Vandenberg and ex-Whitesnake guitarist Adrian Vandenberg Interview
INTERVIEW WITH VANDENBERG AND EX-WHITESNAKE FRONTMAN ADRIAN VANDENBERG
Date: June 16, 2020
Reviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Band Websites: Vandenberg, Adrian Vandenberg’s Art
When we last heard from Adrian Vandenberg, he was working hard to promote his band Vandenberg’s MoonKings. Fast forward a couple of years and Adrian has teamed up with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow singer Ronnie Romero for a new incarnation of Vandenberg. They issued a new album on May 29th on the Mascot Label Group titled ‘2020.’ Sleaze Roxx caught up with Adrian and we chatted about the new album, the new recording of the Vandenberg hit “Burning Heart,” Whitesnake of course and his work with Manic Eden. Enjoy the interview.
Sleaze Roxx: The new album sounds just like what I expected in you teaming up with Ronnie Romero. How did you connect with him?
Adrian Vandenberg: It was a little bit of an unusual story. About five-six years ago, Ritchie Blackmore who is one of my favorite guitarists announced that he was going to do some Rainbow shows. I was kind of surprised, because he’s been quite vocal that he wanted to continue doing his acoustic stuff and medieval music. I was curious as to who was going to sing, because Ronnie James Dio had passed away and whoever the singer was, he’d have to be very good to execute Dio era songs properly. I went on YouTube to check out Ronnie Romero and he just blew me away. I read that he was a guy from Chile. I was amazed and how he sounded like a mix between Ronnie [James] Dio and David Coverdale in their best years. It was amazing.
I found a way of contacting him and sent an e-mail congratulating him on his gig in Rainbow. He immediately wrote back thanking me for the kind words. He went on to say that he was a fan of mine. He said that he discovered my playing on the acoustic album that I did with David Coverdale which was the ‘Stalkers In Tokyo’ album in 1997. That album was just guitar and vocal. That was when Ronnie Romero started singing. He said that he hoped we could meet someday. That was about five-six years ago.
When I was looking at putting together a new line-up for Vandenberg, I knew that I would have to find an incredible singer. I didn’t want to do a nostalgic type of thing. I wanted to get a kick ass line-up that could move the band forward. I remembered my short exchange with Ronnie. I sent him an e-mail to enquire about what he was doing and if he was interested in joining forces for a new Vandenberg line-up and album. He responded right away that he was interested. I flew to Madrid [Spain] where he currently lives and met to see how it went. We had immediate chemistry. I went right back home and started writing songs with Ronnie’s voice in mind. I recorded demos for a couple of months, then we went to L.A. to record the album with Bob Marlette and the record was released May 29th. It’s been quite a journey to get from there to here.
Vandenberg‘s “Freight Train” lyric video:
Sleaze Roxx: How did you decide that Bob Marlette was the guy to produce the album? He’s worked with a lot of ‘modern’ or ‘contemporary’ artists, but he’s also worked with Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath.
Adrian Vandenberg: It was a suggestion by our A&R guy at Mascot Records in the United States. We asked him if he had worked with producers that he felt would suit what we were doing with Vandenberg. He gave me a list of names and Bob was in between the list of names and like you said, Bob has this wide range as far as production credits. I wanted a record that sounded modern, but that was heavily rooted in the ’70s and ’80s. I called Bob and we made a connection and ironically enough, it turns out that he’s really good friends with Rudy Sarzo. I explained to him that I wanted him to make the record sound like he was walking into a band rehearsal and he was sitting in front of the stage watching the band. I wanted everything loud. The guitars are loud, the drums are loud, the bass is loud and the vocals are loud. I wanted that organic sound. I didn’t want something that was ‘overproduced’ then layers of keyboards or overdubs. He agreed that he felt that would benefit this band and he could do that for us. I didn’t even bother calling anyone else. After our conversation, he was the guy and in talking to him some more as we started the record, there was no question we made the right choice. The band liked him really well too. We recorded the album very quickly, we got the whole thing done in 2½ weeks. I hope you can hear the spontaneity of it all.
Sleaze Roxx: The music on ‘2020’ — was there anything on here that was from the ‘Vandenberg Vault’ or is this all fresh new stuff?
