Brian Wheat of Tesla Serenades with Enhanced Photography [Interview]

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Brian Wheat
Photo Courtesy of Brian Wheat Facebook Page

Brian Wheat, the talented bass guitarist for the multi-platinum rock band, Tesla, has unveiled a new melodic gift with showings of his enhanced photography artwork. In between touring around the world with his music, Wheat is on a new journey to showcase his beautiful artistic creations at Wentworth Gallery.

Wheat was Destined for Tesla Rock Fame

The baby of six children, Wheat was born in 1963 in Sacramento, California. Music enticed the youngest member of his family when he was a mere six-years-old. Wheat was enamored by the record collections of his older siblings, specifically the 1966 Beatles album “Revolver.” Wheat proudly exclaims that his life was changed by that Beatles LP – he knew then that he was going to be a rock star.

When Wheat was 12 years old, a leg broken in a tobogganing accident happened to bring him closer to rock star fame. To help subdue his boredom while Wheat’s leg mended, the preteen’s mother bought him a guitar. Although the instrument enthralled him, the six strings proved to be a bit too many for the boy who wanted to play bass like his idol, McCartney.

Choosing music over bike riding with friends, the blossoming musician sold his Schwinn to get the additional $40 needed to buy his first bass guitar. From that moment Wheat found and began to nurture his true love of bass playing.

Brian Wheat
Photo Courtesy of Relevant Communications, LLC

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It was in the early 1980s that Wheat took to the garage with his friend Frank Hannon to create music. As their musical expedition began, the two struggled to seek a band name. Going by the names Earthshaker and City Kidd paved the way for the ultimate moniker of Tesla when the lead vocalist Jeff Keith, drummer Troy Luccketta, and guitarist Tommy Skeoch joined the duo.

Not too soon after forming Tesla was their remarkable talent recognized. In 1985 the band signed a recording contract with Geffen Records. Well over 30 plus years later Tesla has kept up their touring schedule for their passionate fans as Wheat continues writing music.

Wheat Expands Creative Genius with His Photography

A holiday from touring ignited a new creative enthusiasm for Wheat. In the 2000s the musician was enjoying a vacation with his friend, Ross Halfin, a renowned rock photographer. With the simple gesture of Halfin handing Wheat a point-and-shoot Leica, the bass player discovered a new creative outlet.

Viewing the world through the camera lens, Wheat started documenting his life adventures. Halfin encouraged Wheat to continuously look for new and more interesting locations to photograph. Photography has become a creative therapy for Wheat to enjoy some quiet-peaceful reflection in between the intensity of touring with Tesla.

Just as Wheat allowed his music to evolve and grow as he morphed his talent into rock star status, he continues to grow his artistic abilities as a photographer. His works of enhanced photography, incorporating photography with painting, have become sought after by collectors. Wheat constantly works on creating his own exceptional technique that showcases spectacular photographic images that are filled with color and entice emotion.

Brian Wheat
Fine art by Brain Wheat – Photo montage Courtesy of Wentworth Gallery

Wheat Speaks Music, Art, and Life

The man, who is known for strumming four strings, gives so much more to the music world as a songwriter, producer, and owner of a recording studio. It is not surprising that Wheat has widened his horizons making melodic talent shine through his photographic creations as well.

Carol Ruth Weber: Did you really believe that you would be a rock star at such a young age, and what continued your passion even before you were handed a guitar?

Brian Wheat: Yes, I wanted to be a rock star at six-years-old when I heard the Beatles album Revolver. From that moment on I wanted to do what that guy Paul McCartney does. I played air guitar and then when I broke my leg at 12 I played my crutch. I was laid up for 8 months with a cast up to my hip and my mom felt bad and got me a guitar.

CRW: What is it about a four-string bass that you are attracted to, compared to the six-string guitar?

BW: I wanted to be like McCartney who is a bass player.

CRW: Did you have any formal music training?

BW: No, never took any lessons – I just learned from listening to records and just learned from what was happening off the records.

CRW: What was your immediate attraction to photography?

BW: I think it’s weird. I just did it because one of my best friends is a famous rock photographer, Ross Halfin, and we would go away on these trips and I started off just taking photos on my iPhone. I used to joke that I was the world’s greatest iPhone photographer. Then one day he handed me a Leica, a deluxe five point and shoot camera, and I just started taking pictures.

CRW: How did you move from photography to enhanced photography?

BW: I was on a boat, we were doing this cruise last year, and I was at Rick Allen’s art show on the boat and I had met Christian [O’Mahony, owner of Wentworth Gallery] and showed him my photography. I asked him if next year can we do an exhibit of my photographs. He said to me that he doesn’t do photographs, that he just does fine art, but would I consider painting on my photography. I said I never had. He said why don’t you try it. I started experimenting at that point making giclees, a photograph transferred to a canvas, and now I’m showing my work at Wentworth.

CRW: Have you merged your talents as a musician and fine artist – If so, how?

BW: I’ve done this other thing where I take my photographs and I make a thing called an image transfer, and it’s kind of like a Xerox of the photographs, and then put it on a Hofner Violin Bass Guitar – because I play a Hofner Violin Bass like Paul McCartney does. I turn the instrument into a piece of fine art.

CRW: What is next for you?

BW: I’m on tour with my band Tesla. We have a new record out. I’m doing my art, putting my art on the bass guitars and experimenting with other things with more art mediums.

Brian Wheat
Brian Wheat showcasing Hofner Violin Bass Guitar art at Wentworth Gallery – Photo Courtesy of Relevant Communications, LLC

Wheat continues to tour with Tesla as well as making in-person appearances at a Wentworth Gallery throughout the U.S. with his enhanced photographic works. Admirers can purchase their own piece of a beautiful Wheat creation as they personally meet the creative genius. The unassuming Wheat appreciates the fans as they line up at Wentworth to meet the musician – now also adored for his art as much as for his music.

See his works and meet Wheat at Wentworth in The Mall at Short Hills in Short Hills, NJ on April 27, 2019.

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