By Jeb Wright
Tommy Skeoch is best known for his time in the multi-platinum selling band Tesla. He brought a lot of energy to the band, both on and off stage. He is a very creative musician with a unique musical viewpoint.
After leaving the band in 2006 for substance abuse issues, Skeoch recorded and released a solo album titled Freak Bucket. After the album was out he slid further into chemical abyss. Now, in 2013, Tommy is back with his second solo album, Brand of Metal. This time around Skeoch mixes hard rock with his punky influences and spews out several songs filled with raw emotion.
Some do not care for Tommy’s brand of metal, as they prefer to think of him as part of Tesla and not as a creative artist doing his own thing. Sure, Brand of Metal is harder edged then Tesla, and Tommy sings, err, screams, his way through it. But there is an artistic integrity and honesty to the music that comes from Skeoch’s damaged, yet, childlike heart and soul.
In the interview that follows, Tommy discusses the new album in detail. We also talk about trying to stay clean from drugs and other issues the talented musician is trying to cope with on a daily basis. Tommy is fun, humorous, open and honest. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and has a dark, yet, very infectious sense of humor.
At the end of the day, Tommy really does have his own brand of metal. I, for one, like it. I believe the artistic side shines through Tommy and that he has created an album that reflects the struggles he has had throughout his life.
This is a heavy album and one that needs to be checked out. The vocals may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the guitar playing and the messages in the songs are so damn honest that they draw you in.
Let it be known that once Tommy has your ear, then you’re in for one wild ride.
Jeb: This album is certainly a brand of metal that is all your own.
Tommy: That is what the title is all about.
Jeb: “FSDSRRMF” is a song that I saw on the CD cover and thought, “What the fuck is this?” Then I got to the chorus where you go, “Fucking, sucking, drinking, smoking, rocking, rolling, mother fucker” and I just died laughing. That is rock and roll.
Tommy: You found out what it was about [laughter]. I put that song on their first because it has that vibe. I don’t think it gets much more decedent after that, but that one sets the tone.
Jeb: This is a long way from Tesla.
Tommy: Musically, not really. It is nothing like Jeff [Keith] would have written. I don’t know how to sing, so that is nothing that they would have sung. I wrote a lot of the songs, not too long ago, but there are some things that I had back in the Tesla days.
Jeb: The attitude is what I’m talking about. Your vocals may not be pretty but they are so full of attitude.
Tommy: I just did an interview with this guy in Germany and he didn’t like the vocals. I am aware that I am not a singer, but I enjoy doing it. It is really about the attitude—you just said it.
Jeb: I’ve always got what your music is about – which scares the shit out of me.
Tommy: [laughter] That’s great.
Jeb: When Freak Bucket came out people were confused and going, “What the hell is this?” I was like, “I get this.” To me, the new album is desperation, mixed with a sense of humor. It is dark and there is some anger.
Tommy: That is it. You know where I’m coming from. I also have a little bit of a commentary on how jacked up the world is. You got it; that is exactly where it is coming from. The first record was even more so. It has the same vibe with the altitude and the lyrics.
Jeb: Freak Bucket was angrier.
Tommy: I was still doing a lot of dope and I had left Tesla a couple of years before. I still had a lot of things going on inside me. Now, how I feel about them is a lot different than how I felt about them then—not all of them. There are things there between all of us, as that is the way a band is. I don’t want to get into it because it doesn’t matter anymore, but I was more tweaked out back then. Now, it is different.
Jeb: “FSDSRRMF” had to be spontaneous. Do you remember coming up with that?
Tommy: It just struck a chord with me. I had that music for a while but the lyrics I put together sometime after the Freak Bucket record. It is just gutter rock and attitude. I love that shit.
When I recorded it I told some friends and we laughed about it. When that part would come around and the music stops and I say that, then they would crack up and I would crack up. I played it for my wife and she was like, “I don’t like that.”
Jeb: The guitar on that is so simple.
Tommy: It is very simple and it is deliberately that way. I think this album is very raw.
Jeb: The album is like a work of art. You can paint these words on a canvass in your mind. It’s like an artist who just violently throws paint at a canvas.
Tommy: I like that. Isn’t that what music is, in general? I do look at it as a very colorful work of art. I am not a virtuoso type of guy, so I think some of the things I do musically are off kilter. If I was a dog and I heard some of that, then I would tilt my head because of some high pitched sounds. I like that analogy that you said a lot.
Jeb: This music is not as palatable to people like your wife and mine. They would be much more into a Tesla song like “What You Give” then say “Soul Fucker” from the new album.
