Unlucky for some? Joel Speak out.

A stranger to these shores is Joel Hoekstara, well he was to me until he joined Whitesnake and 'T.O.S. - Trans Siberian Orchestera'. Joel really made a name for himself back when he 1st joined 'Night Ranger' back in 2008 and recorded his 1st album 'Somewhere in California' in 2011, which was followed by '24 String & a Drummer' in 2012 & in 2014 he recorded the 3rd release 'High Road' in 2014. 

Not only did Joel record with Night Ranger, he also toured extensively with 'Cher' and played on various albums doing either guest solos or playing an entire song or 2 for an album. in 2014 Joel got his big breaking when he was asked to audition and play for Whitesnake, to which this day he still remains in the band, having recorded the 'The Purple Years' and 'Flesh & Blood'.

This incredible guitarist has talent no doubt about it, so with his new stunning 2nd album 'Running Games', which has just been released and is a follow up to his debut 'Dying to Live' which was released in 2015, the future is looking bright for Joel, and what a nice chap he is. Here is what he had to say to the following questions.

Hi Joel thank's for taking you're time out and doing this interview, I'm loving the new album. I have to be totally honest with you and no disrespect to you, but until you joined Whitesnake I had never heard of you before.

Hey Jason how's it going dude!! Thanx for the great review. I am not offended by what you just said, I lot of people had never heard of me, I got of my gigs with 'Nightrager' sold a lot of albums and toured a lot in the U.S. and Japan, but ever little in the UK, Europe, and South America and Australia. That was the same deal with 'T.S.O.', the 'Trans Siberian Orchestera' I have been in that band for 10 yrs now, and the 'Rock of Ages' was just a Broadway gig over here. Whitesnake was really great for me because I finally got to see the world a bit."

Ok Joel I want to ask you at what age did you start to play the guitar and was it you're 1st choice?

"Yes the guitar was my 1st choice of instrument, but my parents had my play the cello and piano when I was very little and my parents are classic trained in conducting. (Ed: from there you went into Yngwie Malsteen?) (Laughing) no I was more into AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, The Scorpions, Judas Priest, bands like that. Yngwie actually came a few years into my playing and I think I was 11 when I started playing the guitar.  I heard the 1st Alcatrazz album, I liked the 'Steeler' stuff but I heard the Yngwie solos stuff when I was 14."

Have you always been based in New York?

"No I am actually from the Chicago area, then I went to L.A. and went to the 'G.I.T.' and the 'Cherry Tree' recording studios. The I went back to Chicago and then came to New York in 2001."

Can you remember the very 1st guitar that you got? Do you still own it?

"Yes I do remember my 1st guitar, at 1st I had to leant to play on my mums acoustic guitar, and somebody was teaching me out of a book and it was stressing me out, so I would be learning the notes on the high 'E' and I was like how do I turn into the sound of the guy in AC/DC (laughing) that was all I wanted to do. So a friend of mine had a electric guitar and he said let's go up to the store in the mall and buy an electric and take to a guy who he knew who would show me all the rock chords and stuff. 

It was a 'Westone' and my parents wanted me to prove to them that I was serious before they bought me an amp. (laughing) So I was plugging it into the home stereo. Sadly I don't have the guitar anymore, way back then I wanted to get my 2nd guitar I just wish I had of kept that 1st guitar, I totally regret it now. 

My 2nd guitar was a 'Krama Baretta' with the Floyd rose thing which was all the rage at that time, so I went from that to modified Phil Colin (Def Leppard) Jackson guitar. My main guitar went from a Stratocaster to a Telecaster, there was a lot of experiments going on until I found the correct guitar I wanted. I ended up with the 'Les Paul'."

So which guitar players inspired you growing up?

"Well Angus certainly inspired me that's for sure, a lot of that was just his vibe more than his playing. I was more into band and didn't really think about been a guitar player, like the bands I mentioned earlier. Later on I got into Dokken, Queensryche, and bands like Journey, Foreigner, Boston, and Progresive bands like Rush, Yes, and then Yngwie, Satriani Vai, Steve Morse, and the classic Rock stuff like Pink Floyd, Hendrix, The Doors, so there were a lot of influences."

Were you ever into the 'Shrapnel Records' bands like Racer X, Cacophony etc...?

"Yes I was a little bit, not so much the Racer X stuff, I was defiantly into the Tony Macalpine stuff, and the Vinnie Moore records. I kind of didn't listen too that stuff for a bit and when I got to 'G.I.T.' I got more into the bands. I was more into the Vai, Satriani, Yngwie Steve Morse stuff but I never bought every album they did.

Back when I was at 'G.I.T. I had a 4 track and I would record a lot a instrumental stuff and I was doing a lot more creative stuff and trying to be weird and pushing the bounders (laughing) when you're a kid that was the fun stuff. I was 11 yrs old when I got my 1st guitar."

What was you're 1st band called?

