Interview by Tony Cannella
Christmas is here again and that means it is time for another Trans-Siberian Orchestra touring extravaganza. After having seen this show in each of the last three years, I can say that each year is bigger and better than the previous one. This year’s tour also sees the return of guitarist Joel Hoekstra (who also plays in Whitesnake). Recently, Joel was nice enough to take a break from rehearsals to talk with us.
You are about to begin this latest Christmas run with TSO. Can you tell the fans what they can expect when they come see you this time around?
An over-the-top awesome production. A great laser/light show, with pyro and the whole nine yards; it’s amazing. Musically for those who haven’t seen it, it’s kind of a mix of The Who and Pink Floyd with Andrew Lloyd Weber and Beethoven (laughs). It’s quite a mash-up. I think there is something there for everyone, all ages. It’s an amazing show for me to be a part of.
When did the preparation begin for this tour?
They had been working on the production elements for quite some time, but musically speaking, November 1st.
When did you come on board for rehearsals?
We started up in terms of rehearsing together as a unit for it on November 1st. The music does tie-in with the production elements to a degree so I think in terms of planning the show and building it, they had been working on it for a while before then.
For you personally, what is it like to be on a tour of this magnitude?
It’s awesome. It’s tradition here, I love everybody that is a part of this band. We have really talented musicians that I love to see every year. Everybody has a good attitude about making the show the very best it can be and keeping this thing as successful as it’s been.
How does it feel to look into the audience and see families and a pretty diverse crowd, in general? That must be a pretty cool thing.
It’s cool. I tour with Whitesnake and have been a part of Night Ranger in years past and the whole Trans-Siberian Orchestra experience is a little different. It’s just so interactive with the fans. We’re out in the audience with lifts in the back of the arena so that everyone can have a good view; there is really not a bad seat in the house. Another huge thing is having the open signing line after every evening show. It’s so much more interactive than having to pay a gazillion dollars for a VIP package to meet a band for three seconds for a quick picture or something. You have to be the type of performer that enjoys it and all of us here do.
You’ve toured with TSO several times in the past. How did you come to join TSO?
In 2010 they needed a guitar player and a couple of my friends in the band came forward. I auditioned just like everybody else. I had a couple of auditions and got the gig, and here I am now. This is tour number six for me. I’m somewhere between the new guy and the veteran guy at this point.
What’s it like playing two shows in a day?
It’s hard work. This tour is hard work but it’s the kind of work that we enjoy doing. At the same time, you feel very blessed to be doing it and to be a part of something like this. You have to take care of yourself on this tour, there’s no heading out to the bar after a show, or anything like that. We do the signing line, we get on the bus to the next city, we have a sound check, two shows, signing line. It’s hard work, but like I said, it is very rewarding and we enjoy doing it very much.
For you, what are your plans when this TSO tour wraps up?
Next year, I’ll be playing on the Monsters of Rock cruise, in February. I am going to be a counselor at rock and roll fantasy camp, which is a Deep Purple themed camp, so Ian Paice, Glenn Hughes and Steve Morse are all counselors as well, I’m looking to being a part of that. I’ll be doing a little teaching at my old school GIT. Then things start heating up live. I’m looking at a variety of things next year for that. It should be an exciting year.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Joel. Do you have any final words for the fans to wrap this up?
Obviously, thanks for the support for buying any albums or for buying any tickets to shows. Personally, I feel very blessed to make a living playing guitar much less do something on this level, like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra tour an all the other wonderful gigs I’ve had the opportunity to have. Thank you very much and I hope that we give you your hard-earned money’s worth every time.
Photos by Bob Carey and Mark Weiss