TeslaStickin' with Teslaís Troy Luccketta
By Lil Nipper
Photos by Keith Durflinger

I had a chance to chat with Troy Luccketta, the drummer for Tesla, the other day. He phoned me just as the bus was pulling into Dallas, Texas for their show that evening. Though, at times, we had a bit of trouble hearing each other and interruptions seemed unavoidable, it was a chance to connect with a seasoned rock star who for me turned out to be just a really cool, down-to-earth guy.

After our initial greetings, I asked him to tell me about Teslaís latest CD "Real to Reel." Luccketta replied that it was recorded at Sonic Ranch near El Paso, Texas using "old school" techniques, including a vintage Neve console, five 2" tapes, live recordings: "The way they used to make albums." Tesla's last album, "Into the Now," was released in 2004 and sold a nice 300,000 copies worldwide. Considering it was my favorite from the band, my opinion was that they were indeed still proficient in writing great music and I was curious as to why they decided to now do a cover album instead of originals material.

"It was discussed 10 plus years ago," Luccketta explained.  "We had always planned on doing this, we just hadnít gotten around to it."

He added that the group had trepidations about doing it now because other bands have been putting out cover albums and Tesla didnít want to look like they were jumping on the bandwagon with everyone else. Their manager had actually pushed them,  insisting that they needed to do it. Fans, like me, will agree with Tesla's manager after hearing the effort. 

Luccketta said that once the band finally decided to do album, they began discussing how they would go about it and commented that it would include "checking your motive at the door".

TeslaI asked him to clarify this.

"Weíve always been conscious of not putting something out there just for the sake of putting it out, you know?" Luccketta explained.

We then discussed how the band selected what material to cover.

"The process was going in and picking four or five songs from an artist, and then deciding on one in particular," Luccketta said. "We would listen to it a couple of times, get it down and record it. The majority of the album was recorded live with all the band members present kind of like a live show."

I had been on Teslaís Web site, www.teslarealtoreel.com , earlier that morning looking to see if there was a concert date set for Seattle, my home base, and I noticed that they had just announced the cancellation of two upcoming shows. I wondered why.

"The tour is going great," Luccketta responded. "We just need a little bit of a time out to let Jeff (Keith's) voice rest and for us to regroup and decide how we are going to proceed." 

"So, youíd say that you guys are doing the best you can under the circumstances?" I asked.

"Well yea, thatís the thing," Luccketta said. "I mean where do you find the balance?  Of making the decision to pull the plug on everything for three to four weeks and reschedule and really give Jeffís voice the proper amount of time to rest and then there is the fact that thereís a couple of really great things in the works on the way we are going and we really just want to give everyone 100 percent, so itís really just about balance. We donít want to slow it down but we donít want to push Jeff too hard."

Luccketta explained that Keith had been to see a doctor recently and the diagnosis was that it wasnít too serious. They had decided to cancel two more shows, but were optimistic and excited about the tour in general. The band was looking forward to their trip to Europe and would be leaving within a couple of weeks. Luccketta said they were anxious to keep up the pace and do as many shows in as many places as possible.

So what might be on their set list this tour?

"Itís about 55/45 of the new album and our older stuff," Luccketta said. "The set changes every night and its great Jeffís singing his butt off. Itís been a lot of fun."

Over the phone, I could hear the comings and goings of the band as Luccketta and I talked and I couldn't resist teasing  him about how they all got on in such a close proximity for long periods of time.

Tesla"Weíve been touring for many years pretty much consistently." Luccketta added, "Weíre very close really like a family. There are times we can be selfish and self-centered, but you have to chuck it at the door for the sake of the band and remember why weíre out here and whatís important you know."

While listening to him talk, I realized that these guys are all about their fans and staying true to their music. Luccketta shared with me that in the early days of Tesla and MTV videos they made conscious choices not to put women in their videos-- no big hair, no make-up; no Spandex either. They never knocked any other bands for doing this, but they wanted to cut their own path. Tesla's music was honest and straight forward and they wanted to present it that way as much as possible.

With the popularity of MySpace.com, I ventured to ask Luccketta if the band had a site. His answer was not only did Tesla have one, but that the guys all had page for their own ventures outside of the band as well.

"We put the band first always yet weíre all doing our own things as well and enjoying opportunities that Teslaís success has afforded us," Luccketta said.

Before letting Luccketta go, I asked him for some final thoughts on "Real to Reel." He made a point to tell me that this was the first album the band has put out on their own label, Tesla Electric Company Recordings. The album consists of two discs, 25 songs, including Led Zeppelinís "Thank you," which is their first single and, from what I understand, is doing well on the charts. Disc 1, which has 13 songs, including "Space Truckin" (Deep Purple) and "Bad Reputation" (Thin Lizzy), is currently out in retail stores. Disc 2, which has 12 songs, such as "All the Young Dudes" (Mott the Hoople), "I Want to Take You Higher" (Sly and the Family Stone) and "War Pigs" (Black Sabbath), is currently only available with the purchase of concert tickets.

All the songs on this two disc set are classic, from UFOís "Rock Bottom" to The Beatles' "Iíve Got a Feeling," and Tesla pulls them off with their signature "no bullshit, weíre here to rock!" style that is perfect for this straight forward old school band. If you havenít purchased "Real to Reel" yet, you should go out and get it-- youíll be pleased that you did. Iíve never had the pleasure of seeing Tesla live, but I intend to go this time around and Iím sure there will be full venues abounding for them, as this quintet is just what rock n' roll is all about-- great songs, talented musicians dedicated to their fans and lots of fun!

Learn more about the new effort and when you can catch Tesla in your area at www.teslarealtoreel.com

Also visit www.myspace.com/teslatheband     Jeff Keith www.myspace.com/128454080

 Troy Luccketta  www.myspace.com/tluccketta     Frank Hannon  www.myspace.com/frankhannon

Brian Wheat  www.myspace.com/brianwheattesla     Dave Rude www.myspace.com/daverudeband

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