The Red Alert may not have seven harmony singers like the Van Trapp Family from the movie, The Sound of Music, but they are made up of three members of the same Hanewinkel clan, who each play an instrument in addition to singing. The rock trio from the environs of Tulsa, Oklahoma have the energy level that blows audiences away. The sister-brother team of Christy Hanewinkel on drums/lead vocals and Hank Hanewinkel III on guitar/lead vocals can mark the exact date that they decided to start the band. It was on June 27, 2003 that a then impressionable fourteen-year old Hank and eight-year old Christy asked their parents to drive them to see The White Stripes perform in Oklahoma City. The show changed the young Hanewinkel’s lives forever. They were inspired to write their own songs and start their own band with their uncle, Phillip Hanewinkel playing the bass guitar. After self-releasing a full-length CD in 2005 entitled Put On Your Game Face and their EP, Extended Play in 2007, The Red Alert’s fan base keeps growing and reaching beyond the environs of their home state of Oklahoma.
What is it about the White Stripes that you and Christy really like? What attracted you to their music and style of playing and why do you think you were so deeply affected by The White Stripes? Hank: I think the idea of how simple they keep things is what first attracted me. Phillip saw them in Oklahoma City in 2001, right before they got huge. They weren't on MTV yet. He showed me pictures he took, and was telling me about them. He then played their album "White Blood Cells" for me, and I was immediately hooked. I was amazed at how two people could pull off a sound, that many 4 or 5 piece bands could only dream of having. The number 3 was also a key ingredient in the mix. Im the third Hank in the family, my dad being junior, and my grandpa was senior. So i identified with them. Everything the White Stripes do revolves around the number 3: 3 colors (red white black), 3 instruments (guitar, drums, vocals), so and so forth. When we saw them live in 2003 on the Elephant tour, my appreciation for them grew even more. They sounded like a jet, or a locomotive coming straight for you. It was very powerful, and intense. Thats when Christy first showing interest in playing drums. After she saw Meg White.
Did you grow up learning about music by working in your father’s recording studio or did your dad want you to learn to play instruments through music lessons in school? Are you self-taught on any instruments? Hank: My dad is completely self-taught. He plays just about everything. I am also self-taught, although my dad showed me how to play guitar. I've never had any lessons other than trumpet. I played trumpet in band at school from 6th to 12th grade. I also played drums in the high school Jazz Band for two years. I've played drums since I was 2 or 3. And I started learning guitar at around age 10. I also play bass, and piano. I've always been around my dads studio, so it's safe to say thats had a big effect on me. I constantly think about music. It's something I've wanted to do since I was a kid, and it's still my absolute favorite thing to do.
What is it like growing up in Oklahoma? How would you describe your hometown? Does it offer young musicians many opportunities to use their talents? Hank: Oklahoma is a very interesting place. Contrary to what many people think, there aren't any cowboys or indians still fighting. haha. Tulsa has a alot of great bands. The only problem is, there aren't enough venues to cater to all of the great under age bands. A lot of the places here are 21 and over. I think that Tulsa's music scene is at a great point right now. There are younger bands with great talent, and a lot of the older bands are still playing. It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next 5 years.
How did you feel when you and Christy accepted the Debbie Campbell Young Musicians Award? Did it make you feel like role models for other aspiring musicians an songwriters? Hank: Well, Debbie was a great Tulsa singer who did a lot for charity. Unfortunately she died from cancer at a young age. That night was great! They had a lot of Debbie's friends playing throughout the evening, honoring her, and what she accomplished in music. When they were finished, we set up our gear, and then they presented the award to us. They also gave us some cash which was not expected. I felt that we had really achieved something. Someone took notice of what we were doing, and really loved it. It was a great night.