Tommy: But a song like that is just as powerful to them as “Soul Fucker” is to some knucklehead somewhere. It is just different.
Jeb: This music, to me, is much different than Tesla. Was this music inside of you even back then?
Tommy: In Tesla, this was my thing. Jeff [Keith] was the singer and I tried to write for him. I would not submit the type of stuff that I am doing now at all. I didn’t want to. I liked the fact that it was input from all five of us and that we were a band. It really was what was so great about Tesla.
I wrote a lot of the harder stuff that we did. Frank [Hannon] wrote a lot of hard riffs as well. The way I played definitely put a harder stamp on the band. The songs that ended up making it on the records were the ones that Jeff was inspired to write lyrics for. I wrote to the sensibility of Jeff, he was our fearless leader and that is how it worked.
A lot of my stamp is on that music. I think I had a lot of guts in that band. A lot of my stuff that I wrote was harder, although I did write songs like “Stir It Up.” I wrote songs like that for Jeff and the band.
Jeb: You no longer have to write for anyone but yourself.
Tommy: I don’t think about anything—I think about my voice because I can’t sing for fuck. Sometimes I hear things in my head and I want to do it, but I can’t, so I change it. Vocally, I have to think about it, but as far as the music goes, I don’t even think about it.
Jeb: “Hate to Hate” has a great riff. I wonder what the difference is between that riff and a riff you come up with that does not grow into a song.
Tommy: That is an interesting question. I write a lot of music and a lot of stuff that I think is good. I only put ten songs on this record and I had a lot more songs for this album, written and recorded. I chose these ten because they seemed to work for the record, for what it was. I do write a lot of stuff and sometimes certain songs just hit me a certain way. I just feel it has strength.
I like the idea of a record; one piece that is a moment in the life. I like it to fit into the context of the other songs. I don’t mind a stand alone song, but I like the songs to all fit together. This is an honest album.
The songs that I finished that are more one off songs I may end up putting on my website as a free downloads.
Jeb: Is “Scapegoat” about you or someone else?
Tommy: What do you think? What makes you think it is about me?
Jeb: You are not the kind of guy that has fucked up in the past and then blamed others—you take responsibility.
Tommy: I am what I am.
Jeb: But at the same time, you can fuck up and you can still be a scapegoat, even if you have screwed up.
Tommy: I didn’t have to say anything about that question from that song. You can read what you want into a song. I don’t like saying what songs are about because I like people to get their own thing from it.
That song is, if you really listen to the lyrics, then most people know what I am talking about. I don’t need to sit here and tell you what it is about because you just laid it out pretty good. It can be all kinds of situations…I’m sure you’re thinking what I am thinking, as most people would. It is about being a scapegoat.
Jeb: Just because you’re guilty doesn’t mean you can’t be a scapegoat!
Tommy: It doesn’t mean that other people are not guilty too and that there is not hypocrisy going on…you got it buddy.
Jeb: Is “Hard to Swallow” one of the commentary on the world songs?
Tommy: “Hard to Swallow” is more a take on me. I kind of wear my emotions on my sleeve, for better or for worse. I do it to a fault. I talk freely about things and I just don’t care. Basically, I will throw myself under the bus. If I am a piece of shit and I fucked up then I will say, “I did it.”
I am not like a lot of people that want to hide from their mistakes or their flaws. I am okay with my flaws. I can admit it and I am not in denial about it. The way I am is very hard on my wife. She says, “You’re harsh.” I am harsh and it is hard for people to swallow sometimes.
Jeb: You can’t help but make a very personal album.
Tommy: I cannot. I think it is beautiful, but I am a crazy mother fucker, so I don’t know.
Jeb: How long did it take to record Brand of Metal?
Tommy: I was still really, really strung out when I talked to you after I did the Freak Bucket record. It got worse and worse, it didn’t get better. I wanted to do another record and I had some songs, but I was into doing dope more than I was into doing anything else.
I loved playing, and I would do that, and I had songs, but I had no plan. I was just into not getting sick every day. I just didn’t want to get dope sick and that was, at the time, good enough for me.
My wife, at the time, was like, “Fuck you.” I moved into this other house because I was a mess. I brought some equipment to that house and I started messing around doing some cover songs. I messed around with that and it was fun, but it wasn’t great.
I was there, I had nothing going on and I was in this big empty house and I had recording equipment there. I could hear from the sound of what I was recording that it was sounding good. I thought that I could actually make a record in this empty house.
