When it comes to post-Van Halen rockguitar heroes, Nuno Bettencourt is on a short list of great players who can blend huge chops with groove, melody, songcraft, and finesse. Bettencourt’s work with his multi-platinum band Extreme has earned him the respect and admiration of not just fans worldwide, but also his heroes Brian May and Paul McCartney. It also got the attention of Mr. Steve Vai, who tapped the super-versatile Bettencourt for a slot on his current guitargod extravaganza.
How did you get the call for this tour and what were your initial impressions when you heard about it?
Steve Vai himself reached out to me. We had always talked about doing something together, and, in the past, he had mentioned me doing G3. I always thought I wasn’t that guy. I admire guitar players that can actually do instrumental albums and have that much to say. But even though I love playing guitar and solos—and maybe a few instrumental tunes—I was always obsessed with songwriting, melodies, and lyrics. When we spoke about doing this, we talked about how cool it would be to have a bunch of guitar players who were more unified, rather than just doing their own thing in a kind of battle, so to speak. I liked that.
I understand you guys will do arrangements of classic tunes with five guitars.
We’re thinking about opening the show guns blazing, with all five of us doing some special covers. Steve was trying to find songs where the biggest fan will be semi-featured, so there will be a song that features me, probably one that features Yngwie more, and one for Tosin, one for Steve, etc.
Do you need to do anything different from a tonal standpoint to be able to blend in with four other guitarists?
Normally, in a song with five guitarists, everyone would probably modify their tone a little bit. But the beauty of this is, we’re not going to do that. I think the idea is we’ll adapt with our hands and our fingers when we’re playing “Highway Star,” or “Frankenstein.” It’s not so much about adjusting your amp or your pedals. We’ll all adapt in the moment by how we play. It will be very exciting to see.
I have no problem believing you when you say that. I’m not going to name any names, but there are certain players who might be a little less inclined to modify their sound, their technique, or their playing, regardless of who they’re playing with.
Hey! Don’t talk about Yngwie like that [laughs].
Still, there must be some friendly competition between you guys.
This is friendly. Us pulling together is what makes it special. It’s definitely still competitive, but in a good way. We all know, deep down inside, that we have to hold our own. We all get to play our own set, so we get a chance to say what we have to say. But I can’t help but think, “Geez—Tosin is right before me!” That kicks you in the ass a bit, and pushes you to be the best you can be, because you’re in the company of these giants. Fans are going to be thinking, “Hey, let’s see what you’ve got. I just saw Tosin, or Zakk, or Vai. Let’s see what you can do.” It’s going to be really interesting.