Chinese Democracy. Those two words have become synonymous with one of the most anticipated, legendary and mythical albums in rock history. Fourteen years in the making, by the time 2005 rolled around, production costs for the album reached $13 million and counting (according to a New York Times article published in March of that year.) All for an album few thought, aside from perhaps members of the band and die hard Guns N' Roses fans, would ever see the light of day - at least in official form.
Truth be told, many simply stopped caring after many years of numerous delays and false reporting of release dates which came and went with no payoff, save for the odd track such as "Oh My God", a rumored song from the album which was released as part of the soundtrack to the 1999 Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick 'End Of Days'.
So it was with hardened and cynical ears the rock world heard of an actual November 2008 release date set for this white elephant of an album. But also with such scepticism came curiosity. If indeed it actually saw the light of day, what songs would be on the final listing? Would the tracks be the same as the ones leaked onto the Internet numerous times? Which musicians of the seemingly cast of thousands (actually a little more than twenty) would appear? Would GNR mastermind and sole original member Axl Rose pull the plug on the whole thing altogether at the last minute?
All such questions were duly answered when lo and behold, in late November 2008, the album finally hit store shelves exclusively at Best Buy here in the United States. While no album could possibly have lived up to the huge expectation surrounding the release, amazingly it holds up as a cohesive, logical progression from the band's last full length offerings, 'Use Your Illusion Pt 1 & 2'. While seeming to polarize long term fans expecting another 'Appetite For Destruction', more open-minded listeners will find the album to be, despite the odds against it being so - one damn fine rock record which gets better with consecutive listening.
One of the major components in the creation of the album is Brooklyn born guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, who on the recommendation of Joe Satriani, joined the band in mid 2006. The only axeman to appear on all tracks of the release, either via rhythm parts or lead work, his talent cuts through the thick, at times grandiose production, displaying the guitar wizardry which has been evident over the course of a decade-plus long recording career, prior to his hooking up with Axl Rose & Co.
Nine CD's, a live DVD, numerous appearances on various compilations and being a guest performer on other artists' work have established him as a force to be reckoned with within the guitar community. The exposure afforded to him by recording and touring world - wide with one of the most high profile bands of the past 20 years is sure to spread the word on this humble, down to earth yet technically astounding musician.
Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Thal just outside of Los Angeles at the Burbank Airport, for a candid conversation punctuated from time to time with the sounds of jets taking off. Topics discussed included the aforementioned 'Chinese Democracy', the guitarist's new solo release 'Barefoot : The Acoustic Sessions', how being in one of the biggest bands in rock has changed his life, his philosophy on making music and much more. Read on for the exclusive interview at this location