This album was not planned out and I spent a lot more time on it then I did on Freak Bucket. I did Freak Bucket in a week, but this time I took my time because I was in my house. I experimented with stuff and I had a lot of fun doing it.
Jeb: What changed in you that made you get your shit together—or at least as together as you can be?
Tommy: That’s right. I was just going to say that I don’t think I will ever be together. I have a lot of issues. The whole drug thing can really grab a hold of you if you let it—and I let it. I didn’t have to but it really got a hold of me. A lot of things happened.
You would think that a guy from a multi-platinum band would want to get his shit together, but that was not going to stop me from doing dope. My family, more than anything, was the reason I quit. Also, I spent a lot of time thinking about the future.
It was just me, I was fucking sick of being dope sick and having to do all kinds of crazy shit just to re-up and get dope.
I would run out of dope and I couldn’t get anymore, or my wife would throw it all away and I had just re-upped and I would get sick. I really went through hell.
A lot of shit went down and it was painful and I just got tired of it. If I could use dope and not have consequences and I could keep my family then I would do it. It just doesn’t work that way…it just gets worse and worse.
Whatever sense I’ve got—there must be a little in there—told me that this was killing me, and it was. I would stop for two or three months and I would feel okay. I would be talking just like I’m talking now and I would mean it. But I was still kind of romancing it and deep down I knew I would go back. Now, I am not doing that. This is something that I’ve got to do and I want to do. No one can do it for you. You can’t do it for other people. My family is a big instigator, but it has to be inside of me. And now it is, finally.
I don’t feel like I am out of the woods because I’m a fucking junkie. I’ve got to be a little vigilant like they do in the program. I’ve done a lot of program but, like I told you on the text message, I am not programmed up, but I know about the program and I know what’s up. I do follow some of those slogans. I am sober today and I’ve been clean longer than I’ve ever been. It is a trip.
Jeb: You can want to do it but still fail. It is an addiction.
Tommy: That is how it was. Something inside of me has shifted. I can’t explain it. I am not seeing God or any shit like that. I just don’t want to kill myself and I don’t want my wife to kick me out and make me go the Separation House to make Brand of Metal again. I will stay at home and make my next record, thank you.
Jeb: Separation House. That’s awesome.
Tommy: That is what I called it. On the CD cover it says, “Recorded at the Separation House.” I like to make fun of shit…fuck it.
Jeb: You’re lucky to be alive.
Tommy: Totally. My wife tells me shit that I don’t even know. I have OD’d and been to hospitals and all of that crap. I should be dead. I have wrecked a lot of cars and shit. I don’t know why I’m still alive.
Jeb: Was Brand of Metal written sober?
Tommy: A few of them, lyrically, were written after I stopped doing the shit. Musically, almost all of them were written when I was getting high. “A Hit Away” is about not doing dope. Lyrically, I wrote that when I was sober. I did the whole record without a drop of dope, but I relapsed after I finished the record—I did get high after that.
Jeb: It is hard to be creative when you’ve learned to create in an altered state.
Tommy: I am going through that now. Every three months I feel like I’m like this different person. Physically and psychologically, I change. I don’t know how to explain it, but every three months I go through a metamorphosis, for lack of a better word. I don’t know what to call it, but its different, that’s for sure.
The main thing that I’m tripping on is that I’m digging it. It is not so much that it is a challenge, which it is, at this point. I am just into it. I am liking not fucking having to go fucking wake up every morning and wondering where I am going to get some dope so I don’t get sick. I hated that.
Jeb: The goal of a drug addiction is to kill the host.
Tommy: Exactly. I don’t know what the guys in Tesla thought, but it got way worse once I left the band. They weren’t dealing with nothing with me as it got way worse after I left them this last time.
Jeb: There were times I wondered if I would ever hear from you again.
Tommy: I hear you.
Jeb: Have you tried writing music without dope yet?
Tommy: Oh yeah, I have another record ready to go. It is about money right now. It does not cost a whole lot of money to make a record anymore. I recorded Brand of Metal in that house. I had to have it mixed and mastered, so that cost some money.
Basically, this is just my own venture. I sell it on my website and I sell it on iTunes. It does cost money, so it does take food out of my kid’s mouths. I’ve got to figure out if I can make enough money doing this. I have another record ready to go that I wrote mostly sober. I would like to do it. It is all edged out and it is rocking.
Jeb: Are you going to play live?
