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Extreme – Getting the Fuck Out

Extreme are back with their first studio album in over a decade, “Six”. We spoke to Nuno Bettencourt at his home in California about the record, which he did not want to be a soundtrack for the pandemic, but the soundtrack to “getting the fuck out” of it. He told us how Eddie Van Halen surprised him with a visit as he recorded the “Rise” solo, what it’s like to receive high praise from Brian May and other guitar heroes and, exclusively for the first time ever, that he is excited about his idea for the next Extreme album.

Text and live photography: Anne-Marie Forker
Photography: Jesse Lirola

Hi Nuno!


Congratulations on the new record. Before talking about that one, I wanted to spend just a few minutes talking about the masterpiece “III Sides to Every Story”.

Why that one today?

I was 15 when that record came out, living in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Obviously you know the war references on the album. I would listen to that record on the way to school, passing by soldiers with guns, and it literally elevated me above the circumstances. I had to thank you while I had the opportunity.

That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing that story. Throughout the years we’ve had letters and stories from people who were even at the point of taking their own lives, saying that there’s a specific song that changed their lives to not do that and connected. I think it’s so important, even though it’s just music and lyrics at the end of the day. We never wanted to release something that isn’t like III Sides, in the sense that it means something to us first. That we care enough and are excited enough about it to share it with anyone, our fans, radio, whatever it may be. Much to our financial detriment we never put out albums for the sake of money.  It’s meant to be a soundtrack to their lives. Sometimes it’s what you were going through, and sometimes it’s a prom or losing your virginity for the first time! We all have our soundtracks in live and what an honour, and how special it is when you tell an important story like that it means everything to me. It means everything to any artist to know that it touched even one person.

Were you aware at the time how powerful it was?

The best way to answer that is that most artists and people in general judge the success of an album by its sales, chart position and adulation. But the truth of the matter is that we are too egotistical, too self-centred and too in love with what we do for that to matter, meaning that we do it for ourselves. I remember when Pete Townsend was on the radio and they were saying he is coming back for a tour for the fans. Pete Townsend said “What a load of shit that is! We don’t do anything for the fans. Any artist who tells you that is a liar.” At first I didn’t understand what he meant. I thought he was being pretty brutal. But I learned quickly what he meant. It is a lie. An artist can’t make art for a fan. That’s even more egotistical. You’ve got to do it because you’re so excited about the lyric you are writing, the story you are telling, the guitars you are playing. Emotionally and physically every bone in your body has to be like “Fuck! Okay! Now we’re ready to share it with our fans. Let’s share our journey, our story, and hopefully they will take it as their soundtrack”. If you are doing it for the fans you are chasing something that isn’t authentic. I don’t know what you’re going through in Belfast so how authentically could I write a song for you? But we keep our eyes and ears open, and watch the news and hear stories, and we followed what was going in Northern Ireland for decades. Sometimes we write directly about those things and sometimes we write subconsciously. It’s never on purpose. Nothing is calculated. It’s all done out of emotion and timing. I’ve never sat down to write a song in my entire life. Ever.


I’ve never said “You know what? The piano is over there [looks behind him], what time is it? It’s time to write a song.” A lot of people do that. I don’t know how you can. Maybe it’s the middle of the night, or maybe I’m down or just happy, and I go sit at the piano because it called me over there, and I wanna hear it. Same thing with an acoustic guitar. Same thing with “More Than Words” where I’m just fucking around and then “Wait! What did I just play?!” Other than in LA where sometimes they have these writing sessions where you have to clock it in and do a collaboration. That’s one thing. But for myself, it comes up in the craziest of places. I’ll be on an airplane, a toilet, a car. These are all just voice notes [Nuno holds up his phone and scrolls through a list], just ideas that are impromptu.

Look at that list of inspiration…

Let’s see when it goes back to….2017! These are just ideas that are impromptu, that I know wherever I am, I’m not going to forget this with the horrible, short term memory I’ve got. It happens in the craziest of times. I wish I could be a machine and turn it on and just say “I’m going to write 3 songs guitar or a guitar riff”, but it doesn’t work that way for me.

Do you think if it did work that way for you it would be too monotonous and boring, almost like a desk job?

[laughs] It would be like work. I’m sure I could write some songs like that but I never like to be forced to create. It might work for a lot of people.

Is that why it’s taken 15 years between studio albums?

