Gary Cherone, singer and songwriter. The front man for the world renowned and musically diversified Extreme. Be it Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Funk Metal or a chart topping Pop Ballad, Gary Cherone never fails to capture the emotion and heart of a song. Extreme, with their 2008 reunion, has given a bounty of relief to loyal fans, after a thirteen year hiatus. With three quarters of the original Extreme lineup intact, Gary Cherone, guitarist & songwriter Nuno Bettencourt and bassist Pat Badger have proven that they still have plenty of Hard Rock left in their musical tanks, alongside newest band mate and drummer Kevin Figueiredo.
With 2008’s critically acclaimed Saudades de Rock followed by a triumphant touring schedule, this second chapter of Extreme is just beginning. Extreme’s reunion has even led to the release of Take Us Alive, a live CD/DVD recorded in August of 2009, in their hometown of Boston Mass, at the House Of Blues, with a release date of May 4, 2010.
Hard Rock Hideout had the privilege recently to catch up to Gary Cherone, while his busy schedule allowed. Gary talks about the reuniting of Extreme, “Take Us Alive”, his musical influences, the now classic “More Than Words” ballad, a dream duet and his true feelings of being the lead singer for Van Halen too. As polite and candid as he is down to earth, Gary Cherone has proven to this writer, that he and Extreme certainly are an American Rock ‘N’ Roll success story. Here is what Gary had to say:
HRH: Gary, what is the Extreme Rock ‘N’ Roll story behind “Take Us Alive”?
Gary Cherone: It’s our first live CD/DVD, the story behind it is surprisingly, after a thirteen year break, we have never played or felt stronger. “Take Us Alive” documents the 2009 tour and covers the full spectrum of the Extreme catalog of albums.
HRH: Seeing the fans sing the lyrics to “More Than Words” on “Take Us Alive” gave me those good and cool chills, did it have an effect on you while on stage?
Gary Cherone: Absolutely! This song has been a blessing and a curse over the years for Extreme. The band resented this song for a while because it was the one and sometimes only song people knew from us. We learned to embrace it though, now it’s a special song to us. After thirteen years, coming back to see the fans sing along to it live, every night, makes for one of the highlights of the night.
HRH: Were there any vintage, live Rock albums over the years, that influenced you to one day make a live Extreme album?
Gary Cherone: You are absolutely the first writer to ask this question and I’ve been waiting for this! KISS “I” and “II”, Cheap Trick “at Budokan”, The Who “Live At Leeds”, and The J. Geils Band had three terrific live albums. There are too many of them really, to mention. Just recently, I was sending emails to the guys saying, “hey, we finally have our KISS Alive out! It’s exciting after all these years to to have our live album. We recorded the show in Boston, at the House of Blues, it’s our hometown and it meant a lot to us to have it filmed there.
HRH: Gary, “Last Hour” from “Saudades de Rock” I point to as a career highlight for you vocally. Did you reach for any personal emotion to record this song?
Gary Cherone: Thank you very much. “Last Hour” is one of my favorites on this record. I always start on a personal level then lyrically go in different directions. I try to translate emotion onto tape. Steve Perry, (Journey), he came a few times during the making of “Saudades de Rock”. This was the only song Steve Perry hung out with us on in the control room.
HRH: Wow, Steve Perry! You must have been a bit nervous there?
Gary Cherone: I felt pressure with a legend sitting in there! I think seeing Steve Perry made me reach in for that little extra!
HRH: Have you known Steve Perry for some time?
Gary Cherone: Steve Perry is a friend of the band, has been for some years.
HRH: “Saudades de Rock”, do you look upon this album as a comeback or continuation of Extreme?
Gary Cherone: Both I guess. We treat it as a continuation. The public looks at it as a reunion record after thirteen years. “Saudades de Rock” is not a one-off album, this was the first of hopefully many more Extreme albums to come.
HRH: Gary, who is the singer that you would want to make the dream duet with?
Gary Cherone: I always wanted to do something with Ann Wilson, (Heart), she’s it! I’m always mentioning Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury and Roger Daltrey in conversations, about being the best voices in Rock ‘N’ Roll history, yet Ann Wilson, she is an amazing singer. There’s still time to do a duet with her, I just have to write the right song.
HRH: There’s plenty of time left Gary!
HRH: Are there any younger musicians or bands out there in 2010, that have made an impression on you?
