Tesla’s Party is on the Stage – Zoiks! Interviews Jeff Keith of Tesla

As many of you know, Zoiks! is head quartered in Moline IL. We generally have to wait weeks, sometimes months for a name rock band to come through town. Thankfully our friends in Rock Island over at Ribco and The Daiquiri Factory put on a big event every year called “Rock the District.” “Rock the District” has featured Buckcherry, Puddle of Mudd, Chevelle, PopEvil, local band Three Years Hollow has taken the stage every year. A couple of years ago Tesla came to our neck of the woods and just blew everybody’s minds, so the guys in charge of putting on “Rock the District” said let’s bring Tesla back to the Quad City area (Davenport IA, Bettendorf IA, Moline IL, and Rock Island IL) and give more fans the chance to see this great band. “Rock the District” has gotten bigger every year, this year with a classic rock legend like Tesla headlining, the trend looks to continue.

Recently I got the chance to chat with Jeff Keith of Tesla. We talked about Tommy Skeoch, new guitarist Dave Rude and what Tesla’s secret to being the coolest dudes in rock n roll is. Check it out below.

Jeff Keith: Hey Bob, it’s Jeff Keith from Tesla.

Zoiks!: Hey how are you doing

JK: Pretty good how about yourself?

Z!: Great, thanks for taking the time to do this with me.

JK: Hey you’re welcome man, I appreciate your time as well man.

Z!: We’re all really excited here in Rock Island. We can’t wait to see you guys with Pop Evil at Rock the District. What can fans expect from your live show?

JK: Good raw energy man. We’re just a good hard rock band and we always have a good time with the people. We feed off the people, they feed off of us, and it’s going to be a great time for sure.

Z!: Awesome, do you enjoy playing these festival type shows where you get to play with bands that you might not otherwise play with or do you prefer the more intimate settings?

JK: However it comes man, that’s how we prefer it, as long as we’re chilling with the people. It’s always fun to play with other bands, as long as it’s a good vibe; it’s going to be a good rock show.

Z!: What is your favorite moment during your set?

JK: My favorite moment during our show is probably the beginning, getting out there seeing the excitement of the people man, we get to walk out on stage and see the excitement and it’s just all good from then on out.

Z!: Can you tell us a little bit about “Twisted Wires?”

JK: “Twisted Wires” is basically an acoustic record. It’s been twenty years since we came out with “5 Man Acoustical Jam” so it’s kind of a twentieth anniversary thing. I think there are like six songs we recorded with Tommy Skeoch in 2005 acoustically, songs that we either hadn’twritten or recorded on “5 Man Acoustical Jam.” So we’ve got six with Tommy and then a couple of new songs that we wrote for the record. We’ve got Dave Rude jamming on it, our new guitar player…he’s not really new, he’s been with us for what, five years now so he is the guitar player for Tesla. That’s why we’re calling it “Twisted Wires,” because it has a mixture of both.

Z!: Dave Rude has been really good to our site. He was the first interview I had ever done; his side project The Dave Rude band donated some signed merchandise to help us promote “Rock the District.” Can you tell us a little bit about Dave and how he became a member of Tesla?

JK: Well actually, once Tommy was leaving the band in 2006, Frank (Hannon) went on myspace, he was looking at Dave Rude’s inspirations and such and Tesla was included in that. He was inspired by a lot of bands, but like I said Tesla’s name was there, so Frank called him up and asked him if he’d be interested. Actually he went out with Frank Hannon’s solo project. Frank came back to us and said, ‘hey man this is the guy for us.’ He’s got a great vibe, a great feel and he’s fitting like a glove. He’s a super sweet heart of a guy. You’ve got to get along with people. It’s more than can somebody play good or write good, you’ve got to like them as people first and foremost, because there’s an hour and a half to two hours on stage and the rest of the time you have get along and he’s just a good fit for us.

Z!: I was going to ask you, from watching you guys on “That Metal Show” and various interviews over the years, you seem to be the most laid back, down to Earth rock band out there. How do you stay together for all these years and not hate each other? You look at other bands out there that are almost as famous for fighting one another as they are for their music, what’s your band’s secret?

JK: Our secret is to keep it real and deal with issues straight up as friends, as partners, as brothers. Back in the old days, we, sometimes with all the success, drugs, sex and rock n roll, all that stuff, could kind of get lost and avoid things. Ever since 2005, actually the end of 2004, we went out to play arenas with The Scorpions and we decided since the only way we could have Tommy out was to be clean and sober, because we couldn’t ask something of the guy that we couldn’t do, so we’ve been clean and sober on the road since the end of 2004. Once Tommy left the band, we just kept that as the rule of thumb, we deal with issues straight up and we get a result rather than just avoiding them. I would have to stay that keeping it clean and sober on the road and leaving the audience do all the partying. Our party is on stage with the music. I think that has really made a big difference for us and we’re playing tighter than ever.

Z!: Do you still keep in touch with Tommy?

JK: I do, I talked to him I would say three or four months ago. I talk to him probably twice a year, I’ll give him a call or he’ll give me a call. He has the best relationship with me. We go out every night and play some of his songs, every night. So he’ll always be a part of Tesla, he helped build the name and build the band, so I like to stay in touch with him.

Z!: What is your take on a lot of the bands from the 80’s making, not necessarily big comebacks, but remaining relevant. You guys are going as strong as ever, Motley Crue and Poison are out touring together, Metallica and the Big 4 are playing sold out stadiums together. What’s your take on that?

JK: I think writing songs that are timeless plays a big part in that. Tesla definitely came from the hair band era, we still got our hair. We were kind of outcasts back when everyone was into the glam thing; we never really played into that. I think that when the grunge movement came along in the early nineties, it became about no image then. I believe the industry let us hang out because we never relied on image; we always relied on writing good songs and songs from the heart. It allowed us to stay around…that is my belief on it anyways.

Z!: I read on your website that you’re working on another studio album, is there any truth to that and if so, how is it going?

JK: We are working on a new studio record, but that’s going to take awhile. “Twisted Wires” will come out in July and that’ll buy us a little time. We take our time putting an album together. We’ve already got some great songs going and we’re feeling good about it. Hopefully sometime in the middle of next year we’ll have something new to put out. That way we’ll have a reason to go out and have an album to play on.

Z!: That’s all I had, thanks for taking the time.

JK: Hey you’re welcome Bob.

Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.

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