Tommy: I am thinking about that. I have a band that I could do something with. The drummer thing has been kind of Spinal Tap. I’ve got a bass player and another guitar player, but I’ve been having trouble finding a drummer that I can really get with. I live in Florida in a small town and there are a couple of guys that are good. I don’t know if that is a possibility—going out and doing something. I am just thinking about how I would go about doing it.
Jeb: Is playing live a touchy topic with drugs and all?
Tommy: There is a part of me that wants a bit more time before I get on a bus. Actually, I don’t know about a bus tour, as I have to think about money, as I am financing everything these days.
I don’t know if I want to go on the road and go from club to club and go tour. Right now, I would not want to do that because it is not the best time for me. It gets crazy on the road as your ego gets all fucked up. I am a fucking mess as it is and I know it. I want to be in the right frame of mind when I do it.
I would do it with Tesla in a heartbeat. Those guys are real like save the world kind of nurturing types of guys, so I know I could do it with them. On my own, me being the boss out there…I don’t know about that…I just don’t know about that.
Jeb: You are coming out of the fog after years of abuse. Are you beginning to find out who you really are a person?
Tommy: Yeah, I mean, a little bit. It is not totally pretty. I think a lot of the medicating I did was because of a lot of insecurities and family stuff. I think I’m OCD and I think I’m manic. I may be bi-polar. There was a lot of shit that I didn’t feel good about that I didn’t want to fucking feel. So, now, I am dealing with that too. I am going to therapy.
Jeb: It would be difficult to go from being a rock star in Tesla to starting over. That is who your identity was.
Tommy: I don’t know, man. I think about it in certain aspects, but I often wonder why I don’t trip on that more. I don’t sit around and go, “Oh what happened to my career?” I mean I do have that sense, but I just don’t trip on it. Being successful with Tesla was great, but it can’t be my every thing. It is good for a career, I guess.
The people around me, my family, are helpful. I do not get yes’d to death by my family. I think my persona with Tesla and being on the road is a lot different than people would think. If they saw me at home then they would trip because it is a totally different kind of thing.
Jeb: You can be a regular guy in some ways.
Tommy: I am not a nine to five go to work guy, as I’ve never done that in my life. I am into my family. I have two autistic boys and we are heavily into the special needs thing for the kids.
I still act out around my family. My wife is pissed at me every day because I am like a kid around here. I am not a normal family guy, but I’m into my family. I think people think that I am different than I am. I am still a nut ball. I act out and act immature and all of that shit, but it is what it is. I try not to do it.
It is like the music business, I know it is a business, but I have a hard time taking it seriously. I take the music seriously, but getting out on the road and promoting it…I don’t know. There are so many aspects of it that are so silly. Dealing with people and how they treat you is so crazy. I trip out on it. I am terrible businessman, so I don’t do well in that aspect at all. I guess I just have a fucked up way of looking at the world. To be honest, I was never diagnosed as autistic, but I think I am.
Jeb: I first interviewed you backstage years ago when you were with Bar 7. You were on smack then. Now, you sound so much better.
Tommy: I am getting older. I think I have that mellowing with age thing going on. I don’t want to admit that because there is this rebel thing going on inside of me. Physically, I wake up every morning and I’ve got some kind of pain going on. My eyesight is going and I have to wear these reading glasses when I read books.
I read all the time. Even when I was doing junk I loved to read. I love to read about history and Civil War type stuff. That is one of the things that people don’t know about me and I’ve never really put that information out there.
Jeb: My only complaint about Brand of Metal is…
Tommy: Why did I sing on it?
Jeb: [laughter] No, I get that. No one else could sing those songs that way!
Tommy: [laughter] If you want to call it singing then that is okay, but I was really just doing a lot of yelling.
Jeb: There are not enough solos.
Tommy: I have never been a virtuoso guy. Frank is totally into that. He is great at solos. I am not a real ripper or a fast player. I have more of a sway to my playing other than machine gun fast.
The way Frank and I worked was really great. I, still to this day, would love to work with him again. We had a chemistry that no one could touch. We didn’t talk about stuff; we just did it and it was magic.
I am not trying to be a soloist. If the song is calling for a solo then it gets one, but if it doesn’t, then it won’t get one. I don’t feel that I need to show that I can play a big riff. I am more into the attitude of the song.
On Freak Bucket I didn’t get into solos at all. I went in and did one take solos and was like, “Whatever.” This time, if I needed a solo on a song, like on “Hit Away” then I spent a lot of time on it and I tried to make it work for the song.
The whole Joe Satriani thing is not what I am about. My friend was talking to me last night because I played more solos on Brand of Metal then on Freak Bucket. This is more of a rock guitar thing where Freak Bucket was more punk.
