Eddie Van Halen used to play this Nuno Bettencourt riff at “every single soundcheck”

Eddie Van Halen and Nuno Bettencourt
(Image credit: Daniel Knighton / Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

As one of the most innovative electric guitar players who ever lived, Eddie Van Halen inspired countless aspiring axe-slingers, but it’s Nuno Bettencourt who is often cited as one of the few individuals who was able to channel Van Halen’s flashy fretboard tactics and inherent groove into their own playing style successfully.

Unsurprisingly, Van Halen himself was also a huge fan of the Extreme guitarist – so much so, in fact, that he used to play one of Bettencourt’s riffs regularly during Van Halen soundchecks.

In a tale told to Guitar World’s Amit Sharma by Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger for a forthcoming interview, Bettencourt once linked up with Van Halen’s guitar tech, who was present when the Extreme virtuoso started reciting the riff to He-Man Woman Hater.

However, despite having been originally penned by Bettencourt, the guitar tech mistook it for an unrecorded, unreleased Van Halen track, owing to the fact Eddie used to play it at “every single soundcheck”.

“[Bettencourt] told me this great story once,” Kroeger recalled. “He was using Eddie Van Halen’s guitar tech when Van Halen were on downtime. 

“He started playing He-Man Woman Hater during soundcheck and the tech said, ‘Oh, how do you know that riff? It’s a Van Halen riff that’s never been recorded!’ And Nuno was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And the tech said that Eddie used to play that song every single soundcheck.”

Unsurprisingly, Bettencourt took it as the highest form of flattery: “Nuno looked at him with his eyes lighting up and said, ‘It’s our song and I wrote it, it’s called He-Man Woman Hater, and you just made my life!’ 

“If you had one of the greatest players of all time jamming your shit every day, that would be the biggest compliment in the world!”

It’s not the first time Bettencourt and Van Halen have shown a mutual appreciation for each other’s playing. While Van Halen was known to recite Bettencourt’s riffs, Bettencourt routinely paid homage to his hero with the two-hand tapping sequences he incorporated throughout his repertoire.

When the pair first met face-to-face, Bettencourt took the opportunity to play some of that tapping magic for Van Halen when the latter asked him to test out a certain effects pedal. It didn’t, however, go down particularly well with Van Halen.

“Eddie is leaning in front of me, dialing in stuff on his pedalboard,” Bettencourt told Guitar World. “And what do you do when the alien who walked off the spaceship that changed your life is in front of you? What do you play? Like an idiot, I kicked into the solo from [Extreme’s] Get the Funk Out. I became a cover of myself. 

“But the second I go into the tapping part, Eddie turns around and stops me. He goes, ‘Hey, hey, none of that silly stuff.’

As he would later find out, Van Halen’s comment was just a callback to a previous interview Bettencourt had given – and that Eddie had read – in which he said, “To be honest with you, I feel silly when I do tapping. Not because it’s embarrassing, but because it’s so Eddie.”

Elsewhere in Kroeger’s recent conversation with Guitar World, the Nickelback man reflected on his own relationship with Bettencourt, whom he recruited to write and record a solo on the band’s 2017 track, For The River.

That same solo was once covered by neo-soul star Mateus Asato, who was unaware it was actually Bettencourt who had been the brains behind the lead effort – a confusion that drew the attention and comedic wrath of the Extreme player.

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Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.

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