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June 5, 2023

A Conversation With Extreme Vocalist Gary Cherone


Few bands of the rock era have been as diverse as Extreme. Formed in Boston in the mid-1980s, the band melded rock, funk, and acoustic sounds to reach the top of the music world. After 15 years, they are back with a new record called Six out everywhere on July 9. Vocalist Gary Cherone took some time a few weeks back to talk about the record and much more!

On why now is the right time to release new music – Right time at the right place. I think maybe the Covid episode might have delayed it a little bit, but we’ve been together, we’ve been touring, we’ve written throughout the years. It just seems to be the right time for us. I tell you, we just released, it’s been a pleasant surprise, we just released the video, and the band is overwhelmed by the response, so that’s a good sign, not that we’ve been forgotten, but that there’s a shot at making new fans.

On if the success of “Rise” surprised the band – I think we curbed our expectations going into this, thinking that we touch upon the Extreme die hard and our little world that we’ve been playing in. But the last track we put out in 2008, maybe the internet wasn’t as sophisticated. Here we are in 2023, and we’re seeing reaction videos and just how we reveal this record, some stars have aligned. It’s not this great big plan, we’re pretty blown away by it.

On when they began writing SixNo, I think whenever me and Nuno (Bettencourt) get together, even when we’re on either side of the coast, if he has something, he’ll send me or vice versa. We’ve written over the years. We’ve had different projects that we’ve done. Me with Hurtsmile and Nuno’s done his thing. Even Pat (Badger) has put out a few records. But when we get together, there’s a sound check here and there and Nuno will come up with a riff, and so it’s never planned, it’s just, “I got this idea”, or for me, “I got the lyric”, and I’ll send it to him.

On creating a modern-sounding record that is still in the Extreme mold – Thanks for saying that. I do think we broke new ground on this record for the band. When people think of Extreme, the people that know our catalog from “Get The Funk Out” to “More Than Words” and “Hole Hearted”, there’s that spectrum of eclecticism that we’ve always had, so that’s on this record. But I think what’s new is maybe the influences throughout the years, the new sounds that have been introduced. We’re never afraid of being inspired by something new. I would say indirectly, Nuno working with Rihanna and some of that world of pop exposed him to some stuff. I think you might hear that a little, believe it or not, in the chorus of “Rise”, even though it’s cloaked in heavy guitar, there’s that pop chorus that is the underlying theme in that. You mentioned “Hurricane”, I think that’s one of the most delicate songs on the record, real quiet. That’s not really outside our spectrum of music, but I appreciate you saying that. I think we did break some new ground for ourselves.

On evolving the sound of the band over the years – It’s funny when I think of that and when people acknowledge the eclecticism of Extreme like you, not that we compare ourselves to Queen, but one of the things we learned from Queen was, I just remember growing up and every record you knew something new was coming. I think of 1980’s The Game, and how they were influenced by the modern pop of that time. Not that they wanted to stay relevant, they just digested music, they weren’t afraid to do that. Again, I applaud the bands, I look at AC/DC, that’s meat & potatoes. You know what you’re getting. But that’s what you want from AC/DC. So with Extreme, I think, not that we put pressure on ourselves, but I think our fans expect some twists and turns, and I think they’re gonna get this on this record.

On if they ever felt trapped by the success of “More Than Words” and being put in with “Hair Metal” bands – Yeah, well, about it now, we’ve certainly embraced it now, in hindsight, you go, “If it wasn’t for “More Than Words”, we wouldn’t have had the success or the platform or the audience that we reach people with the other nine-tenths of our music”. Hey, we were born in the mid-80s, out of that era, we always felt we were a little left the center. The stuff that was going on in LA on the West Coast, it was great, they were touring here. But we always prided ourselves on coming from the East Coast, we were the bastard sons of Aerosmith. We love the bands coming out of there, not that our goal was to be put in that same category of those bands, but we wore our East Coast pridefully. So we never felt that comfortable in that genre, and there was a term “funky metal”, we never considered ourselves metal. We were a rock and roll band, that groove, that Aerosmith or Van Halen or Zeppelin had. That’s the stuff that inspired us, and again, the industry changed right after “More Than Words”, here comes 1990 and the whole people looking to Seattle. But by that time, we were starting to broaden our horizons out in Europe and South America, so we were pretty insulated from that, I think we wanted to be, We kept our head down, and at that point, we knew we had our identity, we knew what we were.

