Whitesnake\’s Joel Hoekstra talks re-inventing Deep Purple on \’The Purple Album\’

When it comes to a band like Whitesnake, they\’ve done it all. They\’ve had numerous hits, played the arenas and stadiums and done it over and over again. Their latest- The Purple Album- is a collection of Deep Purple covers, which is perfect considering singer David Coverdale had a pretty successful tenure in the band and guitarist Joel Hoekstra-the newest Whitesnake member- took some time to talk about joining the band and what went into this album FRR: The new album, The Purple Album, came out May 15 through Frontiers. It’s a really cool album, really cool idea. Can you tell me a little bit about where the idea to do this record came from and at what point did you come into the process? Joel Hoekstra: Well okay, of course it all started with David Coverdale, as all things Whitesnake do. David basically, I guess after Jon Lord’s passing reached out to Ritchie Blackmore and just wanted to say thank you for such a great start in his career with Deep Purple, was probably feeling a little emotional about it. He and Richie ended up in a nice discussion about perhaps working on some of this material, maybe going out, and I think the two of them weren’t quite on the same page, I don’t really know the specifics about that, but David had basically already been re-working a lot of the songs so he said to his wife Cindy, “What a shame. I was totally enthused and feeling all worked up, I just came up with a cool version of this, and a cool version of that, and she said “Well, why don’t you just do it with Whitesnake?”  So he came to all of the guys, this is still before I entered the picture or was part of the band, everybody was enthusiastic and all gung-ho about it they went into pre-production and at that point I entered the picture. So I came in with all of the songs in place and the arrangements, etcetera and I was super enthusiastic, I just thought this is such a cool opportunity to flex our creative muscles and rework, reimagine these killer songs, not a note for note reproduction of the Deep Purple stuff, we really made these songs our own, gave them the Whitesnake sound and focused on the twin guitar attack and heavied them up a bit. It was a lot more creative than I think people will realize. There’s a lot of parts on the record that didn’t exist on the original version. We really tried to treat them as if they were brand new songs. FRR: Do you think that helps the overall product? When it comes to covers, a band will either completely rework it or keep the very essence of the song. I’ve had a chance to listen to the record a couple of times and I think it makes for a more fun and overall good experience for the listener. How do you think it helped the overall product? Joel Hoekstra: Well I just followed the old cliché about “you learn it all then you get out on stage and forget it” I did that with the originals. I transcribed everything and learned how to paly it all, but then when we went into the studio I just felt now it’s time to just do what I would do. Hopefully some of that would permeate and come across having the influence of the originals in me but I basically just wanted to play like I play and David was super encouraging in that department with all of us and was great to work with in the studio, so encouraging and open-minded and just a great guy. Number one, that dude is rock royalty, he’ll tell you great stories of him with Ritchie Blackmore and him with Jimmy Paige, he’s worked with the best. On top of that he’s just got a great sense of humor, is light-hearted and really is very encouraging to have us all express ourselves musically, I think he’s just a great musician. FRR: It had to be fun watching David sing these songs again especially with how much this project means, not just to David but with Whitesnake because there’s a lot of connections between the two bands, if fans didn’t know. What was it like watching that process, seeing him sing these songs, recording them, and then having you come on, you yourself have an impressive resume. Joel Hoekstra: It was great, man. There was one very cool, a couple of cool stories I could tell. When I first went out to meet with David my audition for Whitesnake was actually coming up with a solo for “Lady Double Dealer,” they had the pre-production out and they said “What would you do with this if you had to lay down a solo?” So I laid a solo and then they wanted a harmony solo after it and I kind of wrote one in there so that was a great way to enter the equation. I just thought wow this is so cool, I’m coming out to play with David Coverdale and I’m playing on a reworking of a Deep Purple cut, I just thought “This is so neat” The other moment that really stands out was cutting “Soldier of Fortune,” we got the acoustic sound up, mics out, great sound, and David came down and sang it live with me while I cut the acoustic and a lot of what he sang is right there on the record and that was just a total goose bump moment of re-cutting a classic song with David live in the studio and just a guitar and him, and I just thought “Man, this is the shit!” as they would say! FRR: There’s so much material when it comes to Deep Purple, is there any chance of a follow-up or another project like this down the road? Joel Hoekstra: I think the future of Whitesnake is really going to be David’s vision and it’s really my job to go there with him and hopefully give him positive results and try and be enthusiastic about all of it, which I am! It’s an easy job, because for me to be a part of such a great band, I mean what a history of guitar