Nuno Bettencourt Says Rock ’n’ Roll Isn’t Intellectual, Explains What He Loves About Radiohead

Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt has a message for all the “intellectual rockers” out there — he and his bandmates in Extreme are writing “nursery rhymes for adults.” Now, although this might sound a bit too pretentious, Bettencourt simply told Music Radar in a new interview that rock ‘n’ roll is nothing but entertainment and that its biggest strength is that it’s not to be taken too seriously. He said:

“Everyone likes to think that rock ‘n’ roll and rock bands, that we’re so fucking intricate, and we’re so fucking intellectual. I’m sorry, we’re writing fucking nursery rhymes for adults at the end of the day. That’s what we are doing.”

He further stood by his firm stance by adding:

“And we all sing along with it, and it’s all anthems. What’s the difference from ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round’ to ‘Oh-woah-oh!’? It’s all the same shit! But it’s just the lyrics and the melodies are just a little more for grown-ups.”

Going more into it, the guitar legend and co-writer of Extreme’s early 1990s hits “Hole Hearted” and “More Than Worde” reflected on the likes of Led Zeppelin, Queen, and Van Halen, saying that they pretty much did this exact thing in their music. Nuno explains:

“They just got creative, even when they were playing rhythm, and there were sections, and chordal things underneath. We’re not doing jazz, right? We’re still doing rock ’n’ roll, and it’s still a three-and-a-half-minute song, and songs are supposed to be simple.

And, as he adds, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making simple music. Bettencourt continued:

“But there’s nothing wrong with the genius of doing [simple] stuff – the great bands that we love, the Queens of this world, they still wrote simple rock songs but there was a complexity if you wanted to look deeper.

Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Official Video)

But it seems that Nuno has a new word for this specific “simple-yet-complex” approach to rock music:

“There were layers that you could peel back, and things that you could discover. So what I call it is ‘simplexity’, y’know!? [Laughs] But! If you wanna have some poetry, if you wanna have some shit that you want to do on guitar, and you want to go at the borders of this Simple Mountain to this Simplexity world, you can!”

Reflecting on his own material, Nuno also recalled how one of the guitar-oriented YouTubers noticed a peculiar thing in a much-praised guitar lead part of Extreme’s new song “Rise.” He said:

“Someone cracked me up the other day, a guitar player was doing one of those things where they break it down and they listen to song, and they react – it’s all these reaction videos now. I was crying in tears. He was like, ‘The chorus comes in, and where have I heard this before?’

Extreme - "Rise" (Official Video)

“And he cuts to a Kesha song, and she’s doing this yodelling thing! I fell off my fucking seat! He nailed it. It is exactly what it is. Not that I took it from there but, holy fuck, it is a Kesha fucking hook. I couldn’t believe it. It is [all] pop, man.”

While exploring this concept of “simplexity,” Nuno also pointed out that the idea doesn’t apply to cheerful music only. He gave Radiohead as Example:

“Radiohead does it as a fucking art form. Y’know, they are singing these things, and it’s droney, and it’s nothing complex – it’s not jazz – but man, there are some lyrics, and some melodies, and there’s weird harmonies, and production, and still, okay, we call it alternative because it is a little smarter. I got you.

We HAVE to Talk About the NEW EXTREME Song! Brutally Honest Review!

 “But at the end of the day, come on! They fucking hate the song Creep but that song changed my life because it was the epitome of simplexity. The lyrics on Creep blew my head wide open, and it changed my life.”

At this point, Nuno Bettencourt is often referred to as the only true successor to Eddie Van Halen. This trend really exploded with the release of Extreme’s new song “Rise.”

Extreme - "Rise" (Official Video)

But speaking of Eddie Van Halen, in a recent interview, Nuno also recalled what seems to be the last time he ever spoke to the guitar legend. In fact, this happened back in 2020, not long before Eddie’s tragic passing, and while he was recording the solo for “Rise.” Nuno said:

“On the day I was working on the solo, Gary [Cherone] was in town to finish some vocals. And Gary knows that I don’t like to be bothered while I’m recording. But for some reason, he kept blowing up my phone and asking me to go to lunch, which really pissed me off.”

“Gary texted me, ‘Hey, what’s happening in there? You’ve got to come out front; somebody is here to say ‘Hi.’ I’m like, ‘Okay…’ And I went downstairs, and as I walked out, I saw that Edward Van Halen was waiting for me. They’d already gone to lunch together, and that’s why Gary had been trying to get a hold of me… which was a good reason to interrupt.”

Extreme - "Banshee" (Official Music Video)

“When I got downstairs, Edward [Eddie Van Halen] asked me to go up and listen to what I was working on. Being the Virgo and the idiot I am, I was like, ‘Wait ’til it’s done. I’ll show you then.’ And Edward said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll come back then.’

“But he sadly passed away not too long after that. So, I’m hoping that he’s smiling down on me. But ‘Rise’ is special because that’s the song I was cutting the last time I saw him.”

Photo: SebastyneNet (Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt at South Park Festival in Tampere, Finland, June 2015 photo 02), Andrea Mancini (Thom Yorke Austin Texas 2016)


  • 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.