Gary Cherone: Late at night, I’ll watch VH1 to catch new music. Muse comes to mind. The music I listen to is rather mellow compared to the Hard Music world I live in! I like Stone Temple Pilots, they have a new record coming out. I really like their new single “Between The Lines”. Norah Jones, I like to listen to her music.
HRH: Any Rock legends your listening to?
Gary Cherone: Bob Dylan, there is enough in his catalog to listen to and enjoy for the next twenty years! As a singer and songwriter, Bob Dylan is just great, there is no one else like him.
HRH: If a major motion picture was made on the career of Extreme, would the word “united” be in the title?
Gary Cherone: It would certainly be in the title. Extreme is a close bond of brothers, past members included. We grew up together, went around the block long enough to know what friendship is about. “United” would definitely be the theme of the movie.
HRH: Extreme has personified Rock Music diversity through song, time and again. How important is it to not be stereotyped into one specific genre?
Gary Cherone: I think that is probably a distinction we wear with pride. When you look at AC/DC, I would not want them any other way, you know what you are getting. Then, I look at the Beatles, Queen and Led Zeppelin, all three had no barriers, they really wrote honest music with expression. They did not try to ever fit in. When I sit down with Nuno, we really don’t know what is going to come out when we create music. We sit down together and write, Nuno plays the guitar and what comes flowing out of us during those moments is what becomes the record.
HRH: What changes in the music industry, within the last twenty years, annoy you the most?
Gary Cherone: Extreme has been fortunate and blessed from the past. After 13 years of being away, we know there will be touring and small venues, we don’t care how big the place is we play at. The digital revolution, where music can be downloaded for free, it doesn’t bother me so much. If people get turned on by Extreme through You Tube, then the interest to come see us live or buy our music can result and that is a good thing. There are pro’s and con’s to technology, it’s like comparing LP’s to CD’s, nothing changes.
HRH: Nothing beats those days of buying real vinyl.
Gary Cherone: If you show a kid an LP today, they would look at it as if it’s from another planet. There was nothing like going to the record store back when I grew up, getting the album home and putting the needle to the wax! Our parents used to look at us like we were crazy or something! That’s our generation though.
HRH: Today, the kids are raised on MP3’s.
Gary Chreone: I’m sure if we were kids now, that’s how we would get turned on to music. The sad thing is, kids get turned on song by song today. We grew up on concept records like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. Would kids have the attention span to listen to a whole piece of music like that now? A pro in technology is Guitar Hero, it’s giving kids an outlet to discover so many great bands and songs.
HRH: If you had a magic wand and could change just one thing that is wrong in the world today, what would you change?
Gary Cherone: (In a disguised voice, sounding like a Miss Universe contestant): All I want is world peace. (laughs)
Gary Cherone: I don’t want to sound like a Miss Universe contestant and say all I want is world peace! I’d like to see less pain in the heart, which is manifested physically by people abusing other people or emotionally abusing each other. This is such a big question and difficult to answer or resolve. It’s not that hard to start now, on a local level, by being kind to your neighbor. Our song, “Peace” on “Saudades de Rock” has two verses, the first verse lyrically is very local and internal, while the second verse covers the bigger issues of the world.
HRH: Any Tour plans for Extreme in 2010?
Gary Cherone: Nuno is out on tour with Rihanna right now. It’s a long shot, that maybe Extreme schedules tour dates at the end of the year. I’m working on another Rock project this Summer called Hurt Smile.
HRH: Hurt Smile? Is this a Rock or Hard Rock band? How heavy?
Gary Cherone: Hurt Smile is more rawer than Extreme and Hard Rock. My brother, Mark Cherone, plays guitar.
HRH: Very cool, I wish you guys the very best! I look forward to hearing Hurt Smile in the future.
Gary Cherone: Thanks!
HRH: Gary, what is your most positive experience you look back upon, being the lead singer for Van Halen?
Gary Cherone: For three years I was in the band and it was a fantastic experience I’ll never forget. Being on tour was the best part and all the crazy moments on stage! Just Playing with the mighty Van Halen! Getting to know Van Halen as human beings and recording the record, (“Van Halen III”), with Van Halen was such a great experience. Eddie was such a generous person, they all were generous. It all feels so surreal now, being ten years removed from Van Halen, I’m like, I was really in that band! I was very fortunate to be a part of Van Halen for a moment in time.