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About ten years ago, the music industry wiped out the hair bands and got rid of the evidence with the speed and precision of a government conspiracy. Now our collective unconscious is putting together the pieces of broken memories from the 80s and 90s and those hair bands are starting to sprout up again one by one. The truth is out there. . . My search for the truth led me to an interview with a bass player named Brian Wheat from the band Tesla (Frank Hannon was caught up at the guitar stores on 48th Street. I cannot blame him for not prying himself away). Back when MTV used to play videos I can remember always seeing the Tesla videos for "Love Song" and "Signs". What happened to them? Was there foul play involved? Let's find out.

METAL UPDATE: Take us back to when Tesla broke up. What happened there?


MU: Drugs?

BW: Drugs. Drugs broke the band up. Tommy Skeeoch left first. He had a bad problem with drug addiction. We were all kind of drug addicts actually. Maybe we were all in denial to a certain degree. It's hard to communicate when you're all fucked up.

MU: That seems pretty normal for a rock and roll band.

BW: I mean it's not the whole thing. It's one thing. Years and years and years of being together.

MU: Got caught up in the rock & roll lifestyle?

BW: Not even. We're the most un-rock & roll lifestyle guys there are comparatively. It was the drugs. It was the fact that we were together during album tour, album tour, album tour. No breaks. Things like that just took its toll on us.

MU: So you just got burnt out?

BW: Yeah, we just got burnt out from everything that contributes to the burn out factor. That was all. It happens to everybody.

MU: Sure. You put five guys in a tour bus for that long and they're bound to get on each others nerves. . .

BW: Twelve years in a submarine together is a long time.

MU: So what were the forces that brought you guys back together? More drugs?

BW: No. Hopefully we're past all that. It was a radio station in Sacramento called 98 Rock. The guy who runs it is a real good friend of ours. He would come around and see us socially and say what do you guys think of doing a reunion show? This went on for a couple of years.

MU: You guys were still talking to each other?

BW: Yes. Tommy was only talking to Jeff. Tommy plays with Jeff in their band Bar 7. I was still talking to Jeff and Frank. Frank and Jeff were talking. I don't know if Troy and Jeff talked very much in the five years we were apart, but we were all talking. We didn't all get on the phone with each other to say we were going to do this reunion show. We all said if they say yeah, then I'll say yeah. Once we all got into a room together the first time in how many years, it was like we belong together.

MU: Picking up your instruments for the first time together again, what was that like?

BW: That was pretty cool, pretty electric, pretty magic. Electricity flying around the room that night. You know, that's what we do best is play music together. To make decisions about other things is not really our forte, but writing songs and making music is what we do well together.

MU: So you felt right at home?

BW: We felt totally at home. It was like we went on a long journey and just came back home.


MU: So this initial Sacramento show ballooned into a whole tour?

BW: Yeah. It turned into three shows then in turned into a tour. Now it's a full blown reunion with a record release coming.

MU: So are you doing a live album or new material?

BW: We're gonna do a live album, new material and a record of covers. The thing that we're at right now, is what order do we put them out in? Some people say do the live album first, some say do the studio record first, do the cover album first. We're trying to figure out what would be the best for us. I'm thinking that we should do the studio album first would be the best.

MU: What can the old Tesla fans expect when they go to see you on tour this time?

BW: For the first time in years it's all five of us together. That's new. We play much, much better than we ever did. It's the five of us up there for two hours. We play all the hits, play a couple of covers. We rock hard for two hours.

MU: Do you have the same energy?

BW: Yes, probably more. I think we actually have more energy than we used to.

MU: What have the audiences been like?

BW: Every show is sold out. It's young. It's old.

MU: Are the same girls there but ten or fifteen years older now?

BW: And ten or fifteen pounds heavier! (laughs) Some of those and some that have managed to stay in great shape. There's younger ones.

MU: Excellent.

BW: It's not like all young kids, but there are a surprising amount of young people. We were actually surprised by it.

MU: What is the new material gonna sound like?

BW: I don't know yet. We're still working on it. I would imagine it would sound like Tesla and what Tesla should hopefully sound like in 2002. We're not gonna completely redo what we do, but we're gonna put a lot of modern seasoning in it. It will still be Tesla. It will still be what you would expect from a Tesla record.

MU: Musically what have you been doing over the years since Tesla broke up?

BW: I have another band called Soulmotor that's really heavy on Sanctuary. It's really heavy. It doesn't sound anything like Tesla. I was doing that when they called me. Of course, the tour has turned into doing more albums and has complicated things, but it's all good.

MU: So you're a fan of heavy music?

BW: I like it all. I like System of a Down, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Linkin Park, Korn, Godsmack. I like all the heavy rock you hear on the radio these days. I also really like pop too.

MU: That shows through in your sound. You write very catchy songs.

BW: The Beatles are my favorite band. When Tesla broke up, I wanted to do something different. I chose to go heavy instead of going pop. But even though the Soulmotor stuff is heavy, it's still very melodic.

MU: But we can still expect some of the heavy elements to come through in Tesla.

BW: Absolutely. Heavy grooves. As far as my contribution, I want a lot of heavy grooves. I want it to be very rhythmic.

