25th Anniversary of ‘Mechanical Resonance’ With Jeff Keithnikola
by Lonnie Nemiroff
For us, music has been both a source of entertainment and history. Not fans of the subject in high school, we found that popping in CDs from decades ago could unravel valuable information about the time period. Yes, this information is quite different than that of a textbook, can give us, but which would you rather learn from? We lean towards the CD.
Let’s take the multi-platinum rock band from Northern California, TESLA. The group, which currently consists of lead vocalist, Jeff Keith, multi-instrumentalist, Frank Hannon, lead and rhythm guitarist, David Rude, bassist and pianist, Brian Wheat and drummer, Troy Luccketta, have experienced several change ups in the lineup over the years, but continue to make music, no matter what the circumstance. TESLA released their first album, Mechanical Resonance, in the 1980s and has since then put out several albums with Twisted Wires and the Acoustic Sessions as their latest work. This 2011 album, which dropped on July 12th, features 6 newly recorded tracks which include acoustic remakes of songs from their entire catalog and two brand new songs, called “Second Street” and “Better Off Without You”.
2011 marks the band’s 25th anniversary. So, see where the history part comes in? TESLA defines the origins of the rock music we hear today. The tunes of TESLA are full of melodic arrangements and are able to transition from elements of soft rock to those of hard rock in a single song. Historically speaking, we feel that the rock timeline along the way has lost this aspect, where bands can transform a tempo throughout a tune. With the release of their latest album, TESLA proves that contemporary bands should constantly refer to music of the past. As textbooks allow significant moments in history to live on and not be forgotten, music can do just the same. We dare you to throw that sentence at your teacher the next time she suggests textbook reading for homework. We are only slightly kidding, of course.
Check out our interview below with TESLA’s Jeff Keith and remember that the rock music we hear on the radio today had to be born from someplace much older.
You guys have been around in the music industry for 25 years. Does it feel like 25 years? Or does it seem like yesterday you guys recorded Mechanical Resonance?
It definitely feels like more than just yesterday. We broke up in ’96 when Tommy Skeoch first left the band having the opportunity in 2000 to do it all over again. Then when he left the band again in 2006 we weren’t about to stop again so we got the perfect replacement Dave Rude. We are still having fun making records today. We have had quite a run.
How do you feel about the impact technology has had on the course of music ?
I think PRO TOOLS allows people to go beyond their limits to reproduce live what they are putting on records. That’s why we keep it real when we are recording even with the new technology.
I think 80s rock and metal music have inspired many of our current genres. How do you think rock music has transformed since the 80s?
It’s gotten a lot heavier but like anything else music always comes around in full circle.
It is not very often you hear of a rock band surviving 3 decades in this industry. What made you guys keep pushing through the years and continuing to play and create music?
I think two very important things that TESLA has always done throughout the years is write music from the heart that we truly believe in and sticking to our roots, and not going with the trend and also TESLA has never relied on having an image.
Got any tips for aspiring bands looking to have an extensive career like you guys?
Once again write songs from the heart that you truly enjoy playing because that may be all you have at the end of the day. There is no guarantee who makes it.
How has your sound, both instrumentally and lyrically, evolved over the years, since your debut album Mechanical Resonance?
Making the first record you are still finding yourself so by the time we made Psychotic Supper we had a good idea of who we were and where we were coming from. We are definitely influenced by today’s music but we know to always stick to our roots.
Congrats on your Twisted Wires and The Acoustic Sessions release. There are two new tracks off the album. Can you tell me about what inspired the tunes, “Second Street” and “Better Off Without You”?
“2nd Street” was inspired by how busy we get in our daily lives when we should take more time out for helping others. “Better Off Without You” was rewritten from an old demo in 85 when we first got signed with Geffen Records.
Why did you guys choose those 4 tracks off the album to remake and record acoustically?
Because they were either not written or were not recorded on Five Man Acoustical Jam in 1990 so we wanted all the tracks on Twisted Wires to be only available on that record.
You guys also included 6 tracks you recorded back in 2005. How do you think these collections of tunes come together to form a cohesive album?
Those were that last studio recordings with Tommy Skeoch in the band that’s why we named the record Twisted Wires because there are also songs recorded with Dave Rude which gives it the Twisted effect.
What’s next for TESLA?
A new studio record.