Intervju med Gary Cherone från Extreme/Hurtsmile!
Gary Cherone är just nu aktuell med debutplattan från sitt nya band Hurtsmile, i vilket även hans bror Marcus är medlem.
Gary ringde nyligen upp mig i ett kallt Hägersten och pratade om bl a Hurtsmile, första mötet med Van Halen, gamla låtar och drömproducenten för nästa platta med Extreme.
Gary Cherone: Niclas, this is Gary Cherone!
Hey, how are you?
GC: I´m good! How are you doing?
Good! It´s cold!
GC: Yeah, it´s very cold in Boston too.
You´ve got any snow?
GC: Not yet. The Midwest got hit, so we´re prepared for it.
Alright! Well, we´re trying to survive the cold here and the suicidal bombings. It´s crazy!
GC: Yeah it is!
First up, this band Hurtsmile, what´s the story behind it and working with your brother?
GC: After all these years it´s a wonder why didn´t hook up sooner, but we had different bands. He´s a little younger than me and during the Extreme days, in the clubs, the funny thing was that he hooked up with Nuno´s brother Paul and he was in a band called Flesh. It (Hurtsmile) was a project that started in 2007 and then I had to put it on the shelf because of the Extreme reunion and we did the record and tour and then when Nuno had an opportunity to do the Rihanna tour, it made sense to finish the record. I love playing with those guys, they´re all East coast guys and I´ve known them for years and I really wanted to write a record with my brother.
Is the plan to tour with this band?
GC: Absolutely! The record is coming out on January 19th and in America on February 8th. We´re looking at dates now. Obviously the economy is tough and to get everywhere you wanna go was even impossible for Extreme. But we´ll get to Japan and do at least a handful of dates in Europe. That´s the plan and of course America is a bit easier to play.
Of course. So far I´ve only heard samples of the album and I have to say that I was surprised of the heaviness and it sounded great. Really cool music!
GC: Thank you! I wish we have an opportunity to talk a little bit more once you hear the record? That would be great!
GC: I think… you know, it´s got the four basic elements. I´m very used to this three piece rock and roll band. The record is diverse and has some eclecticism on it. The majority of the record is pretty heavy. Marcus writes a great heavy memorable riff, you know, snarling riff. I´m happy you like it.
Yeah, especially “Jesus would you meet me”. A really cool song! Are you the one behind the lyrics?
GC: Yeah! It works pretty much that way in all the bands. In Extreme Nuno writes as well and is a terrific lyricist. Marcus and I collaborated on rock and roll riffs and then me scribbling some words down and a melody. That was one of the last songs we recorded on the record and Marcus played me the riff and it reminded me of a rootsy Led Zeppelin and it kind of took me there with the rootsy gospel Jesus would you meet me type of chorus. Yeah, it´s a fun song and we´re rehearsing it now.
It goes “Jesus would you meet me on the day I die”. Is that something you are still wondering about?
GC: Well, no… I do believe there is something after this life, but the song… and it´s consistent with my faith, but the song is part of the second half of the record which is conceptually knit together and the song is really a question of live after death, the meaning of life. You can apply it and you don´t have to be a Christian to understand that. I think everybody asks that; “Is this all there is to life?”. For the Christian, he´s praying to Jesus, for the Jew he´s praying to Yahweh and so on and so on.
The song, which I understand is based on the Daniel Pearl story, the “Kaffer” song, when did the idea for that song come about? Was that something you had from when it happened or…?
GC: Yeah, it´s so funny… a title or a theme could be in my head for ten plus years. I remember having “Kid ego” in my head since high school, before I wrote that in Extreme and I was in a bunch of different bands before I decided to write that one. You mentioned the bombing! How can you not be affected by what´s going on in the world. I wish you´d heard the song. Musically it´s one of the heaviest songs I´ve ever done and musically the band is ferocious on it. Lyrically I wanted to… it´s almost the question of what it would take to be a martyr. Would you die for your beliefs? It´s taken from the murderers’ point of view, so lyrically it´s very disturbing. Daniel Pearl is what actually inspired it. There´s been many other beheadings, but it´s more of a general sense.
Are there plans for another album after this one and the tour?
GC: Yeah, we´ve finished the record and we´re excited that it´s coming out and we actually wrote some more stuff that we plan on putting out at the time of the release. Just on the Net, because if we´re gonna go out and tour this thing, I´d like to have a little bit more material, so I don´t have to dip too much into the past. I will do a few older tracks, but the more the band writes the better it gets, so that´s the plan. . With Extreme, we´re writing and we´ll have some new music next year as well. The bands won´t conflict because Nuno´s got some things to do with Rihanna and we´re able to get together over the Internet.
This album is released on Frontiers as well and was that just a natural step since Extreme´s last album was on Frontiers as well?
