RON "BUMBLEFOOT" THAL Talks Making Of New SONS OF APOLLO Album - "We Only Had Eight Days"
November 17, 2019, a month ago
Guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal recently guested on Sonic Perspectives and discussed the forthcoming Sons Of Apollo record, as well as joining Asia as touring singer/guitarist earlier this year. Check out the audio interview below.
Bumblefoot: "The first album, Derek and I would make all these riffs that we would throw into the hat, and then we had maybe 11 days in the studio where we would put them all together and expand on the ideas and turn it into songs. And Billy (Sheehan / bass) was there for that as well once he got off tour. Then Jeff (Scott Soto /vocals) would turn all these crazy prog monstrosities into these palatable, beautiful songs, which is what Jeff does. He's just magic. And the same thing with us now. Now we did the same thing where me and Derek would come up with all these crazy ideas and just throw them into the hat and then me, Derek and Mike (Portnoy / drums) got together. This time we only had eight days, and we just busted out everything we could in eight days and there was a little more of a chance after that where I could take all my guitar parts and work on them at my studio and Derek at his, and that was just the only way we could pull it off this year.
Sons Of Apollo - former Dream Theater members Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian, Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses), Billy Sheehan (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) and Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force) - are ready to ring in the new decade with a sonic boom with their second studio album, appropriately titled, MMXX (pronounced: 20/20).
Produced by The Del Fuvio Brothers (Portnoy and Sherinian), MMXX will be released on January 17 via InsideOutMusic/Sony as a standard CD package, Limited Edition 2 CD package (which includes instrumental mixes and a cappella excerpts), 2 LP + CD package, and on all digital formats. Pre-order here. Digital pre-orders come with an instant download of the album’s first single, “Goodbye Divinity”. A video for the song can be seen below:
“Stylistically, we have followed the same path as the debut,” outlines drummer Mike Portnoy. “But we feel that it has come out stronger, simply because we know one another better. Psychotic Symphony was the first time the five of us had worked together, so there was bound to be an air of experimentation happening. Now, we can draw on having the experience not only of recording that album, but also of touring together a lot. And now there is clearly a lot more obvious chemistry going on.”
“We did 83 shows on the last tour,” adds keyboardist Derek Sherinian. “And it was so worthwhile, because we came out of it with a stronger bond, and that is certainly reflected in what we wrote.”
The writing process began at the start of the year, as Portnoy, Sherinian and guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal got together. “The three of us were at my home studio in Pennsylvania,” explains Portnoy. “And it took about three weeks to get all the music written. That was a very smooth process. The last time, it certainly must have felt a little weird for Bumblefoot to be writing with Derek and me, because we were strangers to him. Now, we know one another better and that helped things push along.”
“Because we all have our home studios, it meant everyone could record there as and when they had opportunity,” continues Sherinian. “We all had the luxury of being able to take our time to get all the parts done, which was a huge help in the way the album's come out. I suppose in all, it took about eight months to record everything.”
The lyrics were written by Soto, who also came up with the melody lines with input from Sherinian. “While Jeff was left to come up with the words on his own, as the melody lines are part of the music, it made sense for me to be involved with that part,” says the keyboard player.
There are eight tracks on MMXX, with variations in length totalling 60 minutes. “The final song is 'New World Today, which is 16 minutes long,” says Portnoy. “This one has elements similar to 'Opus Maximus' and 'Labyrinth' on the previous album. It has some insane, brilliant instrumental moments, which I am sure the fans will love.”
“We wanted to do something epic here, as we did with 'Opus Maximus' last time around,” adds Sherinian. “You have to remember that Mike and I come from Dream Theater, where we never bothered about how long a song was. So, for us doing a 16 minute track is not a problem.”
The album title was inspired by a simple chronological fact. “This will be released in mid-January 2020,” says Portnoy. “That means it will be one of the first releases in what is a new decade. So I came up with the idea of calling it '2020,’ except having it written in the Latin form of 'MMXX'.” And the album’s artwork has been created by Thomas Ewerhard (who was responsible for the cover design of Psychotic Symphony), which inevitably reflects the title. As Portnoy explains, “For the first record, we had a mythological feel. This time around though, there's a much more futuristic style to what we've got. It has a very 21st century appeal. And the band crest is more polished, cleaned up and a lot more modern than last time, when it had an old fashioned look.”
“Each member of this band has their own signature sound on their instrument,” adds Sherinian. “And when you put all of this together what you get is a wonderful five-headed beast. It makes this a sonically special band, which is definitely what comes across on MMXX. You can hear odd time signatures and amazingly crazy performances here. Overall, we've been satisfyingly more adventurous this time than we were before, and I know people are sure to love what we've done.”
"Wither To Black"
"King Of Delusion"
"Fall To Ascend"
"New World Today"
In touring news, the band’s headlining MMXX World Tour will launch January 24 in Pomona, CA and will take them around the world throughout the new year. Tickets are on sale now.
24 - Pomona, CA - The Glass House
25 - Los Angeles, CA - The Roxy
26 - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
28 - Salt Lake City, UT - The State Room
29 - Denver, CO - The Oriental Theater
31 - St. Charles, IL - Arcada Theater
1 - Battle Creek, MI - The Music Factory
2 - Toronto, ON - Mod Club
3 - Montreal, QC - Corona Theater
5 - Boston, MA - Paradise Rock Club
6 - New York, NY - Gramercy Theater
7 - Jim Thorpe, PA - Penn’s Peak
8 - Englewood, NJ - Bergen PAC
29 - Germany - TBA
2 - Drammen, Norway - Union Scene
3 - Gothenburg, Sweden - Traedgarn
5 - Kyiv, Ukraine - N.A.U Theatre
7 - Moscow, Russia - RED
8 - St Petersburg, Russia - Aurora
10 - Pratteln, Switzerland - Z7
11 - Milan, Italy - Live Club
13 - Bilbao, Spain - Santana 27
14 - Barcelona, Spain - Razzmatazz 2
15 - Madrid, Spain - La Riviera
17 - France - TBA
18 - France - TBA
19 - London, UK - Islington Assembly Hall
20 - Eindhoven, Netherlands - Prognosis Festival
22 - Show Brno, Czech Republic - Sono
24 - Kosice, Slovakia - Colosseum
25 - Budapest, Hungary - Barba Negra
(Photo - Hristo Shindov)