In a recent interview with Metal Edge, he recalled the last time he’d seen the late axe icon, and how he’d have played it differently if he’d known it was their final meeting.
Bettencourt was tracking the solo for “Rise,” a song from Extreme’s new album Six, which had been in production for several years. “I usually always record everything on my own,” he said. “I don’t like assistants or engineers around because they distract me. When I’m working, I want to black out and go into a hole where I can just be in my zone.”
That’s what he was doing when singer Gary Cherone kept calling him. “Gary knows that I don’t like to be bothered while I’m recording, but for some reason, he kept… asking me to go to lunch, which really pissed me off,” he said. “And then he texted me, ‘Hey, what’s happening in there? You’ve got to come out front; somebody is here to say ‘Hi.’”
Bettencourt left the studio and went outside to see Cherone was accompanied by his former bandmate Van Halen. “[W]hich was a good reason to interrupt,” he allowed. “But like I said, I was cutting the ‘Rise’ solo and almost finished it. …Edward asked me to go up and listen to what I was working on. Well, me being the Virgo and the idiot that I am, I was like, ‘Go wait ‘’til it’s done. I’ll show you then.’ And Edward said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll come back then.’ But we never saw him again for obvious reasons. He sadly passed away not too long after that. So, I’m hoping that he’s smiling down on me.” He added: “‘Rise’ is special because that’s the song I was cutting the last time I saw him.”
Watch Extreme’s ‘Rise’ Video
Asked about being seen as Van Halen’s successor, Bettencourt replied with a laugh: “Gee, thanks for the pressure. Really appreciate it, man!” He continued: “I never asked for that, but listen, when ‘Rise’ came out, I was getting some great responses on the solo and everything in general, and that felt really good. 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.”
He accepted it was “gratifying” but insisted: “[T]here 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?’”
He continued: “I did feel a little bit of a responsibility. It’s not about me being ‘the guy’ or some great guitar player – because there are lots of them, right? But I definitely felt that within my genre and my generation… after Edward passed, I had at least a little bit of responsibility to set an example. And that’s why there’s so much excitement to share this album.”
Six is released on June 9. Tour dates commence on Aug. 2.
Eddie Van Halen Year by Year: 1977-2017 Photos
You’ll see him with long hair, short hair, a variety of his most famous guitars and all three of his band’s lead singers.