Nuno Bettencourt Recalls Not Wanting to Show Unfinished Solo to Eddie Van Halen: ’He Sadly Passed Away Not Too Long After That’

Guitar legend Nuno Bettencourt, best known for his work with hard rock band Extreme, recently sat down for an interview with Metal Edge magazine. In the first published part of this chat, Bettencourt reflected on the band’s new song “Rise” and its lead part that caught the attention of many guitar lovers around the globe.

But the most interesting part is that the piece was in progress back in 2020 and that none other than Eddie Van Halen came to visit them in the studio, not that long before his tragic passing that same year.

Extreme - "Rise" (Official Video)

Looking back at the occasion, Nuno reveals that Extreme singer Gary Cherone, who was also briefly a lead vocalist for Van Halen back in the 1990s, kept trying to call him while he was in the process of recording. The guitarist 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.”

Recalling Gary Cherone’s text message that came not long after these calls, Bettencourt said:

“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.”

The Nuno Bettencourt Solo Everyone is Talking About

One can only imagine how it feels to have none other than Eddie Van Halen waiting just for you in front of a recording studio. Nuno continued:

“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.’

Unfortunately, it turned out that there would be no other occasion for Eddie to hear his solo since he passed away not that long after this last-minute meeting. Nuno said:

“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.”

Nuno Bettencourt on Playing for Eddie Van Halen

The song “Rise” got a lot of attention, not just from fans but from other guitar legends. Discussing this lead part further, Nuno recalled how he got texts and emails from his biggest heroes. He offered:

“A lot of my peers and heroes, like Steve Lukather, Steve Vai and Brian May, sent me personal texts and emails after sharing the song, which was amazing. And then, I was starting to read everywhere that I was like, ‘the heir to the throne’ that Edward left.”

However, as Nuno further explains, this is a responsibility that he cannot really take. Not because he doesn’t want to but, as he claims, there’s no one to replace Eddie. He continued:

“I have to say that while that is gratifying, there is no heir to the throne of Eddie Van Halen. Nobody sits on that throne. Nobody takes that throne.

“Here’s why it’s different with Eddie: when a great guitar player passes, you just move on to another, right? But in this case, Eddie wasn’t just a ‘guitar player.’ We’re talking about a guy who changed culture and how we play guitar.

“He was like an alien coming in and fucking everything up so much that even the legends beforehand are like, ‘Okay… what is happening here? What sorcery is this?'”

In another interview from earlier this year, Nuno Bettencourt looked back on his relationship with Eddie Van Halen and getting the chance to actually play guitar in front of him. This happened way back during the studio sessions for Dweezil Zappa’s 1991 album “Confessions.” Nuno recalled:

“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?’”

John Mayer Talk About Nuno Bettencourt

“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.“

Now, the main issue here is that the piece had tapping parts. And knowing how closely associated Eddie is with the technique, it might have felt a bit too corny to jump straight into two-hand tapping in front of the legend himself. 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.“

What Makes Nuno Bettencourt So Different?

Nonetheless, Nuno was still happy that Eddie knew who he was, explaining:

“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.’“

Interview with Eddie Van Halen: Is Rock 'n' Roll All About Reinvention?

He also added:

“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.”

Asked about his favorite Van Halen album, Nuno said:

“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.’”

V̲a̲n̲ ̲H̲a̲l̲e̲n̲ - Fair Warning Full Album

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

Author

  • 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 Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.