Friday, May 29, 2015

Flashback Friday: Let's Get Extreme

Extreme 1995
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

First off, since this website is most commonly associated with professional wrestling, I must issue the disclaimer that the subject of this blog has nothing to do with ECW. Though I will admit the implication of such did make me go with that title. 

I had intended to write this back on May 7 when I realized the milestone of that day. For sports historians, May 7, 1995 is the day Reggie Miller scored eight points in 11 seconds to lead the Indiana Pacers in an upset victory over the New York Knicks in the NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals to take a 3-2 lead in the series.  I remember that game not because I cared about the game but because of a conversation I had with tour manager Bob Dallas while walking down a hotel hallway in St. Louis minutes before Reggie’s “Miller Time” spectacle. 

Why was I in a hotel hallway discussing basketball with a tour manager? At the time, I was a student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Instead of spending time in a classroom, I spent more time in what was essentially a giant walk-in closet on the fourth floor of the Student Center. That “closet” was the operating facilities of Student Programming Council – Television, or SPC-TV.  A completely student run TV station that broadcast exclusively to the residence halls. 

One of the productions I was involved with was, Planet Boom, an hour-long music video show dedicated to the rock scene of the ‘80s. Keep in mind; this was 1995 so Pearl Jam and the grunge movement had pretty much obliterated the mainstream rock scene. That didn’t matter to my co-host, Jeff and myself. Having grown up with the 80’s Sunset Strip scene (albeit 3000 miles away from the actual Sunset Strip) we were determined to make sure bands that continued to make that style of music had an outlet to be heard. 

In addition to just playing videos by these bands, I had taken the task of contacting record labels and management services to try and arrange interviews with bands when they came through the Midwest. One of those interviews was with my personal favorite bands. If you’ve put two and two together, you should know whom I’m talking about. 

On January 19, 1995, Boston rockers, Extreme released their fourth album, “Waiting for the Punchline.”  The tour to promote the album had two dates that fit into our location. The first was on April 1 at the Vic Theater in Chicago. In an attempt to secure an interview, I had my first real introduction into the world of record label inefficiency.  At the time, Extreme was signed to A&M Records. I called 411 (this was pre-internet. The Dark Ages as it’s now known) and got a number for A&M’s office in New York. From there, I got a hold of the promotions department who transferred me to another department who then suggested I talk to someone else. The fourth person I talked to suggested I talk to Winnie Wong, so I called her extension. When I told her I was trying to get an interview with Extreme, Winnie referred me back to the person who had told me to contact Winnie. After stating that person had referred me to Winnie, instead of then passing me on to someone else, Winnie said she would see what she could do to facilitate the interview. A few days later, I got the phone call our interview with Extreme was confirmed for the show in Chicago. 

In preparation for the interview, Jeff and I scoured every rock magazine or MTV interview we had on tape that featured Extreme. All the interviews had two things in common; they were all done with lead singer, Gary Cherone and guitarist, Nuno Bettencourt. Naturally, we tailored our pre-arranged questions towards Gary and Nuno.  “Gary, you recently performed in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, do you have plans to do anymore theater work?” “Nuno, what made you dye your hair?” Obviously we were hard hitting musical journalists in training. During the two weeks leading up to the interview, Jeff and I often joked what we’d do if we had to interview bassist, Pat Badger or new drummer, Mike Mangini.  “Pat, um, do you think Gary will do more theater work?” “ Mike, what do you think about Nuno’s new hair color?” 

Pat Badger
April first arrived and Jeff and I along with our trusty cameraman Todd made the five-hour trek up to Chicago. We arrived at the Vic Theater during Extreme’s sound check and were placed in the catering area until they were ready for the interview.  Roughly 25 minutes late, tour manager Bob Dallas tells us it’s time and leads us down a hallway to the dressing room. In a thick New York accent he informs us, “Okay, I’m going to give you Pat and Mike. You’ve got 20 minutes.”  Jeff and I look at each other and try not to bust out laughing. While we were doing our interview, Nuno was doing an interview with Circus magazine and Gary was a bit under the weather, as Mike would shortly inform us the tour was unofficially called the Door-to-Door Bring the Plague tour due to the rotating sickness amongst the band members.

Getting the opportunity interview my favorite band had me a bit star struck. Thankfully I was able to hold it together and not fangirl too bad. Pat and Mike were total professionals taking every question and running with them instead of offering short, concise answers. Gary Cherone even stopped by a couple of times and interjected himself into the conversation. Overall, I could not have asked for a better experience. 

