Exclusive: Extreme’s Pat Badger Takes Us Inside The Studio With His New Project “Badger”
For close to 30 years, bassist Pat Badger has been the important low end component for Massachusetts-bred hard rockers Extreme. The group quickly garnered the respect of fellow musicians and music fans alike, beginning with the release of their self-titled debut album in 1989. Their second album Pornograffiti was released in 1990 and hit the Top 10 of the Billboard Album Charts and there was no question that the Extreme story was really starting to build.
You couldn’t turn on a radio in the early part of ‘91 without hearing their acoustic hit “More Than Words,” which brought the band their first number one single that same year. By the time the band went their separate ways in the mid-’90s, they had scaled some pretty impressive heights and built a lifetime of memories from interacting and collaborating with some of their greatest influences.
Extreme would eventually reunite in the early ‘00s for a few sporadic shows and they made it permanent a few years later releasing a new album Saudades de Rock in 2008. The band toured fairly extensively behind the release, which was well-received by both fans and critics. Since then, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt has been wrapped up in recent years touring with Rihanna, which has left the other members of Extreme with some time to pursue other musical interests.
Badger is now taking advantage of the break in the action to record his first solo album, which he will release under the band name of Badger (go figure!). The project sprang out of a collaboration with singer/songwriter Bleu, with the remainder of the lineup featuring current Extreme drummer Kevin Figueiredo and guitarist Joe Pessia.
There is presently a PledgeMusic campaign running to help fund the completion of the album and Badger is sharing some great incentives as well as rare audio and video from the Extreme days as part of the campaign. We spoke with Badger recently from his home in Massachusetts to talk about the new album, which he is currently in the process of recording.
The timing on this lines up to make a great story. We’re nearly 25 years removed from the release of the debut Extreme album. You’ve logged a lot of miles and done a lot of spiritual musical learning in that time. Doing something like this takes a leap of faith, to step out and be the guy. What were the triggers that really got you moving on this project?
I think the main one was that it’s been a while since we made the last Extreme record and I really just missed being in the studio and creating something new. I have a really good friend who I’ve been collaborating with and his name is Bleu. He actually has his own solo career and he’s a great singer and multi-instrumentalist. There was a time when we were talking about making a new Extreme record and I called him and I said “Do you have some material that you could send me and maybe I’ll submit it. We don’t usually use outside writers in Extreme, but maybe there’s a shot that we’ll use one of your tracks.” He sent me about 38 songs and as I was listening, it really just inspired me to sing them myself. You know, I’ve always sung in Extreme, but never lead vocals. Also, I’ve had some stuff personally that’s happened to me in the last several years that lyrically, it gave me an outlet to put it somewhere.
Had you done any recording on your own prior to this where you were singing your own stuff? Had you done any writing like that in the past?
This was the first time I’ve ever sang lead vocals. Other than singing in the car and singing in the shower! [Laughs]
How do you know Bleu?
I met him about 12 years ago. I did have a band outside of Extreme when the band took their long hiatus. I played in a band [Super TransAtlantic] in Florida and the A&R guy who worked for the record label at the time [Universal], called me and said “hey, I’m going to see this artist in Boston named Bleu — have you ever heard of him?” and I said “no, I’ve never heard of him.” So I took a ride in and saw his show and was immediately impressed with his singing and his songwriting.
He’s really a great power pop writer and we ended up being really good friends. It turns out that he was an Extreme fan and he ended up actually hanging out at my place for a while. He was kind of in the middle of his own personal stuff and actually lived with me at my house for about a year. And at that time, we did record together and do some stuff that we’ve never released or published — we just had fun recording. So we’ve been friends for a long time and then he moved to Los Angeles, so we’ve just always kept in touch.
38 songs is a great base of material to work off of. How did you go about whittling that down to the material that you’re recording now?
Honestly, of the 38 songs, he writes for so many different genres and for different artists — some of them just did not fit what I’m into or what I would think I would submit to the Extreme guys. But again, even some of the songs that I’m doing, I really can’t see Extreme doing them, but I was [personally] in recording them for myself. Then some of them, I’ve taken bits and pieces of them, but then I rewrote parts. You know, I’ve rewritten choruses or I’ve rewritten lyrics from top to bottom on a couple of the songs.
So I kind of picked 12 that had a bit of a common thread for me that inspired me to either sing or to record. Two of the songs, he had actually recorded in the past and he released them on an EP or record that he released under a different name because he had contractual issues with the album. I think he had gotten dropped from his label and they wouldn’t let him release the songs or do anything with them. But finally he got [ownership] of the songs back, so I decided to record two of those.