MU: What about the other guys in the band? You said Jeff and Tommy have a band together?

BW: They have a band called Bar 7. It sounds a lot more like Tesla than, say, Soulmotor. Obviously, Jeff's singing. No matter what he sings, he has that recognizable voice.

MU: The other guys in the band, do they have other projects?

BW: Frank had a band called Moon Dog Mane which has a Lynyrd Skynyrd type of southern twist. Troy didn't do anything. He produced a few people and he was doing roofing. He had a roofing business.

MU: So on a more personal note, what is life like after Tesla before the reunion tour? Those down years.

BW: Honestly, when Tesla broke up, I thought, "Oh my god, what am I gonna do?" It was my life. And I learned to live without Tesla in those five years off. Even though I missed it. I missed the guys and I missed playing. I was the last one that wanted to leave the band. I was the last one standing. I learned to live without it. When you are forced into situations like that you stand up and rise to the occasion or you crumble. I stood up. I said, "Okay, I do music and this is what I do. I'll start another band; and I'll get another record deal and I'll get on the radio." And that's what I did. It obviously wasn't as comfortable. Tesla being together and playing is very lucrative. Starting a band from the ground and playing small clubs isn't the same thing.

MU: What about your old record contract? Who were you signed to before?

BW: We were signed to Geffen. Tesla are free agents right now. When we broke up, the company gave us a release. We were writing songs for another record when we broke up. We're like a free agent in baseball - we can go to whoever wants us. And there are lots of people that are interested in us right now. We are not really looking for a conventional record deal. We are looking for a deal where Tesla shares in much bigger part of the profits.


MU: When you broke up the internet was just starting to emerge. So now how do you guys feel about the Internet? Do you spend a lot of time online?

BW: I'm actually online all the time. I think it's a good thing.

MU: Do you have a website?

BW: - You can go and find more information on the site.

MU: Are you gonna put mp3s out there and sell stuff over the web?

BW: Well, maybe some rare things for the fans, but we're not going to sell records over the internet. People still buy more records in record stores.

MU: That'll probably be the case for a while.

BW: Yes, for a long while. People like to have things immediately. They go to the store and come right home with it and pop it in the player. They don't have to wait two or four days for it to come from CDnow or CDbaby. I mean, people do buy CDs that way. I may be wrong, but I don't think the majority of people buy that way. Virgin, Tower, Warehouse, Best Buy and whatever - that's where people buy CDs. People that want to find out what Tesla's doing can go to the website and find out.

MU: Are you guys hands on? Do you respond to emails and stuff?

BW: We're really hands on. I probably spend more time on the web than anyone in the band. I know I do. Absolutely. Jeff second. Tom and Frank hardly ever go on the web.

MU: Have you dusted off all the old basses or have you got yourself some new gear?

BW: No, the same gear. I pulled out all my Tesla basses and dusted them off.

MU: How is the schedule? Is it grueling?

BW: No, it's pretty easy. We do about two and a half weeks on and three weeks off. We learned that part of the reason we broke up was that we were on these tours for a year and a half that were three weeks on and a week off, then three months on and a week off. Now we can control what we do. How many shows we do in a year.

MU: Are you guys all grounded now? Do you have families and such?

BW: Yes, and we're older too. Some of the guys in the group have kids. Everyone's got wives. It's just better to do it that way. We just can't handle any more than three weeks on the road or we get freaked out. Why put yourself through it if you know it's going to happen? It's pretty comfortable now.

MU: Do you have an opening act?

BW: Tonight it's Aisle Q, but every night it's a different local act.

MU: You don't have any band you're taking on the road with you?

BW: No, people actually didn't want to go out on tour with us this time around. They didn't believe that we were gonna sell tickets.

MU: But you've been packing bigger and bigger places as the tour goes on.

BW: Yes, they're selling more and more tickets and now all the bands are saying, "Oh, well hey!" That's kind of been the story with Tesla. The little band that could. Always have to be proving to people - not the fans- the industry types, the journalists and record company people. First we couldn't get anyone to go on tour with us. No one wanted to go. Now, they' re like "Hey, we want to go." This, that and the other. . . alright, we'll see what happens.

MU: So what are you guys listening to on the bus these days?

BW: Everyone of us listens to totally different things. Tommy and I are really into Marilyn Manson and stuff like, the heavier stuff. I don't know what Troy listens to. Jeff, I don't know. Frank's been watching a bunch of old free videos lately. Old Uriah Heep bootleg videos. That's what he's been into lately.

MU: Do you have any final words for the metal public?

BW: Yeah, come out and see Tesla. If you haven't seen us, then come out and see us, maybe you'll enjoy it. If you have, come and see us again. We' re here to stay. For someone who hasn't seen the band, they'll walk away saying, "I didn't know they did that song." A lot of people say, "Hey, I didn't know you did that." It was such a faceless band. I think when people come and see the show, they'll realize who actually did the songs. We haven't got any complaints so far. It's been really positive and I'm really thankful for that. We've worked really hard to make it good again. It's the one thing we've learned in five years off is to make it good.





Interview: Keith Wittenstein [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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