Hello there, Joel. It’s great to have you here on Grande Rock. Let’s talk about Revolution Saints. When did you and Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner) decide to join the band?
J: Basically, I had heard from Deen and Frontiers about it. Then they asked me if I was interested in it; I basically I was kind of wanted to know what was going on and they said Jack and Doug weren’t gonna be doing it any longer.
After that they mentioned Jeff Pilson to me, and I thought, okay, that all sounds pretty good. Let me just check. Check in with Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, The Dead Daisies) and make sure everything’s on the level and, make sure everything was cool there. So, I spoke with him and he said that he was done doing it. He also said he actually recommended to them that I’d be the guy that they’d go get to do it. So, everything seemed to fall in line and make sense. At the end of the day, I think, you know, just wanting to work with Deen and Jeff… just seemed to be a no-brainer as a guitar player.
Was there a specific cause for Dough and Jack’s departure from Revolution Saints?
J: I think they probably signed like a three-album deal and the deal was up and then it comes down to do you wanna do. Usually those things aren’t something that you commit to for like one more album. It’s usually something that you’ve gotta commit for a while.
So, probably just more or less like a long-term commitment issue, I would think more than anything. I guess maybe they felt like they had done it. You know, sometimes people reach that point where they’re like, “I’ve been doing that for a while, and maybe it’s time for something different”.
I really don’t know and I can’t speak for them. I didn’t really get a reason from Doug, but I know Doug is really focused on Dead Daisies right now. Also, Jack’s really busy with Night Ranger, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s as simple as that. OK, it’s the circle of music life, I think.
Tell us a little bit about the songwriting process. Did you and Deen contribute any ideas?
J: Not exactly. The way these are usually put together is that the producer, Alessandro Del Vecchio, works with outside writing sources and Frontiers compiles cool songs for the albums.
I happened to be one of the people that Alessandro reached out to, so I did actually collaborate on one of the songs. But that was kind of like when I had given him the riff ideas, thinking that it was gonna be Doug playing them. So, it ended up being one of the singles, specifically “Talking Like Strangers”. Hence, that’s the only song on which I contributed to the songwriting.
For the most part, the songwriting is done by Alessandro and, and other sources that collaborate with him. It will most likely be the same on the follow-up, but I believe they are thinking about a third album. Jeff and I doing a lot more writing. I’ve already put in a few song ideas for that, and I think Jeff has as well. So, I think people will be able to compare, contrast, or anything when the third album from this lineup comes out.
Can you say that the new album, “Eagle Flight”, combines all of the elements from the previous three albums?
J: I think that is. You know, Deen’s voice is so identifiable and recognizable and obviously, there’s always a little bit of a Journey vibe involved with this. I’d say that maybe just cuz of Jeff and I. Our personalities, my Whitesnake influences and Jeff with his Dokken influences. And perhaps it became a touch heavier in places this time around. I also know that early on with Revolution Saints, I think people were hesitant to just play with chops and stuff like that. I didn’t have any reservations with that on there. I tried to combine technique and obviously playing the melody and feel for the song, you know, very Neal Schon influenced, my own version of Neal Schon, of course. More or less like when you try to play something hooky but with some flare and fire.
I’m not familiar with everything they did on the first three albums, to be totally honest. I mean, I’ve just listened to the singles as they’ve been online. So, as far as how it compares, we can just leave that up to the people to decide. But I think there was, there was a heavier, heavier edge on some of the stuff
Yes, it does have a heavier edge than the previous albums and also Deen’s voice is reminiscent of Steve Perris’ at times.
J: I think there are similarities in tone. It’s got that kind of raspy high tenor tone, which is obviously difficult to emulate.
I think Deen is one of the most, well, if not be most underrated singers in rock music today, simply because he’s such a great drummer and he is behind the drums all the time. People think of him as a drummer, yet if he was only a singer in this scene, he would be one of the top singers. He’s one of the best singers in the world, and I think he’s the best singing drummer in the world right now. I can’t think of anybody that would top him.
Yes, that’s so true. But I think But I think Deen would rather be a drummer than a singer… or not?
J: I’m not sure. I never really asked him what he preferred. I mean, we’ve been friends, but when it came time to doing this, we got together, we obviously recorded our parts, heard the mixes, all kind of stuff and had a little email thread about the music.
Then when it came time to get together in LA, we did quite a bit of promo for it and spent some time together. But, I didn’t really ask him what he prefers. I’m sure he is thrilled to be playing drums in Journey again.I mean, who wouldn’t be? That’s a fantastic gig. It’s a huge band. Big audiences, great songs, amazing catalogs. So, I think, my guess would be that Deen would probably tell you whatever is working. That’s the way it is for all of us. We just want something that works and is like fun that we enjoy musically and that is gonna be able to pay the bills, you know?
