Alternative Matter recently conducted an interview with GUNS N' ROSES guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal. You can now listen to the chat in the YouTube clip below. A couple of excerpts from the interview follow.
Alternative Matter: You recently said some very really interesting things about the current decline of the music industry and how bands and musicians should react to it. What should people do according to you?
Thal: Haha, I could talk all day about this. The thing is that I'm not talking about the METALLICAs and U2s of this world, but about guys who are trying to get their first bands together and getting their music out there. It's about delivering the music to people in the best possible way and have a future in doing that. It's geared towards those kind of people. Where to begin? It's really simple. Fifteen years ago when I started putting out albums, you still had all the big gatekeepers, like labels and distro. There was a lot of money being allocated to promote albums and making people aware of their existence. This was before the time the Internet got big. The only way to do it was through hellishly expensive ads in magazines and you didn't get the worldwide coverage you get nowadays because of Internet. If you wanted to get some visibility in a record store, you had to pay 500 dollars each month on one location to have it in the listening booth. That really adds up and could wipe you out. The distro would be waiting on getting paid from the stores and it would hold up paying the label, and after all the expenses for recording and promo, you wouldn't see a dime as an artist. That happened to me several times. A label wouldn't do a lot of promotion and they wouldn't help set up a tour, and would say I owed them twenty grand. I was busting my balls making albums and not making a dime in return. I wasn't in it for the money, but you still need to pay your bills. You're putting all of your time in but it's not putting food on the table. How are you supposed to live?
Alternative Matter: I can imagine it must be incredibly disheartening when you pour your soul into creating the best music you can and you get nothing in return..
Thal: Yes, it becomes a form of indentured servitude, because you're under contract. You're forced to make music for years but not make any money. That's how it used to be. Then the Internet opened everything up, thanks to the old Napster. I had two computers set up, one for normal stuff and one for being connected to Napster 24/7 where people could download all these extra songs of mine and live versions on mp3. That was back in the late Nineties. That was the best. It was the start of things opening to the whole world. Sites like CDbaby and Amazon made it possible to sell your music online without going to a label. Then came PayPal, which made it easy for people to buy it all. Now young bands don't have to sell their soul anymore. That's another thing that would happen. Once you surrender your music to the label, they own all of it. When they'd decide to stop printing your album, there'd be nothing you can do about it. When you'd give your music to a label, you'd lose your ownership of it. The label owns the songs "throughout the Universe in perpetuity." That means, if you try to sell your music on the moon, they can sue you. Now, you can make your music, keep your music and your rights and sell your music to the whole world from your own laptop. It's very easy now and that's the thing I want young bands to understand. Don't buy into the old myth. Now you can do everything yourself.
Alternative Matter: How do you balance your own activities with being a guitarist in GUNS N' ROSES?
Thal: It's like having a testicular problem. You've got two balls and one of them of is humongous and you have to figure how to walk with that. It's basically having one big ball and a bunch of other smaller balls, so walking becomes very difficult. It's a challenge sometimes with how to budget time and be in multiple places at once without an army of clones. It's not easy. When GUNS needs me, I'm there, and when my time is free, I run like the wind, haha. Right now I'm using Skype for giving guitar lessons, because I miss the hell out of teaching. I'm also getting back into producing other bands, I'm doing some guest spots here and there and I'm busy with releasing my own music. Next week I'll by flying out to Israel to play with death metal band SALEM and play on a bunch of their songs. That's going to be fun.
Alternative Matter: With GUNS N' ROSES you performed on the biggest festivals and venues often in front of thousands of people and it also gives you somewhat of a celebrity status. How do you cope with that and what's keeping you grounded?
Thal: Probably because I don't think I have celebrity status at all and most of the people don't think I do either, haha, so that helps. Honestly, I'm not a kid anymore. I'm set in my ways and I know who I am so shit doesn't go to my head. I've been beaten down enough by life to know what's important and what isn't. I have a pretty healthy perspective of what's going on. I enjoy what I'm doing on stage and giving people a good time. After the show, I walk off the stage I shake hands and say "another day at the office," haha. Then I wipe my sweat off and go to the meet-and-greet room and hang out with everyone and sign some stuff, take some pictures, eat some spicy foot and burn a hole in my stomach, hang some more and go to bed at some point. It's no big deal. I'm still doing the dishes, taking out the trash and cleaning the cat box. When I go to work it's just a lot of people watching. It's all about giving people a good time and that's why I got into performing in the first place.
Read the entire interview from Alternative Matter.