More than words
Flash forward six weeks and the last night of Extreme’s tour was being held at Mississippi Night’s in St. Louis.  Since the first interview had been with Pat and Mike, it made sense to Jeff and I to try for another interview, which would of course be with Gary or Nuno. Right? I contacted my good friend Winnie Wong again and requested another interview. This time the process went much more  smoothly. Everything was good to go. Instead of meeting at the venue like the last interview, we were told to meet at the band’s hotel. 

We arrive at the hotel around 2:30. I called up to Bob Dallas’ room. 

“Hi, Bob. This is Chad Smart with the show Planet Boom. We’re in the lobby.”

“Why?”

“We have an interview with Extreme at 2:30.”

“Oh. Hold on I’ll be down in a few minutes.”

As we waited, I passed the time by watching the NBA game on the lobby television. A short while later, Bob arrived, apologized for being late and took us up to the room for the interview. While walking, Bob said he had lost track of time while watching the basketball game. Not thinking about Bob being from New York and the Knicks being on the verge of choking, I made mention of the Pacers’ comeback being shocking. Bob stopped, turned, looked me in the eyes and asked where I was from. After I replied, Illinois, he paused before saying if I was from Indiana he would have cancelled the interview. I don’t think he was joking. 

As we’re setting up for the interview, Bob says he’s going to have Pat do the interview. What? Pat? No! We already talked to Pat. What’s Gary doing? Or Nuno? Aren’t they available? Okay, we can do this. So, Pat, um, what do you think of Nuno’s hair? 

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against Pat Badger. In fact, during both interviews Pat was a stand up guy. It’s just not much had really happened in the six weeks since last speaking with Pat to really warrant another interview. I will go as far as to say as awesome the first interview was; the second interview was as awesomely bad. I will now take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Pat Badger for taking twenty minutes out of his peaceful Sunday afternoon to ask asinine questions. No, I didn’t actually ask about Nuno’s hair.  
After the not so great interview, we said our thanks and left the hotel to head over to Mississippi Nights. Mississippi Nights no longer exists having shut down in 2007 to make way for Lumiere Place Casino. It wasn’t a huge loss as the venue was barely more than a hole in the wall.  If memory serves me right, I believe in the linear notes to Great White’s greatest hits album it mentions Mississippi 
Nights as a club where the backstage dressing room was the fire escape.

Extreme took to the stage ripping through the opener “War Heads” and continued on for 90 minutes to a packed, hungry crowd. At the start of the encore, Gary Cherone mentioned it being the last night of the show and how they wanted to keep playing so they were going to the show again.  Nuno played the opening notes of “War Heads” as the crowd cheered their agreement.  Instead of playing  the full song they actually busted out an impromptu version of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher.” Ironically, Gary Cherone didn’t sing insisting instead for Pat Badger to sing. Guess Gary would get his chance to sing a few years later when he officially joined Van Halen. 

To the best of my knowledge, the show at Mississippi Nights was the last official Extreme tour show in the United States for twelve years.  The band disbanded a year later after finishing the Waiting For the Punchline world tour. Gary, as mentioned, went on to join Van Halen. Nuno Bettencourt had a couple of different projects a solo album, and bands, Mourning Widows and Population 1 /DramaGods. Pat joined the band Super Trans Atlantic for one album before opting raising alpacas. 

Extreme 2007
In 2007, the band reunited with new drummer Kevin Figueiredo and released the album Saudades of Rock. Other than a live album recorded during their tour in 2009, Extreme as a band hasn’t produced any other new material though they have been busy with side projects. Nuno is the guitarist in Rihanna’s band. Gary Cherone has released two albums with the band Hurtsmile that he formed with 
his brother, Mark on guitar. Pat Badger formed a band simply called Badger and released their debut album Time Will Tell in 2014.  


Since 2014, Extreme has been doing shows where they perform their second album Pornograffitti in its entirety to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the album. While I have contemplated going to shows in Russia, England and Boston to see the show, I will finally get to see them perform as part of the Metal Meltdown show in Las Vegas on May 30. Hmm… maybe I should have tried to contact my old friend Winnie Wong and tried to set up another interview. Twenty years later, I have several questions to ask. Even if it was Pat, I was interviewing again.

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