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Tesla's Psychotic Supper: platinum problems and the savage strain of success

Tesla in 1989
(Image credit: Paul Natkin/Getty Images )

Sacramento hard rockers Tesla were in a strong place in 1991. The Great Radio Controversy, their second album, had sold double-platinum, and when it came to touring that year’s follow-up Psychotic Supper they headlined London's iconic Hammersmith Odeon. 

Bassist Brian Wheat explains where things went wrong.

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From an outside perspective Psychotic Supper presented a positive picture, but cracks were forming

I feel that Tesla really peaked with that album, but, yeah, we had started to indulge in excesses. We were seeing a considerable amount of money, and those cracks really came apart with the next album, Bust A Nut, which I always joke should have been called Bustin’ Up

Psychotic Supper was Tesla’s last record made with producers Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero. That you are credited as “Bass, backing vocals and nervous breakdown” suggest it was a difficult time

Yeah. But that wasn’t Steve and Michael’s fault. Having developed anxiety issues and a panic disorder, I started seeing a psychiatrist. I was frazzled with personal issues and the strain of being in a successful band that has its share of ups and downs. After those platinum records maybe we were becoming a bit egotistical.

You were writing about unusual subjects. Edison’s Medicine was about the rivalry between two inventors: the band’s namesake Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison

Yeah. Back then a lot of people didn’t know who [Nikola] Tesla was. Now they do because of the car company. We were the ones flying that Tesla flag, and that song was a nod to him. I liked that it was deeper than your average song about getting head in the back of a car.

Change In The Weather was hopeful of political change

We were not so politically minded then. Those words were by Jeff [Keith, vocalist]. His lyrics are not always easy to understand, that’s why I love him. But I guess that’s what he was talking about. We also had Government Personnel. So he was quite pissed off at the authorities. 

Psychotic Supper sounds like an angry record

Yeah. We were asserting ourselves with it. We didn’t listen to anybody back then. With hindsight I wish we’d listened to our managers a bit more. 

What was the song Don’t De-Rock Me about? 

Oh, I don’t know. It was Tommy Skeoch [guitar] who came up with that. I guess it was ‘don’t not rock me’. That was Skeoch, man [laughs].