Guitar wizard Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, former guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, recently reflected on his time in the band and what it was like to work on their 2008 album Chinese Democracy. In an interview with Dr. Music, Thal offered an interesting glimpse into the wild and chaotic recording process that produced the most divisive album in the band’s history, one that took almost a decade to be completed.
As Thal recalls, the music for Chinese Democracy was already largely completed when he joined the band in 2006. However, the album’s producer, Caram Costanzo, still encouraged Thal to experiment and contribute his own unique style to the songs.
“The music was so close to finished, and it was so full, and there was so much going on there. I was just trying to find the thing that would fit best. And that’s where Costanzo, he was there, and he would guide me, and he really made it happen so that I was able to contribute something to it.”
Thal also revealed that Axl Rose and Costanzo had the final say in which of his parts would end up on the album. “So it was the two of us in the studio, just going at it,” Thal said. “And then he and Axl would just go through the stuff and decide what works, what doesn’t, and what they wanna keep and what will be in the background and what will be in the front.”
Despite the album’s troubled production – and often being notes as Axl Rose‘s solo effort – Thal remains grateful for the opportunity to have worked on Chinese Democracy. He believes that the album is a deep and complex work that rewards multiple listenings.
“I’m glad I could be part of that history,” Thal offered. “It was a deep album with a lot of layers. You can listen to it a few times and hear more, even things you didn’t notice. Like a great movie, when you watch it a third time, it’s, like, ‘Oh, I didn’t even notice that.'”
While Chinese Democracy was a commercial success upon its release, it has been met with mixed reviews from critics and fans alike. Some have praised the album’s ambition and experimentation, while others have criticized its bloated length and uneven quality. Regardless of one’s opinion of the album, there is no denying that it remains a unique chapter in the history of Guns N’ Roses.
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