Halestorm recently played the last night of the UK triple whammy rock tour with Alter Bridge and Mammoth WVH at London’s O2 Arena, and it was a blinder of a show. Before the show, MetalTalk’s Dany Jones caught up with drummer Arejay Hale to talk about family and Christmas, and he told us how much he had enjoyed this tour.
Arejay is a wonderfully infectious character, enthusiastic and wearing a wonderful pair of trousers. “These are more function than fashion,” he laughs. “These are my drumming pants because they’re joggers, and they’re also pyjama pants. They double as both. I’ve reached that age where I just want to live in comfort, so I’ve quit using belts.”
The tour has been a great success, and Halestorm have smashed it out of the park every night. That evening’s performance would see MetalTalk declare that “the incendiary Halestorm earn, hands down, the title of ‘Arsonists of Modern Rock, and they are simply unstoppable.”
But then Arejay did say that they would go out with a bang. “The last time we were here was March,” he says, “and it was incredible. We did our little evening with tour. But now we’re with Alter Bridge, and those guys are just awesome. They’re so cool and they’re so easy.
“They have this larger than life presence on stage. But when you’re hanging out with the guys backstage, they’re very nice, friendly and affable and approachable. You don’t realise that you’re talking to Myles Kennedy or Mark Tremonti, the royalty they are.
“So it’s just been a nice easy tour. Everybody’s close. We’re all best buds. Same thing with the great Wolfgang Van Halen. You know, you kind of forget, oh yeah, your last name is Van Halen. Also, royalty in the rock and roll realm. But everyone is just so cool. It’s great.”
Arejay apologises, saying this will sound boring, “but there’s really no drama at all. It makes life so much more enjoyable when you’re on the road because it can be taxing on you mentally and physically when you’re constantly travelling, constantly crossing borders, going into customs and taking ferries. It’s very difficult to get sleep out here. But since everybody has this incredible team mentality and everyone’s looking out for each other, it makes the tour so much easier on all of us.”
You get the feeling that 2023 could be a massive year for Halestorm. The band has come a long way since Arejay, and his sister started playing. You wonder if they ever thought this would turn into their lifelong career.
“I guess you could say the really not-so-smart move that we made in our lives was just not having any backup plan,” Arejay says. “You know, we had the opportunity to either go to college or pursue music. Our parents were crazy enough to let us pursue music. But maybe that’s what kept us driven and kept us going. Because our mentality was if we get signed, and we put out a record on a major label, and we get to go on a national tour and get to open up for big bands or maybe someday do a headline tour all across the world, that would be great.
“But, if that doesn’t work out, then we’ll be just as happy playing in the little dive bars in Pennsylvania. I guess our naive childhood golden life was just to keep doing this in any shape and form. The fact that now we can do it on a national level is mind-blowing. You have to stop and look around and think, wow, I never thought we’d ever get here. But here we are with Alter Bridge across Europe.”
Of course, Arejay and Lzzy’s father was in the band. “He was our first bass player, and then we got to an age where it wasn’t cool to have Dad in the band anymore. So we had to hire somebody that was more our age once we got to teenage years. He stepped down off the stage and then ran our sound for a long time until we realised that he was pretty deaf from all the years of playing bass in his band throughout the seventies and eighties. Then we got a sound guy, and Dad became the driver. He drove our RV all across the United States.
“But now he’s just dad. Now we get to tour with a bus, and he’s just Dad, and that’s his best job ever. Also, my Mom was our tour manager for a long time, and now she’s Mom, and I get to see her very soon for the holidays. So I’m very excited.”
Arejay says he is a Christmas guy. “We love Christmas,” he says. “My girlfriend and I would love to deck out the house like crazy. We don’t go full Clark Griswold and deck out the outside of the house. But we do like to make Christmas completely throw up inside the house like Santa Claus literally puked all over the walls.”
