Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Senior Staff Writer/Contributor)
Adrian Vandenberg rose to worldwide prominence with Vandenberg, the melodic rock band that hit it internationally with the powerful ballad ‘Burning Heart’. Adrian solidified his status as one of the most talented rock guitarists around when he joined David Coverdale in the hard rock super group Whitesnake, co-writing many of its Billboard Hot 100-hits, like ‘The Deeper The Love’ and ‘Now You’re Gone’, and supplying the legendary guitar solo to ‘Here I Go Again’. After leaving Whitesnake, Adrian concentrated on his successful career as an artist, exhibiting his paintings in prestigious galleries all over Europe. Music however was always prevalent on his mind, so as soon as he had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented young musicians, he started creating new music. Vandenberg’s MoonKings are Adrian Vandenberg (guitar), Jan Hoving (vocals), Sem Christoffel (bass) and Mart Nijen Es (drums). The band has wrapped up their studio recording of their debut album self titled “VANDENBERG’S MOONKINGS” which is scheduled to be released via Mascot Label group on February 24th. We recently caught up with Adrian when he was over in London for two days of press to promote his new release.
“Hi Adrian, Mark Dean here from Myglobalmind”
Adrian”Hey Mark how are you”?
“I’m fine , how was the flight over?
Adrian”Oh, excellent thank you, it’s easy you know. Amsterdam to London is about forty minutes. You have hardly time to drink a Coke and you are there. It’s actually a nice day in London as well. How is Ireland, is it grey and drizzly like it was in Holland?
Its always that weather over here. The new album is your first music release in 16 years,so the obvious question is…what have you been doing?
Adrian(laughing)”I have been chasing women all over the place. Actually it was a combination of circumstances. First of all I wanted to catch up with my painting, I was an artist before music became my profession. I never had any illusion that I could make a living with the music that I enjoy playing which was a kind of blues rock. In Holland it was really difficult you know I never had any illusion that I could add anything to all the great stuff that was already out there. I felt that I had been missing painting during the thirteen years that I was touring the world with Coverdale. I wanted to catch up,but I had been planning to for a couple of years. Just to lay low for three or four years and do a couple of exhibitions and then record again. Right after the last Whitesnake tour one of my ex girlfriends had a daughter, and I didn’t want to be one of those dads that only sees their kid once a year. When my daughter was three we had to split up because our relationship wasn’t working. That was really difficult because my daughter went to live with her mum, which made sense because I live a pretty irregular kind of life. I didn’t get to see her as much as I would have liked to. I thought that it was an important thing in your life, to make sure that sort of thing goes in the best circumstances. Then there was another thing which was that when I ever paint or make music that I always try to keep it as close to my heart as possible. For some reason the little voice inside my head that I always listen to, wasn’t screaming loud enough that I should make an album, write music or whatever. In the end it lasted a lot longer than I was thinking or expecting. It took about ten years. A year and a half or two years ago,the voice in my head started screaming”HEY ADRIAN IT IS TIME” Another thing that sped it up was, my local soccer team from my home town FC Twente became national champions, and they asked me to write a song for them., like a kind of an anthem. I needed a singer for that and I stumbled onto Jan the singer with Moonkings. As you have heard he is an amazing singer. Suddenly my whole feeling about recording and writing again turned 180 degrees. This is it you know, it feels great and he is a great guy. We became friends, and I knew that I could get way more out of him than he even realized himself. I took basically a year to write and also to coach Jan and to push him further to do things that he didn’t even realized that he could do. The whole thing took until now, we recorded the album really fast because I wanted it to be spontaneous and right in your face. Raw rock,like if you are sitting three feet away from the bands rehearsal, that is what I wanted you to hear.”
What about the songs on the album. Where they all newly composed, or songs that you had written over the years?
Adrian” No they are all new songs, I didn’t really write in the last ten years, apart from some gypsy style stuff. I didn’t really play rock guitar either, I didn’t touch a guitar. For me it was just as fresh to have a 23 yr old drummer and bass player in my band .”
An obvious question that I am sure you have already been asked today is regarding the musical re connection with David Coverdale on the new album. You mentioned the new guy Jan, as an old and longstanding Whitesnake fan I found it actually very difficult to distinguish on the album between his vocals and those of Dc.
Adrian(laughing)”That is going to be a big compliment for Jan and will make him happy. He doesn’t imitate Coverdale by any means but first of all I was a fan of David way before I joined Whitesnake. I grew up when he joined Deep Purple, I became an even bigger Purple fan than before. My favorite singers have always been guys like David, Paul Rodgers, soul singers like Otis Reading and blues-based rock singers. Jan happens to have one of those voices but the main thing for him is big influences are early Rod Stewart with the Faces, Coverdale , Paul Rodgers the same singers that I like. When I stumbled onto Jan by coincidence, I thought wow! how is it possible that a singer with a voice like that is walking around Holland. He has a big farm, he is a farmer, how is this possible? I could not believe my ears. Of course the kind of music that I wrote for Moonkings is the kind of music that I have always written. The reason that David asked me to join Whitesnake was we have the same influences. When I write that kind of music and I like those type of singers its pretty logical. He has lived his whole life as a singer and I said to Jan take it as a compliment. I would rather have people saying that than Justin Bieber, and people like One Direction.”
