Extreme bassist Pat Badger talks Pornograffiti 25th Anniversary
Although many bands are playing landmark albums in their entirety lately, few records really have what it takes to stand the test of time to the point that playing them all the way through can captivate an audience to the point that they revisit that time in their life.
Extreme’s Pornograffiti is one of those records and it turned 25 years old last year. To commemorate the record, the band hit the road to play the record live and also produced a documentary about the history of the band and the importance of the record’s place in their career.
We recently had a chance to sit down with current and original bassist Pat Badger, who took some time to talk about the record, tour and documentary with us.
FRR: So, we’re here to talk about Pornograffiti – the documentary came out, the DVD is out. Overall, looking at the final product of the documentary, the live DVD, how do feel about the final product that was finally put together and put out?
Pat Badger: Well, you know, it was a long process, painful at times. But overall, I think the project came out fantastic. You know, it was kind of a year in the making. It was a lot to compile the bonus footage, a lot of the old photos and stuff out of the archives. You know, our little box, I guess it was kind of like a time capsule. And then you know, of course, visiting the studio where we recorded our first self-titled album and a lot of the demos of Pornograffiti. It was kind of a mind trip, you know, to really go back in time. Also you know that as far as the live performance goes, it’s the best thing we’ve captured on film of the band performance. I think it really captures us in our element.
FRR: Yeah, definitely. I was going to ask, playing a show for a live DVD that you’re recording, is that any different than any other show? Or are you able to separate it and just go on and do what you do?
Pat Badger: Well, honestly, you know when you’re recording something live, it’s hard not to have it affect you, because mentally you’re thinking, you know, every note is being captured on tape. Every facial expression. So I think maybe you’re a little more self-conscious and it’s hard to just really let go and forget when you see all the cameras and booms and people – cameras in your face, down in the pit, in front of the stage. It’s hard to kinda get lost in a performance just like you would a normal one. It is a little different when you’re filming it and taping it live.
FRR: Right, then you’ve got all just the regular photographers down there with cameras. It’s an experience, I would assume. I don’t know if I would be – it would be hard for me to play a show with it being recorded, because, like you said, I would be very self-conscious, like, “Do I look OK?”
Pat Badger: No, it is, it is a little bit more pressure, I guess. But we were excited about that show. It’s a great venue, first of all, and it’s the best production we’ve ever had, with the LED screen, some of the art work that went along with the Pornograffiti album. All in all, it was a fun experience, but again, it wasn’t just like any other gig.
FRR: Right, right. You guys mentioned in the documentary that at first you had – you’ve always kind of had – mixed feelings about bands playing records in their entirety, from front to back, their most popular record, and maybe there was some reservations about doing Pornograffiti. But looking back on the experience of playing the record from front to back, what was the hardest part about doing it? What was the funnest part about doing it?
Pat Badger: Well, I guess, you know we had done a tour doing it obviously before shooting the DVD, so by the time we did the DVD we were kind of used to the whole idea and obviously had played. You know, I guess the toughest thing was that there were songs that we had not played together in 25 years. So really kind of dust off some of those, and then there was one or two songs that we’ve never played live. So it was almost like re-learning these songs that we haven’t recorded in 25 years.
So that was a little bit of a challenge, but once we obviously had the songs down, the other challenge was, we’re used to having, say, for example, “Get the Funk Out” was usually our closer. So to have it so early in the set felt kind of odd for a while. And then of course “More Than Words” came up so soon, where that’s usually pushed back. Like you know, they usually don’t break it down and sit on stools and play an acoustic song so early in the set. So it took a while to get used to some of those things. But you know it was fun to do that tour and to play the album and really kind of celebrate it with our fans. You know, everyone was really into hearing those songs that they either hadn’t heard before or hadn’t heard in a long time. Obviously when you have a catalog of several albums, a lot of those songs don’t end up in the set.
FRR: Yeah, right. Absolutely. Do you think that doing the tour before doing the live DVD helped with the final product and everything?
Pat Badger: Well, I think so. Obviously there’s no substitute for repetition. Obviously you do a whole tour – by the time we did the DVD we were very comfortable with the songs that we hadn’t played in a long time.
FRR: Yeah, absolutely. Watching the documentary, it’s awesome to see musicians like Brian May and Steven Tyler talking about how good the record was and how good the band is. Watching stuff like that, what is that like for you, a member of Extreme, to watch these guys? They even talked about how you guys influenced them. Put yourself in the situation, watching that and hearing that. I mean, that’s gotta be just kind of surreal.
