Joel Hoekstra has announced the release of his new melodic hard rock studio album “Dying To Live” from his electrifying new side project, Joel Hoekstra’s 13. Hoekstra is best known to rock fans as the current guitarist for Whitesnake, and also known for his work with Night Ranger, Trans Siberian Orchestra and the show Rock of Ages.
Dying To Live focuses on struggles, potential pitfalls and the art of overcoming obstacles in life to “finally arrive where we are meant to be”. Featuring an all-star cast of rockers including Jeff Scott Soto (vocals), Russell Allen (vocals), Tony Franklin (bass), Vinny Appice (drums), and Derek Sherinian (keyboards), it will be available via Frontiers Music SRL on Friday, October 16. Hoekstra took charge of the creative process by handling the production, song writing and arranging (music and lyrics).
Dying To Live was conceived before Hoekstra joined Whitesnake. David Coverdale gave the album his full blessing. Excited how the new album turned out, Hoekstra is looking forward to the overall reaction from fans and media. The Classic Rock Show recently caught up with him for a chat:
Joel: It’s been great! I mean my experience with Whitesnake so far has been awesome. The honeymoon hasn’t ended yet. I’m still really enjoying working with David. The opening leg of the tour here in the States went really fantastic. There wasn’t a single bad review. The band has great chemistry and has a great line up right now with Tommy Aldridge and Reb Beach, of course David and our bass player Michael Devin and we’ve got this kick ass keyboard player from Italy name Michele Luppi, who just sings amazing background vocals and is a great guy. So yeah, we’ve been having a great time and the tour’s gone great. It was a lot of fun making the Purple album…all’s good!
TCRS: And you’ve been touring with a band from the British Isles, The Answer, a band that’s hugely popular on The Classic Rock Show. Tell us about how that worked out.
Joel: Those guys kick ass man. What a great rock band. They’re just a delight to work with, honestly man. They just come in, there’s no Rock-Star attitude. No pretentiousness, nothing weird happening, just a bunch of good guys who love to rock out and kick ass. They really won over all the crowds. I just wish those guys nothing but the best moving forward. I think they are a great band and I think they’ve got a bright future.
TCRS: You’re gonna be hitting the UK later this year. Touring with Def Leppard. Black Star Riders are also on the bill. What’s not to like?
Joel: Yeah absolutely! Sounds like a solid night of rock to me, right?!
TCRS: Back to the present, you’ve released a handful of solos up to this point, which offer the listener quite an insight into the various guitar styles of yours, but you’ve now about to release a fully fledged self-produced album as Joel Hoekstra 13 called ‘Dying To Live’. Let me begin by offering up a massive high five as it’s a kick-ass album, one which is most definitely another landmark in your established career.
Joel: Well, thank you very much. I think it’s been a real labor of love for me; it was a struggle with everybody’s schedules and everything. But it was years ago I put out three primarily instrumental guitar records that kinda just showcased my playing ability and ‘Dying To Live’ is a record that people have been asking me to do now for years. Friends that have followed me with Night Ranger or Trans Siberian Orchestra or the show Rock of Ages and now Whitesnake, everybody said how come you don’t put out an album just like cool rock songs and blah blah blah. And it sounded like a great idea, I just didn’t necessarily always have the time. But this is finally that album! For me it just was really cool, I got to do all the writing, all the lyrics. I feel very emotionally connected to it and I basically called in favors from a lots of my favorites in the music business. I didn’t really set out to have an all-star band thing, but I really just picked out my favorite guys. And they were all cool enough to play me on this for me and I can’t thank them enough. I think the end result it’s melodic hard rock a genre I’m known for these days or best known for and I would describe the album as Dio-ish at its heaviest and Foreigner-ish at its lightest.
