At first glance it looked like any other garage band rehearsal: six guys thrashing and bashing away in a warehouse in Al Quoz. But hang around for a song or two and you’d have felt the infectious musical charisma pouring from one member, a straggly guitarist clad in a weathered leather jacket and jeans, at odds with the five tentative Asian players standing awkwardly around in awe.
Between blitzing six-string workouts, he wanders over to a mic. ‘Hey Axl – it’s Bumble,’ he says in an American drawl, ‘I’ve decided I’m going to stay in Dubai.’ Everyone in the room giggles. ‘Whaaaaaaat?!’ he answers in a cartoon-pitched whine, beginning several minutes of improvised mock-dialogue between this man – Ron Thal – and his absent band leader, Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose.
A night later, on October 5, the guitarist joined those five stunned rockers – otherwise known as Dubai band Point of View – on stage to launch their debut album, Revolutionize the Revolutionary. We took the opportunity to corner 43-year-old Ron, otherwise known as ‘Bumblefoot’ (a type of foot infection), for a chat.
He turned down the offer to join Guns N’ Roses – at first.
‘In 2004 Joe Satriani sent me an email saying, “I’ve just recommended you for Guns….” At the time I was busy, I was fulfilled with what I was doing, so I said no. A year and a half later we got back from touring and figured it out. It’s a very strange story.’
He met Point of View two years ago, following a Guns gig in Abu Dhabi.
‘We go all around the world and hear all these bands, but they don’t always have that integrity. Point of View have a social conscience with the music they write, which makes you want to support it.’
He doesn’t resent the fans who prefer the ‘classic Guns quintet’ (Axl Rose is the only remaining member).
‘With Guns, it’s not my own thing, and there’s such a history and so many people before you, and there’s a lot of people around telling you that. You’ve got 25 years of music and I’m just a tiny part. But I’m contributing. There are fans that want the classic quintet and I don’t take issue with it. [But] I don’t have to write a song to play a song.’
His solution would be to call the new band simply ‘G n’ R’.
‘The only thing people take issue with is that Guns N’ Roses was orange juice made of oranges. Then they started adding apples, and now it’s all apples but it’s still called “orange juice”. It’s such different music, with different members. I say it should be called “G n’ R” – respecting the changes and trying to force people to see that it’s different to Guns N’ Roses.’
Slash is the only member of the original line-up that Bumblefoot hasn’t played with.
‘He’s the one I haven’t met, and probably won’t, out of respect for Axl. If I met Slash, it would make Axl feel weird, like if your close friend went on a date with your ex – it’s weird.’
Revolutionize the Revolutionary is available in Virgin Megastores now. For more on Ron, see www.bumblefoot.com.