SONS OF APOLLO By Lori Smerilson Carson January 1, 2020 SONS OF APOLLO Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is a jack of many trades, but truly a master of all of them. As the guitarist for SONS OF APOLLO, his extraordinary skills blend in perfectly with the rest of his outstanding bandmates Vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, Drummer Mike Portnoy, Bassist Billy Sheehan, and Keyboardist Derek Sherinian. They will be taking their talents on tour beginning in January in support of their second studio album MMXX (2020). Catching up with Guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, nicknamed “Bumblefoot,” he revealed how the band came together, some details about their music and the new LP and what SONS OF APOLLO fans can look forward to as well as some details about his other personal projects and accomplishments. SFL Music: Tell me about this new tour. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal: The tour yeah. It’s not as extensive across the country. Kind of is a challenge this year, but doing the best we can. We’ve got 14 shows in the US and Canada coming up in January and February. Starting on the west coast and working our way to the east coast, and then after that we’ll be hitting Europe and South America, and we’ll see what else we can do. You know, we’re always at the mercy of promoters. Every band is. Promoters have to be willing to invest in you and schedule the tour. So hopefully we’ll have more shows this year. SFL Music: We hope so too. Bumblefoot: Thank you. SFL Music: You’re welcome. What’s new and different with this show? It’s in support of the new album MMXX (2020). Bumblefoot: Well, first of all, we only had one album of music and then we had a good two hour show to fill. So, doing more covers and things like that, but now we have two albums of music where we can fill the show and I feel like we don’t need to do anything filler wise. We have enough of our own music to headline. So, that’s better. Now we’ll have two albums worth of music to do. So, that’s the biggest difference. What else? What else is different? I don’t know yet. I guess we’ll find out once we’re onstage. What kind of things fall into place, because very when often when a band goes out and plays, a show builds itself and certain things just form as you go. So, we’ll see by the end what’s gonna be different. You know, Is Jeff going to be running into the audience again or will I be running into the audience? Who knows, (he chuckled). We’ll see what happens. SFL Music: How did you guys all come together? You were all in various different bands. What was the goal of forming SONS OF APOLLO? Bumblefoot: Well it was something that Mike and Derek were talking about doing for a while and they had a band before that was instrumental. I knew Billy and Mike for a long time and we had jammed together in different ways over the past ten years. Everything from me, Mike and Billy being the house band for an event in New York, we got some Kiss and Anthrax hooked up onstage with us, to just jammed at NAMM, to me and Mike playing guitar solos for an album that Billy was producing a few years ago. So, a lot of different things. Me, Mike, Billy and Derek played together about five years ago on Progressive Nation at Sea Cruise, and I remember when we finished playing Derek flat out said, we should form a band. A few years later, early 2017 Mike sends me an email and says hey, you know how we always talked about putting a band together? Well, me and Derek have this idea and love to have you on guitar and Jeff on vocals and Billy on bass and everybody was into it, and It was that simple. It usually is. Usually, its people that know each other that just shoot each other an email or phone call and say, hey, want to do a band? Like a bunch of kids in high school. Same way. It’s not much different. SFL Music: You mentioned members having an instrumental band. On some of these songs the bands phenomenal talent is very apparent. What would you say that your influences are to come up with such powerful, really strong rhythms and guitar licks? Bumblefoot: So, influences. Well my own personal influences go way back. God, there’s so many. A lifetime of music and experiences and just living life, that becomes your influences. Musically, it’s everything from The Beatles to Soundgarden to Stevie Wonder to old classical or jazz, to Manowar. Everything, (he chuckled). Yeah, it all kind of gets in there. So, my influences definitely, if you listen to my own records, you’ll hear sort of mixes of Iron Maiden and David Bowie and Beatles and Queen and all of us, a little bit of a similar age of a lot of 60’s, 70’s classic rock. So, that’s in there. When Derek is writing, it’s often gonna have like a Rainbow and Deep Purple vibe to it. Stuff Billy came up with, he just came up with really nice chordal things, and Jeff is just, I mean he always takes our chaos and turns them into songs that people can sing along to and hum and connect with. Me, I tend to throw in a lot of grungy riffs and some of the, oh, I’m trying to think of the word, I