Extreme-ly Funky 

W

HEN Boston funk metal band Extreme released a stripped-back acoustic song in 1991 they had no sense of just how big it would become.

The song – More Than Words – reached No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the United States and achieved  success worldwide, reaching No.2 in Australia and the UK.

‘‘I do remember when we wrote it that we knew it was a good Extreme song,’’ frontman Gary Cherone told H2 Live from his home in Boston.

‘‘Nuno [Bettencourt, guitarist] and I were just honing it out on the front porch one night and we decided ‘Let’s just keep it acoustic. Let’s not add drums or bass’.

‘‘We knew it was a good song we just didn’t know it was going to be bigger than the band.’’

A video parody version by ‘‘Weird Al’’ Yankovic confirmed just how ingrained the song had become in popular culture.

In the 23 years since recording the song for album Extreme II: Pornograffiti, More Than Words has continued to pop up everywhere from the Broadway musical Rock of Ages to cover versions recorded by Irish boy band Westlife and ’70s teen idol David Cassidy.

Cherone said the band had learned to embrace the song again.

‘‘There was this one time, maybe around ’95 where there was a love/hate relationship with the song because, especially for me and Nuno, we were feeling like ‘This band is more that just that song. We’re a rock band’,’’ Cherone said.

‘‘So there was this one short period of time where we were like ‘We’re not playing the song’ and Paul [Geary, ex-drummer] would go ‘What? Are you idiots? Play the song’.

‘‘But you know what? Looking back on our career it really opened the door for us.

‘‘If it wasn’t for the attention of that song then we probably wouldn’t be having a conversation now 20-plus years later.’’

Extreme is touring Australia in April for the first time in 20 years with Bettencourt and Cherone alongside Pat Badger (bass) and Kevin Figueiredo (drums).

The tour follows the band’s reformation in 2007 after splitting 11 years earlier when Bettencourt expressed his desire to pursue a solo career.

In their years apart Bettencourt released a solo album, performed alongside Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction) in Satellite Party and, more recently, has toured the world playing guitar for pop superstar Rihanna – which, Cherone joked, is a sore spot.

‘‘We’ve had to work around her schedule and I say ‘Nuno, I’m still a better dancer than she is’,’’ Cherone laughed.

Despite their time away from Extreme (during which Cherone spent three years fronting Van Halen), Cherone and Bettencourt have never been too far apart and reunited several times to play one-off dates until reforming permanently.

‘‘Why do we keep on coming back to each other? We’re still asking ourselves that,’’ Cherone jokes. ‘‘I think it was overdue and I think we would have got together a little earlier but Nuno and I were doing different projects at the time.

‘‘We were talking about it since like 2004 and we did one-offs, you know, we’d get together and do a show in Boston or if I’d be in LA we’d jam together.

‘‘We weren’t your typical band that broke up and hated each other.’’

Since reforming, Extreme has released a new album Saudades de Rock in 2008 (the first since 1995’s Waiting for the Punchline) and toured worldwide including concerts in China and Russia last year.

They are writing new material with plans to record another album.

Cherone said his time playing in Van Halen brought home how much he loved playing in Extreme alongside Bettencourt.

‘‘I knew it was going to be short-lived and it would never be my band,’’ Cherone said.

‘‘In Extreme we had common roots. We played the clubs together, we sold our first record and played our first concert together. It sounds romantic, you know, but you only have one first love and that’s always been Extreme for me.’’

Extreme perform with special guest Richie Kotzen at Newcastle Panthers on April 12. Bookings online at moshtix.com.au or phone 1300438849. 

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