GC: Yeah, those were obviously the obvious… we had an obligation to tell them and they were interested and I think they would be interested in a Nuno project or anything with Extreme. They liked what they heard and they offered us a deal we liked and the same with JVC. There were a few other interesting things but I was so eager to… it was a little bit of a long process in scheduling and getting this record finished. I really wanted the record to come out and I´m happy it´s coming out in January.
What´s the story behind the name Hurtsmile?
GC: (laughs) I guess that´s an inside joke with my brother. That´s one of the toughest thing to do, to name a band. This is the first time in my life actually, that I came up with a name that everyone liked the first time. They scratched their head a bit and I had to explain it. I said “Marc, I´ve got the name of the band!” and he goes “What is it?”. I said “Hurtsmile!” and that goes back 30 years when we were growing up as kids, me and my brother and my friend were playing football or messing around in the house… I grew up with four brothers so there were a lot of fighting going on and that term came from like if someone got hurt, if they fell down and they were in pain but didn´t want to cry in front of the rest of the kids, they couldn´t hide that. They tried to smile through the pain and everyone would point and go “Hurtsmile, hurtsmile!”. So he laughed and I think it works, like Black Sabbath or Iron Butterfly, the opposite names. Hurtsmile, isn´t that what we do in life? Smile through pain? They like it and it´s humorous.
It´s a good name!
GC. Oh, thanks man!
I was kind of wondering about your last name Cherone? Where does that come from? Is it French?
GC: No! The pronunciation sounds that way, but it´s Italian. The original spelling was Cirone and it was pronounced “Keroni”. My grandfather on my father´s side came over to America and it was Americanized. For a lot of people it sounds like Shalom and they think I´m Jewish or French, but it´s Italian.
Have you been back to where your grandparents came from?
GC: No. We´ve toured Italy quite a few times. Seems like the only place we play is Milan. Both my parents and grandparents came from the Motherland. My grandfather was Sicilian, so don´t mess with me! (laughs)
You mentioned that with Extreme you´re working on some new stuff and I also realized that it´s the 20th anniversary of the release of “Pornograffitti” this year. I read somewhere that you had plans of doing something before the end of the year. Do you still have any plans of playing?
GC: We really messed with that idea and we were excited to do it, but scheduling didn´t permit it because of Nuno´s Rihanna thing and I don´t blame him. It was an intriguing gig. He says it´s great, but he misses the rock and roll part of Extreme. I think someday… we missed the 20th anniversary, but I´d like to do a string of dates and do the whole record because there are some songs there that we haven´t done in over 20 years or let alone, I think, have ever done. Maybe get some horns out for “Get the funk out” and “Li´l Jack Horny” and some of those tracks.
Originally when you wrote that album, who came up with the title and what´s the story behind it?
GC: (laughs) “Pornograffitti” was a song before we named the record. It was a group of songs we were writing. We were writing those songs, believe it or not, on the first album tour because our first album was delayed a year and we were pissed off and we were playing all the old songs on the road and we were writing, what we thought, was better music. “Pornograffitti” was one of those songs and usually I write a crop of lyrics and they usually are connected theme wise, so when we wrote this, it became that loose knit storyline. We were gonna call the record “Extreme II” just like “Queen II” and all that, but we couldn´t decide so the record is actually called “Extreme II Pornograffitti”, which is very confusing. The record company said “Decide! Either call it Extreme II or call it Pornograffitti!” and of course Extreme said “No, we´re gonna call ém both!”.
I bought that album when it came out and played it 24/7 and the song “More than words” was a big hit over here. Writing as song like that, when you´re writing it and recording it, do you ever get the feeling “This might be something!”?
GC: I´ve been asked that and Nuno has been asked that. We knew when we wrote it that it was a good song, we knew it was one of the better Extreme songs and we showed it to the guys and said “We´re thinking about keeping it simple, acoustic, and not add drums.” And both Pat and Paul were like “Absolutely, don´t touch the song!”. But there´s no way in a million years that we´d think that it would become that big. It was bigger than the band and it was so big even the audience got confused. People would go and buy the record… You´d have housewives going in and go “We like that pretty ballad.” And someone would say “Yeah, that´s the band Extreme and the album Pornograffitti!”. “No, no!”. “Yes, yes, you are talking about that!”. That was funny and frustrating, but in retrospect it was the song that introduced the world to the band. We were really fortunate. That really bought us our freedom in the studio.
Yeah. I listened to that album not that long ago and there are some favorite songs of mine like “Li´l Jack Horny” and stuff like that. I´m just wondering, were there a lot of leftovers that didn´t make it and stuff you´ve got laying around?
GC: Yeah, there were a few demos that haven´t been out. Some of them have leaked out in really bad sounding bootlegs. A few of those songs made it to the next record like “Color me blind” and two or three others. You make me think of “Pornograffitti” and I just remember, for me when I listen to it, the Nuno riffs blow me away every time. This last tour he was blowing me away. He was just ferocious playing, so that´s what I think of “Pornograffitti”. It´s funny to listen back. Some of the arrangements you would do different and you would think of a vocal take and go “Ah, I could sing that better now!”, but I guess that´s always what you do when you´re listening to old stuff. I´ll probably be saying that when I listen to Hurtsmile in five years.
