Halestorm / Joe Hottinger On That Wembley Show And New Album News

Pennsylvania hard rockers Halestorm are a shining example of how to get out on that rock and roll road and work your way up and up and up. They’ve spent most of the last fifteen years on tour, and their dynamic live shows have bred success to the extent that in the UK, they’ve gone from touring in an old van as support to Theory Of A Deadman in 2010 to thirteen years later headlining in a sold-out OVO Arena Wembley.

This Wembley show has been immortalised as a live album and a video released straight to YouTube, and guitarist Joe Hottinger chatted to us about this release and all things Halestorm, starting with why this is a digital-only release.

Halestorm - OVO Arena Wembley - 9 December 2023
Halestorm – OVO Arena Wembley – 9 December 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

“We talked about all kinds of different ways to get it out,” Joe said. “But we wanted to get it out there while it’s still fresh. It looks great. It sounds great and the show was great. It went really well. So I just want to get it out there and let people see it. 

“They don’t have to put it behind these paywalls or just sell it only on a DVD. I think the Japanese label is gonna make a CD or a record of it that’s only available in Japan, which will be fun. So I’m gonna try to get some of those.

“But there’s always time to put out a physical copy of it. I think it was a little more fun just to kind of drop it and get it out and let people see it, and the reaction’s been great so far.”

Halestorm - OVO Arena Wembley - 9 December 2023
Halestorm – OVO Arena Wembley – 9 December 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The Wembley show came at the end of a European tour which might not be a situation where every band would feel comfortable fiming and recording but the opportunity to share such a totemic show in the band’s history was too much to resist.

“We’re like, should we film that? I mean, why not? We should, we might as well. There’s no reason not to. It was at the end of the tour, which is a bit of a gamble because, you know, how’s everyone feeling? We were in Europe for six or seven weeks at that point. 

“Is Lzzy gonna be tired? Are we gonna be just whipped and not loving it anymore? Which has never happened!

“Sometimes Lzzy’s a bit tired at the end of the tour after singing that hard for six weeks, but she sounded great. She was in top form, and I like it better than filming the first show when you’re just kind of getting your shit back together and finding your vibe again after a few weeks off.”

The video does indeed look and sound great, with Lzzy Hale showing off all her vocal skills right from the first moments and also showing her consummate crowd control skills. 

The band are effortlessly tight, and all look like they’re having a ball. 

The set covers their career right from 2006’s One And Done EP to 2022’s Back From The Dead and is a captivating mix of old favourites, new favourites, and unexpected side turns.

The band are well known for shuffling around their set lists while on tour.

“We put together some new, we call them anchor points in the set,” Joe said. “Things that work really well. We have a little moment going ….Poison and Takes My Life into the drum solo, you know. Misery, Love Bites and I Get Off. We kinda switch things around and pick different songs. 

“We spent all of Europe on that whole tour leading up to Wembley doing a different set every night and then the last few shows settling in. Let’s do this one for Wembley, get it really tight, and get our transitions together.”

Halestorm - Live At Wembley
Halestorm – Live At Wembley

Joe is speaking from his basement studio where the band are rehearsing and gestures to the instruments and amps set up behind him as he expands on the topic of Halestorm gigs and setlists.

“Right now, we’re woodshedding down here. We have a US summer tour starting in July, and we didn’t get to do this setlist in the United States at all. So, it is not just the setlist but these sorts of anchor points. 

“So I think we might stick to some of it this summer, but we’re working on new things. We’re trying to come up with new things.”

“We have an interesting stage set up for the summer tour, and it’s gonna be cool. We’re keeping it old school, you know. We’re just a rock band.

“We just plug in and play, mistakes and all. We don’t overdub anything. Wembley, that’s what people saw that night. That’s what you get, and I think that’s cool. I don’t think rock ‘n’ roll needs to be perfect. 

“I think there’s quite a power in having a human element to the music, especially these days when there are so many computer bands. I like the bands that are just up there playing and expressing. Something’s weird that day? They’re feeling weird? You can tell something’s weird, and then there’s a depth to the story to see them live.”

Halestorm - OVO Arena Wembley - 9 December 2023
Halestorm – OVO Arena Wembley – 9 December 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

That raw, live excitement can often be seen in a Halestorm live show when they do extended guitar workouts at the end of songs. These can be seen in the Wembley show in Wicked Ways and Amen and are a nod back to the band’s forebears.

“Our sound guy and my guitar tech used to work for Dickie Betts and The Allman Brothers. We listened to a lot of that stuff. We listened to a lot of jazz, and my favourite thing in the world on a stage in the rock ‘n’ roll show is to improvise and to go off. 

