Singer Brandon Gibbs and guitarist Joel Hoekstra bring their two man show to the UK and Ireland in April. That tour includes a show in the Diamond Rock Club in Ahoghill on 22nd April. Brandon Gibbs has fronted bands such as Devil City Angels and Cheap Thrill and has performed with Poison as well as doing his own solo material. Joel Hoekstra currently performs with Whitesnake, Revolution Saints, Trans Siberian Orchestra and Iconic and has played for Cher, Night Ranger and many more. He also has a solo project called Joel Hoekstra’s 13.
I had the opportunity to speak to Joel and Brandon together on Skype on 15th February and we chatted about the upcoming tour and the various projects that they had been involved in over the past few years. That 30 minute interview along with 10 tracks that they feature on or perform was included on the Friday NI Rocks Show on 17th February and repeated on 14th April. That Show is still available via the On Demand Player – http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/hosts/ni-rocks-friday-rock-show
and it is also available from our MixCloud page -
Joel was a guest on the Friday NI Rocks Show almost exactly two years previously - http://www.rockradioni.co.uk/interviews/3798-ni-rocks-interview-with-joel-hoekstra
Brandon - https://brandongibbsmusic.com/
Joel - http://www.joelhoekstra.com/
The interview can be read below.
Friday NI Rocks Show 17th February 2023
SCREAMING EAGLES – Screaming Eagles
REVOLUTION SAINTS – Eagle Flight
BRANDON GIBBS – Rich for Life
Interview with BRANDON GIBBS & JOEL HOEKSTRA Part 1 (6 min)
JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 – Hard to Say Goodbye
BRANDON GIBBS – The Hero
Interview with BRANDON GIBBS & JOEL HOEKSTRA Part 2 (7 min)
DEVIL CITY ANGELS – No Angels
JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 – Until I Left You
Interview with BRANDON GIBBS & JOEL HOEKSTRA Part 3 (10 min)
WHITESNAKE – Hey You (You Make Me Rock)
POISON – Look What The Cat Dragged In
Interview with BRANDON GIBBS & JOEL HOEKSTRA Part 4 (6 min)
BRANDON GIBBS – This Town
JOEL HOEKSTRA’S 13 – Finish Line
DEMONS DOWN – Disappear
NIGHTHAWK – Free Your Mind
THE BANISHMENT – Right
THOSE DAMN CROWS – See You Again
Promo for new THOSE DAMN CROWS album “Inhale/Exhale” Pt1
THOSE DAMN CROWS – Takedown
Promo for new THOSE DAMN CROWS album “Inhale/Exhale” Pt2
THOSE DAMN CROWS – This Time I’m Ready
RILEY’S L.A. GUNS – Rewind
ROYAL AUTUMN – Thin and Blond
DEVICIOUS – Highway to the Stars
MOTÖRHEAD – Bullet In Your Brain
NI ROCKS – Hi Brandon and Joel, thanks for taking some time to talk to Rock Radio NI. There are a few other things I want to chat to you both about, but we’ll start with the upcoming tour of the UK and Ireland that you’re doing. That tour includes a show in the Diamond Rock Club in Northern Ireland on 22nd April. When did you first start working together and how often do you get out on tour together?
BRANDON – Well we first started working together; I want to say we met in 2016 on a cruise called Shredders of the Deep. We had to do a meet and greet together and I hadn’t met him prior to that. Obviously I was familiar with his work and I wanted to meet him. I got this note under my door with my schedule for the day and I was like, alright awesome I finally get to hang out and introduce myself. So 2016 was the start and we’d do a week here and a week there. I think our last run was nine shows in a row and then we got another 12 in the UK. It’s just ramping up – we started out just tip-toeing and having fun. Our schedules of course – we had to find the time and now we’re making it more of a priority. So we’ve been working together six, maybe seven years now.
NI ROCKS – Have you ever actually worked together on a recording or a song. Have you put anything out together? Or planning to?
JOEL – Coming up! We’ll do it. We promise.
NI ROCKS – What can fans expect to hear if they come along to one of the Shows? Is it all tracks from your respective careers or is there a mix of covers etc in there too?
JOEL – We’ll do some of Brandon’s solo material, some of his stuff with Devil City Angels, some of the stuff from my Joel Hoekstra’s 13 albums, some stuff from Whitesnake, some stuff from Poison. We do Brandon’s relationship with those guys and then some of our favourite covers. It’s a really eclectic mix. And there’s some guitar soloing involved too – a little virtuoso moment from each of us. Brandon doing his blues insanity and me doing…I don’t know what mine is…you know, just doing some guitar playing. It’s a really nice combination of all those things and we throw in storytelling and things like that as well. It’s a nice casual act.
