It’s difficult to believe, but more than a decade and a half has passed since Extreme had a #1 hit with their metal ballad “More Than Words.” Anyone who’s paid any attention to the local scene probably has a hard time imagining a kinship between two singers as different as Extreme’s Gary Cherone and myself. He of the shredding pipes, platinum sales, far-reaching fame, and guitar hero co-songwriter Nuno Bettencourt. Me of the sarcastic-chick alterna-pop, beer-swilling sidemen (I love those guys), and decidedly more modest accomplishments, wildly popular with Letters to Cleo for about five minutes in the ’90s and famous, perhaps, inside the 128 loop. Yet there we were, cast opposite each other in Boston Rock Opera’s Jesus Christ Superstar in the thick of 1996. He was Jesus, I was Mary. And it was love. Only not really. What formed was a friendship built and fortified by many glasses of red wine and countless games of 8-ball at Boston Billiards. We’ve remained friends, even if the intensity has mellowed with distance, time, and Gary’s godforsaken stint with Van Halen, a no-win role in which he was totally underappreciated.
LIKE RIDING A BIKE: After a 10-year layoff, Gary Cherone, Nuno Bettencourt, Pat Badger, and Paul Geary are back together as Extreme.
I won’t deny it. I am a Gary Cherone fan. I love his solo songs on Myspace, I’m stoked about the upcoming Extreme reunion, and I don’t care who knows. Yes, Gary and Nuno have gotten together for shows in Portugal, a tour of Japan, and a one-off here in Boston over the past couple of years. But the three-date run (Bank of America Pavilion June 30; Club Casino in New Hampshire July 1; Foxwoods July 2) marks the first time all four original members of the powerhouse band, including the original rhythm section of drummer Paul Geary and bassist Pat Badger, have shared a stage in more than a decade. It was the perfect excuse to reconnect with an old friend . . .
I want to start at the beginning, not the first beginning, the second beginning. Extreme broke up 10 years ago after four albums, right?
It seems like the break-up was pretty acrimonious, from what I’ve read and heard. How did you guys bury the hatchet and get rehearsals going?
Good question. First a joke. We’ll never have a Behind the Music: Extreme because we were too boring. There were no drugs, no sleeping with ex-wives, no drummers imploding, none of that. I think it was a combination of a few things, or one thing that took about 10 years to simmer, because we really never discussed it over the years, and it had to do with publishing. But the thing that broke up the band was really simply that Nuno wanted to move on. We wrote some great songs together, but he was coming into his own as a songwriter, and he had things he wanted to say. I remember the day he just called up and said, “What would you think about me leaving the band?” I said, “It would hurt, but I can’t keep you here if you don’t want to be here,” and that was it. It was amicable. There really was no fight. Nuno moved on. I wanted to keep the band together. But before I had time to mourn, I was in Van Halen within three months. So everybody thought I quit the band to join Van Halen.
That brings up another question. When I told people I was interviewing you, everybody asked about the VH1 Reuniting the Band show because you guys were one of the only bands who refused to do it. The perception was that it was Nuno — like everybody else seemed down for it and Nuno was not . . .
They never tell the story like it really was. I think they showed me being interviewed first and I wasn’t first. Pat was first. They ambushed me. I was a little taken aback. I thought I was being “Punked,” and the first thing I said to those guys is, “It’s not gonna happen.” And they said, “Would you do the interview?” I said, “Come on . . . I’m building a house.” So we went up there and spoke about everything. So then they said “Well, we’re gonna interview Paul.” But I said, “It’s not gonna happen.” It wasn’t because we weren’t gonna do it: we were already talking about doing our own reunion at the time. So we were already planning on doing something and, not to get too much into some of the sensitive laundry, but we were dealing with that thing that was simmering . . . things having to do with publishing. It was just bad timing on VH1’s part. I remember Nuno saying to me that as far as VH1, he didn’t do the interview because they ambushed him . . . and, you know, I’m not gonna put my band together on their time.