Nuno thrives on Rihanna 'challenge'

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Nuno Bettencourt says playing guitar for pop superstar Rihanna is much more challenging than most people assume.

The Extreme axeman has been part of Rihanna’s touring band since 2009 and he says anyone who thinks it’s an easy gig simply isn’t listening closely enough.

Bettencourt tells Guitar Interactive: “Whatever people’s perceptions are of whatever Rihanna is, it’s definitely a different animal live — completely different. At first, even when I went to work with her, I was, like, ‘Can she really sing?’ A lot of times with the singers you hear now, there’s a lot of that auto-tune element and you don’t know who can really sing. But when I went to rehearsal, I could not believe how well she sang, and I could not believe how well she sings live.

“People ask me, ‘Why would you do something that you can do with your eyes closed?’ And it’s a difficult gig. The hats that you have to wear, feel-wise – you go from a basic pop song like Umbrella to a reggae song to a club track to even, like, a punk song and R&B stuff.

“So the amount of different textures and feels, and to have to play along with these incredible musicians who hear everything, it’s definitely not a punch-in-the-clock-type situation for me. Live, it keeps you busy. It’s one thing doing your own thing, it’s your own shit. It sounds crazy, but it’s really challenging. It really is.”

As much he he enjoys the challenge, he is not sure whether he will continue working with Rihanna due to the amount of time it takes out of his year.

He adds: “I’m hoping I don’t have to do it any more. Not towards Rihanna, of course, but it’s really time consuming.”

Extreme will release a deluxe version of their 1990 album Extreme II: Pornograffitti (A Funked Up Fairy Tale) on January 19. The band are currently on tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of the album’s original release. Bettencourt said earlier this year that the band were working on a sixth album.