“That is one of or possibly the biggest Wayne’s World moment I have had!” Tesla guitarist Dave Rude on his signature Flying V

No matter what we do, it always sounds like Tesla because of Jeff’s voice, it is so recognisable, because of the way he sings and the way he writes....

Interview by Francijn Suermondt

As I stumbled out of my camper van on a Sunday morning in June 10 years ago, the sun greeted me warmly in the bright blue sky.  Having abstained from alcohol the previous evening at Download Festival (no mean feat for me in 2009), I was anticipating seeing the band I had wanted to see since my early teens, Tesla.  The boys from Sacramento delivered a killer set to the biggest crowd I had ever seen at any music festival at 10am and quite honestly, was one of the best music experiences I have ever had the good fortune to enjoy.

Fast forward to 12th Feb 2019 and again with anticipation, I am waiting on the line to connect to Dave Rude, guitarist with Tesla and, I was soon to find out, all round jolly good egg, to discuss the upcoming album ‘Shock’.

Fran – Thank you so much for speaking to me today as Tesla have always been one of my favourite bands and the sound track to my misspent youth…

Dave – Hahaha … nice!  That’s so cool.

Fran – You have a brand new album out on 8th March, produced by Phil Collen, who I believe also co-wrote and produced the TESLA song “Save That Goodness”, which was released in August 2016 and included on the “Mechanical Resonance Live!” album?

Dave – Yes, Phil actually wrote that whole song. It all came about because we were on tour with Def Leppard and we ended up really being on tour with them for the next three years, which was really cool, in North America and Canada. Obviously the Tesla guys and Def Leppard went way back to the early 80’s, and I also knew them from doing so many shows and festivals together. It was a close connection because we were seeing each other every day, hanging out together and stuff and Phil was sort of always there and giving us advice.  Phil said what about a bonus song for your live album? He had one that he had already written, so we worked on an involved demoing process when we were on the road together, it was really nice, and we ended up with this cool song that did really well in the states etc.

Fran – It is a great song indeed!

Dave – Yeah, so later on that year, after that record came out, we said gee, why not do a whole original record that the band writes and Phil can produce and we can do it the same way, because we knew we would already be doing more touring together.  So we worked on songs while we are on the road whilst we had time.  You know there is a lot of time to kill when you are on the road, between meet and greets and bits like that.

Fran – Yes of course …

Dave – And Phil was obviously busier, due to Leppard being the headline act, but he still gave us the time…. so we used to set up in a dressing room and work it in around our VIP and our sound checks and on our days off got together in hotel rooms etc.

Fran – It sounds great, Phil sounds almost like he was a sixth member of the band in a way …

Dave – Totally, totally, it really was like that, and it was so much fun.  Phil is the nicest guy and so talented.  He really was a great producer on this and he brought the best out of us, so that we made a record that we are all really happy with and pretty excited about.  But because we worked on that one single for the Live album, we had a really good working relationship already, so it made it that much easier.

Fran – You were comfortable already working together and already had that bonding feeling

Dave – Exactly!

Fran – What I found really interesting when I listened to the new album today, was how impressed I was with how the band still sounds very true to Tesla, in fact I found it very evocative of the 2 years I lived in LA in the early 90’s ( Especially ‘Love Is A Fire’ and ‘California Summer Song’).  How do you keep that really true to Tesla sound whilst moving it on to the modern era?

Dave – So glad you like the record …

Fran – Yes it’s wonderful …

Dave – We were conscious of keeping the band’s original sound but also not becoming dated and that is something for the most part we have always tried to do.  Since I joined the band it has been like that and even honestly with our last album it was also. I think no matter what we do, it always sounds like Tesla because of Jeff’s voice, it is so recognisable, because of the way he sings and the way he writes.  But at the same time we have always been careful to not totally repeat ourselves and ensure that we are not those ‘80’s bands’, nothing against them though, I love some of those bands and we play with a lot of them.  But if you are too identified with that era then people tend to not take anything you do later on seriously.

Fran – Yes, I mean Tesla were never, excuse my French, one of the cock rock, hair bands were you ….even back in the 80’s and 90’s I wouldn’t have said.

Dave – I agree and you know that was before I was in the band, so I have the luxury of a fan’s perspective, cos I used to love Tesla when I was a kid. Part of what I liked about the band with their classic stuff, was that they were really more like Aerosmith, in fact they were more like a 70’s band that came out in the 80’s.

