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February 16, 2012

Tesla (Troy Luccketta, second from left)

TROY LUCCKETTA IS IN LONG ISLAND. It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon and Tesla is getting ready to sound-check for its’ show at The Paramount in Huntington. Cell phone reception is cutting in and out, and Troy only has a few minutes to talk; but he is pleasant and forthright nonetheless.

Tesla is currently on tour supporting “Twisted Wires (& The Acoustic Sessions),” an album of acoustic songs. Ten of the songs are stripped-down versions of Tesla classics from the last acoustic recordings done with former guitarist Tommy Skeoch.  Two brand new songs (“Second Street” and “Better Off Without You”) were recorded with new guitarist Dave Rude.

The band is celebrating the 25 years since it began touring in earnest (their first album, “Mechanical Resonance” came out in December of 1986 –Ed.) with a tour that began in the summer of 2011 and stretches through the end of February of this year. Drummer Troy Luccketta and his bandmates, (singer Jeff Keith, guitarist Frank Hannon and bass player Brian Wheat), are also celebrating the 20-year Anniversary of “Five Man Acoustical Jam,” an album that rocketed Tesla to the top of the BillBoard charts.

“The Twisted Wires Tour” commemorates this with an all-acoustic show which has been, unsurprisingly to Tesla fans, getting rave reviews. The band has listed several dates on its’ website for April and July and Troy made a point to address the band’s upcoming plans. He also made time to chat about his role in charity concerts for victims of the Station Nightclub Fire in Rhode Island. And although he is very humble about his contribution, it soon becomes clear what a selfless and caring person he is.

ROCKSALT.MX: Can you start off by telling a little bit about your involvement with the benefit for the Station Fire Fund in Rhode Island?

TROY LUCCKETTA: I can’t do it real quickly, but I can certainly tell you about it. The deal is, basically… well, I mean, we’d come through the area many times. And when the fire happened, we had lost a personal assistant, Jeff Rader, in the fire, and his fiancée, Rebecca Shaw, who was from Warwick, Rhode Island. So we all kinda had some close ties to it. We had met some of the survivors when we had done some meet-and-greets, you know? And they gave us all the information and the package for the; they were trying to raise money and do different things. Initially I was just going to send some guitars until I got on the phone and spoke with them and… well, the short version is that I went back to the bus and talked to our singer and said, “Hey Jeff, let’s say we’ll go do a concert for these people.” And we all agreed to do that

ROCKSALT: You played a couple of shows.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah, and it all started like that. It basically spearheaded from that and we did two: we did it in ’05 and ’08. The first one was Tesla and Shinedown, and Carmine Appice with Pat Travers.

ROCKSALT: That was at the Providence Performing Arts Center.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah. Then we came back and did the arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

ROCKSALT: The Dunk! Although some people still call it the Providence Civic Center. And that’s like, what? 15-16 thousand people.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah. And that was in 2008. And there was a lot of people who got involved with that one. And basically what happened with that was, I went down to the venue with this guy Donovan Williams; and he went ahead and he set me up with a gal named Debra Polselli, who was the assistant to the GM over at the arena. And I just pulled out a day and grabbed a date. And once I had the date, I got a hold of everybody in Tesla; and then I just started calling people. And before you know it we had a concert! Then VH1 got involved, and filmed it and aired it; Dee Snider was the host – it’s all over the internet and they’ve been playing that stuff on YouTube. “The Station Family Fire Concert in ’08,” stuff like that.

Click to watch Tesla performing “Love Song” at the Station Benefit in Providence, Rhode Island in 2008.

ROCKSALT: That’s wonderful.

TROY LUCCKETTA: It really was. Everybody from Aaron Lewis, Tesla, Dierks Bentley – a lot of country artists came. We had John Rich from Big and Rich, Gretchen Wilson; and then Twisted Sister, Tom Scholz from Boston, Winger, Stryper, Eric Martin form Mr. Big.… it was a lot of people and a lot of people who donated their talent and time. Yeah, it was a really good thing and we raised about 600 grand. It was really successful and it really worked. It was just one of those things, man, and it just… it just blew up my faith, you know?

ROCKSALT: That’s magnificent. Had you ever played The Station before?

TROY LUCCKETTA: I never did, but my singer Jeff, he did when he had his band called Bar Seven.

ROCKSALT: Right on. Do you have ideas or indication if something is going to happen next year for for the tenth anniversary? It seems odd to call it an anniversary, though…

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah, it is the tenth year. Yeah. I was talking to Gina Russo last night when we played. She’s had over a hundred surgeries, God bless her. And she looks really good now; she’s just been through a lot. She and Donovan came out last night, out in New Haven; and she’s got a book out - and a documentary she’s putting together. To go with the book, I think. That’s gonna happen sometime next year, I think. I don’t know what, if anything else, I’m not really sure. I think there will be something to commemorate the tenth year, but, I’m not sure what.

ROCKSALT: Very cool. Thank you for sharing that.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Of course. You know what? The bottom line is: that’s where the rubber meets the road. And that’s what, that we could actually do something with all the stuff we do out here, and this talent. You just start to grab people and it doesn’t take a lot to get people to show up, that’s really all it is, what it’s about. It’s calling. You just reach for the phone and you call people that you know in the business and before you know it you’ve got a concert. And it benefits all these people that have been… just been through so much, you know?

ROCKSALT: Of course, and thank you. I know it’s a bit of sad topic to start off with.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Nah, the topic, it’s fine. It’s… it’s just life. It’s reality, man. You know? But we can talk about all the good stuff, too! We’re out playing and doin’ fine!

ROCKSALT: You just started your tour. How was the first night?