So put me out of my misery how many tracks does David actually sing on the album?
Adrian”Just one, only on “Sailing Ships”
Surprising as I have listened to it several times and a few tracks including the opener “Lust and Lies”definitely screamed out Coverdale’s vocals to me.
Adrian (laughing)”Jan is really going to get a kick out of this, he doesn’t want to sound like Coverdale but he is one of his influences. He grew up on Coverdale, Ronnie James Dio, early Rod Stewart and that kind of stuff. The thing is that is the way that he sings, sometimes initially he was holding back and I had to go “Jan go berserk, do what you feel” At the same time if you listen to a song like “Breathing”or “Out of Reach”or whatever he sounds differently. There are some moments where he sounds like John Fogerty or Ronnie James Dio but its like that kind of singing”
So much for me being a die hard Whitesnake fan and being able to distinguish Coverdales vocals. Saw you a few times over the years with them in 1988, 2 nights in Edinburgh with MSG, and Donington in 1990. To follow up on that link. The “Sailing ships”song has a lot of history for you and David. Why did you decide to rerecord that on this album?
Adrian”Well David has been pushing me a lot over the last ten years, to record a record. Finally when I told him that I was working on one, David said that “it would be an honor for me if I could sing a song on your album.”I replied that the honor would be completely mutual. David was then on the road for the whole year so we didn’t have the time to write a new song. I always wanted to do another version of “Sailing Ships”, because I wrote the song and the music for it actually for my mum. She was always saying for me to write another acoustic song for the album. I originally intended it to be a little more understated than it ended up on the Slip of the Tongue album. I really thought that I could add something to it by making it a little bit more melancholic and more reflective. Bringing in real violins which I had always pictured with it, so I made it a little slower. I thought it would be great to do a different version and also what I like about how it ends up on the album is that it is like a symbolic nod to my 30 yrs with Whitesnake. I thought that it worked great because if I had put like a new track somewhere in the middle of the album it would have been strange. David in the middle with a similar song ”
In many interviews you have always said that you would not rule out the possibility of working with David again…
Adrian “We remained really good friends after Whitesnake and we know that sooner or later that we will do something together. Whether that is just writing or maybe a little acoustic tour, or…I don’t know. The thing is with Moonkings that I really mean it as a serious band that I want to keep together as long as I can. I am extremely happy with this band and I am so fortunate having these players on my album from my hometown even that I never pictured that. A lot of people have been asking me why didn’t you form a super group you know, with well known players. I find that a little boring you know. First of all a super group that deserves that kind of label….”
To be fair the Whitesnake lineup that you were a part of already has fulfilled that?
Adrian”Well its a super group because everybody is performing with this great energy and we have this great chemistry. Like you said maybe Whitesnake was one of the first kind of super groups, sort of thing. I have found that its become predictable and you read about it much more these days. You know right away how the band is going to sound, and that it will just last for one or two albums and then that’s it, because egos start to clash and stuff. I didn’t want to do that. I thought it was so much more exciting and surprising if you come up with these young guys that make a great album and put together a great band under a new name. Originally I just wanted to call it Moonkings but the record company that we would really like you to add your name. I said well I am going to design a logo, and I am going to put it in really small letters-so I can take it out as soon as I can.”(laughs)
You have just 2 Uk dates, I’m assuming from what you have indicated to me that the live band will be the same that played on the album?
Adrian”Yes, this is definitely a band.”
Have you decided on the set list for those shows? Will it be solely Moonkings new material or will you also be revisiting your musical heritage?
Adrian “Yeah we have to because there is not enough songs for a full set but also, it is something that I have wanted to do anyway. To do one or two Vandenberg songs, and a couple of Whitesnake songs , and also to do surprising covers. We need more songs, and also because I thought that it would be really cool to do a cover of a song that nobody would expect from me. I have a couple of interesting ideas that I think will be surprising to people.”
Looking back to the period of time that you were in Whitesnake, you had to take a break as you had a health l problem..Just wondering how is your health these days?
Adrian”Well I am a very healthy guy, I never have health problems just a cold maybe every few years. At the time I didn’t take a break for health reasons it was just for my daughter and for painting. During the Slip of the tongue I hurt my wrist, with some wrong exercises and that’s why I couldn’t play on the album at the time. I was fine right after that again and I did the tour. The Donington show was right after that.”
How do you view that period in Whitesnake in the MTV era of success and excess? What was the most extravagant thing that you ever purchased?
