From The Pit To The Mic – Interview With Frank Hannon of Tesla

Photo by Talon Kane Photography

“Changes, time’s making changes in my life.” The opening lyric from Tesla’s “Changes” off their ‘Mechanical Resonance’ album in 1986 resonates with many of their fans. Time passes way to fast for all of us with life events coming and going faster than you imagine. Musicians often see this throughout their career joining new bands, leaving bands, and sometimes bands disappearing altogether. Though the band Tesla after 33 years of releasing their debut album is still the core band back then as they are today with 4 of the 5 founding members still a part of the group. Frank Hannon (guitarist) is one of these members who I had the pleasure of interviewing today, February 1st.

“I am fantastic!” were the first words out of Frank’s mouth after I introduced him. “We’re kicking off our Shocked Tour tonight and I’m just really pumped up. We’ve been practicing. We’re more prepared for this tour than we have been in 20 years to be honest.” And that’s a statement since Tesla toured last summer with Styx and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and when I saw them, they were phenomenal.

‘Shocked’, the eighth studio album from Tesla, will be released on March 8th from UMe. Frank explained, “This one we worked with Phil Collen, Def Leppard lead guitarist, everyone knows Phil Collen,” which he’s right. Phil produced ‘Shocked’. “It’s different in a sense of we really collaborated and really let him almost be a member of the band so to speak.” Frank explained when they were a younger band they didn’t always heed the advice of producers even calling themselves hard-headed. “We decided to let Phil, we have a lot of respect for Phil, and let him show us some things that we have never done before that he had learned from Mutt Lange school of production. It’s definitely a different pace and different experiment on this album.” For those who don’t know, Robert John “Mutt” Lange is a well-known producer who worked with Def Leppard on ‘High ‘n’ Dry’, ‘Pyromania’, ‘Hysteria’, and ‘Adrenalize’. Phil has been friends of Tesla for 30 years as the band has toured with Def Leppard during their career. And Frank explained Phil had asked them to produce ‘Shocked’ for them. “At this stage in our career, it’s really refreshing to have a guy like Phil take an interest in us…’s real good when your peers show you some love.”

Photo by Talon Kane Photography

As I was about to ask Frank about the new single, he caught me off guard. “We’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of ‘The Great Radio Controversy’ album today.” February 1, 1989 ‘The Great Radio Controversy was released. The album had amazing singles “Heaven’s Trail (No Way Out)”, “Hang Tough”, and “Love Song”. The album received great reviews and peaked at #18 on the Billboard 200 chart. It would go on to be certified Double Platinum. I didn’t even realize I would get the opportunity to speak with Frank on such a momentous day and truly appreciated the opportunity. ‘The Great Radio Controversy’ is a must listen for any new fans to Tesla. Frank was 19 when he recorded ‘Mechanical Resonance’; the youngest member of Tesla. Now, he joked, guitarist Dave Rude is the youngest member in Tesla. And when I asked if they considered themselves a family, “Oh yeah of course. The word family is derivative from the word familiar and we’re definitely all familiar with each other”, Frank replied while laughing. “We got this thing down.”

I went back to ask him about the new single, the title track, “Shocked”. When I listened to the new single, I compared it back to the old school Tesla of ‘Mechanical Resonance’ and ‘The Great Radio Controversy’. “I think it definitely think it has an 80s flair to it. The guitars are real crunchy on it and Jeff Keith is singing on the top of his range on that song.” Jeff Keith, vocalist for Tesla, has an amazing range and is vocals are undeniably unique for rock. With a great sense of humor Frank threw in, “Well, then you weren’t too shocked by it huh?” We both had a good laugh over that.

Photo by Talon Kane Photography

The Shocked Tour starts today, “We are up north in Minnesota and it’s 20 below zero. It’s freaking cold. We’re looking forward to ending up down there in Orlando and it’s really going to be a great run.” I forewarned up our Orlando weather can’t make up its mind with one day being 30 and the next day 70. I have no doubts this is going to be a great tour. Telsa’s performance on stage is authentic, stylish, they play their hearts out, and love their fans. He already mentioned how hard they had practiced for this run and how prepared they felt to get out on stage. “Jeff Keith and myself got together for the past two months before Christmas we started digging through our catalog to pull out some of our favorite deep tracks. We’re playing some songs that are really heavy and deep and we got enough material prepared now where we could change our setlist up. Like, for example, we’re going to be in Orlando two nights in a row and we’re going to change our setlist both nights.” After covering Shinedown’s three shows in Orlando, FL with all different sets, I loved that Tesla was doing the same. I asked him what song he was most excited to play. He responded with “Changes” from ‘Mechanical Resonance’ and ‘Be a Man’ from ‘The Great Radio Controversy’.

After the tour, the band sails on the high seas on the ‘Monsters of Rock Cruise’ which runs from February 24th to March 1st. Tesla is the headlining band and will be performing two shows during the cruise. Right after the cruise, Frank heads off to Nashville, TN to take part of the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. The camp runs from February 28th to March 3rd. Afterward, Frank rejoins the band to continue to the rest of the U.S. tour until the end of April.

Frank left us with these parting words, “The brand new album ‘Shocked’ is definitely a step in a different direction, but it’s great, we’re real happy with it. And we’re really happy Phil Collen produced it and we hope everyone likes it. And we want to see everybody on the road because we’re really wanting to bring them a different set of music on this tour. And we look forward to seeing everybody.”

Those who want to pre-order ‘Shocked’ can do so HERE. You can find the Tesla tour dates HERE. And below you can listen to the interview in its entirety.