Tesla made their names as rockers in the heady glam-band late 1980s, but they really left their mark in the early ’90s, when Five Man Acoustical Jam was one of the first albums of the all-acoustic era. With their latest album, Real to Reel, they go back to an old-school take, recording cover songs entirely analog, without electronic editing.
Their newest member is guitarist Dave Rude. In a bit of irony for a band so known for low-tech approaches, Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon found Rude through MySpace, recruited him for his own band and eventually Rude joined Tesla full-time in 2006. They’ll be swinging by the Vogue July 17 and are heading back into the studio for a new album early next year.
NUVO: Tell us a bit about Real to Reel.
Rude: We’d been thinking about it for a long time. Tesla has been doing covers a long time. Right around when we started the tour last summer, they started to think, “Let’s do it all analog; let’s use the same recording techniques and playing techniques the bands used and get a real old feel to it.” We recorded a lot of the songs live in the studio, just like the original songs were cut. Sonically, analog tape has a warmer sound to it. Digital recording is great, but tape has a sort of depth to it. It’s really smooth and warm. It forces you to be on top of your game. It definitely lends to a spontaneous, live vibe. Now that we’re on tour, we’re just doing what we did in the studio.
NUVO: What’s the reaction been like so far from the fans?
Rude: They’ve been eating it up. We mix it up every night; every single show has had a different set list. We’ve been dusting off some old Tesla songs, some stuff they haven’t done in a long time, some stuff fans haven’t heard in a long time. And a lot of the covers have some improv sections, so it gives the band a chance to stretch out.
NUVO: You’re a lot younger than the rest of the band and were a fan back in the day; how’s it feel now to be playing with them?
Rude: I’ve been a fan of them since I was in seventh grade; I first heard Five Man Acoustical Jam when I was 12. It’s pretty surreal, but it’s been great. They’ve all been so nice; it’s easy. It’s like jamming with friends. I’ve met guys in local go-nowhere club bands in the Bay area who have bigger egos and think they’re rock stars. These guys in Tesla are real rock stars, but they’re as nice as can be.