Tesla’s Jeff Keith on Their Tough History With Former Guitarist Tommy Skeoch
Hard rock veterans Tesla recently released ‘Twisted Wires,’ a collection featuring reimagined versions of some of their older songs, plus some new tracks. Included on the album are a few cuts from a 2005 recording session with original co-guitarist Tommy Skeoch. Fans of the band already know that Skeoch and Tesla have had a rocky past. The gifted guitarist first quit the band in the mid-’90s due to his growing substance abuse problems. After Tesla decided to reunite, Skeoch agreed to come back to the fold. Sadly, the union didn’t last.
In this Noisecreep exclusive, Tesla vocalist Jeff Keith talks about that tough period in the band’s career.
“I’ll be straight-up with you about this. Tesla got back together in 2000 and we played a sold out show at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. and we committed to some other gigs. The next thing you know we’re doing complete legs of tours. Fast-forward to 2003 and we all agreed that we wanted to make a new studio album, so we wrote and recorded one. We self-produced it too. Then we went out on a tour with the Scorpions and things with Tommy started to fall apart,” says Keith.
“Look, everyone in Tesla has been through their own substance abuse issues. But Tommy got in too deep again. So the band told him that the only way we would be able to make this work is if he was clean and sober. I felt like we couldn’t ask him to do that if we weren’t going to commit to it too. So I was the first one to say that I wouldn’t drink, or do anything else, on the tour. The next thing you know, the other guys did the same thing. Troy [Luccketta, drums] has been clean and sober for over 20 years, so it wasn’t even an issue for him,” remembers the frontman.
Unfortunately for Keith and the rest of Tesla, Skeoch couldn’t handle the temptations the road brings. “Here we were back playing arenas, but the band was having problems again. Tommy couldn’t stay off the stuff he was doing. It broke my heart to see it, but we knew we had to replace him.” In 2006 Tesla brought in young guitar wiz Dave Rude to replace Skeoch. “He fits like a glove. We love him. But we still play Tommy’s stuff and we’re proud of those songs. They helped us build this thing known as Tesla for the past 20 years.”
Watch ‘Edison’s Medicine’ from Tesla
Noisecreep asked Keith if he still keeps in touch with Skeoch. “I guess he’s back in Florida and he’s got a solo project that he’s working on now. I think he’s doing alright. I call him from time to time. There’s still some animosity from the band stuff that went down, but I love him. Everyone in Tesla respects him and what he did for the band. The decadence just had the best with him. It’s cool to a point, but when you start missing notes and singing out of tune, you know it’s gone too far.
These days Tesla tours clean and sober. We let our fans do the partying [laughs]. I’m OK with that. I just think when you come see us play out these days you’re getting us playing at our best. We deliver the songs the way we’ve always meant them to sound like. We’ve done enough drinking and drugging to last a lifetime [laughs].”
Tesla’s ‘Twisted Wires’ is out now and available at this link.