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Interview – Gary Cherone, Extreme, January 2013

| 16 August 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Back in January EXTREME were getting set to tour Australia with Ritchie Kotzen as support, and we caught up with lead singer Gary Cherone to discuss the tour, his time with Van Halen and Hurtsmile, the band he formed with his brother Markus.

The tour fell through unfortunately, but here finally is a taste of what might have been and some more musings on Cherone’s career.

Gary Cherone 01
100% ROCK MAG: Hi Gary, it’s Shane from 100% Rock in Australia. How are you doing?

Gary Cherone: Good, how are you, sir?

100% ROCK MAG: Very good today mate, where are you at?

Gary Cherone: I’m at home on the East Coast.

100% ROCK MAG: Not touring at the moment?

Gary Cherone: No, no. Nuno’s out on the road I think with Rihanna right now.

100% ROCK MAG: Right. So we’re pretty excited that Extreme are coming down to Australia in April. You’ve been here before with Van Halen, I think that was around 1998, has the band been here?

Gary Cherone: We’re long overdue. We will be apologising to every individual fan. [laughs] We’ll make sure it’ll be wild for sure.

100% ROCK MAG: So how did the tour come together?

Gary Cherone: Well there were two reasons actually, Extreme got back together in 2007 and put out a record in 2008 and toured the States, Japan… and we were going to be playing Australia in 2009 and I don’t know what happened, logistics or whatever, and that didn’t happen. And then for the last couple of years we hit China, again Australia was within our sights and it just fell through. I don’t know why but, this year it came through and I think we’ve got six shows. We’re excited. I was fortunate enough to be there in ’98 but the band is ready to go. We’re excited to play.

Gary Cherone 02

100% ROCK MAG: Fantastic. You’ve got Richie Kotzen in tow as support, so that’s a very sweet line up indeed. What can Australian fans expect from the show?

Gary Cherone: Yeah Kotzen is great, I’ve been a fan for a while. I think that with Nuno and Kotzen on guitar… they don’t like us to call them guitar heroes but they ARE. You’re going to hear the rock, the old and new songs from each record. We’re not a jam band but we like to elaborate on our songs and we’ve been writing this year, and the Australians are going to see a band on fire.

100% ROCK MAG: How do you keep these songs that you’ve played live hundreds of times fresh for both yourself and the audience?

Gary Cherone: Yeah you know, some songs you struggle with because you say to yourself ‘how many times can the same songs work?’ But when we came back in 2007, from the band’s perspective we’d been split up for twelve years – we played off and on, but when we played to new audiences, one of the things we discovered in 2009 was it wasn’t just old fans, it was new fans. There were 17 year old kids singing along to More Than Words or Play With Me. That’s what keeps it fresh. When you’re playing to a new audience it’s the first time they’re hearing it, and Australia, China, Russia – they’re places we’ve never played. That’s enough inspiration to play the songs that we’ve played a million times. Like Get The Funk Out, we’ve played a million times but we’ll play it again for this crowd. It’s not that hard.

100% ROCK MAG: Is it like acting in a way, in order to deliver a song like that with passion when you’ve played it so many times?

Gary Cherone: If we do an extensive tour, and back in the day when we were on tour for months at a time, sometimes you’d… whether it was your voice or you were just tired and you found yourself going through the motions. I think every performer and musician finds that every once in a while, but Extreme is such a physical band performing. We’re a performance band. We’re working for the euphoria, we’re trying to find that spontaneity all the time. I think that only happens when you’re just touring so much and at this point right now Extreme is dying to take it on the road. So I don’t think we’re going to have the problem of going through the motions when it comes to the Australian tour.[laughs]

100% ROCK MAG: Extreme have always been a really musically ambitious band. In hindsight do you think that might have, for want of a better word, confused people, in order that you didn’t make that next rung up the ladder of success?

Gary Cherone: Yeah, I guess you could say that Extreme is a little more eclectic than a meat and potatoes rock band, and that may have confused people, to some rock fans that couldn’t get past More Than Words or whatever, I don’t know. Looking back I think that’s what keeps the band fresh and actually separates us from some of our contemporaries our era, I think Extreme distinguished ourselves, because of the eclecticism.

100% ROCK MAG: And on that note, did it irk you being lumped in with all the hair metal bands?

