Intervju med Adrian Vandenberg.
Adrian Vandenberg har precis som nyligen återuppväckte Jake E Lee, stått sidan om scenen under många år. Under alla åre han var borta från musiken hade han bl a nöjet att se sin dotter växa upp, vilket han ansåg vara viktigare än allt annat i livet.
Med sitt nya band Moonkings är han nu tillbaka och omger sig med yngre holländska förmågor, där sångaren Jan Hoving bär en del vokala likheter med hans forne arbetsgivare David Coverdale. Adrian gav ett mycket sympatiskt intryck och berättade om sin handskada, turnén med Steve Vai och att det inte är helt omöjligt att han kommer slå Jake E Lee en signal och snacka minnen.
You´ve been away from the music biz for quite some time now?
Adrian: When I stopped playing with Whitesnake back in ´99 after 13 years, I really missed my painting so I just thought I´d pick it up again for 2 or 3 years and then get back to the rock business again. Then I had a daughter with my then girlfriend, we split up 3 years later, and I realized that if I would go back out on the road I would be one of those dad´s who wouldn´t see his daughter grow up and she wouldn´t know who I am. I thought that was more important than anything else and decided to lay low a little longer and spend time with my daughter. It then lasted longer than I thought it would, since she´s 14 now. I was also waiting for the voice in the back of my head, since I always want to stay close to my heart and my instincts and the voice wasn´t screaming loud enough, but it started screaming really loud about 2 years ago and it was about fucking time! What sped it up was that my local soccer team became national champions 3 years ago and I was asked to write an anthem for them. I did that and started looking for a singer and I didn´t wanna fly back and forth to the US and England and I hadn´t kept up with was what going on in Holland since ´86, but all of a sudden I remembered a review of a Whitesnake show when I joined them on stage 3 or 4 years ago in Holland. It mentioned that the support act had an amazing singer and that he would fit for Whitesnake. I found him and he´s a farmer and has a huge farm close to my hometown. When I found him he thought it was a joke, so it took quite a while for him to react. We hooked up for just one song but it went so well and I got really inspired. A similar thing happened with the bass player. I was in the jury of some local talent contests about 10 years ago and in two different contests he won. He had a great rock attitude. I ran into him 2 years ago and said “If you´re only half as good as you were 10 years ago…” and that was it. It´s a pretty unusual story because everybody expected me to work with well known guys, but I find that a bit boring and usually they break up after 1 or 2 albums, so it has more a of a project feel to it. Moonkings I really want to keep together as a band and I look at it as a band and not just a one off thing. I thought it would be much cooler to surprise people with a couple of unknown guys.
How long have the songs on the album been around?
Adrian: It´s all new stuff. I wrote it all in the last year. I do have a lot of ideas, but I always get the most excited when it´s fresh and it pops up in my head.
Adrian: Yes, there were, but “Sailing ships” was always very important to me and as you know I wasn´t able to play on the “Slip of the tongue” album because of my hand injury and it was very frustrating. The song was always very close to my heart and I thought it would be really great to do aversion that was more what I had in mind when I wrote the music for it. A bit more melancholic and reflective and I also thought it would be really cool to put real violins on it and keep it a bit understated. Normally I would´ve done the big end as on the “Slip of the tongue” album, but I just felt it didn´t make sense to do a similar thing. I think it worked out really nice and it´s the last song on the album, like an encore. It feels like I´m looking back over my shoulder to the Whitesnake days with all the great memories. David was on the road when we did it and we would have considered getting together and write a new song, but at the same time when I told him about this idea, he was really excited too. He´s been pushing me over the last 10 years. We are in touch regularly and he´s always going “Come on Adrian, you lazy Dutchman!”. When I told him about a year and a half ago, that I was working on a new album, he said “Great and it would be an honor for me if I could sing a song on it!”. When I told him about “Sailing ships” he thought it was a great idea and he had the same feelings about it and that it deserved another version. When he came back from South America he only had 2 days at home because he had to get knee surgery don’t to his knees, so I recorded everything in the studio in Holland and then I sent the file to David and he put his emotional, soulful vocals on it and I´m extremely happy with it. It´s one of the great things with modern technology.
Were there songs that ended up as leftovers that could be used for another album further on?