guess progressive technical melody. I mean, we all just put ourselves in it. Each one of us, we each have our own musical personality and just don’t even think about it, (he laughed). I just put myself into it. Just whatever I feel and I guess everyone has their sound to who they are, and you just come up with ideas and show everybody, and once you do that, then they eventually turn onto songs. So, for me, I guess some of the riffier, ah fuck if I know, (he laughed). I mean, I could go song by song and say, oh yeah, this riff was mine. This riff was mine. Like “Goodbye Divinity” (from their latest LP MMXX) was pretty much Derek. “Fall To Ascend” (also from MMXX), that main Bah, bah, bahbah boo, bah bah, bahbam. That was me. So, I guess some of the sing able riffs that start the songs off with, the intros and verses like “Coming Home” (from their debut LP Psychotic Symphony), Boom boom Bahbah bah bom, bahbah bah bom, boom boom. That main riff. That’s mine. “Signs of the Time” (also from Psychotic Symphony), boom doo, doo, doo , dodooo, do, doo doo dodoo.. That was mine. So, I guess some of the digestible music motifs. That felt way too fancy. Yeah, I guess we just put ourselves in. SFL Music: On your website I saw you have your own music as well, but when you write with this band, how does that process flow? Bumblefoot: We start off where me and Derek in our own studios have come up with ideas, and then we’ll send them to each other and to Mike and this way we have some starting ideas so, when we all get together that we can build off of, because we’re not doing anything from complete by scratch. We have a few things that we can say, hey, let’s do this idea and build on that. So, we’ll take one of our ideas, we’ll pull it out of the hat and then we start spinning on it and just instinctively, other parts come together and morph and evolve, and by the end of the day we have a song demoed. For my own music, I mean, I’ve been putting out music almost thirty years. A lot of different stuff and it’s always different depending on the environment and who you are writing with, and just the overall vibe. Like for my own music, anything goes and everything goes. Where I’m producing, I’m doing all the engineering. I’m singing. I’m doing everything except playing drums. I’m the world’s worst drummer. If I’m coming for, you know, like a horror movie sound track, the visuals definitely put music in your head. When you’re playing with Mike and Derek and Billy and Jeff its gonna give you a direction that you can imagine them playing something and you write in that direction. Yeah, it’s always different depending on who you are with. SFL Music: So, your inspiration for writing your music just comes from your surroundings? Bumblefoot: Pretty often, I guess. Your reaction to your surroundings (he chuckled). SFL Music: The song “Desolate July” was that about a death? Bumblefoot: It’s about a very dear friend of all of ours who passed away very unexpectedly. He was the bass player in Jeffs band SOTO. It was about losing him. SFL Music: That’s a nice tribute. I also noticed on your website you put on a music camp? Bumblefoot: I did. Yeah, So, I’ve been teaching ever since about age 13. I started studying music when I was about six, seven years old and music has always been a very big, important part of my life. Adjunct professor at SUNY Purchase College in New York, and I’ve done so many camps. I hold fantasy camps and all kinds of things like that, and finally I just wanted to do my own where I can really just torcher people to the fullest. So, these camps will be four or five days, really morning until night, just going over everything, It’s not just guitars. It’s going over singing and recording and songwriting. We do a show together and it’s a very complete week that happens. You know, get the music business. Everything you can imagine. Just very practical and more than just guitar and plenty of guitar. One on one lessons as well and I love it. We just did the second one, and we’ve been doing them in Ireland and I’m going to keep on going and find more places around the world. I have a spot in Bali, Indonesia I’ve been considering. Have had offers from people since I started doing these camps to do them in different places. We’ll see what happens. SFL Music: Hopefully you can have one in the states too. Bumblefoot: Yeah. SFL Music: Did you say you taught at a university in New York? Bumblefoot: Yes, professor Bumblefoot, since 2003 at SUNY Purchase College, state university (teaching music production). SFL Music: So, you have a degree in music? Bumblefoot: That’s the funny thing is that I don’t. I’m actually a high school dropout, but from experience and studying on my own somehow, I was considered qualified. That was before Guns N’ Roses and before anything. So, it wasn’t due to like a popularity contest or anything like that. It just worked out that way. SFL Music: Are the other members of SONS OF APOLLO musically trained? Bumblefoot: Definitely trained. Everybody definitely knows their stuff, including Jeff, He’s also a great pianist. He’s a musician