When did you make the transition from playing other recording artists material to writing your own songs? What motivated you and Christy to write original songs? Hank:Christy and I were "The Red Stripes" from June of 2003 till December of 2005. We played all "White Stripes" songs, mainly because of how much we loved their sound, and them as people, and also to let Tulsa hear their music. The White Stripes have never come through Tulsa. In June of 2005, Christy and I started writing our own songs. We started to realize around that time, that we could only do so much as a tribute band. There are alot of restrictions when it comes to doing that. We always wanted to write our own music together. I had been writing music since i was 10 or 11. But I had never written anything with Christy before.
Do you remember the first original song that you and Christy wrote? What was the inspiration for the song and how did the music come together? Hank:"Tulsa Calling", from our debut original album "Put On Your Game Face", was the first song her and I collaborated on. She started playing the drum beat that's in the intro of the song, and I just started playing random chords, which ended up being what is on the record.
How did you come up with the name The Red Alert? Who came up with the name and why did it stick with you and Christy? Hank: When we were recording the first CD, we were constantly coming up with names. We knew we wanted to keep Red in the name, so that people who knew us as "the Red Stripes", would know who we were. We had a notebook with probably 100 names. I believe Phillip came up with The Red Alert, and everyone liked that one. For one thing, "Red Alert" is said in almost every episode of Star Trek from the 60s. (One of my dad and I's favorite shows). So that was a plus.
How did The Red Alert get to be on the TV show “Show Me St. Louis?” What was the experience like? Did you and Christy feel comfortable in front of the camera? Hank: A family friend in St. Louis contacted them about us. It was a great experience. We were set up right outside of the studio in the middle of downtown St. Louis. There was a small crowd gathered around watching. We were totally comfortable in front of the camera. We've never really had stage fright before.
I read in Tulsa World.com that you have a passion for filmmaking and you taped Christy performing at the H.O.P.E. Divas Benefit Concert. Do you see yourself going into filmmaking some day? What is it about making movies that intrigues you? Do you have some favorite movies that you will watch again and again? Hank: I first started editing video after we played at the Warped Tour in Dallas. We took a few cameras with us, and filmed every bit of the trip. I wanted to be able to edit all the footage together, just for a video that I could give to the family members that went down there with us. My parents bought me Final Cut Pro video editing software, and a Macbook Pro laptop for graduating high school. Ever since then I've edited various little projects. I directed and edited our video for "The Only One", and I have the entire night from the H.O.P.E. Divas show that I've been working on as a documentary. Some of my favorite movies are: White Christmas, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and of course...Spinal Tap.
Do you think that Christy is a Diva? How would you describe Christy’s personality and what it is like working with her? Hank: I would have to say Christy is the opposite. She's the best sister a guy could ask for. We love the same music, the same movies, the same TV shows. Working with Christy is really fun. She has something a lot of drummers do not have...timing. She has great timing, and thats one of the things she gets compliments on the most. Besides pounding the drums harder than a lot of grown men. haha.
What was it like performing at the Cains Ballroom for the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Battle of the Bands? Were you surprised when you won that round? How did you celebrate? Hank: By that time, we had already played at Cains several times. That stage is amazing to play on. The history that place has is completely jaw dropping. Everyone has played there. Not to mention it is the home of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. It was a sold out crowd of 1700 people. It was amazing to look out at that many people, and have them all cheering for you. There were some great bands in that competition. We were surprised to get 1st. We celebrated by having our family back to our house for pizza.
What was it like working with the Lennon Bus producers in making your music video, which enabled The Red Alert to be voted the National Champions of the competition in 2006? Who worked with you on the shoot and what was the experience like? Hank: Jacob Voelzke filmed and edited our video. He is a really nice, down to earth guy. We still keep in contact with him, and we actually just saw him a few days ago. The bus just came through town for this years battle of the bands. We had a great time on the bus recording/filming. The bus was parked near downtown by the Arkansas River, and we did alot of filming by the river, and on the bridge that crosses it. I personally loved how all of the recording and film editing could be done on the bus. It was a great experience.
