By Brian M. Howle
Much like their namesake, Tesla is one of those often-overlooked American rock bands that have shown fledgling musicans the true meaning of “never say die.” (See HOB article on Page 25). Surpassing the 20-year mark as a band, these boys have never left a crowd disappointed, and I can tell you from extensive experience – that ain’t always the case. So in preparation for their visit to the House Of Blues on Sept. 17, I spoke with bassist Brian Wheat as the band awaited that night’s show in New Hampshire.
Alternatives: First of all, allow me to congratulate you on having such a fine, strong, correctly-spelled first name!
Wheat: (Laughs) Oh, yeah, well thank you. And same to you, too!
Alternatives: How’s the current tour going for you guys? And where are you at the moment?
Wheat: Oh, it’s great, man. Right now I’m in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire for a show tonight. Yeah, the band is tight as ever, sounding good, and the crowds have been terrific. Just a great response, and we really appreciate it, too. Yeah, we’ve been traveling all over, and this is the final leg of our U.S. tour. Then we’re off to Australia, Japan and Europe on into November, and after that we’ll be back in the studio again, probably around March of next year.
Alternatives: Tell us about ‘Real To Reel,’ your latest CD.
Wheat: You can buy Real To Reel at all retail outlets, such as your Best Buys, Wal-Marts, K-marts, Targets, and your local record store. With this album, I think you really get to see where we came from and what we’re about. This is what Tesla grew up on before we became Tesla. This is where Brian Wheat learned how to play bass listening to Paul McCartney, or Frank Hannon listening to Jimmy Page, or Jeff Keith listening to Aerosmith or Humble Pie.
Alternatives: Does this live show reflect the album predominately, or are just some of the songs added to your standard set?
Wheat: Oh, there are like 4 or 5 of the RTR tunes, and the rest are all of your Tesla favorites!! The covers are always a kick to add into the show, and we love ‘em. It’s good to mix it up, and the fast seem to really enjoy it.
Alternatives: And there’s a very cool addition extra for your fans who attend this show, isn’t there?
Wheat: Oh yeah! You show your ticket stub after you’re in, and you’ll get a special CD of additional tunes by Tesla, 12 bonus tracks in all, called ‘Reel 2.’ It’s our way of saying “thanks” for supporting us and buying our music from us on our own label. Everyone’s been great to us over the years, and we just wanted to figure out a way to give something back. And this was the perfect way.
Alternatives: Sweet! I know folks will be tickled to find out they get a “freebie” out of seeing you live! So tell me, what’s your creative process [in songwriting] like?
Wheat: Well, it’s pretty standard, really. Someone pitches their idea and what it’s like – you know, basic groove, chorus, bridges and leads and all that, and then everyone else starts contributing ideas .. it pretty much goes like that. Sometimes things are worked out in your head before you even present it, but most of the time we work it off of each other and make it an honest collaboration. It can be handful, but it’s a lot of fun, and very rewarding when you have the finished product.
Alternatives: So, how’s the new guy? (Dave Rude, guitarist – not exactly new after a couple of years with the band – who replaced original guitarist Tommy Skeoch).
Wheat: Oh, he’s amazing, a great, kick-ass guitarist, and a really good guy, too. He’s been with Tesla for about two years now, and we just have a great time whatever we’re doing.
Alternatives: I understand you guys have formed your own recording label, “Tesla Electric Recording Company.” What’s it like to have your own label, and what are the key advantages and/or disadvantages?
Wheat: Man, the single greatest thing is the total freedom to do whatever we want, without the corporate thumb being involved, you know? Having that control, man – that’s it in a nutshell. That is unbelievably great. It opens up so many possibilities for everyone, and it’s so much less stressful. And we’re now in complete control of our finances and business decisions, so it makes us smarter businessmen and partners. It’s just a great deal all around. And there’s really not a disadvantage, as far as we can tell.
Alternatives: So when you guys come to a place like Myrtle Beach, which is a resort area besides just another HOB venue, do you get to take any time off to enjoy it? Or are you pretty much back in the bus and on the road after the show?
Wheat: (Laughs) No, sadly, we’re pretty much heading on to the next show in New Orleans. It would be nice to be able to do that, but no, not yet. But we sure hope to be able to come back and visit one day when we’re not committed to being someplace to do a show the next day, and can just hang out. That would be nice.
Alternatives: Well, we’d love to have you stay awhile with us here in paradise. Now, what’s in the future for Tesla?
Wheat: Oh, man, just to keep rockin’ and hoping folks come out and enjoy the show. Even though we can’t stay too long beyond the show (laughs), we always have a great time there. And we want everyone else to have a great time, too. So come on and help us rock the HOB – we’re looking forward to seeing everyone!
Thanks, Brian. You guys take care and we’ll see you on Monday, Sept. 17 among all the “signs.” So I urge you all – veteran Tesla fans and newbies alike – to be at HOB for this show, because every time these boys come to town, that HOB stage needs a day to cool off. See ya at the show!
This article originally appeared in Alternatives NewsMagazine, September 13, 2007.