Adrian Vandenberg: [Laughs] Good question! It’s all fresh new stuff! I wanted to be inspired by whoever I got as a singer. That what I have always done whether it’s MoonKings or David Coverdale, I get inspiration from who the singer is. Ronnie was very inspiring, as you can hear, he doesn’t have any limitations. He can sing anything. He can do melodic and bluesy stuff. I could tailor the songs to the vocal melodies.
Sleaze Roxx: You did recut the Vandenberg classic “Burning Heart” which was the hit for Vandenberg in the United States. Was that your way of connecting the past with the present? What was the idea behind that?
Adrian Vandenberg: That was our hit worldwide actually. Your suggestion was right. About five-six months ago, possibly a little longer, the label wanted to put out a press release announcing the new line-up. My manager said “Well, a press release is just a press release. Everyone and their grandma does that.” He suggested that it would be best if there was some music attached with it. Well, at that point, we hadn’t recorded the album yet. I remembered that with the rhythm section of Vandenberg’s MoonKings, we had recorded the basic tracks to “Burning Heart.” We had done that in case we needed a bonus track. I realized that I just needed to get to Madrid and add Ronnie to it. So we could have music for the press release. I initially didn’t have any intention to put it on the album. When we were done with the album, the label asked why we weren’t including that on the record. I was opposed because I didn’t want it to be a nostalgic thing. The idea was to move forward with new music. I listened to the song objectively and like you said, it was a nice symbolic bridge that merged Vandenberg 1982 and Vandenberg 2020. I felt that it didn’t feel ‘dusty’ and it fit well in with the new material, so we put it on the record.
Vandenberg‘s “Burning Heart” 2020 version:
Vandenberg‘s “Burning Heart” video:
Sleaze Roxx: What’s the status of MoonKings? You released a couple of studio albums and acoustic material and you were building that and gathering some momentum.
Adrian Vandenberg: I’d like to do more stuff with MoonKings but Jan [Hoving], the singer, has this big farm in Holland. Because of his responsibilities related to his farm, he can’t tour outside of Holland. That was a little frustrating to me, because I want to play in the United States again. I can do that with Vandenberg when we get the go ahead once the virus clears. I could do the occasional show in and around Holland with MoonKings around Jan’s schedule. We’re still good friends and there are no hard feelings, but that’s the reality with MoonKings. So MoonKings is on the backburner and we’re moving forward with Vandenberg. We should be touring Europe right now, but no one could have foreseen the Coronavirus thing happening like it did. The tour has been postponed until November-December. We hope that we can do those dates, but no one really knows what is going to happen.
Vandenberg’s MoonKings‘ “What Doesn’t Kill You” video:
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned your desire to play in the United States. Would you be open to doing a package tour to hit bigger markets in the U.S.? Whitesnake with Vandenberg being the middle band on the bill would be wonderful.
Adrian Vandenberg: Oh yeah! That would be great wouldn’t it? I like the idea of doing a package. I know that is a popular thing in the States. It’s a lot of fun for fans to see a lot of bands from the same era and I hear that a lot of teenagers are getting into that music. I hear that this kind of rock music is making a comeback. In the ’90s, ‘grunge’ would make you depressed and rock and roll like this is uplifting. It makes people cheer, jump up and down and it even makes girls flash their boobs [laughs]! In Europe, there are festivals catering to this kind of rock which is great. It has a resurgence.
Sleaze Roxx: You mentioned Whitesnake. We know your history with that band. You’re still close with David and he’s about to release a new Whitesnake compilation at the end of this week titled ‘The Rock Album.’ You just can’t get away from your connection to Whitesnake. In fact, you’re featured on the album and there’s an unreleased song that you played on on this collection.
Adrian Vandenberg: Yeah I’m on that. The song you’re referring to is “Always The Same.” What a great time that was in Whitesnake with David, Tommy Adldrige and Rudy Sarzo, Steve Vai and everyone that was in that band. It was amazing to be a part of. Every time I would wake up in whatever city we were performing that night, I would think this is amazing. No one can take this amazing experience away from me. I knew it would end at some point, but I was part of that and those memories will live forever. I look back at that time with a big smile on my face, because it was just so much fun. I’m very proud of having been with Whitesnake for 13 years. I was a big Coverdale fan having discovered him during his time in Deep Purple and then followed his career with Whitesnake. I love David’s bluesy, soulful vocals both in and out of Deep Purple. His work on the ‘Burn’ record with Glenn Hughes is just incredible. I cherish that time to this day.
