By Andrew Catania
Adrian Vandenberg is the talented king of rock ballads, the guitarist with the cleanest and most harmonious solos, and a musician who was active in the golden times when music was music.
In addition to his finely calibrated guitar wizardry and his leadership guise, Vandenberg brought his songwriting ability into the bargain. With creativity like that, it was almost impossible for Vandenberg to stay away from the spotlight for long.
Vandenberg opened his eyes in The Hague, Netherlands. He was one of those people who was born with the knowledge of their calling. His first foray in the music industry began as the lead guitarist of a Dutch band, Teaser, and together with the members, he released his first self-titled album. Shortly after, Vandenberg started his very own band, named after himself. This was the time when Vandenberg got a chance to exhibit his full potential.
Vandenberg, Alibi, and Heading for a Storm are the three albums he released in the 1980s.
It was impossible for the music buffs and even non-buffs to not fall in love with the soulful ballad Burning Heart. With its emotionally-rich lyrics and resonating clean guitar riffs, the song will pull at your heartstrings even today.
The song Friday Night was another one that received massive applause from the audience. These three albums kick-started Vandenberg’s career, and that’s when he was approached by David Coverdale to join the Whitesnake. A few years later, Vandenberg accepted the offer.
At first, the guitarist only served as a session musician, covering up for the fired original members. However, his talent was too loud to ignore, and he soon became an active participant in the follow-up albums. Vandenberg was the co-writer of many of Whitesnake’s successful hits.
In 2013, Vandenberg formed a band called Vandenberg’s Moonkings and released his first album a few months later.
How was his journey so far, what is he planning to do next and what keeps him busy these days?
Today, we are sitting down with the brilliant genius himself to hear him talk all about it.
What have you been up too?
AV: We’re starting the tour. We began touring in Holland last weekend, and I’m going to continue doing that until the middle of January. I’m very excited about the acoustic album. It sounds strange to some people that I feel like I’m just getting started like I was at 17. It’s exciting to play with a band like this and make the kind of music that I love. I haven’t changed as far as my faith goes because I still listened to anything between Cream to Kings of Leon. As long as there are guitars in it and preferably loud, I’m in.
I wish you’d tour the states, but like most European bands trying to come here, it doesn’t make economic sense.
AV: My manager is looking into it. We look at every reasonable offer that’s presented to us. The cost of shipping equipment and personnel makes it hard to break even. That’s a pity too because we’re doing very well and the album is getting great reviews.
Your new acoustic album has been receiving excellent reviews. What made you do one?
AV: I wanted to do an acoustic album like the one I did with Coverdale Starkers in Tokoyo. I thought it would be a beautiful bridge between the second and the third Moonkings Album. I’ve done a couple of promo things with Ron Young, the singer of my band, and it’s such a different vibe I like the dynamic difference between the acoustic and electric.
When you put together Moonkings, in your mind musically what did you want to put out?
AV: You’re going to have quite a lot of connections to the Whitesnake album because that’s the reason why Dave and I got together. We both like guitar, blues rock with a little bit more melody than usual in blues rock. I started writing music that I would like to buy myself If I could find it. I do hope people enjoy it as much as I did writing and recording it.
The injury that sidelined you from recording Slip of the Tongue, you found out it wasn’t your wrist?
AV: it was a severe injury. It was shitty. When we were initially in the studio, I went to a physical therapist where we were recording, I went to an acupuncturist, I went everywhere, and nobody could tell me what it was. When I had my dad on the phone, he told me to find an alternative therapist. I found a therapist in Holland that specializes in nutrition. Most professional musicians are going to have issues with their wrist, arm or back like violin players usually have shoulder problems or a drummer could have a back issue.
I went to the clinic, and they discovered the problem. They found that the problem didn’t come from my wrist itself it came from my neck. I realized that I had a car accident back in 1981 and I developed whiplash. Nobody spoke about whiplash at the time; they called it a pain in the neck. I stayed home for two or three weeks. The pain in my neck subsided. I had an x-ray done back then The clinic said It’s probably coming from your neck and they did Xrays, and it showed that the discs in between the vertebrae in my neck that I developed a hernia. I had two hernias pressing against the nerve that goes with my right hand, thumb and index finger. That’s how you hold a pick.
Back in 1991, I had two surgeries in the United States to remove the bulging disks. So over the years subconsciously I developed the tendency to put more expansion in my right arm. It took quite a while for me to get back to the original way I played guitar.
I know it’s been quite a process. I didn’t have any problems, and it was just in time to do the tour with Steve Vai. It was a shitty circumstance. But, I did record and tour with Whitesnake when the Restless Hearts album was released. It was released only in Europe, but it will be released in the US soon. I’m not sure about a specific date.
Restless Hearts will be released in the US?
AV: Yes. There was a problem with Geffen Records at the time. Whitesnake was always released in Europe on EMI, and because they were arguing with Geffen, it never got released in the states. David is going to release it in America.
Any special plans for the 30th Anniversary of Slip of the Tongue?
AV: Yes! I’m going to be re-recording a bunch of guitar parts for a special edition of the Slip of the Tongue 30th Anniversary next year. I’ll be putting my stamp on the album that I couldn’t due to my injury.
How did you and David hook up?
AV: When the first Vandenberg album came out, and David heard it., He asked me to join Whitesnake in 1982 when Burning Heart and became a hit worldwide. I was a big fan of David. I told him I couldn’t do it because first of all, I want to see how far I could take Vandenberg, I wanted to try and make a mark on my own before joining David because I knew I would be joining him sooner or later because he’s one of my favorite vocalists. We stayed in touch, and he asked me a couple of times between 80 to 86 if I had changed my mind yet, I thought it was a great time to join forces and we started working together. So that’s basically what happened.
With the 87 Album, were you there at the tail end when David decided to let John Sykes go?
AV: They asked me if I could make a different arrangement on Here I Go Again. I put a guitar solo on it; I was in the back of the studio working on the four-track cassette recording the new solo when I heard the discussion going on in the studio between David and Keith Olsen discussing John’s departure from Whitesnake. John was still in England and jumped on a plane to come to speak with David.
By then, they already asked me to join Whitesnake. David’s mind was made up.
What are your plans for 2019?
AV: Aside from re-recording guitar parts for a special version of Slip of the Tongue and I’m going to start working on the third Moonkings album. We should begin recording sometime in March-April’ish.
Any plans to join Whitesnake for any shows?
AV: I’m going to talk to David. We can do special things; I think it would be great. It would be kind of silly not too. I hope we can do something.
For more information on Adrian Vandenberg and Moonkings please visit their social media:
Vandenberg’s Moonkings Online