Nuno Bettencourt Names One Guitar Pedal He Can’t Go Without, Explains Unusual Way He Uses It

Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, who’s also famous for his work in Rihanna’s live band, recently sat down with Guitar World to discuss one pedal he can’t go without. He was one of 60 guitar legends to answer this question.

However, things aren’t that simple with Nuno. Although the choice isn’t much of a surprise, there’s a very specific way that he uses the pedal. Nuno commented:

“I generally prefer going straight into my amp, except for this [Pro Co] Rat pedal that I’ve had for ages.”

Deconstructing Nuno's Extreme Guitar Tone

And here comes the twist:

“It’s supposed to be a distortion, but I turn the distortion all the way off. It’s there purely to tighten up my bottom-end, especially for single-note riffs like ‘Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)‘ from ‘Extreme II: Pornograffitti.‘”

He also added:

“I’m the only guitar player in the band, so I want to cut through and sound big. The only way to get the response I need is through a Rat pedal. It’s been there since day one and ain’t going anywhere.”

And, as he explains, he simply can’t stand playing without it. And yes, he did make an attempt to go without his precious Rat but it just didn’t work out. Nuno continued:

“I tried playing without one and fuckin’ hated it! [Laughs] Other players think it’s not doing anything and would probably wonder if the battery is dead. It doesn’t change a single thing except for the tightness of the bass frequencies.”

Of course, when the time came for Nuno to get his signature amp model, he integrated a Rat-style circuitry in it. So not only did Randall NB King 100 come with this distortion circuitry but it also came without the need to put the Rat in front of it. But in case you ever see him using a Marshall amp, which seems to have happened recently, there’s most likely his precious Pro Co Rat in there as well.

Randall NB King 112 Nuno Bettencourt Signature Combo | Playthrough Demo

In another recent interview, Nuno reflected on what it’s like to work with a mainstream pop star like Rihanna. Recalling one wrong impression he had about that sort of music, he said:

“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.“

“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.”

Extreme - "Rise" (Official Video)

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.“

“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 thing Bettencourt also discussed was the misconception that some rock fans might have about Rihanna and her musicianship. Despite what some people might think, Nuno explained that she’s far from being a poor singer. He added:

“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.”

Recalling how some guitar-oriented journalists didn’t feel like staying for the show and then being blown away by Rihanna’s performances, Nuno 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.’“

Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme plays Washburn & Randall

“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.”

As far as the production value of her live performances goes, we have no doubts that this stuff is pretty expensive. And, of course, Nuno confirmed it by saying:

“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].”

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

As he further explained in this interview, the songs might not seem challenging at first but there are a few things to bear in mind here. Reflecting on her music, he explained:

“It kept you on your toes. People don’t realize that easiness is not a technical thing. Because, technically, [it’s] probably not difficult. But it was almost like a gig I had been training for my whole life, and I could see why they had problems finding somebody.

“I grew up on [those] different genres, different things. And if I hadn’t had all that — Beatles stuff, all the reggae stuff, funk stuff — there was no way I could play this simple shit.”

Photo: SebastyneNet (Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt at South Park Festival in Tampere, Finland, June 2015 photo 02), GreyCat (ProCo Rat 2)

  • 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 and brands like Sam Ash.

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