Tesla ~ Up Close & Personal with Frank Hannon

Tracy L. Forsyth-Lundy

One of my favorite bands when I was a teenager growing up in Winnipeg was Tesla, not just because they were popular but because they were truly talented as a band. I remember the first time I ever saw them was also the first time I was able to meet them. All four of them were sitting outside in the sun at the back of the arena; they had no problem spending some time with my girlfriends and me. They were all very polite and nice to all of us signed some autographs and we were on our way to the show that evening to enjoy seeing them open up for Def Leppard.

It is twenty years later and Tesla has a brand new DVD out (see it in our review section) and they are also in the middle of preparing a new album for us all to revel in. The foursome has changed slightly; Tommy is no longer a member of the band and Mr. Dave Rude has taken over in his place and let me tell you the guy is AWESOME! Yes, he is young, well– younger than me, but he is incredibly talented and deserves the respect of all music lovers. Although his daily schedule is crazier than mine has ever been, Frank Hannon was kind enough to spend some time with me to discuss their DVD, the new CD as well as the changes made to the members of the band.

TFL: Dave Rude – Amazing, young, talented guitarist & you found him on MySpace of all places.

FH: Yeah! I was searching on MySpace kind of out of desperation really because Tesla had been kind of like stopped. You know I had always seen Tesla like this big giant ship and it was stopped because we kept having so many problems with Tommy over the years. We broke up in the 1990’s because of his problems and then we got back together and then we lost another 3 years over rehab treatment and cancelled shows. You know it’s like a big train, you got to have your momentum going you can’t keep stalling yourself with problems…you know what I mean?

TFL: You know I didn’t want to pose “The Tommy” question, I figured there were reasons he wasn’t with the band. You’ve got Dave; he seems to be a nice fit with you guys.

FH: Well thanks a lot! Yeah, but I’m sorry to be long winded with that that answer but we were stalled pretty much and I put together a solo band where I was auditioning several guitar players and I had gone through another kid that was a lot younger who was really talented – he was like 19. It didn’t work out with him. I was feeling kind of desperate because I really wanted to get Tesla going so out of desperation I got on MySpace and started searching around. (Laughing)

TFL: Well it’s an excellent tool for everybody & it’s a good way to stay in touch with your fans. I talk to a lot of musicians everyday on MySpace – I think it’s fabulous.

FH: No, No, I’m just joking about the desperation part – but it is fabulous and it’s such a great network and it really helped us a lot! I mean Dave is such a great find and he’s right here in our backyard right down the highway in Oakland & which is like literally an hour away at the most. It worked out perfect because we were looking at guys in L.A. and all over the country and to find Dave right here was such a good feeling. I was like jumping for joy for like 2 weeks when I found him because I kind of had to talk the band into auditioning him because they were set on this other guy and I said ‘nah, Dave smokes him!’ he’s freakin’ awesome.

TFL: He seems to have a really good personality too you know. I imagine he is a lot of fun but he looks so professional when he’s on stage I was almost in awe watching him. ‘5 Man Acoustical Jam’ is hands down my favorite album because it is SO kickass (laughing) I love that album, for some reason that album just grabbed me the first time I heard it. I kind of chuckled on the DVD when Dave said he was 12 years old when he got ‘5 Man Acoustical Jam’ and I looked at my husband and said “Man we’re old!” (Both laughing).

TFL Jumping into your DVD – why Minnesota to record the DVD? Was it done on purpose or was that your best performance you had recorded?

FH: No it was done on purpose. We didn’t record multiple performances it was just the one night & we had to plan for it well in advance. To set up the recording truck and do it properly we had to be really prepared for it because we knew we only had one shot to do it & it’s pretty expensive bringing in all of that stuff and the cameras and everything. We planned it in a way where it was going to be mid way through a tour, we would have a day off prior to the tour to set up & it just worked out the best because we knew the owners of that club called the ‘Myth’. The Midwest has always been a good crowd for Tesla so we thought it would be the right place to do it.

