Interview and Photos By Robert Cavuoto
Tesla is currently touring North America this Summer and Fall before heading down to South America for the Monsters of Rock Cruise in February of 2018.
The band has been alive and kicking for 30 years with plenty of life still left in them. Most recently they put out a stellar rock solid CD called Simplicity, in 2014 and will be releasing their next studio CD in the Spring 2018 currently titled Stereo Animation. It will be produced by the legendary guitarist and good friend of the band, Phil Collin of Def Leppard.
The CD was in part recorded as Telsa traveled across the US with Def Leppard on buses, in backstage dressing rooms, and in hotel rooms. An interesting approach that the band feels is invigorating and has them re-energized. When the magic of writing great riffs has eluded many bands, it clearly shines strong with Tesla.
I caught up with guitarist Frank Hannon to talk about the tour, Tesla new CD as well as solo CD due from him on New Year’s Eve.
Robert Cavuoto: How has the tour been going so far?
Frank Hannon: It’s been fantastic. We are playing great venues. We are playing songs that I was playing when I was in my teens. Those songs are still turning people on and that blows me away. We have been going strong 30 years – we are alive and still kicking ass!
Robert Cavuoto: How long does it take the band to get up to speed before a tour?
Frank Hannon: It really doesn’t take us long anymore. We will practice for a couple of days if we are going to try out new material. We also practice at our sound checks. We are very diligent about working and staying on top of our game. These songs are so ingrained in us it’s like riding a bike. We did have some rehearsals this time around because we are doing some special video projections behind the band which require some timing with the lighting director.
Robert Cavuoto: How long is the setlist and how many songs are you playing?
Frank Hannon: We play 90 minutes about 16 songs. We really try and cover the whole gamut of our catalog. There are so many songs and so little time but the fans always walk away happy and we are blessed.
Robert Cavuoto: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of touring?
Frank Hannon: Touring for our organization has become solid in the sense the sense of scheduling. We map out the day by the hour! I know exactly what I’m going to be doing at 4:00 today. The scheduling used to be the most difficult part of touring has now it has become the easiest. The hardest part of it is having to make yourself at home in a 3′ x 7′ bunk bed on the tour bus. You have to live in that bunk a month or two. You put all your personal belongings in there and you can’t bring much stuff as you have to travel light. When you are gone, you can get lonely missing your wife, family, and dog. Other than that the shows are great, the bus rides are nice, and being in a different city every day is interesting.
Robert Cavuoto: How does that compare to when you were younger?
Frank Hannon: We don’t party on the road anymore. If we do have a beer on the road, it’s really minimal. We’ve learned over time that you can’t mix alcohol into the touring equation. Alcohol can ruin marriages and people lives. When you have a team of players like we have with the crew and band, we have to keep those things under control. When we were in our twenties, we were rolling but now that we are in our fifties it’s a different ball game.
Robert Cavuoto: How about healthy eating while traveling, is that a challenge?
Frank Hannon: We have been very fortunate as the venues provide really nice catering. Today we had salad and chicken cordon blue. We don’t eat poorly on the road as we have great catering. When we are on tour with Def Leppard, those guys have the best catering services in the world. Sometimes we end up with so much food on the tour bus that we stop at homeless shelters or give the extra to people on the street.
Robert Cavuoto: You have some amazing looking and sounding guitars that you use on stage, how many guitars do you typically take out on tour?
Frank Hannon: I need a few electric and acoustic guitars as I use a different tuning. One of my acoustics is a Gibson J-50 and that’s a standard open E tuning to use a slide on. I also have a Gibson Hummingbird. My main electric is a Gibson SG. The Gibson Explorer that I was using for a while was a gift from Gunnar Nelson. That one is back home as I swapped it out with my Peter Frampton Les Paul. I don’t have a monster collection but every guitar that I do have I use. If I don’t use it, I’ll sell it and donate the money to charity. At this point, I have collected a few SGs, Les Pauls, Strats, and Teles. I use every one of them. The stage guitars will stay out here and stored in a truck in Nebraska. I need some guitars when I do my solo shows to promote my new covers CD. I’ll have to use my other guitars for those shows. My favorite’s right now is my Peter Frampton three-pickup Les Paul Custom and my Robby Krieger model Gibson SG.
Robert Cavuoto: When will the solo covers CD be released?
Frank Hannon: It will come out New Year’s Eve. I was going to call it Under Cover but I heard that Motorhead is releasing a CD with that name. I’m changing the title of it and leaning towards, Songs from the Road because I recorded the songs on a little 8-track hand recorder while on tour in my hotel rooms and dressing rooms. I picked some great songs as want to challenge myself to sing. Jeff Keith is a great singer but I like to sing too.
Robert Cavuoto: What is the status of the new Telsa CD that Phil Collen is producing?
Frank Hannon: The final mixdown is being done. Phil produced it and he did a great job. He was able to take our ideas and turn them into something spectacular. It will be out in the Spring of 2018. I don’t know the title for sure but Phil liked the title Stereo Animation!
Robert Cavuoto: Are you more comfortable as songwriters now than you were with Mechanical Resonance years ago?
Frank Hannon: I’m definitely more comfortable as a person. I was only 19 years old when I made Mechanical Resonance and some of those songs I wrote when I was only 17 or 18 years old. At that age, I was really scared and nervous. I’m definitely more confident as a guitar player, songwriter, and a singer now. I don’t have as much time as I did back then. When you are young, you are not as comfortable as when you are older. Overall I’m more comfortable as a performer and a musician.