"Well I use to jam with drummers and I was 15 when I got into a band, we were called 'Out Cry', we did our own stuff and we did some covers of Dokken but we we're ready for prime time, I think if you heard it you would laugh at it, I was surprised that nobody pulled me up and said you best call it a day."

So who were the 1st professional band you joined?

"Well I started with teaching and doing gigs all the way up until I was 30, I would teach 70 students a week and then gig, but I don't know if all of these were full time jobs, I would gig on the weekend with bands I had in the Chicago area and I would also play with other bands, so it just kind of built up. I ended up getting this theater gig called 'Love Janice' it was a show about Janice Joplin and I came to New York to do that and it was 8 shows a week, so that was the 1st time I had become a full time performer. 

Since then it has became a stranger journey for me, if I told you all the stuff I had done you would think 'What the hell!!' In the 90's the whole thing took a full swing and I just did what I could at that time, in terms of doing lots of gigs and making money and I had the teaching thing thank God."

How did you get into teaching students to play the guitar?

"I started that with a couple of beginners and I had was about 15 and I started to get students wanting me to help them. I thought it was better than working at the local gas station or something like that. It was a good way to make money and it was a secure job with income. As I said I was teaching in later years up to 70 students a week and making money."

In 2008 you joined 'Night Ranger', was this the 1st professional band you joined?

"Well in terms of only making my living from them? I don't know what the necessarily means, I went from doing the 'Love Janice' to gigging with 'The Turtles' and went from guitar to playing the bass for them. I also did some work 'The big brother' and 'The holding Company' and the director of that was also a guitar player for 'Love Janice'. 

So I did session with Jim Peterik place and his world stage band and that led to the Night Ranger gig, because Kelly Keagy was one of the guest artists every year on that and he had mentioned that Night Ranger might need a guitar player for the band. So I got the audition and I got the gig. 

I was also playing with 'Scrap Metal' which was the Nelson brothers, Mark Slaughter, Kelly, so I had some thing I was doing at that time prior to joining Night Ranger. Soon after I joined Night Ranger I got the gig with 'Rock of Ages' with Sebastian Bach, which also featured Nuno Bettencourt and Kevin Cronin and also Debbie Gibson. All of those were pro acts just on different levels."

How many albums did you record with 'Night Ranger', and which is your favourite album?

"I did 2 studio albums and one live acoustic album, I would say my favourite is 'Somewhere in California' just because it was my debut album with the band and I was new to the band, and it was a lot of fun making an album with those guys. With that album was had a big with 'Foreigner' and 'Journey' and we did get out to Europe on that tour which was a lot of fun."

Moving on... now let's talk about you joining Whitesnake, how did you find out about the band looking for a replacement? How did you get the job?

"Well I basically just saw that they were looking for a replacement for Doug online, oddly enough I text Doug the night before the new had come out and we had been friends for a long time, basically because we have kids. So I found my way really easily to get an audition with the band, and Foreigner's manager helped me out with that because I had filled in for Mick Jones in 2011 in very short noticed when he got sick and so basically twisted David's arm and got me to audition for the band.

Things went really well at the audition and here I am 7 yrs later on still in the band. I 1st talked to David when I arrived, and lunch to see how we got along with each other. That went really well and so he put up songs 'Lady Double Dealer' and I had to improvise my solo over it and they liked what I did and it was Steve and Reb that got me the gig. So later on I laid down the harmony solo for that song I told you about and I am pretty sure my audition is the part that got on that record."

Are you planning on recording a new album with the band after you have finished promoting you're own record?

"It is all up to David, he has been promoting the 'Red White & Blues' compilation trilogy album over the last year so we will see what his next plans will be for the band."

How did you feel about your debut album with Whitesnake been 'The Purple Years'?

"I liked it, I thought it was a good way to join the band and they were already working on that release, it was a great opportunity for me to come in and play on some classic Whitesnake songs, and go out and tour on it."

So when you look back at the old Whitesnake albums, which is you're favourite and why?

"Well I love everything the band has done, but I would have to say '1987', just because I listened too that a lot when I was younger so there is a special level there for me it is a great combination of the Hard Rock/ Blues, thing that it had at that time and the commercial pop that they had, it was a great combination of all that rolled into one."

In-between that album you toured with 'Cher' that must of been awesome for you.

"Yes I did that as a fill in for a couple of gigs and it ended up turning into a few years. In Sweden we played to 24.000 people it was a great opportunity for me."

After that you released 3 albums, were these instrumental albums?

"Yes they were instrumental albums. They were released in 2000, 2003 and 2006 I believe. I had Virgil Donati on drums who had worked with Tony Macalpine, Ric Fierabracci on bass on the album 'The Moon is Falling', and on the '13 Acoustic Songs' I had Tim Lefebvre on bass, who also like Rik has a great career as well."

Moving on is '13' a band or just a project for those who maybe wondering?