On your latest record, which is a really good record as well, a favorite song of mine is the bonus track “Americocaine”…
GC: Aha! (laughs)
And I interviewed Nuno when that album was released and said that I never understood why it wasn´t released, because it´s such a killer song?
GC: Thanks! You know what? It was always a matter of time with Extreme. Me and Nuno were always moving forward and old songs fell by the way side. There´s a lot of stuff that was unfinished and some demos, like I said, where the quality wasn´t great and for us to go back and maybe dig one up and re-record it, is a long shot. We´re removed from that. But why those things happened I don´t know. I always liked “Americocaine”! It´s not the first song, but at least the second song me and Nuno wrote together. It was written with the bass player at the time, before Pat, in the clubs and Nuno had just joined my band and there was still a little metal, Randy Rhoads thing going on. Yeah, I like “Americocaine”. Another one on the Japanese release was “Mr Bates”. Go YouTube that and you´ll dig that! Same period of time.
Nice! When you were singing with Van Halen, do you have any memory of the first meeting you had with those guys and the first jam session? Do you remember what songs you played? Was it just Van Halen songs?
GC: Yeah, that was the plan. Here I am, just getting out of Extreme, I had a vocal operation and that year I did “Jesus Christ Superstar” and my manager says “You´re gonna be auditioning for Van Halen!” and I go “Yeah, right!” and he goes “No, really!”. Eddie called me and we had a great conversation and we talked about maybe five or six songs I´ll learn. A couple from the Sammy era and a couple from the Dave era and I remember arriving there in the afternoon… I knew Michael Anthony before that and he came out and greeted me. Alex and Eddie were in the studio 5150 at the time and I go “Hey Mike, what´s up man?”. I´d met him a few times and he remembered me and I go “You gotta help me out here man, I´m a little nervous!” and he goes “Nah, don´t worry about it!”. Then Eddie literally came out and shook my hand and said “Hey man, you ready to sing?”. I go “Yeah! You mind if I go to the bathroom?”. (laughs) So I went to the bathroom and said a little prayer, you know, “Just let me do good!”. (laughs)” If I´m not in the band, so what!”. Believe it or not, I went in there and I had nothing to lose. I sang… I think it was “Panama” and then we had a little break and he showed me what was to become “Without you” and we wrote that and I even think some of that take was even on the record.
Wow, cool! I know you did a video for that one at the Ice Hotel in northern Sweden. Who came up with that idea?
GC: That was the record company. Believe it or not, but our portion was done in LA.
GC: Do you believe that? They shipped in all this ice and created this wall of ice and it was melting slowly. They used footage with the girl from the one in Sweden and our performance was done in LA in a hangar.
I always thought you guys were up there. (laughs)
GC: Yeah, that´s funny! You should´ve seen it! It was like walking into an ice cave with fans all over and this is the first video and we´re all in winter coats and you walk outside and it´s hot outside.
The funny thing about Van Halen was that I interviewed Eric Martin from Mr Big recently, and he auditioned for Van Halen.
GC: I didn´t know that!
Well, he chickened out. He went as far as he walked up the road to Eddie´s house and he had met Sammy Hagar at the airport and he had told him that he´d gotten the job, so he never really auditioned. He chickened out. It´s a cool story.
GC: Wow, that´s interesting!
What´s going on with Tribe of Judah?
GC: Well, that was the case of… I don´t wanna blame anybody, but the management wasn´t together and the record company wasn´t together. It was very disappointing because I was very proud of the record and the guys I´m still in touch with and obviously Pat was in the band and a couple of other guys and one of them joined Nuno´s band. I really wanted to do another record and it just kind of dismantled and I went somewhere else. I needed a break. It was right after Van Halen and I didn´t want to do the three piece rock band, so I wanted to experiment a bit and towards the end it wasn´t a great experience. It´s so funny, right now, after the Extreme tour, now with Hurtsmile, this is where I want to be. A three piece rock band and it´s my comfort zone. It´s a good place for me so I enjoy doing what I´m doing.
Going back to Extreme again, the new album, will you produce it yourselves or get an outside producer?
GC: There´s talk of a few people. It would be great to get an A-list name. I don´t know if that happens? My dream producer would probably be Rick Rubin. Here´s a guy that´s done Johnny Cash, the Chili Peppers and you know, Neil Diamond.
GC: And Slayer! Yeah, he´s the guy that pulls the best out of the band. He doesn´t overwhelm the band and make it a Rick Rubin production, like some producers.
That would be really cool Gary!
Well, it was really nice talking to you! My time is up and I hope we´ll be able to talk some more later on?
GC: Definitely! Thanks a lot man!