NI ROCKS – I was going to ask. There is a bit of storytelling in there as well; it’s not just music the whole show.
BRANDON – There’s quite a bit of storytelling, especially since we have some of our solo material. We’re able to talk about why we wrote the songs and where we at in our headspace. It’s really just a chance for people to get to know us on a smaller scale. We’re right in front of you and we talk with everybody and you get to know us at the end of the show. It’s just a different side. It’s one of the reasons that I like to do these acoustic shows, because you get to talk about why you wrote the music and your journey.
JOEL – They tend to draw more of the die-hard fanbase which is cool, and there’s usually more of an opportunity to connect with them and say hello and things of that nature. It’s nice in that regard. For me, I’m usually doing Ireland with a big venue with Whitesnake or what-not and there’s very little connection with the fans outside waving from the audience or screaming. It’s kind of a cool opportunity to interact a bit more.
NI ROCKS – Brandon, I’m not sure if you remember, but you actually played the Diamond Rock Club here in Northern Ireland previously with Cheap Thrill; back in 2014. I’m not sure if you recall that, but do you have any memories from that visit?
BRANDON – I do actually. I remember it being a wonderful crowd and it might have been our first show of that tour – it might have been the very first one. We did about twenty something dates over there. I remember the owner being wonderful, the fans, we had some good food before we played. I can’t wait to do it again with Joel. I think Jeff LaBar from Cinderella was helping me shake off the nerves before we started the show and I miss him, and of course we played it together; so yeah I have a really good memory of Diamond Rock.
NI ROCKS – Joel, you’ve played in Dublin. We were there actually last year when you were with Whitesnake. Have you played in Northern Ireland before? I was trying to think if you’d played in Northern Ireland.
JOEL – You know, if we did, it would have been on the Purple Tour I think or the Greatest Hits tour in 2015/2016; but I’m too old to remember dude! (laughs)
NI ROCKS – We’ll take a break for a moment and play some music. Normally I’d ask whoever I’m interviewing to pick one track but seeing as you’re both here; Brandon do want to pick something from Joel and Joel you pick something from Brandon?
JOEL – Let me pull up the playlist so I have it in front of me and I can pick.
BRANDON – For Joel I think I’d probably go for “Hard to Say Goodbye”. Was that the single off your record?
JOEL – Yeah, that was off “Running Games” from Joel Hoekstra’s 13. “Running Games” was a 2021 release and I believe that was the lead single off of that. I would say for Brandon, you should play “The Hero”; what’s that out of Brandon?
BRANDON – It’s off “October Twenty Four”.
JOEL – That’s a great song with great lyrics and very meaningful for him; and for me because I know what it’s about. It’s a good message so I’ll go with that.
NI ROCKS - I wanted to chat to both of you about some of your current or recent musical projects, starting with you Brandon. You’ve released a number of singles over the last couple of years. Will there be a solo album anytime in the near future?
BRANDON – Yeah, in the middle of last year I put all those singles together in an album called “The Ride” and we’ll be bringing that album overseas to the UK. It has everything. In my solo career I’d create two or three songs and then go tour with either Cheap Thrill or Devil City and then come back and do three or four songs. I have several Eps, but I finally said let’s put it all on one record. “The Ride” is on my website, https://brandongibbsmusic.com/ . I just left the studio actually last week, working on another single. I always like to start the new year with new music and then go tour and then go right back to the studio. It’s my happy place I guess.
NI ROCKS – Joel mentioned Poison earlier. You spent a lot of last year on the stadium tour with Poison, alongside Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Joan Jett. We actually caught the last show of that tour in Las Vegas in September. What was that experience like?
BRANDON – It was really great. It was a shock because I knew I was on deck to help whoever. On a tour of that magnitude they have back-up people that they call if they need it. I knew I needed to sift through the music and at least refamiliarise myself with it. I sang with the band in 2015 and I’ve been friends with them for twenty years, so I’m very familiar with the material. But I had stepped away from it to do my stuff for a little bit so I was shocked. It was the biggest venues that I’ve ever played and I was very, very thankful at the same time. They could have asked anybody and they still look at me as a friend; and vice-versa. Lots of gratitude and fun. It was a lot of fun. It was good food all day and all these wonderful rock icons running around back stage. We did kinda try to keep our distance from each other as much as we could, so that we could play and not spread covid. I can’t count how many buses were there – it was a really, really show. It was the biggest for me and I’m very thankful. I had a great time.
