Interview: Bumblefoot

Guglielmo Malusardi: So what is the origin of the name Bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot: A dozen years ago I was hangin' with my gal while she was studying veterinary medicine. One of the bird diseases was called Bumblefoot - one of the treatments was to rub hemorrhoid cream on the bird's foot. I was quite touched by this, and redirected my entire life on a new path...

Guglielmo Malusardi: When did you decide to call yourself Bumblefoot, and why?

Bumblefoot: It was in 2001, people were already calling me Bumblefoot, everything I was doing musically had the name Bumblefoot on it - just kinda happened.

Guglielmo Malusardi: The originality of your music - is it a mirror of your character, or does it come from other "sources"? Is your music strictly connected to your life, or not as much?

Bumblefoot: I thank you sir. My stuff is pretty strongly connected to my life. Not everything lyrically, sometimes there's just story-telling, but overall what I'm feelin' is what comes out.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Keeping on the topic of originality, would you like to explain how your absolutely unique guitars were built?

Bumblefoot: I just always felt a guitar should be as personal as the music you make with it. I'd chop 'em up impulsively, often without a plan, and in the end it would be whatever it was meant to be. Now I leave it up to Vigier - they do a much better job.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Tell us about your musical formation, when you started, and what kind of schools you attended, or lessons you took?

Bumblefoot: I started taking one-on-one lessons at age 7, did that for 8 years. Studied mostly out of books, strict reading stuff, moved onto theory, classical, jazz. After that I just kept studying on my own.

Guglielmo Malusardi: How would you describe your guitar style?

Bumblefoot: Orange-ish brown.

Guglielmo Malusardi: How you develop to a virtuoso level; did you practice like crazy, or did you reach this level mostly through natural ability?

Bumblefoot: I thank you again sir. There was a time when I'd spend all day and night trying to learn every song I could by ear. Back in the old days before CDs, I'd be sitting by the turntable playing a few seconds at a time, going back and doing it again, figuring out every AC/DC, Priest, Maiden, Halen, Ozzy, Malmsteen and Yes album I had. That was probably the best thing for my playing - got the ears in shape and kept me playing songs more than just exercises.

Guglielmo Malusardi: When I listened several years ago to the Shrapnel compilation CD "Ominous Guitarists From The Unknown" I jumped off from the sofa after five seconds of the track, "Chopin Fantasie" - what a great job!

Bumblefoot: And again, thanks. I always dug that song (the original version). I was watching the show Taxi and one of the characters played it on piano - that was when I got the idea to learn it on guitar. Got the notation for it and came up with the guitar version. Took out the middle section and did my own thang. Actually, when I recorded that I had busted a tendon in my finger about a month before - tore it working out and then fell on my hand (long, stupid story) and killed the fourth finger on the fretting hand. The doctor wanted to put me in a cast up to my elbow, instead I exercised the muscles in the wrist and hand with light weights and it healed up fine - recorded the Chopin thing a few weeks later.

Guglielmo Malusardi: You have the copyright of one of the craziest title songs ever: "Every Time I Shake My Head (It's Like Christmas)" off the "Hermit" CD (the last track). A very big shampoo company gave you a big check?

Bumblefoot: Hahaha...!

interview pic

Guglielmo Malusardi: What is the meaning of the song "Children Of Sierra Leone" (off the "9/11" album)?

Bumblefoot: I was talking with Vernon Reid at the time about donating a song to an album that would raise funds and awareness about the problems in that country. Never came together, so I put the song on my own album.

Guglielmo Malusardi: I know you finished the mix of your next CD. Let's talk about it.

Bumblefoot: The album "Normal" (available online in December of 2005) tells the story of a musician who took brain meds to make himself normal. The only downside was that he lost the music in his head and couldn't write songs anymore. Eventually he had to choose between being normal and being musical - he chose music, went off the meds, became a nut again, and wrote this album. The music is considerably normal, sounding a bit like Green Day or the Foo Fighters some say, but still with the fancy-shmancy guitar noodling stuff. There's an MP3 sample here if you wanna hear a few clips.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Talking about your live dates, I know you 've just toured Europe...

Bumblefoot: Yes, just got home. Played Russia, the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy - had a great time!

Guglielmo Malusardi: You often play gigs in Europe (not so easy for a U.S. guitarist) especially in France. How would you explain your excellent relationship with European fans?

Bumblefoot: Man, I don't know. I appreciate it though. Merci.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Do you have a permanent live band?

