GUNS N' ROSES Guitarist BUMBLEFOOT: AXL ROSE Is 'Better Than Ever'

Matt Sartwell of The Journal News recently conducted an interview with GUNS N' ROSES guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal. A few excerpts from the chat follow:

Q: Let's get this out of the way, how's Axl doing and how's the band holding up after the European tour?

Bumblefoot: "Everyone is doing great, the European tour was a great way for the band to come together. I had only been playing with the band a week before the tour started. The fans were very welcoming and we got a lot of love. ... We got a chance to feel out a lot of songs. ... Axl is fine and he's better than ever and anyone who's been to the shows will agree."

Q: Growing up in the Tri-State area, how does it feel to be playing on your home court — as part of one of the most famous bands of all-time?

Bumblefoot: "It's a dream come true. When I was 5 years old I got the KISS 'Alive' record and that's what made me want to be musician. That's what made me want to do this. Then, the first concert I saw when I was 9 was KISS at Madison Square Garden. And my goal was to some day play Madison Square Garden that same way — with all the bombs and the pyro. And now we're playing Continental and MSG. So, after 30 years of busting me ass, not giving up, I'm finally there."

Q: What's your general philosophy on teaching music?

Bumblefoot: "Learn as much as you can and then forget everything you learned. Go by your gut, and heart, and your spirit. Leave all the [the things you've learned] in the back of your mind and have a lot of trust. It's supposed to be a natural thing ... Know the rules, so you don't have to play by the rules."

Q: Is there anything you miss about teaching when you're on the road?

Bumblefoot: "Yeah, I miss being in a room with a bunch of hungry minds where we share ideas and experiment and explore things ... reach new epiphanies, even if it's sitting in front of a computer screen and showing them a new technique for making a snare drum sound consistent and strong."

Q: I've read accounts that you got the nickname Bumblefoot when you were helping your girlfriend study for her veterinarian exams. Is that true? And why did it stick?

Bumblefoot: "Yeah. And I can say she's now been my wife for 10 years, so she must have done good on the test. It was one of those sleepless nights and she had a thousand pages to memorize and one of the diseases in her book was called Bumblefoot and I thought it sounded like such a silly sounding name that I ended up writing a song about a superhero called 'Bumblefoot'. And then it ended up becoming the name of my band and then my own nickname. Now, I'm stuck with it. And now I'm stuck in this cool band with the name of a Saturday morning cartoon character."

Q: Bumblefoot is better than Buckethead (a former GN'R guitarist), but it's not quite as cutting as Slash, either. Do you think you need to edge it up a little for your next handle?

Bumblefoot: "You know I spoke to them about that before joining the band. You know, 'Does Bumblefoot match the coolness of GUNS N' ROSES?' If this was PRIMUS or MR. BUNGLE or a band like that it would work. But they were like, 'Naw man, that's you. Keep it.' ... It's not me, it's a side of me. It's a Ziggy Stardust, not a David Bowie."

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