Gary Cherone- “just a singer in a rock and roll band”

Gary Cherone is one of rock’s best vocalists, with an impressive catalog of songs with his band Extreme and as a solo artist. Gary and Extreme had a number one song, a top five hit and several platinum selling records… When Extreme disbanded in 1996 he was hand-picked by a certain guitarist in Southern California to front one of the world’s most successful bands. …

Back with Extreme since 2008’s excellent, Saudades de Rock, Gary Cherone took a few minutes to discuss the band’s latest release-the DVD entitles Take Us Alive, their first official live release, his new side project Hurtsmile and some of his influences…

CH: Hi Gary- I’d like to talk about Extreme’s new live CD/DVD- Take Us Alive…. First of all- what took so long? Extreme has always been known as a great live band…What made the final decision to release an official Live cd?

GC: That seems to be the question- What took so long. Well, we took a 13 year hiatus. We actually did document some footage on the Pornograffitti  tour, we recorded two Hammersmith shows in London. We still have that footage and we are trying to get all the pieces together and maybe release it in the future. But that footage kind of fell by the wayside- we went on to do III sides, and were like a bunch of ADD kids who couldn’t keep ourselves on one project ( laughing).

We are very excited about Take Us Alive. The band got back together and thought it is important for us to make new music, rather than be thought of as a nostalgia band and just play the hits. So – new tour, new record, and we wanted to document that. And we hope to , if we can, document every tour from this point.

CH: You mention your new record, Saudades de Rock. To me, it stands right up next to your classic records of the early 90’s. The feel was much like 1994’s Waiting for the Punchline– a very live sounding recording, with minimal overdubbing, and some great songwriting.

GC: Well- Thank You. You are right on the mark. Nuno produced it, it has a really love feel. In the studio, you know, you are going to do some overdubs, some guitars, a vocal or two… but for the majority of Saudades- those were the performances. To listen to that record- I would put that up as one of the best performances in the band’s career. Listening back to some of the old records, there are some good performances … but on this one- the band was on. I am very proud of it.

CH: Saudades continues the band’s tradition of not being stuck in one genre or style. An example- the song “Ghost” is one of your stronger moments as a writer, and while not like it sonically, it continues the path of just writing songs that you started with the inclusion of “When I first Kissed You ” on Pornografiitti, or the entire 3rd side of III sides…

GC:  Saudades is a combination of… when we got together, Nuno and I did not have a plan. We just got together and wrote, the band went into pre-production and rehearsal and we just let it flow. Listening to this record is almost like a combination of all those 4 records. “King of the Ladies” is like early Extreme, fun Extreme…”Comfortably Dumb” sounds like something that could have come off “Punchline.”

CH: “Star” is like that , too…

GC: Sure, that is what I really like about Extreme, there really are no boundaries. You mentioned “When I first kissed You.” That is something that we wrote at the end of that record, and the record company really wanted it as a B-side. I remember , we were so adamant about… “No, No, No- we really want to show this side..

CH: I was a college DJ at the time Pornograffiti came out, and I would play that song quite a bit..

GC: What was the reaction?

CH: It was always good, followed by “Who was that?” I would follow with ” Get the Funk Out, and people would not believe it was the same band,… Your vocals would also change from style to style…
You have often been compared to Freddie Mercury live, but who are some of your writing influences?

GC: I think from the writing side, and I am in no way comparing, but more aspiring to-I am a big Dylan lyrical fan. The way he can tell a story, I still feel like I am in the infancy of trying to tell some of those story-telling songs…

But also, Townsend, Roger Waters, especially with the solo stuff I have done and some of the deeper cuts with Extreme…Those are some of the writers I go back to and they just blow me away. I can listen to a Floyd lyric and think “where did this guy come from”…Anything from the Who, Bernie Taupin is one of my favorites lyrically with Elton John-that writing team. Believe it or not I am reliving my childhood again and getting into the early AC/DC again, you know, straight down the middle rock that pulls something primal out of you when you listen.

I could go on forever, Queen, Alice Cooper- lyrically, I think Alice Cooper is very underrated, I think he is an incredible storyteller.

CH: And you quoted him on Pornograffiti…

GC: Absolutely- a nod to the Master.

CH:  Changing gears- you have another project in the works..

GC: Yeah, I am probably two tracks away from finishing the Hurtsmile CD that I put together with my brother, We plan on releasing it in the Fall. Not to take anything away from Extreme, as Nuno and I are writing together for the next Extreme record, as well.

CH: The Hurtsmile record is, you mentioned primal before, it is much more hard-rock than what people might expect.

GC: Yeah, it is different. The Tribe of Judah stuff I did was kind of a reaction to coming out of Van Halen- the last thing I wanted to be in was a three piece rock band. But at the end of the day, I am what I am, and that is a singer in a rock and roll band, and the Hurtsmile record is pretty much just rock and roll.

CH:  Want to touch briefly on the “Take Us Alive ” dvd and the videos that are included on it. “King of the Ladies,” looks like it was a lot of fun to make…

GC: Yeah , that was the most fun. I t basically was a backyard barbecue. “Run” is one of my favorites, as it kind of documents the Japanese leg of the tour, and shows the band in and around the city, with some live footage that we took on the road.

CH: Gary- you guys have toured with a huge number of bands over the years- are there any that you would like to play with?

GC: I have been throwing this out  for years, Cheap Trick would be my first thought. We are huge Cheap Trick fans, and have got to meet them and know them over the years- maybe somewhere down the road- that would be great. I would like to have a string of dates with KISS as well, just to say “we toured with KISS.” At this point we will tour with anybody, anywhere- we just want ot get out there and play.

CH: And we look forward to seeing more of that as well. It is a pleasure to talk to you, and look forward to the next record an tour.

GC: Thanks Clay- good interview- great to talk to someone who knows the history.


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