Well now you are doing the math. How long does it take to write an album? Actually, the album itself is 12 songs, the same amount of time it takes to make one album, is 12 songs. Let’s call it 13 years because 2 years were added with the pandemic and even though the album was done I chose, to a lot of people’s disappointment, you know, I didn’t want to be the soundtrack to the pandemic. I wanted to be the soundtrack to getting the fuck out. We’re a touring band. We want to tour this album and I want to celebrate. After 13 years, that wasn’t the time to release it.  We had probably 4 albums we could have released before that. There is always an album coming. You have to feel like you want to share it with your brother, one of your best mates, a guitarist you admire. If you don’t have that same feeling that you had when you were 12, 13, 14, 17…. You have to be proud of it. You have to be ready to let that child go out there. You know?

I love the mentality of that – wanting to celebrate and “Rise” above, to mention the new single release. I’m very fussy about guitar players and your solo on that song is outstanding. It’s technically brilliant but more importantly you also have so much emotion and power going on.

I’m glad you said it because that’s truly why I believe it’s getting the reaction it’s getting online. Back in the day it took 6 months to a year. A pigeon would bring you a piece of paper to say that they love your album or it’s on the charts. It took you until you would tour or sell tickets back in the 1900s, right? Within a few minutes, an hour, 24 hours, everyone is telling you what they think, how many views, how many followers. It all comes so fast. It can be amazing when it happens, but they also tell you the truth so if they don’t like it you are kind of fucked anyway. But in this case thank God it’s been getting a great response. As a guitar player I’ve been getting kind of over the top responses that I didn’t imagine. I’ve been playing the guitar for over 40 years now on records and I didn’t think it was going to be “That’s Nuno doing his solo”. So yeah, a lot of people, even peers, Brian May, Steve Lukather and Tom Morello are saying “Wow, I haven’t heard something like this. It’s really exciting”. There are online guitar gurus who we all respect that are breaking it down and telling stories about it. I needed to step back for a second and ask “Why is this happening?” I know it’s a decent solo, but come on, I’ve been around for a while and have done some decent guitar solos in my days. The song is a pretty good song. Got some harmonies and it’s there. But the reaction was something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. My conclusion, my Virgo based conclusion, was that guitar playing over the last 10-15 years has been amazing. There have been players that I follow and I’ve even commented on their site “Fuck you, that was amazing!” I literally couldn’t begin to understand some of the things they’ve been doing.  Ground-breaking players and wonderful to watch and get inspired by to play. Steve Lukather said “This is the first time in a long while that I’ve watched a video and saw what was happening and you playing and I got knocked off my chair. It’s been decades. The band have saved rock’n’roll”. And it hit me, I didn’t realise how fucking starved people were for listening to a guitar solo like that and a player that is not just sitting. How do those guitarists I mentioned communicate their art these days? Most of them are sitting in a chair and blowing our minds on Instagram, technically. But what’s missing is the physicality, the emotionality, of seeing a band that’s passionate, all in, and when a guy comes and takes a solo, even though it’s what Extreme been doing on stage for 35-40 years, every song just blacking out. I don’t care if it’s a music video or whatever it is, whenever we perform, we perform. The one thing I will brag about this band is that we have always, whether you saw us when we were 19 or you go see it now, not much has changed as far as the passion of it, and the fire. If I saw a guitar player, whether it’s me or not, and I saw that performance, and that fire and joy and him wanting to be there so badly and perform for you, I would have fallen off my fucking chair! I wouldn’t be getting texts like I’ve been getting saying “Great guitar solo, but mostly, thank you!” It’s great to hear a guitar player in a band, with harmonies, with arrangements, and from my generation of which we don’t hear so much any more. But curated in an album, where you are not concerned about playlisting, you put your headphones on, sit in bed, go for a drive, play from front to back and go on a journey – an escape from your shit, that you know very well about. We need that stuff. I remember when I got into a room in a studio down here and I was so excited to play for some of my friends and peers, Steve Vai, Tom Morello and we all huddled in a recording studio down here at Sound Factory in Holywood. I was so nervous, but I was so excited because I had that feeling of wanting to share it with them. Not because I’m showing off, but because you guys are my buddies and what do you think? When you have that really humble, honest, become a child again feeling, they became children. At the end of hearing it they were like “Of course there is great guitar playing on there. That’s who you are. Of course Gary’s singing is fucking head off. The band sounds amazing.  You mixed and produced it. We loved it from top to bottom.” But they all said the same thing afterwards, which was that it was refreshing to sit through an album and felt like it went by in 10 minutes not 50 minutes or an hour. That was the biggest compliment I could get from any guitar player. Some of my heroes. That’s what it’s about at the end of the day.

