Last year marked the 25th anniversary of Extreme’s multi-Platinum, Grammy nominated Pornograffitti, the definitive album of the band’s career. To mark the event, the concert film Pornograffitti Live 25 was released this past September and captures the Boston band performing the classic album in its entirety. The concert was filmed on May 30, 2015 at The Joint at the world famous Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas.
“It was a great thrill to perform Pornograffitti,” says singer Gary Cherone. “Some of these songs were never played live before so we had to go back and relearn them for the tour. The album was a watershed moment in the bands career…it’s when we came in to our own and it will always be special.”
As guitar virtuoso Nuno Bettencourt continues, “The band always prided itself on its live performance. Over the years, some of these songs have evolved where the band actually plays them better now than when we had recorded them.“
Extreme achieved their greatest success with 1990’s Pornograffitti, which peaked at #10 on Billboard’s “Top 200 Albums” chart, and was certified multi-Platinum. Musically, Pornograffitti is dominated by blistering guitar riffs, often with funky, syncopated timing, and incendiary, high-speed solos. The record provided Bettencourt with widespread admiration from rock guitar enthusiasts and continual exposure in leading guitar playing publications. But it was the acoustic ballad single, “More Than Words,” that reached #1 on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.” The subsequent single, “Hole Hearted,” another acoustic track, was also successful, rising to #4 on the same chart. “Decadence Dance” and “Get the Funk Out” were also released as singles both landing on Billboard‘s Rock chart and becoming fan favorites.
Rock Confidential spent a few minutes with Extreme’s Pat Badger to talk about the band’s rise to fame with Pornograffitti, celebrating the record’s 25th anniversary, and his “nasty ass” side project.
It’s so cool to see this celebration for Pornograffitti captured, in what was, an amazing show at The Joint in Vegas. You can tell a lot of work went into making it just right.
Right on, thanks. We were approached on doing this project a couple of years ago and it really was a year in the making. We spent a lot of time digging up archival footage and photos for the documentary. We’d done a tour performing Pornograffitti in it’s entirety and that show was one of the last shows, if not the last show, of the tour. We’d done a tour in Asia the year before and those tours are usually pretty short, maybe ten shows. A lot of fans were requesting we bring that show to them so we ended up doing an extensive tour playing the album in it’s entirety. By the time we got to that show we were pretty well rehearsed and used to the running order.
It was nice to see such attention paid to the songs and all the little details.
Thanks for saying so. We really try to do that with every tour. We stick to the script. We’re not a band that goes off on a long jam, improvising little tangents. There’s always a little wiggle room but we try to pull off what we did in the studio.
When you’re dealing with songs that really connect with your audience, I wouldn’t imagine you’d want to mess with them too much.
I know when I go to concerts I want to hear the versions that I’m a fan of and I’m used to hearing. I’ve been to a few shows where someone completely switches a song up and you’re like “Why?”
Was the band involved in the visuals for Pornograffitti Live 25?
Oh yeah. We always work closely with our management and the artists who work on that kind of stuff. We would get clips or treatments and approve them or ask them to go back to the drawing board or make suggestions. We we really psyched about the graphics that were up on the LED screen. That was all new to us. We’d never done that before. It was specific for that show. It was a lot of planning and a lot of back and forth on all those little details.
Before you did the initial tour to celebrate Pornograffitti, there were some songs you hadn’t played in years. Or ever. What was it like digging back into that material?
I know for sure we had never played “When I First Kissed You” live. That was a lot of fun to pull it off. It was quite an adventure to go back and relearn those songs. We hadn’t played some of those songs in 20 or 25 years. It was almost like learning a cover song of somebody else. It definitely brought back a lot of memories. The band has a growing catalog and some songs have to end up on the cutting room floor.
The documentary on Pornograffitti Live 25 is worth the price alone. You don’t really realize 25 years has passed until you watch something like that. What was it like revisiting the studio where you recorded the first album as you were putting together the documentary?
Honestly, digging into everyone’s archives of old photos and videos really did bring back a lot of memories. It was mind-blowing to us that 25 years had passed. That was half my lifetime ago! It takes you back to a time when you’re young and things were so exciting. Going back into that studio was probably the most mind-blowing part of it. We recorded our first self-titled album in that studio. We recorded the demos and part of Pornograffitti in there. It was like walking into a time capsule. Things haven’t changed in that studio. Some of the equipment has changed, but the rooms and rugs and paint look untouched. There were Polaroids of us in the little breezeway where the coffeemaker is. It was a trip. It was like walking into your old high school. We had a lot of great times there.
Do things like that motivate or influence you as a musician?
Going there was certainly a bonding moment for the band, to share that together. We’re always inspired to write and create anyways so I wouldn’t say it did, but it was fun to do this project together. It reminded us all of where we came from.
Pornograffitti has always sounded amazing. The mix is incredible. In a day and age of guitar heroes – and having one in the band – your bass played a vital part in Extreme’s signature sound. Was that a conscious decision or proof of how you function as a band?
I think it’s how we function as a band. A lot of our riffs – Nuno and I will play a lot of stuff in unison. Bass has always been important to me. I’m not just going to sit back and play quarter notes and eighth notes. That, combined with the mix, we were really happy with the bass tones. We’ve always spent a lot of time on that. Being a bass player, you sure like to be heard.
As you were writing what would become Pornograffitti, did any of the songwriting process clue you in that you were onto something huge?
I think the band was coming into our own. There’s shades of it on the first record. Introducing other styles of music on Pornograffitti certainly made Extreme unique. We grew up listening to bands like Queen, the Beatles, and Zeppelin. To do a stripped-down acoustic song like “More Than Words” wasn’t unusual to us, but in the era we came out of it was. In the early 90s the big thing was power ballads. Other bands from that era weren’t really doing the stripped-down acoustic thing.
“Hole Hearted” was on heavy rotation on MTV and radio. It was a monster, too.
Yeah, for sure. To this day it’s our second biggest hit. To get on the Top 40 charts was amazing for us and that song was a great follow-up to “More Than Words.” That’s one of the songs on the record that kind of stand out and aren’t like the rest.
Was the label behind the record from the get-go?
It was a priority for them. When the album came out we had released “Decadence Dance” and had a big budget video for MTV and the whole nine yards. We did another one for “Get The Funk Out.” They were definitely working the band on rock radio. We had some moderate success but it wasn’t until “More Than Words” came out that it blew up and ended up being a #1 hit on the Billboard Top 100 and across the globe. That’s when the band really took off the but label was supportive from the beginning.
What can you tell me about your new solo album?
In 2014 I made what I guess you would call a solo album. “Solo” is a weird word because I can’t do it all by myself, but I collaborated with a good friend of mine. His name is Bleu. He wrote a lot of songs with me on an album called Time Will Tell. It’s released under the name Badger. I had a lot of fun making that album and lyrically it was about a lot of stuff I was going through at the time. Earlier this year he told me he was coming back into town and I thought why not record some more songs together. I had a bunch of songs I wanted to record or have some guests on and have different people sing some songs. It’s called Nasty Ass Honey Badgers. It’s really just a fun studio project. I had Gary from the band sing on it, Justin Hawkins from The Darkness is singing a track and playing guitar, Doug Aldrich plays some guitar – a lot of my friends.
Get your copy of Nasty Ass Honey Badgers here!