Interview and Live Photos: Robert Cavuoto
Whitesnake will be releasing their new CD Flesh & Blood on May 10th via Frontiers Music Srl.
David Coverdale has ignited the explosively powerful musical talents of Reb Beach [guitar], Joel Hoekstra [guitar], Tommy Aldridge [drums], Michael Devin [bass], and Michele Luppi [Keyboards] to complete this melodic masterpiece.
Fifteen soulful, maximum-blues based rock songs that capture the classic Whitesnake sound perfectly coupled with David’s unmistakable crafted double entendre lyrics! From the hard rocking opener of “Good to See You Again” to the infectious epic closer of “Sands of Time,” Whitesnake has delivered an album that all future hard rock releases will be measured against. I promise Flesh & Blood will be everyone’s contender for album of the year!
I caught up with guitarist, Joel Hoekstra to talk about songwriting process with David, creating songs that live up to Whitesnake’s legacy, his go-to guitar, and his mad basketball skills!
Robert Cavuoto: How does it feel to join Whitesnake’s legacy as a writer and co-producers on Flesh & Blood?
Joel Hoekstra: It was just the next logical step. It feels like the next step in being productive in the band. Obviously, I’m very flattered to be co-producer on Flesh & Blood as well. It was a labor of love. We went after it and did the best we could for the fans and ourselves.
Robert Cavuoto: The CD was delayed about a year, what transpired?
Joel Hoekstra: There were two setbacks, David got sick when we went to shoot the “Shut up and Kiss Me” video. It was pretty bad, and it laid him up for a few weeks. We also had an issue with the studio hard drive crashing, and we couldn’t open any of the recording sessions for Flesh & Blood for a while. It had something to do with ProTools PT12 plugins going into PT10. Don’t ever do that [laughing]. They were both significant, but it had more to do with missing the release window of going out on tour with Foreigner last year. You don’t want to release an album if you are not going to be out on tour to support it. People always say, “It took them a year to put it out?” That’s not really the case as we had to set up tour dates for 2019 and made sure the CD release was going to coordinate with it.
Robert Cavuoto: When I heard your solo CD, Joel Hoekstra 13, I instantly knew that you would have an impact on the Whitesnake’s sounds if given the opportunity. What did it take for you to get your musical ideas in front of David?
Joel Hoekstra: Most of it comes down to an organic process. Before we were working on this CD, David had me out to work on Unzipped. His plan at the time was to have some new acoustic songs on that CD. He showed me the foundation of a song called “After All;” an acoustic ballad that ended up on Flesh & Blood. I helped him finish that as it was the first song we wrote together. It was a Beatles acoustic thing [laughing]. While I was out there, we got bored playing acoustic and I plugged in my Les Paul and came up with “Trouble is Your Middle Name.” He and I started writing before we knew we had an album. We were writing just to write. He may have been gauging whether he enjoyed writing with me and if it would work. The creation of the songs for Flesh & Blood always started with an idea that David had. He would have a chorus and say, “Where do we go from here?” I would help him build the song out around a desk in his studio either on acoustic guitars or electrics through a practice amps. He would do that with Reb, or I, or both of us together. We would demo the songs out with a drum machine a while one of us played bass. We would present it to David to see if he dug it. As soon as we got everything in the order, we played it for the full band to start the recording process.
Robert Cavuoto: I never realized David plays guitar.
Joel Hoekstra: He plays really well! The basic finger-picking on “After All” is David playing. He plays better than most people may realize.
Robert Cavuoto: “Trouble is Your Middle Name” is my favorite track on the CD. What else can you tell me about the creation of that song?
Joel Hoekstra: Some of it comes from an AC/DC influence, some from Aerosmith, and some from Hendrix particularly with the bridge riff. All those elements fit under the Whitesnake umbrella to some degree. Lyrically everything on the CD is David’s. As you expect most of the songs apply to women!
Robert Cavuoto: I don’t have any of the song credits. Which other songs have your biggest imprint on them?
Joel Hoekstra: “Good to See You Again” I wrote all the riffs, “Gonna be Alright” I co-wrote with David. That was an idea he had for what was going to be on a follow up to his 1993 Coverdale & Page CD. He came up with that for Jimmy to play. I guess he had to downgrade and let me finish it with him [laughing]. “Hey You” was Reb’s riff and I helped with the arrangement. “Will I Never,” I helped David finish it, he had the chorus, and I helped with the first riff. “If I Can’t Have You,” one of the bonus tracks, I wrote a couple of riffs as well as the chorus riff.
Robert Cavuoto: What I loved about the CD, is there is no filler, every song is good and stands on its own merits as either a rocker, an anthem, a ballad, or a bluesy tune.
Joel Hoekstra: It’s funny to watch people react as each single comes out and what they think the CD will sound like. I think there are influences from every era of Whitesnake. If you took Reb’s beautiful bonus track “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong” it’s a straight-up blues song which David sang wonderfully on. That would fit nicely in the early era of Whitesnake. I think you will hear stuff that is influenced by the Geffen era, and the Good to be Bad and Forevermore eras.
