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Whitesnake’s Joel Hoekstra - Summer 2022

Joel Hoekstra
Joel Hoekstra

The Farewell Tour is underway!

The Farewell Tour. It’s happening! Originally expected to commence in 2020, for obvious reasons Whitesnake’s final run of shows had to be cancelled. With world events bringing huge uncertainty, and with David Coverdale having already postponed his plans to retire in 2016, there were understandably doubts around whether this tour would actually ever take place. But it is happening! The UK and Ireland leg of the tour kicked off in Dublin on 10th May, and with Foreigner and Europe joining Whitesnake for an incredible triple bill, this will be one of the hottest tickets of the year. It’s been a long road since Whitesnake played their very first show on 3rd March 1978 and it’s with mixed emotions that we lend our thoughts to The Farewell Tour. Amongst the fans there’s a feeling of celebration, of sadness but overall just the recognition of how special this tour actually is and how we all get to be a part of it. Keen to hear how the whole tour has come together, we catch up we guitarist Joel Hoekstra ahead of the Newcastle show. As ever, we receive the warmest of welcomes. With 2 fantastic shows already in the bag, Joel is understandably in very high spirits. We make ourselves comfortable and our conversation begins… 

Well the first thing to say is that the Whitesnake Farewell Tour is finally underway! Fans have of course waited a long time for the tour but so of course has the band. How does it feel to be back out on the road with Whitesnake?

It feels great! It feels great to see everybody again and the band and it feels great to see so many familiar faces out there and feel the energy of a big rock crowd coming back at you. It’s awesome!

Well before we start talking about the live shows, let’s just rewind a little bit and talk about how the band has evolved because of course Whitesnake now has two new members and I’d like to talk about Dino Jelusick first. Often referred to simply as a ‘multi instrumentalist’ this truly doesn’t do Dino justice because in my opinion he’s one of the most gifted musicians in rock and he has an absolutely outstanding voice as was evident when he performed with you on the Monsters of Rock cruise early this year. He is mesmerising to watch and of course he has been part of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. How did Dino come to join the band and as a TSO bandmate, did you have any influence in bringing him in?

Well I think David was looking for somebody who could play keyboards and possibly some guitar as well. It’s turned out Dino is really just playing keyboards. He’s not really playing any other guitar but that was the initial thought. Of course he is somebody who sings really well and provides good backing vocals etc. I think that probably my familiarity with Dino through TSO and maybe through doing some of the other collaborations we’ve done together probably helped. I don’t know exactly for sure but I think it may have aided it a bit.

Of course Whitesnake also have a new bass player in the absolutely spellbinding Tanya O’Callaghan and it was great to read your recent words ‘killer playing/stage presence’. It’s absolutely no surprise that Tanya is such high demand – she’s worked with some of the very best in the business and I particularly like her work with Dee Snider and Nuno Bettencourt. She’s just so incredibly versatile. When did you first meet Tanya and what does it mean to share a stage with her?

You know, I was trying to remember that! I remember that the first time I saw her play was at The Whiskey (The Whiskey A Go Go, Los Angeles) but I couldn’t recall for what. It might have been on a Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp or something – I don’t know – but I remember seeing her on stage and going ‘Wow, She’s a really great player, she looks cool!’ and I just thought ‘Who is that? That girl’s a star!’ I can’t remember for the life of me what it was the first time I saw her play! (Laughs!) But I do know it was at The Whiskey in LA. Anyway, I just remember filing it away that she was a star-in-waiting and she has certainly been working her way up, paying her dues, playing all the gigs like everybody else and she’s a great player. And she’s really cool too! She fits right in in terms of the personalities and everything, so it’s great that she is a part of the band.

Have you ever worked together or shared stage? I’m guessing there must’ve been an overlap in the circles that you both move in professionally.

