Joel Hoekstra has built a name for himself by performing in bands such as Night Ranger, Foreigner, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He also spent the past six years performing as a guitarist in the Broadway musical, Rock of Ages. Last year, Joel took over for Doug Aldrich in Whitesnake and the band headed straight into the studio to tackle the ambitious task of putting a fresh spin on Coverdale era Deep Purple tracks. The result of Whitesnake’s hard work, “The Purple Album”, will be released in the U.S. on May 19th. Joel will also release a solo album under the moniker of Joel Hoekstra 13 that features Russell Allen and Jeff Scott Soto on vocals, Tony Franklin on bass, Vinny Appice on drums and Derek Sherinian as a special guest on keyboards. Legendary Rock Interviews had the pleasure of catching up with Joel by telephone to discuss his career and all things Whitesnake.
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hello Joel, how are you doing?
Joel Hoekstra: I am great! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
LRI: No problem, thank you for your time. Are you at home in New York City or out on the road somewhere?
JH: I’m at home in New York City!
LRI: Good deal. Nice to have time at home before all the crazy touring life begins, I’d imagine?
JH: (Laughs) Exactly!
LRI: First off, for those that may not be aware of you and your history, could you catch everyone up on when you got started playing, influences, etc?
JH: My parents are classical musicians so as a kid I grew up with a lot of music around the house. They had me playing Cello when I was three and Piano when I was seven. I never really took to it. Honestly, I was like most little kids and wanted to be a baseball player. Then I heard AC/DC and that kind of changed everything for me. That really got the ball rolling and I really wanted to play Guitar.
So, I started out very much into Hard Rock, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, The Scorpions and also gravitated towards the Melodic Rock bands of the time. Bands like Boston, Journey, and Foreigner. Also, great Progressive bands like Rush and Yes were influences, Classic Rock bands like Pink Floyd, The Doors and of course, Led Zeppelin. They were all influences on me and of course the guitar stuff as really big on me growing up. Lots of the technical players, the technically proficient players, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani Yngwie Malmsteen and those guys were all influences to a degree.
LRI: You grew up in Chicago. Did you get your start in bands there or was your start in New York City?
JH: Yeah, I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. We had a pretty good local Rock scene growing up. A lot of us ending up doing pretty well. Dan Donegan who is a friend of mine is in Disturbed. Our kid bands used to play at the same little clubs. (Laughs) It was a great Rock scene. A lot of good guitar players came out of there. It was pretty competitive but very friendly. We were all good people and supported each other.
LRI: When did you make the move to New York City?
JH: I came to New York in 2001.
LRI: That would have been right after you released your “Undefined” solo album?
JH: Correct! Wow! You did your homework!
LRI: (Laughs) Thanks! Yeah, I am one of those music fans that if I am into an artist, I like to discover as much as can about them. I knew of your work with Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Night Ranger but that is you playing within the context of those bands so I discovered you had three solo albums available through CDBaby so I had downloaded those to get a better picture of who you were as a artist.
JH: Sure. Well that is cool.
LRI: You’ve done Rock Of Ages and Night Ranger simultaneously for the past six years, when did you join Trans-Siberian Orchestra?
JH: That was five years ago that I hooked up with them. It was like adding one gig at a time for a while. (Laughs) I think I started with Night Ranger at the top of 2008 and Rock Of Ages came along at the end of 2008. Then, I’m trying to think when I first auditioned for Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I don’t really remember but I just finished my fifth Winter tour with them. So, 2010 was my first Winter tour. I just got back from playing on the album that is coming out soon. It’s been a great experience as well. All three gigs were so good to me so it’s almost hard to sum them up in one interview. I have fantastic memories of all of them!
LRI: Will you continue to tour with Trans-Siberian Orchestra now that you’ve joined Whitesnake? I ask because you’ll be on the road with Whitesnake until the end of the year.
JH: We will see how that all pans out. If I did have to skip Trans-Siberian Orchestra, it’d only be for a year then hopefully I’d be back. We will see how that all works out.
LRI: You also have a side project called VHF with Tony Franklin on Bass and, excuse me but I’m sure I will butcher his name, Todd Vinciguerra on drums…..
