Starting at the beginning of you as a musician, what first made you want to pick up a guitar?
Well my parents are classical musicians, so I was always- well there was always music around the house. I played cello at three and piano at age seven and it really wasn’t until I heard AC/DC at age 11 that made me wanna play guitar.
Did you ever picture yourself playing with bands like Night Ranger and Whitesnake? Is that what you wanted to do?
Not necessarily, it’s just funny how the stuff I started with came full circle for me. And that’s what I’m doing right now, I mean I grew up playing that style and genre of music and I went through playing a gazillion other styles and playing all types of different gigs. And then it seems that about the past seven or eight years that you know, I’ve been a part of the revival of those bands to a degree and that’s been great fun for me.
You have done a crazy amount of session work from what I can see on your website, how’d you get all those gigs with all these different people?
Well I mean my biographies like a bit deceptive cause like a lot of the people I’ve only played with like one time or something like that. Through gigs like World Stage and Scrap Metal I got to play with a lot of those people. Or it’s just bizarre situations where I’ve played with them briefly- one time or whatever. But I still consider those playing with somebody, so yeah I guess through the process of just trying to work hard and living life you end up in playing situations with all those people.
Do you have any favorite things you’ve done session wise?
Not necessarily. I mean I think that everything I’ve done has been a learning process for me in my life, so I just kinda value it all because it led me to where I am right now.
How did you end up on Broadway?
Well my first theater gig was not on Broadway, it was a show called ‘Love, Janis’ about Janis Joplin and that was the reason I went to New York, and that was because the girl who played Janis Joplin- Cathy Richardson- I was playing in her band back in the Chicago area. So it was really there, and ‘Love, Janis’ ran for a couple years and the director hired me to do that on the road a bit in another show of his, and then a friend of mine asked me to sub for him in the show he was playing in the pit. He’s like a tradition pit musician, so after doing that on all the shows that he was working on, subbing for him, I ended up getting Rock of Ages through that. So Rock of Ages went six years, and yeah. I mean I never really set out aspiring to play in theater at all but that’s just kinda what happens in New York. Those are the gigs that are there.
New album wise, clarify for those who don’t yet know- your current side project is called Joel Hoekstra’s 13, right?
Now would you consider that a band name or just a side project because from what I can see some people are taking it differently.
I think for now it’s a project name. I didn’t want to call it a solo album because it sounds like a band, but the hitch is that it’s not really a band either. I did all the writing; so for me it was kind of difficult to know what to call it. If I called it Joel Hoekstra I think people would be expecting fancy guitar all over the place. And like I said this sounds pretty much like you’re putting in a CD of a band. So I think a project name was the best fit for now. Joel Hoekstra’s 13, and then that way if I wanna make more records like this I have a brand set out for it, you know?
How did it come to be?
It started with the bass player Tony Franklin who just finished a project called VHF and I told him I was interested in making an album of straight ahead rock music, instead of the style of my previous solo albums. And so Tony was into it and I asked him who he wanted to use on drums and he recommended Vinny Appice. And from there we needed a singer and Russell Allen had just signed up to do the Trans-Siberian Orchestra show I usually do, and I knew he needed to be the guy. So Russel sang on the first half of the album, and at that point I asked for a favor from my friend Jeff Scott Soto to sing background on those tracks for me, even though Jeff is overqualified. We had worked together on other stuff in the past, so he sang background on those and as it became clear it would be a project album, I knew I had some songs coming that were perfect for Jeff’s voice and I asked him to sing lead on it as well. And after I got done laying down all of the guitars I still felt that there was room for keyboards, so I asked Derek Sherinian if he’d be willing to play on it and he was, so it all of a sudden I had one of the coolest lineups to play on a classic rock CD- so that was super cool for me. I didn’t set out to do an allstar band or anything but everyone I asked said yes.
Considering all the time you’ve spent in Whitesnake and you’re big transition from Night Ranger to Whitesnake how’d you find time for this?
