Tesla bassist Brian Wheat said a complete loss of support from the band’s label and management in the grunge era led them to believe they failed, even though they felt they didn’t.
The negativity caused a split in 1996, but they returned four years later and haven’t stopped since. In a recent interview with Vinyl Writer Music, Wheat said the hiatus turned out to be a blessing in disguise, after more than a decade of “a cycle of albums and tours with hardly any breaks.”
He argued that “we were not slacking for those years leading up to the break. And really, some of our biggest tours were in arenas in ’91, ’92 and ’93. People forgot about albums like Psychotic Supper, but we were headlining arenas in America still. Then we put out Bust a Nut, which wasn’t the same. … [It] sold 800,000 copies, which was considered a failure at the time. It was the first album we did that wasn’t platinum … we ‘only’ sold 800,000.”
He added, “That was the mind-set of the record company, our managers and everyone else: that we failed. We had four in a row that went platinum, and the fifth one didn’t work … failure.” He suggested it was easier for people in certain positions to think in such simple terms. “The people who make money from you saw this new thing called grunge, and they forget about you.”
Wheat recalled that he and his bandmates felt “defeated and deflated because we thought we were all right. … There was no ‘You’re going to be a career band, and we’re going to stick through with you and encourage you.’ There was no encouragement at all. … They didn’t do anything to help, and we imploded. But ultimately it was on us.”
On reflection, he allowed that they should always have seen the split as a hiatus. “It was probably best for us because it got everyone’s heads back in the right space,” he said. “We got our minds right, and we realized what we have is a very special thing and to treat it with respect.”
He said he was proud of the fact that they regrouped and remained working for another 23 years. “What matters now is what the guys in the band think, not some record company or manager,” he insisted. “The true gauge is the fans, and we see how they react when we play certain songs. They go nuts, cry or whatever. That’s the gauge, not somebody making money from us.”
Enjoying their time with fans is one reason why Tesla isn’t planning a new album right now, although Wheat noted that a new song will be released later this year. “We will do a whole album again, but it’s not on our priority list,” he explained. “When you get to our age, the main thing is that we’re still playing live. Maybe we’ll make music in the studio when we can’t play live. But for now, we’d rather spend that time going out and playing for our fans.”
Tesla is currently touring North America
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