Adrian: Not real songs. There are 13 songs on the album and almost 65 minutes of music. It´s almost 10 minutes longer than most albums, but I just couldn´t decide which song to leave off. In Japan they always want a bonus track and when the record company asked what song I wanted to leave off the album I couldn´t decide and just said “Fuck it! Put them all on there!”. I´m already working on lots of ideas and in my head I´m writing all the time and I´ve done it since I was 6 or 7. I get ideas all day long. Sometimes it´s tiring and I wake up in the middle of the night. Over the years I´ve developed confidence that it will either stay in my head if it was a good idea or if I don´t get up, I´ll have other ideas. It´s a blessing and a curse at the same time, but I really love writing. I love writing and painting and cooking too. Cooking is like painting with flavors. To me it´s all the same. You´re basically trying to inspire your senses.
How about a Vandenberg cook book then?
Adrian: Yeah, I should think about it. Then again, I would have to give away all my secret recipes. (laughs) Then I couldn´t surprise or impress girls anymore.
Are you gonna be touring with the band?
Adrian: Yeah, we´re starting a tour in about 3 weeks and we haven´t even started rehearsals yet. It´s a European tour and we´re starting it with 3 shows in Holland and then we do Spain and Germany, France, England, Belgium and more countries are being added. I´d really like to play Scandinavia.
Any plans on opening up for a bigger band and do more of a world tour?
Adrian: If we get a chance we really will. Right now we´re doing a lot of medium sized to bigger clubs, which I really like because I haven´t done that since the Vandenberg days. There´s a lot of requests coming in and we have to figure out how to put it together.
You´ve got your birthday coming up (January 31). How do you feel about getting old?
Adrian: Well, it may sound stupid but I don´t really realize it and I don´t feel it either. I´m in really good shape and it´s just when I see the number that I go “Oh shit!”. I don´t realize it at all. I´m so far away from the connection between the number and how I feel. I do exactly the same things like I did when I was 17 and I´m just as excited about it. I just hope I can do this for another 20 years at least.
Are you gonna play Whitesnake and Vandenberg stuff live as well?
Adrian: Yeah, we have to since we only have one album. I wanna doa couple of Whitesnake and Vandenberg songs and I wanna do unexpected covers of artists, so it´s gonna be a lot of fun.
You were born in and grew up in the Hague. What was it like back then? Was there a lot of music around?
Adrian: When I was 5 we moved from the Hague to Rotterdam and when I was 12 I started playing in local bands with guys that were a lot older. Then when I was 14, we move to where I live now. When I grew up in Rotterdam there was definitely a rock scene around. The town where I live now, there was a band playing at the first school party I was at and they played “Fire and water” by Free. I asked a guy in one of the older classes who I know was into music and asked him “What´s that song?”. He told me it was Free and then everything just changed. Up till that point I was mainly listening to Hendrix and Eric Clapton and Free was doable. Hendrix was so far out from the regular world.
You played in a band called Teaser. That´s a pretty common band name. Jake E Lee also played in a band with that name and then you had Tommy Bolin´s Teaser.
Adrian: Yeah, I put a band together when I was 21 and I thought it was a great name and I was also a Tommy Bolin fan and because of that name I went with Teaser. The funny thing is that Jake E Lee and myself we have a lot in common. Vandenberg supported Ozzy in the States and we got on really well. I did and interview with a Japanese magazine a couple of days ago and the interviewer mentioned that I had a lot of similarities with Jake. I looked up an interview with him and it´s so ridiculously similar, the long time we both have been away and our attitude towards rock and the business. It was almost like reading an interview with myself, apart from that I got my band together in a completely different way. I was thinking about getting in touch with him and talk to him, since it´s been such a long time. It would be fun to catch up.
Adrian: Yeah, it was ok. (laughs) About 60 % girls every night which is not bad. (laughs) It was really amazing and it lasted for a couple of years until 90 or 91. It was great, but at the same time I was a very down to earth Dutch guy. Scandinavians have a similar attitude and we don´t get caught up too easily in the Hollywood lifestyle. I didn´t get caught up at all because as soon as I had 5 or 6 days off, I always flew home because I wanted to keep my feet on the ground. I´ve always been realistic with the whole thing, even back with Vandenberg because it could all be over by tomorrow and I´ll just go back to my painting. Back in those days with Whitesnake, I´d get up in the morning and pinch my arm and go “Wow, not bad for a Dutch guy!” so I enjoyed every bit of it and I still do because I know I experienced something very few Europeans do. It gives you a sense of responsibility too because there are so many incredible musicians and guitar players that don´t get a chance and I think you should handle something like that with responsibility and not fuck it up. Just enjoy the ride.