"It is a project, I write everything and it doesn't sound like a solo album does it? So I had to give it a project name something with my name and something attached to it, so unlucky '13' was added (laughing). I write the lyrics and vocal melodies and so I also wanted something which was a band."

The 1st album you released was 'Dying to Live', how did you hook up with Russell from 'Symphony X' as the vocalist?

"Well Russell joined 'T.S.O.' and I had Vinny Appice on drums and Tony Franklin on bass already playing on the album, so I needed somebody who could sing like Dio but I always anted somebody who could sing like Paul Rodgers and Russ can do all of that, he is amazing!!"

Did you ever consider having Jorn Lande on vocals?

"I really don't know Jorn at all, it just so happened that Russ had joined 'T.S.O.' and I knew we would be the perfect choice for the album. What I have heard of Jorn I think he is amazing, but we don't know each other at all."

I had worked with Vinny as his drum tech at a festival here in the UK called 'Hair Metal Heaven', he was such a nice guy to work with we really got along really well, I'd love to be his tech again.

"Yeah Vinny is a really great guy, I got to know him through Tony Franklin, and he was perfect for this project as I wanted somebody who took me back to my roots and Dio was a big part of my life. Listening too Dio & Black Sabbath with Vinny as a kid was was my upbringing and so it was great to get to know him and the rest of the guys."

I guess having Jeff Scott Soto was a easy choice for him to sing on the album as he is also part of the 'T.S.O'.

"Well I actually met Jeff when I was playing in the band 'Scrap Metal' and this was before I was in Night Ranger, so I'd known him for a while. We got to know each other more when he was in 'T.S.O.', and he asked me to co-write with him back in 2011 for his album 'Damage Control' and I wrote a couple of songs and we have become good friends ever since."

When you look back at the 'Dying to Live' album, which songs are your favourites and why?

"It is hard to pick a song, I really do like them all. All the songs are strong and the only difference between that album and the new one is, that we focused the style a little more on 'Running Games'. There was a lot of diversity on the debut album with songs like 'Say goodbye to the Sun' which was a pretty heavy song. I would say for the heaviness more directed to the Dio sound and for the lighter stuff more towards Foreigner."

Moving on let's talk about the new album 'Running Games', how long did this album take to record?

"Well the album was half way done when Covid started, everybody's schedules were so busy tit got put on the back burner for a little while. This shit freed up everybody's schedules so I could get it finished (laughing), I would like to think that this album is a all killer...no thriller album, I think it's a strong album indeed. I think everybody liked the 1st so and so they came back to record the 2nd one (laughing). I'm looking forward to recording another album with this line-up.

Well I laid down the guitar tracks for Vinny and Tony and sent them the ghost tracks. It was all about peoples schedules more than the recording time. I mean Russell got hurt in 'T.S.O.' rehearsals that he was knocked on conscious and I wanted to wait until he had fully recovered and do a great album."

So who did the artwork for this album, it certainly stands out more than the debut, nice bright colours.

"It was done by a girl in the UK called Christine Robertson, I had seen her work and we had been friends on social media, and I thought when it was time to do this album I contacted her to do the artwork. The artwork was the 1st idea but I think she tweaked it a little bit here & there."

So why the title for the this? 

"Well I think all the songs are tired together and are about escape and a lot of it was done whilst on the road, a lot of it as also recorded on the road."

How many promo videos do you intend to release for this album?

"Well we did a animated video for the song 'Finish Line' and 2 audio releases for the songs 'Hard to say Goodbye' & 'Hard on You'."

As most of the songs for this album were wrote on the road, do you have any new songs or ideas in the pipeline?

"No I don't have any new ideas for the next one, I have to get ideas in for Michael Sweets & myself project that we are doing along with Nathan James which will be released later this year. After that I have been writing with my buddy Jim Peterik who is producing an album so we have been co-writing a bit. There's always something going on."

Do you think you will ever get to tour with the line-up on the record when lockdown has eased?

"Well we did one show for the 'Dying to Live' album on the 'Monsters of Rock' cruise. Let's just get the world open again and we can take it from there."

Moving on i just want to talk quickly about the 'T.S.O.' thing, it's massive in America, even bigger than Savatage and the funny thing is.. it's members of Savatage that started it.

"Yeah it's a massive production with a lot of talented musicians, it's the annual tradition and there a huge playing that on a massive stage and amazing production. It also has a huge fan base and we do a lot of Xmas shows. We have done other shows too but in general that is the bread and butter sort of speak. With regards to Savatage, I would say there probably bigger overseas like in Europe than 'T.S.O.' are, depends on where you are in the world."

Well thank you Joel for the interview, I wish you all the best and I hope we meet one day. Do you have anything to say to the fans reading this?

"Yes thank you to all the people who like my albums, especially the new one. I hope to be on tour at some point when this madness stops and things get back to normal. To the fans be safe also. Thank you for the interview Jason, be safe brother."

Thank's Joel and also Gary @ Redsands for the interview.