Wonderful. I had a photoshoot with Steve last year. He is a great guy! What was his reaction?

With Steve we ended up doing it at his house right before he left for his last tour. He was like “Wait a second. What is going on over there? Why is your guitar on the left and why is it in my face? It sounds like a kick drum that’s blowing my head off. What are you doing Bettencourt?!” During certain solos he just turned around and looked at me and said “Really?” He is a hero of mine. He influenced me so much. To see the giddiness in him. I’m not stupid, if someone comes to play you something you are at the very least going to tell them that you like it, but I know them long enough to tell what’s authentic and what they love and they don’t love and they’re being nice. Overall, it was really cool.

Do you approach solos on an album like you are playing live?

Always. Emotionally and physically, yes. When people were breaking down “Rise”, I love watching it because they play it slow.  I could never play that lick slowly even if I wanted to. If you asked me about that one at the end, my hand would fall off, it’s like trying to slow down a bike, because it was created, formed and discovered in that speed and in that way. It’s the DNA of it. A lot of people probably think I sat down and came up with a pattern. No way in hell! I don’t even read music! There’s this legend in the music business, Rick Beato, a bit of a guru and a great player himself. He’s intimidating to me because he knows everything I’m playing. When he was breaking it down, he brought up the whole thing about what I had said about the excitement of being in a band not happening any more, but there’s 3 notes before I bend this note and you can see it in the video. The first note that I meant to bend, which is super important, I missed the whole string by a mile. I think I missed two strings by a mile because I was so physically and emotionally invested. Maybe the 17 year old me, or most guitar players, would go back. It was like 3 sounds happened. It was like a car accident, a metal wall, a kick drum. That note in that solo defined it for me, completely defined the solo for me because it was wrong. It was so big. I couldn’t play it again if I wanted to.  I have to somehow figure out how to play it live. I’m literally sweating. I have no idea. The most studio is gets is that I might love something I did, and then want to pull it down, put it at the beginning or the end. But I still want what you hear to be feeding off the rhythm section, feeding off whatever the band was doing as opposed to calculating it.

Although it’s obviously you, you can hear a little influence from Eddie Van Halen.

Oh my God, of course. A lot of influence!

What did he mean to you?

What’s interesting and haunting about Edward and this album and specifically with the Rise solo…it occurred to me only when I started doing press. I was recording the album up in my studio. When I record by myself I don’t like anybody in the room. Even when I’m mixing I don’t have an assistant. I don’t want anyone distracting me asking if I want coffee. I’m the zone. Leave me alone. Wow that rhymes! Gary was in town because we were recording some vocals for the album, so he went to lunch while I was recording guitars. He rings me back when I’m recording a solo, and it happened to be the “Rise” solo. I’m sitting there and my phone keeps ringing, and I’m getting super annoyed and he knows it would bother me. I don’t answer it. I go back to playing. He calls me again. This dude, what is he doing? Then he calls me again. Then he texts me “Come down, somebody wants to say hi”. I’m like “No, I’m not coming down, I’m recording and I’m actually digging what I’m doing. Leave me alone!” Again hits me up: “Don’t make me come up and get you!” It’s so unlike Gary he calls me like once a year, never mind 3 times in 5 minutes! My studio is in Holywood Hills, you have to come down about a billion stairs to get to the street. I went down, opened the door, and there’s Edward. He’s having lunch with Edward. We had a big hug and we’re talking. He was playing Wolfie’s upcoming album in the car. He’s playing all the instruments, proud Dad, proud Papa. I asked what else have you got going on. He said “Kind of hush between us. We reached out to Michael Anthony, we want to do a run, a tour with the original cast.”