Being in a band with his sibling, you would imagine they are quite protective of each other. Arejay says they have each other’s back. “Especially in the early days,” he says, “when we were playing little dive bars all over the place in very sketchy areas in the United States. Some creepy guy would walk up on stage. I’d be ready to jump over the drums and push them off.
“But we’ve been doing it together for so long that there really is a fine line between sibling and bandmate. Myself, Lzzy, Joe [Hottinger, guitar] and Josh [Smith, bass] are practically siblings at this point. So there is some grey area there, but it works. I feel like the foundation of having family involved in the band has perpetuated itself and spread throughout the entire camp.
“It trickles down from the two of us to our bandmates, to our crew, to our record label, our team, our management and booking agency, and everybody involved in our band. They have this very family, look out for each other team mentality, and it’s great. So do the Alter Bridge guys. So do the Mammoth guys, and that’s what made this tour so fun.”
There have been some on-tour japes. “Our merch guy, Albert, who we love so very much, doesn’t drink. He’s smart. He’s the smartest man on tour, but he’s also the most dangerous man on tour because he’s always aware of his surroundings. He took an empty bottle of Jameson and filled it up with this really strong mezcal tequila, and left it on the crew bus.
So the crew bus, they were three sheets to the wind, or tits up as you like to stay out here. I learned that from Love Island UK, by the way.” You have to watch the video to hear the excellent British accent impression. Arejay says they also filled up his water bottle with vodka.
Halestorm’s latest album, Back From The Dead, is their heaviest album to date, and, as Arejay says, that is the result of the change in the process of recording the album. “It was the first time that I had been in a studio where a producer wanted me to play more and play more aggressively,” he says.
“I feel live, we can get away with messing around and making up things off the top of our head and just going a little bit extra crazy to bring that live energy. But on on record, I feel like a main objective was to keep everything very simple. Have a lot of space, leave a lot of room, and that kind of makes sense. We wanted to be very simple and very basic.
“But our producers, Scott Stevens and Nick Raskulinecz felt it was important for us to bring a little bit more of that live energy to the recording. They felt that if we had just released another album, like our previous records, with that same mentality where we were just trying to keep everything very open and spaced and simple, then it would get stale.
“It would sound boring to our fans who had been waiting for this record through a whole pandemic. I think it was a combination of the two of them having a good close ear to the ground with a good knowledge of what more modern rock fans want to listen to.
“I feel like the resurgence of punk music, and the resurgence of emo-punk music in pop culture has driven the masses towards wanting to hear more energy. Wanting to hear more unique, fun instrumental moments and crazy drumming, crazy guitar playing and crazy singing and that kind of stuff.
“So, one of the main goals was to bring more of that to the recording. Then on the other side, you also have the four of us locked up in our homes for a year and a half. We were going a little bit extra, hitting the drums a little bit harder, playing everything a little bit faster and just going a little bit extra crazy.
“So I can see why people think this is our heaviest record. I like to consider it as the record in our discography, so far, that has the most energy. The most live energy.”
Arejay and the band have loved their time in the UK, and they love the support they get for the band this side of the pond. “I just thank you guys,” Arejay says to the UK fans. “Thank you all so much for letting us come back over and over and over again. We’re scheduled to do more touring over here next year, and we would not be able to do that if it wasn’t for all the support and all the love. Just coming to the show is honestly the best way to support all bands. So thank you all so much for continuing to show up. We love you guys, thank you.”
And so it was on to the show. Arejay was ready for another epic drum solo with the matchsticks. Would they break on the last night of the tour?
“If it happens, then you know, by gosh, it’s a Christmas miracle,” Arejay says.
MetalTalk’s Alter Bridge Pawns & Kings Tour coverage features interviews with Scott Phillips, Arejay Hale (Halestorm) and Wolfgang Van Halen (Mammoth WVH). Plus, full coverage of all three band’s performances.
To read all this, visit https://www.metaltalk.net/tag/pawns-and-kings-tour.