One of the greatest rock bands to come out of northern California, Tesla, broke ground and barriers everywhere with their thumping heart-pounding version of rock n’ roll. In 1991, the band again blazed a trail for others to follow with their live unplugged release of Five Man Acoustical Jam, so when guitarist Frank Hannon had a chance to catch up, he spoke of Tesla and his new solo project, The Frank Hannon Band.
Hannon’s enthusiasm and energy is that of a teenager; if he’s on pause it’s for a brief moment only as he laughed and said his wife would definitely agree to his never slowing down; he was always on the run. “I’m fantastic, let’s rock and roll!” Hannon exclaims. “You may have to tell me to pipe it down a little bit if I talk too much!” Here’s the scoop; music is the kind of thing that is like riding a wave. If you are on a wave, you have to really ride it when you can”, he says like a true Californian. “This year of 2012, myself as Frank Hannon the solo artist and Frank Hannon as a member of Tesla, has been one real exciting wave that has just gone on forever. It has been phenomenal. Tesla toured with the Scorpions all summer. I recorded an album called Six String Soldiers, which has some great stuff on it. We went to Puerto Rico; I mean the list goes on and on.”
TESLA formed in 1986 and has been known as a hard rock band with a touch of heavy metal thrown the mix with just the right amount of an acoustic touch. “We have four out of five original band members,” states Hannon optimistically, “one of the guys had an issue of handling the excesses of availability of everything in rock and roll. Thank God he is still alive and hopefully he can still change his life; but the rest have managed to maintain our group and survive with a really beautiful catalog of music from a multitude of albums and songs.”
From 1986 to 1998, Tesla recorded four studio albums and worked non-stop so they decided to take a break yet as fate would have it, there is no rest for the weary and in 2000. Tesla reunited. Several more albums were released in the years to follow for a total of eight studio albums and four live albums. “We have such loyal fan base that still comes to see us play live.” Hannon says with pride. “Most of the fans are the same fans that were coming to see us back in 1989 and are now bringing their kids to the shows. I believe the younger generation is beginning to appreciate our music. They are really smart and love good time music. They have gotten tired of the negative music that was being fed to them and love that 80s feel good rock and roll. I think that’s why they love country music and 80’s music, because it feels good and makes them happy and forget about all the negativity.
Though Hannon has always been busy with Tesla, he is also an established solo artist, plays multiple instruments, is a talented songwriter, and is not only touring with Tesla but now with his own band. The Frank Hannon Band consists of Dickey Betts , Rick Derringer, Pat Travers and Dave Meniketti. Also joining them are Mike Araiza and Jeff Sandoval, who were featured on the last album, Gypsy Highway. Together as the Frank Hannon Band, they’ve recorded a full length disc with 12 amazingly written songs that has made this album a work of art. “From the beginning, we first started writing the songs; myself, Mike Araiza and Jeff Sandoval—(from Albuquerque, New Mexico) he came to me in January but from start to finish, the entire record was just so fun to make,” says Hannon. “There are some really beautiful songs on there. Love, Life and Beauty is one that really touches my heart. The experience of meeting Rick Derringer and have him come to the studio at my house and record with me, ahhhh, he is one of my heroes. Dickey Betts, wow! Having Dickey, Rick and Dave as guests on this album are just amazing.”
Getting your hands on Six String Soldiers is quiet easy, but not as traditional as most, explains Hannon. “I don’t have any major distribution; you can’t find my records in any record shop or major store chain. I’m totally independent and to make an album that I’m 100 percent proud of is the most rewarding feeling of all. The rewards of getting positive feedback from your peers are so fantastic. I’ve got nothing but positive feedback from everyone. People tell me they love the songs.”
The album reflects a kind of “feel good” rock n’ roll vibe with a focus on some of the most accredited guitarists in the business. The line up in this band definitely gives this album a sound not heard on the rock scene in some time, according to Hannon. “Cortney DeAugustine plays drums on this album and she is just a monster! Hahaha, I call her ‘The Cave Woman’. She plays the drums like a cave woman would bang on drums; a big and burly beat. If you listen to the tom-toms she plays on this album, it just drives the music and I love playing with her. Comparing it to my other albums, Gypsy Highway, is an album where I did all the instruments myself and there is no way to capture the same spirit doing it alone and when you have other people putting their soul into it.”
“I have such a great relationship with these people, we have become good friends,” Hannon enthused, “I do hope that we will work together again. I am such a creative personality that I can’t foretell you what I’ll be doing next, but I can say my next album will most likely NOT be a jazz record…..Joe Walsh is one of my favorite all time heroes; as a guitar player, he is in a great band called The Eagles. I’m in a great band called Tesla. We each get to do our own creative outlet, like Joe doing The James Gang.”
Six String Soldiers has a southern and smooth classic rock feel from the 70s, which is undeniably a definite era of inspiration for Hannon. “Being a ten-year old kid in 1976, radio stations were so great. You had Lynard Skynard, Boston, Aerosmith…these were bands that took over the radio…songs like Dream Weaver from Gary Wright. Those were the songs and the bands that touched me as a kid. That music was so inspiring to me. I always loved any live album or live performance. When Peter Frampton came out with Frampton Comes Alive, in 1976, like I said I was only ten. The radio stations would play that album and the sound of the audience live, on a live album, is what had me hooked. It really turned me on and made me want to do that. I can remember playing in a talent show in the sixth grade. When the audience cheered me on, it gave me a tingle from my head down my spine to my toes, and made me feel so good. All in all it was the sound of the audience that made me want to do it.”
Hannon’s band is touring but not extensively as they have very few dates listed for their recent tour leaving fans to wonder. “My plan is to tour (with the Frank Hannon Band) and do a couple of shows on the West Coast in November with Y&T.” States Hannon. “On New Year’s Eve in my hometown, I am going to do a big concert to benefit The Wounded Warrior Project for soldiers returning from war.”
The band then plans to continue the tour throughout January, February and March ending in Puerto Rico. With a laugh Hannon says, “We want to stay south for the winter! When Tesla plays the Monsters of Rock Cruise in March, I want to bring the band on and do Six String Soldiers on the cruise, and end up in Puerto Rico. I would definitely love to come through Atlanta.”