That would be insane. And then he said “You guys are recording an album, I want to hear it”. I said he could when it’s done, but that ended up being a mistake because he never came back. He said “You tell me when it’s done and we’ll do a listen”. It never happened. It wasn’t meant to me. But the fact that I was playing and recording that Rise solo, which is the most Eddie thing I’ve ever done in my life, and Eddie showed up at my door … I feel like there were some other powers going on. I’m reading comments now that it’s out from peers, and some are saying “Dude, you are the heir to the throne. You’re the guy now. Eddie’s gone.” I said: “You’re out of your fucking mind” first of all. There is no Eddie Van Halen heir to the throne. That throne is his, and only his. He changed the way we play. I play the way I play because of him. He changed guitar FOREVER. It wasn’t like he was a good player. Yes, he was. There’s good players and there’s people that influence you. But then there’s people that change the way you play the instrument, the way you hear it, the way you see it. There is no heir to that throne. I’m not even being fucking humble. They could have said Steve Vai was the heir to that throne. No, he’s not! Nobody can be the heir to that throne. It’s too special, it’s too good. It’s too Edward. He never left, as he left us his music and his playing and he’s here every day. I listen to him every day. But the best that I’m hoping for, at the very least, is that when he did pass, I felt a strange responsibility as there’s not a lot of us left from that generation that are in bands and doing what he did within a band, which is not so much playing like him, but bringing joy and creativity into guitar playing. Fire. Passion. Physicality. It’s what Stevie Ray Vaughan did. It’s what Edward did. It’s what Brian May did, Jimmy Page did, Hendrix did. When I used to watch Stevie Ray he’s not even playing a guitar to me, it’s like it’s another limb! When he bends a note his body twists. It’s like if you pulled the guitar out of their hands they would bleed or something. It’s like pulling an arm out. It’s so effortless. It’s so beautiful. If Eddie is looking down on the solo and thinking “Hey kid, you done good”, meaning you took what I and all your peers gave you and you’re going for it and you’re doing your thing…everybody has got their influences, and their own quirky versions of themselves. Sometimes within a solo, you don’t even know it but you are tipping your hat. There’s no doubt, the opening of the Rise solo is ‘Eruption’, per se. Not on purpose, I didn’t calculate it: “Well today I’m opening with Eruption, then a bend that sounds like Neal Schon and then I’m going to end with a muted Al Di Meola meets Yngvie ending.” No, you are what you eat. There’s more of them on the album. Once it was done I stood back and was like “Oh shit! Brian May is on the phone on the phone on the “Other Side of the Rainbow”. He wants his guitar tone and his solo back. Give it back to him!” There’s Alice in Chains moments on the album. I don’t want to say because I want people to figure it out but there’s even a Pantera moment. It’s not even guitar playing it might be lyrically, but they are in there. I’ve always done that. Little Easter eggs that you don’t do on purpose. You just do them and then you realise you have no shame. “X Out” sounds like an electronic “Kashmir”? Hell yeah, I’ll take it! Tell me more. I wasn’t born with a guitar in my hand and then just started playing. I was influenced by all these people.

I wondered if the song “Beautiful Girls” was a nod to the Van Halen II album?

The title wasn’t, but there was something else in the song that was. The song itself is nothing like Van Halen. It’s ska, beach, reggae, summertime top down. The most important thing about that song is that is celebrates women, and in a good way, like they should be celebrated, like they are not being celebrated these days. Sometimes right now it’s almost uncool to be a woman, like women are being punished for being women. The song celebrates women of all shapes and sizes, all skin tones, all hair colours, their beauty, their inner beauty, the fact that they are mothers, the fact that they should be running politics except for us idiot males, all that stuff. They are more grounded in common sense as they don’t have that testosterone that we have that is a lot safer. In a time when women aren’t being celebrated, I can’t fucking wait for that to come out because it’s a shame and it’s bullshit. I have nothing against any other person, gender, colour, gay, lesbian, straight, white, female, black….I don’t care! You are represented by who you are as a person and how you treat other people and that’s where it starts and that’s where it ends.

Absolutely well said.

Talking about the colour of hair … The whole thing is ridiculous. You are responsible for yourself and your heart and who you are to other people. If you take care of that and you do that right, you’re good. I’ll fight for everybody. I’ll fight for all good people. Do not dare ever, while you are fighting for yourself, go after other people, then you will lose me. You attack the cancer of the body, you don’t blame the whole body. You don’t burn down a whole building to prove a point and punish innocent people and ruin their lives for your view of something. And I’m telling a person like yourself, who has been through the most incredible time of your life as a kid growing up in Belfast. Talking about rights and freedoms. There’s a lot that you went through, and that’s your journey.  I could never comment on that. I don’t know what that’s like. I don’t know what it’s like walking down the street and having tanks coming down. I went through there. I remember being there, and that wasn’t even in the most turbulent time, I felt the presence of certain things. Belfast and Ireland alone have some of the most passionate people we ever played for at the height of our career. The most passionate, the most vocal, it felt like “Oh My God we’re not performing for them, we’re all performing together”. I remember the bouncing that was going on [Nuno holds on tightly to the arms of his chair] and we’re on stage thinking “Oh shit, this shit’s going down!” It was unbelievable. That has to do with culture and it’s a sign of the times as well. Talk about a place to go and escape all of the shit

I remember the release…

We could feel that.

