October 18, 2013 Interview – Joe Hottinger of Halestorm
Over the past 5 years a new generation of hard rock bands have been making waves in the genre. In a strongly male dominated scene Lzzy Hale and Halestorm is leading the next wave of hard rock. Taking their lumps since 1998, the perfect storm began to brew around 2009 with the release of the single “I Get Off”. The track received heavy airplay on various hard rock radio stations countrywide and slowly over the past 4 years and 2 full length records Halestorm find themselves rising to fame. The height of success was most pronounced when “Love Bites (So Do I)” won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 2013.
Countless touring, a Grammy award, and top selling album with 2012’s The Strange Case Of… is just the beginning for Halestorm. Recently we sat down with lead guitarist Joe Hottinger for an in depth look at the formation of Halestorm, their rise to success, and much more.
Crypticrock.com – Halestorm has really gone on a crazy ride over the past few years. You guys released your major label debut Halestorm in 2009 and followed up with The Strange Case of… last April. Things have really taken off for you guys in the past 5 years. What has this experience been like for the band?
Joe Hottinger – It has been crazy, many dreams have come true. We have been a foursome for over 10 years now. We’ve played every crappy club on the east coast, around the country touring, and just doing what we really love doing. I think we are lucky just to be able to kind of have a dream and go for it. We are kind of having many other things come true like traveling around the world, winning a Grammy, doing our own headlining tours. It is crazy.
Crypticrock.com – Yes, it is crazy, but it is a great thing. Halestorm has been together since 1998, and you joined the band in 2003. It has been a decade since you joined the band now and so much as happened in that time. How did you become a part of Halestorm?
Joe Hottinger – Actually, I found an ad in the paper. It is funny, I have been doing the music thing, and Lzzy and I found out we did an interview together in Germany last year. We found out we played our first gigs in the same month of the same year, so we have been going at it for the same amount of time. I went to school down in Virginia, moved back up to Philly with just a few semesters left, and found that ad in the paper.
I was not satisfied with the music scene down there and I had a bunch of musician friends in Philly. I moved up there to get closer to music and for the stuff that was happening. In the first few days there, I pick up the local music magazine and I saw an ad that said something about “knows people who can get us gigs at big venues”. I was like “well that sounds cool“(laughs). I went and auditioned, they called me back, and that is how I wound up playing with them. When I went for the audition and heard Lzzy sing for the first time I was like “Ohhh… I get it, she is incredible”. I am glad they called me (laughs) you know.
Crypticrock.com – You are right, Lzzy has an amazing powerful voice. It is cool how you came together there. As you mentioned, earlier this year the song “Love Bites (So Do I)” won a Grammy for the best hard rock performance. That is an excellent achievement and congratulations on that. What does it feel like as a band to win such an award? It has to be surreal.
Joe Hottinger – Thanks man. It is completely surreal. We do not even know how we were nominated, that was equally surreal. We were actually playing a show in Madison, Wisconsin and we go off stage at a part of the show where Lzzy does “Break In”, a kind of piano solo from the new record. My guitar player shows me a text from our tour manager and manager saying we were nominated for a Grammy. I was like no way. I kind of freaked out, I ran out and told Lzzy on stage. Some girl actually got an amazing picture of me telling Lzzy and her total surprise face. It was cool. We did not even know we were on the academy’s radar, so that was a huge shock. We were like “sweet, well were not going to win”. My money was on Lamb Of God really. At least we will get to go to the Grammies, get to do the red carpet thing, go to the parties and have a good time. We were nominated, we were happy with that. You get a medal when you are nominated, so we thought it was cool. Then they called our name, and it was hilarious because we had not really thought of anything to say. I think Arejay thought of many things, but as you said, it was a very surreal and cool experience.
Crypticrock.com – Yea I imagine so, cause that is like reaching the top there winning something like that. So, good for you guys. Your last record, The Strange Case of… is an excellent record. The record seems to show progression in the band and the song writing. What was the creative process like for that record?
