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January 25, 2006 | Author: Greg Phillips

A new signature series Washburn guitar range, a band with a new name and a new album on the verge of release … three reasonably good reasons to bring Nuno Bettencourt to Australia. Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips spoke with the master guitarist in his hotel room on the eve of the tour. Pics by Marty Williams

nuno1“I think any guitarist  that focuses just on solos, I don’t think they become good guitar players. They become these shredder players,” says Nuno Bettencourt  relaxing in a room of a bayside hotel in Melbourne on the eve of a Washburn sponsored club tour. ” The same reason Nirvana  came out and existed was an answer to that sort of stuff,” he elaborates, already on a roll.  “Guitar was getting uncool, it was getting disgusting. It was getting like an Olympics. It was … how many sweeps can you do, instead of it being about a full, very cool thing, which was a Queen or a Van Halen which had great guitar players but  god … the bands and songs were amazing too.  I’ve always been on a quiet mission to make guitar playing cool again by saying to players, don’t just think about the guitar, think of it as an instrument and you’ll flourish with it and people will notice.”

Bettencourt and his fellow music  missionaries  Population-1,  had been making plenty of guitar noise throughout South East Asia in June (apart from  a  Bali gig cancelled due to terrorism concerns). Next stop  was Australia, where  they planned to further preach their  new guitar testament.

So what else is new with Nuno? The band had been road testing new material, soon to be released on their first full length album. The name Population-1 however will not be gracing the album cover. By the end of the week that Australian Musician magazine encountered them, the name Population-1 was going to cease to exist.
“I haven’t mentioned this to anyone before, but there’s a band in the states called Population-0 and apparently they don’t let you use increments in numbers,” explains Nuno. “We couldn’t call ourselves U3 for instance.”
By the beginning of July, Nuno’s current outfit, which includes Joe Pessia (bass), Kevin Figueiredo (drums) and Steve Ferlazzo (keyboards), was  to be known as the Drama Gods. The new album artwork had been done and sat in full view on Nuno’s laptop. Mixing was to be completed a  couple of weeks  later and  then ready to go.

Apart from showing off some fresh tunes, and his  constantly improving  frontman skills, Bettencourt had been promoting the all-improved Nuno Bettencourt signature series Washburn electrics. “The N4 is a very simple guitar. We changed the pick ups, with some single coils and whacked a bit of paint on it, a cool pick guard but at the end of the day, it is just a guitar that you can plug into any amp. I think it will sound good for any amp. I don’t think it needs a lot of help,” says Nuno, the proud father of the guitar he helped design. The complete Washburn Nuno series  includes the standard N1 and N2 as well as custom shop N4ESA, N4 Vintage and N5 models.

nuno2As for his amps, he aint so sure, bouncing between Marshall and Hughes and Kettner. “I’ve actually been forced upon these new Marshall TSLs,  a  3 channel, and I’ve been liking them but I’m not completely happy,” said  Bettencourt. He’s already designed a guitar to acquire all the features he feels comfortable playing with, why not an amp? U.S. Music Corporation, owners of the Washburn brand  and  also  Randall amps, are  marketing-savvy enough to have got into Nuno’s ear about exactly that notion.

“I do use a Kettner and I like it, then I go back to Marshall again and its because of that  never-quite -there sort of thing. I think we can design a head that’s got those those little missing  things, and we’re going to go for it and see what we can come up with. Something that we can put up against a Marshall, which is a heavy thing to say. A lot of manufacturers say it, but not really mean it. I think Marshall  is  the basis and foundation of all good amplifiers,” said Nuno of his grand new plans.

So what now for Nuno’s newly named band, the Drama Gods?
“Just to make a great record first off. The mission isn’t  to have huge success, it’s to share it with people. You want to just play for people. I don’t want to play stadiums just because it shows that you’ve made it. I don’t mind if it’s clubs for the rest of my life. I just want  that energy to be there and to share that.

On Extreme, who played five shows in Japan earlier this year:

“Extreme is one of those things that is there, it’s a path and it’s a nice thing to have. It’s something I am proud of. I don’t hide from it. Even on this run we’re doing some Extreme stuff. Often when people mention it, they think I’m going to be upset or embarrassed by it. You kidding me! But always, it’s about the passion. That has to be there. Unfortunately when a band makes some money and have some success, sometimes certain band members start judging the finances as the  success of the band instead of  how lucky we are to be playing for these people. Some people put their feet up and think they have made it. It’s just a  philosophy thing that the four of you have to sit on a  bus together for a long period of time. We never really fought. It wasn’t like I hate you, it was more like, look my heart is not in this, I can’t be here right now.”


“Asked for advice, I’ll always say play drums, because I think rhythm is the centre of the universe  for music. I know so many guitar players that are better than me technically, but some of them … get them up on stage to play with a groove and they’re awful. I feed off the drums completely. I think the drummer is the most important part of the band, always has been. The first guy I looked for in this band was the drummer and without that you can’t build a good band.  I lock in with the drummer more than anyone else.”

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