Whether he's performing as part of the Broadway musical Rock of Ages, touring with Trans-Siberian Orchestra every fall or jetting around the country for sessions and shows, Joel Hoekstra is one of the hardest-working guitarists you're ever likely to meet.
And now he’s taken on another challenge.
It was recently announced that Hoekstra would be leaving his gig with Night Ranger to become the new guitarist in Whitesnake, replacing departing guitarist Doug Aldrich.
Hoekstra’s seven-year tenure with Night Ranger included three critically acclaimed albums and tours, not to mention being part of a killer one-two punch with guitar great Brad Gillis.
With Whitesnake, Hoesktra finds himself in a band whose ranks over the years also were filled by guitar royalty: John Sykes, Adrian Vandenberg, Vivian Campbell, Steve Vai, Doug Aldrich and Reb Beach. Hoekstra will join a Whitesnake lineup that includes David Coverdale (vocals), Reb Beach (guitar), Michael Devin (bass) and Tommy Aldridge (drums).
I recently caught up with Hoekstra and asked him about the new Whitesnake gig and also got a sneak peak into the band’s next album. I also asked him what he’ll miss most about his time with Night Ranger.
GUITAR WORLD: How did you first hear about the Whitesnake opportunity?
Oddly enough, Doug [Aldrich] and I are friends and were texting the night before the news came online. He didn’t mention anything about it to me at the time. All he said was there was some news coming. The next day, I woke up to hear Doug would be leaving Whitesnake.
How did you wind up getting the gig with the band?
I think it was a combination of me putting out some feelers and some people recommending me for it that led to me going out to meet with David at the end of May to hang/audition. That went well, so the next step was to go back in August to play on material for the upcoming Whitesnake album and to make sure it was going to be a good fit for both sides. At that point, I started to realize this was really happening.
What appealed to you about becoming a member of Whitesnake?
There were a lot of factors that went into the decision. Obviously, David [Coverdale] is rock royalty, so any chance you get to work with him, you take seriously. Not to mention that the material in Whitesnake is also a guitarist’s dream! Then there’s the fact that Whitesnake have a worldwide following and we’ll be touring it in 2015. That also made it very appealing. But it wasn’t like I was looking to leave Night Ranger. I love those guys and I love that band. This opportunity just seemed to be a move that made sense.
What do you think you’ll miss the most about Night Ranger?
The camaraderie. We spent seven years together and the relationship has just gotten stronger over the course of those years. I’m very proud of everything I’ve achieved with Night Ranger. The albums we recorded, including Somewhere in California, 24 Strings & A Drummer and High Road, were all well received and were a blast to make. Playing in a guitar team with Brad Gillis was also a dream come true. I had such a great time playing with those guys, and we’ll all continue to be good friends.
Whitesnake have a history of guitar greats in its ranks. As a guitarist, how does it feel for you to be in such good company?
It’s great. But it really always comes down to how much work you’re willing to put in. Most people that know me know I work extremely hard to get the job done. It’s going to be a great challenge, but I’m totally looking forward to it and I’m very excited to work with Reb Beach.
How will joining Whitesnake affect your current gigs with Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Rock of Ages?
Everything remains the same. I’ll still be participating in the TSO tours in November and December and whenever I’m not on tour with Whitesnake or TSO, I’ll be here in New York playing Rock of Ages on Broadway eight shows a week.
Can you give me a little insight into the new Whitesnake album?
I think everyone’s going to be very excited when they hear it. It’s kick-ass, straightforward rock and roll. Reb and I have some really great guitar stuff down on this record and we’re psyched for everyone to hear it. Tommy Aldridge also sounds great on this album as well! We’re all really looking forward to getting it out there and showing everyone what we can do.
Are there any other projects you’re working on?
I have a side project I’m finishing up that has Vinny Appice on drums, Tony Franklin on bass and Russell Allen (Adrenaline Mob, Symphony-X) singing. We have seven songs we’ve tracked that are ready to go. Our hope is to release it by the end of the year or get a deal to make it a full-length album.
What else are you looking forward to about the next chapter of your career?
I’m looking forward to watching the philosophy of hard work turn into good results. I’m also excited about meeting new people and putting myself forward in a positive way. To date, Reb and I have had such a good time working out some cool guitar parts for this record. We're going to make a great team, and I’m ready to get down to business.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.