Amazing. I heard Brian May had some high praise for you recently on The Howard Stern Show…

Brian was talking about who is number 1 players were and he said, in a soft voice that I can’t do “Jeff Beck, Edward and Nuno Bettencourt”. There’s no way that I’m in the company of those guitar players. There’s just no way. For him I am, and I believe that’s for all the reasons we just spoke about. I think that Brian appreciates someone who is not only influenced by him, but influenced by his philosophy and approach to guitar within a song. Knowing when to play just a little bit. Knowing when to play the right thing and having a pretty melody and playing a note and stepping out. Or, fucking going for it and layering harmonies. When he says my playing is beautiful, that’s what he is meaning. He says “There’s things I could never do” and he’s super humble, but there’s Page, there’s Hendrix, there’s a lot of people he could have mentioned. He loves Toni Iommi. People need to understand he’s not really mentioning me in that company, he’s mentioning what they mean to him. I think he really connects with when I’m full of piss and vinegar, it’s fun, but he also loves the fact that it’s in a song and a band that’s influenced by them that does harmonies, great rhythm sections and great riffs.  That’s what is special to him about what I do and what Extreme does and why we have a special place in his heart. It’s why he says crazy things like at Wembley when he said “This band more than anyone else knows what Queen and Freddie are truly about”.  That kind of endorsement is insanity.

But I can see what he means…

He was right. We are the band. I know there are Queen fans out there who know more than we do and what colour underwear Freddie liked, but I’m talking about musically. We studied it. We are nothing like Queen really at the end of the day, with what they did, but their philosophical point of view of doing whatever the fuck you want, that’s what we are, and what he loved about us. That you can go from Rise to Beautiful Girl, that you can do Save Me or Mask and still do Hurricane. Emotionally and physically. Why? Because we don’t give a fuck like they don’t give a fuck. You have to be in your own bubble and not worry about what anybody thinks.  People are like “My God, Rise is so modern?” It is?! Thanks for telling me. I had no fucking idea! I wasn’t trying to be on modern rock radio.  People say “Good job!” and I don’t know what they are talking about.  I hear other bands and I think okay, that’s modern rock, I get it. “You guys are going into Active Rock Radio, you’re above Metallica”! Okay, for this single, but I hate to tell you, what’s coming is not going to be on Active Rock Radio.


For the same reason that “Love of My Life”, “Another One Bites the Dust”, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, people are like “What the fuck?! It’s so Queen but it’s not ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, its not ‘Tie Your Mother Down’”. But it really is them and that’s what’s important. That it is authentically the personalities that we are. We never try to be different.  I get on the piano and I wrote “When I First Kissed You” and it’s a Sinatra song because that day I felt like crooning and playing some chords that I don’t even know the names of.  Why hasn’t there been another jazz song since then? Because I don’t play that shit, but that day I wrote that song. Sorry, here it is, go fuck yourself.

I have always appreciated Extreme’s diversity. Speaking of influences such as Queen, I wanted to ask you about the new track “Banshee”, which sounds like mid 70s Aerosmith, especially Mamakin.

All. Day. Aerosmith. I love that you reference that stuff. With most artists, that would piss them off. They would think “No, it’s Extreme man what you are talking about?!” Was I listening to Mamakin at the time?  No. In fact, that riff was written before I was even in Extreme, in 1984. I remembered it. Pat had a riff that was really swaggy, bluesy rock’n’roll, and I thought “Wait, I have something for that!” as I played that riff once every three years or so.  It fit perfectly, and the what do we do? We play that riff and record a vocal that feels all day like [Steven] Tyler and [Joe] Perry doing “Toys in the Attic” or whatever. It goes back to the first Extreme album where it was a bit more bluesy and Aerosmithy. Awesome. Call it out! It is what it is.

You were here in Norway with Steven Tyler at the Nobel Peace Prize concert, performing the iconic “More Than Words” together. How did that come about?

