Someday I’ll tell my grandkids about Myspace, a website that invaded our personal space like a Peeping Tom on a nasty voyeurism bender. I’ll tell them about photos that revealed too much skin, too little decorum, and a heaping mess of regret. As a footnote I might mention that some, like guitarist and singer-songwriter Dave Rude, managed to get seen by the right person (Frank Hannon) at the right time and went on to replace Tommy Skeoch of Tesla, in a decision that seems to have been heartbreaking, but necessary for the band. When not touring with Tesla, Rude fronts his own band with bassist Marco Guzman and drummer Josh Schmidt. Just before the re-release of their album, The Key, I spoke to Dave about the merits of a trio, Tesla envy, and how he balances both acts.
We decided to reschedule this interview until Rat Pak re-released the album. Congratulations on getting that to come together. Sometimes despite best intentions, these things just don’t pan out.
Well it’s like you said. There’s a label interested or a person interested and then six months down the line nothing’s happened. This was one of those weird times when everything moved pretty quickly.
If only they were all like that.
How did the connection with Rat Pak come about?
A friend of mine, Mike Stone, used to play guitar in Queensrÿche and I ran into him in January at the NAMM Show in L.A. He said he kind of does A&R for them and he thought they’d be a good label for me. He put us in touch and they were super cool. I mentioned I had this record with Dave Rude Band that was already done—mixed, mastered and everything.
So we thought we’d just release that first and see what people think, then put something else out in the future. That’s also part of how it happened so quickly because we didn’t have to write and record anything. It was already there. For a short while I did sort of a soft release on my own, but we took it all down to re-release it properly because these guys are cool and they know what they’re doing.
You seem to have two careers going right now. How do you stay motivated to keep going with your solo work when, I’m sure, Tesla would keep anyone plenty busy?
Well…there isn’t really a good answer. I think it’s just the way I’ve always been. I like to write stuff and play on my own. But, I mean, I love playing with Tesla. It’s the biggest honor and it’s so cool to be in their band and I totally enjoy it.
At the same time, like I’ve said for years before I was in Tesla, I was still writing stuff and it just kind of happened. I like to play guitar and I’ll write a song and think that I really like it and I’ll sing it, too. I’ll put it out there, regardless of how many people hear about it. I just want to do it to see what happens. It’s just a drive because I’ve written music my whole life. I also write with Tesla, which is great, but it’s more of a bigger machine to write and record a song and release it because we’re touring so much. On my own I can do it, theoretically, really quickly. And there are also a lot of songs that I like that wouldn’t work with Tesla.
Is there anything that Tesla have written that makes you wish you’d written it? A certain lyric or riff maybe?
Oh there’s tons! I love the song “What You Give.” We play it at almost every show and it’s been one of my favorite songs since I was 13. That’s just brilliant. But I mean, there’s a ton of them—“Cowboy” and “Heaven’s Trail.” All the big hits are just classic songs. So, yeah, I do wish I’d written some of them! (Laughs) I’m coming in as a fan of the band before I joined, so I’m sure a lot of people can relate.
Tesla is one band in particular that I’m happy to see still together and touring. I have to think it’s partly due to good chemistry between its members. Do you have that same connection with members of Dave Rude Band? But, wait, before you answer that, I want to ask about the group’s name. I read it’s not really your band; it’s more of just a name that worked out well.
Yeah. When I originally started it, it really was just me, and that was the plan. I specifically didn’t want to have a steady lineup of people. It sounds ridiculous but I’d just gotten out of a band years ago and was sick of dealing with trying to keep the band together on a personal level. I just thought, “Well, I write all the songs anyway, so I might as well just hire people and not worry about it.” That’s kind of where it started from but then quite quickly things fell into place with Marco and Josh because we click so well. It just sort of stuck.
Then, quickly after that I joined Tesla. So we had the band together and I think being with Tesla opened up a few more doors because people would know the name. When we were playing a lot there definitely was a lot of musical chemistry that gave us some incentive. But it’s a trio so there are only three people making this sound but it’s really big. People say it sounds like we have a rhythm guitar player and keyboardist or something.
Not that I agree with it, but I think there’s an expectation for a trio to sound a little weak.
Yeah, you kind of wish they had a rhythm guitar player, you know? (Laughs) On the record I added some more layers but even then, in the studio we kept it live as a trio.
How do you make that transition from being a guitarist for Tesla then being the frontman in Dave Rude Band?
It’s definitely different. I’m conscious of it but I think it takes care of itself just by virtue of the environment. When I’m out with Tesla it’s insane with a crew and big venue and soundchecks. People taking care of you and telling you where to go. Tour manager. Catering. The bus. It’s a whole different world when I’m out doing Dave Rude Band shows. Then I’m loading my amp into the back of my Honda and driving myself to a show or renting a van and driving ourselves to L.A. for a show. It’s definitely more of a traditional band trying to make it. The paying your dues part, I guess. It’s just an inherently different situation. And it’s a different musical mindset because these songs are ones that Dave Rude Band wrote and we’re trying to get them across to people so they’ll get into it. It’s definitely a whole other world!
You seem like a pretty well-balanced guy. Maybe being in both bands keeps you that way.
Oh man, yeah. I’m always aware of how lucky I am to be doing this, period. Especially to be able to make a living playing music and, goddamn, to be a member of Tesla!
What was it like when Frank Hannon contacted you?
It was pretty surreal! Just, like, “What? Okay!” Five days after he called me I went up and jammed with him on stage at one of his solo band’s shows; pretty much after that I was in Tesla. So it was really a whirlwind. “Well I guess I’m going to be taking a semester off (laughs) and go on tour! This will be cool!” It was everything I wanted to do so it was great, but just so surreal that it happened so quickly.
Also, I’d spent my whole life trying to do it on my own. Start a band from scratch, build from the ground up and all that. Obviously that takes way more time but to have it happen almost overnight was pretty mind-blowing.
You’ve been with the band for a while now so it’s not fair to say you are Tommy Skeoch’s “replacement” anymore. I’m curious about how things are on that front.
Honestly, I’ve never talked to him or met him but I’ve always been a fan of his. I mean, “What You Give” has one of my favorite solos of all time, of anything, and it has been for many years. I’ve got no animosity against him; I think he’s great. As for the other guys in the band, you’d have to ask them.
I hope things have worked out for the best at this point. It certainly sounds like you’re doing okay.
Yeah, (laughs) I’m pretty cool.
Dave Rude’s new album, The Key, is available now through Rat Pak. For more information, go to ratpakrecords.com/daverude.