Audio: Frank Hannon talks TESLA, Solo Albums and update on Dickey Betts!

Dave Taylor: Frank how are you?

Frank Hannon: Hey Dave I’m doing great man. I’m standing out in front of The Norva right now we’re watching the road crews set up our stage.

Nice that’s a great venue, have you guys played there before?

You know it looks really familiar and I know we played Norfolk many years ago in different venues but I do you think we’ve played here years ago but it’s been a while.

It’s kind of pretty sweet dressing room so even if you want to not be on the bus for a little bit or whatever you’re traveling in nowadays, pretty sweet dressing room upstairs.

I’ll check it out, I’m sure I’’l be in there looking for a shower.

They got a basketball court too and all that stuff.

All right, well it’s great to be back man it’s been a long time you know we’ve got some diehard fans here and you know and it’s great to be back.

Well we’re looking forward to it. I was kind of peeking ahead I usually don’t always do this but I wanted to check out your setlist and some other shows and looks like you guys kind of break it down, like your sets a little bit, tell me what you got in store for us tonight.

Well TESLA is celebrating over 30 years of touring, writing and recording and so we try to touch on all of our albums, Mechanical Resonance, the second album with ‘Love Song’ and Lazy Dayz, Crazy Nights. We break it down in the middle of the set and we do an acoustic unplug session to celebrate five man acoustical jam so you know we try to cover the whole span in our set. It’s a lot of fun, we got these killer video screens that we use in the show now that has a lot of footage from our past and kind of like a retrospective.

Nice, so we’ll see the double neck at some point tonight right coming out?

oh yeah, and it’s the original one I’ve had all these years that’s the only guitar that I’ve got from the TESLA days that survived divorces, fires, burglaries, robberies, muggings lol. It’s the only one left of the old days. The Cherry red double-neck Gibson.

Well we’re looking forward to seeing that at the Norva tonight. You mentioned divorces but currently you’re married. Dickey Betts is your father-in-law, right?

Yes, I’ve been married to Christie for 18 years and and I just flew out from Florida I just saw Dickey a couple days ago and he’s on the mend. You know, he survived a head injury that was very traumatic, and the guy’s a fighter man. Dickey Betts is a survivor. He’s survived so many ups and downs and tragedies with the Allman Brothers and you know it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s back on stage here in a couple months. I mean he’s just such a great guy and a great fighter and I love him dearly and of course I love my wife. We’ve got a great marriage.

You know it’s where you answered the question before even had a chance to ask it so you’re like a step ahead of me I love it. How did you guys meet because obviously you know who Dickey Betts was, did you know Dickey before you met his daughter or how did this come about?

You know I’ll be honest, I did not know Dickey. When I met Christy at a festival in North Carolina she and I fell in love just talking to each other on the phone fo months. you know of course I’ve really grown to be a huge Dickey Betts fan and respect of his work. Prior to that I really didn’t study the Allman Brothers too much you know being on the west coast I was influenced by Van Halen and Randy Rhoads and more of that kinda stuff, I love Lynyrd Skynyrd and stuff, but I’ve really studied Dickey’s work more that I’ve gotten to know him.

It’s funny you mentioned the West Coast bands because I saw your guitar playing always kind of had like a southern rock vibe to it to me I mean am I wrong with that? Correct me if I am.

No, you’re absolutely right. I have been influenced by country music. Hank Williams, Johnny Cash when I was a kid. You know probably one of my biggest influences would be Creedence Clearwater Revival. And those were West Coast guys. Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Carlos Santana, Ronnie Montrose. The West Coast guys where my biggest influences.

Now as far as Southern Rock goes, Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of my biggest influences and TESLA toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd back the 90’s for quite some time and got to know Gary Rossington and those guys. You listen to TESLA’s music, songs like ‘What You Give’ and ‘Gettin’ Better’ and stuff like that, have that real kinda down-home Lynyrd Skynyrd feel which is blue-collar hard-working rock-n-roll, we’re just a hard-working rock-no-roll band and normal guys that work hard and that’s the spirit of our music.

Yeah, yeah I can hear that like that twang sound, I was gonna mention ‘What You Give’ because just said opening acoustic and it just has that sound is like this could be a southern rock band doing this song than you guys, you know, kick it out and all that stuff which I absolutely love.  You just put out, speaking of your influences, you just did a covers album like “From one place… to Another, Vol 2” came out back in May and what was what was that project like?