Those are all bucketlist moments, moments you never imagine in a lifetime being involved with.  It’s even crazier when you only find out the day you are going home from the airport in South Africa after doing Kings of Chaos. The day before Nobel is when you are told you are playing Nobel. You go to the airport and you think you’re going to your gate. Steven Tyler grabs you by the elbow and he says “You’re coming with me”. I say “What you do you mean I’m coming with you? You’re going to Norway!”. He says: “So are you!” Joe Perry is not there, he needs me. He’s doing “Livin on the Edge”, “Dream On” and he says “I want to do ‘More Than Words’”. I almost teared up. He asked if I was in, and we had to hit the gate now as he’d just bought the ticket.  Unbelievable. So there we are and the audience are all dressed up, and Malala was there at the time, meeting her backstage, what she has done and what she represents and is fighting for…then to go out in an Arena and play “Dream On” with an orchestra and share that mic with Steven on “Livin on The Edge”. An immigrant from Portugal who grew up in Hudson, Massachusetts, where one of my biggest heroes, Aerosmith, came from…Perry is from 3 towns over from me and he’s from Portuguese descent as well.

I didn’t know that.

Anybody who is called Perry, their name Pereira, got dropped. Steve Perry from Journey – Portuguese. Someone called me in Germany once and this guy starts speaking Portuguese and I’m like “Who the fuck is this? I’m going to hang up”. He said “Don’t hang up, it’s Steve Perry man”, I thought “Bullshit” and hung up anyway. He called back. His parents are from the Azores. Nobel Peace Prize – those are buckletlist moments and the only thing that trumps that is being nominated for it – which I plan on by the way [smiles].

[Laughs] You never know! You must know that Weird Al Yankovic covered the “More Than Words” video. What was your reaction when you first saw it?

Talk about buckletlist. That was one of the most incredible moments of my career. Weird Al who was doing Michael Jackson, Madonna, all over MTV, pokes fun at one of your videos – that is one of the greatest honours of all time. If Michael Jackson lets you do that to 2 songs you know he is royalty in that way. If he wants to do one of your videos, then you’ve done something. Now we’ve made it! Weird Al is taking the piss!

Looking to the future, were there any songs left, or any plans to release anything after the new album yet?

I think we learned our lesson. In our defence I’m going to say this. When a band usually does album after album, nine times out of ten it’s when they live in the same town, which we all did, and they hang out. We are all over the place, and have been for a long time now. Geographically we are not even in the same vicinity. Technology has changed where you can send people things and everybody has got their kids, their lives, their projects, their Rihannas, their Joe Perrys. Life gets in the way of a career, like it should. That why this album took a long time to pull together. If Gary and I both lived in Massachusetts, I guarantee – boom, done. We would be working like we used to do. I think we figured out how important the fans are by the love that we are getting right now, and the reaction and the forgiveness – “It was worth it. You’re forgiven.” It’s like when you don’t see an old friend for a long time, and then when you see them, you feel that you should see them more often. It’s a good feeling. You go through a lot of shit in life as you know, and then you realise you want to see certain people more, and have this relationship. I’m talking about fans and people that get you. Sometimes you take it granted and you go away and you’re going through your break-ups and your divorces and you sometimes blame your career, or your guitar that is that other person that you have a relationship with. Like I told you, I don’t feel like I play guitar, I feel like that guitar, that N4 and the acoustics that I have are like friends of mine. And sometimes you need a break from them. Sometimes you miss the shit out of them. When you pick them up again, you get inspired and you write a song. But then there are periods in your life where you want to walk away for months, it’s too much, and you take a break. It’s authentic. It’s real. Sometime you get depressed like everybody does and you don’t get inspired to write music or songs or even sit at the piano. Sometimes I don’t sit at the piano for a year. I just don’t want to do it. I’d rather sit at that piano and write the most beautiful thing in the world when I want to sit on it as opposed to writing 3 shit songs that don’t mean anything. As a band as a whole I think we are enjoying ourselves again and our own company. It was never about the fans’ company. Loving what the fans are doing, and even the non fans responding saying they like it, great, and even those that say they don’t like it and that it sounds like Kesha, I love that, everything that we listen to goes in. My point is that it feels good and I already have an idea for the next album.


Gary has a great title for it. I’m going with it. I’m already writing for it.

That is wonderful to hear.

These voice notes that I showed you [holds up phone] – the last 4 or 5 are things I’m really excited about for the next album.  I have a distinct sound, a distinct idea, a distinct tonality to the whole thing that I guarantee you has nothing to do with Extreme “Six”.  You’re the first to hear it!

That sounds very exciting, and if you are excited about it, you have got to do it.

