Stickin' with Tesla’s 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 Tesla’s 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
"It was discussed 10 plus years ago," Luccketta explained. "We had always
planned on doing this, we just hadn’t 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 didn’t 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".
I asked him to clarify this.
"We’ve 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 Tesla’s 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, you’d say that you guys are doing the best you can under the
circumstances?" I asked.
"Well yea, that’s 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 Jeff’s voice the proper amount of time to
rest and then there is the fact that there’s 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 it’s really just about balance. We don’t
want to slow it down but we don’t want to push Jeff too hard."
Luccketta explained that Keith had been to see a doctor recently and the
diagnosis was that it wasn’t 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?
"It’s about 55/45 of the new album and our older stuff," Luccketta said.
"The set changes every night and its great Jeff’s singing his butt off. It’s
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.
"We’ve been touring for many years pretty much consistently." Luccketta
added, "We’re 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 we’re out here and what’s 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 we’re all doing our own things as well
and enjoying opportunities that Tesla’s success has afforded us," Luccketta
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 Zeppelin’s "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 UFO’s "Rock Bottom" to
The Beatles' "I’ve Got a Feeling," and Tesla pulls them off with their
signature "no bullshit, we’re here to rock!" style that is perfect for this
straight forward old school band. If you haven’t purchased "Real to Reel" yet,
you should go out and get it-- you’ll be pleased that you did. I’ve never had
the pleasure of seeing Tesla live, but I intend to go this time around and I’m
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
www.myspace.com/teslatheband Jeff Keith