Tesla singer Jeff Keith says the band were heartbroken when they realised they had to sack Tommy Keoch because the guitarist just couldn’t stay off drugs.
The band recently released an album featuring tracks recorded by Skeoch in 2005, just before Tesla kicked him out. That followed the founding member’s original departure a decade earlier, also due to addiction issues.
Keith tells Noisecreep the band reunited in 2000 for a short run of shows but it led to bigger commitments. “Fast-forward to 2003 and we all agreed that we wanted to make a new studio album,” says the singer. “So we wrote and recorded one. Then we went out on a tour with the Scorpions – and things with Tommy started to fall apart. 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’d 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.”
But while the move was easy for drummer Troy Luccketta, who’d stopped taking drugs two decades previously, it proved impossible for Skeoch. Keith says: “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.”
Guitarist Dave Rude joined the band in 2006 and Keith says he “fits like a glove.” But he keeps in touch with Skeoch: “He’s back in Florida and he’s got a solo project that he’s working on now. I think he’s doing alright. There’s still some animosity from the band that went down, but I love him. Everyone in Tesla respects what he did for the band – but the decadence just had the best of 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.”