Guns N’ Roses’ return to Abu Dhabi also marks a return to the city for Dj Ashba and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, the band’s guitarists, who toured here in 2010. Ashba is also a member of Sixx:A.M., in which he plays with the Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx. Thal is a producer and has toured with Lita Ford.
Aside from their musical accomplishments, both are savvy entrepreneurs. Ashba owns Ashba Media and Ashbaland Studios, and his companies produce the graphics for Virgin Megastores, rock ’n’ roll swag and apparel, movie props and special effects. Ashba recently collaborated with West Coast Customs on a limited edition Dodge Challenger.
“I have a super-creative mind that won’t shut off,” laughs Ashba, who says his aunt and uncle were involved in the invention of the technology behind aerosol cans.
“They also helped in the development of Pam cooking spray. They inspired me. Plus, I grew up without a TV and I was surrounded by all those cornfields [in Indiana].”
This may explain why he likens his interest in invention and creation to planting a seed and watching it grow. “I like taking an idea, and going through the process to where I can touch it.”
Thal’s business interests go in the gastronomic direction. “The need to create manifests itself in so many ways,” says Thal. “Plus, I love to eat,” he adds, explaining that his passion includes spicy foods, thanks to a hot pepper he ate when he was 12. “There’s this company in Ohio called CaJohns, they let me come in and play the mad scientist.”
In the end, Thal developed six sauces, all under the Bumblefoot name, but with grades such as “normal”, “abnormal”, “uncool” and “Bumblicious”. All feature images of the guitarist on the label.
With all these side projects, both musically and otherwise, how have the band changed since their last visit to the UAE?
“I’m older now,” Ashba deadpans. “Our sound is better. We’re tighter, a better-oiled machine.” Thal adds: “We’ve become like a family.”
Ashba agrees: “Yes, more like a family than a band. Now it’s become fun. It’s no longer work.”
He says that in the beginning, when you join a band like Guns N’ Roses, you don’t think about the fans or how to win their loyalty.
Thal adds: “There is scepticism, like: ‘Who just entered our family?’”
After tonight’s concert in Abu Dhabi, the band flies to Beirut for a show on Saturday night, then they take some time off before heading back out on the road.
“We need time to clear our minds and schedules and build momentum,” Thal says. “When you’re making music, you need to clear away the bombardment.”
Ashba continues his work with Sixx:A.M. “When he’s [Sixx] not doing stuff with Mötley and I’m not doing stuff with Guns N’ Roses, we work together.”
He alludes to a new album in the works: “We’re always writing. Always creating.”
So, no idle hands for these guys – they’re professional, mature and a bit unlike the Guns N’ Roses of yesteryear.
Having famously been tagged “the world’s most dangerous band” for their onstage and offstage antics in the 1980s and 1990s, does the label still apply? “We’re the most unpredictable,” claims Ashba.
“But we don’t wear danger on our sleeves in order to prove something,” adds Thal. “We’re naturally reckless. You never see the same show twice,” says Ashba. “Really. Even we never know what is going to happen.”
A different Point of View
Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal was in Dubai as recently as October, where he performed at a show with the local metal band Point of View. "After the last time we were here, we met people and you keep in touch - you know, email, Twitter, Facebook - and people say 'Hey, check out my band'. Point of View was one of those bands. They were different, and we stayed in touch."
Thal was the band's guest at their album release at the Hard Rock Cafe in Dubai. "It was good to spend a week here, get to know the city, walk the neighbourhoods, taste the foods."
What made Point of View stand out? "Well, they have great writing, perform well and their heads and hearts are in a good place."
Thal says Point of View are involved with local charities, including the Dubai Autism Center and the Dubai Senior Dog Project. The band are making waves in the region and recently won two Time Out Dubai Nightlife Awards, including Best Gig and Best Dubai Act. Check them out at www.pointofviewonline.net.
Catch Guns N' Roses Thursday at the du Arena on Yas Island.
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