One of my favorite guitarists of all time is Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, the lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses. Ron and I go way back to columns we did together in 2004, and we’ve developed a great friendship over the years. I’m excited to announce that Ron’s debut CD The Adventures of Bumblefoot
, originally released in May 1995 on Shrapnel records, will be re-released in August 2010 along with a transcription book. Bonus tracks are added from the videogame soundtrack Ron did for Sega, for a total of 19 ripping guitar tracks. The CD will be available through Ron’s web-store (bumblefoot.com/store
) and will also be autographed. Five dollars from every CD sold will go to benefit Multiple Sclerosis research.
“After the initial release of the album, I transcribed every detail of what I played – the tablature, notation, fingerings, picking, and weird noises—absolutely everything,” says Thal. It's a 200-page book, and will also be available at Ron’s website.
Ron is known for his virtuoso guitar work, eccentric personality, and is a modern-day guitar legend. In this edition of Lethal Guitar, Ron shares with us an excerpt of the song “Strangles” from his debut CD in transcription and tablature form, coupled with an awesome video lesson.
What was the original idea behind the album?
Conceptually, everything for the album started in the early ‘90s while my girlfriend was in veterinary school. I was helping her study and came across a disease that turkeys get called Ulcerative Pod Dermatitis, also known as Bumblefoot. One of the treatments for this disease is to rub hemorrhoid cream on the bird's foot. I was so oddly amused that I wrote a song called “Bumblefoot.” When it came time to do the album, that song became the starting point. I named every song after a different animal disease, and the album art has characters that represent each song.
How did you record the album?
I was still living with my parents, and had a small home studio set up in the basement. Everything was in a little area along the wall—a seat, a rack of ADATs with a mixing board on top, a pair of headphones, and a guitar amp with a mic in front and a blanket over it. Five feet away was the big, noisy air-conditioning unit for the house, and it was a hot summer. I'd start recording and the AC would kick on, then I'd have to stop and wait for it to shut off. Then I'd start up again, and go through the same thing. I'd sneak upstairs and turn the thermostat up to 90º F and get a good batch of recording in until I'd hear my mom's voice from the floor above, “Why is it so hot in the house?” followed soon after by, “Who turned the thermostat up to 90?!....RONALD!!!” I'd stop recording, get yelled at, then I'd continue recording. Then I'd sneak upstairs and turn the thermostat back up again.
Sounds like it wasn’t an ideal situation. Did you do all the mixing in the basement as well?
I didn't have a separate recording room and control room—the only thing between me and the amp was a blanket over the mic and cabinet and a now 25-year-old pair of Sony headphones (which I still have and use.) I didn't have studio monitors, so all the recording and mixing happened in those headphones. I had 16 tracks maximum, no editing, no remote control (just stop, play and rewind)—none of the modern-day conveniences. But it wasn't a problem. You take what you have, be creative, and go as far as you can with it.
Tell me about how you got some of the unusual guitar sounds on the album.
I didn't use very many effects. A lot of it was a thimble on the pinky of my picking hand, which I used mainly for tapping notes off the fretboard, the guitar's volume knob, an out-of-phase pickup setting, and a wah pedal. At the end of the track “Blue Tongue” there is a vibrato effect and a pitch shifter. Before the vocal break, I took a guitar part, cut the tape into small pieces, and threw them in the air. I took the pieces and spliced them back together, not knowing what they'd sound like, random note patterns, some notes backwards. I then took the spliced guitar line and put it back into the song, fading it in. In the “Strawberry Foot Rot” solo I used a wah pedal and a pitch shifter. With the delay and feedback, it makes every note sound like it's ducking down in pitch.
Check out an excerpt from "Strangles" off of The Adventures of Bumblefoot
Download Example Audio
- Download Tab PDF
Watch the video: