The five-man, hard-rock band Tesla has been on a roll.

Over the past year, the band, based in Sacramento, Calif., has been busier than it had been in its previous 10 years combined. Tesla has released three albums of covers, returned to Europe for its first tour there in 15 years, released a DVD ("Comin' Atcha Live! 2008") and now is preparing to release a new album of original material, "Forever More," which promises to be as good as anything the band has ever released over its 20+ year career.

"We're working constantly," bassist Brian Wheat recently told the Deseret News during a phone interview from Sacramento.

Wheat compared the current state of Tesla to going to the gym every day. Once it regained its form, the band was encouraged to keep working to remain in top shape. He said there has been a very positive attitude in the band over the past year or so.

The new album reunites Tesla with Terry Thomas, who produced 1994's "Bust A Nut," a very good album that came during a very bad time for the band.

"A lot of fans really like ("Bust A Nut.") I don't know how much of it we remember," Wheat said.

If making a record today is like going to the gym, then the time "Bust A Nut" was made might be compared to going on a diet of junk food.

"We were definitely not at the top of our game when we made it," he said. "We definitely weren't in that great of shape. We were at the end of our rope."

After the first show of the "Bust A Nut" tour, guitarist Tommy Skeoch was ordered to take some time off due to a substance-abuse problem. That signaled the beginning of the end for Tesla, which continued touring as a quartet for a short time before finally calling it quits. All five original members reunited in 2000, however, and even went on to record a new album of original material in 2004, "Into The Now."

Skeoch and the band parted ways again in 2006. This time he was replaced with Dave Rude, who has been with the band ever since.

The first single off the new album, "I Wanna Live," is one of the most instantly catchy Tesla songs in years. Jeff Keith's vocals are in top form, and the rhythm section of Wheat and Troy Luccketta is among the best in the business.

The album features Tesla's traditional harmonic choruses and the wizardry of Frank Hannon, who put on a guitar clinic during the band's last Salt Lake show in 2007, also its best in many years. But the album also features an updated, more modern sound and is not a re-hash of the '80s.

While many bands from the 1980's today have tried to erase the stigma of being a hair band by claiming they never were one, in Tesla's case it's true. Although its first album was released in 1986 and the members had long hair (just as most of the band members still do today), the band's blue-collar image and masterful musicianship made themit much more than a flash in the pan.

"We don't want to be pigeon-holed into being an '80s hair band. Everyone assumes that. We're just a band that's been around for 20 years that constantly makes records," Wheat said.

For its latest album Tesla is launching its entire tour in Salt Lake City, a city that has been very good to the band.

"Salt Lake City is a great supporter of Tesla. The band loves the city," Wheat said.

If you go

What: Tesla, Pop Evil

Where: The Depot, 400 W. South Temple

When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.

How much: $29

Phone: 467-8499, 800-888-8499


E-mail: [email protected]