How many songs are you charting out to record for the album?
I’m planning on 11 or 12. I’ve finished about six now. But like I said, everything else is already demoed or written. We’re getting back in the studio and doing like three songs in December.
You’re probably a guy who still thinks in terms of doing albums as albums. So as you got into this whole process, was it easy to get a batch of material together that you felt connected in that way and felt like it was going to be an album?
Well yeah, that’s kind of how it progressed. Originally when I had talked to Bleu about it, he was like “you know what, why don’t we just record a couple of songs and see how it goes? You never know if you’re going to do a whole album, or maybe you’ll sing a couple of songs or one song on an Extreme record.” He goes “if it comes out good, we’ll see how things go and take it from there.”
Obviously, the first couple of songs are the ones that I’ve released already [via the PledgeMusic campaign] and I’m really getting some amazing feedback on them. I immediately started on four new ones and then he said “oh, maybe just make an EP for now,” but then again I said “well, there’s enough material here and I’m inspired to make a whole album. I don’t want to make just an EP — I want to go for it!” [Laughs] So here we are and I’m halfway done with the record.
As you started to dig into these songs, what sort of things were musically driving where you went with this stuff?
Musically, Bleu’s a very gifted songwriter. The arrangements and melodies are great — he writes a lot of great hooks. Some of the lyrics — it’s not his lyrics for some of them — there were people who he wrote for or wrote with and the songs ended up being demos that were never properly recorded or put on records. I took maybe the title of the song and worked off that or kept part of the verse, but rewrote verses and choruses and again, it just ended up being a great vehicle to express myself?
Did you have much experience tearing songs apart and putting them back together in that way?
Yes, really through Extreme [where] we’ve done it and even though a lot of them weren’t my songs, I was also obviously part of the process of [working] in the rehearsal room and arranging them and [with] the first two Extreme records, we did kind of tear songs apart and reconstruct them. So I’ve been part of the process, but I’ve never done it [in this way before]. Like I told somebody the other day, i was always Scotty in the engine room and now I’m sitting in Captain Kirk’s chair. [Laughs]
“Whatever Happened 2 Us” and “Lie (Behind My Eyes)” are two of the songs that we’ve heard so far. What can you tell us about some of the other songs that you’re working on?
I did put another fun but goofy video out there…
Badger: The Movie!
Yeah, Badger: The Movie! The song that is kind of the bed of it through the whole chase scene with my son stealing the hard drive and all of that stuff, it’s a song called “Freak Me Out.” Obviously the vocal kind of comes in right before Gary Hoey’s guitar solo and then rides the rest of the song out. It’s basically a two guitar song, because Joe is playing all of the rhythm guitars and then Gary Hoey plays the leads. So he came in to guest on that song.
There’s another couple of songs that I’ve done — one is called “Inside Out” that is almost finished other than being mixed. That’s a little bit of a heavier tune that I’m really excited about. Another one has kind of an amusing title — it’s called “Suicidal Sunday” that I’ve finished as well. It’s another rock tune and it’s not a serious song, it’s more a little bit tongue in cheek about a girl who treats a guy so poorly in an on again/off again relationship that it drives him to being suicidal.
It’s not autobiographical, but a lot of people can relate to relationships that are on and off again and that wide range of emotions of ups and downs. The next batch of songs that I’m really working on are much more on a serious note. Several years ago, my mother passed away, so the tone of a few of the songs I am actually going to connect lyrically and musically and they’re about that. That’s what I’m planning on kind of closing out the record with.
So you’re planning that potentially those songs might close the album as a suite to wrap up the record?
Yeah, a bit — they’re kind of connected lyrically and musically.
As you mentioned, Gary Hoey sits in on a track. Are there any other guests?
Well, I’ve thought about a couple of things. But it’s really more of a band vibe and I really want it to be about myself and Kevin and Bleu and Joe. I really respect Gary [Hoey] and he may guess on another track — I’m not sure yet. It kind of depends on how the song develops. But for the most part, it’s just going to be the rest of us that are going to make the record. I don’t really have plans [to have] anybody else playing.
That’s got to be cool for you the way this whole thing has developed organically…
Yeah, it’s funny because this is the first record that I’ve ever made where it’s almost like a studio album like Steely Dan or whoever used to make. The weird thing is that we’ve never played together as a band. So you’re hearing these songs tracked and recorded without us ever even playing them together in a rehearsal room. It’s the only record I’ve ever made like that. But I think that listening to it, you don’t have that impression. Obviously Kevin and I play together a lot in Extreme, so it’s been very interesting to see how it develops and how the songs have changed from the demo to where they end up. Some of these songs, I’m going to have to learn how to play bass and sing at the same time! [Laughs]
What’s the plan after the album is finished — are you planning to go out and do a proper tour with the Badger band?
