EXCLUSIVE: Nuno Bettencourt Interviewed

Monday November 17 is inked in the diary of every North East rock fan as the night Extreme go head-to-head with Airbourne in a titanic battle set to lay waste to the streets of Newcastle. With Hot Leg (Justin Hawkins) and Stone Gods (the rest of Darkness) filling the respective support slots expect sparks to fly across the Toon and here at rushonrock we’ve interviewed all the main players for your reading pleasure! First up it’s that axe hero Nuno Bettencourt and if your name’s Perry Farrell then look away now…

rushonrock: Now you’ve got a new album out and you’re touring the world it must feel like you’ve never been away?

Nuno Bettencourt: That’s not the case at all. It’s a similar feeling to the past but you can definitely sense the difference. Everyone is at a different place psychologically. At the time you leave a band I don’t think you’re looking forward to a reunion at all. You always think you’re invincible and whatever you’re doing at that time is the best thing ever. You always think you can do better. It didn’t ever occur to me to do Extreme again and do it properly until last year.

rushonrock: Did you always feel a reunion was possible?

NB: It did become a possibility over the years. I suppose I suddenly went cold turkey after so many years with the band. But then I had a revelation and realised it makes sense to be in the best band you can. Extreme are a band that was together for 11 years straight – every day. We did four albums, we toured all the time and we never stopped. We became a family and as in all families there comes a time when you want to leave home. You want to travel and try some different things.

rushonrock: Are you saying you wanted to quit the band earlier?

NB: Look, I probably should have taken a break for three months not 13 years! Maybe if I had learned to take breaks during the first few years with Extreme then we would have lasted longer first time around. But we allowed ourselves to be sucked into this machine and we were on a mission to rule the world. Our managers were cashing in so they didn’t want us to stop and we were working so hard trying to make more money we couldn’t see what was happening. But it was an experience.

rushonrock: How easy was the writing process for (new album) Saudades de Rock?

NB: It’s one of those things where we did check out what everyone else was feeling before we committed to a full reunion. At one point we all headed back East and agreed to do three shows in front of a few friends and family in Boston for old time’s sake. Then we thought ‘what the hell?’ We thought it might actually be fun to do this again. The crowds had been great and the venues had been great.

rushonrock: Then what happened?

NB: Well I think there was a bit of depression a couple of days later – a sadness that it was all over. Although everything was great it did feel like those shows could have been played by an Extreme tribute band and, in fact, we had no real reason to be there. It was like the fans were getting mugged. We didn’t want to do that again and come back for the wrong reasons. We didn’t want to do it for nostalgia’s sake. If we were going to get back together it would have to involve new songs, a new album and a new reason for Extreme.

rushonrock: Was there still a temptation to trade on past glories when writing the new songs?

NB: Never. It has to be for the here and now if we’re doing this at all. We’re very selfish that way insofar as we won’t necessarily give the fans what they want – or what they think they want. We never did and we won’t start now. There are definitely songs on Saudades which could have appeared on our other records but they’re all current. They all reflect where are our heads are at right now. We’re not trying to betray our fans but we always felt we could play with any current band – back then or now – and hold our own. We could play with Muse one night or Aerosmith the next and feel like we were relevant.

rushonrock: Last time you were over here it was with Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party. It looked like a good fit but it obviously wasn’t?

NB: Satellite Party was one of those things that, when I started it, it actually felt like something special. I worked on it for two-and-a-half to three years on and off – I was very involved from the start with Perry. By the time the record came out it was just a few guys with Perry reclaiming the project as his own. He added his wife to the mix and suddenly she was up there every night and her face was on the front of the record. She’d never really sung on stage before but suddenly she’d hired choreographers and the whole thing turned into some kind of weird cabaret act. It was like Sonny and Cher and the rest of us were in the background. I felt a little embarrassed by it all but that’s what Perry wanted to do. I didn’t.

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.

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