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Tesla’s Frank Hannon on band’s return to the stage: ‘Greatest feeling in the world’

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When the band Tesla took the stage in Roanoke, Virginia, last week, it was a moment that guitarist and founding member Frank Hannon says he won’t forget. August was supposed to be go-time for Tesla’s “Let’s Get Real!” tour when Covid struck each member of the band, setting the trek back more than a month. Now healthy, and with an attitude of gratitude, Hannon says Tesla is recharged and ready to rock.

Hannon, along with bassist and band co-founder Brian Wheat, lead singer Jeff Keith, drummer Troy Luccketta and guitarist Dave Rude, plan to do just that on September 23 when the “Let’s Get Real” tour arrives at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts, with southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Four decades after the earliest incarnation of Tesla first got together in Sacramento, California, Hannon says he’s most proud that Tesla’s songs that have withstood the test of time. “To see people respond to our songs 35 years later, because the music makes them feel good, that is a feat,” Hannon said, adding “Songwriting is the most important part of what we do.”

Those enduring tunes, including “Love Song” (a top 10 hit), “What You Give,” “The Way It Is,” and “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out),” have helped Tesla move more than 16 million records. A 1990 cover version of the early 1970s hippie anthem “Signs” gave them another top 10 single.

Tesla’s powerful new single “Cold Blue Steel,” was written by Hannon with lead vocalist and lyricist Jeff Keith, and was partially inspired by Lynyrd Skynyrd, according to Hannon, who cites that band as a major influence. The riff-heavy blues rocker manages to name-check Skynyrd’s legendary original late lead vocalist and lyricist, Ronnie Van Zandt.

During the following interview, Hannon explains the genesis for “Cold Blue Steel.” He describes his personal battle with Covid, and also provides a preview of Tesla’s “Let’s Get Real!” tour.

The Maine Edge: After everything the members of Tesla have been through recently, how did it feel to finally take the stage last night?

Frank Hannon: It was incredible, the greatest feeling in the world, man. There are a lot of things in life that I view differently now. I’m just so grateful for this band and our fans. My attitude is a lot more positive.

The Maine Edge: It’s been 35 years since the band was rechristened as Tesla. How do you think you would have reacted if someone told you then that you’d be packing arenas with Lynyrd Skynyrd in the year 2021?

Frank Hannon: I wouldn’t even have thought about it. Back then I was 19 or 20 and just going with the flow. Lynyrd Skynyrd has always been one of our favorite bands and one of our biggest influences. To be doing it for this long, and to do it with our heroes, is really like a dream come true.

The Maine Edge: There is a Lynyrd Skynyrd connection to your new single, “Cold Blue Steel,” including a reference to Ronnie Van Zandt. How did you and Jeff Keith come up with that song?

Frank Hannon: Cosmically, it all lined up perfectly. We knew were going to hit the road, but we didn’t know it would be with Skynyrd. I was just jamming on that guitar riff in my garage when J.K. pulled up in front of my house. He’d been listening to Skynyrd’s “Saturday Night Special” and he was really fired up about the message and Ronnie’s way of writing lyrics. We started putting “Cold Blue Steel” together right there. It was a total coincidence when the call came a week later that Lynyrd Skynyrd wanted us to do some shows with them.

The Maine Edge: Tesla’s “Let’s Get Real!” tour got off to a late start after the entire band contracted Covid. How bad did it get for you, and how is everyone today?

Frank Hannon: We’re all healthy and ready to rock now, and we’re taking extra precautions to stay that way. We all fought Covid during the month of August, but we survived it and we’re ready to kick some ass. It’s a very real thing, I think I had it worse out of anybody in the band. Luckily, I wasn’t admitted to the hospital, but I couldn’t breathe and it was pretty gnarly. Imagine being super hungover after having smoked 12 packs of Pall Malls with no filters. That’s basically how you feel for a month.

The Maine Edge: How did you occupy your time during the lockdown when you couldn’t perform live?

Frank Hannon: I started producing young artists and couple of bands in my home studio and spent a lot of time developing my recording and producing skills.

The Maine Edge: You have a lot of shows ahead of you. What can Tesla fans expect when they come out to see the “Let’s Get Real!” tour?

Frank Hannon: We’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of our third studio album, “Psychotic Supper.” We’re playing more of those songs, plus our new single, “Cold Blue Steel,” and then we’re going to play a lot of the classics, the hits.

The Maine Edge: It was reported that Elon Musk, the Tesla Motors CEO, wore a Tesla band T-shirt at the Sundance Film Festival a few years back. Have you ever seen him at one of your shows?

Frank Hannon: (laughs) I haven’t seen him, I think he’s too busy flying around in outer space.

The Maine Edge: Here’s a great opportunity for him to cross-promote both Tesla brands. I think it would be cool if he had his company build a Tesla tour bus, with a portable charging station, for the band. What do you think?

Frank Hannon: I love that idea! Let’s get some petitions going to make that happen. I’ve seen that photo of him wearing one of our shirts. I think Elon Musk is cool. Anything that pays homage to the great Nikola Tesla, our namesake, and the great inventor who changed the world, it’s for the better.

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 September 2021 07:10


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