ZRock exclusive! Tesla : Jeff Keith Interview
by Jarrod Vrazel : zrock.com
Photo by Lynda Niemeier
ARF founders Tony and Elaine La Russa with Tesla
and a few four-legged friends at ARF Rocks!
Tesla headlined an evening of rock and roll at Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s (ARF) ARF Rocks! fundraiser on Friday, January 7, 2005 at the Dean Lesher Regional Center in Walnut Creek, California. You can help this wonderful cause by donating online
I spoke with Jeff yesterday and discussed ARF Rocks! and Tesla’s upcoming Tesla : Five Man Acoustical Jam 2005 Tour .
ZRock: Hi Jeff, I’d like to get some comments regarding Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) and your ARF Rocks! show last week. Maria Brunner from Insight Management sent us a few wonderul photos of the band with Tony and Elaine La Russa and some of the pups. I wanted to get a little feedback from you about the event and how you got involved with ARF Rocks!
Jeff: The way we got involved is through someone we are acquainted with, Tony Lopez. He had gotten involved with ARF and Tony La Russa, and he knew the story about me finding the dog. In November 2003, I went down to a Raiders game – I never made it into the game, but I came home with an awesome friend. His name is Okie – he was just some mutt down there as I was walking to get in line. So Tony Lopez told Tony La Russa the story and says, Man, if you’re looking for some people to play in your benefit show, Jeff Keith and the guys in Tesla are right up your alley. He told him the Okie story, and that’s how we got involved. Tony La Russa and his wife, Elaine, are awesome people. I can’t believe the quality of these people. they’re just great people and they care about animals. I’m a big animal lover, as well as all of us in the band – we’re big animal lovers.
ZRock: Maria told me that she met Okie at the show. Did you have some pictures taken with him as well?
Jeff: Yes, we had some pictures taken with Tony and everybody. Okie’s a star now! He’s right here on the floor listening to me do this interview right now. He’s a big star and he doesn’t even know it.
ZRock: I believe I’ve got Okie on the ZRock home page with the band and Tony and Elaine La Russa – is he goldish with a blue collar?
Jeff: Yes, he is. I ll have to check that out – ZRock.com – I’m gonna check that out.
ZRock: Okie’s got a big smile on his face. Brian’s face is covered up a little bit – he’s holding up two pups.
Jeff: Those are Brian’s dogs – Jack Russell Terriers.
ZRock: Troy is holding a little child wearing a red shirt.
Jeff: That’s his stepdaughter. He just got married last year. She’s a little cutie – Skylar is her name. Elaine La Russa also had a little silver dog there. She had this little puppy that they rescued that was going to get put to sleep. It was this little bitty tiny silver mutt – I don’t even know what kind of dog it is. When I say mutt – mutts are my favorite dogs – so I’m not saying in a bad way. It was a little silver mutt, and it was so precious. It was so tiny that you may not be able to see it in the picture.
ZRock: Do you take Okie out on the road with you?
Jeff: I don’t take Okie on the road. I have a house sitter – I have quite a few animals. I’ve got a one eyed pony, a couple goats, a bunch of cats, and a couple other dogs. I’ve got a lot of animals and a lot to take care of, so I have someone take care of them for me. He’s too big to be on the bus anyway. On the last leg with the Scorpions, Brian brought his dogs for quite a well. It was fun walking them three or four times a day. I get off on walking dogs. I know it sounds funny, but I love to see them relieve themselves and just smell all the scents. I really get a kick out of it. It was fun walking the dogs. I’d love to take Okie out there, but he’s too much of a high-strung dog to be keeping him penned up on the bus.
When we went out on tour with Poison years ago, Brett Michaels had this big dog – like the ones that pull the Eskimos on their sleds. This poor dog – I felt so sorry for him – sometimes he had to use the bathroom on the bus. I would ask Brett permission to go walk his dog for him – I knew he wanted to get out of there. It made me realize that I should never bring my dog out on the road. Especially a big dog – Okie’s a pretty big boy. With Brian’s smaller dogs, it’s easier – they can sit on somebody’s lap when people are sitting in the bus. With big dogs it’s a lot tougher. Plus, they’re around surroundings where they’re getting too many handouts – you can’t keep an eye on them. Everybody wants to slip them a little piece of something, and next thing you know, they’re sick. Brian had a problem with that a couple of times. His dogs would be sick, and he really didn’t know from what.
ZRock: Plus, if you keep them in their home environment, you know they’re safe and sound.
Jeff: Exactly! They love taking care of the ranch.
ZRock: From what I’ve heard, it sounds like you had a great time with Pat Travers and some of the other guys at ARF Rocks!
Jeff: Oh, yes. That was awesome! We jammed a Stones song at the end. And Carmine Appice – we got it official from Carmine – we’ve always wondered: Is it Carmine App-a-see or Carmine A-peace? He said his brother, Vinnie, goes by Vinnie App-a-see and he goes by Carmine A-peace. It was fun jamming with him, Pat Travers and his band, and Brad Gillis from Night Ranger. We were just rockin out for a great cause. Everybody’s faces were full of smiles. It was just awesome. It was the first time I’ve really got to do something like that – a benefit show for animals. I was so thrilled, and I ll be thrilled to do it again.