NI ROCKS – Poison drummer Rikki Rockett is in the band Devil City Angels with you. The album that was released a few years ago featured Tracii Guns and Rudy Sarzo, but that line-up changed and it includes Joel Kosche and Topher Nelson. You released a single a few years ago called “Testify”. Are we going to see anything more from Devil City Angels in the near future?
BRANDON – The single “Testify” came out - we’d just wanted to get back in the studio together. Joel Kosche was on a seven day run that we had and he went home and he threw down a Queen kind of riff and he sent it over. We had work coming the next couple of weeks after that, so he brought a mobile recording rig. We just wanted to put something out and have some fun. So I don’t know what the deal moving forward with Devil City is. I talk to Rockett every week about doing more stuff and I’m not really sure yet. I think once I get a little more information on where he wants to take it, we’ll get back in a room together and figure out who is playing on what and just keep it alive. Devil City has an attitude that I really like and it’s fun to go there. It’s like going out on the town for the evening – it’s cocky, it’s kind of fun. I hope we keep it around. If we don’t tour I hope to make music at least for years to come.
NI ROCKS – As we’ve mentioned and talked about, when you played the Diamond Rock Club previously (with Cheap Thrill) Jeff LaBar was still part of the band. He unfortunately passed away in 2021. That must have hit very hard.
BRANDON – Jeff was a very dear friend and I spent a lot of time with him. I miss his laugh, his guitar playing, I miss talking to him on the phone and I miss touring with him. He was just a really nice guy. Anybody that met Jeff always had a really fun story. He made you laugh in his own way. We just miss him. He was a cool cat. Of course, I was a big Cinderella fan too, so looking over and seeing Jeff flip his guitar around like on the videos was pretty damn cool.
NI ROCKS – Cheap Thrill have a new line-up now. Who is in the band now and how often do you play?
BRANDON – We really don’t play that often. It’s not the same without Jeff to be honest with you. Here and there, Troy Patrick Farrell, who was in White Lion for a little while, Joel Kosche and I will go do some things, but as far as touring goes that particular group doesn’t do that much. Maybe five or six shows a year. Like I said, it’s bitter sweet. I miss Jeff that much that I would rather call it something different, rather than be the only one in the band still and take it out. It doesn’t feel right.
NI ROCKS – Have your any other projects that you’re working on at the moment, or is what you’ve got keeping you busy enough?
BRANDON – Right now my focus is recording music and working with Joel. We really kind of pressed the gas pedal this year. We have a surprise coming and maybe another slew of dates coming that we’ll announce as soon as they get stamped and certified I guess you could say. My project right now is Joel and I and recording and releasing music.
NI ROCKS – We’ll playing some more music now. Do you want to pick something from your back catalogue to play – solo, Devil City Angels, whatever you like.
JOEL – I’d like him to play “No Angels” from Devil City Angels seeing as you guys were talking Devil City Angels. I like that track. That’s like our comfort zone, Brandon and I. It’s probably the first song that we ever played together. It’s one of our sound check songs and a very comfortable song for us to play. It’s a great track. I dig it a lot. You could rock that one. And one that we hit from Joel Hoekstra’s 13 is “Until I Left You” from the other album that I released under that moniker – “Dying to Live” back in 2015. So maybe you’d want to play that as well.
NI ROCKS – Joel, as I mentioned previously we last spoke about two years ago when we were still in the midst of the covid pandemic and you’d just released your album “Running Games”. Quite a bit has happened since then. I noticed on social media that you’ve said that the next Joel Hoekstra’s 13 album has been completed and there is a slightly new line-up. What can you tell us about that album and the new line-up?
JOEL – I like to keep it as consistent as possible. Timing wise everything just seemed to work out better with Girish (Pradhan) being able to sing on the album. He’s outstanding and a great talent and he is up and coming. He may not be as well known as some of the singers that people are saying – what about this guy – but Girish is on his way, that is for sure. He’s starting up with George Lynch and Jeff Pilson in The End Machine now as well. I think he’s one of those names that’s going to be a household name in the classic rock scene over the next year or so. He fits right in. We got him to focus on the style of the project a little bit; but he was a natural fit. Of course all the other guys have done two with me already; so this is three now with Vinnie Appice, Tony Franklin and Derek Sherinian.
And Jeff Scott Soto does the backing vocals on it, which is a sound until itself you know! Jeff is a valuable contributor to it. People are like – you have him on backing vocals! There must be a million things he can lead on! For me, I think I could sing the backing vocals on this and it would be ok; or I could get Jeff Scott Soto to sing the background vocals on it and it’d be like dynamite! I just want to have great songs out under that name and Jeff is definitely a big part of that. I thank him for being able to set his ego aside and be, what I say is, the most over qualified backing vocalist in the history of rock! Somebody commented on the post that I did a day or two ago – to have Jeff Scott Soto on backing vocals; that’s luxury right there! I thought that was very accurate.