Fran – Do you have any stories behind the tracks on Shock? Could you pick a favourite song from the album or do you love them all the same like your babies?

Dave – It would be hard to pick one, but I really love the song Shock, that’s one of my favourites.  And it is also probably one of the weirdest ones, I think it has definitely got the Tesla core elements, but clearly with the different updated sound, with the electronic drum loop and stuff. To me it has a texture that adds to the rock power in the chorus and the verses.  I wrote that song originally a lot faster, it had a different vibe with the same music, but a lot quicker.  We thought, what if we really slowed this down to make a more of a dirty, grind feel to it?

Fran – It had an almost grunge feel to it actually ….

Dave – Yeah, and so it really took a big turn from the original that I had written, so it was really cool that we changed the vibe of the song with the big heavy beats.  It sort of just has a tension with the lyrical sort of content about feeling pressured and under the gun and it explodes in the chorus …. I actually really like ‘Love Is a Fire’ too ….

Fran – I have written a list of my favourites: ‘You Won’t Take Me Alive’, ‘Love Is a Fire’, ‘California Summer Song’ and I absolutely LOVED ‘Tied to the Tracks’

Dave – Ah cool, ‘Tied To The Tracks’, yeah I really like that one, yes this definitely has that classic 70’s rock feel, Frank is playing a lot of slide.  Another track I wrote was The Mission, which is more metal, but is still more classic, it’s old school, like classic Tesla or Def Leppard with guitar, more guitar and riffs.

Fran – Yeah, and I am an old 70’s rock chick at heart, I love all that stuff … You know the only time I have ever seen you guys play was in 2009 at Download.  I have loved Tesla since I was a teenager, I held off the booze the day before in anticipation of your set …and it was the best set of the whole festival.

Dave – Ah thank you!

Fran – And you and Frank were playing your epic guitar battles and everything on stage, you are playing Download again this year aren’t you?

Dave – Yes, we are and really looking forward to it!  We will be in Europe doing festivals for about two weeks.  I am really excited about that, as these festivals are just mind blowing and so much fun to play!

Fran – Talking of festivals and the fact that obviously you have toured with bands such as Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Dave Lee Roth, Alice Cooper and Poison.  You are also doing the Monsters of Rock Cruise on March 1st aren’t you?

Dave – Yes we are …

Fran – That looks like fun!  If you had to pick one or two highlights of your career on tour so far, what would they be?

Dave – You know for me since 2006 when I joined the band, I guess being out with Def Leppard on those tours was just totally amazing in the states, because I mean every show was sold out or almost sold out, but people were coming early for Tesla. This is so weird because people usually just don’t all turn up for the band that is on at say 7pm, usually people are parking or having dinner when the support bands are on right?  But every time we came on stage it would be almost full out there! So we essentially got to play to a full house every day on that tour, and that was pretty amazing.  Wow, to look out and see this sea of people, we are very lucky to have a large and dedicated fan base, but we have always played smaller venues like theatres of a couple of thousand, but suddenly to be exposed to 10,000 people it was like whoa! It’s a different sort of feeling all together!

Fran – Such a buzz I bet!  But you know, that does not surprise me at all. Because I put you in the same category as all those other stadium groups, I think you are an iconic band. When you played at Download in 2009, everyone was so excited to see your set!

Dave – You know that show, was one of the highlights that you are asking about, because I think that was the first time we had done Download and there was a bunch of my favourite bands on that bill. The show went great, it was really fun, I got to meet a bunch of people and hang out with these bands that I love.  We were done early, so I was out bopping around between all the stages, watching all these killer bands. It was just so much fun and because in the UK and really Europe in general, you guys are such rockers, you show up early at festivals!  I mean we could be on at 1pm and there is 30,000 people there! You know in the States when they have these all day festivals, its dead at that time, there’s like 100 people there to watch you! They don’t filter in until the evening.  You know it is pretty mind blowing across Europe and the UK, tons of people want to see cool rock bands, so they are saying ‘OK, we are here, what have you got?’

Fran – And it’s interesting, I was interviewing I think The Dead Daisies, who said that festivals in America don’t have the mix of bands that we do.  So you wouldn’t get Slipknot playing on the same bill as you guys for example….