Whitesnake‘s “Always The Same” video:
Sleaze Roxx: What was your favorite song to perform on stage?
Adrian Vandenberg: Oh, there are so many! You can’t do this to me [laughs]! There’re so many songs that have such chemistry and energy when we perform them. One is “Still of The Night,” another is “Slide It In,” “Love Ain’t No Stranger,” obviously “Here I Go Again.” That always set the place on fire. Let’s see…”Crying In The Rain,” “Bad Boys,” there so many [laughs]! I wrote the song “Light Up The Sky” as a tribute to the vibe that we were in with Whitesnake. Ronnie did a great job on that and it has a definite Whitesnake vibe to it. It makes sense. David used to say there was a very good reason why he asked me to join Whitesnake. That was because of my songwriting. We had similar influences and our writing styles were similar, so when we started writing together, it jelled very well.
Sleaze Roxx: So when you perform as Vandenberg with the new line-up, do you plan on sticking to Vandenberg only material or do you plan on sneaking in some Whitesnake. I asked you earlier about your favorite track to perform and you couldn’t keep it to just one you rattled off about ¼ of the Whitesnake set!
Adrian Vandenberg: [Laughs] Well, you’re right! [Laughs] I’m not too secretive about things. Both Ronnie and I have our connection to Rainbow and Whitesnake, so you could say that we are now both part of the [Deep] Purple family tree. We talked about it right from the beginning where we thought that it would be great to include a couple of Whitesnake and Rainbow songs in the set. I think we could do most of the new album and if we have room, we can add some classic Vandenberg songs and do some Whitesnake and some Rainbow.
Sleaze Roxx: What a dilemma to have.
Adrian Vandenberg: Yeah, there’s no room for a drum solo!
Sleaze Roxx: And you’d have to cut the guitar solo short.
Adrian Vandenberg: Well, I don’t have any problem doing that. If you listen to my records, I try to limit the length of my guitar solos. That would not be a problem at all. I think if the solo goes along for too long, it evolves to look how fast I can play and that’s not me. I’ve always been a fan of Michael Schenker and Jeff Beck for that reason. They play what the song needs.
Sleaze Roxx: Last thing, I have to ask you about Manic Eden. Thinking back now, how do you feel about that band and album? Ron Young was the singer. He was your label mate as Little Caesar was also signed to Geffen in the United States.
Adrian Vandenberg: I’m so proud of that band. In fact, a little bit of an exclusive for you, Mascot is going to reissue the album because it was only available in Japan. I always get asked by fans on how they can get it and it’s not available, so soon, they will be able to get it. When we started out with Manic Eden, we started off with another singer James Christian who was in House of Lords. It didn’t work out how we wanted. When that didn’t work out, I immediately thought of Ron Young. At the time, he had parted ways with Little Ceasar and he had this really bluesy vocal. I thought he’d fit in so well with what we were trying to accomplish with Manic Eden. It was a strange time for a record like that because it was right in the middle of the ‘grunge’ era and here we were doing this melodic, bluesy, rock and roll album. We did an acoustic tour of France of all countries.
Then I got a call from Coverdale who had worked with Jimmy Page and that didn’t do very well. David was hoping on extensive touring. When that didn’t happen, he wanted to fire up Whitesnake again. David and Jimmy had done some shows in Japan and that fell apart after that. He called me and asked, “How would you feel about doing something again as Whitesnake?” It was so difficult because I wanted to continue with Manic Eden, because it was such a great band and a great record. I went with back with David because when we went in to record the ‘Slip of The Tongue’ album, I wasn’t able to play on that because I injured my hand and I wanted to play on a Whitesnake album so bad, so I went on to play on the ‘Restless Heart’ record, then we did the ‘Stalkers In Tokyo’ album.
Manic Eden‘s “Do Angels Die” video: