Tesla Frontman Jeff Keith on ‘Five Man London Jam,’ COVID-19 and More

2020-04-06

Tesla – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Jeff Keith of Tesla chats with Anne Erickson about the 30th anniversary of “Five Man Acoustic Jam,” the coronavirus pandemic and more in this in-depth interview

Tesla has been a touring machine for decades, and the guys have maintained a reputation for being a killer live band throughout it all.

The guys are coming up on the 30th anniversary of releasing their seminal “Five Man Acoustic Jam” record, which sold more than two million copies and is Tesla’s biggest-selling record to date. In honor of that anniversary, Tesla recently released “Five Man London Jam,” a vibrant live record recorded during the group’s 2019 performance at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London, England.

Tesla vocalist Jeff Keith checked in with Anne Erickson to discuss “Five Man London Jam,” how the music world has been turned upside down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and more. Read the full interview below, and find Tesla online at TeslatheBand.com.

Anne Erickson: You have a new live release on the way, “Five Man London Jam.” What made you guys want to release a live album at this time?

Jeff Keith: Well, it’s the 30 year anniversary for “Five Man Acoustic Jam,” which we did on tour with Motley Crue and had a couple nights off… We did a couple of shows and came up with this acoustic set while we were out with Motley Crue and thought, Why not do that on a night off instead of sitting there for two nights? Next thing you know, we said, let’s record this, and it ended up being our biggest selling record to date. We sold two million records, so we’re celebrating that anniversary with an acoustic jam from Abbey Road Studios.

Something really cool about this album, of course, is that it was recorded at your June performance last year at London’s Abbey Road Studios. What was it like performing in that legendary space?

We were in a big room where the Beatles made records, the Who– a ton of great bands played there. There’s so much history there just with the Beatles alone. That’s why we did some songs like (the Beatles’) “We Can Work It Out,” and then we did some songs off the “Shock” record we did with Phil Collen, and we did some songs like “What You Give,” which was not written when we did “Five Man Acoustic Jam” 30 years ago, so it was fun doing a couple songs like that. It was just magical in Abbey Road Studios, and it was live. We had a little audience there, and it was fantastic.

COVID-19 is so wide-reaching and has changed so much about music in such a short time. How are you seeing the coronavirus pandemic impact those in the music business who rely on touring income and tours to make a living?

It’s impacting everything and every congregation, from birthday parties to even funerals and church. Every function where people gather is out, so everybody and all livelihoods are impacted. The whole world is having to deal with this, so if anything, what good I think that will come from it is that the world has to work together. The entire worlds, not just this country and that country, but the entire world.

It really has impacted nearly every single country in the world.

Absolutely. We’re a week or two behind some other countries, and we’re starting to get the big hit like some countries that were doing things two weeks earlier, and their numbers are starting to come down, and our numbers are starting to come up. They’re going up in all different kinds of places, and we just have to get a handle on this thing. What it takes is the hardest thing to do, which is for everybody just to stay put.

Myself, I drove out here, and I’m looking at Folsom Lake right now. It’s five miles from my house, and I’m still in my own controlled environment, inside my truck, looking out at the lake, talking to you. I’m keeping to myself. You have to be careful grocery shopping. I saw this thing on the world news yesterday where people that really need medicine can’t get it, because people who really need it are getting it just to stockpile it. This toilet paper thing– I don’t get it! People can’t even get toilet paper, Kleenex and paper towels, because everybody went and horded it out!

Your tour with Alice Cooper and Lita Ford is set to kick off May 30th. Do you know if that run is still on?

Well, our April run got pushed off immediately when this coronavirus hit. Alice Cooper, more than likely they’re working on it right now with I think a plan B to push the dates back and hope that everything is under control by then, and if it’s not, then everybody, the whole entire map, is just wiped off and everybody has to stop.

But, I see a lot of artists that are doing their own thing at home and recording it. I saw a thing with Tommy Shaw yesterday, and it was great– he was playing to his dog. I saw a thing with Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman at their place, and they’re just sitting there, jamming with their kids, and that’s what we’re doing to pass the time.

It’s been great talking with you, Jeff! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just, I can’t wait for the live shows to come back around and to come to everybody’s town and play some of this new acoustic record live for people. I’m really looking forward to it and playing, period, and getting back on the road and doing what we love most.

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