We’ve got another benefit coming up – for people – the people that caught in the Station club fire in Rhode Island.
ZRock: It’s great that you ll be helping out the Station Family Fund. Great White has done a lot of shows to help out that cause. I saw Tesla with Great White back in 89 on the Double Header Tour at City Coliseum in Austin. It was a great show back then – it’s great to see you still out on the road.
Jeff: It’s awesome to be out on the road. We are so grateful to be back together – we had split up for six or seven years. And to have a new record out that we’re all happy with and it’s doing well. It’s a great thing – we’re very grateful.
ZRock: I know that Tesla was missed when you weren’t playing. Some of the Sofa King and other shows kind of filled in a little, but they weren’t quite the same.
Jeff: Sofa King and Bar 7 for me and Tommy were just holding up because we didn’t have Tesla. I didn’t want to be involved with music, I thought, after Tesla broke up. If I couldn’t do it with the guys, I didn’t want to do it anymore. But I really had a passion for it and was just kinda throwing it aside for the time being. And then Tommy approached me after a few years and said, Hey, I want to write music with you again. So we did that because there was no Tesla. As a matter of fact, we played the Station in Providence three times. We’ve been to the place, and we’re very familiar with it. Bar 7 was cool, but it was just a filler. It’s great to be back with the guys and to be playing with them. I like the pictures you have – they’re all smiles.
ZRock: Even the animals are smiling, which is really cool.
Jeff: That’s awesome. You know, I have a broken wrist in those pictures. On Christmas Day, we successfully threw a surprise birthday party for a buddy of mine who was born on Christmas. He never gets a birthday party. When he told me that last year, I knew we had to throw this guy a surprise party. We usually go dirt bike riding and stuff, and we should’ve done that. But we went snow boarding – I’ve done it once before and didn’t do too bad. But we went on this man-made snow and ice and I went down and broke my wrist hard. I’m sitting thinking, Oh God, I’ve got to play this gig for Tony La Russa. I’m looking so forward to it. So I had surgery on that Monday and we played on Friday. Monday and Tuesday were painful, but once we got to Wednesday, I knew I was gonna be able to do this gig. I was so glad to. Like I said, it’s for animals, and I just love doing things for animals. I’m the kind of guy that my eyes are always peeled – I’m looking for the helpless animals. I ll bring them home sometimes and I ll nurse them. I’ve gone as far as getting them fixed and getting them all their shots, and then finding a home for them.
ZRock: It seems that some people dump off animals and let someone else worry about them. If no one else worries about them, they’re gone.
Jeff: I know. So I’m the guy who goes, Well, I’m here to worry about them. I’m glad to be a part of it. It was really good for the soul. I’m looking forward to doing it again. I told Tony and Elaine that next year we want to do it again.
ZRock: Tesla have just announced the Five Man Acoustical Jam 2005 tour. Are you ready for that?
Jeff: Yes, we’re looking forward to that. That acoustic record was so successful for us, and we only played five acoustic shows – Philadelphia was the one we recorded – back in 1990 when we were on tour with Motley Crue. That was really succesful for us – it was our most successful record. We’re looking forward to going and hitting a bunch of cities that never got to see that live. When we got back together after our reunion show, we did some West Coast dates – Vegas, LA, Anaheim and a few places like that. We still haven’t got to go across the country with it, so we’re really looking forward to that and we hope the people are, too.
ZRock: I’m pretty sure they will be. I saw you play in Austin with the Scorpions and at Verizon Wireless in Houston earlier last year and several tours before that. It was a nice treat when there were acoustic sets in the middle of the show. I know that people in Texas haven’t had the benefit of the full acoustic show unless they watch the DVD.
Jeff: We plan on bringing it to them, man. We’re looking forward to it.
ZRock: I appreciate everything you’ve done for the Animal Rescue Foundation and for helping out on the ARF Rocks! benefit. Whenever you get on stage, there’s still work to be done, and it’s nice when you can have your work go towards the benefit of this great cause.
Jeff: I appreciate that, Jarrod. Thanks, man. Like I said, it’s a great feeling and I look forward to doing it again.
ZRock: Best wishes on the rest of the year. We do all we can do help spread the Tesla word. ZRock was the first to have the Into the Now artwork, and people were really excited to see something new. It’s nice to see the true musicians still making music out there.
Jeff: Right on. Thanks, Jarrod, I appreciate that very much. That means a lot coming from you.
ZRock: We ll also being working with Tony and ARF to try to get some online donations going for the cause from the people who aren’t able to attend ARF Rocks! in person.
Jeff: Right on – I’d like to give to that, too. I ll be looking forward to that.
ZRock:Thanks for your time – we ll see you on the road.
Funds raised from this fantastic fundraiser will used by ARF’s Adoption and Education Center to save the lives of loving dogs and cats who have run out of time at public shelters. ARF gives another chance at life to dogs and cats who would have otherwise be killed. ARF provides the care and attention they need, including spay or neuter surgery, until ARF finds them a new home of their own.
ARF’s People Connect programs strengthen the human animal bond for the elderly; residents of assisted living centers, teens at juvenile hall, high school students, grade school students and young children through programs that are national models of excellence. ARF programs allow people to experience the unconditional love and acceptance of dogs and cats. People rescuing animals… animals rescuing people.
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