as well. Like everybody, they know music. They understand how it works. It’s just in the backs of our brains. Somewhere (he laughed) when we’re writing and playing. SFL Music: Now, you have your own hot sauce? That came about in 1981 when an older cousin dared you to eat a hot pepper? Bumblefoot: Yeah, yeah. It was my cousin bet me five dollars. He said he’ll give me five dollars if I eat a hot pepper and I ate it and I like it, and that’s the start of the journey into fiery foods. In 2013 I rolled down a line of six sauces and I was partnered up with a company called CaJohns that was a hot sauce company that’s been around a while. Then they sold the company and I went into business just this year on my own with my own food company, and getting all pieces in place, the manufacturer, the distributor, the label printer, everything, and just put out, instead of all six sauces, I’m doing just the three that people seem to like the most. So, put those back out and they are out there now and I am bringing them on tour with me. So, they will be at the merch table. SFL Music: Awesome! If someone doesn’t buy them at the show can they order them online or go to a store? Bumblefoot: Oh yeah. You can definitely get them online. I’m still getting the stuff, dealing with stores, and there’s a lot of hot sauce shops, specialty shops. I can try and get them into some of the stores, but most of the chain stores you know, they’re only going to deal with stuff that’s going to move in high volume. More mom and pops would go for mine and also, I don’t think that some of these shops would want to carry something on the shelves called BumbleFucked. The name and the fact that It’s so hot that it could kill an elephant. It’s a really dangerous hot sauce. So, that one you know, it comes with a warning and it’s probably not something that they would put on the shelves in mainstream shops, but Bumblicious. That one. Cherry Bourbon, chipotle, delicious barbeque sauce and like a barbeque hot sauce, and then just an everyday kind of sauce that goes with everything from your morning eggs, to your Thai food, to your Mexican food, to your Indian food, to your Greek food, to even your Italian food with Mediterranean herbs in it. That one’s called The Sauce because it is ‘the sauce’ that goes with everything. That’s the one that you want to take the other stuff off the table and keep that one on there. SFL Music: OK, good to know. Bumblefoot: I get more excited talking about hot sauce then I do music. SFL Music: Well that will have to be another interview, right?! Bumblefoot: Yeah. SFL Music: I like the story of how you came up with your nickname while helping your wife when she was studying to become a veterinarian? Bumblefoot: Yeah. It’s also ulcerative pododermatitis, and she was just studying. I was helping her study and came across that and found it so bizarre, that I immediately got inspired and wrote a song called “Bumblefoot,” When I had my first record deal in the mid 90’s of solo stuff, my first album was called The Adventures Of Bumblefoot, and it was like this comic book, superhero creature that was half bee, half foot and every song was named after a different animal disease. Then after that when it was time to start touring more, I called the band Bumblefoot. It was a corky band and the name fit. Then after years and years of putting out albums and playing around in a band called Bumblefoot where I’m the lead singer, lead guitarist, lead songwriter. Pretty much running with the ball. It became like a nickname. SFL Music: That’s cool. What would you suggest to up and coming musicians or entrepreneurs on how to get themselves established and have longevity like you and your bandmates have? Bumblefoot: You have to be genuine. You have to be authentic. You have to be truly who you are and the world decides from there, but as long as you’re being the best version of you and really devoting yourself to what you’re setting out to do. Give it time and learn from your mistakes and keep trying to improve and dig deeper, and if it’s good, the world will take notice, but it’s not up to any of us. It’s up to the rest of the universe to decide. The only thing that’s in our power is to do our best and be authentic with what we do and if ten people like it. Great! If ten million people like it. Great! Either way, that’s what’s meant to be. SFL Music: Great advice. Is there anything else you want readers to know about? Any new songs or Videos coming out from SONS OF APOLLO? Bumblefoot: This album will be out in January and then we’ll tour. Then we’ll hopefully work on album number three. Just check the website. Check our social media to stay updated with what we’re doing so that they know when we’re coming to town and know when we’re releasing a new video or single, or when the album’s out. Things like that. Just keep in touch and hopefully we’ll see everybody out there. SFL readers keep your eyes open for any new tour dates and MMXX is definitely one to add to any hard rock lover’s collection. In addition, if you’re into hot sauce, well, you have new options too! Share It!