TESLA, for the uninitiated, is a rock band from Sacramento, Calif. Their debut release, Mechanical Resonance was released in 1986. Their first appearance in the Gate City was in 1987, as support act for Def Leppard on the Hysteria tour. I was at this show, and after they finished their warm-up set I did not care what Def Leppard had to say. This was real rock and roll, not the over-processed hair rock that was beginning to saturate the airwaves, and would for the next five years. There were no samples or drum machines here. No spandex, no makeup — just five guys with an original singer, two great guitar players, a solid rhythm section… and great songs.
The great songs continued for several more albums, with radio success following. “Love Song,” “What You Give” and a cover of the Five Man Acoustical Band’s “Signs” were all over the radio in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Twenty-two years later, the band has released a return-to-form album, Forever More, and is bringing its current tour to Greensboro’s historic Carolina Theatre on Feb. 20. Guitarist Frank Hannon was kind enough to talk to me for a few minutes about the new record, as well as give some insight into the TESLA fan of today.
RockShow News: Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. You kicked off your tour last week, correct?
Hannon: Yeah, we are in Amarillo, Texas. Last night we were in El Paso, and we’re getting our tour rolling again. We kicked it off last week in our hometown Sacramento at the Memorial Auditorium, which is really cool for us. It’s an old venue that we used to go see shows in as kids, and anytime we can play there it is a great thing.
RSN: You’re also celebrating the release of your new record, Forever More, on vinyl….
Hannon: That’s right. We made a thousand of them, and it looks like we might make some more, because they are going pretty quick, people are eating them up. You forget how cool it was to be able to buy a record and have all that in your hands so you can look, hold and feel the music.
RSN: I want to take a moment to talk about the new release. One immediate thing that impressed me about it was the production. How much openness there is, and how it lets all the components have some breathing room, and lets the song stand out… like the great albums of the ’70s.
Hannon: Yeah. We took all our ideas and pretty much stripped them down, and brought them down to the bare minimum and tried to create a lot of space for the vocal. We learned a lot of that from Terry Thomas, the producer of the record. A lot of the records that he has produced, if you listen to the Foreigner albums that he did, the Bad Company records… that’s his style. He likes to strip it down and put a lot of space into the mix.
RSN: This is your first album of original material with new guitar player, Dave Rude, isn’t it? How was that experience?
Hannon: The vibes are better, the atmosphere is better…. He is willing to work and stay positive and be a member of the team. It just makes the flow better all the way around. From touring, living on a bus, making videos, making records, whatever…. It’s just a lot easier now that everybody is on the same page.
RSN: Talking about touring. Touring now versus touring in the late ’80s: How is it now, what is the makeup of your audience?
Hannon: We have the classic diehard TESLA fans that are our age, and most of them have teenage kids now, and they bring the kids with them. There are also a bunch of younger fans that are finding us on MySpace and the internet. You know, the younger generation is really appreciating good rock and roll, in particular ’70s and ’80s rock cause if feels good and it’s good music… it’s fun to listen to and not a downer, and a lot of kids are grabbing onto that.
RSN: You bring up an interesting point, that kids today are getting more into real rock music. How much do you think games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero play into that?
Hannon: My son plays Guitar Hero, man. Guitar Hero is great, because it has a lot of great music on there and kids are playing along to their favorite tunes, most of which came out long before they were born. It’s all classic, killer guitar rock. My 11-year-old son is a Randy Rhoads fan because of Guitar Hero, and I think that is great.
RSN: Back to the new record, Forever More, for a minute. There are several great tracks on there. “I Wanna Live” with its upbeat positive message seems to have drawn from real experience.
Hannon: I think, when you get older, you start appreciating life a lot more, and realize that when you are young you just waste a lot of time. There is a lot of personal experience on there. On the song “Breaking Free,” Jeff really put his heart into the lyrics and exposed some of the things that he is going through, some bizarre things that he is going through with his ex-wife.
RSN: “Fallin’ Apart” is a hit, in a perfect world… and the song “Pvt. Leadbetter,” is a very well written tribute to our troops, with a nice twist in the lyric.
Hannon: Well, thanks “Fallin’ Apart” is our next single at HOT AC radio. We just made a video for it. We had some friends act in it, and it should be coming out here in a few weeks.
RSN: “Pvt. Leadbetter” we’re kind of psyched about, in that the twist can be taken in several ways. It started out as a song that I was working on lyrically, and Jeff took it and twisted it. A real collaboration on that one.
RSN: Anything you want to leave us with?
Hannon: We are busier than ever. We have a new DVD, Comin Atcha Live, which I was finishing as we were writing the new record. We are totally independent now, busier than ever, but it is better than ever, cause we aren’t relying on record companies and people who don’t know us to do our artistic stuff for us. I look forward to coming to Greensboro. I love those old venues, and I met my wife in North Carolina, and I love it out there.
Original article available at: http://stratoclay.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/TESLA-frank-hannon-interview-2102009/