Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is a flat-out amazing guitar player. His body of work speaks volumes to that. And now, he is back with his bandmates in ART OF ANARCHY to deliver album number two The Madness (out now, Century Media Records). I had the chance to speak with him by phone recently, while we were both stuck at home on snow days here on the east Coast. We covered a lot of ground. So, check it:
Amps: First off, Holy Shit, this is one helluva rock record, sir!
Ron: Well, thank you. It’s different from what all of us have done, and that’s what’s cool about it. If you take each person involved and you look at what they’ve done this is different.
You put us together and it became a different beast, it changed, but you can still hear what everyone did and who we are. That’s what makes a band cool, when you can hear each member, and that’s what I loved about KISS. Very definable characters within that band, you can hear what each person’s vibe is and what they bring to the band.
Amps: KISS is my all-time favorite band so it makes me glad to hear that.
Ron: Mine too, man! When I first heard KISS Alive! I was five and it made me want to be a musician. First concert I went to was KISS, 1979 Dynasty Tour. I’m a HUGE KISS fan.
Amps: What I like about this album is that it begs repeat listens. First day I got it I played it three times in one work day. For me, the middle tracks like ‘Won’t Let You Down” and “Changed Man” are just incredible, incredible songs.
Ron: Oh nice, thank you. “Won’t Let You Down” is interesting because I had that music from when I was 18 years old and never found a home for it. I always kept it in the back of my head. Then when we were all sitting in a room in New York just writing together and hammering shit out, bringing out ideas I played that one. And it finally found a home after almost 30 years.
Amps: And Scott (Stapp, vocals) wrote the lyrics for it. They really sound like they came from an autobiographical place, and that is what makes the song so special.
Ron: Oh yeah, all his stuff, everything he writes is very much from what he lived. Even “The Madness,” he paints a pretty picture with his words. When he says, “There’s an angel leading me along an endless highway” that line right there, that’s not just talk. He actually saw that and experienced that when he was going through some things. He actually, in his state of mind, saw an angel on the hood of his car that said, “Go this way, go that way.” and was telling him where to drive through the desert. It also seems like vocally he definitely stretched the boundaries and is doing things with his voice he never did with CREED. Those death metal screams you hear? That’s HIM!
Amps: His passion and delivery really help make these songs, like I said, special.
Ron: Yeah. Totally, I think he’s the best he’s ever been right now.
Amps: The whole band sounds like you really enjoyed yourselves making this record. “Dancing With the Devil” is another one I had to repeat the shit out of.
Ron: Nice, nice, nice! That and “Somber” were two demos Scott had that we just had to record.
Amps: I know I sound like a total fanboy, but I am truly excited about this record!
Ron: And that’s good. You know, we should all be fans of the music. We should never lose that. There’s no shame in loving the shit out of bands, you know?
Amps: You’re also quite a singer yourself. You sing back-ups on this record quite a bit, no?
Ron: Yeah. A lot of them are Scott, but in the song “Changed Man” at the end in between, that’s all me. And in my solo BUMBLEFOOT stuff I’m the lead singer.
Amps: We’re at least a month from release. What are you thinking/hoping for?
Ron: I hope people like it. That’s all you can do, you know? You don’t know how the world is gonna react to it and I always say that all you can do is put it out into the universe and the rest of the world will decide.
If people like it, great. But whatever happens with it, at least we did something genuine. That’s all you can do. The rest is not up to you. What is up to you is putting out something that’s real and means something to you and you can just hope people connect with it and it means something to them, too. That’s it.
Amps: You mentioned that all five of you wrote together on The Madness. Was that a different approach from the first record?
Ron: Oh yeah, very different. The first album, that came together in a strange way. It’s not the typical band story. But this album happened the way a band happens. All of us in a room hanging out jamming, and songs come out of it.
The first one’s goes back 20 years to when Jon and Vince (Votta, guitars and drums respectively) were teenagers in New York. I would engineer or produce their stuff and we stayed friends through the years. In 2011 they had ten songs written that weren’t like what they’d done before.
