Features > Artist of the Month > May 2004
Tesla

 


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   TESLA Returns With 'Into The Now'

   TESLA will release their eagerly anticipated new studio album, "Into the Now", on Sanctuary Records on March 9, 2004. The original lineup of vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarist Frank Hannon, guitarist Tommy Skeoch, bass guitarist Brian Wheat and drummer Troy Luccketta spent more than two years writing and recording "Into the Now". TESLA co-produced the album with Michael Rosen.

   According to an official press release, TESLA changed their entire way of working for "Into the Now" and that included serious personal and musical reconnections as the foundation for the new album. After such a long layoff, the band members wondered whether they would be able to write strong songs and produce an album largely by themselves.

   Keith, Hannon, Skeoch, Wheat and Luccketta agreed that they had to be satisfied with the songs, and that wasn't always the case in the past. They realized how important this new album was going to be, and the quality of the songs was the most important consideration. The band often rewrote full sections or entire songs and sometimes recorded as many as three different demos for each one. Writer's block was a problem at times and the members would not settle on songs they weren't comfortable with. They knew instinctively which songs were great and which ones were not.

   "To try to get away from a TESLA feel just wouldn't be natural, but we still tried new things. The songwriting process was exciting and rewarding but was, at times, very hard and aggravating. I was a little scared. 'Can I still write?' thoughts were poisoning my mind. But our songs have to have heart. We must believe in them and feel it," Keith says. "Producing the album largely by ourselves added an extra element of fun too."

   "The trick on the whole is to keep the TESLA style in place and yet still grow musically and satisfy yourself but not change so much that your fans are caught offguard," says Wheat. "We wrote about 20 or 30 songs and these were the 12 best."

   "The whole songwriting process was different from previous records. We didn't settle for the first thing we wrote," Hannon says. "A lot of that had to do with us being better friends and being more together than ever. It felt totally comfortable. Having the songs totally ready before recording is like sanding a house before painting it — the foundation has to be there."

   "Looking back at it now, it was all worth it. It was scary producing it on our own but it turned out great. And we really focused on every nook and cranny on every song. We couldn't have written and produced the new album without the newfound communication within the band," Skeoch says. "The emphasis had to be on great songs. About half the material was written before the Rock Never Stops summer tour in 2002 and the other half was written after that. We were really eager to get a new album out there, but then we realized that the songs had to be great and that we shouldn't hurry. Why do it if it's not great?"

   The give-and-take guitar interplay between Hannon and Skeoch has always been crucial to TESLA's music, and that natural relationship was even more important on 'Into the Now'.

   "There's always been a magic between us. I can't put my finger on it," Skeoch says. "We've never fought over solos or who was going to play what part. It just works out. For example, there were some guitar solos on this album that we each tried but it just didn't feel right until the other one did it. 'Words Can't Explain' and 'Got No Glory' were retracked a couple of times, and 'Heaven Nine Eleven' and 'Recognize' were rewritten with different chords and verse structures."

   "When we were writing songs, we were able to live with them. We relied on a voting process to decide which ones we loved and were going to use. That was something new for us," Hannon says.

   "A song took a majority vote — three out of five votes — to get it approved. It worked. We'd always feel better after making a decision," Luccketta says. "I knew we'd pull it together. This was our biggest growth spurt. We're tighter than ever. We've learned a lot of lessons."

   "Each song is a snapshot of an event that took place during the making of the record. There were a lot of experiences we had to go through during these last two years. A lot of pain and growth. For example, several friends of ours died during this time," Hannon says. "I have really learned a lot making this record. There are so many benefits to taking your time and making sure songs stand up months after you've written them and you're still working."

   One major luxury TESLA had making "Into the Now" was recording in Hannon's Sacramento studio. Hannon worked on the preproduction demos there as well. Using this studio gave them plenty of time and saved a lot of money. Producing and recording the album themselves offered unlimited creative flexibility. Rosen helped with engineering and restructuring the tempos of certain songs. For example, Hannon says that Rosen's tempo suggestions for "Heaven Nine Eleven" resulted in a "street beat."

   The autobiographical title track "Into the Now" is one of the most intriguing songs. It addresses the past while also becoming a statement of purpose about the present and future. Musically speaking, its relentlessly pounding rhythmic thump explores new territory.

   "A big part of production was the writing and, sometimes more importantly, the editing. There were several songs where there were sections that just didn't work, so we'd just cut those out and tighten things up," Hannon remembers. "And we are more aggressive with rhythm guitar parts on this album than ever before too. Using technology is a balancing act, but one of the fun things that it allowed us to do was manipulate some sounds. There's a part on the song 'Into the Now' that sounds like it's record scratching but it's actually a guitar sound that we got."

   "There were a lot of things to write about. I wrote most of the lyrics although Frank was a big help. He wrote all the lyrics himself for 'Heaven Nine Eleven' which was inspired by September 11 and what it was like witnessing this terrible tragedy," Keith says.

   TESLA enjoyed the creative freedom that modern recording technology provided but it was important that the songs could be performed live.

   "We did use overdubs, but we have to be able to play our songs live. We don't want to have a keyboard player behind the scenes or anything like that. If people aren't believing it's you on stage playing the music then it loses the magic," says Keith.

   Luccketta puts it simply: "We are a live band."