Metal Shrine recently conducted an interview with EXTREME/ex-VAN HALEN frontman Gary Cherone. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Shrine: First up, this band HURTSMILE, what's the story behind it and working with your brother?
Cherone: 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 [Bettencourt, EXTREME guitarist] brother Paul and he was in a band called FLUSH. It (HURTSMILE) was a project that started in 2007 and the 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.
Metal Shrine: Is the plan to tour with this band?
Cherone: 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.
Metal Shrine: Are there plans for another album after this one and the tour?
Cherone: 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.
Metal Shrine: 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?
Cherone: 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.
Metal Shrine: What's the story behind the name HURTSMILE?
Cherone: (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.
Metal Shrine: 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?
Cherone: 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 some day… 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.
Metal Shrine: 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?
Cherone: 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 [Hagar] era and a couple from the Dave [Lee Roth] 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.
Metal Shrine: Going back to EXTREME again, the new album, will you produce it yourselves or get an outside producer?
Cherone: 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.
Metal Shrine: And SLAYER!
Cherone: 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.
Read the entire interview from Metal Shrine.