The critics tend to dismiss a great deal of music that was created in the 80s. It was a decade of excess; some of the fashion choices and music did make you scratch your head. Yet, there were a lot of damn good bands from that era who made some pretty substantial contributions to the world of music. Some of those bands are still active today and sounding better than ever. For Tesla, it’s always been about the music. The guys seemed to burst onto the scene out of nowhere when their debut album Mechanical Resonance was released in 1986. That was during the “hair band” era of the 80s, but they didn’t fit that mold. I mean, they all had long hair, but they weren’t glammy like Poison or Motley Crue. They also didn’t fit the mold lyrically either as their song content seemed to stray away from what a lot of the other bands were singing about. That contrast helped them to carve their own niche in a metal genre that was quickly becoming oversaturated.
Call it strategy, call it dumb luck, call it fate. Regardless of what you may choose to call it, the guys are still out there doing what they do best. They’re out on the road right now on a run of headlining dates and packing venues in a way that makes other bands envious. We had a chance to sit down with the band’s guitarist and co-founder Frank Hannon recently and talked about the band returning to North Carolina on this leg of the tour. There are quite a few people who were at the band’s last North Carolina performance back in May of this year at the Carolina Rebellion who say that the band stole the show that day. You don’t have to tell us twice because you’re preaching to the choir my friend. We’ve been fans of these guys since (in my old man voice) way back in the day when we first saw them in 1989 on The Great Radio Controversy tour.
Great to talk to you today Frank! You guys are headed back to North Carolina for a couple of dates in our state.
Frank Hannon/Tesla: Man, I love North Carolina! I’ve got family there and I met my wife there; it’s such a great feeling to be there. The people are always so friendly and it’s a great part of the country. I drove from Virginia to North Carolina in a rental car following the bus because I wanted to take it all in.
It’s a beautiful drive and I don’t blame you at all for doing that.
We get bored out here on the road so sometimes we rent cars to help keep us from getting bored.
You guys have been doing this for well over thirty years and I don’t know if you want to tell all of your secrets, but how have you guys managed to keep it together and going? You’ve seen so many of you comrades fall to the wayside, but you guys just keep right on going.
Well, there are several reasons my friend; alcohol and attitudes don’t mix very well. We’ve taken alcohol out of the mix on the bus and in close quarters. We’re all living in tight quarters and when everyone’s boozing, it just causes a lot of problems. That’s one part of it and the other part of it is appreciating what we’ve got. We come from very humble beginnings; we’re a small town band from Sacramento and we’ve worked very hard to get what we’ve got. So, we’ve got a strong work ethic, but a lot of bands and musicians are very lazy. The third part of it is the songs; if it wasn’t for the longevity of the music and the fact that the fans are still loving the songs that we wrote. We’ve kept the songs as real and from our hearts as possible and I thank Jeff (Keith) our singer for that. His lyrics are always so genuine and he’s such a genuine guy that I think the longevity of the band comes from the sincereness of the music and the songs.
I think that genuiness is missing in a lot of music today.
I think so too, but you just have to search for it. There’s a difference between music that’s fabricated with the intent to sale and music by people who are really feeling it. You have to have an open mind and you have to search; I like hip hop music, I like country music and I like rock music. Each genre of music has lots of bullshit and genuine articles, but you have to listen to the whole thing. My younger brother in law turned me onto Spotify recently and I subscribed to it. There are playlists on there and you can go down the list of twenty or so songs and maybe ten of them are feeling real. It’s like that with anything man! If you’re at the grocery store and shopping you can buy the sugar coated candy or you can go down the fruits and vegetables aisle; it’s up to you!
You guys have done thousands of shows through the ears and I was wondering how you feel today when you’re about to hit the stage? Do you still get nervous or butterflies or what?
For me personally, I feel a sense of relief because the waiting is finally over. There’s a lot of waiting and a lot of sitting around as you wait for something to happen while you’re on the road. Come showtime, it’s not nervousness or anxiety, but a sense of anxiousness to get on with it. When I put my guitar over my shoulder and my monitor in my ear and the intro tape is rolling, then there’s this sense of relief. Let’s go get out there and create some sound! Then, once you get out there, the sound is pumping and everything’s working, then you can start having fun. You can play around, hit some notes, mess with the audience and experiment a little bit. Then, it turns into a really fun experience.
You guys do meet and greets at the shows now. Anything funny, odd or strange that pops into your head when you think back on those?
Well, I had a fan the other day hand me a pencil drawing that she did of me and I have to say that I was pretty funny looking in that drawing. She did a pretty good rendition of me. We meet a lot of people and for the most part everyone’s really cool and excited to meet the band. We had to have a meeting with them and security because a couple of them of them try to grab your ass or something and you have to tell them to hold on because they can’t do that.
I’ve wanted to ask you this for some time now to see if it’s true. I read that you guys consider Psychotic Supper your best album. Is that true and if so, why do you feel like it is?
It was our third studio album and we had been paying our dues heavily on the road opening for everybody. We learned a lot and we were feeling very aggressive at the time. We were in the heart of New York City. We had just made a bunch of money and we were spending a bunch of money in the studio that we were at. The attitude of the band at the time was very aggressive and the songs like ”Edison’s Medicine” and “What You Give” were songs that we had fought for to be on the album. I think that’s why we love it the most.
I hate to do this, but I know you’re a busy man Frank so I’ll wrap this up now. Is there anything you’d like to close with?
We had a great time at Carolina Rebellion not too long ago. Man, that was freaking awesome and it was fun playing out there in the daytime. North Carolina fans and the people there are always so full of love and we look forward to giving some love back to you when we see you.
Tesla is scheduled to play at The Fillmore in Charlotte, North Carolina on August 14, 2017 and you can purchase tickets for the show HERE.
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