Nuno Bettencourt / How Extreme Hit A Nerve With The Younger Generation

It will soon be one year since Nuno Bettencourt channelled a surging EVH on the insanely cool Extreme single Rise. This, and the new album Six, released via earMusic, was met with lots of positive press for the band as well as a new generation of fans. MetalTalk caught up with Nuno Bettencourt and asked how it felt having more young fans in the audience.

“It’s been kind of crazy,” Nuno said. “After five or six songs, the first time we talk to the audience in the set, the first question is always how many people here are seeing us for the first time? And it’s anywhere between 40% to 70%, especially throughout Europe. It is exciting.

“We love the fans that have been with us forever, but I’ve definitely been seeing a lot of younger faces in the audience everywhere. Younger means a lot with how much older we are. It’s like teens, twenties, and thirties, which is exciting. It’s exciting to have hit a nerve with the younger generation as well.”

I tell Nuno my age and that Extreme are my number one band. “Really, how did that happen?” Nuno asks. My dad, I say.

“Thanks, Dad,” Nuno smiles. “That’s the other thing too. There are a lot of people bringing their kids to the shows as well. I was joking with a younger fan, asking if his parents had forced him to come, and he said no, that he wanted to come. So it’s pretty cool.”

Extreme have been known for creating diverse albums since the early ’90s. Six is no exception. I ask if there was a strategy behind the track order or if this is natural.

“Nothing falls into place naturally,” Nuno says. “It’s never about favourite songs and what we think is strongest or anything like that. It’s always about trying to try to make the album a bit of a journey for the listener.

“It’s almost like a film or anything where you want to excite everybody. You want to give them a three-course meal, appetizers, and those first four or five songs that really get them excited and intrigued.

“Then you keep going with the main course, track six to nine, and then end off with the dessert. It’s definitely on purpose to make sure that there are enough left and right turns that it just doesn’t sound one-dimensional.”

Save Me is a track that, having a heavier sound to it, gives the album an edge. The solo has the classic Nuno flare on it while staying fresh and exciting. Was this solo one that came naturally, or did it require more of a process when fleshing it out?

“I tried to go in without any sort of preconceived ideas,” Nuno says. “I just allowed myself to go in, let go and see what happened. I actually feel as though the solos in Rise and Save Me are related in a way, like brother and sister.

“Obviously, Rise is a lot more energetic because the song is a lot more energetic. Save Me is the song where everyone in the band was saying, ‘I think that could be one of my favourite songs.’ It’s like that dark horse that’s on there that nobody talks about that much.

“We will be shooting a video for that as well, as we’re shooting a video for every song. A lot of people, unfortunately even peers of ours in this business, have taken their own lives, and it’s a song that, hopefully, we can use to shine a little bit of light on the subject. I’m excited about doing that video.”

Nuno has taken on the role of directing and editing the music videos for the new album, but this is not something new for him. “Once again, it’s something that I’ve always been involved with in the past, even though I didn’t direct,” he says. “I’ve always been the annoying one who wanted to be in the editing room even when they didn’t want me there.

“The second I write a song, especially when the lyrics are done, the next thing that happens is the pen goes to the next page and there’s always a visual right away. There’s always a visual that sticks with me of what I see and what the song feels like. It’s super important to me that the visuals match the songs.

“I found that whenever we have outside directors, it’s not that they didn’t produce good videos. It’s just that they created what they saw, not what I saw. Of course, we have to agree, but as I started getting more into it during the making of the Pornograffitti videos, it really became clear to me what the visuals for these were.

“The editing part is probably one of the most important parts because we’ve done incredible shoots where we know the footage is there, but then there’s another person that comes in and narrates it in a completely different way than we envisioned.

“For the sake of not sounding like a complete control freak, it’s not really about that. It’s also about talking to the band, pitching those ideas, and getting their input. Gary [Cherone], especially, has helped a lot in visualizing the videos. We’ve been around long enough, and we’ve experienced enough to know what we want at this point in our career.”

Nuno Bettencourt - Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk
Nuno Bettencourt – Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk

Nuno Bettencourt has been involved in the producing side of Extreme’s albums since Pornograffitti. I ask if he feels that the more he has grown as a producer, does this change his approach to an album when writing music and recording.

