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DailyBoom Your Old School Music Authority

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Exclusive Interview: Jeff Keith on Tesla's Magical 'Five Man London Jam' at Abbey Road Studios


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Quarantine. Social distancing. Pandemic. Not exactly the terminology that any of us expected to personally identify with as we rang in the new year back in January and yet, here we are. When sheltering in place becomes a part of daily life it has a way of stripping away some of the things (career, money, etc.) that might otherwise divide people. We're all literally in the same boat and that includes rock stars like Tesla's lead singer, Jeff Keith

The band recently put out a wonderfully crafted new live album, Five Man London Jam, and rather than celebrating on the road as expected, they are at home with their families, waiting for this initial wave of Covid-19 to be over. I caught up with Jeff the other day and while life has taken a sharp turn, his kindness and positivity remain fully intact. Check it out.


Jeff Keith on daily life while under quarantine:

"It's crazy, my wife and I are now homeschooling our nine-year-old son. He does computer work and I do all the paperwork. I'm re-learning about a lot of things like adjectives and linking verbs, I'm brushing up on all the stuff I learned so many years ago (laughing)." 

Jeff on Tesla's new release, Five Man London Jam:

"We have to get a handle on the virus so we can get back out there and rock and roll. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to get out there to work this new record, Five Man London Jam. We're really excited to be able to play it for people and so hopefully we'll get the green light to go back out. We want people to listen to it now, watch the video and really enjoy it because we enjoyed recording it. 

It was done at Abbey Road Studios which made it just magical. Also, in a lot of ways, it was the best sounding room that we've ever played in. The Beatles and so many other great bands have gone through there and that kind of history made it a really special experience for us. We were really fortunate that our management was able to set it up in time for the thirtieth anniversary of our Five Man Acoustical Jam. It was like a celebration for us and we were able to have it in a place that already has magic in the air."

Jeff on playing acoustic shows:

"Playing acoustically is both challenging and exciting. Songs that are like a wall of amplifiers or something normally, make us have to approach them completely different with an acoustic guitar. It's fun to take a song like "Modern Day Cowboy" and try to keep it in the same vein that it was written in, but with an acoustic spin. It's exciting to have to figure out a different approach to it. 

I love doing studio records but doing anything live is my favorite, because you forget that you're recording. Everyone does because we're all just in the moment having fun and feeding off the energy of the room. So, for the room to be Abbey Road Studios, the energy was electric." 


Jeff on how this acoustic show was different from previous shows for the band:

"Oh my gosh, that location was just everything. When you're in the room you really try to forget that you're recording and just live in that moment and the music of that moment. Then with it being Abbey Road Studios, you had to let go of the legacy of this room and again try to stay connected to the music. We also got to throw some songs in there that weren't a part of Five Man Acoustical Jam back in 1990, which was nice.  We got to do some of the songs from our record called Shocked, that we put out last year with Phil Collen. It was exciting and both challenging and fun for us to do and we had such a great time." 

Jeff on working with Phil Collen:

"Phil is such a beautiful, loving soul and he clicks really well with our band. He is such an awesome guy and Phil really is like a big brother. Def Leppard took us under their wings when we went out with them on the Hysteria tour, back in 1987-88. We spent fourteen months in the round, with the stage in the middle of the arenas, for that tour and it was fantastic. Phil working with us and producing a record for us this many years later was just as fantastic He taught us a lot of things that we weren't already familiar with and somehow still kept it all in the vein of Tesla. We were still ourselves on that record but with a little bit of a different sound. The nice thing about it was that the fans appreciated it. They knew that we were doing something a little different that still allowed us to be ourselves, just with new techniques in our writing, and they supported us doing that. If Phil would be interested in doing it, we would love to do another one with him. If we had the opportunity to work with him like that again we would jump right on it."


Jeff on Tesla's secret to longevity:

"I believe an important part of it for us is that we have always stayed true to who we are. We are a blue-collar, rock and roll, bluesy band and every record that we've ever made stays true to that, even if it wasn't the most popular thing stylistically. We made it through the grunge movement (laughing) and we've never tried to win a popularity contest. After we broke up for four years, we came back in 2004 with a record titled Into The Now, and we called it that because we felt like we had one foot back in the 80's and then the other firmly in the present. I think the fans appreciate how we've always stuck to and acknowledged our roots. One thing about Tesla is that we don't try to be something that we're not. We've always stuck to our guns even though what we're doing may not be part of the latest fad, we stick to our roots. We also love to still make records and we intend to keep making them. I think that all of those things combined keep the fans with us and we are so deeply grateful to them for sticking with us. We know who we are and we'll always be Tesla."

Jeff on adapting to life temporarily without gigs:

"I think a lot of us are just trying to figure it out as we go. Hopefully, sooner rather than later they'll find a vaccine and really learn more about how this virus works.  It has just taken over everything and everything is shut down and we are hoping that they figure out how to get it under control. We can't wait to be able to get back out there and play again. We are hanging in limbo just like everyone else and we truly hope scientists figure things out so that we can all congregate again knowing that we're safe. We're dying to play live rock and roll and it's just not that simple anymore, it's not even in our hands.  In order to be able to do that, the whole world really needs to come together. We need to do the right thing, which is social distancing and it really is also the toughest thing to do. Sheltering in place is so important and so is remaining hopeful that things will work out. It is going to take us all coming together as one for us to beat this thing."

What Jeff wants you to know:

"We can't wait to get back out there to play for our fans again. It's heartbreaking not to be able to do that now but once we are given the green light, Tesla will be bringing their Five Man London Jam to a city near you."

Check out Tesla's official site for updated tour dates and merch!