Ron Thal, better known as his stage name “Bumblefoot”, is set to perform on this year’s ShipRocked line-up as part of the Stowaways. Bumblefoot is a legendary guitarist, songwriter, producer, and fellow traveler. He’s also one of the nicest guys in the business. We always look forward to seeing what he has in store to play on the high seas. Since the 1990’s Bumblefoot has released 10 solo albums and has collaborated with artists such as David Ellefson and Geoff Tate.
Most famously known for his lead guitarist role in Guns N’ Roses from 2006 until 2014, Bumblefoot has gone on to create his own record label and solo career. He has also played guitar for other bands like Art of Anarchy, Sons of Apollo, Whom Gods Destroy, and was lead vocalist most recently for the band Asia.
You can see Bumblefoot perform on the 2024 ShipRocked Cruise with other hard rock and metal artists if you were lucky enough to grab a spot on the ship this February. The cruise is scheduled to set off on February 4th from Miami, Florida. It will travel to Bimini in The Bahamas, Ocho Rios in Jamaica, and Grand Cayman. The cruise will then return to Miami on February 10th.
We caught up with Bumblefoot to chat about his hometown in New Jersey, his favorite ShipRocked memories, and the experiences he’s had in countries all over the world.
What’s a perfect day in your hometown of New Jersey?
I wake up, I go to the gym, I torture myself. I go to the studio, I work on my album and do some mixing of people’s albums and a little bit of teaching. I come home, eat a delicious dinner and play with my cat for hours, and we fall asleep together and wake up. He’s the love of my life.
What’s your cat’s name?
His name is Simon.
How old is he?
You know, they said he was three, but he was absolutely half of that. He still had kitten energy, and he’s grown since. It’s barely been a year that we’ve had him. He’s so smart and so funny and so intuitive, so empathic and just, he’s all I care about. Just the wife and the cat. Just give me them and a coconut and I don’t need anything else in life.
What’s the longest you’ve gone without playing guitar?
I’ve gone probably a few weeks. I’ve gone where it would just be arm’s length and I just didn’t play it because I’m too busy just slouching over the computer doing something else. But it’s kind of nice sometimes to give yourself a break and come back refreshed and sometimes with a slightly different perspective. When you play again, if you take a good long break, everything comes right back. You don’t forget anything. The hands may tighten up a little bit, but they loosen right back up and you’re good.
What is your favorite ShipRocked memory?
So many. My God, I still remember the very first one doing Detroit Rock City with Dave Ellefson in 2016. One of the favorites was doing the acoustic set with Geoff Tate. That was a nice one. That was really enjoyable. There has been so many. I mean, even just seeing Corey Glover perform his acoustic set. We were all saying that that felt spiritual, that whole thing. It was deep. He was just so good.
You’ve collaborated with so many musicians. Any standout moments?
Oh, God, I have decades of them. It’s like trying to put them into a funnel and pick one. I did a bunch of playing out in Armenia and played with Brian May. We did a bunch of stuff and that was really nice. With him and Graham Gouldman, who wrote a lot of the songs for The Yardbirds, and we did some stuff together and played with this soprano diva opera singer from Spain.
We did something with the National Children’s Choir of Armenia and Sons of Apollo, and then doing crazy progressive solo music with Derek Sherinian and Simon Phillips on drums. It was a ton of playing with the most incredible people in this beautiful place for the most wonderful people and eating the most delicious food. That right there is a standout memory. And just to put the icing on the cake, this whole event that we were at was a festival that combines music and astrophysics.
What was the event called?
It’s called Starmus Festival. I would spend nights at the rooftop bar of the hotel just talking with Nobel Prize winners and the guy who has been running Astronomy magazine for 40 years, just about all these incredible concepts. I met this amazing woman who studies Exoplanets and all her discoveries. I’ve loved that stuff as long as I’ve loved music. So, for me, I was in heaven. Absolutely perfect combo.
I’ve traveled to India a lot so I wanted to ask you about your involvement with the Wildlife Trust in India. Do you have any favorite places there?
It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but when I was out there, I did a week in Pune, which was incredible, seeing the caves and where Gandhi was under house arrest. It’s incredible. The people that I was with, they were doing a lot of work building classrooms and creating schools. It was nice to see what they were doing and meet the people.
As far as the Wildlife Trust, I have to give credit to some friends of mine that live in Dubai. They’re from India, a band called Point of View. They were the connection with that and really they’re the ones who are truly involved with it. Great bunch of guys.
You have this Brothers In Arms by Brian Tarquin and Heavy Friends Tribute that came out last year. Tell me about this project.
Well, Brian, he’s done a ton of these albums, always doing things to help veterans. He’s a great musician and he puts together these albums, his songs and has all different people play on them. I don’t know how many of his albums I’ve done and how many songs, but I’ve done a bunch. This is the latest one of a string of benefit albums that he’s done. He’s somebody that everyone should check out and see what he’s doing because he does a lot of stuff and he’s got a good cast of characters in there.
What’s been your craziest travel story?
Where do I begin? I’ve had so many. Planes losing power halfway over the Atlantic. In Southeast Asia, trying to be extorted by some immigration officer that brought ten cops to arrest me and throw me in jail if I went on stage and didn’t pay him off. All kinds of things. Yeah, there’s been some interesting ones. Lots of good ones, too.
You’ve toured and taught students all over the world, especially in Indonesia, Greece, Europe and Southeast Asia. Any hidden gems people should visit or that people may not know of in these places?
Place wise, Indonesia is one of the most beautiful places with the most delicious food. As far as Ireland, right in the center of the country is a town called Athlone, a very nice town. But up in the north, at the very northern coast, there’s an island there, Inch Island, and it’s an island in the middle of a lake in Donegal County. It’s such a nice place. Pretty much anywhere you go in Ireland you’re going to meet some of the most wonderful people you could ever meet.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had while traveling?
There have definitely been a lot. Southeast Asia is up there because I’m just a huge fan of that cuisine. God, one dinner in Indonesia was the freshest, most delicious, flavorful, feel good thing you’ve ever tasted.
I’ve eaten a lot of interesting things. I’ve had different types of brains in Bangladesh. I think it was cows and sheep and that’s where you could get bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Don’t eat brains. It didn’t make me any smarter, that’s for sure.