Interview ~ Troy Luccketta of Tesla

Tesla seemed to come out of nowhere in 1986 with their debut album Mechanical Resonance. It was right in the middle of the “hair band” era and these guys stood out for all of the right reasons. They weren’t glam like a lot of the other bands that were popular at the time and although they had lots of hair, they really didn’t fit into that category. These guys were also a lot different musically in more ways than one. Their “Modern Day Cowboy,” “Love Song” and “The Way It Is” really helped these talented guys carve their own niche in an era where style seemed to win over substance. Tesla proved that they were the real deal without relying on Aquanet and eyeshadow and blush.

Fast forward to 2018 and the guys are out on the road with Styx and Joan Jett and sounding better than ever! The guys are set to play the Coastal Credit Union Music Park in Raleigh, North Carolina on Thursday (6/14) evening. We sat down with drummer Troy Luccketta before noon on a Sunday morning and talked about the tour, his thoughts on North Carolina and much more!

Dude, these aren’t rock star hours!

Troy Luccketta/Tesla: Yeah, but it’s how we roll baby (laughs)!

Life on the road can be pretty tough and stressful. I was at a King’s X show the other night and dUg Pinnick brought up suicide and how it’s really been in the headlines. Being out the rod can be tough and stressful although fans think that you’re living the life. How do you guys cope with that?

First of all, Tesla has been together thirty something years and we’ve figured a lot of things out. You have to if you plan on staying together. The stuff that you’re talking about with the suicide and stuff is very heavy and depression is real. At this point, you never know who is battling what. It’s nice to hear that dUg is talking about it and it’s certainly an interesting way to start off an interview. Keith Emerson from Emerson, Lake and Palmer; you remember what happened with him a couple of years ago? I was his last drummer playing with him and did his last record. I was scheduled to go to Japan with Keith; we had eight sold out shows. I was just getting ready to start rehearsals and I got that phone call. I had no idea and didn’t know what was going on. I had worked with Keith and been around him for a little bit. We did some work together and went to Munich, Germany and recorded. The point being I didn’t see it coming man and it rips my heart out to know that this stuff is real and it does exist. Anything that we can do to further expose it and bring it out with the awareness is everything. I could go on and on about this, but I won’t.  In the Tesla camp, I am coming up on twenty five years of sobriety on the 4th of July. Tesla, as a band, has not had an ounce of alcohol or drugs since 04, not even a beer backstage. With drugs and alcohol comes depression; it just brings it on and it’s a fact. It’s pretty easy to talk yourself into just about anything when you’re under the influence. You sit there and read all of the side effects and suicidal thoughts is listed. You need another drug just to help you get through that drug. It’s freaking ridiculous and sad; they just want to treat everything with a drug. It’s all bullshit in my opinion and for someone like me to come out and say that, it’s just not who I am. I’m starting to get a zero tolerance for it, but I have to be careful because it is what it is. Just look at the food and what the FDA approves; you don’t want to get me started on all of that. You opened up a can of whip-ass this morning (laugh)! Seriously though, we deal with it and we commute. You have to hit it head on if you want to deal with it. Nothing’s perfect; we have a lot of stuff that happens that could be a lot better. We work on it every day to improve the communication. Thirty something years later and Tesla is a healthy band and we’re killing it out here. You’ve got Joan Jett and her camp and Styx and their camp and we’re all veterans out here. There aren’t any parties; when you’re twenty one or twenty two then we get it. We’ve been through it and you live through it if you’re lucky. Then, you figure it all out and you move on.

So, you guys are going out there nightly and you’re setting the bar pretty high.

Yes we do and we’re going to set it high. First of all, you are right. We set the bar and it works; we’re right where we are supposed to be. We shouldn’t be second; Joan’s second and she deserves that spot.  When she comes on and then finishes, you know why she’s there. Then, when Styx hits the stage it’s so obvious; it’ a no-brainer. We are all fans of one another and we’re all out there supporting each other every night. In my opinion, for me, this is the best tour we’ve ever been on. I love (Def) Leppard and everything that we were exposed to, but as far as a camp and people working, everyone here is equal and supporting each other. You can walk into anyone’s dressing room at any time and it’s no big deal.