Were there times when you felt it was just all moving too fast?
Adrian: Nah, not really. With Vandenberg we were already on our way and supporting guys like Ozzy and stuff, so I got a taste of what it could be like and when I joined David we didn´t really have a band together, it was just him and me. Nobody could predict that the “1987” album would become that big. When I played on “Here I go again” and rearranged it, I just thought “This is gonna be cool!”. David was at his peak and his singing was unbelievable. Every night he sounded just like on the album. It was really exciting and then when Rudy (Sarzo) and Tommy GAldridge) got involved, it was really cool. When Vandenberg supported Ozzy, Tommy was in the band and when Vandenberg started headlining in the States, Quiet Riot was supporting us. I knew those guys and it was really exciting and there was a great camaraderie in the band and we just had a blast, as you can imagine.
What was it like playing with Steve Vai later on?
Adrian: We got along really well and it was really interesting. Probably because our styles are so different. I´m not a competitive guy and Steve probably is, but he didn´t feel that with me. I don´t care. When Steve demanded a lot of attention, I just stepped back because I do what I do and I have a tendency to under play instead of over play in a case like that. I like to play the right note on the right spot. At the same time it´s a great learning experience because with a guy like Steve, it´s great to do a tour with a player like him. We got on great. It was just really strange when I wasn´t able to perform on the album (Slip of the tongue) and then hear his view on it and his playing. He had a such a different approach it was almost like an out of body experience when I heard the tracks for the first time. In my mind I had them a certain way and a much rawer approach and at the same time it was the 80´s and production was more smooth and ironed out and full of reverb.
As I understand it, you injured your wrist while playing the piano?
Adrian: I´ve always played piano, but what happened during the recording was that I practiced a lot in the mornings to stay in shape and then I worked on the arrangements in the afternoon as much as I could. I picked up this book that had these exercises that showed you how to keep your hands subtle if you´re a piano player. I did a few of those and one of them was to shake your wrists pretty violently and I just felt like “man, it´s probably the way to go, since it´s in the book.”, but it taught me to not believe anything I read. (laughs) I really over stressed my tendons and I didn´t realize it then. After a while my hand felt a little strange and from one day to another it felt like someone was holding my wrist when I was playing. It took about 6 months to get rid of it and was right on time for the tour.
As a musician it has to be really scary? Are you constantly “looking out” for your hands?
Adrian: I was at the time and then I realized later that it´s not the right thing to do. It was almost like I was keeping them in a box. You have to keep your muscles in shape too and at that time we had assistants for everything. They picked up your luggage and took it to your room, so I wasn´t really carrying anything around. After a certain period of time I felt like “Fuck that!” and I wanted to do everything. You need to use your muscles, but you always need to be a bit careful. Just like a singer´s taking care of the throat. I´m more easy with it now. These days I just work in the garden and lug around tree trunks.
Your art then? Did you have any formal training? Art school?
Adrian: I went to art university before Vandenberg. I did about 6 years at an art university and then I taught artistry for about a year right after my studies, but I realized it was not for me. It was a too regular life, but there were a lot of pretty girls in the class room and I was only 2 years older so it was pretty nice. (laughs)
Did you paint or draw while you were on those big tours with Whitesnake?
Adrian: I tried it a bit and brought some paper with me and stuck it to the walls in the hotel room and started sketching, which is actually what happened when I took up painting again in ´94. My art evolved and I wasn´t realizing it. I painted very realistically. I compare it to when in the Vandenberg days, it was like writing a song, a composition, and later on it was more like a spontaneous guitar solo you do live.
One thing I´ve always wondered about Holland is that just like Scandinavians you´re pretty good at English, but there aren´t that many Dutch metal bands around. I guess Within Temptation is the biggest one now. Why do you think that is? You´re smack in the middle of Europe and have all the influences from the US and Britain.
Adrian: One of the problems is that Holland isn´t really a rock country. When a big band plays here it´s usually only one show. It also has to do with the country being very small of course. The other thing is that radio over here is really terrible. A couple of days ago I was in London doing interviews and I talked to all these rock stations and they´re hugely popular and we don´t have that kinda scene in Holland. The fans are there, but it doesn´t get promoted. It´s not fair because there are so many people that love it. By the way, I really hope I can come to Scandinavia soon. I haven´t played there as much as I would´ve liked. Hopefully we can make up for that.