Brian Wheat opens up about his eating disorder in late ’80s and anxiety attacks while touring in 2019
Tesla bassist Brian Wheat was recently interviewed by long-time Sleaze Roxx contributor Ruben Mosqueda for KNAC. Wheat was promoting his autobiography Son of A Milkman: My Crazy Life with Tesla, which was co-written with Chris Epting and will be released via Post Hill Press on December 15, 2020. Wheat‘s autobiography is somewhat different than the regular rock n’ roll ones as the bassist opened up about his health, mental health and self-esteem issues.
In terms of how he handles anxiety attacks on stage, Wheat indicated (with slight edits): “It is in how you cope with it. Like you said, we were on tour last year with Def Leppard across Canada. Every night we play to sold-out arenas to 15-20 thousand people. I’m having anxiety attacks every night! There I am on stage coping through it by telling myself ”I have to get through the set”. Then my mind is racing and I tell myself “I can’t forget the set”. I’m going all these different directions. It was unsettling because it was the most unfocused that I have ever been on a tour in my whole career. I found myself asking “Why now? Why at this point in my career? Things should be amazing at this point”. There I was still struggling with this anxiety and these attacks followed by this depression. You learn to cope with it and that was one of the benefits of the therapy. Dr. Herschkopf helped me deal with it on my own with self-talk and talk myself off the ledge. That’s what you do because your mind does all of these things simultaneously while you’re trying to play “Little Suzi” on stage! [laughs]”
With respect to the impact that the deaths of Chris Cornell (Soundgarden lead vocalist), Anthony Bourdain (television series host and world famous chef) and Chester Bennington (Limp Bizkit singer) — who all committed suicide — have impacted him, Wheat revealed: “The point I was trying to make there with Anthony Bourdain, Chris and Chester is that they passed close to the same time. I don’t understand how things can be so bad that someone could take their own life. I have anxiety and I have been depressed, but I couldn’t understand that level of depression until I was on tour in the summer of 2019 with Def Leppard. I was so overwhelmed by that depression. I want to be crystal clear, I have never thought about suicide. It’s never been on the table, but I finally did understand how it could be so overwhelming for someone that suicide would be their only way out.”
In regard to his struggles with his body image and weight which led to an eating disorder, Wheat indicated: “Yeah, people think that those things are exclusive to ‘supermodels’ or something but it’s not. The fact of the matter is I was a fat kid. I lost all of this weight. If you look at the photos of me during the Mechanical Resonance album I was a fat kid, then I lost a lot of weight. To be able to maintain that…we were out during that time where everyone was looking for that image and MTV was huge. I started sticking my fingers down my throat to keep myself from gaining weight! I did that for 3-4 years! It was during ‘88, ‘89, ‘90 and ‘91 that entire time period. I know what this is like and that’s a slippery fucking slope! I haven’t done that in years. I’m heavier now, of course but that’s due to my autoimmune disease. I have taken Prednisone regularly. It’s hard to be thin and take Prednisone at the same time. It’s a steroid that puts a lot of weight on you, it bloats you among other things. My weight fluxuates. Today I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I want the guy or the girl in Des Moines, Iowa to read this and know that I’m just like them, they can overcome it and there are other people that are experiencing the same problems. This isn’t a gender thing, it happens to all of us. And I wanted to be Pete Way so bad! He was the best and baddest, bass player there ever was! [laughs]”
You can read the rest of the interview with Brian Wheat by Ruben Mosqueda at KNAC‘s website.