Joe Hottinger – It is funny, I think I can remember the dates. We played at the last show like May 30th and June 1st we were in LA in the studio working. We had already had a bunch of songs written. I had been collecting riffs the whole first album cycle, and just marrying songs and riffs and getting more song together. It was intense and cool, because we came right from the road and usually after touring, I am ready to be in the studio. I just get it all out, like a week or two of getting tons of work done, and then I kind of dry up you know (laughs). Then I have to take a little break and recollect my ideas and stuff. We came right off the road so we still had the energy of the road and playing for crowds, so I think it helped a lot. We did not necessarily have a cohesive idea of what we wanted. We really just chased after what excited us musically.
The first few songs like “Love Bites”, “American Boys”, and “Freak Like Me” riffed heavy songs and then Lzzy came in with “Break In”. She is like “hey check this out” and we really liked it, but we thought how was this going to fit on this record. We just kind of kept it there, we liked it, but did not know how it was going to fit in. Then she came in with “Mz. Hyde” and we thought, “aha that could be kind of the idea”, you know (laughs). The only thought out thing was to chase what excited us musically and go with that. We tried not to worry about what everyone was going to think. So it was fun and hopefully we will do the same thing with the next one.
Crypticrock.com – Yea absolutely, and it’s funny you should say that you came right off the road to record it because the album is kind of a reflection to what your live show is like. It is heavy, aggressive, and that is what a live show is like. I am sure many people can feel that as well. Now you guys are on tour through September here in North America, then you are going overseas to Europe in October and November, and coming back to play some shows in North America into December. That sounds real exhausting man. How does the band keep themselves healthy and balanced on the road like that?
Joe Hottinger – We are used to it. The road is kind of our home you know. The run we are on right now, the last time we were home was the beginning of June, then we started going down to South America, got right onto a bus and toured all June and July. We were supposed to have 10 days off in August, but we were offered to do some shows for the troops over in Japan by Tokyo and Okinawa so that ate our whole mini vacation up. We said “screw it, lets do it”.
It happened to work perfectly with our Alaska and Hawaii show, which we just got back from Hawaii yesterday. We are in Albuquerque now and we have a show tonight. We had a little mini vacation in Alaska and Hawaii, we got to do some things, and we had a few days off in each place. We are relaxed, we like traveling and being on the road, we like playing rock shows. Sleep is not that big of a deal, you can always take a nap somewhere, you get good at it (laughs).
Crypticrock.com – Yea and what can be better. You get to play rock and roll and see the world. You guys are having a great time and that is all that matters. What are some of your musical influences?
Joe Hottinger – I have discovered it changes over time obviously what you listen to and what affects you. When I first got into music, it was the 90’s. It was Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, and that whole scene. It was really the rock radio station where I grew up outside of Milwaukee that really got me into the rock and roll. For some reason I just had to play guitar, figure out how they were doing that.
So for a long time it was rock and roll, the grunge 90’s stuff. Then I discovered Jeff Buckley in 2000/2001, a little late. That blew my mind musically just as much, it was like a re-awakening. I kind of had to go back and hear all the things I was listening to, to see if it was still good and held up to standards. What it taught me was real emotion. I love the rhythm and the sounds of rock, but it blew my mind that he could have some genuine emotion in the music and how one chord can say so much. When it lines up lyrically and melodically, that’s when I know it’s great music. Its kind of what I am still searching for when I am listening to stuff is that music that speaks emotionally. Between Nirvana, the 90’s grunge, Jeff Buckley, Zeppelin, Stevie Ray, I prefer more of the bluesy type of stuff. I love the metal and the shredding for sure, but I really enjoy the pentatonic soul mixed in with the hard rock, little more Zeppelin style. That is where I try to come from with my guitar playing.
Crypticrock.com – It is good to have a balance of the heavy and more melodic, soulful, and bluesy stuff. It is funny that you said you discovered Jeff Buckley late, but that is what is great about music, things can be years old but sound new to you when you find it. It is an amazing feeling.
