Whitesnake's Joel Hoekstra - January 2018

Joel Hoekstra, Manchester, 15th December 2015

Whitesnake kick off 2018 in fine style with the release of an incredible live package to celebrate The Purple Tour. The Purple Tour Live, available as a CD, CD/DVD, Blu-ray and also on vinyl, wonderfully captures the breathtaking energy and electricity delivered at every single show on the tour that ran throughout 2015. But the tour souvenirs aren’t confined simply to the music. For the die-hard fans the band have also released a magnificent Photographic Journey book. A simply gorgeous publication, the Photographic Journey captures the most  stunning images of Whitesnake’s performances, largely - though not exclusively - from their UK dates. And it’s right that Whitesnake should go to such lengths to celebrate this tour so comprehensively because this was a very special tour indeed. Not only was it about showcasing the outstanding Purple studio album, Whitesnake’s remake of songs from the mark III and IV line-ups of Deep Purple which featured David Coverdale, it was also reported that it was the joy of this tour that prompted David to reconsider his plans for retirement. Additionally, this was the debut tour for the latest icon to join the ‘snake family, guitarist Joel Hoekstra. As the new album takes its place on the record store shelves, we catch up with Joel at his home in New York to hear all about his memories of making The Purple Album itself and the spectacular tour that followed. It’s a man brimming with pride who greets us with the warmest of welcomes. We make ourselves comfortable and the nostalgia begins…

Before we talk about The Purple Tour, tour let’s talk about the album that made it happen. The Purple Album was of course Whitesnake’s remake of songs from the mark III and IV line-ups of Deep Purple which of course featured David Coverdale. David said there was never any intention to compete with the original recordings and that the band "just wanted to play the damn songs". I feel that’s possibly not doing the album justice because you didn’t just cover the songs. What you brought was a package of tracks that had a modern sound, new arrangements and some experimenting with new instruments. How important was it to you that the band didn’t just do straight covers of the originals?

Well it was a total game changer. If you’d have said ‘I want you to lay down all the solos note-for-note and re-record this stuff’, that would have been like ‘nah, this isn’t so fun’ so for me it was quite a bit more creative because we weren’t going to go as keyboard-driven with that record as the originals, obviously, and a lot of those songs only had one guitar part and Reb was already doing those. So for me it was like alright, what else can I do with a second guitar part? Or do I double him? In a lot of ways it was just like making any other album for me. I had to come up with guitar parts and be as creative as possible. We were definitely trying to take it some place different, for better or for worse. We didn’t just want to, like you said, do note-for-note re-records. So I had a good time with it! It was a great way to getting acquainted to being in Whitesnake.

Let’s move on to The Purple Tour. Running throughout 2015 and 2016,  this was your first tour with Whitesnake. What are your memories of that particular tour?

It was just a really great experience for me. It was great to get out on the road with that line-up. We all really get along well which is super important, and everybody’s obviously great players. But getting out there with seasoned veterans like David Coverdale and Tommy Aldridge and Reb Beach is really good for me and also you know, guys like myself who are new to the band and enthusiastic like Michele (Luppi) our keyboard player is definitely the same in that department. We’re happy to be there be there having a good time. So it gelled properly and we had a great experience out there. 

Were there any particular shows that stood out for you?

They were all important! Every step of the way was important to me, whether you’re playing for the smallest crowd or the biggest crowd it’s all about playing to the best of your abilities and making the most of every scenario.

It’s a busy time in the Whitesnake camp. We’ve talked about The Purple  Tour Live package, Whitesnake are also celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1987 album but the band are also recording a new album. What can you tell us about how the new album is progressing? 

It’s coming along! I’m done with my guitar tracks on it and I think right now Michael Devin is in doing his bass tracks, so we’re moving along pretty quickly! There’s a lot of material. We have too much! We’re going to have to select the best songs because we ended up coming up with a whole lot of material! So it’s coming along! 

The stunning Photographic Journey book

How has the recording process worked? You’ve mentioned that you’ve done your parts. When did the process kick off in terms of the songwriting? 

It might even have been 2015/16 when I went out there to work on some acoustic stuff with David where we actually did some writing and ended up writing a few of the things that ended up making it. There was a designated trip for me and Reb to kind of work on songs with David out there together. Everything comes together really quickly with David. He has great instincts and knows what he likes immediately and then we write really quickly. We  usually hash out things around his desk upstairs in the studio, a lot of times with acoustics or there’s little practice amps up there, and we’ll hash out the arrangements. And then Reb and I will go down there and lay down the basic structure and the form and take it from there. Everything moved really quickly and, like I said, we had an abundance of ideas so we’re going to see in the end which ones are the best ones and put together the strongest sequence we can.

So we’ve acknowledged that it’s a busy time for Whitesnake but it’s also a really busy time for you personally too. You’ve been doing lots of shows with Cher for example. How have those shows been for you and has it been difficult to balance so many commitments?

The Cher thing has been a lot of fun because the last 8 to 10 years have been a lot of hard rock for me. Whitesnake wasn’t going to tour in 2017 so I just sent out a bunch of texts and emails to friends to say ‘if anything pops up... ’ and I got the opportunity to do these few runs with Cher. And it’s been fun playing some different styles of music that I also have in my repertoire that I haven’t been able to play lately. So it’s been a good time and there are great musicians in that band so it’s great to get to be friends with all of them and experience that. There’s going to be a little bit more of that early next year for me as well. Of course right now I’m kicking off for the Trans Siberian Orchestra tour which is my regular November/December gig. So that’s always there for me and always exciting and an honour to be a part of. Things are going well! I think in 2018 it looks like I’m going to doing all 3: I’ll play with Cher early in the year, then the Whitesnake tour and then probably still be able to do the Trans Siberian Orchestra tour later in the year. So I’m very excited about everything winding up properly like that. 

Just getting back to The Purple Tour, one product I would like to ask you about is the Photographic Journey book. It’s an interesting concept to produce such a wonderful visual memoir.

Yeah, it’s great for me, not that I’m going to necessarily flip through pictures of myself, but it’s really well done. I have little kids and it’s nice to think that maybe 10 years down the road, when I’m looking much older and less cool, they might think ‘Dad was actually pretty cool there for a minute’! 

As our conversation comes to a close, we reflect on what a truly amazing and ambitious tour this really was. With a real sense of rejuvenation and passion oozing from the band, and with David Coverdale's plans for retirement on hiatus, it is with huge anticipation that we look forward to a new Whitesnake studio album in 2018.

Head over to www.whitesnake.com for more information and check out the official video for Whitesnake's Burn below.