Over 14 million records sold and one hell of a live show have made Tesla one of the longest running and most successful bands from an era when bands were known more for their hair than their music.
The blue-collar Sacramento rockers have just released a new record entitled Simplicity and they are currently in the midst of a tour across the country. Founding member Frank Hannon called me before a sold out show in Columbus, Ohio to talk about the past, present, and future of the band.
Do you have a favorite touring moment past or present.
It’s been 30 years with a lot of highlights that included both extreme highs and extreme lows. Back in the day when we were first starting out opening for David Lee Roth was a great thing. I remember we were playing in Buffalo, NY and every day he would go out and jog no matter what. This particular day there was a blizzard and I remember him walking in completely covered in snow. Then at the end of the tour, he invited us up to his hotel room and he had a different kind of snow.
I read somewhere that when you were a kid you broke your leg one summer and that’s how you really got serious about the guitar…
When I was a kid I had a little dirt bike, actually it was too big for me since I was only eleven. I actually started listening to music before that and started playing the guitar when I was ten. 1976 was a great year for music, Frampton Comes Alive, Aerosmith was big, and I loved the Rolling Stones, but when I broke my leg on that dirt bike, I was laid up for the whole summer with nothing to do except really practice my guitar. When I got out of my cast I was a lot better.
What was the first record you owned?
In 1976 on my tenth birthday I got a little turntable. My mom knew I loved the Peter Frampton record so she got me that, but I was also introduced to Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry then as well.
San Francisco Slash fans got a special treat in the form of a last-minute surprise performance by the legendary top-hatted axe man. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators are currently on tour with Aerosmith, but due to an illness within the band, the Aerosmith camp was forced to cancel their show in Concord, California only 13 hours before the performance was scheduled to begin. Like any good seasoned road warrior would do, Slash decided to bring his show to the iconic Fillmore for an intimate evening of epic rock ‘n’ roll greatness.
The 20 song set was a perfect mix of Guns N’ Roses classics including “Night Train,” “You Could Be Mine,” and an epic, almost 20 minute version of “Rocket Queen,” as well as new songs from the forthcoming album World On Fire, including “Stone Blind,” “30 Years of Life,” and the title track.
Slash of course was in fine form as he flawlessly jammed on his familiar Les Paul while donning his signature top hat in front of a wall of custom Marshall amps. And frontman Myles Kennedy, where do I start? I have been a huge fan of this guy since he led the terribly underrated Mayfield Four back in the late ’90s. They released an album called Second Skin that very well may be my favorite rock album of all time—it’s a fucking masterpiece in every sense which got destroyed by a major record label.
I love the fact that Myles has found a home where he can truly shine, and that’s exactly what he did this night. This guy’s voice is flawless. He hit EVERY single note perfectly and made it look easy. I would guess there are maybe 5-10 singers on the planet that have the capacity or talent to sing like this.
RX Bandits and The Dear Hunter on the same bill—this would have made no sense back in the early days of the RX Bandits, then again, The Dear Hunter weren’t even around then. My point being, if you remember RX Bandits during the early to mid 2000s, then you would remember them as one of the leaders of the so-called “third wave of ska” movement. I’m here to tell you that this is a much different band, one that has both matured and evolved into something very unique since that time leaving their cohorts in the dust.
The band’s latest record Gemini, Her Majesty was just recently released through Pledgemusic (of which I am a huge fan) and it’s quite a remarkable record. There are elements of pop-punk (think Acceptance at their peak) mixed with a bit of early ’80s Police (think “Message in a Bottle”) but fueled by some very progressive musicianship that reminds me of King Crimson during their finest hour (which I would say is the Red album). This is cool stuff folks, and while you might be thinking that my description is insane, I can promise you that it all comes together brilliantly both live and on the record.
In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd get more into a show at the Fillmore over the past 4 to 5 years that I’ve been going there. These fans are lifers for sure and the band delivered. An enormous capital R and an equally large capital X backlighting the legendary stage at the Fillmore was one of the coolest setups I’ve seen (although very difficult to shoot).
Last week I saw one of my favorite bands on the planet perform on their final tour. I’ve seen Mötley Crüe 6 or 7 times over the years and I could easily see them play many more times. It’s been a good run for the bad boys of rock having sold over 80 million records, sold out countless tours across the globe, and spawned more than 2,500 Mötley Crüe branded items available in over 30 countries.
They’ve built a heavy metal empire and along the way set the bar very high for what defines the best and the worst elements of being a rock star. But, you have to respect these guys for knowing when to call it a day. Leaving the fans with a lasting memory while they are arguably at their finest, this show was everything I had hoped it would be and more—a mind-blowing mix of fire, explosions, and musicianship set to a stellar choice of cuts from the band’s extensive catalog.
In between it all, Nikki Sixx would get intimate with the crowd and talk about the band’s formation and the early days. I wouldn’t be surprised if his eyeliner might have smudged with a few tears because he was starting to get emotional.
“The Anti-Folk Revival Tour in Drop-D” stopped by San Francisco last week. Filter, Helmet, and Local H, three bands that need no introduction, combined their raucous brand of hard rock into one enormous sonic boom of an evening at the Independent.
Each of these bands have left their signature on the post-grunge scene of the mid-nineties and continue to leave their mark through touring and releasing new records. I never thought I would see these three artists sharing the same stage, but it happened, and it was a brilliant night of both old and new favorites jam-packed into a club that was accommodating, but way too small in regard to the enormous talent that would pummel the stage.
