Brian Wheat: "Most of the shit that’s said about us is true."Interviewed by: Cameron Edney
American hard rockers TESLA have always been about the music. Where bands such as Poison, Motley Crue and Kiss would put on massive spectacles, TESLA would concentrate more on executing every song rather than having their fans lost in a world of glitz and glamour. TESLA’s no bullshit attitude and honest hard rock has kept them in the public eye for over twenty years, even though during some of that time the band didn’t see eye to eye. Over the years the band released instant hard rock masterpieces such as ‘Mechanical Resonance’ and ‘Psychotic Supper’ which spawned TESLA onto the world stage hitting the United States and Europe with bands such as Def Leppard, the Scorpions.
June 2007 saw TESLA return to the studio to record a set of classic rock gems that we all know and love, rocking out to classic tracks from bands such as Thin Lizzy, The Rolling Stones and Deep Purple. This was the bands first time in the studio since the 2004 release ‘Into the Now’. The bands latest album ‘Reel to Reel’ has been met with amazing reviews from rock and metal writers across the globe and proves that after all these years TESLA are still at the top of their game. American fans will be treated to the next installment of classic rock covers this coming Tuesday when TESLA release ‘Reel to Reel, Vol. 2’ which will feature blistering versions of Black Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ and Aerosmith’s ‘Seasons of Wither’.
It’s time to ‘Hang Tough’ with California’s ‘Modern Day Cowboy’ Brian Wheat!
Cameron Edney: Hi Brian, how’s things mate?
BRIAN WHEAT: Good man how ya doin?
Cameron Edney: Not too bad mate. Firstly I want to thank you for taking the time out to speak with me today. I want to congratulate you on the recent release of ‘Reel To Reel’, no doubt you guys were happy with the outcome?
BRIAN WHEAT: Yeah absolutely!
Cameron Edney: As most know by now it’s an album of covers featuring some amazing tracks such as ‘Bad Reputation’, ‘Thank You’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’ to name a few. There seems to be a trend in recent years where hard rock bands such as L.A. Guns, Poison, Def Leppard and yourselves have decided to release an album of covers. After all these years, what prompted you to do the covers album.
BRIAN WHEAT: Well, there were a couple of reasons we did it. Firstly, we always wanted to do one. But the main reason was at the end of 2005 Tommy Skeoch left TESLA and we had Dave Rude join us for the 2006 summer tour. On that tour we played a bunch of covers and TESLA songs. Around that same time we had started our own record label. So first reason to do a covers record was to just go in and have some fun and play these covers, without having the pressures of recording an all originals record with a new member. The other reason was that Dave had just joined the band and we hadn’t been in the studio yet with him.
Cameron Edney: You have stated many times that both Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick and Cliff Williams of AC/DC were both major inspirations to you and yet you guys didn’t add any covers by either band, any reason for that?
BRIAN WHEAT: Ah, not really anything in particular! Actually on the box set there is an Ac/dc song that we did.
Cameron Edney: Oh really!
BRIAN WHEAT: Yeah, that will come out on our box set next year. We recorded it with Tommy Skeoch which was one of the last sessions that Tommy played on. When it come to Cheap Trick; we had talked about doing some stuff, but when it came time to record it, it just didn’t feel right.
Cameron Edney: Well, I guess when it comes down to it, you want to use the strongest material you’ve recorded on the albums!
BRIAN WHEAT: Yeah, what went on ‘Reel to Reel’ was the stuff that felt good when we played it, and sounded good when we listened back. We didn’t put any Queen on there, we love them but we couldn’t do ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ or ‘Fat Bottom Girls’ cause it didn’t sound like TESLA doing it.
Cameron Edney: Well maybe that’s something else you can keep as a gem for the box-set next year!
BRIAN WHEAT: Well, as I said we have an AC/DC Bon Scott era track for the box set. I think we did ‘It’s A Long Way to The Top’ from memory.
Cameron Edney: Awesome mate I can’t wait to hear it! You guys recently filmed a video for the Led Zeppelin cover ‘Thank You’. Many bands openly state that they hate making clips but as we know it’s a must in this business. Take us through a typical day on the set of a TESLA clip?
BRIAN WHEAT: That clip was done in about two hours actually [laughs]. We went into my recording studio with this young kid we know who we call Emo kid. He’s a young film maker who’s only twenty one. He showed up with three or four buddies and cameras and in two hours we were done filming. It was over pretty quick! That same day we wound up recording two more songs which were ‘Hand Me Down World’ and ‘All The Young Dudes’. Troy had finished the drums and left about six thirty that evening while Frank and myself finished backing vocals at around three in the morning. In twelve hours we had done the video and recorded two songs.
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] Brian there has been talk that once you guys finish up the current tour you will be heading back into the studio to record a new TESLA album. Have you been doing much writing while ya been on the road?
BRIAN WHEAT: We’re starting to, we haven’t done much. We have been really busy with the album and tour and starting our own record company that we haven’t found a lot of time to write songs. Individually we have written stuff and got ideas but nothing’s been done together at this stage.
Cameron Edney: So its just a matter of sitting down now and doing some sessions and just seeing what comes from it?
BRIAN WHEAT: Yeah! We’re going to the studio in January to start writing and put ideas together.