TROY LUCCKETTA: Kicked off last night in New Haven, yeah. Valentine’s Day! It was all good, man! Every show people have a wonderful time!

ROCKSALT: You kicked off your first big tour, opening for David Lee Roth, on January 14, 1987, at the New Haven Colliseum. That was 25 years ago.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah, we were just talkin’ about that last night! That was a long time ago, man.

ROCKSALT: And now, of course, you’re out promoting “Twisted Wires.” What was the motivation for doing an album of acoustic versions of your songs? This is something you’ve obviously done before.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Well, it’s the 20th Anniversary of “Five Man Acoustical Jam.” So we thought let’s put something out there and out and do a few shows and have some fun. You know? And that’s what we do. We just enjoy what we do. We keep it simple and we play music. If it’s electric, which it’s been most of the time, and that’s great. Because we had so much success with the “Five Man Acoustical Jam” that we’re not doing like, this whole big crazy show. There’s not a lot around it, promoting, but we’re doing just doing some dates, it’s an acknowledgement. You know what I mean? So it’s a pretty simple deal, it’s nothin’ too blown out, you know? We just packed up some acoustic guitars and go out; and we’re strippin’ it down and people dig it. It’s a good show!

ROCKSALT: It’s a nice contrast that you go back and forth from live to unplugged.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah. It really works. You know what? If it’s electric I enjoy it because I gotta work a little hard and I don’t have to be so lazy. And with my drums, at my age I can just play a little harder! (laughs) But outside of that, when we do this kind of show, I do enjoy the break and the fun; and I get to kick back, so that’s pretty cool, too!

ROCKSALT: Didn’t Tesla actually start out playing in bars, acoustically? Playing covers and things like that?

TROY LUCCKETTA: Back in the day before I joined them, they were definitely doing covers and things of that nature. But they had some originals. Everybody kinda starts with that, it seems like.

ROCKSALT: Not all bands; and a lot of bands can’t play acoustically.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Well, for us, it was part of everything. And it’s just, it’s a pretty natural progression for us to do it, you know? It’s just what we do, you know?

ROCKSALT: Tesla really nails it. The songs on “Twisted Wires” sound just as good, if not better acoustically.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah, you know? It’s just something that we’re really comfortable with. And we really enjoy doing it. It’s pretty cool. It’s all good!

ROCKSALT: One of the songs you did acoustically for “Twisted Wires” is “Hang Tough” from The Great Radio Controversy. That was a big hit for you guys. How important is radio to Tesla in the 21st Century?

TROY LUCCKETTA: Oh, yeah, absolutely! Radio does matter to me. It matters a lot to me, but unfortunately, I don’t know if we matter to radio. (laughs) How’s that? (laughs) It would be nice to have a big giant hit, have the whole thing reinvented and all that; but… you know, it certainly matters, but we’re kinda cool with a lot of radio - radio stations – so we’re thankful for all that we have and what we’ve done. At the same time, we’re just plugging along and if they jump on and they support it, we’re very happy when they do. And if they don’t, you just gotta keep plugging along and do what you do, you know? And that’s what we’re doing.

ROCKSALT: Are there places you go where you can always count on radio support?

TROY LUCCKETTA: Absolutely. Different markets, sure. There are certain markets that are better than others, so it’s like anything that’s being sold. You’ve got your strong markets, your weaker markets, you’re A, B, C markets. There’s secondary markets and we still go and we play.

ROCKSALT: This seems like a short tour for the band; will you be adding more dates later on?

TROY LUCCKETTA: We’re probably not going to be doing a whole lotta touring touring. But we are going to continue doing dates I think, May through September. A lot of “fly” dates – you go fly out and play and fly home. There’s talk about a (redacted –Ed.) tour coming up here in June that we might do, for about five or six weeks.

ROCKSALT: Wow, that would great!

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah, we come back to NYC for Jones Beach, I see that one on there. So that’s part of it, too.

ROCKSALT: But that’s not official, yet?

TROY LUCCKETTA: It’s, ah… nah. Yeah, you should probably just keep it on the low… but, ah… yeah, it’s not a hundred per cent confirmed but it’s confirmed.

ROCKSALT: That’s fantastic.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah, I think that’s gonna happen because we just talked about it and said “Yes” to it last night, so…

ROCKSALT: And would you be playing electric… or acoustic?

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah, those will be electric shows. So people will be able to get the best of both worlds from Tesla this year.

ROCKSALT: Acoustic and electric in 2012. Excellent. Now I know we have to keep this brief since you’re playing tonight. So here’s your last question: Tesla has covered “War Pigs” in the past, I know you performed it the last time you played acoustically at Irving Plaza in New York City.

TROY LUCCKETTA: Oh, yeah. Right. That’s not in the set this time. Sorry.

ROCKSALT: Well, I wonder, as a drummer and obviously a fan of their music, if you have an opinion about what’s currently going on with Bill Ward and Black Sabbath?

TROY LUCCKETTA: Well, what is going on with Bill? I think Bill’s great, I’ve always loved Bill Ward.

ROCKSALT: I was referring to whether or not he’s back for the Sabbath reunion this year?

TROY LUCCKETTA: Oh, wow. I don’t even know what’s going on there. I don’t really have an opinion on all that. There’s so many things that happen in this business, and I don’t mean to be mean, but it doesn’t matter what I think, you know what I mean? I mean it’s like, c’mon – I want MIcheal Anthony in Van Halen – but, you know? (laughs)

ROCKSALT: Fair enough. Well thanks for taking the time, Troy. We’ll look forward to seeing out on tour and maybe later this year!

TROY LUCCKETTA: Yeah, you got it man! Thanks a lot! And just tell people to come out and have a good time!

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