On how Boston created such a diverse music scene – A great question. This is the stars aligning. We were born in a time in Boston, a college town, I mean, there was a scene, there was a punk scene, there was a pop scene a new-wave scene. Believe it or not, the hard rock, heavy metal scene kind of bubbled up in the mid-80s, and radio at that time was WAAF or WCOZ or WBCN, or WFNX, they all catered to their little genres of music, but they supported original music. So if you had a demo tape, you could take it to your local DJ, and if you were lucky enough, he played it at midnight and obviously, that was in the 70s. Some of the bands, I always think of Luna or Berlin Airlift, The Stompers, The Atlantics, all these bands that came up in the early, early 80s, late 70s, that me and my young bands backed up back in the day. Then by 1985, Extreme was getting going and this heavy metal, hard rock scene blossomed, it was almost like a response to the LA Sunset Strip thing. There was a couple of clubs in Boston, Narcissus comes to mind, and Celebrations where it started in a basement, 150-seat venue, and the hard rock bands played there and then it just blew up. We were there at the right time, right place. Writing songs, and the bands that came in from LA, whether it was Poison, we had a following at a time, we got to back up those bands, so our audience grew. It all pretty much, believe it or not, ended, we got in under the gun. It ended, radio changed clubs got DJs because it was cheaper. Then the cover scene happened, and when I talk to the younger kids today that I’ll bump into that are in bands, they’re like, “What should I do?” And I’m scratching my head and go, “Well, my scene, the scene I grew up in is gone, but you have the advantage of the internet”. So you adapt to your environment. If Extreme was coming out now, we would probably be making videos in our basement and posting it.

On fronting Joe Perry’s band – It’s funny, we got a little run coming up in a couple of weeks. I will admit, I try to keep my cool in front of Joe, but the minute we start rehearsing and we bust into an old Aerosmith (song), I turned into that 14-year-old kid. Again, I’m not embarrassed to say that. Sometimes my enthusiasm will come out and Joe and he’ll just smile, and I look at him, I go, “You’ll never understand what you guys meet to Extreme”, and to me as a singer, Tyler is still a god to me, and so you nailed it.

On if there is any unreleased Van Halen material from his era – Well, they’re not out there in the ether, because they’d be on the internet. I’ve been asked this question a lot. We were working on a follow-up and the material was good. I always say that the group of songs that we’re working on, were in different degrees of being finished. Some were really rough demos, and some were more completed pieces of music. Again, whether they see the light of day someday, part of me would like to say, “I’d love to see that”, whether there was a re-issue of VH3, I don’t know if that’ll ever happen. Every once in a while I’ll go back and listen to that stuff, but I don’t know, I don’t wanna give people false hope.

On if Six is a reboot of the band and will lead to regular activity – Maybe in the public perception, it’s certainly a reboot because there’s the video and it’s got close to two million views and again, we’re blown away. So the public perception is, “Who is this Band? Oh, that’s that band from the 90s”, or whatever. We’ve had some footprint throughout the years touring, not extensively, but we’ve been out there. Will this inspire new music? I think it will, because what happens with Extreme is when we tour, and we are probably gonna go on our most extensive tour with this release, so that means we’re gonna be in each other’s presence during soundcheck, dinner, and everything like that. Soundcheck turns into a jam session turns into writing new material, so that is for me, exciting because that would speed up the process for new music.

On upcoming touring for Six We’re getting some offers in the US, we’re gonna do that. We got Japan and Australia, UK, Europe. We plan on all that. That’s in the works right now. I don’t think it’ll start until summertime, probably August. The record’s coming out in June, we’ll probably play a fly date here and there, we got M3 coming up, the festival, and we got a cruise coming up. One of those cruises, so we’ll probably play some new material as well.