It’s sad that so many younger bands haven’t figured that out.

Well, they’re not going to because they’re young. Just live a few years and hang in there and get back with me twenty years from now.

From what I’m hearing, it really sounds like you guys are pushing each other out there.

Yes, the other thing that’s really cool is there is a competitive edge, but without a competitive vibe. In other words, you’re just forced to step it up which is great for the fans. We have to go out and set the bar and give it everything we have and I think we do a great job of that. I’m out there watching Todd Sucherman and Michael Mcdermott; these guys are phenomenal drummers. Sometimes when I’m up there playing, I feel like my drums are looking at me like ‘really, that’s all you’ve got?’ I just have to constantly step it up and play with that point of authority at the same level these guys are. I’m fans of these guys, so it’s a complete blessing to be sharing the stage with them. I’m very humble, absolutely.

That friendly competition has to be fun and a great thing to have.

Absolutely man! I was telling someone the other day that if there is somebody that can do my job better than me, then we have a problem. As far as I’m concerned right now, I feel pretty confident about what I’m doing. I mean that with a humbled edge to a point, but I have to be able to be that guy. It  doesn‘t mean someone couldn’t come in and do the job because there are a million guys who could come play this gig and I could go play their gig. I’m just having a blast out here and I feel really blessed.

That fun is so infectious for the people in the crowd. We pick up on your fun and that makes it better for us. In return, we’re throwing more energy at you and you feed off of that energy, so everybody wins!

That’s exactly what’s happening man; you’re absolutely correct.

You’re scheduled to play the Coastal Credit Union Music Park Amphitheatre here in Raleigh, North Carolina this Thursday (6/14) night. I bet you have a ton of great memories from playing here.

For me, it’s a bit more personal because my cousins are there. First and foremost, it’s so beautiful there. The fans have always been really great to us. I haven’t had enough personal time to really take everything in. We run pretty hard and even on a day off. To really see a city, you need time to be able take everything in and appreciate what that city has to offer. I just know that all of our experiences here in the Carolinas have been really great.

I’ve been reading rumblings of a new album that’s being produced by Phil Collen of Def Leppard. Are you guys in the writing process or have you recorded anything yet?

The record’s in the can; it’s done.

What? Are you serious?

Yeah, we’re in negotiations right now for putting it out, but it won’t come out until probably January. Phil Collen is the fifth Beatle of this band. He co-wrote everything, he produced it, he’s on the record with us and he might as well go out and do the tour with us. I mean, that’s how involved he is in this record. This is a Phil Collen production like no other Tesla record and it sounds amazing. All of the songs are so well crafted and it’s a little different. What you’re going to hear is a lot of growth from a production level and nothing wasted, so to speak. I played it for a friend of mine and he summed it up. ‘It’s like you took Tesla, Def Leppard and Aerosmith and stuck them in a blender.’ He was absolutely right and for people who like those bands, I think you’re going to dig it.

As far as hitting the road goes, what are some personal items that you make sure to pack with you for your time touring?

I pack the good Lord with me every day and that’s for sure. I get up every morning, acknowledge him and say thank you. I bring some books and I brought a drum machine sampler and I need to learn how to use. Then there’s the physical side with food and health and when I say I pack this stuff, this is my agenda on a daily basis. I have to address all of these things so that my mental and physical health can be well.

We hear the term “guitar heroes” all the time, but what about “drum heroes?”  Who are some of yours?

There are many, but I will start with four of my all –time favorite drummers. This is pretty simple; it would be Jon Bonham, Steve Gadd, Jeff Porcaro and David Garibaldi from Tower of Power. Jeff Porcaro was a studio drummer and of course the drummer of Toto. He was phenomenal and unfortunately he passed away. My whole thing with Tesla is that I have Jon Bonham and Jeff Porcaro and if I could go right down the middle of that road of those two. That was kind of what I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be either one, but I knew I had to define something in my playing that combined plenty of hard hitting and balance between technique and heart.

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