Losing a drummer, dumping management, battling an image problem and staring down the end of a loaded gun haven’t fazed Extreme.
If anything, says bassist Pat Badger, the past 12 months have solidified the Boston-based rock quintet, fueling the angry, defiant tone of their new A&M disc, “Waiting For the Punchline.”
“The music is definitely a reflection of the mood you’re in,” Badger said recently. “With the creation of this record, like anything else, it’s kind of a representation of the time in your life. I think over the last few years we’ve kind of had our ups and downs. It’s definitely showing in the music.”
Four and a half years ago, their second LP, “Pornograffitti,” was a slow sell – that is, until a video of the acoustic cut “More Than Words” popped up on MTV and propelled the song to No. 1 on Billboard’s pop chart. The album went on to sell more than 4-million copies worldwide, but it put Extreme in an awkward position, Badger said.
“We kind of got pigeonholed and labeled as a pop band,” he said. “People thought Extreme was two guys who sat on stools and played acoustic guitars.
“It was a double-edged sword. Obviously, it opened a lot of doors for us and sold a lot of records, but it kind of created this misperception or confusion of what Extreme was all about. We’re a rock band.”
In 1992, Extreme experimented on its next release, “III Sides to Every Story,” enlisting among things a 70-piece orchestra. It got a lukewarm reception but still sold 600,000 in the United States and 2-million overseas. Those figures didn’t disappoint the band, Badger said, but the reaction was a letdown.
By the time it came to record “Waiting For the Punchline,” internal problems within the band became more apparent, Badger said. The tension between drummer Paul Geary and guitarist-producer Nuno Bettencourt grew. After the sessions, Geary quit and began managing other bands. Enter newcomer Mike Mangini.
After a tour of Europe “that didn’t make sense,” Badger said, the band was unprepared for the fall release of “Waiting For the Punchline.” For that, they fired their manager, and the release was rescheduled. Then they signed on with Ray Daniels of SRO, which manages Rush and Van Halen.
“And with (A&M), there was also some misperception on where we were headed,” Badger said. “They were waiting to hear something that was a bit more mainstream or along the lines of ‘Hole Hearted’ or ‘More Than Words.’ We delivered them a pretty heavy, hard-edged album. That’s where we’re at. … We want people to realize what we were, or what we’ve always been, mainly a hard-rock band.”
Oh, and how about that gun? Extreme chose Criteria studios in Miami to record the new album. They even got themselves apartments nearby.
“The first night we’re there, I’m coming out of Paul’s apartment and there’s a big guy standing there in his underwear with a gun in his hand,” Badger said. “I just gasped and he looked at me and said, ‘Were you just out here a second ago?’ I said, ‘No, man, I just saw three guys go that way.’ He said, ‘Yeah, there were three guys out by my door,’ and they had a gun and he goes chasing these other guys.
“Of course, the next day, we picked up and moved up to Fort Lauderdale. … That was one of the biggest scares of my life.”
BWF (before we forget): “Waiting For the Punchine” cracked the Top 40 but quickly faded. … Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone replaced Sammy Hagar as lead singer of Van Halen. Hagar left the band in June 1996.
More updates: Joe Henry, Marcus King, Lily Kershaw, Poliça, Sarah Brightman, Jerry Leger, Simple Minds, Grateful Dead, etc