Frank Hannon is a founder member and guitarist with multi-million selling US rockers Tesla and after 20 years the band has produced their best work to date. In the first of a two-part interview the axe hero talks to rushonrock about 2008’s Forever More and the trials, tribulations and triumphs of life in Tesla.

rushonrock: When you were writing Forever More did it dawn on you that this was something special?

Frank Hannon: I don’t think we thought we had a special record on our hands. We were just working so hard on it at the time that we weren’t thinking about it. Of course we tried really hard to make it the best record possible. We had the five of us in a room in the studio sitting in a circle with Terry Thomas working on the best ideas and getting rid of the stuff that didn’t work. We did work very diligently and from a personal point of view that period was the hardest I’ve ever worked with Tesla.

rushonrock: Is there such a thing as hard work when you’re a musician?

FH: It was 10am-9pm every day and then I was working on the Comin Atcha Live DVD! In retrospect I’m pretty psyched about the new album now but I was in the zone back then. The reaction when we play the news songs live is fantastic. We’re playing the likes of So What and Breaking Free and the crowds are going crazy. Most of the time new somngs go down like lead balloons at live shows so we must be doing something right!

rushonrock: Was there a time in the past when you thought a Tesla record of this quality would never see the light of day?

FH:  There was a time when we’d disbanded when I never knew if Tesla would ever get back together again, let alone record again. The problem was we worked for a solid 12 years without ever taking a break and it cost us in all kinds of ways. Instead of taking a break from time to time and carrying on we were all so shattered that we couldn’t do it anymore.

rushonrock: And did you still feel a  degree of pressure when you did reform?

FH: When we did get together to record Into The Now  (2004’s comeback album) we were faced with criticism from all sides from people who described us as ‘all washed up’ and ‘has-beens’ and so it didn’t look great even then. We had to overcome some self-esteem issues because we couldn’t help but take some of those comments to heart. We were a little bit discouraged to say the least and at that point Forever More looked a long way off.

rushonrock: You’ve sold 16 million-plus records but you never quite made the big league in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Why?

FH: We never reeally became the household names that Bon Jovi or Def Leppard did. I don’t know why that was other than the fact that we didn’t have the glamorous image of some of those hair metal bands. At the same time we’re very happy with what we’ve achieved in our career as Tesla and we feel like we’ve always maintained our integrity. Image-wise we came from the 80s where big hair and big shoulder pads were all the rage but our songs have stood the test of time and outlasted the image of that era. We can still go out and play songs from 20 years ago without feeling embarrassed. At our age it would be embarrassing to have to get dressed up and go all glam just to sustain some image from the past.

rushonrock: But there must have been pressure to conform?

FH: We’re pretty hard-headed and always have been. Our management in the 80s wanted us to do some things, make some slick records and do some commercial stuff but we always fought against it. Our managers didn’t quite turn us into superstars but then we didn’t ever want to sell out. The song What You Give is eight minutes long and that was never going to be a big hit – but it’s a great song and we didn’t want to shorten it. We did what we wanted to do and we never had to compromise ourselves by cultivating a preety-boy, glam image.

* Read more of Frank’s forthright views on rushonrock tomorrow when the Tesla star talks Pvt. Ledbetter, politics and big production.