Tesla Color

Tesla ColorTFL: When is your new album coming out?

FH: It will be Tesla Colorout October 7, 2008. It is amazing you know, we set some crazy deadline for ourselves this year and we have met every one of them. Mastering on like August 23rd, the artwork has to be turned in August 12th, now that we’re managing ourselves we’re learning so much about deadlines & pressure and putting all of this stuff together in a timely fashion you know.

TFL: Is there any plans for Western Canada in your tour?

FH: I was looking at the dates yesterday and I think I saw a Canadian date somewhere around a Chicago date but I don’t know for sure. We’re definitely going to come up there again I mean our motto now is we want to conquer the world. We’ve been going to Europe – we played festivals in Belgium & Sweden, we went to Australia so we want to go everywhere we possibly can throughout the whole world and we’ll definitely come to Canada. We even talked about going to Rio as well.

TFL: ‘Dear Private Ledbetter’ – you played your new song on the DVD it’s very cool. Is everyone in the band involved in the writing process, Frank, or is it just a few of you guys who are kind of the core writers?

FH: Well it starts off with the core writers being Jeff & myself pretty much but then when it comes to making an album in the studio the whole band will twist it up and change things around and throw their ideas in. Then like Brian our bass player he’ll bring in some ideas as well and Dave brought some ideas in on this new record we are putting out so it ultimately ends up being collaboration. Even on this new record we collaborated with Terry Thomas our producer. It does turn out better when you get a group of people brainstorming & collaborating and putting together their energy. The core or the seed of the song usually starts with myself or Jeff.

TFL: How has your new song done with your fans? How are they taking in the new music now?

FH: ‘Dear Private Ledbetter’ is the first song we have put out; our fans are pretty hungry for new music. Like I had said before about our past, we always would…it would take us forever to get anything done with all of the problems that we had in the past. So our fans have always said ‘Come on man– hurry up and put out something new” you know. This year, I tell you what; 2008 has been the most productive year probably in our whole career. We started writing in January, we put out a live DVD, we toured all over the world and now we’re putting out a new studio album called ‘Forever More’ & all in one year. In the past it would take us like 5 or 10 years to do that – you know what I mean?

Anyways about ‘Private Ledbetter’ the fans seem to really like the lyrics and the story of the soldier & sending a letter to his mom. The fans seem to…we kind of hit a soft spot with our fans.

TFL: That was one thing I notice right away is not many bands are touching on that subject at all. I have this joking name for it I call it – ‘The Dixie Chick Syndrome’ – so many artists are afraid to say something or write a song & voice out their opinions through music against what the government is doing or against the war. Because of what the Dixie Chicks went through bands started to shy away from the topic. Were you afraid of what people were going to think or how they were going to react because of that?

FH: NO, not really because I don’t feel we did it in an obnoxious way. You know like processing and coming out like in way where it was like Rage Against The machine where it is just like blatant kind of anti-government stuff. I feel we did it in a really classy and respectful way & actually honoring the troop and honoring the soldier – we did it in a positive way not a negative way I feel. I was pretty confident about that song; I love the message of the3 song & the concept of it.

TFL: With ‘The Love Song’ you guys do the freestyle at the start of the song, which is brilliant, are you both trained in Classical Guitar?

Frank Hammond

FH: (Laughing) No, not really. It’s just kind of one of those things, I grew up in a house of Mexicans (laughing) I grew up listening to Mexican music when I was a kid.

TFL: You always wait for those key crucial songs to see, especially when there is a new member in the band, I found myself picking my jaw up off of the floor. I was really in awe, I would have to say that you guys sound just as good if not better than you ever have in your whole career.

FH: Ah, wow – thanks a lot. We feel better than we ever have in our career so that’s probably what you’re hearing or seeing. Thank you I appreciate that because ‘You gotta go through it to get to it’ – you ever hear that expression? We went through a lot of ups and downs & a lot of problems. We’re getting to a place now where we can take charge of what we’re doing.