Pat Badger: You know, I think that is the word that kind of sums it up is surreal. You know, we’re fortunate to have played tours with those guys – not Tom Morello, but Brian May and Steven Tyler. We’ve gotten to know those guys. Had you ever told me when I was in my room, learning how to play bass along to Aerosmith and Queen albums, and as a kid, listening on headphones and staring at album covers for hours – had you ever told me that I would know those guys, played shows with them, or them speaking on our behalf and raving about the band – it is very surreal. It is a trip.
And now it’s hard to believe that we’re in the seat, you know. We’re now like in our fifties, or quickly approaching 50 for me, and, you know, it’s hard to believe that 25 years have past with that album. And we’re kind of knocking on the door of those bands we grew up listening to. We’re now older than they were at the time. Now they’re in their sixties and in another 10 or 15 years, we’re gonna be one of those bands that’s been around that long. So it really, in a lot ways, it’s kind of hard to even fathom.
FRR: Yeah, definitely. Then one thing that comes to mind is, where there is a show at the Narcissist. You filled in during the Aerosmith cover set. And then you became part of the band. Then you guys tour with Aerosmith. You know, it’s just really cool to see. Who would have thought, you know?
Pat Badger: Yeah, no really, who would have thought? And obviously coming from Boston and Aerosmith has been a big part of who you think of when you think of Boston bands, or the pride of our city, it’s really that band as far as classic rock goes. So again, really, to get to meet those guys, hang out with them, you know, do full tours with them.
Nuno has done some stuff with Steven Tyler. There’s a few clips on YouTube. You can see Steven Tyler is – he loves “More than Words”. Like he literally tells us he thinks that’s one of the best songs ever written. So he has done, he’s had Nuno come up and he’s done versions of “More than Words” with Nuno pretty recently, so there’s a couple clips. So it is pretty surreal to see. And I asked Gary, I said, “So how does it feel to see Steven Tyler singing your song?” And he’s like, “It’s about time. I’ve been singing his songs my whole life.”
FRR: There we go. That’s awesome, man. One thing I wanted to ask was, going back in the original studio, listening to the masters again, the original masters, obviously that looked like the first time you guys had heard them since you did the original masters 25 years ago. One thing that really stood out was having to bake the tape to be able to listen to it. That experience, going back into that room, that area, listening to those tapes, what did that do for you?
Pat Badger: That was also kind of surreal to go back to that studio because, like I said before, it was a bit of a time capsule. You know, we walk in and everything above the studio, from the walls to the carpeting, the tile in the bathroom, everything has been unchanged. It was like Polaroid photos of us up in the little breezeway with a coffee maker. And there’s old Polaroids of us recording back in those days. And so all of the memories kind of come flooding into your head, and things you had forgotten about, suddenly…. I guess it’s like if you were to walk back into your old high school and some things in it haven’t changed.
And it’s like you’re literally walking back into time. And then you know, obviously to hear – because obviously you saw that thing about baking the tapes, because tapes degrade over time. Analog tapes aren’t forever. They get sticky. So if you throw them in a machine, it’ll gunk the machine up and it’ll ruin the tape. So there’s a whole process of bringing them up to that temperature – baking the tapes so you can put it on the reel and actually listen to it. Even nowadays we’ve been recording digitally for a good part of our career now, so to even go back and hear the noise of the tape and watch the tape go by – it brings back a lot of memories.
FRR: I can’t even imagine. That was just awesome to watch, to see that level of love to be in that room. It’s just amazing. Playing the record front to back, was there ever a time when you guys thought, deciding to do the tour, would it have been different to do it for just one or two shows or something like that? Or do a show in Vegas and then do a show in Boston or do a full-on tour. Was there ever a time that you guys thought about going a different way with the record and doing the show?
Pat Badger: Well, we kind of tested the waters with doing – when we travel to Asia, we go to Japan, and they’re generally short tours. Like we just did one and it’s usually like seven or ten shows. So we first did the Pornograffiti Tour in Japan, and the reaction was so amazing from the fans and it was a lot of fun for us. So I don’t think we ever hesitated after that to say, “You know, we’d like to play this in more places and share this with the fans around the world.” So we had a lot of fun. And of course you know in the age of social media, people in Japan were posting or we were posting stuff about it, and the rest of the world was telling us, “Please bring it to Italy. Bring it to Germany. Please bring it to New Mexico.” So it was like the fans spoke and we were like, “OK, let’s do this.” You know, go have fun and bring it around.