Cameron Edney: Mate, when the time comes to work out the set list, do you find it hard to choose the right songs, I mean there will always be fans who want to hear the old stuff and the occasional obscure song and of course you have to play some new tracks. Do you find it hard to make a set that is for fans of all eras? Especially when you are playing somewhere where you guys have never toured?
BRIAN WHEAT: Yeah, we change the set every night. There are some songs that are core TESLA songs that are in the set every night like ‘Modern Day Cowboy’, ‘Love Song’ and the other fifteen songs are whatever we feel like playing. We cover every record. We will play all the songs that you would expect to hear, the radio hits and we do play some obscure stuff as well as stuff off the ‘Reel to Reel’ albums. It’s a two hour show, sometimes it goes a little more.
Cameron Edney: Awesome, are you guys bringing a full stage show with you, or will we be seeing a more stripped back, here we are let’s rock performance?
BRIAN WHEAT: No, no, no. Of course there will be lights, drums and amps but no special effects or anything. TESLA has never been a band who has relied on their stage sets. It’s always been about the songs.
Cameron Edney: Do you find it a lot less stressful having your own record label rather than working for the larger corporate companies? Do you feel like you have more freedom to do whatever you want?
BRIAN WHEAT: Of course! It’s less stressful cause you know what’s going on. No ones lying to you. If you’ve spent one hundred thousand dollars marketing a record you know you’ve spent it, not spent thirty when they’re telling you you’ve spent one hundred! Which is really what happens!
Cameron Edney: TESLA fans are incredible and extremely dedicated. What are your thoughts on fans getting TESLA tattoos?
BRIAN WHEAT: It’s funny to see people with my name tattooed on their arms. I’m flattered, it’s crazy [laughs]. I’m in the band and I don’t even have a tattoo of TESLA on me [laughs]. The first time it kind of freaked me out a little bit! This chick said “sign my stomach I’m gonna get it tattooed”! I said “no you don’t wanna get my name there”. She came back a couple of weeks later and she had all of our names tattooed on her stomach.
BRIAN WHEAT: Yeah, we did that monstrous ‘Hysteria’ tour with them in America and that was early on in our career. The guys took us under their wings and we learned a lot from them. Just by watching them and being around them everyday. They just treated us better than anyone else I’d ever supported on tour. They went out of their way to treat us extra good on tour. We’re still close buddies with all of those guys.
Cameron Edney: The ‘Hysteria’ tour is known as the craziest Def Leppard tours to date. With all the backstage and under-stage debauchery I guess being a relatively new band at that time; it would have opened up your eyes to much more than playing at the Whiskey on a Thursday night!
BRIAN WHEAT: Yeah, I was a kid man. There was a lot going on and a lot to take in [laughs].
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] I bet there was! I think we will leave it at that [laughs]
BRIAN WHEAT: Yeah! [Laughs].
Cameron Edney: Mate, what is the craziest rumor you had ever heard about yourself and or the band?
BRIAN WHEAT: The craziest rumour I have ever heard about myself is that I was dead. As far as the band, I don’t know what the craziest rumour would be. Most of the shit that’s said about us is true [laughs].
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] Who have you been surprised to learn is a fan of the band?
BRIAN WHEAT: The biggest surprise was when Jimmy Page told me that he really enjoyed the ‘Five Man Acoustical Jam’ record when I had met him for the first time. I said “dude, I didn’t even think you knew who I was”.
Cameron Edney: [Laughs]
BRIAN WHEAT: It doesn’t get any bigger than that!
Cameron Edney: Yeah mate, that’s for sure! You have grown up influenced by some of the greatest bands in rock n roll history such as The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Do you feel you have played a large role in influencing many of today’s hard rock acts?
BRIAN WHEAT: Ah, I don’t know man. There are young bands that come up to us and say they grew up listening to us. Just the other day we played a big festival and Papa Roach, Buckcherry and Hinder were also on the bill. It was really nice to see them all sitting on the side of the stage to watch our set. We played before the three of them and they all had quite a bit of respect for us which was really nice.
Cameron Edney: Looking back to when you first started out did you ever think that more than twenty years on you would still be releasing albums and touring the world?
BRIAN WHEAT: No. You never really imagine that! It’s been twenty one years and when you look back on it, you wonder where did all the time go. But it’s what you do. It’s in your blood, it’s part of your life.
Cameron Edney: Mate there is so much more id love to talk to you bout but it seems we’re running out of time so I just have a couple more questions for ya! After all these years in the business what goals have you set for yourself these days?
BRIAN WHEAT: To enjoy myself! It’s gotta be fun still. If it’s not fun it’s not worth it.
Cameron Edney: Has there been too many times over the years where it’s seemed like more of a burden?
BRIAN WHEAT: At times it has been a pain in the ass, when the focus wasn’t on what it should have been. At the moment we are all having a pretty good time.
Cameron Edney: Brian, what is the one band you never want to hear again and why?
BRIAN WHEAT: The one band I never want to hear again in my life?
Cameron Edney: Yep!
BRIAN WHEAT: Oh man you’re putting me on the spot, no matter what I say I’m gonna look like a prick!
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] I know it can be hard to narrow it down!
BRIAN WHEAT: Let me just say that there are several bands that I’d never care to hear again in my life but I won’t say who they are!
Cameron Edney: [Laughs] Well we will leave it at that mate [laughs]! Brian once again I want to thank you for ya time today. All the best out on the road and with the release of ‘Reel to Reel, Vol. 2’.