- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2017

Time was when Frank Hannon, the leader singer, guitarist and co-founder of Tesla, had to wait until he got into a recording studio to get his song ideas realized. But now, thanks to technology, the 50-year-old musician travels with a portable recorder in his pocket.

Perhaps even more surprisingly, Mr. Hannon, who will perform with Tesla at The Fillmore Silver Spring in Silver Spring, Maryland, Tuesday evening, has something else he always has on hand when the tour bus rolls into a new city.

The answer will surprise you.

Question: Where does the tour find you today?

Answer: Things are good, man. I’m looking out the window at St. Louis.

Q: Will you have time to find the statue of Chuck Berry?

A: I’m going to have to find that man. I’ve got a bicycle, so I’ll go for a ride.

Q: You take a bike with you on tour? What do you like to go and see at each city?

A: A bike really comes in handy. Yesterday I was in Springfield, Missouri, and it was such a cool little city, and I was just tooling around exploring.

It’s easy to get bored [on the road]. We spend a lot of time in parking lots and on the tour bus, so it helps me get some exercise on the bicycle and really just keeps me sane out there.

Q: Do you ever run into fans while biking around?

A: Oh yeah. Fans will laugh at me, flag me down, especially if they’re standing in line or something.

I’ll ride my bike until showtime to get my blood pumping. I’ll be in the parking lot putting my bike away right before the show.

Q: Besides the bike, is there something you absolutely have to have with you on tour?

A: That would be my digital recorder. It has a built-in microphone and it’s very portable. I can carry it with me on my bike, and I can sit down in a park and record a song idea if I wanted.

I’m making a covers album with it. Tesla recorded some music in the hotel rooms, and that new album is going to be out in the spring. So two new albums coming out. They’re all recorded on the road.

Q: How else has touring changed for you over the years?

A: I think we’re a much better band now performance-wise. We listen to each other a lot more.

We don’t drink on tour anymore. Alcohol was a very dangerous and destructive thing for our band. It has made a world of difference.

A: Is the songwriting process different than it used to be?

A: A band is a band, and it’s a democratic band. We have five very different people in the band. Whether it’s The Eagles or Aerosmith or The Rolling Stones, you get give guys together of that caliber who are always [proposing] ideas, it can be very difficult.

Any great band really benefits form having an outside producer come in and be a mediator — sort of like a football team needs a great coach. Phil Collen, who is in Def Leppard, wanted to produce us. To have a producer we believe in has always been [important].

Q: The music industry is upside down from what it once was. How has Tesla adjusted to the new marketplace.

A: We’re still trying to figure it out, man. The one thing you can’t take away is the live concert.

On one hand, I love technology and the ability that I can write and record a song in my hotel room and then immediately email it to my friends and they can listen to it instantly. That’s great, but the fact is there’s no value in a song anymore. You hear a song once and you’re over it because there’s so much accessibility.

I was having this conversation this morning with our drummer Troy [Luccketta] about how, when I was a kid, I would sit there and listen to the radio and hope that I would hear an Aerosmith song, and I would hope that came on. I’m waiting for hours just to hear that song come on.

But now, if I want to hear it is, I just click it on my phone. It’s not the same level of anticipation.

You’ve heard the old expression “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” There’s no more hunt anymore, there’s no more anticipation of music. That’s the worst part of it.

Q: Who were some of your influences?

A: Steven Tyler and [Aerosmith] are definite heroes of mine. We opened for Aerosmith the first time in 1987. They were very cool.

As a young kid in the ‘70s, The Rolling Stones were big heroes. I like funk music a lot too. Sly Stone. Rick James.

Q: What do you tell young musicians about the business?

A: They should learn how to sing. If you don’t sing, then you’re not finishing a product. You can doodle away on a [notepad], but if you can’t sing, you’re screwed.

Q: What do you plan to do in D.C. in your downtime?

A: I’m either going to walk around or get out and take some pictures. Maybe cruise by the White House [and] see Donald.

Q: What would you like the D.C.-area audience to know heading into your show at The Fillmore this week?

A: We’re very grateful that people still like our songs.

You set your own limits.

Tesla plays at The Fillmore Silver Spring in Silver Spring, Maryland, Tuesday evening. Tickets are available by going to LiveNation.com.

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