“I don’t think anything has changed, even since the first Extreme album, PornoGraffiti or Three Sides,” he says. “Regardless of who you see on the credits, who produced what and who did what, I don’t think I really knew that I was a producer until I got to Pornografitti. I realized, well, wait a second, this is what I’ve been doing all along.

“When you’re younger, you don’t really know what a producer does until you get in there and you meet a producer, and sometimes they produce something great, and sometimes not so great. A producer’s job is really to do as much as nothing to 100 per cent of something.

“I think the best thing you can do as a producer is to know when to do nothing and let the magic happen or when to intervene without taking over the whole thing. It’s like protecting the album and making sure it gets whatever it needs technically, sonically, etc. The biggest challenge is the psychology of it: making sure you get the band across emotionally without breaking up every album.”

Nuno Bettencourt - Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk
Nuno Bettencourt – Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk

It was recently the 29th Anniversary of Waiting For The Punchline. Extreme have been playing Midnight Express for a lot longer. How do they decide what was going onto which album because you were even playing songs off III Sides To Every Story back in the ’80s?

“We were always writing ahead,” Nuno says. “By the time our album was released, we already had the next album done. We wrote a lot on tour. Midnight Express was actually supposed to be on III Sides, but it got axed because we wanted to do the third side. At that time, you just couldn’t do whatever length you wanted. It had to fit on a CD or an album. We got into a bit of a brawl over that, taking Midnight out, but it ended up being on Punchline.”

Nuno Bettencourt - Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk
Nuno Bettencourt – Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk

On the European leg of the Thicker Than Blood tour, Extreme filmed one of the shows for a live release. “We don’t have a release date yet,” Nuno says. “They’re waiting on me to mix it because I said I would do it, but I have a lot of projects going on at the moment. I’m in the middle of editing the Here’s To The Losers video, and we have two other videos filmed ready to be edited.

“Trying to get things done while on tour isn’t easy, but I take advantage of days off to get caught up on things. It was exciting to do the live recording and it’ll be exciting for fans to hear the live versions of the new songs.”

The burning question that every Extreme fan has is if the band are working on any new music. “Ooh, burning question,” Nuno smiles. “Well, let me see. This is where everything gets created on my phone.”

At this point, Nuno opens his phone. “These are my voice notes and ideas. Let’s see if there are any new riffs, thoughts, ideas, or lyrics.” Nuno then scrolls through well over 50 files. “There’s so much stuff that we’re talking about and starting to work on in between legs of the tour.”

Nuno Bettencourt - Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk
Nuno Bettencourt – Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk

The late great Eddie Van Halen is one of Nuno Bettencourt’s major influences. Was there a particular EVH lick or riff that he heard when he was a kid that immediately had him reaching for his guitar? “Obviously, putting on Van Halen 1 in my brother’s room,” Nuno says. “It came out in ’78, I was only 12. I wasn’t playing like that or even near that. I might not have even been playing guitar yet. I played drums and bass first.

“Hearing Eruption, hearing Running With The Devil, just going through it. This change of culture guitar wise. It was the whole thing. Everybody’s jaws just dropped hearing Eruption. You’re like, what is happening?

“But song-wise, I think I’m The One. I was just like, what the fuck is going on here? The swing of it, the speed of it, the double bass of it, and the way Eddie’s playing. Everything just went back to the fucking drawing board for everyone.

“I was always attracted to the stuff that was funkier on those albums. In Van Halen 2 as well, like Out Of Love and Somebody Get Me A Doctor. He had this kind of swing and funkiness to him that I could really relate to, which inspired me.”

Nuno Bettencourt - Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk
Nuno Bettencourt – Extreme. Photo: Taylor Cameron/MetalTalk

Top 5 desert island albums

“I think maybe Fair Warning for me, from Van Halen, would be a good one. Queen 2. Aerosmith Get Your Wings for me was a big one. Led Zeppelin 4 and then I’ll go outside of the box and go with Electric Rendezvous by Al Di Meola. That album really influenced me as a guitar player.”

Extreme - Six
Extreme returns with a vengeance in their new album Six.
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