Interview with Adrian Vandenberg (Moonkings/Whitesnake/Manic Eden)

It’s been a long, long time since we heard any new music from Adrian Vandenberg but he’s back with a great new band and album. Mick Burgess caught up with him on the eve of the release of Vandenberg’s Moonkings

Your new album Vandenberg’s Moonkings is out soon. How do you feel on the eve of its release?

It’s really exciting and I know everyone says that about their record but for me I’ve been away for quite a while and I’ve had the opportunity to reset my whole feelings towards music, being creative and the whole music business in general. As fun as it was in the ’80’s and indeed, in the ’90’s everything becomes quite formulaic. I have been able to reset my frame of mind and make a record just the way I like it.

Did your label give you a free reign to produce the album you wanted?

My new label just asked me to make a record the way I want as they liked my stuff in the past so that was a very nice situation to be in. There were no A&R guys breathing down my neck and I was just like a kid in a candy store. I think it’s an album that I would want to buy myself if someone else had made it. I think that is the most pure way you can make a record. If you can’t please yourself then how can you expect to please anybody else. I am very happy with it and I think people are going to like it.

It’s been quite some time since your last album, 1997’s Restless Heart with Whitesnake. Did you decide to take some time away from the music business to do something else?

I concentrated on my art but I never intended it to be this long. In 1999 when I got off the road with Whitesnake, from what was essentially a farewell tour, I thought I’d catch up with my painting for a couple of years before I got back in the saddle. What happened is that my girlfriend and I had a baby girl. When she was 3 we split up and my girl went to live with her Mom. If I’d gone into the studio and out on tour I’d end up being one of those Dad’s that sees their kid once or twice a year and I just didn’t want that. I wanted to see her grow up so I thought I’d give myself another couple of years.

What was it that brought you back to your music?

There was nothing screaming at me in the back of my mind telling me to do this or that until a couple of years ago when I ran into Jan when I was recording a song for my football team FC Twente. That was kind of fun to do. I wrote the song but needed someone to sing it and it was working with Jan that started it all off again.

Where did your singer Jan Hoving enter the story?

Whenever Whitesnake comes near me I’ll jump up on stage with them for a couple of songs. Before the show I’m usually backstage talking to David and so I don’t usually see the support act. This time I’d read a review that mentioned this fantastic singer and I just had to check him out and it was Jan and I knew right away he would be perfect for this song. The same went for the bass player and drummer. FC Twente asked me to play the song at half time so I started looking around for players and a friend recommended Sem and Mart. I remembered seeing them about 10 years earlier at a local talent contest and Mart was already an incredible drummer then and he was only 12 years old. I told him if he was only half as good as he was 10 years ago then he was in. Mart and Sem had been playing together since they were 15 and they are both fantastic musicians and really great guys. They are also big fans of Zeppelin, Free, Whitesnake and all the stuff that I like too. They also like bands from now like the Foo Fighters so musically I want to try to build a bridge from the good stuff from the ’70’s and now.

Jan Hoving is quite a vocal talent. Were you looking for someone with that classic Rock singer style when putting the band together?

He was exactly what I like in a singer and he has that style that all of my favourite singers have. Jan was a farmer and he played in bar bands. He’s 39 and has this big farm outside of my home town and it’s amazing that someone just walks around with a voice like that while working as a farmer. People have compared him to David Coverdale, Paul Rodgers, Steve Marriott and very early Rod Stewart when he was with Jeff Beck. It’s amazing that I happened to run into a guy with a voice like that.

How long did the writing process take?

I wrote the album over a period of about a year. Sometimes I didn’t write for two months or so as I was just messing around with sounds as I wanted it to fall together in a natural organic way. It took only 2 or 3 songs before I knew the direction I was going to take. I recorded the album in the same studio that I recorded my album with my first band Teaser and that band was influenced by Zeppelin and Free and all these years later I’m still doing the same thing. It’s in my blood you know.

Did you write all of the material or did the whole band contribute?

I wrote all of the stuff myself including the lyrics because I really enjoy writing. I’ve been doing that all my life except in Whitesnake when I wrote with David. That’s the first time I’ve done that as ever since I was a kid I got used to writing by myself.

How many songs did you write during those sessions?

We used everything on the album that we recorded. When the record company asked us for bonus tracks for Japan I didn’t have one. They asked me to use one of the ones on the album as an exclusive but I couldn’t separate them from one another so I just said I wanted them all to be on the album, so there’s no bonus tracks for anywhere else. You’ve got everything I’ve done on this record.

Were you all in the studio together or did you do your parts separately?

We recorded everything live and did the odd overdub and fixed some vocals here and there. Most of the time I didn’t record an extra rhythm part to fill the sound out as I always liked the dynamics of the ’70’s bands when the bass and drums are going crazy during the guitar solo. I just liked the difference in the sound when that happens, not like in the ’80’s where you had a lot of layers of guitars, keyboards and vocals. They were so over produced and I never liked those even in the ’80’s. I like it straight in the face.

What were the dynamics like in the studio during the recording process?

We locked in so well together that we didn’t need to record with a click track. It’s a lot easier doing overdubs later if you’ve recorded with a click track but I didn’t want a lot of overdubs, I wanted a natural, organic sounding record. I wanted the record to sound like you’re sitting a couple of feet away from the band at a band rehearsal. I didn’t want it to have layers and layers of sound. So many people still love Zeppelin and Free as it’s so honest and when it’s honest it’s timeless. If you go for hyped sounds and use the latest ways you become outdated very quickly. There’s a reason why 14 year old kids still pick up on Zeppelin and Hendrix and that was the way I wanted to record the album. I wanted it to have a very live, natural sound that can be recreated on stage without losing any impact. Jan is so enthusiastic in the studio. I would have to drag him away from the microphone when he was getting a little tired but he just wanted to go on.

