Interview by Robert Cavuoto
After a 35 year hiatus, Vandenberg are back with new members and a new studio CD, Vandenberg 2020, due out May 29th via Mascot Records.
For this fresh iteration of the band, Adrian Vandenberg has brought Ronnie Romero of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow fame on vocals. Together they are a formidable musical team that merges the best of Whitesnake and Rainbow.
Ten soulful, maximum-blues based rock songs that showcase Adrian’s fiery guitar playing and Ronnie’s versatile vocal strength! From the hard-rocking opener of “Shadows of the Night” to the infectious closer of “Skyfall,” Vandenberg have delivered a powerful melodic CD that will appeal to any music fan. The band consists of guitarist Adrian Vandenberg, vocalist Ronnie Romero, bassist Randy van der Elsen [Tank], and drummer Koen Herfst [Epica and Doro].
I spoke with Adrian about his desire to resurrect Vanderberg, how it differs from Vandenberg’s Moonkings, and what fans can expect from Ronnie Romero’s voice.
Robert Cavuoto: If my memory serves me and my math is correct, it’s been 35 years since you last released music under the Vandenberg name. What made you revisit Vandenberg?
Adrian Vandenberg: Yeah, time flies [laughing]! In the last year of working with Moonkings, I started to realize I want to expand my musical horizons with some harder, faster, and heavier songs. At the same time, it became apparent that Moonkings’ singer, Jan Hoving, who is a good friend of mine, couldn’t tour outside of Holland for more than one of two days because he owns a large farming business. It became a problem as I really wanted to tour aboard. I’m fortunate to have a reputation around the world but was a little frustrating that I wasn’t able to do anything with it. Those two things made me think, do I change the singer of Moonkings, or do I dig up the Vandenberg name from the grave? I opted to get new members for Vandenberg and write some kick-ass hard rock songs to make it a fresh new band. It turned out better than I could have ever hoped for.
Robert Cavuoto: How did you and Ronnie connect?
Adrian Vandenberg: It’s an interesting story. When I read that Ritchie Blackmore was doing a few Rainbow shows, I was wondering who the Hell was going to sing because my favorite period of Rainbow was with Dio. I checked them out on YouTube and Ronnie sang all the songs amazingly well. I was blown away. I spontaneously wrote him a short congratulations message through Facebook. I wished him luck and success but also told him not to let this business drive him crazy. I was recording the first Moonkings album, so I didn’t have any other ideas or plans with him. I got a note back saying thanks; that he was a fan of my work and one day hopefully we can meet. When I started on this new Vandenberg band, I thought it would only work if I could find an incredible singer. I didn’t want it to be one of those tired and uninspired nostalgic trips. Suddenly I thought of Ronnie and after five years I wrote him so we could meet. I went to Madrid, where he lives and we talked about a possible band situation. We made a connection and recorded a few demos. Before we knew it, we were in the studio.
Robert Cavuoto: Did you have these song ideas completed, or did you build them around Ronnie’s voice?
Adrian Vandenberg: I actually wrote songs to Ronnie’s capabilities which are limitless. I’ve always liked to write music that was tailored to the singer so you get the best out of them and the music. When I decided to move forward with Vandenberg, I thought it would be great if I could find an incredible singer. I didn’t want it to give the impression that we are a nostalgic thing and digging up the old band members who sounds a little tired from the earlier days. When we did connect, he told me the reason he started singing was because he heard me and David Coverdale on the Restless Heart CD. Ronnie was thrilled to get together as he had been doing a lot of session work over the last five years. He preferred to be in a band like this one. It worked out perfectly for everyone.
Robert Cavuoto: When I first listened to the CD, I thought Ronnie sounded like Ronnie James Dio on songs like “Ride Like the Wind” and “Hell and Highwater.” By the time I got to “Shout” and “Shitstorm,” I thought he sounded more like David Coverdale. After a few more listens to the CD, I felt he has his own unique style. What is your impression of his voice after recording with him?
Adrian Vandenberg: I had the exact same impression you did. It’s logical when you hear an established singer like David Coverdale or Ronnie James Dio a million times to naturally think someone reminds you of them. In the case with Ronnie, you can hear all of his influences yet still hear his unique voice. He has Coverdale influences, yet at the same time he has the timbre of Dio. I also hear some Bon Scott in there as well. He can do the high stuff like Steve Perry of Journey or Freddie Mercury of Queen if he wants to. He is a fan of great singers. I hear three words in a line and instantly recognize Ronnie because he is pulling from all those great singers.
Robert Cavuoto: “Shout” is a ballsy rocking song and my favorite on the CD? Tell me about its creation.
Adrian Vandenberg: I like guitar riffs, as you can tell. Some of the songs have more riffs than other bands will use for an entire album. “Shout” was the song that I wrote the quickest. When I finished writing for the CD, I felt I was missing one specific tempo that I like to use. I wanted to write a song to a beat I had in my head. Suddenly it came out very naturally and quickly. When I went back to see if I should add anything, I immediately thought I should take my hands off it. Otherwise, I would spoil the song by polishing it too much. “Shout” is actually Ronnie’s favorite song as well. “Shout” and “Shitstorm” are two of the songs that you can hear all of Ronnie’s influences.
Robert Cavuoto: You have a killer guitar tone throughout the CD, but I love the tone on “Shitstorm.” Are you using a slide on the verses and did you intentionally change the guitar tone for that song?
Adrian Vandenberg: I used a slide for Moonkings but not on this CD. What is easy to mistake for a slide is something I do quite often. I like to slide my hand while changing chords to give it some movement rather than just banging from chord-to-chord. I always adjust the guitar tone to the vibe of the song. “Shitstorm” was more aggressive, so I needed more edge and increased the gain.
Robert Cavuoto: Any plans to connect with David Coverdale on a future project?
Adrian Vandenberg: Just like James Bond, I never say never. David is really happy with the current line-up of Whitesnake as he should be. It’s a great band and I’m extremely happy with this band. I couldn’t have wished for a better line-up for revisiting Vandenberg. Ever since I heard Ronnie on YouTube, he instantly became one of my favorite singers. I’m a fan of blues-rock singers like David Coverdale, and Paul Rodgers; Ronnie fits right in there. At the same time, he can go all the way up like on “Hell and High Water” with an incredible screaming type of highs without actually screaming. It’s done in a very natural way. I want to see how far I can get with this band and tour worldwide. I really haven’t toured outside of Holland in the last 40 years other than some small tours with Moonkings. Now I can’t wait to hit every country possible!
Robert Cavuoto: I follow you on Twitter; you have an edgy sense of humor with your posts. I look forward to reading them each morning as they make me laugh.
Adrian Vandenberg: Thanks, that’s great [laughing]! I’ve always liked writing; besides music. I wrote a column for a music magazine and enjoyed it. Whenever I see a funny picture, or I get an idea to connect a story to a picture; something rolls into my mind and I write it down. I never think about it twice and post it. Sometimes I’m laughing too, as I like to tickle people’s brains and tease the girls. There are always a couple of girls that Tweet me back that they are annoyed; so mission accomplished. [Laughing!]