Nuno Bettencourt Recalls How Eddie Van Halen Reacted to His Tapping Technique, Names Favorite Van Halen Album

In a newly published interview by Guitar World, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme recalled a moment when he got the chance to hang out with Eddie Van Halen and play guitar in front of him. According to Bettencourt, the experience was a bit scary. And how wouldn’t it be? After all, it’s Eddie.

Anyhow, during the chat, Nuno recalled the time when he got the chance to meet Eddie which was during the session for Dweezil Zappa’s 1991 album “Confessions.” As he explained, there was a certain pedal there that Eddie wanted him to try:

“The first time I met Eddie I was working on Dweezil Zappa’s album [1991’s Confessions], and he handed me his guitar and said, ‘You’ve gotta check out this pedal.’ And it’s like, ‘You want me to play while I check out this pedal?’”

“So now Eddie is leaning in front of me, dialing in stuff on his pedalboard. And what do you do when the alien who walked off the spaceship that changed your life is in front of you? What do you play? Like an idiot, I kicked into the solo from [Extreme’s] ‘Get the Funk Out.‘ I became a cover of myself.

The problem with the piece is that it has tapping in it. Well, the problem wasn’t with the tapping nor Bettencourt’s playing, especially knowing how skilled and proficient he is. The issue here is that he’s playing in front of Eddie and he goes straight into tapping. Nuno continued:

“But the second I go into the tapping part, Eddie turns around and stops me. He goes, ‘Hey, hey, none of that silly stuff.’ That scared the shit out of me.

2019 IPMA - Nuno Bettencourt LIVE - "Get the Funk Out" (featuring Kevin Figueiredo of Extreme)

Well, we can’t blame him. Who wouldn’t have been scared to play in front of Eddie? Bettencourt added:

“It took me a minute and then I said to myself, ‘He knows who I am. He reads.’ Because at that time an article had just come out – it may have even been in Guitar World – and the interviewer asked about ‘Get the Funk Out.‘”

“He said, ‘You’re doing tapping your own way.’ And I told him, ‘To be honest with you, I feel silly when I do tapping. Not because it’s embarrassing, but because it’s so Eddie.’

Extreme - "Rise" (Official Video)

However, the whole thing went well as Nuno managed to keep himself together in front of his guitar hero and finally relaxed. He explained:

“Later on, after I got comfortable around Eddie, I asked him, ‘Did you read that article?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I read that.’ I was like, ‘Wow, Eddie Van Halen read an interview I did!’ Even that shit seemed impossible to me.”

Further on, Nuno was asked to name his favorite Van Halen album. Sure, it’s a tough choice, but the Extreme guitarist was confident about his choice:

“I love all the albums, but ‘Fair Warning‘ is my favorite, because of the funkiness. That ‘Mean Street‘ intro isn’t just tapping, it’s this banging kind of thing. And then ‘Dirty Movies‘? That was it. It was like the moment when Keanu Reeves sees the matrix. I went, ‘Okay, Eddie is talking to me.’”

Dirty Movies (2015 Remaster)

Although mostly known as the lead guitar player for the legendary rock band Extreme, Nuno Bettencourt is one of the most prolific guitarists out there. He goes way beyond rock music and has also worked with a variety of artists.

He got some fame as a live guitar player for mainstream pop star Rihanna who has taken him on all of her tours from 2009 and onward. Additionally, he has also recorded guitars on a few of her songs, one on each of her consecutive albums Albums “Loud,” “Talk Talk Talk,” and “Anti.”

In another recent interview, Bettencourt also looked back on his work with Rihanna and what it’s like to play with her band. Despite what some rock and metal guitar fans might think, Nuno said that the music he plays in the singer’s band is far from simple to perform. Recalling his beginnings with Rihanna’s live band, he offered:

“I’m thinking, ‘How hard could that be? She’s a pop artist.‘ I was fucking wrong. It was difficult because — if you really listen to Rihanna stuff, which you should, it goes from reggae to a club track, to trap.“

Nuno Bettencourt California King Bed -Rihanna

“The hats you have to wear to really make it sound [good]… The musicians that you play with, they’re no fucking joke. These are musicians’ musicians… The greatest players in the world.”

He also added:

“First I said, ‘Why would you need me? There’s no guitar.’ ‘That’s why we want you to come in.’ ‘So I get to be myself?’ ‘Yes, [bring out] your rig, rock out to great songs like ‘Umbrella’, make them heavy…’ It was amazing. I got to do so much with these tracks.“

RIHANNA & NUNO BETTENCOURT Extreme RockStar 101 at LISBOA Diamonds World Tour 2013 HD

“And when I got in that room, when I was playing with these guys, is they’re not playing it like [it is on] the album. They’re like, ‘Let’s make this thing. Let’s stretch a bit.’ Great keyboard players, great bass player. Everybody was amazing on that tour — background singers and Rihanna.“

Another misconception about pop singers and their bands is that they’re all making things easier with tools like Auto-Tune. However, as Nuno pointed out, Rihanna is a very skilled vocalist and does not really need any of that stuff. He said:

“You know, a lot of people ask, ‘Can she sing?’ Hell yes. She never mimed once live. Productions these days have a lot more auto-tune. And they used it on her, [but she] didn’t need it. It’s more of a sound, like, ‘Oh, let’s tune this girl up. Because this girl can sing for sure.’ I was really impressed.”

Nuno Bettencourt live in Paris (with Rihanna)_20/10/11_ part 1

Some of the rock journalists who interviewed him before Rihanna shows weren’t so keen on staying for the performance. However, as Nuno explained in the interview, they were nothing short of impressed by the overall experience. He said:

“I [would] say, ‘Look, do me a favor. You’re here. We’re starting in an hour, grab some popcorn, the seats are great. Check out a couple of songs and then leave.’“

“I saw them after the show. They’d come back with their pass and go, ‘What the fuck!? We apologize, we had no idea it would be what it was.’ And I had features, and long stretches of solos and the band was insane.“

“It was really amazing players to watch play right in front of you doing hit after hit with a crowd. It was really different than what everybody thought it would be. And so after that, everybody started coming down and enjoying what it was, because I got to really play on that stuff.”

Regarding Rihanna’s stage production, he offered:

“Oh, it’s ridiculous. Dancers everywhere, fire everywhere – it’s like a KISS show in a pop world. It was amazing. You get to sit on a pink tank with her, and play a fucking beautiful song. The pink tank was 250,000 bucks for fuck’s sake! Rock guys aren’t going to pay for a pink tank [laughs].”

Photos: SebastyneNet (Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt at South Park Festival in Tampere, Finland, June 2015 photo 02), Abby Gillardi (Van Halen-8597 (20643101375))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.