Dave – I love that, as soon as we started touring Europe, I was blown away by that.  And a couple of times I was a little nervous too, I was thinking ‘Oh man, these people are going to throw rocks at us!’, but these really heavy music fans would end up singing along to ‘Love Song’ … I would be thinking ‘What the hell?’!!  We did a festival in Belgium and there was multiple stages, we were on the bill, as were ‘Chickenfoot’, ‘Jeff Beck’, ‘Lucinda Williams’ … you know a weird mix of acoustic bands and Americana … I love all those bands, but in the States that would never fly, it would have to be three different festivals, you couldn’t mix those types of bands.  And we did a show in Spain and band right before us was a thrash band from LA, I thought, this is it we are definitely going to be in trouble now, but nope, everyone loved it, it was great.  So I love the diversity of line ups over here and that everyone is so cool, they stay and watch and no one throws anything at you!

Fran – We are very polite and if you are good, which you guys obviously are, everyone is just going to love you … I mean it’s a no brainer. We love bands like you that come over to the UK and play for us, cos let’s be honest, the UK is a bit crap compared to California, so people that make the effort to come to us…this really means a lot to rock fans over here.  What other ‘hot off the press’ news do you have for our readers?

Dave – Well I’m really excited about Shock album obviously which is coming out on March 8th. Two songs, ‘Shock’ and ‘Taste Like’ are available now.  But another thing I am really excited about is that last month Epiphone released a signature flying V Dave Rude guitar.  This will be in stores in the spring.

Fran – WOW … that sounds like a real Wayne’s World moment right there!

Dave – Hahahaha!!! Yeah definitely, that’s a great term! That is one of or possibly the biggest Wayne’s World moment I have had!  Like … WOW I’ve got a signature guitar … I can’t believe it! It still has not sunk in it, but I have the prototype out here on the road and I will definitely have it in Europe with me!

Fran – So where can we see the guitar now?

Dave – Check out my Instagram page … you can see loads of pictures on there!  It’s really unique it’s white and red!

Fran – Great ….thanks!! It is interesting to see that not only will ‘Shock’ be available in cd and digital formats, but also in black vinyl and limited edition translucent blue vinyl formats.  Do you feel that the industry is reverting back to vinyl in popularity? 

Dave = Yeah, to a degree it is and I am happy about that, as I grew up with that physical product in my hands.  I know it’s a cliché with guys in older bands, but it’s true man that I prefer having something in my hands, you know I have Spotify on my phone and now days it’s mostly how I listen to my music because it’s difficult any other way, because the companies and trends are making it hard to get the physical product and have a way to listen to them.  I mean you can’t buy a CD Walkman anymore, they don’t exist, unless you find a speciality website and pay twice as much. So I miss the days of having this type of stuff and I’m one of those guys that all I cared about was music and records. I love to read about who was behind the music, like the assistant engineer and stuff, and see everything on the album cover. …all the thank you’s and geeky stuff like that, I mean that’s me. I think it’s great, even if it is a niche market, that we are providing this on vinyl….and that people are excited about it!  In fact all the Tesla records that I have played on I know is available on vinyl now.

Fran – Last question and it’s a bit random! If you could 4 people dead or alive for a dinner party who would they be and why?  AND I see from the Tesla website that you are fan of Thai food, so which Thai dish would you serve them?

Dave – Hahahaha!!!  Oh my gosh, Thai dish for sure we would have Phat si-io (Pad See Ew), you know those really wide noodles with the spicy sauce.  And it would be really cool to hang out with Brian May, he is friends with our bass player, so that would be great.  And how about Nikola Tesla, that would be awesome! Now that would be an interesting conversation!  Hahahhah!!  And then how about Richard Pryor …he would be the best company and then I think Noel Gallagher, I have never met him but I think he and I would get along. In fact I bet he would great to interview!!

Fran – This has been great …I have more questions still, but maybe I can ask them when you are over here in the summer, it has been great talking to you….thank you so much!

Dave – It has been great talking to you too!!  And yes of course you can ask more questions then!!  I’ll see you in the summer!

‘Shock’ will be released on March 8th and to support the release of ‘Shock’, Tesla are heading out on an extensive series of shows across North America, Europe, and elsewhere around the globe throughout 2019.  They will be playing at Download Festival on Friday 14th June.

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Photo Credit: Chris Rugowski

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