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Playing by Heart

November 15, 2013

I will never forget when Guns N’ Roses first appeared on my radar.  I was in fourth grade riding the bus home from school and my best friend’s older brother pulled his gramophone (an early predecessor to the iPhone, for the youngsters out there) out of his backpack, turned the volume way up, and “Paradise City” invaded my airspace.

Instantly my fourth grade posse was hooked because: 1. the older (and by default, cooler) kids were into it and 2. there is something inherently freeing about blasting music and singing like a  badass.  Subsequently, for the rest of the year, “Take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty” became our mantra, rallying call, and collective theme song.

It’s funny how music can instantly transport you back to a moment or time in your life.  I hear that song, and bam! I’m on the bus feeling like teachers don’t know anything and I might just go on tour myself one of these days.

Turns out, you need more than a sassy attitude and penchant for noisiness to make it as a rock star. That was a disappointing realization.

Recently though, solo artist, producer, hot sauce king,  and Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot”  Thal visited Kuala Lumpur and incredibly our paths crossed.  I was able to tag along with other press people on his “Appetite for Durian” tour as he visited an orphanage and performed at  Auditorium Balai Seni Visual Negara.  I wasn’t sure how it would all go down when I was given the chance to meet him, but Ron Thal was as genuine a person as I’ve ever met.  I was able to catch many moments where his humanity, patience, and kindness were front and center, so I will let these images speak of his authentic nature.

The kids were excited to meet Ron Thal, but they too weren't sure what to expect.

The kids were excited to meet Ron Thal, but they too weren’t sure what to expect.

Bumblefoot appeared excited to perform for the children.

Bumblefoot appeared excited to perform for the children.

The guitarist was extremely patient with his youngest fans.

The guitarist was extremely patient with his youngest fans.

Bumblefoot in Kuala Kumpur

True to form, the softspoken musician who always comes prepared had learned several Malaysian songs which he played for his eager audience.

Bumblefoot in Kuala Kumpur

He welcomed anyone brave enough to have a go at playing his iconic guitar.

He welcomed anyone brave enough to have a go at playing his iconic guitar.

When his mini concert was over he signed autographs for every child (and grown up) who wanted one.

When his mini concert was over he signed autographs for every child (and grown up) who wanted one. Everyone wanted one.

Ron Thal made sure that each child's name was spelled correctly, and tried to get each to laugh.

Ron Thal joked around while making sure he spelled each name correctly.

Each kid left with personalized proof that they  really had  met the American Rock Star.

Each kid left with personalized proof that they really had met the American Rock Star.

After signing autographs he then went on to do interviews with local media in attendance.

After signing autographs he then went on to do interviews with local media in attendance.

Bumblefoot in Kuala Kumpur

The next day he did a private concert at Auditorium Balai Seni Visual Negara.  It is here that I should mention his passion for hot sauce.  In fact he brought his own brand of spicy concoctions everywhere with him and encouraged fearless souls to give them a try.  Malaysians aren’t wimps when it comes to heat, so when I saw the people in front of me start to sweat, I quietly backed away from the line.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

If this looks appealing/fun/not like torture to you, then by all means, please visit his site to find out more.

He even played "Paradise City" to the super pumped up crowd.  That was a dream come true : )

He even played “Paradise City” to the super pumped up crowd. That was a dream come true : )

Does it get any better? (no, no it does not)

Does it get any better? (no. no it does not)

Malaysian rock legend, Amy Search made a special appearance and jammed with the star.

Malaysian rock legend, Amy Search made a special appearance and jammed with the star.

It amazing to see this improbable pair rock on stage.

It was amazing to see this improbable pair rock on stage.

After the set was over Bumblefoot once again set about signing autographs for each fan in attendance.

After the set was over Bumblefoot once again set about signing autographs for each fan in attendance.

How he had the energy to make each fan feel appreciated and sign autographs for over an hour and a half (after playing for over an hour) is a great mystery.  But Ron Thal did not leave a single fan disappointed.

How he had the energy to make each fan feel appreciated and sign autographs for over an hour and a half (after playing for over an hour) is a great mystery. But Ron Thal did not leave a single fan in Malaysia disappointed.

Ron Thal with a fan-made guitar crafted from Durian.  If you're wondering if this thing smelled terrible, it did.

Ron Thal with a fan-made guitar crafted from Durian. If you’re wondering if this thing smelled terrible, it did.

When you meet someone exceedingly talented and also famous who turns out to be kindhearted, open, and grounded, you feel like your admiration was not wasted.  I never heard Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal complain, or grow tired of the seemingly endless flow of admirers that approached him.  He never put a time limit on how long he would sign autographs for.  He went out with local musicians and got to know KL through their eyes.  Hopefully Bumblefoot’s appetite for durian remains strong, as fans here would love to welcome back this true Guitar Hero.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Lucy Bowen permalink
    November 15, 2013 12:19 pm

    Awesome article Mel, This really made me smile. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal sounds like a great guy. I now have this funny image in my head of you belting out “Paradise City” :0

    • November 16, 2013 12:24 am

      Thanks! Fourth grade me was a lot more brazen than current me : )

  2. November 16, 2013 1:27 am

    Your article makes me want to add “meet Bumblefoot” to my bucket list. Fantastic article and photos!!!

  3. Vance Stacy permalink
    November 17, 2013 12:27 am

    I know I sound like a broken record……but you just keep getting better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT piece and pics!!!!!!! Keep it up, sweetie!!! Signed, your #1 fan!! :) Love, Dad.

  4. Joel, your downstairs neighbour permalink
    February 12, 2014 5:38 am

    Great post! I am so glad I read this as I have become really disenchanted with Guns N’ Roses – love their music, hate their attitude. Seeing what a good guy Thal is, through your eyes, will allow me to enjoy their music a little more again. Thanks, Melany!

    • February 12, 2014 5:40 am

      I know what you mean, and I’m glad I could help!

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