What was the riff that stopped you in your tracks and made you want to pick up an instrument? Gear Factor host Squiggy posed this question to the members of Halestorm at the recent Welcome to Rockville festival, and their answers gave insight into why they are one of hard rock’s best bands: they were inspired by the masters.
When asked what got her to pick up a guitar, frontwoman Lzzy Hale says, “The one for me was ‘Heaven and Hell’ by Black Sabbath,” referring to the title track of their 1980 album, which was their first after Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne. (Halestorm would later repay the debt to RJD, opening for the Dio-era Black Sabbath — who were called Heaven and Hell — and by covering Dio’s “Straight Through the Heart” for the Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life tribute album).
“It made everything seem possible,” she says of the “Heaven and Hell” riff. “‘It sounds like something I could do!’ That was the first for me. I was in Bethel, Pennsylvania on a twenty-acre farm, listening to it with my dad.” She adds that that was also the first song that she learned to play on guitar, followed by Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” Jett was another crucial artist in Lzzy’s life. Coincidentally, today both women have Gibson custom signature guitars.
The other members of Halestorm shared their first riffs with Squiggy as well. Drummer Arejay Hale recalled, “I’ve been playing drums since I was two or three, but when I was five or six or seven, I was in the car with my dad, and ‘Rock and Roll’ by Led Zeppelin came on the radio, and I heard that [drum] intro and then at the end, that drum solo, and I was like, ‘Oh man! This is so cool!’ And that was when I threw everything that I previously learned away and became a massive John Bonham fan, and wanted to take playing drums seriously.”
He adds that “Rock and Roll” was probably the first song that he learned to play, and his sister points out that “We ‘learned’ them, but they were attempts to play them!”
Guitarist Joe Hottinger says, “I remember being on the way home in like 5th or 6th grade going by Millpond in Hartford, Wisconsin, we were listening to the radio… [it was] probably a Nirvana song. It was the mid-’90s. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ or ‘Come As You Are.’ ‘I get it! I need it! Now!'”
As for bassist Josh Smith: “‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple. I remember being upstairs in my bedroom in Philadelphia, [sings riff] ‘Dah! Dah! Dah!’ ‘I can play this! I can do this!’ Yeah, ‘Smoke on the Water’ was it for me.”
Halestorm’s upcoming album, Vicious, will be available on July 27 and they’ll be on tour through the summer. Check out their tour dates here.