We actually hadn’t. I mean she was just somebody I’ve just been in touch with I guess where our circles cross, like you know, she played with Steven Adler. So when we played at M3 with Steven Adler, Tanya was actually on our bus hanging out with us, hanging out with Michael Devin and just talking bass. So she’s been on the scene and everyone kind of knows Tanya. It just seemed the right time for her to join this band.

The band concluded rehearsals almost 2 weeks ago. Tell me about what it was like to be in the rehearsal room as a new 7 piece line up.

The band sounds huge! (Laughs!) It sounds really good, there’s a lot of talented people so I’m honoured to be a part of it!

But let’s talk about the tour! It’s been made very clear that this is the ‘farewell’ tour. I can imagine all sorts of emotions floating around the band ranging from being incredibly fired up, excited, perhaps even a tinge of sadness knowing that this will be the last tour. Can you share any insights into the sorts of band conversations that have taken place around how everyone is feeling? Is this about celebration, is it about going out with a bang, is it about making sure this is the very best tour ever?

The focus up until now has just been on how great it is to be around each other and to see each other again more than sadness about it being the last run to be honest. It’s only come up one time and David has only spoken about it one time so far. It’s mainly just been ‘Isn’ this great!’. We have business to take care of in terms of having new people in the band and ourselves having had 2 years off to sound our best. So it’s been more about that, like getting it together and ‘isn’t it great to see everyone, isn’t it great to play together’. But we have some time: we have this year and obviously we’re not going to be able to get to all the territories this year so we will be out in 2023 as well. I’m not feeling too weepy yet! (Laughs!) I’m sure when it draws to a close I will be feeling plenty weepy though!

I think the fans are feeling incredibly lucky that we do actually have another tour and what I mean by that is The Purple Tour that included in 2016 was the one that David originally said would be his last but that he enjoyed it so much he postponed plans to retire. Of course this was now 6 years ago and the Flesh & Blood Tour had to be cancelled. So it’s especially wonderful that we do have this extensive tour taking up the majority of the rest of 2022, and as you’ve indicated, in to 2023. With Covid and lockdowns was there a time you ever thought that the Farewell Tour may not actually happen?

Oh yes, sure! I took away all certainty at a point. For me it was like let’s just take everything day by day and just keep working hard. So definitely! There were times I doubted we’d see touring as we know it. It still is a bit different. We are still not out and about every day and backstage access is limited so there are still things missing but some things are better than nothing!

Absolutely! And those compromises you’re mentioning there, in the grand scheme of things they are incredibly minor. It has to be about the show and the tour.

Yeah, and for me the opportunity to get out and be on stage and play with all my friends here in this band. That’s definitely more important than whether I can go out sightseeing in each city I’m in. It’s all good!

The wonderful thing that is that this is a massive year for a Whitesnake: 8 UK and Ireland dates, then onto mainland Europe from the end of May through to July before heading back to the US to do your own headline shows and a number of shows with the Scorpions. Just focusing on the UK and Ireland shows first, you are of course sharing the stage with Foreigner and Europe. What an incredible night of rock! Three legendary bands! If you weren’t playing - and if you lived in the UK - you’d surely be buying a ticket to this show, Joel?

Oh yeah, possibly! I’m pretty terrible with that, as far as buying albums and going to other people’s shows and stuff, but yeah, I think it’s a terrific lineup! It’s great to be a part of. Those are 2 great sounding bands, Europe and Foreigner, to be on a bill with, for sure!

And you’ve had experience with a Foreigner of course because in 2011 you filled in for Mick Jones whilst continuing to play with Night Ranger on the same tour. What do you remember of those shows?

That it was very short notice and it was very stressful! (Laughs!) I had about one day to get it together. 24 hours! So that’s the main thing, but it was a great opportunity to fill in for the legendary Mick Jones. I still think that’s something that’s done me well to date. In a weird way it helped me get into Whitesnake because Phil Carson, Foreigner’s manager, was really who got me my audition with David. I’d submitted some videos and stuff and hadn’t heard back and Phil emailed David and said “I think you should take a look at this guy”. That’s what really helped to get my foot in the door.