TFL: Is the hat & flag part of every show for you?

FH: (Laughing) No, I was just kind of goofing off. Trying to lighten up the atmosphere with the flag, but I’ve been wearing the hat off and on because it goes with the song (Signs). I tuck my hair in under my hat & I’ve got a couple that are top hats that I like to thrown on once in awhile but it’s kind of like my tribute to Leon Wilkinson from Lynrd Skynrd who is one of my favorite stage characters. I tell you what happened – we were playing on St. Patrick’s Day one year and somebody threw up this big green leprechaun hat on the stage & I picked it up and I put it on and I looked over at Jeff, Tommy & Brian and they were all laughing at me. So ever since then I thought it was kind of a goofy funny way to lighten up the atmosphere on stage because sometimes it can get too serious you know what I mean?

TFL: When you’re playing it looks like you are in a hypnotic state you know you’re so focused on what you’re doing &Dave is the same. It’s like you become one with your guitar, I can see the passion in what you’re playing in every song. You don’t look bored you are just so intense when you’re playing your guitar I think that’s why you guys are so phenomenal – you’re very passionate about your music.

FH: Well thanks a lot; yeah it’s been a life saver for me. We came from pretty rough neighborhoods, me and Brian grew up in south Sacramento, music was like our escape a way to get out of the ghetto so to speak you know so it’s a great feeling and it’s definitely a part of our souls for sure.

TFL: What is your favorite song to perform live?

FH: Oh I don’t know they’re all so different, I like the little acoustic solo stuff with Dave and that kind of thing but I also like Modern Day Cowboy & Whatcha Give. Coming Atcha Live is a lot of fun because it’s just a lot of guitar jamming you know.

TFL: When you guys were in Seattle did you go to the Experience Music Project Museum?

FH: No, we didn’t make it there; we went up to the Space Needle and stuff…

TFL: Awh, you were right there then!

FH: Yeah, I don’t know why we didn’t go in – I don’t think we could afford it. (Laughing)

TFL: I was just in Seattle, took the whole family. That Experience Music Project is just a brilliant building. There is so much history and so many guitars, it’s a hands-on kind of place. You’re a musician so it might not entice you as much, but I’m musically declined (laughing), so if I can go in and grab some drumsticks and be tutored through it with a computer and actually be able to sit there and play drums, it was fabulous!

FH: Wow, yeah, I should definitely check it out. I’m a Hendrix freak so I love Jimi Hendrix and I should go check it out. They have some of his guitars on display there, don’t they?

TFL: Yup, they do and if you want to see something even better, then go see his grave site. They have this huge memorial set up at the actual cemetery where Jimi is buried.

FH: Wow!

TFL: It’s just outside of Seattle as well.

FH: My guitar tech Robbie he plays drums with me in my solo band he’s a Hendrix nut, too, & I think the last time we were in Seattle, I think he went there and he told me how huge it was.

TFL: My husband was in awe at the guitar store you went into. When he saw that on your DVD he said “Why didn’t we find that guitar store?” because he’s a music buff as well & plays as a hobby.

FH: (Laughing) Yeah, so you watched the bonus features and stuff then, huh.

TFL: Oh yeah, we watched everything!

FH: Right on!

TFL: Is there anything you want to tell your fans?

Tesla Group shot

FH: Yeah, that we’re really grateful that they’re loyal to us. Like you said earlier a lot of bands can’t do this stuff 20 – 25 years later and we’re grateful that we can still do what we do. Thank you & we’ll try not to disappoint you. We’re going to keep putting out albums and put them out a lot faster nowadays.

I think there will be a cold day in hell before I ever see Tesla perform live and disappoint me. October will come fast and I cannot wait to hear the full album, I’m sure the guys of Tesla has cooked up another smoking hot album for us to rock out to. Check them out & stock up on your Tesla my friends because they are back, they are louder, stronger and more energetic than you have ever seen! Backstage Live Magazine welcomes Tesla with wide open arms into our magazine family. TURN IT UP!

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