NI ROCKS – Your other upcoming release is the Revolution Saints album “Eagle Flight”. You’ve joined the band along with Jeff Pilson from Foreigner. How did you get involved with Deen in that project and do you think there might be some tour dates for the band?
JOEL – The label approached me about it and my main concern was making sure that everything was on the up and up with Doug Aldrich. That there was no weirdness there. Doug and I are actually friends and I just wanted to make sure that he was cool with me doing that and that it wasn’t going to ruin that dynamic. When I texted Doug about it, he said I actually recommended you to them. I said ok that takes the pressure off there! I had reservations because Jack Blades and Doug Aldrich are name guys and were basically two thirds of building that brand name, but luckily having Jeff Pilson to come in, we got guys who were dedicated to it. Deen and Jeff are great guys and at the end of the day I thought what guitarist says no to this! I’ve got an opportunity to make albums with Deen Castronovo and Jeff Pilson; this should be a gas – as long as it’s cool with Doug; and it was, so here we are. I really like the record and I think it’ll be well received. It is very strong so hopefully people dig it.
NI ROCKS – The first single that was released was very good. Any tour dates do you think?
JOEL – There’s definitely talk of it. It’s closer than people think. I think people think that there will be no chance that it’ll ever tour and I would say that all of us are willing. Right now the hitch being in particular, Deen is out at the beginning of the year with Journey, but Jeff is going to be really busy the next year or two with Foreigner and their farewell tour; so it's more about finding a window with Jeff. I think all of us are willing and all of us want to do it, so I think there is more of a chance than people realise of actually having a proper run with that.
NI ROCKS – The other Frontiers project that you were involved in last year was the band Iconic; with Michael Sweet, Nathan James, Tommy Aldridge and Marco Mendoza. What was it like working on that album and is there any chance that we might see another album from that band too?
JOEL – That’s in the works. I’m kinda writing the riffs for that as we speak and getting them to Michael. The way we work writing-wise with that project is that I write the guitar riffs without arranging them. Michael arranges and kind of adds and subtracts where he wants. So a couple of the riffs would be his here and there, or not all my riffs would be on it. Then that goes to Nathan and Alessandro Del Vecchio to write the lyrics and vocal melodies. So it is pretty collaborative. That started out with Michael and I always talking about doing an album together – it had been talked about for years. Then Nathan and I – I had co-written with Inglorious on some of their songs on a couple of their albums. Frontiers were looking for a classic rock band to surround Nathan, while Michael was talking to them about doing something with me; so they thought hey let’s put those two ideas together! They said we’ll add a drummer and a bass player later, and I though they’ll probably get a couple of not as well known guys and much to my surprise that ended up being Tommy Aldridge and Marco Mendoza! I though cool, right on! It’s always great to work with TA and Marco; they’re two very talented guys and obviously Tommy and I have a great relationship and have been together in the band (Whitesnake) now for years, so it’s a great working relationship.
NI ROCKS – You’d worked with Michael Sweet before - on his solo albums too didn’t you?
JOEL – Yeah, I co-wrote some of it. That kinda ramped up as it went too. That started off with me miming in videos for him; where Michael had done all the guitars and he needed a video guitarist, so I just got up as part of that. He had Kenny Aronoff on drums and James LoMenzo on bass and I just thought yeah I want to go and hang out with them for a day – sure I’ll do that. Then he asked me about co-writing and then from that solo album that ended up being the Radio song and lead single; so we did a video for that and it was great fun. I was playing on it in the video and then I guess we went to the next album and we co-wrote. We kept ramping up until we said that we really need to do a full album together. It ended up becoming Iconic in the end. Life doesn’t always work out exactly like you picture it….but, yeah.
NI ROCKS – You appeared on a couple of releases from Escape Music last year – some of those compilation, multitude artist releases. There was the Circle of Friends album “The Garden” and then Turkish Delight “Volume One”. How did Khalil get you involved in those albums?
JOEL – E-mail (laughs) That’s just one of those things. My thing with guitar and music in general is that I would rather do a session and play on something – even if it’s only a solo on a song – only because I believe it’s more of a real world application to get better than being the guy who is at home making videos for Instagram or YouTube or something like that. I just want that real world experience of making music more so than the traditional guitar shred thing.
NI ROCKS – I mentioned earlier that we saw you perform in Dublin last year with Whitesnake (alongside Foreigner and Europe). That tour unfortunately was cut short due to David’s health. Can you tell us anything about what is happening in the Whitesnake camp? Is there anything moving at all?