Gary Cherone: Well, in reality, that was the era. We came of age in the late 80’s and More Than Words hit in ’91, and I always thought we were really a band without a country. Sure we came of age in the hair metal scene, but we never quite fit in there and then, you know, Nirvana came, there was like the separation of pre-Nirvana and post-Nirvana and we never quite fit in there. So I really think we were always outside looking in, no matter what side of the coin that was. And also it was more confusing having success with More Than Words, and that song becoming bigger than the band, so that confused the audience. But you look back on it and you think yeah, More Than Words introduced the mainstream to this band, so there was more people that got turned on to the band, and liked some of the other music BECAUSE of More Than Words. And I’m not comparing ourselves to Queen, but those are the [kind of] bands we aspired to. They were a band that were confusing. I don’t put Extreme in that parallel with Queen, but as far as aspiring… those were the bands. We really like AC/DC but we never wanted to be an AC/DC type band. They did what they did well and no one did it better, but we were inspired by Led Zeppelin – you look at Led Zeppelin III, the majority was an acoustic record, you know? We wear it as a badge of honour now, some of our eclecticism.

Gary Cherone with Extreme

100% ROCK MAG: It’s important to remember that you guys were still making records in 1995, long after grunge supposedly killed hair metal off.

Gary Cherone: True, and again looking at it from our perspective I think America jumped off the Extreme bandwagon but Europe was still behind Waiting For The Punchline and so internationally the band was, we didn’t quite see the dust settle until after the band had broken up. We see clearly now, but back then the tides changed in America but we were still having success in Europe, so we just went there.

100% ROCK MAG: Rumours have abounded since 2011 that there is a new studio album coming. How’s that coming along?

Gary Cherone: Ahhh yeah well, there’s a spanner in the works. What’s that spanner called again… oh yeah – Rihanna! [laughs] She’s been on tour [with Nuno Bettencourt playing guitar in her band] and it’s been, for the band, a little frustrating. But we’ve been writing in between the tour and we will be playing some new material in Australia in April. Honestly I can’t say when a new record will be out, but there will be something out this year, and we’ll put it on the internet.

100% ROCK MAG: You’re also prepping a second album with Hurtsmile, how’s that coming along?

Gary Cherone: Great actually. The guys from the East Coast are in town, we’re in the middle of the record. More than half way done. The record has been written, we’re just recording it, we’re tracking, most of the vocals are done, guitars thrown in the background. If anyone knows the first Hurtsmile record, the band has just gotten better, so I’m looking forward to it. And by the time we come down to Australia there will probably be a track out there from Hurtsmile.

100% ROCK MAG: Cool. When it comes to the other band you were in, famously, Van Halen, [Gary laughs] I did read one interview where you felt happy saying ‘Hey I was one of the three singers in the mighty Van Halen, you can’t take that away from me’. Do you still feel that album [Van Halen III, released in 1998] sits comfortably in the Van Halen catalogue, or maybe it should have been released under a different name?

Gary Cherone with Van Halen

Gary Cherone: Well, I think – first of all, I have great memories of that experience. Three years, a record, a tour, those guys were great to me, they embraced me, they knew I was the third guy coming in and they knew the pressures of all that stuff, and I was insulated from all the talk outside, so the experience was great for me. The record, I look at any record that I record and honestly I think there was some great songs on that record but I think the production failed and I don’t think we spent enough time cultivating some of the songs. I think there was some seeds for some great songs and I think there’s some tracks I’m very proud of, you know. Being a singer, I play those records and then I listen to some of the Extreme records are the production isn’t what it could be, so I’m critical in that aspect. But as far as it being a Van Halen record, I think definitely the one that we started working on after that record, probably would have sat more in the Van Halen catalogue. I think [VHIII] may have been too much of a culture shock for what some of the Van Halen fans expected.

100% ROCK MAG: Did any of the stuff you demoed after that album end up on the latest Van Halen album [A Different Kind Of Truth], considering they went back to demos for most of that?

Gary Cherone: No, they went back to early Dave-era stuff. I know some of the song lyrics that I wrote during that period ended up on some record, but I don’t think any of the music [did]… I haven’t heard it. But commenting on the new Van Halen record, I love it – I think it’s the best record since, you know, as far as the Dave-era, best record since day one. I liked it. I like the…what’s the song? Stay Frosty! Yeah, great.

Gary Cherone 03

100% ROCK MAG: Yeah, yeah.

Gary Cherone: Yeah, great track. It’s a good record. I think they played well, I think the songs are great, you know, I think the solos are great. If you’re a Van Halen fan why wouldn’t you like that last one?

100% ROCK MAG: Absolutely. If you could go magically back in time and be part of the recording of any one album in history, what would you choose?

Gary Cherone: Any record in history? Well, I just saw a great documentary on Quadrophenia and, well I don’t need to be a fly on the wall for that one, because I just saw it on the documentary! I don’t know. It would have to be a Queen record, but it would be too hard to pick. It would be A Night At The Opera or maybe Jazz.

100% ROCK MAG: Yeah cool. Thanks so much for your time, we’re looking forward to seeing you when you hit Perth and good luck with the tour.

Gary Cherone: Thank you, looking forward to it, man. Please come and introduce yourself man, after the show, and we’ll have a beer or something.

 

Category: Interviews

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