Halestorm have just completed their maiden voyage around UK arenas as headliners, before opening night in Glasgow, we spoke to drummer Arejay Hale who was more than happy to be back behind the kit.
Yeah we just had three days off, well two days in Amsterdam and then one travel day, so it’s kind of nice to be back in the swing of things!
Well, if you are going to have two days off, then Amsterdam is as good a place as any!
Yes! It was a fantastic few days.
Can you remember any of it?!
It was an unforgettable night that I can’t remember!
Sounds intriguing! So, tonight is the first night of the UK leg of the tour, debut arena headlining tour I should say, you’re coming through cities where you have played multiple times, gradually working your way up in venue size. We’re in Glasgow so let’s use that as an example..
Oh yeah, we started off at The Garage..
The ABC, Barrowlands, the Academy, this venue tonight as support…and now you are headlining it..wow! That must be one hell of a buzz?!
It really is, it’s been a few years since we played this venue, we opened up for Alter Bridge and then Black Stone Cherry with Highly Suspect, that was a great run that one. So it’s cool to be back headlining, with our friends In This Moment and New Years Day. It’s nice to do it as a team, we’re all really passionate about this tour.
It’s such a big production with a great line-up, is there any pressure on Halestorm with it being the debut UK headlining tour?
Mmmm.. gosh! A little bit yeah! The cool thing is that I know that a lot of people are coming tonight to see In This Moment and New Years Day as well, so they are playing their parts in bringing in people. I think a lot of people like this package, these three bands, it’s the power of all three of us together! So, that helps a lot, if it was just us then I would be terrified! I’m pretty confident that no matter what happens tonight, we’ll give everyone a great show.
The UK has become such a strong market for Halestorm, the band has created a real buzz over here..
Yes, it’s definitely a major market for us, I think that this year will be ten years that we have been coming over here. Starting at the very bottom and kind of just building up, I’m all in favour of the slow and steady build, it’s exciting to see all that work start to…
Maybe not pay off, but we definitely take our time to stop and look around, and appreciate how amazing it is that we have got here. I mean, it’s The Hydro…and we’re headlining it!
On the subject of the size of the venues, have you had any “Hello Cleveland” moments?!
Absolutely yes! One of the first times we played here, with Alter Bridge I think it was, they were still building some parts of it, some were still under construction. So it’s cool to be back here again. This venue is particularly legendary because I believe that it’s one of the best sounding arenas out there. But that’s what most arenas over here are like, they seem to be built for a good sound while in America, they are built for sporting events. My drum tech went out while we were soundchecking, and he came back and was like..Oh my god it sounds huuuuuge! So this venue is really well known amongst bands for its amazing sound quality and its great acoustics. So if we totally suck tonight there’s no excuses!
Would you like me to edit out the part about how good the sound is just incase?!
Nah, it will be fine! All we can do is play good and the room will take care of the rest. Besides, the people up here, the crowds are so much more gung-ho about live music and that’s really cool. A lot of bands will tell you that one of their favourite UK cities to play is Glasgow, we felt the energy when we played The Garage all those years ago. We were like…wow! I think it’s the Buckfast! I think that is the secret! It’s the commotion potion! It gets everybody buzzed and amped up.
Funny enough I was going to mention Buckfast, because at the gig in The Garage, I was on the barrier and the band…
We all started drinking Buckfast!
Yes! When the Buckfast came out and I thought to myself..noooo! Don’t they know that’s rocket fuel!?
Yeah that stuff came out and it was…goodnight!
Gravity works! Exactly! Haha!!
The monks that make it know the good shit..
Yeah they’re monks after all, it makes for a great crowd that’s for sure!
It’s the 10th anniversary of the debut Halestorm album this year, the new version of it comes out soon, although I believe that the vinyl version is already sold out?
Yeah the vinyl has all the fun bits on it, it was great fun going back through all the demos etc, we were like…man what were we thinking?!
Normally when I speak to a band about a major anniversary coming up, the question is usually..did you see yourselves lasting this long? But in all honesty, with yourself and Lzzy, I don’t think that there was ever any doubt that it wouldn’t last because you both seem so focussed and determined.
Yeah, we were kind of naive back then, we had tunnel vision and we were ultra-focussed. I think that we definitely had a reality check after watching a lot of music documentaries on how bands had made it, and gone through all these things. Luckily when we were coming up, we had heard a lot of stories about bands who had worked really hard to make it, then fell off the deep end. Our mentality has always been slow and steady, keep chipping away. We’ve always wanted to do this, and no doubt we will keep on doing this forever. We caught the music bug early, and as kids we didn’t have many worries, it was like…yeah we’ll be fine! Everyone else around us was more like…oh my god! We’ve never been discouraged, but we know that it can all go away just like that (snaps fingers).
When you are onstage performing, you are impossible to miss!
Oh that’s fun!
A lot of drummers like to stay hidden, but not you!
