interesting moment that can be.

Final question: you're in charge of a music festival and you can get any five artists, dead or alive, to perform on the bill with you. Who do you choose?
Five artists dead or alive? Wow. That's a tough one! Of course, The Beatles gotta be there. Hendrix has to be there. Who else? I would want to see... Man, this is tough! There's so many I want to say. Manowar. I want Manowar on there. That's three. I'm going to say... Yes? Yes with Rick Wakeman and Bill Bruford. That's four. Who else... GG Allin. GG Allin to get naked, cut himself with glass, and piss on people, and then run off the stage and start beating the crap out of random people.

What song do you all perform together as the final jam?
Final jam. One song. This is even tougher now. What would they possibly play together? "Dancing Queen" from ABBA. Just because it's so out of place.

That's just wrong and so messed up. We've got to go with a different song. You bring back people from the dead to do that? No! Something from Steve Wonder maybe? What a tough one. You know what? I'm going to say we'll all do a Manowar song together. What could it be, though? Could it be "Black Wind, Fire, And Steel?" "Valhalla" because the verse keeps changing keys. Hendrix would have a chance to solo over it, Wakeman could do something, perfect. There you go.

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