TCRS: You’ve brought together, as you mentioned, a bunch of musicians and they’ve certainly delivered for you in their performances. The performances are simply stellar. Tell us about who appears alongside you. J
Joel: Yeah, well it all started with Tony Franklin from Blue Murder and The Firm, a great bass player. We had just worked on another project the other called VHF that was completely different than this, like psychedelic instrumental rock you know. So uhm I asked Tony hey man lets just do a rock album. Lets just write some cool vocals songs and he was into it and I said what drummer would you want to use. And he said Vinny Appice would be killer and I was like that would be super cool man. It’s like instantly having a Black Sabbath type or Dio-ish rhythm section sounded very appealing to me. And then when it came time to find a singer Russell Allen from Symphony X and Adrenaline Mob had just signed up to do the Trans Siberian Orchestra tour that I do. Now that guy is just freakin’ killer! I have got to be honest, I hadn’t really listened to Symphony X and I didn’t know what I was missing with this guy. He’s one of the best singers in rock and so I got him on the front half of the album and I called in a favour from Jeff Scott Soto, who most people know, obviously he’s one of the best singers out there, but he’s also a nice enough guy to agree to sing background on tracks for me, just cause we’re friends and we go way back. He’s obviously overqualified for such a duty but he was so great and I was like “dude, you got to sing the back half of the album, we’re going to have two singers on this”. I mean just too great to have two of the best singers in Rock today on this thing. So Jeff sang on it and then I still felt that after leering a lot of guitars there was room for some textures and to fill the gaps though. I thought it still needs keyboards and I decided to start at the top and ask Derek Sherinian if he was willing to play on it and he was amazingly enough despite the fact Derek is overqualified too; there’s only, I think, two solos for him on the album and so a lot of it was really tasteful playing on his part. I just can’t thank these guys enough for helping bring these songs to life and I think we did something cool in avoiding the whole wank-age thing there’s no real long guitar solo, no big drum solos or bass solos or anything of that nature. It was just cool songs, tastefully played by great musicians!
TCRS: Sounds like it was a fun project?
Joel: It certainly it was a lot of fun. It was a challenge to make with everybody’s schedules and I wasn’t exactly sure throughout the process what it was going to be. Like I said in the early going I was kind of interested in having co writers on it and with everybody’s schedules I just thought man i need to move this along. I’m just going to do all the writing. And so it kind of became what it was as it went. You know which was fun. It was fun to watch it grow and I’m very very excited about the album. Very proud about how it came out and i hope people will give it a shot.
TCRS: What was it like for you being producing your own work and what was, what did you go, what did you do in pre-production with the other musicians and Engineers?
Joel: Well, the way I did it for the most part on this was I would lay down scratch guitar to a click and I would write the vocal melodies. And in most cases when I write I would write a song chorus out. Like I’ll write a cool chorus with words and everything and then I’ll just kinda come up with the melodies for the time being for the verse until i can you know have proper time to think of lyrics and what not. So I guess to cut to the chase lay down scratch guitars with my guitar also playing the vocal melodies and harmonies. And then that would go to Vinny Appice he would lay down his stuff. Tony played his parts to Vinny and scratch guitars and from there everything else just kinda fell into place basically at the same time from there. My real guitars went on, vocals went on, background vocals and keyboards. So all that kind of stuff would happen simultaneously. That’s the general gist of how it all got done. And my production style with the guys all of them was pretty much to let do their thing with it and say hey look here’s the frame work but play the way you want to place so Vinny Appice in particular took a bunch of these songs in completely different directions than I would have expected but that’s part of the fun because then you have to go with him and take the song in that direction. I just respond that the best production style let people play the way they would play and not micromanage that stuff. And then just your job is to roll with them on it.
TCRS: I was gonna say you’ve recorded with some of the best producers in the business over the years. Who do you look up to in getting the very best out of the artiste in this project and how did that help you when you went about recording?
Joel: Ah man, I honestly don’t have an answer in terms of like a producer necessarily that i look up to. I mean David was great to work with on the Purple album with that in terms of getting his players to put their stamp on it. He wasn’t stressed and didn’t worry despite the fact that we were recording these deep purple song that we obviously were going to face a lot of scrutiny and so he was great and chill about that and I just tried to be that way with this whole thing in terms of what people would play and then rolling with it. And I mean nowadays in the end you have pro-tools don’t you? So its like if anything really needs to be changed you could probably change it but its a lot of fun to go with what people come up with.
TCRS: What have been the challenges you know I mentioned the scheduling challenges that putting it together what were the challenges for you as you progress in completing the album?
Joel: Well a lot of it for me it was coming down to crunch time while I was just out with Whitesnake. So that was difficult! A lot of times I’m getting through a day off or I just feel like chilling but I spent 12 hours not being there. A lot of the stuff nowadays is done obviously digitally as i getting mixes from the mix engineer. He’s sending over links to them I listen give notes and type them back to them. In the old days I would have been sitting in the studio telling them exactly what I wanted, which I think moves things along a little bit. So a lot of it is just the challenge of dealing with the technological end of the way things get done these days. Which I mean in a way it speeds it along, because i wouldn’t have been able to probably do the mixes for the entire time I was out with the tour but it also slows down the process of getting changing some of the things that you want to change. If that makes sense. TCRS: How easy was it for you to put the album to bed, so to speak?
