A stellar double header that has two legendary guitar virtuosos between them, is heading to our shores in June 2018. Grammy-nominated Extreme, one of the most successful rock acts of the late 80s & 90s, and hard rock’s original super group Mr. Big will be touring capital cities mid-year to showcase their exceptional musical prowess.
Extreme became one of the most prosperous bands of the early 90’s when the biggest hit of their career, More Than Words, rocketed to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1991. The track was lifted from their double platinum selling second album release, Extreme II: Pornograffitti (A Funked Up Fairy Tale). Hole Hearted, also on this album, reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100. While these ballads were Extreme’s biggest commercial hits, they were not indicative of the bands trade mark heavy rock style which makes up most of their sound. Decadence Dance and Get The Funk Out are heavier tunes that are more representative of them and which also made it into the Billboard Hot 100. On the eve of Extreme’s long awaited Australian tour Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Nuno Bettencourt about getting reacquainted.
How are you?
Good man, it’s good to talk to you because I can’t see you.
This is going to be an epic tour and it must be great to be literally counting it now until you arrive in Australia?
Yeah, look I’m excited it’s been way, way, way too long, man. I’m excited and embarrassed that it’s taken this long. It’s one of those things where we, last time we were there we had such a great time, great crowds and it’s pretty bad that it’s taken us this long to get back but I’m really, really looking forward to catching up with everybody again.
Has it taken a bit of effort to finding the right time and the right opportunity to come back?
You know what? It wasn’t for lack of trying, we’ve been trying a lot in different times, different years to go over to tour together and of all the places in the world promoters there and booking agents, they make it the hardest to get over there. We know it’s pretty far away. It’s always a money and a numbers thing to these guys and we’ve decided to hell with that let’s just put something together that works and let’s get back in there and get reacquainted, so we can now not only go back this time but go back more often.
To be touring with Mr Big is a huge bonus?
If you’re a guitar player [laugh] it’s fun but the good news about that there’s also songs, song writing, and good sort of chemistry and players and everything but there’s still bands there’s still vocals and everything else. I think it’s going to be a great night of music for everyone. For me having to follow Paul is going to suck a bit but that’s what you got to do.
Have you known the guys from Mr Big for a long time?
You have moments where you see each other and then you have moments where you do not see each other for years but you’re still just as close. The friendship hasn’t changed. You don’t go to movies together but there’s a bit of respect there and there’s a brotherhood there. These guys are all wonderful people all of them and I’m sure looking forward to hanging out with them.
It must be hard when you’re putting together a tour like this where people are wanting to hear the hits. Is there any temptation to play any new songs?
Well, imagine we haven’t been that back there in twenty something years and we show up and we say, “hey guys we’re going to play you our new album”. I think they’re going to be a little bit upset. I think this is a catch up, this is a catch-up run. Where it’s like yeah, we got our new album coming out towards the fall at the end of this year, but I think we don’t have enough time on this set to really dive into that stuff and I think people are going to want to hear at least three, four, five songs off each album. Just give them a catalogue run of the stuff they haven’t heard in so long I think they will be interested to hear. I think then it gives us a nice excuse to get back next year with a new album.
As a band have you felt the pressure building for a while to release a new album or is that just something that you had to stick the course when the material is ready and right to go?
Not only should we be ashamed of ourselves we haven’t been back there so long, but we’ve taken way too long to release another album as well and we’ve had so much material, so much songs, so many pieces of music and that’s been our problem. We’re ready, we like it and then we wait a minute and we write another album. So, we probably got three albums worth of stuff so we definitely just need to get our shit together and release something.
Is that partly because obviously with experience and getting better at what you do, you get a lot tougher on what you’ve prepared to record and release?
There’s no rhyme or reason for it. I think it’s just we probably set our fans a high bar so whenever we write something else a few months bit of work, maybe this is it, maybe this direction, and I think we ended up finally touching on something where we all went “yeah, yeah that feels good.”
Do you think particularly with this new album that’s coming out that there’s a subtle shift in the Extreme sound?
That’s hard to say because for everybody who listens to it, for us it doesn’t feel that way. The album sounds different, but they always did even the ones that were back to back such as Extreme and Pornograffiti. We’re very self-centred that way and we don’t try to please too many people other than ourselves. We have to be excited, we have to love it to be able to share it with you guys and what that means I don’t know at the time. What that means is whatever is turning us on at the time is what it is. It’s not calculated I don’t know how different it is, it just is!
Is it also a frustration as well when you’re always compared to your hits like Hole Hearted or More Than Words? Do you feel like you have to write another song like that or does that sort of thing not even bother you?
That’s the thing, we didn’t write those for that reason. So, we’re not about to write another version of those for any other reason. More Than Words was not written to be a hit neither was Hole Hearted. It was written to be one of the songs on the album and one of the songs we loved. Do you feel like after you write them that they could be a single because being a single is being a single. Being a hit is up to the audience, it’s up to the public to make it a hit. You don’t write hits the public tells you they’re hits. Believe me when I tell you that every time a single is released everybody believes that they’re hits. That’s why they release them as singles. Only the audience has the power to make it a hit not the band.
Where the industry is heading does that frustrate you particularly from someone who has seen the highs and lows of being an artist and not being able to sell albums quite the same. It seems to be more of a way to promote a tour?
Not really, not really. I think that’s what they’re always supposed to be. I think that’s how they started. I think when you were putting out an album it was something for people play on the radio and a chance to connect with people to go see you live. It was a promotional piece to go see you live. Yeah, if you had an affair with the album you listened to it a lot and I think once the album just became so big and sold millions and millions it made the record companies millions and millions, I think the focus shifted to only that and less live. I think it’s come around a little bit but look, whatever state that the record business is in we’ll always be complaining about it. Always! I remember people complaining about when there was no internet, and nobody was stealing shit. Everybody was still saying they weren’t making as much money off of albums and people getting ripped off and it’s always been that way.
Do you have many favourite tour memories of touring Australia?
What I remember from Australia will always be when the band was breaking. When you’re breaking and having hits and things like that, you’re in a country, you’re celebrating that. It always feels good. For as long as these gigs as long ago as these gigs were, I remember them like they were yesterday. That’s really rare because I remember the venues, I remember the theatres, I remember meeting fans outside. We remember our days off day with the band and the good times we had there on the Harbour all that stuff. Obviously, I go there quite a bit, I have family there, my kids, everything’s there. So, I know Australia fairly well and I know Sydney fairly well and Perth. But when you go there as a band, it’s a different story.
Thanks for your time and we’re looking forward to the show in Adelaide.
Man, thanks for reaching out. We’re looking forward to it. Get everybody down there. There’s one thing that I’ll actually promise is the band live will always deliver. I’m not very cocky about many things, we have no choice but the way we are is players and performers that we lead everything out there whether we’re eighteen or whether we’re the age we are now… twenty-seven!
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Extreme and Mr Big on the following dates…