Robert Cavuoto: Was there pressure from David or maybe pressure that you put on yourself about writing songs that live up to the band’s musical legacy.
Joel Hoekstra: I feel really comfortable writing with David. We both like to work quickly. He is very instinctual, so he doesn’t overwrite which I enjoy. He is not someone who will put two or three different bridges in songs. He likes good, solid rock. He is also very direct, so if you play or present something that he doesn’t like, he will tell you in two seconds. I would rather have it be that way than spending all day on an idea when in his mind he’s thinking, “There is no way I’m going to use this song.” We know each other well enough that he can be totally honest with me. The whole point of it is to get a good album not to have him tell me that every idea I have is the best thing ever.
He is obviously great at determining what fits within Whitesnake as he is the heart, soul, and brains of the band. We recorded 16 songs which were fully produced and mixed; 13 songs are on the CD plus the two bonus tracks. David eliminated one song that he felt didn’t left cut it. I encourage people to get the deluxe edition CD because those two tracks are just as strong as the 13 on the regular CD if not stronger.
Robert Cavuoto: How has the fans reaction been to the new songs that you are playing live since the CD hasn’t been released?
Joel Hoekstra: We are playing five songs from the CD live, and it’s great to watch people singing along to songs they are possibly hearing for the first time. A lot of our fans at these headlining show are familiar with the three songs that have been released. Many of the choruses have that gang-simplistic approach that people can latch on to live right away. It’s inspiring to see, and the songs are going over amazingly well. I’m blown away every night on the response we are getting to them. We are doing “Shut Up and Kiss Me,” “Trouble is Your Middle Name,” “Hey You,” “Gonna Be Alright,” and “Get Out.”
Robert Cavuoto: Seems like David has put retirement on hold. What do you think changed his mind?
Joel Hoekstra: He has gone on record saying that he enjoyed this line-up. I don’t want to pat myself on the back with it, but he likes working with us and has found some consistency. He found guys that all fit together and get along. There is no animosity or drama out here on the road. At this stage of the game that is what he is looking for; a working environment that he enjoys. There’s a bunch of nice guys in this band, and we all come from different places; from Tommy who is a legend in the business to a guy like me who has a little success later in my career.
Robert Cavuoto: Did you use any of your Whitesnake stage guitars to record Flesh & Blood?
Joel Hoekstra: No, I didn’t. They are with the touring gear in LA. They live there. I used my Les Paul Goldtop on almost the entire album. It’s the same I used to record the Night Ranger albums and the entire Purple album. It’s my main go-to guitar.
Robert Cavuoto: You have a nice collection of stage guitars not only with Whitesnake but with TSO as well.
Joel Hoekstra: I have been having fun with TSO and introducing some new guitars because it’s such a visually based show. In reality, I could play a whole show with just three or four guitars; but why not play with 14! [laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: I have been watching the videos of you playing basketball on Twitter. I think you have a career if the music thing doesn’t work out.
Joel Hoekstra: [Laughing] Yeah, hardly! There was a minute when I was pretty good at basketball. I was in my twenty’s teaching guitar to 70 students six days a week in Chicago. If I didn’t have a gig in the evenings, I would go to the YMCA and shoot hoops. I got good for a minute. Now I’m a washed up guy that is too old to be playing basketball. I have a good shot and can still show it off here and there. I post the videos to show people I do other things than being a guitar guy. I love basketball and baseball, as they have been my main sports.
Robert Cavuoto: Do any of the other band members play pick-up games with you; maybe David [laughing]?
Joel Hoekstra: David, the guy who just had knee replacements [laughing], no he doesn’t. Our tour manager shoots with me once in a while, Michele, our keyboardist, says he’ll play, but I think he is more interested in a game of horse or something like that. A lot of this was triggered during the Monsters of Rock Cruise. I suggested that the cruisers can play me one-on-one as it could be a fun thing. For me, I can get to know people better and not necessarily the backstage chatter. Richie Kotzen and Gary Cherone heard about it and wanted in, and the idea shifted to have a rockers vs. cruisers game. It was cool because Richie and I have met a few times and only chatted for a minute or two so it was fun to play with him and not talk about music. It was a great opportunity to become friends with people.
Robert Cavuoto: What are your plans for a follow-up solo CD?
Joel Hoekstra: I’m working on another Joel Hoekstra 13 CD, it’s in the hands of Russell Allen at the moment. Vinny Appice completed the drums, and Tony Franklin completed his bass parts. The lyrics and melodies are all written so once I get Russ on there, I can hit high speed. I don’t have a release date or any specific plans.
WHITESNAKE W/ Black Moods:
5/4: Columbia, MD @ M3 Festival#
5/5: Jim Thorpe, PA @ Penns Peak
5/7: Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
5/8: Huntington, NY @ The Paramount
5/10: Hampton Beach, NH @ Hampton Beach Casino*
5/11: Lincoln, RI @ Twin River Casino*
5/14: Greenville, PA @ The Palace Theatre
5/17: Verona, NY @ Turning Stone Casino*
5/18: Niagara Falls, NY @ Seneca Niagara Casino*