Currently on the road with Def Leppard and REO Speedwagon, Tesla has continued clinging to its hard rock since forming in 1981.
Despite a four-year hiatus that ran from 1996 to 2000, the California five-piece has put out seven albums with the next project set to be the upcoming Mechanical Resonance Live. Released to commemorate the original album’s 30th anniversary, the cuts were recorded over the past year or so live on the road while the band was on tour with Def Leppard. According to guitarist Dave Rude, who replaced founding member Tommy Skeoch in 2006, it was great to rediscover the band’s 1986 debut, and also to work with Lep’s guitarist Phil Collen, who wrote and produced the new project’s bonus cut “Save That Goodness.”
“We realized it was the 30th anniversary of [Mechanical Resonance] and we got the idea to do this last summer. It’s just sort of a celebration of [Mechanical Resonance Live],” Rude said. “Working with Phil started out as that one song and now we’re going to do a full original album with him producing that we’re working on right now. We spent a lot of time working together and it went really well. The new record is sounding pretty gigantic.”
As a band, Tesla’s always had a knack for success, mixing solid originals with hit covers be they of obscure bands like early 1980s UK trio Ph.D. (“Little Suzi”) or 1970s Canadian one-hit wonder Five Man Electrical Band (“Signs”). Tesla took this concept a bit further in 2007 with the two-volume Real to Reel release, an outing that found the band going into the studio live and recording covers of songs from the 1960s and 1970s.
Picking from a mix of well-known (Beatles, Deep Purple) and more obscure artists (Uriah Heep, Montrose), Tesla also took the path less-traveled by not playing obvious war horses when dipping into the canons of the better-known bands. When deciding to dip into the Alice Cooper canon, rather than cover “I’m Eighteen” or “School’s Out,” Tesla instead chose to go with the 1971 cut “Is It My Body.” The following are Rude’s five favorite songs from these sessions:
1. Aerosmith – “Seasons of Wither” from 1974’s Get Your Wings
“Ever since I was a kid, ‘Seasons of Wither’ was one of my favorite Aerosmith songs. That was really cool to finally get to do that and I got to do those cool Brad Whitford feedback notes at the end. It was the funnest thing ever.
2. Deep Purple – “Space Truckin’” from 1972’s Machine Head
“I ended up really liking ‘Space Truckin’.’ Deep Purple is great, but I’ve never been a fanatic. I don’t even think I own a record. I just know the radio songs. But that one was really fun to get into. It was just a cool, sort of weird song.”
3. The Temptations – “Ball of Confusion” from 1970’s Greatest Hits II
“This song was one where we got to really change it up. We kept pretty close to the originals on all the other versions—Tesla-fying it so it sounds like us and is going to sound different. But ‘Ball of Confusion’ we actually reworked arrangement-wise and it sounds way different. We used to do that one live a lot. People always liked that one.”
4. Uriah Heep – “Stealin’” from 1973’s Sweet Freedom
“I’d never heard that one. Some of those songs I’d never even heard until we learned and recorded them. And that was one of them. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you a lot of Uriah Heep songs. They’re a great band, but they just were never huge. I don’t remember whose idea that was, but it just worked right off the bat. I liked the vocals and the groove to it. It’s different for a rock song. It’s got a different feel to it and we did these vocal harmonies that I still remember. We don’t really do that stuff very often and it was fun. I always love to hear Jeff [Keith] sing that song, because he’s got such a great voice. And that one, I always felt like he really shined on. It’s funny that it’s one of my favorites because there’s not much going on guitar-wise. I play like three chords and it’s boring guitar-wise, but it’s still one of my favorite songs to play. And usually the ones I like to play are the ones where I get to do more shit.”
5. UFO – “Rock Bottom” from 1974’s Phenomemon
“‘Rock Bottom’ was really cool. It’s really just a great riff. It did become a band favorite and people still ask us to play it. I’m sure eventually when we’re back to doing our own shows, that’s going to be one of the tracks that’ll come in and out of the setlist.”