Welcome to the Fireworks Magazine Online Section
Fireworks Magazine Online 78 - Interview with Art Of Anarchy
19 March 2017
ART OF ANARCHY: An interview with Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal
Interview By Brent Rusche
For those who have completely ignored the headlines concerning Hard Rock music in the last ten years, guitarist and true multi-instrumentalist Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal crashed into the mainstream as part of the newly energised Guns N' Roses, of which he was a part for eight years. In addition to maintaining an active career as a solo artist, launching his own brand of hot sauces as well as engaging in numerous philanthropic pursuits, he has somehow found time to engineer, mix, master and play on the second album with Art Of Anarchy. Entitled 'The Madness' and due out on the 24 March 2017 on Century Media, AoA is revelling with delight with the newest member of the band, vocalist Scott Stapp. In between stints on multiple Rock cruises and an upcoming trip to Thailand, Fireworks was able to bend his ear to about the band, the new album and the re-release of his first two solo albums.
Being relatively new to the scene, AoA loses their lead singer shortly after the debut. For some, that tragic event would have instigated an abrupt end to the band. How did AoA handle the loss?
Well, it's been a very strange take-off for this band. I should really start by going back about twenty years. The guys who really founded this band, Jon and Vince Votta, are twin brothers from New York where Jon plays guitar and Vince plays drums. At the time, I had a studio in Staten Island and when they were still teenagers, they would come in with their band and I would engineer those recordings. Sometimes I would act as producer and become more involved and sometimes they would bring in an outside producer. At that time they always seemed to bring in outside influences who were trying to change them into something they're not instead of revealing who they really are, embracing and enhancing it. Instead of allowing the brothers to put their best feet forward, they were always trying to give them different feet [Laughs]. Years later, they came to me and said, "Look, we wrote ten songs and we want to make the album we never got to make." So, I brought them into the studio and said, "Yeah, let's do it" and we tracked all of their material. During the recording process they would ask for me to lay down a guitar solo or do a rhythm track. The next thing you know, I'm playing in addition to engineering the music. For vocals, the original idea for the album was to recruit different singers for each song. Scott Weiland originally sang one song, 'Till The Dust Is Gone', but did such a great job that everyone agreed that he would do the entire album. Then bassist John Moyer from Disturbed joined the band and all of sudden this project started to outgrow everyone's expectations, and the next thing you know we have a record deal on Century Media. Once it got to that point, Scott Weiland distanced himself from the band and denied any involvement when the album was released back in June 2015. It became immediately clear that if AoA was to continue that we were going to have to find a new singer.
Based on your description of everything would you agree that Stapp and his personality has contributed positively to the band's overall mental health?
Scott Stapp definitely added structure which we needed and has been a really good thing. Musically speaking, he offered a different approach to the way the band had worked in the past and those changes that he brought have been welcomed.
This time around, did Stapp have the same type of input with the lyrics and melodies for 'The Madness' as Weiland did on the first album?
Oh, yeah. All the lyrics he wrote are very personal and autobiographical topics. As for the melodies, most were his ideas but I was with him every step of the way. I produced, engineered, mixed and mastered the album as well.
'The Madness' seems to possess a darker and heavier vibe than its predecessor. Bands like Alice In Chains and Tool come to mind. Is that a direct reflection of the band working through the loss of Weiland or was it simply the influence of Stapp's vocal approach?
I think it is a combination of Stapp's vocals along with our own inspirations and individual songwriting style. At times, it definitely has a "Grunginess" to it which I am fine with. Some songs are more modern like 'Echo Of A Scream' while others are more Creed-esque. I think the first songs we wrote were more melodic and as we continued, things started getting heavier.
Speaking of 'Bumblefoot, the solo artist', you recently launched a campaign on pledgemusic.com which focuses on the re-release of your first two solo outings, 'The Adventures Of Bumblefoot' and 'Hermit.' What was the impetus behind this endeavour?
I found out that The Orchard, a digital-only record label in New York, acquired the entire Shrapnel catalog. Last March (2016) I met with them to see if I could get back the rights to those two albums since I forfeited everything when I was signed to Shrapnel. However, The Orchard had done so much in order to acquire that catalogue, they weren't looking to split it up. However, they ensured me that they were going to give those albums the support that they didn't get in the past. It was The Orchard, in fact, who approached me with the idea of starting this online campaign to help cover the cost of manufacturing physical product. I don't know if I will be seeing any money from it and honestly, that is not even a concern of mine. I'm doing this because it has taken 20 years for 'Hermit' to be available to fans in the way it was always intended.
Whether solo or otherwise, what is currently in the works with Bumblefoot?
I was anticipating doing some solo shows and clinics in the US, Europe and wherever else during the month of May but it appears that AoA may have some shows booked during that time which will take precedence. The two things I have scheduled for myself are Corfu Rock School in July and in a few days I will be participating at this biker/charity benefit coming up in Thailand for a children's organisation called Jester's Care For Kids. A few years ago I was the first international artist they hosted at this festival which continues to grow every year. They said that my involvement really helped with the organisation's awareness and the increased participation and contributions it is now receiving. Since its inception they have been able to donate upwards of $163,000.
I definitely applaud your efforts, contributions and willingness to give back to communities all around the world. It is humbling to know of everything you do for charitable organisations.
Thank you, it is. The kids, well they just melt your heart.