Haha! A lot of times I’m like…well no-one can see me so I’ll goof around. It’s kind of a mindfuck for me because I’m so far back, and it’s hard for me to see the crowd sometimes, but we have a kickass lighting guy and I can see everybody now! But before, I would at the back like…no-one is paying attention to me..and then I’d get comments like…dude what the fuck were you doing back there! And I’d be like…awww I didn’t know you could see me! But it’s fun and it keeps it fresh, we’ve started to put moments into the set where we improvise, we jam and switch things up. But in the end we’re playing the same songs, so I like to challenge myself to see what weird shit I can come up with…maybe in this part I can throw a stick behind my back?!
Joking aside, it can be easy to forget that you are the one driving the band forward onstage.
Yeah, I have to focus on that first, and anything else is extra, if there is a lull then I’ll get up to something weird!
Is it easy for you to focus, being so far back?
We tried changing the set-up by pushing the drums downstage to the side, it was kinda cool, it looked neat, for the audience – all four of us were upfront. It was fun for myself having the audience right there, but it was difficult as we were starting to incorporate moments into the show where we were all listening to each other. Even though we could all hear each other through our in-ears, Joe would be really far away and it was hard for us to lock-in. So we put the drums back in the middle, and that makes sense. Everyone’s following me, and I’m following them. We always emphasise this to all new bands out there – always listen to each other, not just playing your own parts, but listen to each other and keep each other on track. It’s really important to make sure that you are gelling with your bandmates.
From a personal point of view, how do you look after yourself on the road? Both physically and mentally?
Mental health is a big thing for me, years ago I was diagnosed with depression, I had known that I had it all my life, so I think that’s why music and song-writing has been such a creative outlet for me. If I’m having a bad day then I know that I can go into my notes and find a song that I’ve been working on and work on it more, or think of a way to get my feelings out into words and music. And that helps a lot.
It can be so physically taxing being out on the road. If you take out the music, camaraderie, all the fun great aspects, if you take those out and just think about how much it takes out of your body, and your brain..then people might consider it to be one of the worst professions in the world. You’re not getting sleep, different time zone every day, you can’t relax your nervous system as you’re constantly going. Even after a tour, post tour depression is a real thing, so we get that all the time. We were out for 5-6 weeks, then it’s Europe, then the UK, then we fly to Scandinavia, then fly to Japan, then Australia and Malaysia, then fly home. By the time we get home, we’re just fried. So for myself, I don’t have depression or anxiety to the point that I need medication. I chose to do the more natural methods, I eat healthy, don’t drink, no excesses, try and get enough sleep, and exercise every day. Sometimes I’ll do an ice-bath for my hands, and that helps inflammation, my security guy has this really good potion that helped him out when he tore his Achilles heel a few years ago. We’re not getting any younger so I try and keep the candle burning on just the one end!
Touring is such an important part of Halestorm, it seems like the band are constantly touring?
Touring has changed, it used to be that you would make the album, then tour a little bit to sell your record, now you put the records out for free and hope that it can sell tickets to your shows. So touring is now our main income. We tour a lot more than we would have if we came out in the ‘90’s when music was generating income.
Plus you have the annual festival season every year which seems to get bigger each year.
Those are fun! I love festivals, and I have found that I am a crazy person. I can hang out with my friends, with our fans, I can walk around the festival, and I can sip on my water and just be my crazy self, everyone else is doing shots of whiskey and I’m doing shots of water! But I know that I can still have a good time, because all you have to do is embrace your natural crazy and you don’t need any other substance to encourage that! I want to remember all this, I want to enjoy it, and I am enjoying this trip a lot, and making those healthy decisions makes touring a lot more enjoyable for me.
Lastly, before you dash off, what current day issues do you feel passionate about?
I am blessed with the ability to travel the world and experience so many other cultures, but there are so many people in our country that don’t even get out of their hometown. So it’s easy to think in your mile wide radius, but I think about going into other countries, and for me it’s that wish that we can all just get along and just be cool with each other. I hate the negative energy that’s happening with every turn today. Some of it is necessary, I understand that, somethings need to be exposed right now that people were unaware of, myself included. I’m waking up to new things, but I have a desire to learn, I have a desire, and a lust and a craving for knowledge, and I hope that others have that also because I think that the best thing that you can do, is to educate yourself. On everything. I believe in equality, gender issues, all these things that we need to be aware of. I know what hand I’ve been dealt in life, and I just want to listen and learn.
And stop trusting the internet?!
Yeah! (laughs) the internet is a place where people can shout at each other, I’ve heard it compared to road-rage! When you are in your car and someone cuts you off you’re like…Motherfucker! But if you were face-to-face with that person then you would be like…. (adopts posh voice) oh hello, excuse me, pardon me! Behind a computer screen is the same thing, you feel like you are in a safe zone to blast your thoughts out, and here’s the thing…people need to think things through before saying something, I really try to be careful before I say anything online. Awareness, education and taking the hand that you’ve been dealt in life and playing it the best way possible. Communication is key, ask any married couples that get along, honesty and communication are vital. We need to talk to each other. Thanks for bringing that up! That’s really cool!
Arejay Hale – a pleasure as always. Check out all remaining Halestorm tour dates here.
Interview – Dave
Live images – Rob Wilkins