TESLA guitarist Frank Hannon recently spoke with Jimmy Kay of The Metal Voice. The full conversation can be streamed below.
On the origins of the two covers albums he released this year:
Frank: "I'm a kind of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants artist. This whole thing wasn't even planned to be a series. I was recording songs for fun and for a challenging exercise to develop my singing voice. I learned to play guitar by learning from all the old masters — Jimi Hendrix; Chuck Berry was one of my favorites when I was a kid; and then in the '80s, Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. You learn guitar from learning from your elders, so I said, 'Heck, man, I really want to learn to sing better, so how can I do it?', so I started recording. Playing live is one thing. I can play a club show with my solo band and sing LED ZEPPELIN, and it sounds pretty good. But once you get in the studio and try to make a recording that people are going to listen to over and over again, it's a whole different ballgame with singing. That was my premise — I just wanted to record a bunch of things for fun, and then one of my business associates heard it and said, 'Hey, you should put this out.' There was so much material that we obviously had to spread it out over some time."
On whether there will be a third volume:
Frank: "I don't know if there's going to be more of them, because I do have some original songs I'm writing. That coupled with the fact that TESLA has a new album coming out in February of this year coming up, I don't know what's going to happen for the future, but I will always be producing something, whether it's with TESLA or myself, originals, covers. I'm a die-hard rock 'n' roller. Nothing's going to stop me from producing something."
On the correlation between singing and playing guitar:
Frank: "There are different approaches of playing guitar — you can noodle; you can play fast, burning shred licks; or you can play melodies. I'm kind of in the middle of that. I like to shred, but I also love simple melodies that make you feel a certain way that you remember. My favorite guitar players are Joe Walsh, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Frampton — guys who also sing. I think actually singing could make you a better guitar player. Playing guitar can make you a better singer, but I actually think that singing can make you a better guitar player, because it can make you think more about a song than just whacking off and noodling."
On how he approached tackling DEEP PURPLE's "Hush":
Frank: "The melody is what you keep [from] the original. It's the melody that lives forever, so you pull that, and then what I did is, I got rid of the B3 organ stuff that DEEP PURPLE did and I put Randy Hansen in there to play some funky, Jimi Hendrix-style guitar and some percussion. You keep the melody the same and the feel of it, but then you use the guitar and you crank up some different kind of sounds to it."
On Phil Collen (DEF LEPPARD), who produced TESLA's upcoming album "Shock":
Frank: "Phil came to us and wanted to produce an album for us... Phil really, really helped us. I'll be honest — we were at a low point after we did [2014's] 'Simplicity'. We were really frustrated, and we were probably not going to make another album. Phil had a bunch of song ideas, and a lot of the writing on the new album is co-written with Phil. He interjected a lot of positive energy for us and helped us get back on our feet. He's bringing production quality and details that we would have not done and haven't done in the past. Some fans may not like it; some fans are probably going love it. This is something that we wanted to try, we've never worked like this before. Mutt Lange is a producer that really has techniques that are very detailed in the studio, and Phil obviously has experienced all that, and he brought that type of approach into making a TESLA record, which we'd never done before. There's a lot of killer sonics. The sound of this new record is really... I don't know how to describe it. It's just awesome; it's produced; and, like, really powerful."
On what to expect from the album musically:
Frank: "It definitely has an '80s kind of polished production... but there is no real direction. I always quote '[This Is] Spinal Tap', when Nigel [Tufnel] says, 'Changing our style is our style.' We don't really pigeonhole ourselves into one sound. We've got elements of metal, country, Americana, a lot of these different directions... This new album, it has the big production, but every song sounds different. Each guy in the band has a different influence. I'm influenced by southern rock a lot, so you're going to hear some slide guitar riffs on there, but there's also, like, [bassist] Brian Wheat, who's influenced by QUEEN and THE BEATLES, so you're going to hear these big Beatle vocals. Phil Collen obviously, you're going to hear some DEF LEPPARD-style influence... It's a combo pizza, man. It's got everything on it."
"Shock", TESLA's ninth full-length album, is tentatively due in early 2019.
Collen previously co-wrote and produced the TESLA song "Save That Goodness", which was released in August 2016 and included on the "Mechanical Resonance Live!" album.
TESLA's current lineup includes four of the five original members: Jeff Keith (vocals), Frank Hannon (guitars), Brian Wheat (bass) and Troy Luccketta (drums). Guitarist Dave Rude joined in 2006 as the replacement for Tommy Skeoch.