Richard Fortus defends Slash following Nuno Bettencourt's Rihanna gig comments – and the Extreme guitarist fires back to clarify his views

Rihanna and Nuno Bettencourt perform at BB&T Center on April 20, 2013 in Sunrise, Florida
(Image credit: Larry Marano/Getty Images)

We recently reported on comments made by guitarist Nuno Bettencourt in a Planet Rock interview where he seemed to suggest that some of the guitar players he admires, including Slash, would struggle with the diversity demanded by his role as Rihanna's live guitarist. Since then Slash's Guns N' Roses bandmate – and Rihanna's live guitarist himself before Nuno in 2008 and 2009 – Richard Fortus has stepped in to air his own views on the subject – prompting Nuno to respond in kind. 

"When somebody like Rihanna reaches out to you to perform everybody thinks 'Oh, that's cute. It's a pop artist, whatever,'" Bettencourt originally told Planet Rock. "Let me tell you something, what I had to do night after night… put on a reggae hat [for one song] with a reggae feel, and go into R&B, then go into some punk rock and pop rock that she did, and then club tracks. All sorts of [things], all those different feels.

"I'm sorry, most of the guitar players who I admire could not in their lifetime play that gig," he added. "I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.

"Slash is one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time but I guarantee — and he'd be the first to tell you — that if he jumps up and he's got to play a clean intro to 'Rude Boy' from Rihanna, it ain't happening," Nuno added.

Things took a turn when Fortus shared a report featuring Nuno's comments to Instagram a couple of days later, and added his own thoughts.  "I have to respectfully disagree," he wrote. "@nunobettencourtofficial is one of the greats, for sure. However, there is very little @slash couldn't do on guitar (if he wanted to). I toured with Rihanna prior to Nuno and I've spent a lot of time playing with Slash. This gig wouldn't be a struggle for him."

Fair and polite enough? Fortus certainly seems like he's well-placed to offer an opinion on the subject. But by Saturday (22 July) Nuno was none too pleased by Fortus's response:

"Welp… I knew this was eventually coming," Nuno began. 

"You can't be blessed and be on multiple guitar magazine covers at a shocking 56 years old, get this much attention for your playing and new album as a rock guitarist without another guitarist stirring up some shit.

"I'm responding to this not cause I give a s##t about what this guitarist thinks about me but, instead, because I'd hate to think my few words offended a hero of mine, @slash and possibly f**k up my relationship with him.

I personally would hope that Slash who is a peer and influence would be more mature enough to understand what I truly meant as a guitarist by that comment

"@4tus I've 'respectively' never heard you play one note in my 56 years of being alive and only know your name from the Rihanna camp and as a replacement player in Guns," Nuno continued.

"I'm sure you're a decent player, but did you really need to repost a headline that made me look like I am badmouthing a fellow player, Slash.

"As if I'd ever think Slash isn't capable of playing any Rihanna song in his sleep.

"Let's get something f*****g straight. To me, Slash is one of the greatest rock guitarists of my generation and of all time. PERIOD. And @4tus if you knew me at all and where my heart is you'd know that what I meant in this statement was not about Slash or his capability, It was about Rock guitarists like myself or Slash switching genres and the awkwardness of playing these feels.

"No S***T Slash can play these songs, thank you so much for pointing that out as if we didn't already know that. But for me as a predominant ROCK guitarist, I'm obviously not as talented as you and found it a challenge to nail all the different pockets and guitar tones of genres like reggae, r&b, electronic dance, trap and pop.

"As far as you shining a light on my ridiculous statement that Slash would 'struggle', yes a poor word choice on my part, I personally would hope that Slash who is a peer and influence would be more mature enough to understand what I truly meant as a guitarist by that comment.

"In mentioning Slash as an iconic Rock example, I meant in general a rock guitarist would find it, NOT A STRUGGLE, but feel like a fish out of water as a player. THAT'S ALL I MEANT.

"I've had NOTHING but respect and admiration for @gunsnroses and @slash.

"Apologies if I've unintentionally offended anyone."

A spirited response from a passionate player, and hopefully everyone is clear that no  disrespect was intended towards Slash. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.