JH: Yeah, ol’ Vinny Vinciguerra is harder to pronounce then my last name. (Laughs) Todd & I are old roommates from Hollywood back in the early 90’s when we went to Musicians Institute. Todd hit me up about playing on his project. He played these song structured beats and Todd played on them in the studio. I thought “Wow, that is pretty interesting, you are building a song backwards!” and Tony just played these song structured riff oriented things to Todd’s beats. They sent them to me and asked if I wanted to try making something out of these? I think we came up with some pretty cool unique results. The project is called VHF and the album is called “Very High Frequency”.
LRI: You have a new solo album being released by the end of 2015. What can you tell us about that?
JH: It is called Joel Hoekstra 13 and it is more or less what my influences are like in the Rock scene. I did all the writing on it. It is kind of Dio at its heaviest and Foreigner at its lightest. Russell Allen of Adrenaline Mob sang on it as did Jeff Scott Soto, the musicians on it are Tony Franklin on Bass, Vinny Appice on Drums and Derek Sherinian was kind enough to be our special guest keyboard player on it.
LRI: How did the Whitesnake gig come about?
JH: I had learned that Doug Aldrich had left the band and I put out some feelers about it. A couple of well respected people recommended me to David Coverdale which lead to a meeting at the end of May 2014 and that went really well. I basically auditioned, we wanted to meet and make sure we got along. That went great! There wasn’t a whole lot to do so I kind of put it in my back pocket.
I was busy with Night Ranger. We had an album coming out and we had shows to do. David & I agreed to have me come back out in August & take a stab at recording on “The Purple Album” and see how that went. That went really well & at that point it became a reality that I was joining Whitesnake and here we are!
LRI: What were your initial thoughts when David Coverdale told you that your first album with Whitesnake would be giving his era of Deep Purple a fresh spin?
JH: Like you said, being that it wasn’t a note-for-note re-record type of scenario which would have been a bit of a bummer. It was actually really exciting to put a fresh coat of paint on these proven songs & to ‘Snake them up as David likes to say & put my own stamp on them sounded very exciting to me. We really had a lot of fun. I feel like the band really flexed our creative muscles quite a bit on the material. The songs are re-worked and re-tooled. We would encourage everyone to give it a listen. I think it is a really cool album!
LRI: I’d have to agree. I’ve listened to it several times since I received my review copy and will be doing a review of the album once I give it a few more spins.
JH: Thanks man!
LRI: Were there any ideas or parts that you brought to the album that David was just like “Noooo no no”?
JH: David was really open minded, he’s such a great musician and well rounded. He listens to everything. David listens to Frank Sinatra and you name it. He is just an open minded guy. The only thing I really recall that was kind of funny that he said no way to was I wanted to layer in a Banjo on “Holy Man”. (Laughs) It is an acoustic take on “Holy Man” so I thought that it might be cool to have a Banjo going along with that. That was the one thing where David was like “Dear boy, we can’t have a Banjo on a Whitesnake record!” (Laughs)
It was sort of my role to come up with alternate guitar parts or texture ideas because we were leaning less heavily on keyboards because that is the Deep Purple sound. I figured Reb is going to have the big riff covered on a lot of it so a lot of this material was one guitar part at a time. It was fun for me to think of various guitar parts that I could lay down that were not on the original and put our own stamp on it. A lot of that stuff ended up making the record.
LRI: I think it would have been cool to hear a Banjo on a Whitesnake album.
JH: (Laughs) You know man, it would have been cool but obviously I refer to David on all of it. He’s got the creative vision for Whitesnake! I have to say that he was incredibly open minded about everything. Maybe I was just playing bad Banjo player, I don’t know! (Laughs)
I ended up getting Dobro on this album, Talk-Box on some of the stuff like “The Gypsy”, Slide Guitar and I used my Electro-Harmonix MicroSynth on “Stormbringer”. I feel like David was really open minded and good about letting us all be ourselves on this album.
LRI: He just has a “No Banjo” policy! (Laughs)
JH: (Laughs) Yeah! You asked me for like the one thing and that’s the only thing I can remember! (Laughs) He was really open minded and really cool!
LRI: He just didn’t want to have a “Deliverance” moment on the album!