Jeb: Tell me about the cover of Brand of Metal?
Tommy: Do I have to tell you?
Jeb: Of course not.
Tommy: Okay, I’ll tell you. My daughter took that picture of me in my living room and then we did some computer tricks to make it look like that. It looks like I’m in an actual room with metal studs or something. It reminds me of an early 1970’s UFO type of cover. I really love it. It is just a picture of my in my living room where I was posing in front of my daughter feeling like an idiot and then it is computer generated to look like that.
Jeb: You are just marketing it on line.
Tommy: These interviews really help a lot. Freak Bucket didn’t sell a ton of records, but none of them do. Jeff has a solo album and he sells only a few more than I do. People are not that into the solo thing. They are into the band more than they ever will be about their solo thing.
I am not going solo or anything like that. I’m just making some music. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. I just want to do what I want to do. I’m not doing it with Tesla, as that wasn’t working out so great. I would love to do it with Tesla again. I would never close the door on that.
Jeb: Do you ever talk to anyone in Tesla?
Tommy: I talk with Jeff. Jeff and I are really tight and have been throughout the years. We are closer than any of the other guys.
Jeb: If Tesla came to Florida would you sit in for a song?
Tommy: I don’t want to go play a song with them. If, for whatever reason, they wanted to do another record with me, then I would be up for that. I don’t want to even speculate about this.
They would probably have to ask me. I’m okay with where I’m at. Tesla was a great part of my life. I would probably say, “Yeah” to doing an album. I don’t think if they came to town that I would go up on stage and do a song; that’s not really my thing. I don’t even go out that much.
If they wanted to do a record, or something, and do a tour on it, then I might be into that. I don’t want to close the door on that, but I am not knocking doors down to do it either. Three of the guys I have not talked to for six years now. I talk to Jeff and that’s about it. They go out and do shows and they are doing good business and that’s cool. I am not saying I wouldn’t do it if it was right.
I am sure the guy who replaced me is a great guitar player. A lot of what they are doing is nostalgia. There is nothing wrong with that.
Some people like the original thing. People have told me, “It’s not the same without you.” I just can’t believe that because I know the talent of those guys. I’m sure the new guy is playing my parts just fine and he is not me, so he probably brings a different vibe to the stage that I did—for better or worse.
Jeb: Are you happy with your place in hard rock history?
Tommy: I think we have a lot of integrity. Some of our records have a little bit of bullshit on them but not intentionally. There are songs that we put on records that I didn’t want to go on records that became people’s favorite songs.
I think we have our place in rock history. I don’t think we were the Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin, but we were successful. We have our place in history.
Jeb: You guys were a great ‘70’s rock band that was out with the Hair Band era.
Tommy: It was real and it was not put on. We didn’t fuck around and I’m proud of that.
Jeb: You really have opened up on Brand of Metal.
Tommy: With my album, I wear things way more out on my sleeve than what I did with Tesla. I just write from my heart.
Some people will write a song and then say, “I can’t record this because I can’t say this because people will think bad of me.” I don’t’ give a fuck. People that know about me know that I am what I am, for better or worse. I am not a rapist or a murderer; I am not that bad. I have some problems, here and there, don’t we all.
Jeb: Last one, you talked about doing some cover versions. Tell me about them and tell me if you would ever consider doing a cover album.
Tommy: Some of them were awful, but some came out alright. I did a Misfits song that I thought was fucking great. The song was “Hollywood Babylon.” I would use that version that I recorded—I might redo the vocals.
I did a couple of Marilyn Manson songs. I did “Little Sister” by Elvis and I did “Monday Morning” by Fleetwood Mac. I did “Yesterday” by the Beatles. It was just one guitar and my vocals. The tone of it was just fucked up and it had something that was interesting to me. If people heard it they would go, “What the fuck did he do to that song?” I like it, but I don’t know if I would put it out. You can tell just from the songs that I mentioned that it is all over the place.
I also did a country version of “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones. That song has an I/IV/IV progression to it so I turned it around and did it country. I would consider putting that one out. I put a piano on it and it sounds cool as fuck.
Jeb: Your fans would eat that up.
Tommy: They might but I would have to get better recordings of them. I did these when I first went to the Separation House. I wasn’t so keen on doing a cover record. Now, when I think of it, I might do something like that.
“Sedated” was a lot of fun. I played a peddle steel on it and it sounded fucking cool. I have a low voice and I really like how I sang on it. I could do a bunch of punk songs my way; that might be cool.
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