By: Alifiya Khan
Any rock guitarist who doesn’t know a Guns N’ Roses song is missing an organ,” says rhythm guitarist Ron Thal aka Bumblefoot. And anybody who knows GN’R would recognise Bumblefoot, who was an integral part of the American hard rock band for eight years. He last toured with GN’R in 2014; now, he wants to do his own music. In fact, Bumblefoot’s visit to India — he performed at the opening of Classic Rock Coffee Co in Pune on Saturday — comes as part of his new outfit called Art of Anarchy, a band he formed in 2011 with twin brothers Jon and Vince Votta.
The only time conversations don’t begin with GN’R is when they start with his name. Bumblefoot, says the guitarist with long hair and stylised beard, is inspired by a disease. “My wife is a vet and, when we were dating, I saw the name of a disease called Bumble Foot in one of her medical books. I made a song of that name and, when I got my first record deal, I called it Adventures of Bumblefoot. Later my band was called that. So yeah, it’s kind of stuck to me,” he says.
He punctuates his speech with music, often breaking off mid-sentence to collect his thoughts via a song or a tune. It is clear that music has seeped into his subconscious. “When you hear bands like Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC or KISS, you idolise them, you don’t want to join them. You don’t want to interfere or change a thing. I remember the first time I heard GN’R. I saw Welcome to the jungle at three in the morning on MTV. I thought this band had so much depth, each one brings his own spice to the meal. After that, they just kept growing,” says Bumblefoot.
He didn’t want to be a part of the band in 2004 when GN’R made him an offer. “I had a lot going, I was teaching at a college, producing my own stuff, doing music for TV and animation and it was all climbing and rising. I didn’t want to give it up. But, a year-and-half later, they ask me to come to New York to jam on three songs with them. At the end of it, they asked me ‘do you want to do it again tomorrow?’” he says. He toured with the group and was a part of their sixth studio album Chinese Democracy (2008).
Will there be a GN’R reunion for him in future? Bumblefoot shakes his head firmly. He still wants to make his own music. “Probably that kid in me is still alive who questions why I came into this. As time went on and I got face to face with death (he was diagnosed with tumour and, in another escape, was involved in a car accident), it reminded me that my time on earth is limited. I don’t want to leave without doing what I want to. So, now I am concentrating more on my solo work and my album with Art of Anarchy, which will be out next month. My charity work has also become a priority now,” he says. He even has an acting assignment and will be seen in the film Clean Cut. “I got a role with five pages,” he says.