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Tesla interview: Brian Wheat discusses the return to Simplicity

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Sacramento, California hard rock quintet, Tesla, return this month with their seventh studio album, Simplicity. It is the band’s first full-length studio effort of new material since 2008’s Forever More. This week, band co-founder and bassist, Brian Wheat checked in with Examiner/AXS to discuss the making of the new record, share a few of his favorite tracks, and take us back to the band’s 1986 debut for some inside stories.

Tesla began as City Kidd in 1981, when Wheat and guitarist Frank Hannon connected. Vocalist Jeff Keith, guitarist Tommy Skeoch, and drummer Troy Luccketta would round out the line-up in 1984. A&R rep Tom Zutuat inked the band to Geffen Records and packed the guys off to Bearsville Studios just outside Woodstock, New York: The same place Foghat recorded their best albums; along with Cheap Trick, Todd Rundgren, The Rolling Stones, and more.

Wheat shared that during the recording of the album the band was nameless, having dropped the City Kidd moniker. At the same time, The Pretenders were recording their album Get Close at Bearsville. One night during recordings, Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hinds hung out with Wheat and Keith suggesting name possibilities for the band. Tesla was not among her suggestions.

In 2013, Tesla released a new song, “Taste My Pain” which whet the fans appetites for new music. That is when the band decided it was time to record a new full-length record. Deciding to eliminate hometown distractions, the band reconnected with old pal Zutaut in Virginia and spent two weeks writing the crux of the 14-track, Simplicity. The title and idea behind the album was to return to the basic feel of the band’s first album.

The band then returned to Wheat’s J Street Recorders in Sacramento to record the album after which legendary engineer Michael Wagener (Metallica, Skid Row, Motley Crue) mixed and mastered the effort. Brian admits the band could not decide which tracks to cut, so they put all 14 on Simplicity, allowing fans to decide for themselves which they prefer. Wheat, who is a mammoth Beatles fan lists the tracks "MP3" and "Life is a River" among his own faves from the record. Simplicity reaffirms the bluesy guitar-driven trademark foundation of Tesla and further solidifies the band as a modern-era Led Zeppelin.

Simplicity also marks the second studio album with guitarist Dave Rude who replaced Skeoch in 2006. His imprint shows up on numerous tracks on the record. Hannon shares that working with Rude has the easy familiarity and camaraderie he shared with Skeoch in the band’s early years.

The album’s first single is “So Divine”, the video for which can be seen here. You can check out the full interview with Brian Wheat above, then pick up Simplicity at all digital outlets and record stores, and catch the band on tour this summer.

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