JOEL – Of course anything that is going to happen has to come from David you know. David and I speak regularly. One way or another I look forward to working with him; whether that is recording or whatever he has in mind for me. Definitely, if he wants to get back out and do some stuff I’m there. We got a great working relationship David and I. Whatever David’s vision is for Whitesnake, I’m there and down with it. Obviously, I’ve been a small part of the history – 8 years. David has built it for what – almost 50 years at this point in time. Whatever DC wants to do; I love him to death and I’ll be there when he needs me.
NI ROCKS – We’ll play some more music now. Do you both want to pick a track and we’ll put those into the Show.
BRANDON – What’s that other song? You mentioned it earlier Joel. Your other single?
JOEL – If you want to do something from Joel Hoekstra’s 13 you can, but we just talked about Whitesnake and I think you could do something off “Flesh and Blood”. How about “Hey You”.
BRANDON – Just because I like the song and we opened with it you can do Poison’s “Look What the Cat Dragged In”. I always liked that one.
NI ROCKS – We’ll finish off by talking about the upcoming tour of the UK and Ireland in a few weeks. Tickets are selling very well I believe, but if anyone was hesitating about buying a ticket what would you say to them?
BRANDON – We always say it that it will be the most fun that you’ll have in your life! (Laughs)
JOEL – There’s nothing wrong with false advertising and grandiose claims. You will have the absolute best time you will ever experience in your lifetime. We’re both extremely sexy. We’ve each been rated by GQ magazine as two of the most handsome men in the world. And we’re two of the wittiest men to ever exist.
BRANDON – After all that he has said how could you not buy a ticket! I mean come on!
NI ROCKS – It’s quite an intensive tour schedule – 12 shows in 13 days starting in Edinburgh in Scotland and finishing in Dublin in Ireland. Is that routine for you? That many shows in that period of time and quite a bit of travelling too.
BRANDON – This is new ground for the Hoekstra Gibbs thin. We would do four or five and go home, then four or five and go home. It’s getting to nine shows and now twelve. I think there is only one day off, so it’s definitely one of those deals where you are rolling up your sleeves and you’re going for it. But you know what, it’s fun, Joel’s a great guy, we have a good amount of the same friends so we have a lot to talk about. I think it’ll go by real fast and we’ll be ready to do it again I’m sure.
JOEL – Hey by the way Brandon, did you see that I’m doing Rock n Roll Fantasy Camp with Rockett?
BRANDON – I did! My brother sent me the flyer and I’ve been trying to link you guys for a while now!
JOEL – (Laughs) It’ll be awesome.
NI ROCKS – Covid obviously had a huge impact on the live music industry. As touring musicians do you see a lot of changes since before the pandemic or are things now getting back to what might be called “normal”.
BRANDON – The Stadium Tour, the dates I did anyway, the crowd was just ready to party. Backstage we took measures to separate, which is probably smart to do anyways. I just saw a crowd that was eager and ready to rock. I went straight from the Stadium Tour dates to Joel and I doing a North East run and it was kind of the same thing. People ready to rock – high fiving and having a great time. We did meet and greets at every single show and people were ready to have fun. I, for a second, felt normal. I don’t know about you Joel, but it did feel like it was coming back to the 100%.
JOEL – Yeah. You just got to always look at the positives with these things right! The way the music business has been, if you focused on all the bad things you’d weigh yourself down. Dude, there was a time during it when I thought – is this it? I don’t know about you guys but 2020 when everything was shut down and there was no end in sight I thought was that the end of touring as we know it. To see a good percentage of it back feels great to me. I was one of those pessimists who thought this is it man, the whole thing is going to get wiped out and I’m never going live again!
NI ROCKS – That’s all the questions that I have. I look forward to seeing you both in Northern Ireland fairly soon. We’ll finish with a couple more tracks and I’ll let you both pick one each.
BRANDON – Do you have “Rich for Life”; it’s a solo song of mine?
NI ROCKS – If it’s available on iTunes or Amazon I’ll download it.
BRANDON – Or “The Hero” is another song that ESPN latched onto which kinda describes me a bit. I’m a mid west boy and some of the values that I instill in my music. So you could try “The Hero” by Brandon Gibbs.
JOEL – That was the first one that I said!
BRANDON – Sorry, I’m talking about “This Town”, not “The Hero”! “This Town” by yours truly describes my mid west roots; not “The Hero” (Laughs)
JOEL - You could go with the second single off of “Running Games” – “Finish Line” would be a good rocker to play.
NI ROCKS – Again, thanks for taking the time to talk to me and I look forward to seeing you in the Diamond Rock Club in a few weeks time.