David Coverdale sings on a cover of the Whitesnake song, “Sailing Ships” that originally appeared on Slip of the Tongue. Why did you choose that one to cover?

David and I always stayed in touch. He’d been getting onto me for the last 10 years saying “Come on you lazy Dutchman, make a record”. The time was right for me to start writing and David said it would be a pleasure to sing on a track and the pleasure was all mine. Seeing as he was on the road a lot we didn’t have the time to write a new song. I always had the feeling that it would be nice to have another version of “Sailing Ships” that was a little more melancholic, a little more reflective. I wanted to put some violins on there too and get David to sing on it. He put his signature soulful vocals on there and I’m really happy with it. I like the way it closes the album, it’s like looking over your shoulder giving a nod to the great 13 years I had with Whitesnake.

Jan’s voice is very comparable to David Coverdale’s and doesn’t sound at all out of place next to his.

A lot of people are comparing him favourably to David and to Paul Rodgers and Jan is really happy with that as they are his heroes. He’s flattered by that. Sometimes singers take offence at being compared to another singer but Jan is really happy with the comparisons. After all it’s a lot better than being compared to Justin Bieber!! He’s also very excited that he’s on the same album as David. He thinks that’s so great.

Slip of the Tongue was a difficult album for you as you’d co-written all of the songs but injured your hand so Steve Vai played the parts. Did the music turn out how you’d originally envisaged it?

It was quite hard and frustrating for me. It was like giving your baby away. Steve is a brilliant guitarist as you know so it was great to be able to bring him in to do the record but it was quite bitter sweet for me. I would have loved to have played those myself and it would have ended up much more like Moonkings as that’s the approach that I take when writing and recording. Everything happens for a reason and that’s part of life and shit happens so you have to roll with the punches and get on with your life.

Would you like to re-record these songs with the Moonkings sometime?

That’s a really interesting idea and who knows one day. The great thing about having Jan in the band is that we can do those Whitesnake songs and we’ll definitely do a couple of the songs live and I’ll be able to play it the way I’d originally intended on playing it.

Before you sent the promos out for review were you worried at what the critics would say or did you feel confident that you’d made a great album?

To be honest I was a little egotistical about it. I didn’t really care what anyone thought as I was so pleased with it and if you can’t please yourself you can’t please other people. I always miss this kind of music as I’m always wanting to buy music that sounds like this so I thought I’d make a record that I’d like to buy myself.

What are your touring plans to promote the album?

We’ll do three shows in Holland then go to Madrid, then Belgium, France and the UK and we hope to do some festivals too but we really want to come back to the UK and do way more than the two shows we are doing so far. We wanted to hit as many countries as we could at first and then come back and play more shows later.

Have you thought about a set list? Will it be a mix of Moonkings, Whitesnake and Vandenberg songs with a touch of Manic Eden too?

I want to be able to play one or two Whitesnake songs from my time with them and a couple of early Vandenberg songs too. Jan handles them all so well. He has such an incredible voice. We’ll be doing a couple of Manic Eden songs in there as I think they are pretty close soundwise to where I am at with the Moonkings.

Another guitarist who has been away for awhile and who’s come back with a great album is Jake E Lee who has just released his Red Dragon Cartel album. Have you heard that?

Oh, yeah, that’s a great album. It’s funny as I knew Jake from way back when Vandenberg supported Ozzy and we got on really well and he’s a fantastic guitarist. It’s strange how we’ve both come back at a similar time although he’s been away even longer than me. It’s so good to see him back and I particularly liked the stuff he did with Badlands. That was a great band and Ray Gillen left us far too early.

That would be a great co-headlining tour if you both toured together?

That would definitely be something to consider. I think that’d be a really good idea. I might call his manager and see what the possibilities are.

Talking of Vandenberg. You toured the UK back in 1982 with MSG. Was that your first tour outside of your home country?

That was my first tour outside of my homeland with Vandenberg but before that my band Teaser toured Germany. The Schenker tour was my first proper tour and the first time I’d ever played in England so I was very excited to do that and play with Schenker who was at his peak back then. He was a fantastic player and that tour was a lot of fun.

What do you remember about those UK shows with MSG?

I love to play in the UK. That’s where all of my heroes came from, Zeppelin, Free, Cream and Jeff Beck. It was a really exciting time for me to play at some of those venues that are just such legendary Rock venues. It was incredible. It’s just the coolest country and I want to come back as soon as possible and play a lot more than the two shows I have booked already.

The music business has changed so much since your last record. What are your aspirations for the Moonkings and what would you consider a successful record in this day and age?

I don’t really think that much about the industry anymore. I think the good thing now though is that it separates the men from the boys as far as the shows go. It’s more important now that a band can deliver live than it was in the ’80’s where a producer could make a band sound good in the studio. Now you really have to be able to deliver live. There may not be as much money in the business now but so what. Music is supposed to be something that you do from the heart and you shouldn’t think about the business side too much as it may influence your artistic decisions. I just take it as it comes. The main reason for me to make music is to write, play live and play with a great bunch of guys and get a kick out of it playing live shows.

Your new album is due out very soon and you’ll go out on tour soon after. What else have you got planned for 2014?

I’ll definitely be focusing on the music. It’s really heart-warming seeing the reception that I’ve been getting. I had no idea it would be like that, I just wasn’t prepared for it. It’s so surprising that so much is lined up even before the record is out. I’m getting offers flooding in from all over. What I’m planning to do is to play as much as possible this year and also start preparing for a new album as I don’t want to wait two years in between records. I’d like another album out next year.

Vandenberg’s Moonkings is released on 24th February on Mascot Records.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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