Well the very first show took place on Tuesday this week at the 3 Arena in Dublin. I loved your Tweet where you shared a pre-show peek at the audience. I think in that short clip we were all able to see what a really special experience this was going to be. How did it feel to be looking out at all those people? With that huge sense of anticipation in the arena, I can imagine it feeling like you’re just about to jump off a cliff edge?

I had some pretty ginormous butterflies for show number 1, for sure. It’s kind of like you described: lots of anticipation, nerves but also lots of happiness on stage and joy. It’s a mixture of a lot of feelings but there’s always anxiety for me too on the negative side. You see that many people and go ‘Oh shit, I’d better sound good here!’ (Laughs!)

With it being Dublin, surely Tanya got a very special welcome!

Yeah, I think there was definitely a special connection! They were talking about it on the radio which was amazing. I was in my ride on the way over there and I heard “Tanya O’Callaghan! Tonight playing at the 3 Arena!”. It was like she was the headliner!

Whitesnake‘s latest studio album the Flesh and Blood was released on the 10th of May 2019, so just over three years ago. Whilst some of the material was played at shows before lockdown the opportunity has of course been understandably severely limited. So far two songs from the album have made their way into the set list: Hey You (You Make Me Rock) and Trouble Is Your Middle Name. How does it feel to now be playing these songs live, and do you expect more Flesh & Blood tracks to making their way in to the set as the tour progresses to ensure the album gets the spotlight it deserves?

Those songs both go over well Live. In terms of playing more, I have no idea. You never know with David. The set this can change during a tour. He can say “Hey, what about adding this?” or “What about taking this away?”. You never know, you just stay prepared for everything. But whatever he wants to do I’m good with! It’s more about giving him a great last run than it is about what songs we play for me.

That does make sense. And in this run with Europe and Foreigner you are playing 14 songs which is perhaps a relatively short set but perhaps necessary in terms of ensuring balance between the 3 bands playing. As you go into your later shows where there may be only yourselves and the Scorpions, might this open up the opportunity for more songs?

I don’t know the contracted set list times for each band. When we start to do (mainland) Europe as opposed to this initial run, and we are only with the band Europe, I think our set gets a little longer. It is about having 3 bands and there are hard curfews in these areas, and due to public transportation and things, events end at clear times. It has more to do with that than anything.

So as I’ve said the majority of the rest of 2022 sees Whitesnake performing extensively across Europe and the US. So far the last date appears to be the 21st of October but you have indicated there will be dates going into 2023. What sort of touring plans are you expecting in 2023?

I really don’t know! I think it’s just about getting to whatever territories we’re not able to get to in 2022. So people can kind of do the math. We’re starting out here obviously in the UK and Europe and then we have some US dates. I think people can plan on that if we haven’t visited their area yet, and they would anticipate that we would, that’s probably what 2023 will look like.

So this is the Farewell Tour and I would just like to really understand what this means. Does this mean a full retirement for David Coverdale and the band coming to a close or do you expect there may still be Whitesnake activities and if so, do you expect to be a part of these?

I will be a part of whatever David wants to do. I don’t know what his plans are. I think it’s mainly, from what I’ve read, David wants this to be his last go around touring. That’s sort of what he stated the one day in rehearsals, and that was about it. That hasn’t been “Hey, let’s get started on a new album when the tour is over” or anything like that. But I’m game for whatever David wants to do! It sounds good to me but but right now we’re just focussed on doing this tour.

As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what an incredible tour this is already turning out to be. Whitesnake will complete their 45 year journey with the strongest of lineups and it’s with the highest recommendations we invite you to grab a ticket!


To find out more, head over to www.whitesnake.com and in the meantime enjoy the fan filmed footage of Bad Boys, the opening track from the Manchester Show on 18th May 2022.