JH: (Laughs) I guess so! They are lots of good stories from making the album. “Lady Double Dealer” was really my audition. When I went in I took a stab at soloing on that song. Pretty much what you hear on the record is what I played in my audition. I wrote the harmony solo that comes after it right there on the spot after my audition. Then we went upstairs and we sang background vocals together on “Sail Away” to see how all that went. That stuff will always remind me of my auditioning for Whitesnake.
Another really cool moment was when it came time to cut “Soldier Of Fortune”, the main guitar for the acoustic arrangement. David came down & sang the song live with me and most of what he sang right there ended up being used on the album. It is like a really cool goosebump moment of just tracking a classic Deep Purple song with David in the studio.
LRI: When you went in for your audition, were you aware that they’d want you to play “Lady Double Dealer” or were you kind of put on the spot?
JH: No, not at all! I didn’t know at all. I was basically filled in on the concept of “The Purple Album” on arrival & a little while later we went downstairs & they put up the track and had me solo to it! It was very much off-the-cuff and right there on the spot!
LRI: Talk about being put on the spot!
JH: Yeah! Well I mean, it’s just playing Rock Guitar! It’s all good! That’s what I do for a living.
LRI: Whitesnake will be touring the U.S. for three months starting at the end of May then you go over to Europe with The Dead Daisies. I really wished The Dead Daisies were on the U.S. tour with you guys!
JH: Yeah, I think that maybe they have something else going on during that time, I don’t know but it is going to be fun to be out with those guys. They are a great bunch of guys and especially now that they added John Corabi!
LRI: Yeah, John Corabi along with Richie Kotzen are my all-time favorite singer/songwriter/guitarists so I’m glad more people will learn about John through his work with The Dead Daisies!
JH: I love him! We see each other on that Monsters Of Rock Cruise every year. He is such a great musician and a great dude! Obviously, Brian Tichy, Marco Mendoza and Richard Fortus are great players and great guys as well. It’ll be a lot of fun to be out with those guys.
LRI: You’re also doing three weeks worth of dates with Def Leppard in the U.K. at the end of 2015?
JH: That should be a good time!
LRI:: Will Whitesnake be doing the Monsters Of Rock or Def Leppard crusies in early 2016?
JH: I don’t know. The only touring that I am aware of is what is posted right now on Whitesnake.com which are the U.S., Europe and Ireland/U.K. run at the end of the year. I know there will be more dates but they haven’t been announced yet! Everybody should stay tuned to Whitesnake.com for that stuff!
LRI: Whitesnake has issued a really cool EPK for the album as well as promo videos for “Stormbringer” and “Soldier Of Furtune”. Are there plans for any more videos after the release of “The Purple Album”?
JH: Yeah, there are a couple more in the can. We had a real long, nine or ten day stretch of just promo where we got everything all set and ready to go. It is just a timing thing of when to roll that stuff out. We are looking forward to having the remaining videos come out but right now as we speak “Stormbringer” is pushing 700,000 views and “Soldier Of Fortune” is around 125,000 views.
LRI: Is there anything else you’d like to touch on that I may have missed or announce?
JH: You were pretty thorough and a good interview! Hey man, I’m just happy to be a Rock Guitar player! I really love what I do! I’m just proud to be a part of keeping Rock N’ Roll alive and somewhat well these days! I just plan on giving Whitesnake my all and doing my best. I look forward to getting out and bringing the rock on all these shows so I hope everyone comes out to the Whitesnake shows this Summer here in the U.S.
LRI: Cool! I am hoping to catch you guys in August at the Hard Rock down in Tulsa but thanks again for your time and best of luck with everything!
JH: You’re welcome and yeah, come on out! Thanks again, I really appreciate it! Talk to you soon.
“The Purple Album” EPK:
“Stormbringer” Music Video:
“Soldier Of Fortune” Music Video:
Purchase Joel Hoekstra solo albums from CDBaby:
Purchase “The Purple Album” from Amazon:
Purchase “The Purple Album” from Amazon:
Purchase “The Purple Album” from iTunes:
Official Joel Hoekstra website:
Follow Joel Hoekstra on Twitter:
Official Whitesnake website: