TESLA bassist Brian Wheat, who is promoting his just-released autobiography, "Son Of A Milkman: My Crazy Life With Tesla", spoke to OC Sound Radio about how the rise of grunge in the early 1990s forced most hard rock bands off the radio and MTV, with album and tour sales plummeting.
"When we put out 'Bust A Nut', which was '94, and all of a sudden people were telling us our career was over, it was pretty discouraging," Brian said (hear audio below). "Because we had thought we had made this great record, we thought we had made what was gonna be our breakthrough record, and it sold close to eight hundred thousand records, which is nothing to sniff at. But because it didn't do double platinum, like the one before it, and you had these new bands come out that everyone was going crazy over, including our record company, it was a bit discouraging for us, so we got kind of kicked to the curb, if you will. Our manager said to me point blank, 'It's over, dude. It's over for you' — my manager, Cliff Burnstein. I remember just thinking, 'Wow, how can he say that? That's not very encouraging.' It was so nonchalant: 'Well, your career is over now.' I'm thinking, what did we do wrong? What did we do? Why is it over? They loved us last year.
"So that was hard, and I think that contributed a lot to [TESLA's] breakup in 1995 and during that. It definitely fucked wih our psyches. And then, obviously, we had the problems with Tommy [Skeoch, then-TESLA guitarist] at that time, which we always had problems with Tommy, it seems like, but that's when they first started. And it fucked with our psyche, and eventually we broke up."
Asked if the sharp downturn in TESLA's critical and commercial fortunes contributed to his alcohol abuse, Wheat said: "The alcohol abuse was kind of always there. It got worse as it went on. But it certainly led to the drugs. So the last year the band was together [before the split], if you had asked the guys in the band, 'Does Brian do blow or does he smoke pot or any of that?', they'd say, 'No, he just likes to drink.' But that last 18 months, [after] it was basically laid out to me, 'Look, your career is over,' I started doing drugs. I remember, there's a story where I called the band's blow dealer and I go, 'Hey, can you bring me over an eight ball?' and he's, like, 'I've been told to stay away from you, that you don't do this stuff, and you're absolutely against it.' And I went, 'I'm telling you, man. I'm not against it. Bring over the eight ball, please.' So, I think I just got deflated. And then that started that kind of spiral effect of getting on that slippery slope and almost losing control of it all."
In June, the members of TESLA got together — virtually — to jam out a quarantined version of "Breakin' Free" as part of their online series "Home To Home".
The original recording of "Breakin' Free" appeared on TESLA's 2008 album "Forever More".
"Son Of A Milkman: My Crazy Life With Tesla" arrived on December 15 via Post Hill Press. In this 304-page hardcover book, Wheat lifts the lid on living the rock 'n' roll life while struggling with anxiety, depression and other issues seldom discussed by musicians.
"Son Of A Milkman" features a foreword by DEF LEPPARD vocalist Joe Elliott, and was co-written with award-winning journalist and author Chris Epting, whose titles include "Adrenalized" (co-written with DEF LEPPARD's Phil Collen) and "Change Of Seasons" (co-written with John Oates).
Wheat co-founded TESLA, which became one of the biggest bands of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Brian owns a recording studio by the name of J Street Recorders in Sacramento, California. PAPA ROACH, TESLA, PAT TRAVERS, DEFTONES, KODIAK JACK, FLASHFIRES and many others have recorded there.
TESLA spent most of last year touring in support of its latest album, "Shock", which was released in March 2019 via UMe. The follow-up to 2014's "Simplicity" was produced by DEF LEPPARD guitarist Phil Collen.