Well it was more planned out. I mean it took a long time because of other peoples schedules and my own schedule, really. So yeah I began making the CD before I even auditioned for Whitesnake and it was all very planned and something I wanted to do for a while because I was becoming more well known for playing melodic hard rock. So I kind of wanted to write a CD and have a CD of my own in that style and it ended up being a real blessing for me- all of the writing on this, the lyrics and the vocal melodies and everything. It just kinda shows people what my tastes are and what my style is and allowed me to focus more on writing and producing that necessarily trying to show off on guitar, if that makes sense.
It does! You have other albums out, but they aren’t at all in a band sense, right?
Right, right. There’s two I have out that I would describe as instrumental rock fusion with great musicians on them, but they’re much different style than the fans of the bands I’ve played with would wanna hear. And the third album was like, a finger style acoustic, so I’ve really had a lot of people say that I should make a solo album of just rock stuff and it always sounded like a great idea to me- so it was just a matter of finding the time. Just a matter of using all the downtime I’ve had over the past years to do so.
Any possibilities of live shows in accordance to the album?
I mean I’m interested in supporting this album in anyway I can, it’s gonna be tricky trying to find a scenario that makes sense, but a lot of it is just about finding the continued reaction and word of mouth for this album is super important for me. And maybe I can make something work but I would definitely love to.
The record has gotten some great reviews, from what I can see it’s doing very well! I’m sure people would love to see it live.
Yeah it’s gotten great reviews and it’s got a pretty good start in terms of word of mouth for it being a name that maybe people aren’t so familiar with. It’s off to a good start so hopefully I’ll be able to find a situation that makes sense.
How would you describe the album to those who haven’t heard it yet?
Well it’s melodic hard rock that I would say is Dio-ish at its heaviest and Foreigner-ish at it’s lightest.
Do you have a favorite song to perform when you’re with Whitesnake?
I don’t really have a favorite to be honest, I’m just happy to be there and I don’t really look at it that way. I mean people want me to say Still of the Night! But it’s not really- I like playing it all equally. I just enjoy playing and being a part of the whole process and I enjoy every aspect of being in stage and touring with this band and I’m happy to be a part of it.
And how is that going? How’s Whitesnake been treating you lately?
Great! I mean I love working with David, I think he’s very supportive and I feel like I’ve gained a big brother with him. Someone who’s looking out for me and I guess kind of championing me! And it feels good, you know. It’s a great line up to be a part of, obviously having Tommy Aldridge on drums, a living legend, is super cool. And I love being in a guitar duo with Reb Beach, playing with him is great for me and this whole band gets along really well right now. Lots of laughs and we’re playing well, so it’s really going great.
How does playing with Whitesnake compare to playing with Night Ranger?
That’s apples and oranges really, I mean I had a great time playing with Night Ranger, we made a couple of cool studio albums and a live acoustic album and did lots of shows over the seven years I was with them, and I’m very proud of it. Whitesnake has just got material that is really a guitarists dream, great riffs and great solos. And as I said, the musicians I get to work with on this- they’re just really amazing, so I honestly am blessed to have either one of those gigs but I’m just super happy to be with Whitesnake right now.
And I know you did some shows with Foreigner, how’d you end up doing that?
Well Night Ranger was opening for Foreigner and Journey in 2011. Mick Jones was basically under the weather and the manager Phil Carson called me and asked me if I’d be willing to fill in for Mick. At first it sounded like it wasn’t gonna happen because he just said ‘I want you to work on these songs just incase’. But then like, the next day, they said ‘you’re playing tomorrow’ and I was like ‘oh my gosh! get me a recording so I can work on it!’ and I really only had 24 hours to learn the set and fly down. I was at home in New York at the time, we had a day or two off there because I think the previous show was at Jones Beach in New York. So I learned their set and flew down to Virginia Beach and went on, and the worst part was that I was on with Night Ranger before I had to play with Foreigner! So I just wanted to be working on the Foreigner stuff but instead I was on stage playing an entirely different set. It was super stressful but it was an honor for me to fill in for Mick for sure.
Do you have anything planned for the future? Are you working on anything right now?
I’m gonna be doing some work with Michael Sweet from Stryper, possibly on his solo album coming out or on the project that we’re working on as well, which I’ll actually be writing with him a bit. So that, and without telling anyone too much, David Coverdale is really excited about the current lineup of Whitesnake and I think everybody can look for a really active next year or two.