Well my career in TESLA has been fantastic and I’m a lead guitar player but I’m also a singer, or wannabe singer lol. I try real hard at singing, I suck at singing, but I’m getting better at it. So what I did was I challenged myself to learn some songs and it was Dickey that suggested to me that I learned some different styles to develop my singing voice. And I covered everything on here from Seal to Aerosmith to Jimi Hendrix and my latest single is ‘Hush’ and it’s coming out now and we recorded it with guitars instead of keyboards and it’s got my very good friend Randy Hansen playing lead guitar on it he’s a Jimi Hendrix tribute artist and I’m just really proud of the song and the video comes out this week and it’s a great song and the album is my challenge to myself to sings lead vocals.

It’s interesting you say that, I came across the interview that you did yesterday like on ‘That Metal Show’, but it was like something with like ‘That Gear’ and you came out and you know he played guitar then you talked about all the stuff that you used and you talked about Dickey and the fact that he challenged you to sing. Did you work with him the studio at all have you have you played with him at all or did he help you produce the album?

Sure, I’ve jammed with Dickey a few times onstage. Dicky was a special guest on my ‘Six String Soldiers’ album and he played a solo on one of my songs, but you know, he didn’t produce anything I did, he just gave me some advice, you know, when we were hangin’ out and he was telling me that Greg Allman was the lead singer of the Allman Brothers but he also sang some songs and established his own self as a singer with ‘Blue Sky’ and ‘Ramblin’ Man’ and stuff like that. My favorite guitar players are like Peter Frampton, Jimi Hendrix you know Dickey Betts, Joe Walsh. Guys that sang. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at singing and that’s what my new solo album is doing man,  it’s from one place to another – from lead guitar to lead singer lol.

I checked it out and I listened to “I Can Help” too which I thought sounded pretty good on there cuz that’s not something that people normally cover. I mean it’s a familiar song but it’s not one that people you know because that’s got a steady beat to it that you got up you don’t really pick up the pace on.

Thank you, I love that song “I Can Help” and Johnny Cash is one of my favorite singers and I read an interview with Johnny Cash where he said “you know singing is not that hard to do if you just believe in and you love the lyrics” you know and so I love the lyrics when I can help it’s a song about a guy helping somebody and I can relate to that you know, so uh, and also if your child needs a daddy I can help, lol. But I loved it as a kid.

You mentioned like the singing process because you’ve focused so much on guitar, is it a process of learning, not just play, but sing and play at the same time. Is that hard to do or is that something that comes organically?

It is hard to do, you know singing it is hard to do period. Whether you’re playing guitar or not you know, singing backup vocals is easy to do for me. But singing a lead vocal you’ve really got to be able to tell a story and that’s why I challenged myself on this project and 20 songs of storytelling type songs.

Years ago, going to the time machine here, I saw Def Leppard in concert and there’s this band called Moondog Mane that opened up and you were in that band! That was like a brief side project? What happened to those guys?

Well, that’s a whole other chapter there, and I’m amazed that you saw that there. That was a brief stint of a band I did when Tesla was broken up and again there was a band where I had a singer and unfortunately there was a lot of problems with that singer and another reason why I sing when I do my own thing I do my own singing. We we spent two years developing that band and the band was on fire briefly there we did really well we opened for Def Leppard we opened the Judas Priest and I loved the band and loved the music but there were so many bad attitudes in the band that it fell apart.

“Turn It Up” was a great song.

You know “Turn It Up” got a lot of airplay man and like I said it was a good band. The music was fantastic. Uh you know, it was a learning experience though there was some really bad attitudes in the band and I learned that I’m not gonna put up with that shit and I’d rather just sing myself.

How do the guys in the band feel about you doing these like these projects are you singing or are they loving it or they digging what you’re doing in Tesla? Do they encourage it?

Well, you know I think so man, so far they haven’t asked me to stop doing it. I think after all this time they know I’m not going anywhere, you know, we support each other. Brian Wheat has his project, Dave Rude has this project or Troy Luccketta or Jeff Keith, we all got these different projects we do outside of TESLA. And Brian Wheat has an amazing art project with his photography and his painting and he’s succeeding at that and I’m so happy for him and you know I think he’s happy for me too when I do what I do.