players, I mean I mentioned to you he’s worked with Blackmore and Paige and of course Whitesnake and the great John Sykes, Steve Vai, and Doug Aldrich list goes on and on, so for me to get an opportunity to work with David and fill those big shoes is super exciting, and of course Tommy Aldridge playing drums, I mean who wouldn’t want to get out on stage with him behind you and having on the other side of the stage, that dude’s just a monster and such a great dude, so excited to work with him, and our bass player Michael Devin kicks ass. The dude has it al, sings great, plays great, and a rock star look, just a cool dude. FRR: I don’t think it could’ve come out better- the record is just so good. You came in to the band last year, obviously taking the place of Doug, can you tell me how you came to be in the band? Was it word of mouth that they were looking for a replacement? Joel Hoekstra: It was a little bit of each expressing interest. I put out feelers. It’s not that often that you hear of a guitar position that sounds appealing and you actually think “I’m a good fit for that, I could see myself doing that.” I’m a pretty good judge of where I would work out so I put out some feelers when Doug left and I thought that would be cool, I’ll see if there’s some auditions, and I don’t know where this will lead, but whatever. So I definitely put out some feelers and I didn’t hear back at first but then I think David was hearing my name more and more from people he respected and started doing some homework on me, and that led to me going out and playing on some of that pre-production, doing some singing, and seeing if we got along because David did a lot of research on me on YouTube before he had me out. Nowadays everything about your career is online, so that was a whole lot of it. We got on great and we agreed “hey man, come back out in August and start working on the record and see how it goes.” So that was when it became a reality for me, I went back out in August and did my tracks and I just thought well, that went really well, we had a great time doing it and it just seems like it’s going to be reality. FRR: There used to be a day where if you didn’t know something about a band you just didn’t know it! Is it frustrating that knowing that things you didn’t even know about your career pretty much your entire career is out there? Everybody knows everything, there’s no mystery to bands anymore. Joel Hoekstra: Yea, the mystery lasts 5 seconds while people type it in to Google. Honestly, it almost comes off like we’re being negative, which I don’t even want to do because I’ve got the best job in the world. For me to be able to play rock guitar for a living is something I’m honored to do and I think there’s a lot of people in the world who didn’t get to have a job that they really like or follow their dream as people say. So for me I don’t want to be negative about it at all and focus on the positive. I guess it’s another cliché, but that stuff is beyond our control, I mean you and I aren’t going to get the internet taken down any time soon so it’s more about trying to focus on what’s good about it, I suppose, which is exposing ourselves as artists to people. So hey man, it’s all good, and I love the whole fan interaction thing you can do online these days. I get back to everybody on Twitter and Facebook and stuff, and try and actually keep up with people and not do the whole rock star thing of ignoring everybody or shutting them out. FRR: That brings fans closer to you and can grow the fan base. There’s so many musicians out there that they don’t even run their own twitter or don’t even have one, or if do they never reply to anybody. I tweeted them and they tweeted right back, and that made me a bigger fan. Joel Hoekstra: Yea I think it’s exciting. I 100% get that. For me, my career didn’t take off or go anywhere for quite some time in my life so I don’t have any of that jaded sense of entitlement thing going on that I think a lot of guys do. I’m just excited about it all. I’m making music with guys who I had their pictures hanging on my wall when I was a kid, my musical heroes. So for me to get the opportunity to do all of this for a living is super exciting and I think not to be taken for granted. FRR: You guys are going out on the road with The Answer, one of the best newer bands there is, great tour package! How’s it going to feel getting out on the road playing these songs? Joel Hoekstra: I think these songs totally lend themselves to live performance and it just gives us a whole second set of great songs that we can pull from. I mean the Whitesnake setlist of hits goes on and on and then you’ve got these great Deep Purple songs that lend themselves to jams and I think they’re going to sound even better live, so I’m psyched. We’ve got a great lineup, a great bunch of guys, and we’re excited to get out there and put the rock on people, for sure. FRR: Yea, when people come to these shows they’re not just going to get Whitesnake, they’re going to get Deep Purple too- two of the best rock bands of all time! It’s going to make the setlist harder to choose from I would assume, but it gives you so many more options because you’ve got 2 catalogs! Joel Hoekstra: Right, we’ve got basically 2 catalogs to pull from, in a sense. For me it’s unbelievable. Obviously I’m privy to the set at this point as we’re getting everything ready and getting ready to go into rehearsals and I’m playing through it all and I’m like “I can’t believe every song is just awesome!” FRR: Joel, thanks for taking the time, it’s been fun. Joel Hoekstra: Dude, thank you so much, I totally appreciate it.