Bumblefoot: I play with different folks in different places, but things are starting to solidify, especially after this last tour. Been playing with Dennis Leeflang on drums for 3 years, Joe Nerve on bass for a year - it's seeming more permanent, but everyone still does their own thing and it's all a big expanding family. There's also Fanalo (guitar) and Elmobo (bass) from the band Plug-In , Randy Nerve (guitar) from Joe's band The Nerve, Chris Ptacek, Hugh Floyd, Lindsey Tims and Paul Warren at the RMA school that played on the DVD of the clinic I did down there... close band friends I've jammed with like 24-7 Spyz and Freak Kitchen. One big happy.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's talk now about your friendship and musical partnership with french guitarist Christophe Godin (Mörglbl Trio, Gno and Metal Kartoon) and Swedish guitarist, Favored Nations artist, and Freak Kitchen leader Mathias Eklundh...

Bumblefoot: OK, let's.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Did you plan any "four hands" CDs in the future with one of them?

Bumblefoot: Been talking with Mattias about doing some kind of Freakfoot/BumbleKitchen collaboration for years, but we're both so busy touring and doing our own thing that we never have time to make it happen. Some day... I added a solo on Metal Kartoon's newest CD - great album - Chris Godin is a sick player.

Guglielmo Malusardi: You played a great guitar solo as special guest on Italian keyboard wizard Mistheria's CD "Messenger Cf The Gods". How was this bath in the prog/power/metal waters?

Bumblefoot: Warm and bubbly. Mistheria is a great keyboardist - was a pleasure to contribute to his CD.

Guglielmo Malusardi: The situation for guitarists is not so great nowadays. What's your opinion about the fact that millions of people are ready to buy the last releases from George Michael, Robbie Williams, Cristina Aguilera, or Fifty Cent (just to name a few) and millions of guitar fans worldwide are not ready to do the same - even now that it's quite easy to find CDs via the Internet from Internet shops, or directly from the musicians?

Bumblefoot: Guitar music isn't for everybody. Can't expect to sell as much as pop vocal music, and that's OK. Guitar music is for those who enjoy it, and it's great that Guitar Nine gives us a place where we can easily get it. Thanks Dan.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What about radio stations? In your opinion, do you think they don't broadcast guitar-oriented music because not so many people buy that kind of music, or because people don't buy that kind of music, so radio stations don't broadcast it?

Bumblefoot: Perhaps a little of both... but does guitar music really need radio? We have the Internet - anything can be streamed or downloaded at your convenience - that's better than radio.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Ten years have passed since "The Adventures Of Bumblefoot", your first release. Are you happy with your career? What's changed after ten years?

Bumblefoot: I'm happy. Learned a lot, plenty of surprises. If you asked me 10 years ago where I'd be 10 years later, I don't think I would have predicted the producing, the film/TV publishing music stuff, the teaching (SUNY Purchase College) Not sure what I would have said. Probably something about spaceships, or broccoli.

Guglielmo Malusardi: What's your plan for the next ten?

Bumblefoot: I stopped planning. We make plans, and God laughs.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Tell us about your activity as a producer.

Bumblefoot: Bought an old house in Princeton NJ three years ago, gutted the rooms and turned it into a studio. Recorded a lot of cool bands there - 24-7 Spyz, Most Precious Blood, Q*Ball, and my own stuff. Local bands too - everything from Brazilian music, rap, jazz, pop, a capella, all different types of stuff. Studio's my favorite place.

Guglielmo Malusardi: My musical curiosity... what kind of music do you like to listen to?

Bumblefoot: Motown mostly - The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, etc.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Which instrumental song would you have liked to have composed?

Bumblefoot: "Sleepwalk" (Santo and Johnny).

Guglielmo Malusardi: Tell me the three best guitar solos ever.

Bumblefoot: Hmmm, this is tough, and I know I'm gonna miss something. I don't think I can answer this one - but I'm gonna say three that stand out. One is the intro to "Mean Street" (Van Halen), another is the guitar throughout the song "Going For The One" (Yes), and the solo to "Detroit Rock City" (KISS) They each add something pretty special to the songs.

Guglielmo Malusardi: TThat's all man. Thank you very much for the interview . Leave a final message for the Guitar Nine readers.

Bumblefoot: My pleasure, thank you! And thanks to the artists on Guitar Nine for the music, and those visiting Guitar Nine for your support.

interview picture
Unique... If we could define this artist with just one adjective, this would be our first choice. Formerly known as Ron Thal, this New York born and New Jersey based, crazy, bizarre kind of music hooligan guitarist, now known as Bumblefoot, has just toured Europe and is working on his latest CD "Normal".

Guglielmo Malusardi caught up with Bumblefoot to discuss his upcoming album and to talk about the music business as it relates to guitar-oriented music.