Adrian”To me I am a very down to earth Dutch guy, I feel 100%European and not American. I never really felt comfortable with that part of the eighties. It was a lot of fun, I had a lot of laughs. A little bit too Americanized, over polished and over produced all of that never really appealed to me. Every time I had a five or more days off, which rarely happened I flew back to Holland. Once or twice a year I would hang with my friends, drink beer in my local pub. For me looking back at that it was almost like you are playing in somebody’s movie that you really didn’t audition for. Apart from the fact that I always loved playing with David because he was always one of my heroes. I really loved playing with Rudy ,and Tommy and Vivian and all those guys.”
Were you a fan of those earlier more blues based albums like Trouble and Ready and Willing before you joined the band?
Adrian”Yes I was a fan before I joined Whitesnake .As a matter of fact I told David once that when he left Deep Purple or when Deep Purple fell apart I think that I was in my teens or something. I remember writing a letter to EMI Holland as I was such a big fan of David to pass onto EMI London that I would like to audition for David if he was going to start a new band. I never heard back from him and I recorded my own album when I was about twenty one”
That would have been Teaser?
Adrian”Yes ,it was very much like an early Free/Bad Company,early Whitesnake type of vibe. The funny thing is that the Moonkings album was recorded in exactly the same studio that the Teaser album was recorded with exactly the same microphone and everything. It was very full circle for me. It was time to start a new circle”
Through both your painting and your music you have made a career as an artist. Where your parents creative and artistic themselves? Did they nurture your creativity? Are there any other artistic forms or mediums that you would like to pursue?
Adrian”Well my father was a professor at the university in my home town. He only confessed to me about three years ago (he is 88 now) that he would have loved to have been a professional jazz musician because he is a great piano player and a great trombone player. My sister is a classical piano player, and her daughter is a classical violin player who plays on this album as well. There was always music in the house, my father’s father was called Adrian. I am named after him, he also did music and painting at the same time. He was a fantastic Dutch Master styled painter plus he played piano and organ in a church. He also built organs himself too.”
Have you any other interests or hobbies?
Adrian”Oh yes, I am actually a very enthusiastic chef. I love cooking because for me it is all the same thing. Like painting you are pleasing your senses in a visual way. With music it is with sounds but in cooking your taste buds, you combine flavors, you combine chords and sounds. A very good friend of mine is a Michelin starred chef, and his frustration is that he wants to be a guitar player. I have met more chefs like that, that are way into music. There is a chef in Holland that has 2 or 3 Michelin stars and he is a huge Acdc fan. In his kitchen he plays their music at a blasting level when he is cooking. It is a posh place where all the rich folks go. Every now and then when the kitchen door opens they hear a “Whole Lotta Rosie”, and wonder just what is going on. I know a lot of chefs that are way into heavy rock.”
How do you view the current music industry? Obviously it has changed significantly since you first started?
Adrian”Yeah it has changed a lot, I don’t really care that much about it. What I think is really positive in the last couple of years is that its back to what it used to be in that a band has to be good live. If not then you can forget it as far as rock bands go. In the eighties there was a lot of bands in the States that were not particularly great bands but they made good records because they had expensive producers, musicians and stuff. It separates the men from the boys and that is what I like. With Moonkings I would love to play smaller venues, that with Whitesnake we didn’t because we played huge venues for years.”
You want to get back to playing small in your face club type shows?
Adrian”Yeah, I approached the Whitesnake management on a couple of tours to ask why cant we please do a couple of club shows in poorer countries. It keeps your feet in the mud you know, and it is really important. I love it when you can make eye contact with the people that you play to and you have a better sound in smaller places. For me I am dying to go out there with this band, I am really confident about it because those guys play incredibly well. ”
Do you have plans to return to the UK and do a more extensive tour? I note this time its confined to just 2 dates in England.
Adrian “The main thing is that we want to hit all those countries in a relatively short period to let people know that we are there and that we can play. We want to come back as soon as we can especially to the UK, we would also love to play in Ireland. I have never played in Ireland and Isle of Man. I had a little stint with Thin Lizzy as a matter of fact.”
Yes I believe that you auditioned for them. Just a final question what are your plans with Moonkings?
Adrian “Well play as much as we can, and in the meantime I want to start writing for the next album. I really want to keep Moonkings together as a band for as long as I possibly can. This completes a circle for me when we recorded in the same studio as Teaser. I think that it is time to start a new circle. I can’t remember being this excited about an album that I did. The tour is starting all the way basically from scratch. That for me is so much more challenging and exciting..”
Great to have you back creating music and performing live again .Welcome back and thanks for talking to us today. Congratulations on a great sounding album and I hope to get to see you and Moonkings live in the UK very soon. It’s a pleasure as a fan to talk to you.
Adrian”Let me know if you can come to see us it would be a pleasure to shake your hand and have a Guinness with you. Thanks very much, take care and good bye.