Joe Hottinger – Yea that is why I am always honest with people. They ask if I am into this or that, and well no I have not gotten into it and if I had heard it, it did not hit me at the right time. I just got into Pink Floyd about 1 ½ to 2 years ago. I always love the Dark Side Of The Moon record, I listen to it a bunch and I got into them and their other records within the past 2 years. David Gilmour’s guitar playing is just some of my favorite solos, just incredible licks, and maybe why I wanted to get a Strat. I have a few Strats now, and then I just switched over to Fender guitars this year, which I love. They are great people, and they made me a cool pedal. I am still learning and growing. As you said it is timeless, that is the best thing about the music. There is always time to discover it, and depending on where you are at in your life, some bands will hit you when you need it.
Crypticrock.com – Yea totally. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Joe Hottinger – I do like horror films, but I am not like a horror head or whatever you guys call yourselves (laughs). It is definitely a preferred genre. I am not a big TV/Movie guy. The only show that I have watched all the way through is The Walking Dead. I have also read the whole comic series up until the latest one and they are very different. That is kind of my preferred style. It is not so much the zombies, but more the survival skill, having them deal with horrible stuff and survive. I will watch any zombie movie once even if it is horrible. We just watched The Conjuring. I thought they did a good job with that, nice and scary…a few good screams. I also like the comic aspect like Evil Dead.
Halestorm ReAniMate 2.0:The CoVeRs eP is out now. This electrifying collection of covers features takes on classic tracks by AC/DC, Daft Punk, Fleetwood Mac and more! ReAniMate 2.0 is the follow up to 2011’s ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP and is Halestorm’s first release since their Grammy victory earlier this year!
Be sure to check out Halestorm on tour in Europe and in North America.
Tour dates are as follow:
OCT 16 CAPITAL FM NOTTINGHAM ARENA
OCT 17 BIRMINGHAM NATIONAL INDOOR ARENA BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM **
OCT 18 WEMBLEY ARENA LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM **
OCT 20 CARDIFF MOTORPOINT ARENA CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM *
OCT 21 HYDRO GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM *
OCT 22 MANCHESTER ARENA MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 24 ZENITH PARIS, FRANCE *
OCT 25 AB BRUSSELS, BELGIUM *
OCT 27 HUXLEYS BERLIN, GERMANY *
OCT 28 VEGA COPENHAGEN, DENMARK *
OCT 29 ARENAN STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN *
OCT 30 BREWHOUSE GÅRDA, SWEDEN
NOV 01 KB MALMÖ, SWEDEN
NOV 03 HEINEKEN MUSIC HALL MSTERDAM-ZUIDOOST, NETHERLANDS
NOV 04 ELECTRIC HALLE DUSSELDORF, GERMANY *
NOV 05 SCHLACHTOF WIESBADEN, GERMANY *
NOV 07 GASOMETER VIENNA, AUSTRIA *
NOV 08 KESSELHAUS MUNICH, GERMANY *
NOV 09 HALLENSTADION ZURICH, SWITZERLAND *
NOV 11 ATLANTICO ROMA, ITALY *
NOV 12 MEDIOLANUM MILAN, ITALY *
NOV 14 RAZZMATAZZ BARCELONA, SPAIN *
NOV 15 ARENA MADRID, SPAIN *
NOV 16 COLISEUM LISBON, PORTUGAL *
NOV 26 MINGLEWOOD HALL MEMPHIS, TN ***
NOV 27 HEADLINERS MUSIC HALL LOUISVILLE, KY ***
NOV 29 TERMINAL 5 NEW YORK, NY ***
NOV 30 MCVEAN GYMNASIUM @ JEFFERSON WATERTOWN, NY
DEC 01 LE NATIONAL MONTREAL, CANADA ***
DEC 03 OPERA HOUSE TORONTO, CANADA ***
DEC 04 RAMS HEAD LIVE BALTIMORE, MD ***
DEC 05 ROYAL OAK MUSIC THEATRE ROYAL OAK, MI ****
DEC 07 PIERE’S FORT WAYNE, IN ****
DEC 08 NEWPORT MUSIC HALL ***
DEC 10 HOUSE OF BLUES CLEVELAND, OH ****
DEC 11 STAGE AE – INDOOR STAGE ***
DEC 14 ORPHEUM THEATER MADISON, WI ***
DEC 15 HOUSE OF BLUES CHICAGO
* with Alter Bridge
** with alter Bridge & Shinedown
*** with Redlight King
**** with Stars In Stereo