Halestorm drummer Arejay Hale is taking a well-deserved break. He literally just finished working on the last song on the band’s fourth album yesterday with Alice In Chains/Foo Fighters producer Nick Raskulinecz. “At least I think it’s the last song,” he says. “There could be a bit more to do down the line. The process of making this album is a lot more organic, and it’s been a lot more challenging. But it’s really rewarding.”
His decks should definitely be clear by the time Halestorm rock up to this year’s Ramblin’ Man Fair, where they are due to support The Cult on Sunday. “I’m so excited,” says Arejay. “There’s definitely something in the water out there that turns the crowd into rabid beasts. I mean that in the highest level of honour. We’re just going to go completely nuts.”
As a primer for their appearance, we asked the drummer to talk us through 10 tracks that have made Halestorm the band they are. “I’m looking forward to this,” enthuses the ever-positive drummer. “Let’s do it.”
SHOUT IT OUT (2001)
That’s from our second ever EP, Breaking The Silence. Oh man, that feels like a lifetime ago. I think I was probably 13 or 14. We released an EP a couple of years before that called (Don’t Mess With The) Time Man and you could really hear the juvenile songwriting in that cos we really didn’t know what we were doing. But you can definitely hear a lot of growth in the writing – we were starting to go through adolescence, getting a bit deeper. You can really see the progression.
I GET OFF (2009)
After we got signed to Atlantic Records, we came out to LA to co-write with a bunch of different songwriters and producers. We were only supposed to stay there for a month, but that turned into 19 months. At the time, most of what was on rock radio was kind of like sex rock – Nickelback, Theory Of A Deadman, porn star dancing in the videos. The label were pushing for I Get Off to be the first single, cos they thought it kind of fitted into that. We were kind of hesitant because we thought we had better songs. In hindsight I’m really glad we did – it just fitted on the radio in the right place that we needed at the time at least to get our career jump-started. That song was kind of like playing the game at first, but now it’s still a really great moment in our live show. The fans realise that it’s not just a sex song – the original meaning of the song is describing our love of performing live.
IT’S NOT YOU (2009)
That’s a very old song. My sister and I wrote in our parents’ basement many, may years before the release of the first album. We put it on a couple of EPs that we released before the album. When we went in to write the record, we were showcasing for producers in LA. We were playing the Viper room on Sunset and Howard Benson, who ended up producing the first record, came out to see us. We opened up the show with that song and he loved it. He called us the next day and he was, like, in his very low voice: “Hey guys love your song? It’s gotta go on the record, OK, bye.”
I MISS THE MISERY (2012)
We were kind of nervous going into the second record, The Strange Case Of…, cos we had seen so many bands released their first album and have a decent success, and then when they go to make their second album, people just don’t care about them. We were actually terrified that our first album was going to be our only successful album, so we really had to turn it up a notch and we really worked hard.
As soon as we recorded I MIss The Misery, that was when we felt, OK, I think that we’re definitely progressing in a good way. That’s a song that comes from a very personal place. At the time, I was probably 19 or 20 and just kind of figuring out exactly what it’s like to have your heart completely broken by somebody, but also realising how much you still crave that painful feeling in a weird, masochistic way.
LOVE BITES (SO DO I) (2012)
We didn’t write that to be a single at all. In fact we didn’t even know it was going to be a single. Before we realised The Strange Case Of… we released a covers EP, Reanimate. We recorded Slave to The Grind by Skid Row, which was a really fast song, a lot of energy, kind of like a punk song. We started doing it live, and we loved the energy, so when we went in to make our second record, we thought, “We need to make a song with this type of feel, this type of energy.”
We literally wrote that song in my parents’ basement in Pennsylvania. We drank a whole bunch of coffee, it was 11 o’clock at night, we were just frustrated, trying to write a song. We made a pot of coffee, chugged it all back and went back into the basement and played the most aggressive and heavy thing we could think of. Sure enough, we ended up with Love Bites as a result.
HERE’S TO US (GUEST VERSION) (2015)
It was our A&R guy at Atlantic’s idea to do that version of the song with all the guests on. He’d just watched the first Avengers movie with his kids and he called us the next day: “Hey, why don’t we do the Avengers of Rock’N’Roll?’
So we called out friends, all of them we’ve known for years – the Alter Bridge guys, the Shinedown guys, the Theory Of A Deadman guys, Maria from In This Moment. Sadly, we couldn’t get them in the studio at the same time, but they were kind enough to go into local studios near than and record a pass of the song. It was really cool to have them all together – it showed the really cool community we have, especially in our little corner of our music world.,
I AM THE FIRE (2015)
When we were discussing video treatments for that song, it was pretty obvious that we had to have fire in it. We filmed it in the desert in California, between LA and Joshua Tree. This isn’t a movie set, we were really set up in the desert – the local crew were, like, “Look out for snakes, man.” It was a location they did a lot of filming in. There’s a rock formation behind us during the filming, and it’s real – on the other side of that rock formation, there were actually some sets from some old western movies that were still set up and they used them for filming.
Apocalyptic is a fun song to play. It’s got a nice groove, it’s got a nice tempo, I’m able to get away with a lot of fast drum fills in there. Basically, it was written as a transitional song – something still had some of the lyrical content and feel of our previous albums, but was trying to kind of gently transition into the new sound.
Amen was the single after Apocalyptic, and that was kind of a breakaway from the old sound – I think we did try and break into a lot more of an alternative sound – it didn’t happen on purpose, it was just tied to the music we were inspired by at the time. The song talks about “my life, my life, my church” – all these things that are directly related to the world that we live in. We’re married to the music!
BAD ROMANCE (2011)
I’ve got to end it on a cover version. For me, the most fun covers to do were the ones where we take modern pop songs and try to turn them into something heavy and cool. when Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance came out, it was such an obvious smash hit song – the songwriting was just so well done – that was the first pop song we rocked up, and I think a lot of our fans really liked it because they secretly love the song but they weren’t really big pop music fans. When our version came out, it was, like, “OK, now we can appreciate the song and the heaviness.”