“I’m going for blood. I want to bring guitar back in a joyful, exciting way”: Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt on the guitar solo that caused the internet to lose its mind in 2023

Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme onstage in 2023
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Few rock songs released in 2023 caused as much as excitement as Extreme’s comeback single Rise. It wasn’t just that it was the Boston rockers’ first new song in 15 years, and a taster for their equally long-gestating new album, Six. No, what sent certain sections of the internet into meltdown was guitarist Nuno Bettencourt’s next-level guitar solo.

Guitar World, who know about these things, declared it one of the greatest solos of the 21st century. Influential YouTuber Rick Beato warned that trying to master it might result in tendonitis (he meant it as a compliment). The likes of Brian May, Justin Hawkins, Toto’s Steve Lukater and Def Leppard’s Phil Collen showered it with praise, and thousands of bedroom guitarists mangled their fingers attempting to copy it.

Now, speaking to Classic Rock, Bettencourt reveals the motive behind the song – and his surprise at the response to what he says is merely a “decent“ solo.

“I say this super-humbly, but my manager said, ‘Hey, what’s your vibe? What are you going for as a guitar player on this album?’” Bettencourt tells Classic Rock. “And I said, ‘I’m going for blood.’ I want to bring guitar back. Not in a technical way, but in a joyful, exciting way. All the great guitar players, there was creativity, but there was a love and passion to it.

“Also, the big thing for me was to bring guitar back within songs. There are guitar players I follow on Instagram, and my jaw drops at what they can do. These guys are sitting there going [mimes flurry of impossible notes], and I’m, like , ‘What was he doing there?!’ But I don’t always hear a lot of that kind of thing with songs.

“For me, I want to inspire a generation in a different way. Get up! Get a band together! Let’s write some songs! Because to me, playing a song within a song – which is how I see a solo – is way more difficult as a writer than grabbing a guitar and just shredding.

“For me as a guitar player, it’s also about the having the courage not to play that much in a song that doesn’t actually need that much. Leave those spaces that really matter between the notes.

“And you’ve got to play the right solo for the right song. That’s super-important. I learned that years ago, when [Van Halen’s] Eruption came out. Everybody’s, like, ‘What just happened here? He changed the game!’ But on that same album, you’ve got Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love, where Edward plays this two-note solo that’s almost like something a beginner could play. You play for the song, that’s all I want to do.

“When Rise came out, I started getting hit up by my some of my friends and peers and heroes, talking about the song and the guitar solo,” he says. I was seeing all these comments online saying what they were saying, and for me, I have to step back and say, ‘Wait a minute, what’s really going on here?’

“OK, It’s a decent solo, but I think I’ve been doing decent guitar solos for almost 40 years, and I say that humbly. It has to be a bit more than that. So I had to kind of analyse it beyond the excitement about the song and the solo. I read a bunch of comments that really made sense to me. They were basically saying ‘thank you’ - thank you for making an album, thank you for some rock’n’roll. Not that there haven’t been some great bands out there over the last 10 or 15 years, but it’s more modern rock and heavier stuff.

“What people were missing wasn’t necessarily an Extreme record, but maybe something where you could hear and see and smell that the people doing actually gave a shit, that they were passionate, that they’re staying in shape in the video… that whole thing that used to be the full package of a band.”

“It’s easy to just go in and punch the clock, but we’ve always had trouble doing that. That‘s why we haven’t put an album out for 15 years - we’ve probably had three or four albums we could have put during that time, but if something doesn’t really hit our hearts, we’re not going to share it with everyone else.”

The brand new issue of Classic Rock, featuring an epic round up of the year in rock and a countdown of the greatest albums of 2023, is out now. Order it online and have it delivered straight to your door.

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