It’s an exciting time. Everyone is hanging out, we’re making videos, we’re people. We had to realise why a lot of bands don’t tour together and split up, which is that we get this misconstrued thing that we’re family. We’re not. We’re a band family. A music family. I think that’s where things go wrong. You don’t normally get on a bus with your family and travel 24 hours a day for years at a time. You don’t share a stage and get in front of an audience with your family. We use that term “brothers” loosely. We are brothers in the band, brothers in music. I think we had to realise that so we don’t offend each other all the fucking time like normal family would. We don’t betray each other all the time. I’m your guitar player, and I love you, but I’m your guitar player. You need something from me, and I need something from you. We’re not just stuck together like family. You have got to love somebody enough to hate them. If you don’t love them you don’t give a fuck if they are insulting you, this is a job. We put so much of ourselves into it that when something happens it’s like “How could you!” as opposed to “He’s my singer, I get it. Go sulk. I’ll go punch a hole in the wall. And I’ll see you tomorrow”. I think we’re at that point and it’s exciting.

Are you going to be touring Scandinavia at any point?

I’m not at liberty to say, but I will tell you that a little birdie is outside, I can just see him there, and he told me that “At some time in the future, the kind of near future, I see you travelling in a far away land with a very thick jacket on….”

I can recommend a very thick jacket there is snow outside here right now! Very near future….

Extreme put a new album out every 15 years so don’t put any worth in our sense of time! But we have a new album. The good and the sad news is that we put out one single, and if we didn’t get that reaction, I’m not even sure I’d be telling you what I’ve just told you, because that’s the way the business works. But all of a sudden we put a track out and everyone online is viewing it and we get all the algorithms going and promoters all of a sudden want to book you. When that’s not happening it’s tough to get tours. I can’t tell you how many times we tried to do the UK or Europe but the offers aren’t there. They can’t financially do it. Then suddenly it’s like “We love you, where have you been?!” You mean we can make money again. We get it.  We will definitely be touring. We were surprised we would be doing anything this year because the album comes out in June and sometimes venues take a year in advance, but it’s incredible how venues suddenly open up when you’re doing okay.

Interesting. I’m excited to hear that. Since the pandemic happened it has been harder for US bands to tour Europe, and vice versa.

Fans need to know it’s always very costly to bring a full production and full crew. I want to be completely honest. We don’t tour for the money. I know a lot of people do. We don’t. It’s like an addiction. It hurts us when we don’t get on that stage. It’s all we want to do. But then, forget about making money, you are going to lose money. All of a sudden, you are going on the road, and then a war breaks out, and everything costs triple. Everyone is struggling with gas, well guess what, we have to get on a plane and a tour bus to get to you. Everyone is struggling, so everyone hikes up the price to survive, and we understand those companies do that: touring companies, PA companies, lighting companies. There has been a lot of tours being cancelled in the last two years. That’s the reason. It’s not because people are sick like they are telling you. It’s not anxiety, it’s not nervous exhaustion. You can’t sustain it. Crews can’t be paid. I have emails today saying “Guys, here’s a routing idea. Here’s what we might do in South America.” And then you see the numbers and you wonder if they are real.  This much money is coming in for the whole thing, but this is how much we are actually going to make, to do a month or six weeks? It’s wild. It’s next to nothing. You have to make that choice as an artist to get out there for the fans. We got an album.  I’m not bullshitting you, I’m being completely transparent. It’s not woe is me, but people say “Oh you guys are always complaining and are fucking rich”. Everything I have in my life I was out in the trenches and field for. When we tour, doing what you think it glamourous, which is that hour and a half on stage, well guess what, the other 22 hours we are doing press all day and travelling. It’s not like we are doing construction so I’m not complaining. The dream is on stage. But what the dream isn’t is what everyone else takes for granted. We miss all our birthdays, our families’ birthdays, we don’t see our brothers and sisters, we miss funerals, people die, we miss weddings. I’ve missed a lot of those because you can’t stop a tour, a machine that costs a lot of money. I’m not crying about it, I just want people to know that humanly speaking, we have families and kids, we miss our best friends, going to a hockey or football game. We miss taking out the trash for fuck’s sake! We know that’s the price you pay to play that hour for the greatest fans in the world, but let me tell you something. I’ll take any of you with me for 18 months and you start seeing why somebody doesn’t want to go on stage, when divorces are happening and your kids don’t even know who you are, you tell me how good it feels that you’re hanging with your buddies all week and how glamourous it is.

I’ve only done it for a short while as a photographer, I can’t imagine 18 months.

