Saturday, March 10, 2012

The #62 Guitarist of the Rock Era: Nuno Bettencourt

The #62 Guitarist* received great exposure in the 1990's when his group generated attention. He has consistently made himself better.  Nuno Bettencourt is next:

#62:  Nuno Bettencourt, Extreme
28 years as an active guitarist
(Solos from Extreme DVD)

Nuno Duarte Gil Mendes Bettencourt was born September 20, 1966 in Praia da Vitoria, Terceira, Azores, Portugal.  He is best known for his work with Extreme but has participated in many different styles of music.

Bettencourt and his family moved to Hudson, Massachusetts when he was four.  His first instrument was the drums and he played them until brother Luis began to teach him how to play guitar.  Nuno has said that he skipped many school days to practice upwards of seven hours a day.  Nuno cites Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page and Al DiMeola as key influences with Brian May giving him his sense of melody in his solos.  As Bettencourt began to develop as a guitarist and songwriter, he studied the music of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Prince and Paco de Lucia.

Bettencourt joined his first group called Sinful but didn't fare well. So in 1985, he joined the Boston group Extreme and shortly afterwards, the group signed a recording contract with A&M Records. In 1989, the group released its self-titled debut. The following year, Extreme hit it big with their album Pornograffiti, which included the monster hit "More Than Words". The album also featured Bettencourt's great solo on "Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee", an interpretation of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee". 

Extreme followed that album with III Sides to Every Story, for which Nuno composed and arranged the brass and string sections and the full orchestra. In 1993, Bettencourt co-wrote and produced "Where Are You Going" for use in the SuperMarioBros. movie. He also played for Robert Palmer on the album Honey. In 1995, Extreme released the album Waiting for the Punchline but when Bettencourt wanted to pursue a solo career, the group broke up.

Nuno's first solo release in 1997 was the culmination of a five-year effort. Entitled Schizophonic, it was critically well-received but did not sell. In 1997, Nuno formed the band Mourning Widows which released an album in Japan. The follow-up, Furnished Souls for Rent, developed a strong following in Japan and Bettencourt's home region of New England.

In 2002, Bettencourt formed Population 1 and released a self-titled album in Japan and Korea. The album featured Nuno performing all instruments on most tracks. He assembled a group of musicians to back him in live performances. Population 1 released Sessions from Room Four in 2004. Due to legal issues, the band was renamed Near Death Experience and then DramaGods. 
DramaGods released an album available as an import through Japan in December, 2005.  DramaGods toured in Japan and appeared at the Udo Music Festival in July, 2006 shortly after a three-date reunion with Extreme in New England.

Bettencourt briefly played in the Satellite Party with vocalist Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction but left in July, 2007 after disagreements about the group's live show. Prior to his departure, Nuno helped produce the group's debut album Ultra Payloaded and performed with the group along with Pearl Jam and Incubus in Nijmegen, The Netherlands and in a few other shows.

Bettencourt has teamed with former Journey lead singer Steve Perry, has written for the group Tantric, wrote and played for wife Suze DeMarchi's group Baby Animals and has worked with BB Mak and Toni Braxton. Nuno also played guitar for Rihanna on several television shows and was her lead guitarist for the Last Girl on Earth and Loud tours.

In 2007, Extreme reformed and released the album Saudades de Rock and went on a subsequent tour. 

Bettencourt's guitar-playing features arpeggios that are articulated via string-skipping tapping. He has an innate sense of rhythm, often playing loosely and executing fast triplet picking licks and blurring bar lines that give his playing a unique sound.

In 1990, Washburn Guitars released the N4 Nuno Bettencourt Signature Series. The guitar features a small reverse headstock super-strat with the unique Stephen's Extended Cutaway neck joint for easy access to the higher frets. Bill Lawrence and Seymour Duncan pickups and a Floyd Rose tremolo are included. Bettencourt has also endorsed several acoustic Washburn's. 

Bettencourt has the speed of a shredder but because of his attention to Queen's Brian May, also has a sense of melody.  That combination has propelled him to The #62 spot in The Top 100 Guitarists of the Rock Era*.

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