For all their prodigious talents, guitar heroes aren’t usually ones to bitch about each other in public. A level of respect exists between high-level six-stringers, meaning they’re more likely to acknowledge each others’ abilities rather than fire off snark bombs in the direction of their peers.
It began when Bettencourt, who is promoting Extreme’s excellent new Six album, spoke to Planet Rock about his side hustle as guitarist with pop icon Rihanna. He explained that, contrary to what people might imagine, it was far from an easy gig.
"When somebody like Rihanna reaches out to you to perform everybody thinks, ‘Oh, that's cute. It's a pop artist, whatever,’" said Bettencourt. "Let me tell you something, what I had to do night after night… put on a reggae hat with a reggae feel, and go into R&B, then go into some punk rock and pop rock that she did, and then club tracks. All sorts of [things], all those different feels.
He then proceeded to suggest that few of his fret-bothering peers could do what he did – and he invoked GN’R guitarist Slash‘s name as an example.
"I'm sorry, most of the guitar players who I admire could not in their lifetime play that gig," he said. "I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Slash is one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time but I guarantee — and he'd be the first to tell you — that if he jumps up and he's got to play a clean intro to Rude Boy from Rihanna, it ain't happening.”
Not surprisingly, this didn’t go unnoticed, not least by Slash’s fellow GN’R guitarist Richard Fortus, who leapt to his bandmate’s defence with a polite response – something that carried a bit of weight, given that Fortus himself played with Rihanna before Bettencourt came onboard.
“I have to respectfully disagree,” wrote Fortus on Instagram. “@nunobettencourtofficial is one of the greats, for sure. However, there is very little @slash couldn’t do on guitar (if he wanted to). I toured with Rihanna prior to Nuno and I’ve spent a lot of time playing with Slash. This gig wouldn’t be a struggle for him.”
In the comments that followed, Fortus paid tribute to Bettencourt, saying: “Nuno is one of the greatest living guitarists imo. I’m not in his league. I have never thought, nor said differently.”
Nice and polite, correct? Apparently not nice or polite enough for Bettencourt, who proceeded to hit the nuclear button by posting a lengthy – and testy – response on Instagram, in which he took aim at Fortus.
“Welp… I new this was eventually coming,” wrote Bettencourt. “You can’t be blessed and be on multiple guitar magazine covers at a shocking 56 years old, get this much attention for your playing and new album as a rock guitarist without another guitarist stirring up some shit.
“I’m responding to this not cause I give a shit about what this guitarist thinks about me but, instead, because I’d hate to think my few words offended a hero of mine, @slash and possibly fuck up my relationship with him.
“@4tus I’ve “respectively” never heard you play one note in my 56 years of being alive and only know your name from the Rihanna camp and as a replacement player in Guns. I’m sure you’re a decent player, but did you really need to repost a headline that made me look like I am badmouthing a fellow player, Slash.
“As if I’d ever think Slash isn’t capable of playing any Rihanna song in his sleep. Let’s get something fucking straight. To me, Slash is one of the greatest rock guitarists of my generation and of all time. PERIOD.
“And @4tus if you knew me at all and where my heart is you’d know that what I meant in this statement was not about slash or his capability, It was about Rock guitarists like myself or Slash switching genres and the awkwardness of playing these feels.
“No SHIT Slash can play these songs, thank you so much for pointing that out as if we didn’t already know that. But for me as a predominant ROCK guitarist, Im obviously not as talented as you and found it a challenge to nail all the different pockets and guitar tones of genres like Reggae, R&B, Electronic Dance, Trap and pop.
“As far as you shining a light on my ridiculous statement that Slash would “struggle”, yes a poor word choice on my part, I personally would hope that Slash who is a peer and influence would be more mature enough to understand what I truly meant as a guitarist by that comment.
“In mentioning Slash as an iconic Rock example, I meant in general a rock guitarist would find it, NOT A STRUGGLE, but feel like a fish out of water as a player. THATS ALL I MEANT. I’ve had NOTHING but respect and admiration for @gunsnroses and @slash.
“Apologies if I’ve unintentionally offended anyone.
That’s some response to Fortus’s fairly innocuous defence of a friend and bandmate, with Bettencourt throwing down some serious ‘know your place, mere mortal’ vibes in the middle of it. Fortus has yet to respond, so it could all turn out to be a giant storm in a teacup, of course. We just wonder what Slash thinks of it all…