Did you have expectations when you played the Warped Tour show in Dallas as winners of the Lennon contest? What is it like being on the Warped Tour stage? Hank: No expectations really, we were just happy to have the opportunity. It was exciting because we got to meet Kevin Lyman, the creator of Warped Tour. We were told the stage we played on was entirely solar powered. So that was really cool. The stage was set right by one of the major walkways, so there were a lot of people filtering through, and watching.
Do you have any lasting memories about the Warped Tour whether in Dallas or the shows you played in St. Louis? Would you like to play on the Warped Tour stage again or do you have other ambitions? Hank: The most lasting memory from the Warped Tour was how hot it was. Dallas, Texas in the middle of summer. It was 111 degrees, and the show was on the parking lot of an arena. We played around at around 12:30 in the afternoon. It would be great to play the tour again. The shows in St. Louis are always fun, because my dad's family is from there. So all of our family who never get to see us, come out to the shows.
What are the two songs that you wrote with your dad on Extended Play? What was it like writing songs with your dad and taking directions from him as the producer for Extended Play? Hank: We didn’t write together on Extended Play. We cowrote some songs on our first album. We always enjoy recording new songs with our dad. He wrote both songs that Christy sings on Extended Play.
How did your Uncle Phillip become a member of the band? What does he add to the mix? Do you feel a generation gap between the way you and Christy play compared to him, or is his style of playing agreeable with yours? Hank: Phillip was 9 or 10 when I was born, so we've always been more like cousins. We recorded bass on our first album "Put On Your Game Face", so we needed to have someone playing live. Phillip has played with me on several occasions. Talent shows at school, that sort of thing. So he learned all the songs, and played with us at the CD Release Party for "Game Face" at the end of 2005. He officially joined in February of 2006. Phillip adds a lot to our live sound. Christy and I were able to achieve a fairly large sound when we were playing as a two piece, but with Phillip playing he brings a whole new sound to the table. Phillip and I are best friends, and we love all the same music. He's a perfect fit for the band, and we have a blast writing/playing.
When you wrote the songs for Extended Play did you think about how they would sound played live? Was this a concern of yours about how you would re-create the songs live on stage? Hank: The only song I was worried about was "Feather On The Wind". I recorded alot of guitar tracks on that one. And there was also a Fender Rhodes track my dad recorded. What we do live, is I play drums to a metronome in headphones, and we send the extra music (guitars, Rhodes) straight to the PA.Christy comes out front to sing, and Phillip stays on bass.
Are you working with a booking agent or have a manager? Are you worried about how the music industry might want to package The Red Alert? Who do you and Christy want your music to appeal to? Hank: Right now, our dad handles the booking and managing. I'll book a few shows here and there through our myspace. I think that if someone from a label or management company saw us, they'd see us for who we are. We are a family that loves music and each other. I wouldn't want to be packaged as a kid, or teen band. The music means too much to me to do something like that. I think our music can appeal to anyone who likes Rock N Roll.
When you aren’t working on music, what do you like doing? Hank: When we aren't playing, I like to design posters. All of the posters you see on our myspace for shows, are designed by me. I also like video editing, photography, playing/watching baseball, and reading books about my favorite musicians.
What are your thoughts about the Internet? Since it’s a device that your dad did not have accessible to him when he was growing up, do you feel like it gives you an advantage that previous generations of musicians did not have? Has the Internet been useful for The Red Alert? Hank: The Internet has been very useful for us. If wasn't for Myspace, or the internet I wouldn't be doing this interview right now! We've met a lot of great bands online from all over the world. And we've received friend requests from some fairly famous people. It's a great tool.
I remember seeing these guys at a Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis a few months ago. I'm not really into their music, but I guess I'm glad for the success they are having.
I have to wonder how far they would be getting if their father hadn't produced their albums in his own studio and managed and set up their tours himself. Depressing what a few connections or some money can get you, but at least their Dad is supportive.