“It’s so much more than just look at me. I mean, I’m not the best player in the world. I’m never gonna be. There are children in Korea making  YouTube videos that are just phenomenal, and it’s not my goal whenever we’re doing that.

“I’m trying to tap into the thing, the thing that’s out there. The muse, the energy or the vibe or something where you become purely in the moment. 

“When you’re on stage in front of a bunch of people, it’s amplified by a million because you’re so in the right now. Everyone’s watching you be in the right now. So it’s almost like you gotta respect it and let it flow through you. 

“Try to make a moment. Try to tell a story and build up and make something happen and make people cheer without blowing your cookies and playing too much. 

“I always have a tendency to overplay because I get too excited. So it’s exercising calm, letting something happen through you, almost taking yourself out of it, and letting it be a vessel. I just love that shit. It’s so much fun and such a high.”

Halestorm - OVO Arena Wembley - 9 December 2023
Halestorm – OVO Arena Wembley – 9 December 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Halestorm are definitely a band from the 21st century, but they manage to bring these older styles and references with them somehow.

“Tom Petty’s my favourite artist,” Joe says. “If you listen to some of his live stuff, they can go off sometimes. There’s a live version of It’s Good To Be King. It’s like a 10-minute, 15-minute jam, and it’s really, really cool. 

“I think Mike Campbell is one of my favourite guitar players. Our goal is to have those moments where it’s just the four of us talking to each other with our language of music that only we know and make moments, listening to each other. 

“Like Arejay is doing a fill, and I’m following. Or he’s following me if I’m starting on something. Like really talking on stage in front of people but also trying to keep it modern. Be a modern rock band and not a throwback classic rock band. 

“I love bands that are like that because they sound great, and I love that music. But we’re also trying. How do you do this without being a classic rock band? How do you bring this into a modern thing? And I don’t know if we figured it out yet.”

Halestorm - OVO Arena Wembley - 9 December 2023
Halestorm – OVO Arena Wembley – 9 December 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Outside of Halestorm, Joe likes to work on his other hobby.

“I do a lot of photography,” he says. “It’s a different version of the same sort of living in the moment thing from being on stage and playing. I have to shut down things that don’t matter and kind of enter a different space when I’m looking through a camera and working the controls on one. It’s a different version of the same feeling of being in the moment.”

Hottinger shared some pics on social media from Lzzy’s time singing with Skid Row.

“I’m usually with Lzzy when she goes anywhere,” he says. “I was out with Skid Row all weekend. They had me up to play, and I love those guys, man. We’ve been friends with Rachel and them for a long time, and it was fun riding the bus with them. 

“We haven’t ever ridden on a bus or spent overnight periods of time with another band, and every band has its own culture and vibe. They’re all very different, you know. Some are toxic. Some are strange. Ours is more like we’re a family. We hang out together. We enjoy our time together. 

“I really love all these guys, and I love doing this thing with them. It’s not lost on me how lucky we are to still be the four of us after 27 years because nobody knows what it’s like to be us but us. To have gone through what we’ve gone through, how hard it’s been and how gratifying it’s been.

“We all lean on each other in different ways, and those Skid boys have a great vibe amongst them, too. They’ve been at it a long time doing the thing, and they’re cool. They’re cool as shit. They’re sweethearts. 

“Nobody’s arguing or fighting. They’re there for the music, put on a show for the fans and to do it for themselves because it’s fun.”

Halestorm - OVO Arena Wembley - 9 December 2023
Halestorm – OVO Arena Wembley – 9 December 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Although the Live At Wembley recordings have just been released, talk inevitably turns to what’s next for Halestorm.

“We’re in the middle of a record right now. We’re just down here wood shedding right now, rehearsing, and being creative, and then we will head on this tour in July. I think we’ll finish our record in September. 

“We’re gonna try to finish our record in September. We’re pretty much out on the road up until we go to the studio, and then as soon as we’re out of the studio. We’re back at it until the end of October. If we happen to not finish it in September, we’ll have some time in November, December to kind of knock out the last finishing moves on it and hopefully get it out at the beginning of next year. 

“I don’t know. I’m making that up! I’m thinking dream world, but we’re already doing some neat booking things in the next year and Lzzy and I have something special next year, which would be fun. We’re building our studio down here, which should be done by the end of this year. 

“We’re gonna get more into recording ourselves and doing our thing and enjoy that and get into that end of the process.

“We’ve been a live band for so long that every time we get in the studio, it’s like, oh my God. All right. We’re good at it now. I wanna do it ourselves because it’s fun and, you know, who knows really what that means and where that’ll take us. 

“But it’s the beginning of another journey, which will be fun.”

Sleeve Notes

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