Joel: I still haven’t, man. I struggle with stuff like that. Its really difficult for me to listen to without wanting to change things. And I probably with stay that way the rest of my life when i hear the album honestly. I guess its just who I am. I think I’m proud of it and everything. I really am, but I just always hear, I hear stuff that probably wouldn’t matter to many people and me i just feel like changing. And in the end you abandon mixes right? Isn’t that the common phrase these days? You never really finish a mix you abandon it.
TCRS: The songs will be personal Joel to you, of course, having written all of them, but are there some that are very close and personal. And if so, which would you like to tell us a little bit more about?
Joel: I don’t know that there is any one in particular, but the album kinda it has a theme. The album is essentially about overcoming obstacles in your life till you are finally meant to be. I think all off us are kinda struggling with some things in our lives to be the person we want to be whether its our relationship at home, or whatever a vice or some people are overeating. Some people aren’t exercising. Whatever. All the things you want to do to get where you want to be and be the person you want to be. And so a lot of the songs on the album are sung from the standpoint of those obstacles and a lot of the songs are about overcoming them or singing anthems to overcome them. So that’s the general theme. Just the struggles in life and hence the title “Dying To Live” which is basically about doing whatever you can to be where you want to be.
TCRS: Are there any designs on a few more videos to accompany the album tracks?
Joel: Yeah, with the first one I’m not sure, I second guessed whether that should have just been a static screen or a lyric video. I felt like giving people some kind of visual to accompany was better than a static screen, but in the end sometimes you get criticized for the visual that’s there. So you go “Well was that a good idea or not?” I’m kinda learning as I go with this stuff, but they are gonna be a couple videos with the musicians in them coming. And I have to make decisions on a couple more as to what to release them as just audio, or with lyric videos.
TCRS: So, is Joel Hoekstra’s 13 something that we’re gonna be seeing more of in future?
Joel: Well, I think the sky would be the limit for this. I mean obviously for me this doesn’t sound like a solo album. It doesn’t sound like a guitar album. You’d kinda be expecting to hear a ton of solos and a ton of fancy guitar work. When really to me this just sounds very band-ish, but it’s not to call it a band to those guys. I did all the writing and it’s very much my music, so I thought a project name was the most appropriate thing for now – Joel Hoekstra 13. Obviously, if this was successful and it sure would be fun to hear what this lineup would come up with everybody writing together and collaborating on it as well. Potentially turning it into that, I’d certainly be open to that idea and I’m open to supporting it anyway possible with any form of live shows should they be able to be organized.
TCRS: Congratulations on the album, once again Joel. Its a stellar album with a stellar lineup and you should be rightly proud of what you’ve achieved.
Joel: Thank you I really appreciate that. Its very early in the game so I haven’t much feedback from people yet. So its good to hear man, it really is.
TCRS: Before we go, what would you like to say to your fans out there? Joel: Oh, well, I kinda come from a pretty modest upbringing and I feel pretty lucky to be as far into the game as I am here with this whole thing. So, I just appreciate the support that everyone if giving me. I appreciate the opportunity to make a living laying rock guitar and I hope people come along for the ride. And let’s just see where this all goes.
Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake) – Guitars, Backing Vocals Jeff Scott Soto (Journey, Yngwie Malmsteen) – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals Russell Allen (Adrenaline Mob, Symphony X) – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio) – Drums Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder) – Bass
Special Guest Musicians: Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Black Country Communion) – Keyboards Chloe Lowery (Trans Siberian Orchestra) – Vocals Toby Hitchcock (Pride of Lions) – Additional Backing Vocals Charlie Zeleny (Joe Lynn Turner) – Percussion Dave Eggar (Amy Lee, Coldplay) – Cello
Thanks for taking the time to read this interview. We really like Joel Hoekstra’s album ‘Dying To Live’ and recommend it to anyone who likes melodic hard rock. Website: www.TheClassicRockShow.co.uk Twitter: @ClassicRockShow Facebook Group: www.facebook.com/groups/theclassicrockshow