Recorded in the afternoon before their performance as part of the Carnival of Madness tour in Glasgow, Joe took time out from songwriting and eating too much food to chat to us. Thanks, as ever, to the band themselves, their management and the lovely people at Cosa Nostra for organising thing. Interview and photos by Gavin Lowrey.
What do you think of the weather here? [The weather in Glasgow on this day was cold and incredibly windy – Mosh]
It’s not too cold. We’re from Pennsylvania! I’ve been here January/February before and it’s been brutal.
How do you like Scotland when you visit?
We love it. We always seem to end up with a day off in Glasgow, but we’ve never been to Edinburgh. I don’t know whya – we’ll get there one of these days. We always have a good time here, people are nice even if I can’t understand half of what everyone is saying!
Well, I’m half northern English so hopefully that will help! Are you playing Newcastle on this tour?
No, not this time. We didn’t play last time we toured, so hopefully next time in the Fall.
Do you have any particular Scottish vices when you visit us up here? Whisky or haggis, perhaps?
We do what we can! We always have a good time at the Cathouse at the after parties for a drink or whatever. We’ve never played there, though.
A few questions that we’ve had emailed in now… The last album, Into The Wild Life, involved some changes in production. How do you feel this affected the overall sound of the music?
We were in a new city, a new studio. Different gear, different engineer, produce, mixer, everything. We threw everything out the window and started over. It definitely sounds different. To me it’s more musical which was the intention. We had a great time doing the first two records with Howard Benson and his team, but it doesn’t matter what shape band you are, you come out a square in their process. You learn how to record and it’s great to start out with, but we wanted to get more experimental and use the studio as a tool and chase what excites us. We just let some of the music do the talking this time. It was fun, I enjoyed it, and I’m sure we’ll switch it up again next record.
You’ve had roughly three years gap between records. Is it going to be three years again?
I hope not! But you never know. I’d like to tour through the rest of this year, get back to Australia and South America before we finish up this album cycle. We are writing a lot of songs just now, but just for fun. We’ve not zeroed in on anything for the next record. We’ve been out on the road for a year or so and getting that studio itch again. Just like when you’re in the studio and can’t wait to get on tour!
I have this whole backlog of ideas in my phone that I’m trying to work through. I really should back it up… It’s just getting it down into some demo form where we can have Lzzy sing on it. I’m just trying to be productive instead of sitting around in catering all day, eating my face off!
How does the writing process work in Halestorm?
It varies. In Australia a week after we finished our tour, it was summer down there in December. I didn’t have an instrument with me, but I wrote more than I think I’ve ever written in my live in terms of lyrics and melodies. Just getting it going in my head and record it into the phone. That was great but I miss starting with the riffs and writing the music. I’m trying to get a bit of that going right now.
Australia was awesome, though. There was a nice beach, I didn’t know anybody… it was a relief, really.
You mentioned South America. What are the fans like over there?
They’re crazy. We just did Rock In Rio in Brazil, and two years before that we did a little headline run around four countries. It’d be nice to get back, especially following up the Rio show.
You’ve talked about South American and Australia, and obviously you’re touring Europe at the moment. Do you find that non-US audiences are a better market than (for you) domestic ones?
I’d say our fan base is pretty much mainly US and UK right now. That’s where we get our biggest headline shows. East coast US especially, like our hometown shows in Pennsylvania. Anywhere along that mid-Atlantic shore they come out and it’s awesome! It’s still growing in the mid-west and over here. We’re trying to get the rest of the world to catch up!
Are you doing any festivals this year?
Yeah, we’re doing a whole June festival run. We’ll be at Download, Sweden Rock, I think Hellfest… A bunch that keep getting announced. Rock Am Ring, an Italian one I think, Graspop for the first time, Rock Im Park… We’re doing a lot of them for the first time. We’ve done Download, Rock Am Ring and Rock Im Park before.
As your catalogue grows, are there songs in your setlist that you can never see yourself dropping to replace with new material?
We change the set every night, we like to take chances. Sometimes we’re left thinking we should have played something we did the other night, but the vibe wasn’t right… We sometimes find a song that just works, but we don’t want people to come time and again and see the same show every time. We’re three records and a bunch of cover EPs in so we can change it up.
We had a lot of fun on the last US run. We had 2 and a half hours, so we’d start off with an acoustic show then an hour and a half to two hour electric show. It’s fun just to change it up. We’d learn a new cover in the afternoon and try it in the show in the evening. Some of the stuff Lzzy and I have been writing, we’d just bust into. She’d just be making up words!
Talking about covers, are there any songs that you currently make you think “we should do that one”?
We’re going to make another cover EP soon so we’re going to have to figure that out! We’ve been doing a few live, but on the EPs we do some weird shit like pop songs, or country or some obscure metals song. It’s great having a female singer because no matter what you do it’s going to sound kind of different. We get the label and management to send us their strangest ideas! I need to make a playlist and listen to it to see if anything would suit.
You’ve probably been asked about your influences in the past, but who is your favourite guitar player?
Right now? It changes all the time, but recently I’ve been listening to a ton of AC/DC – Bon Scott era. Not so much just the guitar but All Them Witches. They’re really sick. They’re from Nashville and they’re kind of a cool, stoner rock but they jam it out a little. Totally worth listening to. Always David Gilmour. I could listen to him all day. I’m also getting into Kadavar – I’m on a bit of a stoner rock trip right now. It’s really bluesy but heavy.
I’m going to to go with, right now, Angus Young. I’m trying to figure out his vibrato. He got this vibrato that he hits… I’ve been watching this video from Midnight Special or something in 1979 and they did “Sin City”. It has this vibrato at the start and you know who it is the moment you hear it.
Are you in the Bon Scott camp or the Brian Johnson camp?
I like them both, but Bon Scott just has so much personality. But Brian’s just fucking amazing.
One last question… if an alien arrived on earth and asked you “what’s this rock music all about?” what one album would you give him that would answer that question?
Back in Black. It’s one of the great definitions of rock. It spoke pretty much universally and probably the best selling rock album ever. There’s no wrong answer, but you have to go with the biggest selling because that’s what most people have heard, right?