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Interview:
Tesla bassist's new memoir, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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The title of Brian Wheat's new memoir -- "Son of a Milkman: My Crazy Life with Tesla" -- certainly indicates what's included in its pages.



Wheat is referring to the band, not the car (nor the inventor), of course. Formed by Wheat and guitarist Frank Hannon (as City Kidd) in 1981, the group has scored five platinum-or-better albums along with rock radio h its such as "Love Song," "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)" and its unplugged cover of the Five Man Electrical Band's "Signs." Wheat has led the group through two incarnations, reforming in 2000 after a four-year breakup, and also co-founded the band Soulmotor.



In "Son of a Milkman" he offers a straightforward account of life as a rock star, mostly upbeat despite battles with substance abuse, anxiety, depression, weight issues, bulimia and colitis. It's one man's journey through the music world, and it's fair to say you don't need to be a Tesla fan to take the ride...



• The Sacramento, Calif.-born Wheat, 56, says the idea to write a book was first brought up by a therapist some 30 years ago. "He said, 'It will help you let go of some of the things you keep inside.' I thought, 'Yeah, OK, maybe so,' but at that time there wasn't that much of a story to tell. We were only on our second album. Flash forward 30 years and you go, 'Well, I'm approaching 60. The band's been around 36, 37 years. Maybe it's time to actually write a memoir,' so here it is."



• Wheat says that he approached the story "with a bit of humor" and hopes that its overall message is uplifting to reader. "The underlying thing is that no matter what life throws at you, you keep moving forward and you keep trying to do your best. That's what I hope people get out of the book. Yeah, I've had some bad things come at me and stuff, but I deal with them and I do the best I can and come out still standing. Doing this, I learned that if you let things go and put them out in the universe, it can be liberating...and maybe I can help some people let go of their (stuff) too."



• Doing the book also hammered in Wheat's pride in Tesla's long run as a band. "When I read it as a whole and realized all the s*** we've gone through as a band, the ups and downs, I was really proud of the fact we're still here and we're still working and people are coming to see us. We've overcome whatever personal struggles we've had, or collective struggles, to keep the thing intact and going in a positive direction. That does make me really proud."



• Among the surprising revelations in "Son of a Milkman" is Wheat's close friendship with Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page, who he met during Tesla's early days. "When I was a kid and had his pictured on my wall, Led Zeppelin posters and stuff, if you would've told me 'One day you'll be good friends with him' I would’ve told you you were nuts. But he is a real friend. He's such a great guy, and a lovely man. When we hang out we talk about books and food and photography and buildings and history; The last thing we talk about is Led Zeppelin. A few years back I played with him at a thing in Seattle, a celebration of Jimmy's Career. I played with Paul Rodgers and did some of The Firm stuff, and then Jimmy got up and played. We did 'Rock and Roll' and that's the one time I was like, 'That's Jimmy f****ing Page! Whoaaaaa! I'm playing with Jimmy Page!'"



• Wheat acknowledges that the specter of the Tesla Motors Inc. has hung over the band, especially during the past decade or so. "It's funny; When you say, 'It's Brian from Tesla,' they're like, 'Oh, the car company?' 'Yeah, I'm the sales representative.' (laughs) The car has surpassed the popularity of the band by a long shot, but that's OK. I saw a picture of (Elon Musk) wearing a Tesla (band) shirt at Sundance. We reached out to his executive assistant and sent him some shirts and he sent us back some Tesla (car) shirts. We invited him to as how but he couldn’t make it, and then he invited us to the plant but we were not able to go over there. We just keep missing each other, but I'm sure our paths will cross someday. It certainly would be a good photo opportunity."

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