I haven’t gotten that far yet. I would love to go out and play some shows. As far as the extent of how many we do or where we go? God only knows. I’ll just see how everything progresses. At the moment I just have my eyes set on recording the next three songs and mixing the ones we just finished. I haven’t really thought ahead too much to whether I’ll go for a record deal or distribution deal or playing live. There is no masterplan at the moment — I’m just kind of focused on the next few songs.
I got a chance to interview Benji from PledgeMusic earlier this year and had fun talking with him about the whole process, which is something that I always enjoy speaking about with folks who are using Pledge, Kickstarter or whatever they choose as their platform. The thing that I love about the process is that the artist is really pulling the curtain back on their creative process. Obviously, they can control how much of that they want to show and share, but with the old industry, aside from the wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone after the album was done, it hasn’t been the norm. What has that part of things been like for you?
The first time I was really exposed to Pledge and Kickstarter and this whole idea was really through Bleu. He had kind of explained it to me. Obviously, I grew up playing music and was in a band that had the traditional [cycle] of make a record, get a record deal and the record company does everything. So this whole new way of doing it has been an eye-opening experience. It’s really been a lot of fun having much more interaction with the fans and also giving them more than just the record.
I grew up in a generation where there was a mystique and mystery as to when the next Aerosmith record, or Van Halen or whoever. They’d be locked in the studio and you really wouldn’t hear or see any images. You’d just wait for the record to come out. So now, it’s such an interactive experience with fans where I’m posting stuff on Facebook or creating these little videos and when we get in the studio for the next session, I’ll definitely bring a camera and be posting stuff and getting [shots and footage] of us playing in the studio for people to see and be part of the whole experience.
I think it’s amazing that Pledge and Kickstarter and all of these other kinds of sites now exist for artists like me or other artists. It’s giving us a medium to really release the stuff and put out a record. It gives the fans a much more memorable experience than just sitting around waiting for it to come out in a record store.
It’s evident that you’re having a lot of fun with it. As a Star Wars geek, I loved the Star Wars angle in the latest video for “Lie (Behind My Eyes)”.[Laughs] It’s been fun. Like I said, that was the generation that I grew up in. The video after that [Star Wars-related opening] shows all of the different mediums of how music has been released over the years and how it’s changed. Obviously, the Victrola was before our time, but our time includes the phonographic record and the cassette, the iPod plugged into the car stereo and scrolling Soundcloud waveform that you’re listening to on your computer. The portable CD player — all of the things that I threw in the video, if you’re about my age, you’ve gone through all of these changes. The only thing I didn’t have was an 8-track player, which I wish I had! But all of those shots, I just did in my own house with old players I have laying around.
I don’t think that I would have guessed that you would be the archivist for Extreme, which is how it appears, from all of the video and audio stuff that you’ve been sharing as part of the Pledge campaign so far. Did you have a keen sense that you wanted to document stuff that was happening with the band early on?
Yeah, I mean I brought my own camcorder, but we also had people who had them on the road [as well] or friends that came to like the “Little Girls” video shoot or whatever. People would just give me the contents or give me the tape. So I literally had a box with me of old VCR tapes which I hadn’t even looked at in 20 years myself. It’s just been sitting on the shelf and when it came time to do this, I thought that “You know, it would be fun to release some of this stuff and I really should do myself a favor and the band a favor by properly digitizing it.”
Because these VCR tapes are literally growing mold and who knows if they’re going to start to get eaten up by the VCR. So I’ve been sitting and just going through that stuff and putting it on DVDs and putting it on the computer just to preserve those memories. It’s like looking at old home movies of yourself.
There is talk of releasing it at some point properly through the Extreme channels and having maybe a retrospective or anthology DVD or CD set that we may release. You know, we have that entire concert — the clip that I put of Brian May and Neal Schon with us — we have the entire concert all documented on film, professionally shot. It’s on two inch tapes that we would need to go back and mix. There’s talk of putting that out now, especially seeing the reaction from the fans when they saw just that little clip with Brian May and Neal Schon.
It’s exciting as a fan to know that exists and that there’s a full professionally shot show from that tour. I think at the time that the III Sides To Every Story album came out, a lot of people felt like you guys were taking a big leap forward artistically.
