Four decades into their career, and Tesla are a band that can still surprise. Adding programmed drums to their hard rock sound for this years’ ‘Shock’, it was just another step in the Sacramento quintet’s journey, according to Troy Luccketta. “Everything we’ve done has just been a by-product of us doing what we do in a real organic fashion”, says the drummer. We caught up with Troy at Download festival to chat the bands rebirth, changing times, and their close relationship with Def Leppard. Bustin’ a nut; Eamon O’Neill.
You’ve just come off stage at Download festival Troy; how was it for you?
I thought it was pretty good! The weather was pretty fine, and my ear monitor mix was pretty good. I thought the band played fairly well.
‘Cumin' Atcha Live’ was a great opener.
You know, I didn’t know what the set list was, and Frank [Hannon, guitarist] was like; “Let’s open up with ‘Cumin' Atcha Live”, and I’m like; “Sure, whatever you want to play, man!” But yeah, that was good, that was fun. This was our third time. It’s all been good, but I’m really enjoying it this time around.
What has made this occasion the best for you?
I don’t know man, maybe it’s just because we’ve been here before, and the energy of seeing people; a lot of friends and people in the business. It’s just been phenomenal. It’s been such a great run.
Speaking of old friends, and you’re sharing the stage with Def Leppard today; is it nice to be back with those guys again, given your shared history?
It’s always great to be on tour with them, and the history, because of what they’ve done for us as a band; with all the shows we’ve been able to go and play, and with Phil [Collen, Def Leppard guitarist] producing the new record which was fantastic. Yeah, we’re very blessed to have them on our side, for sure.
Going back to those early days, and Tesla were the opening act for Def Leppard on the ‘Hysteria’ tour; what was that like for you?
You know, it was great because that was such a big, huge record for them. They blew up so big, and we got to ride that wave with them. We did like a year and a half with them on the road, all in the round, in the UK, Canada and the US. And it’s kind of phenomenal when you come back full circle while they’re doing it again [touring celebrating 30 years of ‘Hysteria’], you know what I mean? It’s like the timing is perfect.
You must miss the Steve Clarke; do the memories of the late Def Leppard guitarist flood back doing these shows?
Oh, sure. Well, you know, thinking back, sometimes you might see a piece of history or something pop up on the internet, and you see something that’ll take you back to that moment in time. We’re so fast paced, and we’re constantly pushing and moving forward; sometimes we don’t really take the time to really reflect on those moments. So, I’m really appreciating that when I can get some of that.
As you mentioned, Phil Collen has produced ‘Shock’, and there were some surprises on there; for you as a drummer, how was it to have a drum machine on its lead single?
Well, for me, it doesn’t matter. I’m secure with what it is I do, and who I am in the band and what we’ve done, and if he had had a drum machine on the whole record it would have been; “okay, whatever”, you know? But I don’t play any drum machines live; we play everything live, we don’t use any samples, background vocals; we are a band that plays live. We don’t worry about if we sound like the record; we’re not the record, we just do what we do, and it is what it is.
You’ve always been a band to take unexpected twists; back in 1990 you were one of the first bands to put out an unplugged album in ‘Five Man Acoustical Jam’.
Well, I actually think MTV might have beat us to it, but I think what happened is we blew up with that thing and then people attribute that record thinking that; “they started it!”, but I don’t think it was, timing-wise. But I do know that we had a big hand in the awareness of what happened, because it was such a big record for us, and such a great time. And speaking of that, we just were in Abbey Road a couple of days ago, and that was nice because it’s the 30th anniversary for that record next year, so we just went live acoustically, completely live. So there’ll be a new, full record and DVD, I think of that. It’s all documented.
You followed that album with perhaps your heaviest release in ‘Edison’s Medicine’ from 1991’s ‘Psychotic Supper’; were you trying to make another statement with that?
You know, everything we’ve done has just been a by-product of us doing what we do in a real organic fashion. We’ve never planned any of it. We just made a record, came off the tour, wrote a record, went back out, and that’s how we’ve done it, you know? There’s never really been anything pretentious about what we do, and there isn’t to this day. I think the new record, seeing as it’s a departure a little bit with Phil producing it and the way he works and thinks, and we just kind of let go of it and absolutely embraced the way he wanted to do things.
Tesla has always had consistently good releases; your first album after reuniting in 2000, ‘Into The Now’  was a real strong comeback.
It’s a good record. I think when we went into making that record, I remember Jeff [Keith], our singer being like; “I don’t know if I can do this, because all these new bands are like this”, and we said; “Jeff, let’s just go in and be ourselves, man, let’s do what we do, let’s not worry about what’s happening”. And once we got into working and writing and ploughing through it, it just came together.
Going back before the reformation, and ‘Bust a Nut’  was released at the height of the Grunge era; was that a difficult album to make, and did you know it was the end of the road?
You know, it’s interesting. Yeah, I didn’t know it was going to be [the end], but after doing it for a year without Tommy [Skeoch, guitarist] as a four piece? We were playing this one show in Vegas, and Jeff couldn’t sing that nigh. He lost his voice, and we went back and he just goes; “I’m done.” And we were like; “hey, no problem, man”. We knew it was coming at that time, and we needed a break after 10 years. So we took a break, and then we got back together.
Do you miss having Tommy in the band?
I’ll be honest with you. I just so wish him well. I hope he’s okay doing what he’s doing, and there’s things I definitely miss about Tommy. He brought a lot to the band, so, certainly I’d never want to discount the chemistry and what he was in the first 10 years that created this sound. And then bringing Dave [Rude] in, Dave’s been such a great player, and key factor in the last 13 years, so the transition just seemed, again, pretty normal and organic the way it happened, so he seems like the perfect choice for the band, and a great performer.
Finally, what’s happening going forward for Tesla?
You know, that’s a good question. Right now, we’re going to finish up the year. Next month we’re out with Leppard again for Canada, and then we’ve got the US. In the States we’re doing our own shows through the year. Next year, we’re starting to put dates together, so moving forward, it’s kind of like one day, one tour, one record at a time, kind of thing. But we’re going to keep pushing the envelope and keep moving forward.
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