Extreme bassist Pat Badger talks to Ben Cooper about life after rock stardom.
The music industry is a fickle beast. One minute you’re flavour of the month, the next you’re a virtual pariah – but if you hang around for long enough suddenly you’re cool all over again, with teenagers coming to your shows. Just ask Pat Badger of Extreme, who has that pragmatic, down-to-earth attitude for which Bostonians are famous…
After Extreme – Badger plus singer Gary Cherone, guitarist Nuno Bettercourt and their then-drummer Paul Geary – experienced monstrous success with their second album, Pornograffitti (1990), they suddenly found themselves on the outside looking in with the advent of grunge. “When grunge hit, all the bands that had come out in the late 80s and early 90s were considered passé,” Badger explains from his Boston home.
It’s been a long and at times rocky road, one that all started when a young Pat began to hang out just a little bit too often in a local guitar shop. He’d heard through a friend about a local guitar maker who made basses for Chris Squire, Jim Mouradian. Mouradian also ran a guitar shop and after hanging out in the shop after school day in, day out he plucked up the courage to ask for a job. “I used to do custom paint jobs and finishing on the guitars. That’s where I met Nuno, and when Extreme needed a new bass player, that’s how that all came together.”
Pat still plays Mouradian basses to this day, and particularly cherishes a black number that he played at the famous Freddie Mercury tribute concert. ‘That one will go with me to the grave!’ he laughs.
By the time he joined Extreme, they were already the go-to support act for touring bands coming through the Boston area and the chemistry was instant, as he explains. “Within a couple of weeks I was playing my first gig and then within a month we were cutting demos of songs in the studio.”
Pornograffitti remains the band’s biggest success, and is full of Pat’s thunderous bass-lines, with a gritty tone to die for – which he puts down to using a pick and driving his amps hard. Back then he wasn’t picky about what gear he used, but these days he’s using Gallien-Krueger for their reliability and tube preamp tone, plus a SansAmp Bass Driver for added kick.
Despite the album’s incredible blend of hard rock and funk, it is best remembered worldwide for the ballad ‘More Than Words’. Did the band find that song a mixed blessing? “Well, how can you really complain about having a hit and selling millions of records?” says Badger with a laugh. “But at the same time I think a lot of people couldn’t work out what Extreme were. It was so different to the usual power ballads of the time. I think that song really did become bigger than band.”
Although Extreme’s next album, III Sides To Every Story (1992), went gold, its slick production and 70-piece orchestra was a little at odds with the raw sounds favoured by record execs, and with less support the album didn’t perform as it should have. By the time Waiting For The Punchline emerged in 1995, the band had little support from their label and was struggling internally. “We’d been on the road so long I think we were all tired of it. And Nuno wanted to do his solo stuff, so we just called it a day for then,” recalls Badger.
He then dabbled in other musical projects: Super TransAtlantic, with members of Saigon Kick, released a single album, and he also handled bass for Tribe Of Judah with Extreme bandmate Gary Cherone. Oh, and he also ran an alpaca farm… “Well I didn’t want to just retire and do nothing, and I had a farm with a barn and all that,” he explains. “I got interested in alpacas, so I just dived in and began breeding them. I still have about a dozen. They’re like fancy lawn ornaments!”
Extreme’s bandmembers all remained close friends and have been working together sporadically since they went on hiatus in the mid-90s. How does Badger find the rehearsing and touring process after all these years? “It’s been easy, really. These songs are ingrained in my mind, so as long as my fingers are in shape I don’t struggle with them.”
Badger recently released a solo album, funded through Pledge Music. “I had a really successful time on the platform,” he says. “It gives a musician like me a way to make a record and get it out there, which otherwise would never happen.’
It seems that waiting for the punchline has paid off for Badger, and Extreme too, as they find their second wind in a rapidly changing musical race. It’s good to know that in a world of throwaway pop, some guys are still going strong.