Oh yeah. I kind of use the analogy too to some of the other band members and my manager that I grew up listening to Van Halen — still to this day they are one of my favorite bands of all time. You know, I remember the Fair Warning tour when those live clips of “Unchained” and “So This Is Love” were released. If those had never come out and suddenly they released those today, I’d be like “oh my God, where can I buy that whole concert? I want the Blu-ray of the entire show.” I was at the show in 1981 — not the Oakland show, but I went to see that tour. Even though we’re not Van Halen, we do have fans out there that would look at this the same way and go “oh my God, I was at that tour or concert — how can I buy that and where can I get that entire concert? I can’t believe it exists.” I mean, if Van Halen released that entire show on DVD, I’d get online and order it on Amazon tomorrow! [Laughs]
Do you guys have anything similar from the Waiting For The Punchline tour?
Honestly, I don’t have much from that tour. I have been going through and digitizing some stuff from my own personal camcorder and I have a lot from the Pornograffiti and III Sides era, but really nothing much from Punchline.
I don’t think that record got the attention and exposure that it really deserved.
Yeah, it definitely came out at a very strange time. Obviously we came from an era of what they consider hair bands or whatever — and we had hair, although I don’t know that we ever were quite….we never quite fit in with the Warrants and the Wingers and the Slaughters that were out at the time with us. I’m not dissing any band, but I think we had a bit more of a musicians’ following and some credibility with the players in the band.
Then right when III Sides came out, which obviously was our most grandiose record with the 70-piece orchestra and everything we threw in and put on that record, it was right at the time when Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam were hitting. So all bands of our genre and of our time, we were kind of yesterday’s newspaper and swept under the rug. I think that record came out right at that time where everyone was looking for the next Nirvana or Pearl Jam. The record company kind of lost interest in Extreme.
The band has been a part of some really cool things through the years. That video of you guys with Roger Daltrey that you posted on the Pledge page is amazing. That had to be an incredible experience, both as a musician and a fan.
Oh God yeah. That really stemmed from the Freddie Mercury tribute where we met him. I do have some stuff on tap for later in the Pledge campaign. I have a lot of backstage footage from the Freddie Mercury tribute that no one’s ever seen. Roger is standing there meeting Gary [Cherone] for the first time saying “Hey, my kids are fans of you guys — do you want to come over to the house sometime on a day off?” It’s like, of course we want to come hang out at Roger Daltrey’s house! [Laughs]
We literally spent the whole day at his place and he gave us the whole tour. I remember him bringing me up in his attic and showing me his outfits from Tommy, like the vest with the fringe on it. There were platinum records from Quadrophenia hanging in his son’s room. You know, we helped him put his BBQ [grill] together.
He bought a new Weber and I’m sitting there with wrenches putting the BBQ together and I’m looking at this like “I’m helping Roger Daltrey put together his BBQ. My friends at home aren’t going to believe this.” Then we rehearsed a couple of songs and he came out and did those two songs from Quadrophenia, which is still one of my favorite records of all-time. So it was a thrill to meet him and have that experience, for sure.
Where did he come out and jam with you guys?
We were on tour at the time opening up for Bryan Adams. The clip is from Wembley Stadium, so it’s the same stadium where we did the Freddie Mercury tribute, but it was maybe a month or two later when we came back through there on tour.
The band’s performance at the Freddie Mercury tribute — I remember that day in a pre-internet buzz world — the next day, people couldn’t stop talking about how Extreme had just nailed it onstage that day. Was that the biggest thing you guys had ever been a part of at that point?
Oh at that point, for sure. You know, we had played some shows that maybe had more people in the audience. Like we did a couple of festivals in South America that were probably twice as many people in the actual audience. But televised, to this day the Freddie Mercury tribute is one of the biggest televised concerts of all time. I think the profile of being included — just even the earlier part of the day before Queen had all of the guests come out, it was Metallica, Extreme, Def Leppard and Guns ‘N Roses. So to be included in that company was certainly a big deal for us. Then to have Gary go out and sing with Queen and us meet so many of the idols that we grew up listening to, it was just an incredible experience for us.
They just recently reissued that show on DVD and put it out on Blu-ray for the first time. Sometimes you watch some of these things many years later and maybe it’s not as big as you remembered it being. But with that show, when I watched it for the first time since I had watched it on television back then, that show was just as big as you remember it.
Oh yeah. You see the likes of Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant and everyone from James Hetfield to Axl Rose. It was a big deal! [Laughs] For sure.
I spoke with Pat Travers earlier this year and he was recalling the time that he came into work with you guys on “Get The Funk Out.” I’d love to hear your memories of that experience. He went into it thinking that you guys might be looking for him to add some guitars, but instead, he just ends up singing the pre-chorus on the song.
