When Oakland native Dave Rude joined Tesla in 2006 after being discovered by founder Frank Hannon on MySpace, Rude’s fiery solos, impeccable rhythm, and charismatic stage presence sent a jolt of electricity through the metal pioneers that led the band into a new era of critically acclaimed albums and tours and new generation of fans. But this is notyour Dad’s Tesla. The new LP Shock, produced by Def Leppard’s Phil Collen, is the quintet’s first release in 5 years and is already getting rave reviews, no doubt thanks to Rude’s new Epiphone Ltd. Ed. Daave Rude Flying V Outfit. Epiphone.com spoke with Dave during rehearsals for theater dates throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
 
Welcome to the Epiphone family, Dave! We’ve been looking forward to your ‘Flying-V’ for a long time.
 
Thank you so much. I’m so excited. I just can’t believe it. Every time I look at the guitar or walk by it,  I think ‘Oh my God!” It’s just blowing my mind. 
 
How did you arrive at this design?
 
It kind of happened really organically and spontaneously. We were out on tour with Def Leppard and it was the first time we had been out with them for a long time. For some reason, I was thinking I’d love to have a Flying V and I’d love to have a white one. James Hetfield used to have this old-school white ‘V’ in the early Metallica days. I had seen some of those pictures recently and I was obsessing about getting a white ‘V’. But none of the guitars that I saw in stores were hitting me aesthetically. They all looked normaland I guess I wanted something weirder. 
 
What was your break through? 
 
Tom Petty! I actually have this Tom Petty t-shirt with one of their old logos with a white ‘V’ going through a heart, like a cupid-arrow kind of thing. And that sparked the idea. One night on tour in the middle of the night, laying in my bunk, not being able to sleep, I thought:‘Whoa! What if I had a guitar like that? And what if it was all white with a red pickguard and even the fretboard was white so it looked so stark…’ So, I emailed Cara (Epiphone artist representative) and asked what are the chances you could make me a one-off of this? I never heard back and I thought, well, maybe it’s a crazy idea--a middle of the night thing. I’m sure they can’t just make one guitar. And two months later, we show up for the Nashville date on the Def Leppard tour at Bridgestone Arena and she texts me: “What time should we show up with your guitar?”  And I said: “My guitar? What guitar?” 
 
Ask and you shall receive!
 
No kidding! She showed up in the dressing room at Bridgestone Arena two hours before we went on stage. She opened the case and it was exactly what I had asked for. I played that guitar that night and have every night since. I still play it! Every show since I got it in 2015. And it’s my favorite guitar. It sounds great. It looks so cool. And just the fact that it was a one-off and was custom made for me is really special.

We’ve toured a lot since then. We did two more years with Def Leppard and a lot of stuff on our own. And every time I play that guitar, people talk about it. Every time I post a picture of me playing that guitar, all the comments are like: “Wow, where do I get one? They should make those.”
 
Does your signature model stray far from your original custom Epiphone? 
 
Not really. About a year ago, Richard Akers (head of Epiphone Research and Development) and I started working on the design. Richard had actually worked on the original. He and I made some small tweaks. It’s got a red pearloid pickguard now and a solid white finish. It also has white ‘Speed’ knobs and a white toggle switch and a white headstock. It’s got a really cool red pearloid truss rod cover with the Epiphone logo in white on the cover. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. It was really fun to design it. I’m so happy. 
 
We continued to work on it over several months. We were out all this past year until the middle of October. A couple weeks after I got home, Richard shipped me the prototype. I opened up the case and it was perfect, right off the bat. I’ve never had a signature model guitar before. And whenever I’ve read about guys who have had them, you always hear these stories: ‘…Oh yeah, we went back and forth for two years and the guys were flying out to shows and our techs had to tweak them. We’re trying this and that and different screws for the back plate…’(laughs). I thought this was going to be a long drawn out process. I was really thinking maybe I’d see it for NAMM 2020 or…who knows? But I literally picked it up out of the box and it was still in tune after being shipped across the country. I thought right then, this is perfect. I don’t want to change anything. Well, ok (laughs), let’s just put my signature on the back and go! We added jumbo frets and Epiphone ProBuckerTMpickups. They have a great mix of dirty and clean which is the signature tone that I always try to go for. 
 
What kind of guitar player did you want to be when you started out? Who were you listening to? 
 
I’ve been thinking about that a lot. It’s such an honor to be part of this line and the Epiphone family. It’s been blowing my mind and it does make me think about when I was starting in my formative years. My biggest influence was Slash. That’s what got me into being a lead guitar player. I started when I was 9 years old. My parents listened to a lot of music but neither of them were musicians. But my Mom had taken a guitar class before I was born so she had an acoustic in the corner that she really didn’t play anymore --it was just out. Maybe it was just seeing that and being a kid but from when I was a baby, I always wanted to play guitar. I had toy guitars. There’s a picture of me at 2 or 3 years old with a cutting board with a handle attached to it and rubber bands to make it look like a guitar (laughs). That’s all I ever wanted to do. 
 
I wanted lessons when I was 5 but my Mom said I should wait because my hands are small and she didn’t want me to get frustrated and give it up. So, she made me wait and right after I turned 9, she said: “Ok, now you can have lessons.” My first teacher was a kind of a folk and rock & roll guy. I learned a lot of Everly Brothers and Beatles and old rock & roll—Elvis, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan. But it was more about using the guitar as a support to singing. So, that’s how I learned to play music. After about three or four years—I think I was 11--I got (Guns N’ Roses) Appetite for Destructionand then I was like, “Whoa! I gotta do this. I wanna learn how to do solos. I want to do hard rock.” That was a big turning point for me. I got into the classics—Jimmy Page and Joe Perry and all of that. They are still my heroes. I got into the shredder guys, too, like Joe Satriani. The music you listen to in your formative years is usually the music you listen to for the rest of your life. And all those guys are still my guitar heroes. 
 
What’s a sound check like for Tesla? Some bands are very serious at sound check. Others are loose and will try covers or new material. How do you prepare for a show? 
 
We’re kind of right in the middle. We definitely take it seriously. It’s like going to work but it’s also the time we can stretch out and have unstructured fun. We might throw in a song we haven’t played in a long time or Frank (Hannon) will start a riff from some Led Zeppelin song and we’ll come in and start playing it until we get to a part that we don’t all remember (laughs). And we do these meet & greetthings where fans get to come and watch a sound check. You can’t really rehearse on tour so if we do want to try a new song we will work it out at sound check. Sometimes it’s really intense where we’re working out details to the set list. Other times, we’re done in 15 minutes. It’s almost more for our sound guy than for us because each venue is different. About an hour before the show. I get my guitar in my hands and start warming up, playing anything. Closer to stage time, I’ll start doing scales and finger exercises.
 

Is being a professional musician what you imagined it would be?  
 
It’s amazing. It’s different than you expect but it’s really cool. Because I struggled in club bands for so long trying to make it, I have a deep appreciation for how lucky it is to actually get to this side of the curtain and be in a big band and get to do all the cool stuff that we do. The fact that I get to do it for a living is what continually keeps me in awe. We get to visit so many beautiful places and the shows are amazing. There is a lot of waiting around and all the boring stuff you’ve heard about in interviews growing up. Like, it’s 22 hours of boredom and two hours that are the best in the world. That’s still pretty accurate (laughs). As Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick says: “We play for free. They pay us to travel.” But hey—I get to play guitar for a living. I really don’t have anything to complain about. It measures up pretty great. To call it a job—and have a guitar like this--  is pretty special.