Tesla Let’s Get Real Tour started in early August and had been scheduled to include a date opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd at the PNC Bank Center in Holmdel, Aug. 27. But it was put on hold after Frank Hannon contracted COVID, and is now scheduled to start again in mid-September and include a show at Irving Plaza in New York, Sept. 19.
“The time off from the pandemic, ironically for us, was a good little break because we’ve been hitting it hard since we regrouped in 2000,” said Hannon, in an interview conducted before he fell ill. “We hit it super hard from 1986 until ’96, a solid 10 years straight. We call it the first chapter of our career. The first group of albums that we did — Mechanical Resonance, The Great Radio Controversy, Psychotic Supper, Five Man Acoustical Jam and all that stuff — we got so burnt out after 10 years of doing that and we started hating on each other and we broke up. We should have just taken a break but we decided to do the breakup route, which was a bad call. But then we got back together four years later, realizing that our music and our songs meant a lot to some people.
“The first chapter was 10 years and the second chapter has been 20 years of making albums, so the break was maybe not long enough (laughs). We could’ve used a little bit more time off. But we are grateful that this is happening and we’re real excited because we’ve got a new song.”
The song, “Cold Blue Steel,” is due to be released on Aug. 27.
The tour’s Let’s Get Real title has several meanings, said Hannon. “One of our mantras has always been ‘No machines.’ We used to print that on our album sleeves, meaning that it is real, we are playing the instruments, there is nothing fabricated by a computer. So it is real songs and we’re just keeping it raw.”
The phrase also is used in “Cold Blue Steel,” which was influenced by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Singer Jeff Keith and he “were in the garage and I was jammin’ on a guitar riff and he was listening to a Lynyrd Skynyrd song on his way over, and we decided to get inspired by that,” Hannon said.
On tour, he said, besides “Cold Blue Steel,” “we are going to play, obviously, some of our hits, but we are actually going to retire some that are kind of tired and worn out. We are going to be digging deeper into our catalog off of our third album called Psychotic Supper because there are some tracks on there that we haven’t played in a long time and it is the 30th anniversary. We’ve been celebrating all of these 30-year anniversaries from that era of 1986 to 1996 that I mentioned earlier … Psychotic Supper is the album that has ‘What You Give,’ ‘Edison’s Medicine,’ ‘Song & Emotion,’ ‘Freedom Slaves’ and songs like that which we’re going to dig deep into, which are gonna be deeper cuts on this tour.”
Asked if he or the band find it challenging to play the “expected” tunes — such as their wildly popular version of the Five Man Electrical Band hit “Signs” — Hannon was straightforward in his response.
“You’ve got to appease the crowd,” he said. “That’s what we’re there for, to entertain and make people feel good. But luckily, we love playing the song. Again, it’s the soundtrack and people love the music. There are other songs and maybe even some that we may have written that I would have that feeling about. But in this case, the song ‘Signs’ is such a great lyric and great song that it is fun no matter what, and as soon as I start singing it … even if I’m doing a solo gig, I’ll still play it because the crowd loves it and I love the song.
“I’ll let you in on a little secret: ‘Little Suzi’ is gonna sit on the bench this year (laughs). She’s a little tired and she’s gonna sit down for a while. You have to find a balance, and even beyond that, some of the fans on the internet will be posting how they want to hear these deeper tracks. So there are the hits, the new songs and the deeper tracks, and you have to divide it up and try and play all three. I’ve heard stories where the guys in Aerosmith hate playing ‘Dream On.’ How crazy would you have to be for that? (laughs) So it’s a balancing act, and you’ve got to keep your pride and your ego in check and realize that you’re just damn lucky to be able to walk on stage in front of thousands of people and make them feel good!”
The band has no definite plans for their next album.
“Cold Blue Steel,” said Hannon, “is a single for now and it will end up being an album, but it is the type of approach like in the old days when The Beatles and The Stones would do that. When rock ‘n’ roll was first born, bands would put out singles and then those songs would end up on albums in the future. This is a new premise for us, because we were always hammered with deadlines and had to have an album out by such and such a date. What that does is force you to write songs in a manner of trying to get them done in a hurry and you’ll have one or two great songs and maybe eight that aren’t so great because they didn’t get a chance to develop.
“So we’re not going to put that on this now. For the first time in our career, we are just going to do what we want to do, independently. We produced it ourselves in my garage and it is raw and it’s real and we’re going to do one song at a time at our own pace and not worry about making it a fabricated 10 or 12 songs in a group kind of thing. Now, that being said, it is going to be up to us to continue to force ourselves to get together and collectively create a single at a time, and then by the end of the year we’ll have a group of songs that grew organically.”
For more information, visit teslatheband.com.
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