Joel Hoekstra - In Demand Guitar Virtuoso

Joel is one of the most versatile guitar players in rock today. His amazing chops and musical sensibility of when and what to play for a given musical situation makes him one of the most in demand rock guitarists of today. Joel was kind enough to grant us this terrific interview!

1. For those who don't know, you have been with Night Ranger since 2008, the Trans Siberian Orchestra since 2010 and also perform in the Broadway hit musical "Rock of Ages". How are you able to juggle all of these projects and still keep all of your hair?

Joel: Yeah, I've definitely had my hands full. It's been about 5-1/2 years of Rock of Ages as well, which means 8 shows/week when I'm at home. I have 6 subs that fill in for me on that whenever I go to play with Night Ranger and then TSO in Nov/Dec. Thankfully, on Broadway they are cool with musicians taking off, so basically I go do my road gigs and the first day I'm home (and every other day for that matter).....I have a gig.

2. This VHF project with Todd Vinciguerra and Tony Franklin sounds very exciting. How did this project come about? You describe it as psychedelic, instrumental rock. How did you approach writing this material?

Joel: Todd and I used to room together when I lived in Hollywood many moons ago. Great guy. He sent me this track of him playing a groove and Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder) playing an awesome riff oriented song structure to it. He told me to record whatever I felt like and the first track was so interesting, that I agreed to do an EP. I think for an instrumental cd, it's extremely interesting. It's a backwards writing concept...drums first, bass 2nd and guitar/melody last, but because of that it's extremely unique. It comes from more of a song/vibe/creativity place than most recordings in this genre. There's definitely a heavy, psychedelic aspect to it and that's something that appeals to me because it's completely different than any of the aforementioned projects. The mixes are done and it's being mastered, so people should look for this around mid-May and also keep an eye out for our video 'Whispers of the Soul'.

3. You are also working on a new Night Ranger release called, "High Road". What do you like most about working with another great guitar player like Brad? Do you all share in the writing responsibilities?

Joel: Jack, Brad and Kelly do most of the writing, but I think I have 3 or 4 co-writes on High Road. They are always very cool about letting Eric and myself play the parts we like too. Working with Brad is the best. He has such a signature style that makes it easy to fit into a 2-guitar team with him. I always liked the guitar teams where you could always tell the difference between the players at all times and yet they sounded good together. Great guy, as well. Very funny. Lots of laughs. The whole band for that matter. We get along great and are joking around the majority of the time.

4. Could you tell us a little about your guitar rig and favorite guitars? Do they vary from gig to gig?

Joel: With Night Ranger I use Gibson electric guitars, EVHIII amps and Taylor acoustic guitars. With Rock of Ages I use EVH, Jackson and Atomic guitars and play through the Fractal Axe-FX Ultra. With TSO, I use a wide variety of guitars, but mainly Gibsons and play through a Fractal Axe-FXII. Lately, I've also been getting some work writing/recording for tv shows like Duck Dynasty and The Wahlburgers and I've been using the Avid Eleven Rack. It sounds fantastic and makes everything so easy.

5. Let's talk music. Many guitar players have difficulty improvising solos on the spot. What is the best way to practice this skill?

Joel: By improvising. lol! No, seriously.

6. I get many questions from guitar players about playing over altered chords. They get frustrated because the modes of the major scale don't seem to work that well. Given that you have a background in jazz, how do you approach playing over altered chords?

Joel: Well, there is a scale to explain why every note works in this situation. The "altered" scale is simply melodic minor a 1/2 step up from any dominant chord, so if you're jamming away in Am and it goes to the E7#9 (the Hendrix chord), you're gonna play with F melodic minor if you want that jazzy sound.

7. Who are some of your favorite up-and-coming players and why?

Joel: I have so little time to listen these days, but 2 guys I've seen on-line that sound amazing are Andy Wood, who is playing with Scott Stapp right now, and also Hayden Maringer who is getting loads of great gigs as well. I like them because they are 2 guys with loads of chops, but understand how to play for certain situations and play tastefully.

8. What musical accomplishment are you most proud of?

Joel: I don't really have one.

9. In closing, what advice would you give a young musician that wanted to become a great guitarists?

Joel: You have to put in the work. You get back what you put into it. Find your true interests with it and push yourself as hard as possible.

For more information on Joel visit his website