What inspired you to come up with the title “Eagle Flight”?
J: I think they simply picked the coolest-sounding title out of the songs. I guess that actually would be a question more for the label. I think the label probably chose that. Maybe Alessandro… I don’t really know who picked the title for the record, but, it’s cool. I like it. And I like that track. I like that “Eagle Flight” track a lot. I think it’s got a cool vibe.
Did you face any problems during the recordings or not?
J: No actually. I mean, Alessandro really lays everything out very clearly for everybody. He makes fantastic demos of everything. So, what you can do when you get a Revolution Saint’s album, is you can listen through the song and at that point in time, Deen had his drums on there. Jeff had his bass on there. I don’t know if Alessandro ended up redoing his keyboards, but there were keyboards, but he was singing leads still on it.
Deen’s vocals weren’t on it. And then there were the backing vocals. So, for me, you solo up the guitars and you give him a listen, and then you think, what can I do to either replicate this or step it up a notch so it’s cooler or better. Obviously very much with the solos, I just kind of do my own thing.
I see it marked kind of where the solo is. There’ll be a solo kind of in place, but Alessandro’s fantastic about laying out demos for the song. So, it actually makes it really easy to work on the records, cuz you kind of know what’s expected and everybody puts their stamp on these and it makes it their own just through performance more than the writing, obviously, cuz the writing is essentially done. Hence, it gives you an opportunity to really think about how do I make this my own, how do I play something that’s really “me” and inspiring and gonna make me happy with the music.
Can you tell us about any standout tracks on the album and what makes them special?
J: I was really, really surprised when I heard the mixes, because I hadn’t heard Deen singing on it yet. I think that Deen’s voice really makes everything go up. He’s just a really, really great singer. And so, I had heard it with his drums and bass and my guitar and everything, but as soon as you hear the songs with Deen singing, I realized I like every track on the record. Literally, there’s not a single track where I was like, let me click skip, cuz I don’t like this one. I was really happy when I heard the mixes and really enthused about the way the record came out. So, I don’t know if I could give you any standout tracks per se. I really like everything on it.
What are your expectations from the new album “Eagle Flight” in general?
J: I think as a guitarist it’s cool because it gives me the opportunity to work with some guys that are A-list, melodic rock guys, like Deen Castronovo, and Jeff Pilson, two great guys, two amazing musicians. So, the opportunity to work on, we’re probably looking at three albums at the very least, with this lineup. And there’s definitely some talk of trying to take it out and tour. That’s all very exciting for me and I need to continue to work hard and look at avenues that keep, keep myself or elevate myself in the scene. Thus, it was a good opportunity to step in with a couple great musicians and make some great melodic hard rock.
Therefore, is it possible to tour with Revolution Saints, and when do you expect that to happen?
J: I don’t know exactly what next year lays out for Deen. I know Jeff is on Foreigner’s Farewell Tour this year and next year. So, it’s probably not in the immediate future unless something lines up where we have a window, but we’re all kind of definitely having some dialogue about it and I think everybody’s on board with wanting to actually play live. So, hopefully it’ll happen eventually.
This is great news for your fans.
J: Yeah. I, I think that’s the big thing that everybody would really like to see. And, my discussions with Frontiers regarding any of the recording projects that I’m working on, whether it’s Joel Hoekstra’s 13 or Iconic or Revolution Saints, is that the more we see these original bands retire, somebody’s gonna have to step up and fill the void. It’s almost a natural progression that you would see some of these projects take on more importance and sort of be able to step in live and start to actually tour. And I’d be happy to get out and do the work with any of ‘em to make it happen.
It’s time for our “Strange Questions”!!! What do you think about the “downloading & streaming issue” of our time? Do you prefer the streaming services more or not?
J: I prefer physical product. But hey… these are the times we live in. I try not to worry about things that are beyond my control. However, it would be nice if artists were properly compensated for streaming. Currently, they are not.
Which is the composer/songwriter who influenced rock music the most?
J: Ohh, man. These are all tough questions to answer. Let’s go with Jimmy Page.
Which do you consider to be the best male & female vocalist in rock history?
J: Wow… another brutal question. Let’s say Lou Gramm & Ann Wilson.
Which is that band that you’d like to be part of (any time & era)?
J: I’d be a foot too tall, but I’d love to sit in with AC/DC for a song. That would be incredible.
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
J: Rush – “Moving Pictures”. Great playing, great songs, great audio.
Which is the most underrated musician/band of all time?
J: I’ll go with Trevor Rabin, as most people like early YES more than his era. But I think he’s a genius.
Thank you so much, Joel. Best of luck with your future musical endeavors. Keep on rockn’ us dude!
J: Thank you so much for this interview; I really appreciate it.