Virtuoso guitarist Nuno Bettencourt speaks about new album and gigging in India
By Bobin James
Extreme revolutionised rock in the late-Eighties and early-Nineties with their unique brand of funk metal. Last month, they released their fifth studio album, 13 years after 1995’s Waiting for the Punchline. The new record, Saudades de Rock (pronounced “sow-dodge”) stands testament to their status of one of the most innovative bands around, built on the strengths of vocalist Gary Cherone, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, bassist Pat Badger and new drummer Kevin Figueiredo. Bettencourt speaks about the new record (“I really think this is the best record we’ve ever done”) and the lack of good rock & roll (“While there are great bands out there, from Muse to the Raconteurs, we felt there was a void as far as straight-up rock & roll goes.”)
What happened 13 years ago? Why did Extreme break up? And what brought you guys back together now?
Basically, breaking up wasn’t much of a surprise. We were together for 11 years, we were touring constantly. We hadn’t taken a break. If we had taken a break in between touring and recordings, then perhaps we would not have taken a 13 year break.
As for getting back together, we didn’t want to do it for the wrong reasons… for money or for nostalgic reasons. The couple of times that we performed recently, there was a sort of a depression, since there was no new music that we were playing. So we figured we would just sit down and write new songs…
You have said that there is a “massive shortage of rock & roll on this planet.”
Yes, there are big changes in the music business. As far as the basic guitar-driven rock goes, there is a void… Look at any top ten list - if you are not working with Timbaland or Timberlake, you are not even there. So when Gary and I got back together, we knew we had something relevant to offer.
So what’s the concept behind Saudades de Rock?
There are no concepts. It’s many different stories - some are fun, some are lighthearted, some are based on relationships.
How do you usually approach the composing process, Nuno?
We never ever sit down to write a song; it’s usually very spontaneous. Most of the time though, it’s usually the music or the melody that comes in first.
But this time around, was it scary? The fact that there were going to be all these expectations after 13 years?
Not really. When you are gone that long, then there really are no expectations from you. And we have always been selfish in creating records in our own world… not worrying about what people think.
Any chances of Extreme visiting India on this tour?
I hope so… I always wanted to. We are trying to reach a lot of places that we haven’t gone to earlier, including some places in Asia. We were, in fact, supposed to come along to India years ago, along with Bryan Adams. But then for some reason, it go shelved… But yes, we are hoping something works out.
(September 5, 2008)
© Bobin James/Rolling Stone India, 2008