They felt like the previous stuff wasn’t real to them. They’re old school metalheads with a lot of integrity. They always had someone trying to turn them into whatever was on the radio at that moment. They weren’t doing what a producer should do, which is say, “This is you, this is who you are. And we’re just gonna make you even more who you are and expand on that. We’re gonna give people the best version of you.”
That’s how it should be. Because it’s got to exist for someone out there. And they never really got to do that until the first ART OF ANARCHY album. They had ten songs and they did ’em their way and that was it. It went from being something to gratify them as music lovers and musicians to something real that evolved. Then we got a record deal with Century Media and we had to find another singer, so that was Scott Stapp. We met with him only two months after the first one came out (with singer Scott Weiland), hit a rehearsal room, jammed and just did whatever, vibed out, grabbed some dinner and talked. Then a month later he came up to NY for a few weeks and all five of us just sat in a room and played, and wrote, and recorded. And that’s where half this record came from. This really became a band, even though it didn’t start as one, and that’s really cool.
Amps: Please tell me you have plans to take ART OF ANARCHY on the road. Please say “YES.”
Ron: Yes. (Amps screams in approval, while Ron laughs his ass off!) We have one definite show in Vegas, Rock Into Spring on April 29. We’re headlining that thing and we’re looking at a whole bunch of dates for the rest of the year. Hopefully we can have a whole bunch of dates solidified. We wanna be as busy as we can be. But we wanna have the right shows in the right places, with the right bands joining us. We wanna get out there!
Amps: Are you always writing? Do you ever take time off?
Ron: (Laughs) I haven’t time off since the mid-90’s! There’s too much to be done. And obviously I don’t want time off, I love what I do. There’s so many different ways of doing it, too. I could be mixing or mastering somebody’s album, then next day I could be writing a piece of music for a TV show. And the next day I could be laying down a guest guitar solo for somebody, and so on. I could be making a How-To video on YouTube. There’s never a dull day and it never gets redundant. It’s very diverse and always interesting. And there’s always lots of good people out there to do these things with.
Amps: What are you listening to in the car or at home?
Ron: usually I keep a stack of CDs in my car of local bands that I accumulate on the road. I listen to them while I drive. That’s my time to really listen. If that is done, I’m either checking mixes of something I’m working on, or I’m into some old 60’s or 70’s music or MANOWAR, or I don’t know what!
Amps: What about outside of music? What do you like to do?
Ron: Hot sauce, I have a line of hot sauces. It started in 2013 and I put out six hot sauces. Three of them won First Place awards at Dallas’ ZestFest that year. I’m a fiery foods guy, all about hot sauces. I’ve had to slow down because trying to do that and the music has become too much. But I might just do a limited run of several sauces.
Amps: What’s next for BUMBLEFOOT?
Ron: Just doin’ what I’m doin’, man. Making more music and keeping it going. It never ends. I’m planning some shows and guitar clinics in the U.S. and Europe, and maybe Asia as well. But the next few months are gonna be about ART OF ANARCHY and the roll-out of the album. And you’re a big part of that roll-out, you and your website, people like you who care, so I can’t thank you enough for taking time to cover us.
Amps: Stop. It’s my pleasure. What do you hope people take away from this album?
Ron: Just a real simple thing: I want them to feel good. To feel like they just took a real good drug and to feel that high, that lift that you get from great music. I’m hoping that it affects people that way, tat they listen to it and it makes them feel better than before they heard it, and that they enjoy it, and want to listen again. That’s all you can ask for as a musician.
Amps: What would you like to say to all your fans out there in the world?
Ron: Just THANK YOU. Thank you for being part of my life and allowing me to be part of yours, and I’m grateful that you’ve taken an interest and gotten something out of what I’ve been doing. That’s it.
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is what I like to call one of “those” guys. The guy who gets it, the guy who knows how important the fans are, and the guy who feels it when someone tells him how much they love his music. Those guys don’t grow on trees, and ART OF ANARCHY’S new album The Madness is a direct extension of that. Pick it up ASAP if you haven’t already, and if they come to your town, you’d better fucking go to that show!!