FRR: Yeah, and if the demand is there, why not? People want to see it. You know it’s going to go well. You might as well do it, you know? You mentioned social media. A lot of stuff in the music industry has evolved since you guys started. A lot stuff is [unintelligible]. Social media is just growing. You’ve got stuff like YouTube, setlist.fm. Fans have access to everything they could possibly want when it comes to a band. Do you think that helps a band like Extreme? Do you think it hurts? How does that affect you guys?
Pat Badger: Well, you know, it certainly brings you way more accessible to your fans. Like once in a while I’ll – if I’m on, I’ll post something and then a fan may comment on it. And then if I comment back on it, they’re like, “Oh my god! I can’t believe it!” I grew up listening, too, and you didn’t think you were watched, like corresponding with me is mind blowing or whatever. Back in the day I was obviously a huge Van Halen fan, so I wouldn’t have even imagined being able to send a message to Mike Hansen and have him respond and say, “Hey, I just read your post,” and comment on it. So, it’s cool that we can really have that connection with people, literally one on one.
And obviously you can share any kind of thought or any photo. Something about your life. I follow a lot of people on Instagram and it’s fun to see stuff that Rick Nielson from Cheap Trick or Paul Stanley from Kiss post about just their day-to-day life. Obviously the music business has changed a lot. The way people listen to music is so different in the digital age and streaming is becoming more and more the norm and people aren’t even buying CDs anymore. So obviously our first album came out on vinyl and then we moved to cassettes and then to CDs and now online streaming is where it’s at. Everything’s changed. I can’t say whether it’s better or worse. I know one thing is bands don’t sell as many records as they used to. But we can still reach a lot of people and keep people up to date on where the band will be touring and share live photos and stuff. So it’s instantaneous now.
FRR: Very true. And believe we’re coming up now on ten years with Kevin in the band on drums. Ten years already. Bringing him in, at the time that he came in, what did he bring to the table to Extreme with the familiar? He had a lot of familiarity, especially with Nuno. And the time that he came in, too, was a very important time for the band. Looking back, what did he bring to the table that helped with everything?
Pat Badger: Well… not only his friendship, because he’s like one of my best friends on the planet, but he’s got such a great energy about him and he’s such a fun guy to hang out with. It is literally like a sports team bringing in fresh blood. Suddenly you make these adjustments, and everything’s fresh and new. And the way he plays the pocket and plays, and no disrespect to any other drummer I’ve ever played with, but I don’t want to play with anyone but Kevin. I have so much fun as a rhythm section playing with him. It’s been great having him in the band. He’s also played on a couple of my own projects. I have a couple of side solo albums that I’ve done. It’s always fun to play with him and hang out.
FRR: Yeah, he’s an amazing drummer. Just watching him live is so much fun to watch him play. It’s great. I love it. Finally, looking back on Pornograffiti, what does that mean for you as one of the musicians who wrote the record? What does Pornograffiti mean to you personally?
Pat Badger: Well, like any record, it’s almost like whatever goes into it: recording it, playing it, promoting it, making videos. Back in the day we used to make those huge, big-budget videos. Each album feels like one of your children, so you love them and you hate them all in different ways.
FRR: I understand that.
Pat Badger: Hopefully my son’s not reading this. I’m just joking about the part about hating. Each on is definitely – you have so much vested in it and so many memories that go around each album. Especially after making this documentary and sitting back and actually watching it, it really brought back a lot of memories about it, and things that happened 25 years ago or the whole process. It’s really now fresh on my mind again, things that I had forgotten about. Of course you know I’m proud of that album. I’m proud of every one of our albums. But obviously all in a different way. They’re kind of a time spent in your life, you know?
FRR: Speaking of each album having its own life, can we look for a new Extreme album soon? I’ve heard 2017 potentially.
Pat Badger: Potentially. We’re always creating. Everyone’s writing. We have a collection of songs. We haven’t really recorded it for real. We have a lot of demos, ideas. Some songs are unfinished. Some songs are completely finished. So we really in the coming months and in 2017 will be focusing on really putting something together. We’re trying to figure out which 10 or 12 songs make a cohesive album, or which cream rises to the top. We’ll take it from there.