What is different now being together on the road as opposed to like, you know, when you guys first went out on the road the first couple of tours? Is everybody behaving better now?

You know, if you’re waking around with a real bad attitude the it just causes problems. And I think we all learned to have a positive attitude in it, adjust our attitude, and staying off the booze helped with that so when we’re on the Tesla tour we don’t get hammered on the booze you know. We keep it positive and enjoy the music and we’re grateful for what we got.

And you kinda got like the memories of maybe some stuff he did in the past that’s like you know some fun times and some other stuff it’s like how do we not get in trouble how do we get away with that?

Yeah,we had alot of things that we learn with hard knocks,  you know we broke up which is some of the hardest times in our lives in the 90s and a lot of it was fueled by booze and drugs and so we stay away from that now and we uh we just really are grateful for the music and the fans and still being doing what we’re doing it’s uh you know it’s truly a gift so we don’t we don’t abuse that anymore like we used to.

We used to really abuse a lot of things, ourselves,you know, the opportunities that we had we were you know kind of ungrateful back in the early days and so we learned and there’s a lot of bands in our generation and I wish would learn the same things you know because there’s some great music from our era and we just want the best with em too so that’s that. It’s all in your attitude, that’s the key.

You mentioned Montrose he produced he produced your early albums am i right with that with Tesla?

Yeah, Ronnie Montrose discovered us back in the demo days of our career when we were first startin’ out and he kinda coached us and gave us lessons and he brought us the song “Little Susie’s on the Up” he brought that to us. He was a mentor but he did not produce the first album Steve Thompson of Michael Barbiero produced that album and at that time they had produced John Lennon and that Phantom Rocker Slick and some other groups in the eighties. Mick Jagger’s but then they went on to produce some Guns N Roses albums but Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero produced our early albums. Ronnie Montrose was even more importantly a coach and a mentor in our beginnings.

A lot of talent and his fingers right there man the stuff he did throughout the years amazing.

Yeah, what a great rock and roll guitar player man he told us you know don’t damage the rock keep it rockin’.

That’s good advice.

it was great advice you know because at that time in the early eighties man everything was so poppy and you know we were having to do pop songs in order to get gigs in the club we were playing we were playing some some pretty cheesy cover tunes and Ronnie came in and said guys you need to write your own songs and you need to rock so we started writing songs like ‘Comin Atcha Live’ and ‘Modern Day Cowboy’, ‘EZ Come EZ’ Go all the stuff that’s on our first album was influenced by Ronnie Montrose.

Wow see I love hearing that because that when I hear these songs again it totally you know paints a different picture and I love that.

I’m glad you brought Ronnie up because Ronnie was a great mentor to us. If you listen to ‘Comin Atcha Live’ it’s very reminiscent to a song that Ronnie has called ‘Ready for Some Action’ and you know it’s his influence and he’s a coach man and if it wasn’t for him and a few other people in our very beginning we wouldn’t have made it in the music business.

Are there any bands out there right now some newer bands to ear digging the music of?

You know I just stumbled on a band that pretty interesting to me they’re called Tame and Paula heard of that band Payne and Paula named like somebody get shamed oh wow no I have not no tame impala I just stumbled on them and they’re like a psychedelic rock band and they’re pretty groovy man I like him.

What do you think like bands like Greta Van Fleet?

Man I love that, you know I love that the fact that the spirit of rock and roll and Led Zeppelin and crunchy guitar and screaming vocals is coming back. You know I just had a conversation with someone how things are like waves in the ocean and you know we’re like surfers man and we float around and then a great wave will come when we write it out that topic is and right now it seems like with Greta Van Fleet and you know Underground Thieves and Jared James Nichols and you know there’s a new wave of guitar rock that that’s coming out and it’s very exciting.

Yeah you know because it’s kind of missing for a while because you had them you got Volbeat how’s that sound.

Yeah yep and you know guitar is the coolest instrument on the planet I mean let’s face it though you know you can see the currently six body Wow.

It gets you the girls.

I guess so yeah it’s our guitar just has the most versatile and best sound there is and so when a new band comes out with their crunchy guitars it’s really a great thing.

We’re some was some good guitar music tonight ran into normal people at The Norva tonight.

We’re gonna hear some loud killer electric and some soft beautiful acoustic do we mix it up yeah guitar guitar is gonna be hard tonight for sure.

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