By: Joseph Suto
We had the opportunity to talk with Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra as the band was on an offday with a few more dates left on their current U.S. summer tour. Hoekstra of course is no stranger to many as he played a number of years with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra as well as Night Ranger more recently. It was in 2014 that he joined David Coverdale in Whitesnake. See what Joel had to say about the current Whitesnake tour which touches down in Lewiston, NY at Artpark tonight (June 28).
Rock Show Critique: How is the tour going so far?
Joel Hoekstra: No complaints on my end. Everything is going great. The tour is going wonderfully. We’re on the greatest hits tour if you’re a Whitesnake fan it’s all recognizable great songs to sing-along to. For me it’s guitar heaven. There’s always been great guitar riffs and solos in this band. A great lineup of guys who work with David Coverdale. Tommy Aldridge our drummer is a living legend himself. I’m working on the guitar team with Reb Beach and I’m having a great time.
RSC: I’m not sure if you are aware of this but Whitesnake hasn’t played the Buffalo region since 1990. So we are starving for this stuff.
JH: Really? No I wasn’t aware of that at all. Boy you’d figure we’d have the common sense to go there just to go to Anchor Bar at some point right?
RSC: What can we expect Tuesday at Artpark.
JH: Well If you are a Whitesnake fan you’ll love the setlist. Obviously rockers like “Still Of The Night” to the ever recognizable “Here I Go Again”. I shouldn’t give away our entire setlist to everybody. Straight ahead rockers like “Slide It In” and “Slow An’ Easy” are in there. Great ballads like “Is This Love” and “Sailing Ships” we’re doing this year. Obviously a great thing to be a part of for me. I’m very excited to be coming to the Buffalo area. I’ve played there quite a bit with Trans Siberian Orchestra the last five or six years. So I’m excited to come with Whitesnake.
RSC: How do you approach or prepare for the tour? Any different from the last tour The Purple tour?
JH: This year was a little easier for us honestly. Because last year I was new and the keyboard player was new. So having two guys to just kind of get with the program and learn even the standard hits that have been around forever and the way they are presented live with Whitesnake. We had more work to do last year. Some of the hits were in the set last year. This year was like changing maybe fifty percent of what we were gonna play. So it felt smooth and the band knowing each other coming in this year just makes everything that much easier. Not having any unknown variables.
RSC: How did you choose the setlist? Was it all David?
JH: We say sounds good David!! (laughs). Obviously the band is David Coverdale’s band. He’s open minded though. He definitely listens to people’s suggestions and he does take some of them. He is generous in that department. In the end it’s gonna be up to David whatever he wants to put in the set is what’s going to be in the set.
RSC: How familiar are you with the older catalog the pre-Slide It In era?
JH: I wasn’t as much when I joined Whitesnake. I’ve gone back and listened to everything over the course of my time in the band. I love it personally. It’s a different sound, it’s a little more straight ahead blues, no nonsense guitar playing. Not a shreddy as people would say and some of the stuff that the band came known for with Sykes and Vai. It’s just great music across the board. Obviously David starting out with Deep Purple, he’s got a great history. It’s pretty amazing he obviously worked with Jimmy Page for a while in Coverdale/Page. There’s not many guys that you can hang out with that are cracking you up and the next minute they are telling you stories working with Ritchie Blackmore and Jimmy Page. It’s pretty special for me getting to work with David. There’s a lot for me to learn from a guy like him who’s had such an amazing career. It’s great fun for me.
RSC: Speaking of you. You had an album come out late last year, tell us how it came to be?
JH: Yeah. I had three solo albums out years ago that were basically instrumental guitar albums. Two of them were like rock fusion, one was a fingers style acoustic album. Over the years fans got to know me from Night Ranger, the show Rock of Ages, TSO and now Whitesnake. So all these fans told me I should make a rock album? I said sounds like a great idea. I just got to find the time and eventually I did. I kind of called in favors from the classic rock world. I have Vinny Appice from Black Sabbath and Dio and Tony Franklin from Blue Murder and The Firm on bass. Two of the best singers in the world today with Russell Allen from Symphony X and Jeff Scott Soto who has his own solo career and sang for Journey for a little bit and Yngwie Malmsteen. Derek Sherinian who played keyboards on it. A great lineup of guys that helped bring the songs I wrote to life. I did all the writing on it, the lyrics and the vocal melodies and everything. It was a great step for me to get something like that out. Now fans can buy the album online, they can enjoy or use as a coaster (laughs).
RSC: Is there a plan for another record in the future?
JH: I’ve been talking with Frontiers about possibly doing a follow up and trying to find some live scenarios that would work as well. Getting that lineup of guys out would be very special. Always trying to stay productive everyday trying to move everything forward.
RSC: I’ll leave you with one last question. Out of all the songs in the Whitesnake catalog which one do you enjoy playing the most live.
JH: Everybody’s always looking for “Still Of The Night”. My answer is actually all of them. I really feel lucky to have an opportunity to play rock guitar for a living. I just really enjoy on focusing on making it all as good as I possibly can. I really enjoy all of them equally.