Tesla makes a name for itself, and then a reputation

March 17, 1995|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

What's in a name?

That kind of depends on the name. Take, for example, hard rockers Tesla, and their new album, "Bust a Nut."

As guitarist Frank Hannon explains, Tesla is named in honor of Nikola Tesla, the Croatian electrician and inventor whose discoveries included the first process for generating alternating current. Not that Hannon or his band mates knew this when they chose the name.

It was manager Cliff Burnstein who came up with the idea. "He came to us with it when we were still planning our first record, writing songs and stuff like that," Hannon recalls. "We definitely wanted to think of a name for the band, and when that came up, at first we were going, 'Tesla? What is that?' We'd all been sitting around thinking of names like 'Rock Monster' or something."

Hannon laughs. "So we're sitting around, going, 'Tesla? What is it?' Then he explained the whole story, and he showed us a book that Margaret Cheney had written, 'Man Out of Time,' and we were just blown away by some of the pictures. I mean, he's standing there with millions of volts circling through the air around him and stuff. It's a pretty amazing book."

Part of what the band liked about Nikola Tesla was the renegade quality of his genius. "It's because he was an underdog. He was like the mad scientist at that time, and everybody just wrote him off as some weirdo freak. His first major accomplishment was harnessing Niagara Falls and putting in the first hydroelectric generator system, and he actually lit up Manhattan with alternating current. But you go there, and it's Edison who gets all the memorials and stuff."

Given the quest for justice implicit in the band's name, what high moral purpose lies behind "Bust a Nut"? Well, ummm . . . none, actually. In fact, Hannon seems almost embarrassed to admit that he'd suggested the title.

"We were sitting around for a couple of days after the record was about 90 percent done, and we were trying to think of something clever," he says, over the phone from his home in California. "We had already done the Tesla thing, with the first album, 'Mechanical Resonance,' and everything just sounded too serious. I was just kind of joking around and said, 'Why don't we just call it 'Bust a Nut'? You know, just a joke, really. Next thing I know, the guys in the band are saying, 'Man, that's a great album title!' "

Yes, but what does it mean? Here, Hannon hems and haws. "Well, it has sexual overtones to it," he admits. "But it could be just losing your mind and getting something taken care of, like when bills or something are all piling up. It has all kinds of different overtones.

"I mean, jeez, we had to tell our parents that we were calling it 'Bust a Nut,' you know what I mean?" he says, laughing. "So we had to think of all the different reasons why we should go ahead and call it that."

Tesla

When: Tuesday, March 21, 8 p.m.

Where: Hammerjacks

Tickets: $15

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 659-7625 for information

Tesla's tunes

To hear excerpts from Tesla's album "Bust a Nut," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6171 after you hear the greeting.

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