Former GUNS N’ ROSES guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal says that the band’s much-maligned 2008 album “Chinese Democracy” is a “one-of-a-kind” record that will be looked upon more favorably by fans as time goes on.
Thal joined GUNS N’ ROSES in 2006 and played on “Chinese Democracy”, an album which contained music that had been written before he came into the group. The disc took 13 years to make and was only a modest seller, moving just around half a million copies.
Thal discussed his views on “Chinese Democracy” during an appearance on Music Is Win‘s “Guitar Villains” podcast. He said (see video below): “At the time, people were still just going on about how it took this long to make, and it took this much money, and all that nonsense. And I always said, wait 20 years. People are gonna forget about all of this stuff, all of this baggage that they’re trying to attach to this record. And they’re just gonna listen to it for what it is and just listen to it as music, and they’re gonna hear so many layers of things and such an interesting combination of parts and people and changes in even style and technology that was happening over the course of many years — let’s say 10-ish years, [from] when they started writing to [when] it actually was on the shelves in stores. And I don’t think any other album in the history of rock went through those kind of changes. So it’s a very special album with a lot of history just within each song that has layers to it. And I’m grateful that they had me on it.”
Thal never officially announced his departure from the GN’R, but a source confirmed to Detroit music writer Gary Graff back in 2015 that the guitarist had been out since the end of the band’s second Las Vegas residency in 2014.
Thal later revealed that he was focusing on his solo career and other projects after spending eight years playing in GUNS.
In a 2017 interview with Meltdown of the Detroit radio station WRIF, Thal said that it would feel “kind of weird” if he went to see the reunited partial classic lineup of GUNS N’ ROSES perform in concert. “I quit the band and they moved on and I moved on. It’s not like we quit pretty,” he explained. “And also, what am I gonna do? I’m gonna stand in the audience and everyone’s gonna be, like, ‘Hey, you used to be there.’ It’s too weird, man.
“I wish ’em well and all, but to actually physically go [and see them], after hundreds of times on the stage with them, it just feels very surreal,” he continued. “I always describe it like going to see your ex-girlfriend’s wedding. And I don’t mean any disrespect by that, and I do wish them well and I’m happy that they’re doing so, so good. But for me to go and see it, it would just stir up a lot of stuff. So it’s better that I’m just doing my thing, they’re doing their thing and everybody just wishes each other well from afar. And I get lots of good reports from friends and everything and I’m still in touch with people in the camp. I’m real happy for them — they’re on top of the world right now, so good for them.”
Back in September, Thal told Jam Man that he “sometimes did” and “sometimes didn’t” get along with the members of GUNS N’ ROSES while he was in the band. “When a bunch of dudes are living together for months at a time, traveling from place to place and living such an intense life while you have this whole other life that’s happening back home that needs you, there’s a lot of things that can wear a person down, individuals,” he explained. “And when that person gets worn down, they’re not gonna be at their best. And other people, depending on who they are, the way they react to people who are worn down and not at their best, it will trigger things in them and maybe not bring out their best. And it’s very easy for the stress to get the best of people in a group environment — whether it’s a band, whether it’s an office, whether it’s anyting. That’s just the nature of human beings. The way we feel is very contagious. If one person is foul, everyone gets foul. If one person is happy, everyone can get happy. If one person is laughing, everyone starts laughing. So it’s very easy for us — and when I say ‘us,’ I mean any group of people — to react to each other in any direction.
“So, yeah, there were times when we got along great, [and] some times when we really didn’t, and everything in between,” he continued. “But ultimately, when you get on stage, most of the time, you forget everything and you just get lost in the music and you’re having a great time in that moment, just making music and being a part of something that’s bigger than ourselves and more meaningful than whatever you’re going through. And you’re there for hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands or whatever it is, that many people, that are there to be happy. And it’s hard not to be when you’re part of that.”
Thal is currently a member of SONS OF APOLLO, which also features drummer Mike Portnoy, keyboardist Derek Sherinian and bassist Billy Sheehan. SONS OF APOLLO released its second studio album, “MMXX” (pronounced: 20/20), in January via InsideOut Music/Sony.