Kicking off the night was Chicago duo Local H. Scott Lucas has kept this band going since 1987 and recently released new music in the form of The Another February EP. Back when I worked at Sony Music, I had spent some time with Scott during the promotional stage of the terribly underrated 12 Angry Months album. Lucas is an incredibly down-to-earth guy, and contradictory to his ferocious stage presence, a pretty fun guy to hang out with, but that’s another story.
The hottest band in the land celebrates 40 years the only way they know how—with a show so over the top it should be mandatory for all rock ‘n’ roll fans. Visiting more than 40 cities, the tour celebrates KISS’ 40th year in music, as well as the band’s induction this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer, took to the stage at the Concord Pavilion and showed the Bay Area why they are the kings of the nighttime world. Opening up the evening with “Psycho Circus,” the entire band descended down from what looked to be an incredibly intricate giant robotic spider with enough explosions and fire behind them to dwarf any fireworks display on the planet.
“Deuce,” “Shout it out Loud,” into “War Machine,”—I don’t want to give away the entire setlist but let’s just say it was EPIC. Chock full of classics both old and new and clocking in at around 75 minutes (which could have easily gone on for another hour) fans were hanging on every note and awed by every theatrical and over the top visual. This was not just a rock ‘n’ roll show folks, it was an experience.
I can’t say for sure if the Friday night crowd at San Francisco’s hipster laced Milk Bar had any idea the magnitude of talent that would grace the stage that night, but I can say for sure that it was a spectacular show. Vaudeville Etiquette hit the stage close to the witching hour and dazzled the audience who were hanging on every single note this stellar band of gypsies would deliver.
Falling somewhere between the Civil Wars, Fleetwood Mac, and Conway and Loretta, Taylor Lynn and Bradley Laina are one hell of a singing duo. It’s really difficult to pin any one comparison on this incredibly talented duo since their sound is so dynamic. From folky, boot stomping, down and dirty numbers all the way to candlelight dinner jazz at midnight type pieces, it’s something for everyone with a taste for stellar songwriting.
The rest of the band consisting of a drummer Bryce Gourley and bassist Sander Vinberg locked solidly into every groove and laid the foundation perfectly while a well-played steel guitar by Matt Teske added just enough flavor to round out a familiar but original twist on a classic sound.
The Melvins’ Buzz Osborne, a.k.a. King Buzzo, might have unplugged for his solo debut, This Machine Kills Artists, but he hasn’t mellowed in the slightest. If you haven’t noticed his incredibly fun Twitter and Facebook posts documenting his solo acoustic tour, you are missing out. This guy knows how to connect with his fans and he does it better than almost anyone else out there.
With a barren stage that hosted a small amp and a road beaten guitar case, Buzzo came to the stage, set himself up, and began to strum. Opening with the Melvins’ classic “Boris,” Buzzo crept across the empty stage grinding out the heavy-duty riff on an acoustic guitar that knew it was in trouble. Slowly, he took a close look at the crowded room of fans on both sides…and then he came alive.
In one burst of Buzzo vocal superiority, the entire crowd knew that this was not going to be your average acoustic show. This was some sort of new genre being invented before my eyes. It was like Black Sabbath recording a soundtrack to the apocalypse—during MTV Unplugged set; powerful, a bit eerie at times, but incredibly well done.
It was my first time seeing Guided By Voices live, and it was a long time coming. Most of my hipster indie rock friends have been praising this band over the past decade, plus calling it a show for the ages. There was an enormous beer cooler on stage in front of the drum kit, which halfway through the show started to make sense. “We get drunker, better and younger as we go along,” exclaimed frontman Robert Pollard just before he twirled his microphone round and round Roger Daltry Style.
The “classic lineup” of guitarists Mitch Mitchell and Tobin Sprout, bassist Greg Demos, and drummer Kevin March ruled the stage at the Regency Ballroom. I haven’t spent much time celebrating the band’s impressive 20-plus studio albums, and I had no idea that the average length of their songs was about two minutes. “What a fantastic approach to songwriting,” I told my wife who was in attendance with me as it was her first time ever hearing the band. I followed up, “If you don’t like the song they are playing, at least you know there’s another one coming up in about 90 seconds.”
I thought the band was fantastic though. There was a certain Robin Zander/Rick Neilson chemistry between Pollard and guitarist Mitch Mitchell, with a bit of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious thrown for attitude. Having never seen them live before, it would have been very easy to think they are from the UK, as their songs borrowed greatly from the sound of the ’60s British Invasion, and I swear I heard an English accent happening at one point.
Rodriguez and LP on stage together could very well be the best matched tour of the year. One artist is celebrating the twilight of his career after a much deserved resurgence. The other at the beginning of what is sure to be one of the most celebrated new artists on the planet.
If you haven’t seen the 2012 Academy Award-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, then you are missing out on a remarkable story. Sixto Diaz Rodriguez (also known as just Rodriguez) is an American folk musician from Detroit, Michigan. His career initially proved to be short lived with two little-sold albums in the early 1970s. Unknown to him, however, his work became extremely successful and influential in South Africa and at one time he was more famous than Elvis Presley, although he was mistakenly rumored there to have committed suicide.
If you have listened to pop music over the last several years, you have likely heard LP’s stellar songwriting talents being performed by some of the biggest names in music. The Los Angeles by way of New York City singer/ songwriter has been bouncing around from major label to major label lending her songwriting efforts to others for close to a decade—all the while leading up to her magnum opus, Forever For Now which hits stores this week. And by no surprise it’s one of the best records you will hear this year.