To this day, Nuno is a huge Pat Travers fan — I mean, like loves Pat Travers. If you listen to some early Extreme stuff and some of the funk element [that’s there], you can definitely hear some Travers in it. So he’s a big fan and invited him in and honestly, I don’t remember if he ever did lay down some guitars or play along, but I do remember Nuno saying “Well look, he’s a great guitar player, but I love [his voice as a] singer, so I want to have him sing some of these parts.” I know that there were a couple of versions of “Get The Funk Out.” The one that’s on the record, Pat Travers sings on, but then the one that’s in the video, Nuno sings. That really was Nuno’s doing, because he was a big fan.
Your latest Pledge update, there’s the behind the scenes video of the “Little Girls” video shoot. It reveals the riveting nature of a video shoot, which I say somewhat sarcastically — you guys had to invest a lot of time doing video shoots like that.
Oh yeah. Back in those days, the videos were a big deal. MTV was at its peak and the budget for those things, between the camera crews and the set, they were definitely a big part of marketing acts at that time. It was a full day experience and when I look back at the tapes — I only put a minute and a half of the actual playing of the song and doing the takes — but my friend who had given me the tapes, he gave me literally two VCR tapes of takes of us performing the song and I was amazed at how long of a day it really was. We were obviously all young in our 20s and I was like “Oh my God, look at the energy we had” — 20 takes later we’re still putting it out there as if it was the first take. It was definitely an exhausting day — you definitely felt it the next day.
Knowing what a big Van Halen fan you are, that had to be a trip touring with David Lee Roth in 1991.
Oh yeah, we had a lot of fun doing the Dave tour. He treated us well and I was a huge early Van Halen fan, so that was definitely an amazing experience. And then of course later when Gary joined Van Halen, I get to spend about a week up at Eddie’s house and I hung out at 5150 while they were making that [Van Halen III] record. So that was a pretty amazing experience for me, personally.
That’s probably about as good as it gets for you as a Van Halen fan.
Oh yeah. I have one picture that I’m holding the Frankenstrat in 5150 and leaning on his Plexiglas Marshall that he used on all the early shit. So I’m holding the guitar and leaning on the amps that recorded “Eruption.” It doesn’t get much better than that really for a Van Halen fan.
Did you get a chance to pick his brain at all on songs or anything like that from a musician’s standpoint?
Not a lot. He was more excited about the new record. He didn’t want to talk about his old shit. Although there were times that he would blow my mind. Like, I’m hanging out in Gary’s guest house and he walks in and grabs an acoustic guitar that’s sitting there and literally sits on the coffee table next to me where I’m sitting on the couch and he starts playing “Spanish Fly.” I’m thinking to myself, “If you ever told me when I was in high school, that I’d be sitting here having a personal moment with Eddie Van Halen while he’s talking to me playing ‘Spanish Fly,’ I’d say you’re on acid and you’re crazy.” [Laughs] Experiences like that made me go “How does this all happen? How does Gary end up in my favorite band?
You guys got back together and made in my opinion, a great record with the Saudades De Rock album. I know there’s been word that the band was working on another album. What’s the status there?
Obviously everyone knows that Nuno has been playing with Rihanna. He does have a lot of songs that he’s been working on — a lot of music. He’s played us a few things, but we haven’t really gotten together as a band to start hashing it out. So we’re hoping that 2014 we’re going to be working together. That’s what’s in the rumor mill right now. [Laughs]
Is there anything else that we haven’t covered about the Badger project that you want people to know about?
I think we covered it. Really, the messages that I have in some of those videos — it is true how music has really changed how artists release music now and how Pledge is really a big part of the whole experience and it’s not just waiting for the $10 download. You’re going to get all of this extra stuff, new and old. Without a record deal and without a traditional thing, it’s awesome to be able to put something out and create something. I hit the publish button on the site and I load up these videos and things that I’ve been working on. It’s fun and empowering to be able to do it this way. I hope everyone enjoys what I have on tap.
I think it’s cool where things are too. Because the past 10 years or so have made something like this more possible. Because you don’t have to go and sell an A&R guy on the idea of doing this — you can just do it.
There’s no one looking over my shoulder saying “Yeah, that Star Wars intro sucks” or “that’s good” or “you should write this in there” — I’m just doing it. [Laughs] I’m in Captain Kirk’s chair and I’m like “No, we’re flying the Enterprise this way and going to this planet over here!”
When is this coming out?
Well, I’m hoping to have it wrapped up early next year — maybe mid-February? Then the download will come out, but I’ll obviously have to have CDs pressed and fulfill all of the pledges and stuff when the CD is actually done and pressed.
Badger band image used with permission via Pat Badger.