Last week I was able to have a chat with none other than Joel Hoekstra, former NIGHT RANGER and current WHITESNAKE guitarist. We didn’t have a whole lot of time so we got right into discussing the new WHITESNAKE disc The Purple Album, him and guitarist Reb Beach playing together, as well as his current guitars of choice. I also found out he is an avid basketball watcher like me and roots hard for his beloved Chicago Bulls. Ladies and gentlemen…Joel Hoekstra:
Amps: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, Joel. One of our other writers is actually seething with jealousy right now.
Joel: (Laughs) Really? Wow! Hey man, I appreciate YOU taking the time because it’s great for both of us. I totally appreciate the support, believe me.
Amps: With regard to these new versions of the DEEP PURPLE classics, how much of a part did you play in the writing/arranging?
Joel: Well, the writing was done over 40 years ago (laughs), but as far as arrangements go the pre-production was already there by the time I came onboard. I had my audition for WHITESNAKE after David (Coverdale, DUH! -Ed) filled me in on the concept of The Purple Album, and wanted me to do a solo on “Lady Double Dealer” which, pretty much what you hear on the album is what I played at the audition. And I did the harmony solo that happens right after that and we did a little singing upstairs on “Sail Away”, just the choruses there with David, Reb, and myself. In terms of anything I brought in writing-wise, I definitely wrote a lot of parts and brought in ideas for alternate guitar parts because David didn’t want us to do a note-for-note re-record and obviously we weren’t gonna lean as heavily on keyboards as DEEP PURPLE did on these tracks, so I’m thinking, “Reb is gonna have a lot of the basic riffs covered by the time I get in studio so I’m gonna come up with as many alternate parts as possible.” And a lot of them ended up making the album. David is very open-minded and encouraging and he was really great to work with in the studio.
Amps: How does your style mesh with Reb’s as far as playing together?
Joel: So far so good with all the double guitar stuff like in the center of “You Fool No One”. Reb and I wrote that right on the spot in studio. We were both plugged in and tracked it together. That was a lot of fun. I would say that even though Brad Gillis (NIGHT RANGER) is one of my dear friends and one of the best guitarists out there it was fun working with Reb because he can pull off so many of my crazy ideas! That was fun and we were looking at each other saying, “Man everything I come up with you can play!” The harmony guitar stuff in “Holy Man” was great; the trading off on stuff was so much fun. Reb’s not the kind of guy who needs to do every solo, and neither am I.
We’re not competitive in that department at all, which was fun, and felt very easy. If anything I think we were offering solos to each other. I think we’re both band guys at the end of the day. For me it’s more important to be part of a good musical situation than it is for me to play every solo. I’d rather be playing G, C, and D all night long with no solos if it was on a high level rather than taking every solo in a terrible musical scenario.
Amps: When I saw Reb with WINGER last summer I thought it was cool how often he was deferring to (guitarist) John Roth, so I get that.
Joel: WINGER is amazing live, and Kip (Winger) is vastly underrated. Yeah, that was part of the appeal of this band, you know? Working with Reb, Tommy Aldridge on drums, and David is just Rock Royalty, one of the best singers of all time, so it’s been great to get this opportunity.
Amps: What are some of the similarities and differences in being in WHITESNAKE as opposed to your time in NIGHT RANGER?
Joel: Well, essentially it’s the same scene so there are a lot of familiar faces and scenarios. WHITESNAKE does things a little bit differently as far as setting up tours. David loves to go out and do big runs all in one big chunk and NIGHT RANGER’S tours are a bit more broken up. I do think with WHITESNAKE I will have more chances to tour internationally, but it’s essentially the same thing, touring in a hard rock band, you know? It doesn’t feel like I’ve wandered onto the surface of Mars or anything (laughs).
Joel: Well getting the WHITESNAKE gig gave me an opportunity to touch base with all my favorite gear companies and I ended up with FIVE new guitars for this tour. Gibson Custom was kind enough to put together two AWESOME Les Pauls for this tour with the WHITESNAKE emblem embedded in the bodies in the form of a medallion. And Fender actually did the same thing for me. They put together two custom Strats for me. Same deal with the medallion set into the body. It’s just so awesome to be able to use Gibson and Fender together on this tour, man. I also have some friends at a company called Atomic Guitar Works who have always made a guitar for me for all my gigs. They just hit it out of the park this time. They gave me this killer purple crystal Les Paul with a gold crystal “WS” on the top. You can see it on my Facebook, or my site, any social network stuff like www.joelhoekstra.com, you can check it out there.
Amps: What are you listening to at home or in the car?
Joel: Oh man, I usually listen to sports radio (starts laughing). In all honesty, I’m usually working on songs or learning music so I’m listening to music a minimum of four hours a day. Between getting ready for this tour and producing my side project which will be out later this year, I’m listening five, six hours a day. So for me, I get done with that and I’m like, “Dude, where’s the basketball game??”
Amps: Did you see LeBron’s game-winner yesterday? (At the time of the interview it was still NBA Conference Semifinals)
Joel: Yeah, I’m a Bulls fan so let’s not talk about it (laughs). I’m also a Cubs fan so I’m still waiting for my first World Series win from them.
Amps: Oops! Sorry! What would you like to say to all the fans of your work worldwide?
Joel: Oh man, I’m very blessed and lucky to be a pro guitar player in a rock and roll band. I’ve got the best job in the world so I appreciate anybody who comes out to any of the shows, buys an album, or really anybody who says anything positive along the way. That stuff helps, believe me. Thank you for the support and I’m gonna keep working hard.
Anybody else notice that the first thing out of Joel’s mouth was a “Thanks for taking the time?” Usually that’s MY job as the interviewer to say that. Never have I had a conversation with someone who right out of the gate, and with sincerity, says something like that to me. Without a doubt, he’s as nice offstage as he is fierce on it. Ladies and gents, with Joel Hoekstra in the line-up WHITESNAKE is gonna kick all our asses. I just hope they hit Philly!! The Purple Album is available everywhere now on Frontiers Music, so what are you waiting for?
LIVE PHOTO: CHRISTIAN PERIS