To me the crowd is kind of an instrument that you use live..
With their third album, Into The Wild Life, due for release on 6th April, Halestorm hit the UK/Ireland shores for a 12-date tour to introduce it to their fans. With its first single ‘Apocalyptic’ being issued as a teaser, fans are eager to hear the rest of the album. MR’s Lisa Billingham caught up with guitarist Joe Hottinger before their show at Wolverhampton Civic Hall.
Thanks for meeting up with Midlands Rocks tonight. It’s been almost twelve months since you were last in the UK and you’ve been missed. Should I ask what you’ve been up to or are you gonna fill me in and tell me everything?
Ahm…we’ve been making a record! We’ve been spending a lot of time writing and doing one-offs around the US just to get some weekend shows going there throughout the time. Then we made our record finally and spent the last two or three months touring with Eric Church in the States. Had a week off and then came here.
That’s good. Into The Wild Life is your third album, tell me about its progression from the other two.
Oh, I think it’s a huge step forward. We used a different producer which made a big difference and we recorded it in Nashville instead of L.A. and I think like we made a real album this time. The songs are connected, there are some nice interludes and we tapped into some musical gears and stuff that we’d never done before, some good grooves ya know and Lzzy sounds amazing, I think better than she’s ever sounded on a record….
Wow! That’s going to be something to listen to.
Yeah. I’m excited. And Arejay sounds incredible on it…we found he has more of his personality in the recording, which is cool.
And do you have a favourite track?
Favourite track………..that’s tough! Not really, there are so many I like. I really like ‘Amen’; it’s such a cool song. And ‘I Am The Fire’ is really neat too….it’s a little more progressive for us, which is fun.
It makes a nice change to do something slightly edgy doesn’t it?
Yeah, it is.
So do you share the song-writing?
Yeah. Lzzy and I did most of it – we did a lot of it with our friend Scott Stevens and he’s super-cool. We wrote with him on the last record too. He’s such a good guy to bounce ideas off of and he’s always got a neat perspective and we just had a great time writing with him.
So what happens first? Music or lyrics?
It depends. It goes any way….It’s really whatever excites us, we chase, whether it’s a riff, some good music, a melody, a lyrical idea, y’know. We did the ‘Amen’ chorus…Lzzy actually tweeted it, the lyrics, it wasn’t the song, just something she was saying to her people on Twitter and Scot was like you know that thing you tweeted, well I have this idea y’know (laughs) There are just a lot of cool areas like that. We have this song called ‘Dear Daughter’ and Lzzy asked her Twitter followers what do you wish your parents had told you, y’know, and we got a lot of good ideas outa that that we formed into a really awesome ballad.
That brings me nicely on to the next one. Are there any particular concepts or ideas, lyrically or musically, that you draw on for writing songs?
Erm….y’know, it’s anything really. Especially, we’re lucky to have Lzzy singing…she’s such a powerhouse and so cool, y’know and she can say stuff like in ‘Amen’, my sex, my love, my drug and mean it, really mean it. And really, it’s just every day and you’re listening in and when you’re in song-writing mode you’re just listening in to conversations and in some cases you just write it down and try to work your way through it, y’know, and see what you can come up with.
That’s cool. Is crowd reaction important to you when performing live? Wolverhampton is notorious for its boisterous and noisy crowds, something that brings many bands here. Is it something you’ll feed upon or be scared by?
To me the crowd is kind of an instrument that you use live and it’s one of the reasons we won’t use a click-track or metronome or anything. When it’s a great crowd that really giving you energy you play things that little bit faster, ‘cause you have more energy and you’re a little more excited and it’s just fun that way, y’know and just like the studio is a studio. It’s an instrument that you make records with and you make them to sound a certain way and feel good. And when you go live you don’t want them to sound the same as that, you want the live version that is influenced by the crowd. That way every night is different and it is special and is one of the reasons we switch around the set list every night and seeing what works well in different places and it keeps people who keep coming to see us over and over…..a lot of people come to five or six shows in a row and we try to keep it different for them.
You’ve been praised for some really good cover versions that you’ve performed in recent years, for example Skid Row’s ‘Slave To The Grind’ and Heart’s ‘All I Wanna Do’. Are these bands influences of yours and why did you cover these particular songs.
A lot of our influences, yeah, and a lot of them have influenced us since doing the covers, especially with something like ‘Slave To The Grind’. I remember when we covered that I didn’t listen to too much Skid Row, I was more of a nineties rock kind of guy, even though it came out in the early nineties, but you know, post Nirvana grunge. But the whole feel, tempo and big chorus like that, y’know that was the big inspiration for writing ‘Lovebites’. It was like, we need something fast like that and we can get out on stage and project that. It was the same thing with ‘Dissident Aggressor’, the Judas Priest song that we covered – it just felt right y’know and you hear Judas Priest do it and you think, man wouldn’t it be cool if Lzzy hit that note and just start out a song with it.
And if you get the audience reaction to that it’s a winner!
Totally. I think we did ‘Dissident’ on our first UK tour….. we were in Birmingham, I guess where Priest is from and it was the next night when we actually worked it out and we were talking we shoulda done Judas’s ‘Aggressor’, but we didn’t have time for that show, but the next show we worked it out and just dove in and started playing.
Love it. So when you were growing up, who were your influences and who did you want to be like?
Wow! Kurt Cobain and Nirvana got me playing guitar. I was a kid and they were on rock radio and I heard it and all of a sudden, my god, I get it. I get rock! I wanna do that. I wanna play guitar. For some reason guitar just made sense to me….. It’s what I was drawn to and there was all that nineties rock and anything that was on the radio I would just devour and get the records and try to learn how to play that stuff. Bush came over with Sixteen Stone and when that came out it was just like this is the best thing ever. From there I moved on and went all over the place and I remember the first time I heard Jeff Buckley. I think I heard him in 2001 or 2000, the Grace record and it changed everything and I had to re-listen to everything I thought was good music to see if it stood up to the test and it made me realise, like, sounds…….you know, sounds can emotionally seriously impact people and it can physically move you. If something sounds great, you just can’t help it and that’s the kind of music I like. I like when music can move you, you know, even if it’s just fun you’re having.
Hmmm. OK, this next question will hopefully give you a little bit of a giggle (Joe laughs). It’s been said you suffer from GAS (laughs again)
Guitar Acquisition Syndrome!
How many are you up to now?
I honestly have no idea. I counted once, but it was a while ago but I just got a new one the other day over here. It’s a cool Epiphone Sheraton, it’s got the Union Jack on it, so I will debut that tonight. You know, we’re in England and you gotta play the Union Jack guitar and it’s actually an awesome guitar. I didn’t even care how it sounded, I was just like, this is so cool, but it is actually an awesome guitar.
Have you had any funny things happen on tour yet?
Oh, every day. We laugh so much, it’s one of the reasons we love touring so much. The four of us get along really well, we surround ourselves with good people, our crew…….and every tour seems to develop its own inside jokes between us and yeah, we’ve been having a very good time.
And that leads nicely to my final question. Who’s the joker of the pack?
Ah, there’s a few of us, but I’d say the biggest joker is Arejay. He was born on April Fool’s Day….. he was born to be a joker and watch him play drums, he’s a walking drum solo. When you see a set of drums on stage you hear him before you see him coming down the hall. He’s a great guy to have around and a good hang (laughs)
Well that’s brilliant. Joe, thank you so much for meeting with Midlands Rocks tonight. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Thanks again for having me, I appreciate it.