Halestorm's Josh Smith

Once known as the cigar-making capital of the world, the small York County hamlet of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, can now lay claim to being the birthplace of the hit rock/metal band Halestorm.
By Dave Roe ,

ONCE KNOWN AS THE CIGAR-MAKING CAPITAL OF THE WORLD, THE SMALL YORK County hamlet of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, can now lay claim to being the birthplace of the hit rock/metal band Halestorm. Formed in the late ’90s by siblings Lzzy and Arejay Hale, the band has dropped two studio CDs, two live discs, and no fewer than six EPs, all in less than ten years. Signed to Atlantic Records in 2005, relentless touring and recording lead to the big win: the 2012 Grammy for Best Rock/Metal Performance, for the song “Love Bites … (And So Do I).” Following the addition of guitarist Joe Hottinger, 2004 found Philly bassist Josh Smith completing the award-winning lineup. An intense and funky fingerstyle player, Josh’s lines are reminiscent of two of his heroes: Paul McCartney and Tower Of Power’s Rocco Prestia, helping to make Halestorm so much more than just a metal band.

Rocco Prestia? Interesting influence for a hard rock guy.

My dad introduced me to Tower Of Power at a very early age. Every time they would appear close by, my dad, my brothers, and I would go. As I got deeper into bass through lessons and school, my appreciation for him just kept growing. He can hold those 16th-note patterns in his sleep! And, like a lot of people, I grew up listening to and loving the Beatles. Paul McCartney’s beautiful bass melodies propel some of the most influential songs of all time. John Paul Jones is a huge influence as well; he’s the reason I’ve been adding keyboards into what I do.

Stylistically, the band covers a lot of ground: power pop, arena-style ballads, all the way to the punk 2/4 feel of “Love Bites.”

We’re a rock & roll band that’s still finding itself. We all enjoy a lot of different kinds of music. The stuff we’re writing for our next record is straightup rock. It’s all about the journey.

You and [drummer] Arejay have a loose, funky feel, different from the attack more typical in that kind of musical setting.

Every night is a surprise where that’s concerned. Our feel has always been a little loosy-goosey; we certainly have our own pocket. Arejay is a great showman, so that’s a factor as well.

You seem to be a solid Fender guy.

I am. Love my Fenders! Early last year, my guy at the company, Chris Boone, and I hooked up, and they made me my dream bass: a ’63 Reissue Precision. I wanted a P-Bass with gold tuners and hardware, and he ended up tarnishing them and it turned out just right. I’m quite sure this will be my primary live bass for some time. But in the studio, on our last two records, I used my Rickenbacker 4003 on most of the tracks. I love the way its midrangy sound cuts through. I also use a Gibson Thunderbird; that’s a real beauty.

When I saw you play live, I was intrigued by your use of the Dunlop Bass Wah.

I’ll crack it open and leave it in one spot. I use it on the verses and bridges of songs, not only to change my tone, but also to affect the dynamics, as it cuts the low-end frequencies. I don’t have much else on my pedalboard. I use a Dunlop volume pedal for tuning between songs, and I’ll use it to mute the bass when I transition to keyboards on tunes like “Rock Show”—I really love doing that.

Your use of Moog Taurus bass pedals is tasty and understated.

I like using them on the chorus sections of some songs, or sometimes I’ll wait to use them until the last chorus or on outros. They really beef things up and take the songs to the next level dynamically.

Lzzy and Joe now live in Nashville, while Arejay relocated to Los Angeles. What keeps you in your Pennsylvania hometown?

I love staying connected with my friends and family. We all go where we need to be—Nashville, L.A., or wherever. A lot of bands operate that way these days.

INFO

LISTEN

Halestorm, The Strange Case of … [Atlantic, 2012]

EQUIP

Basses Fender Reissue ’63 Precision Bass, Rickenbacker 4003, Gibson Thunderbird
Rig Fender Super Bassman, Fender 8x10 cabinets
Effects Dunlop Volume Pedal, Dunlop Bass Wah, Dunlop Bass Fuzz
Keys Moog Taurus Bass Pedals, Nord Stage 88 EX
Strings Extra-Heavy Dunlop Nickel