They are begging to go home after a week! You are sleeping on a bus that’s throwing you all around the place. I want my bed! I want to cook! I’m not complaining, it is the dream. But with every dream, it’s hard work. It’s emotionally draining. We are not out there digging ditches and pouring cement like people that are doing real jobs. If we’re going to celebrate women then let’s celebrate men that are out there doing jobs that women don’t do. All sorts of amazing things that men do as well. A shout out to everyone who is out there working hard, being good people and taking care of their business.  During the pandemic, our business, road crews, was the only business that wasn’t working. You could work at home in most jobs. You could still do things and get paid. You couldn’t go play for anybody. That’s our income and livelihood. I was trying to figure out how to do something on AXS TV because our drum tech was about to lose his mortgage and his family because he can’t tour. That’s all he has done his whole life and he has kids. What do we do? We get Extreme together and do as much as we can and do things online. I’ve sold guitars during the pandemic. Even people who had toured a lot and had some money in the bank, guess what, that shit was empty. No one did the math “If I don’t work for 2 and a half years, will I survive?” Yeah, it will be a month, yeah, six months, oh no, it’s a year. You’re thinking “I might have to sell my home now”. I know Covid is real, and I don’t necessarily agree with how we handled it, how governments handled it and how over the top it was. But what I want everyone to know is that next time you see your band, or musician, roadie, lighting director, truck driver, they were out of work for 2 years, lost their bank accounts, mortgages, houses, things they are worked for for 30-40 years. So when someone says “look at that house you got” I say “Yo motherfuckers, I toured for 35-40 years, since I was 17, hustling, working. I work for every cent that I make. I’m not up at the pool living off royalty cheques. I could be, but that’s not who I am. I keep writing, I keep doing projects. The Instagram life version of it, with a photo of Paul McCartney – no one sees the other 300 days of the year. We all have heartbreaks, all go through divorces, miss our kids, deal with family with cancer.  Money means nothing. Some of the richest people I know are the most depressed. It does not purchase the happiness and the relationships that you want. It might even be worse! When I go back to Hudson, and I’m sitting with my buddy at lunch, and I’m supposed to be the one who is all fancy with my house in Holywood and touring the world, why am I looking at him when he’s telling me what he’s doing for a living, and then he jams with his buddies and they have tickets to the New England Patriots, and I’m looking at him thinking “God, you have it all!” He has the biggest smile on his face and not much responsibility. I’m thinking “You mean, I could just do that?! I could go see a football game. I could watch Liverpool”.

You’re a Liverpool supporter?!

Benfica first of course, Portuguese speaking. I’ve always loved Liverpool. I’m just trying to shed some light on the last two years. Try buying flights for 70 people for a tour. It used to be okay, but now it’s triple the price. These tours are folding. Everybody wants to do it. But, you’ve got shitty leadership, shitty Presidents and leadership from all our countries. No matter who you vote for, you have to have the knowledge and common sense to keep an eye on them as well. They are not going to do everything right. But these days, you can’t even criticise your own President that you voted for. If you hire someone to do a job at work and they are doing a shitty job you are going to call them out. You might even fire them, even though you hired them.  People are afraid to talk about what Trump or Biden are doing, even though it’s fucking up their family or the economy. We voted for them one day because they were the lesser of two evils are now we can’t talk about it? This is America…

Freedom of speech…

All that stuff. I thought that’s what made us great. Whether it’s Democrat or Republican I thought we were somewhat on the same team even though we have different beliefs. I remember once upon a time we could debate these things. Can’t we like 60 per cent of something and not like the rest? We do it with our relatives and best friends. We co-exist, talk about it, debate it. “If I believe something, and you don’t believe what I believe, then you are the exact opposite”. And that’s what the song “Mask” is about on the album. Great lyrics written with Andy Healy who I collaborated with on the song. It’s literally about saying “Shut the fuck up … We’re all sinners, we’re all saints, we’re all the people we say we ain’t.” Stop saying what you are on Instagram and socials and then off camera being who you really are.  It’s about all these people on their high horses yelling and screaming that people are evil. Stop it. There are people doing things behind closed doors that they would never admit. Because you have the right to be private, and to believe what you want to believe.  What makes their invisible man better than your invisible man?

Good question. Thank you so much for your time today.

Thanks for your time and sharing that story about being a teenager in Belfast. That is just incredible and made my whole year. To know we have a soundtrack, that when people are in certain times in their lives, that they can use as something other than just a song – I’ve had artists do that for me too. The power of music and what it can get you through in life is just incredible, so thank you so much.

Thank YOU, Nuno.

Originally published in Norway Rock Magazine #2/2023