ADRIAN VANDENBERG – The Dutchman Returns

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Adrian Vandenberg

Once upon a time, a young Dutchman rose to fame for his prowess on a six-stringed instrument called a guitar. He even had a band named after him (Vandenberg), and then joined one of the biggest bands of the 1980’s (Whitesnake). He traveled the world with that guitar, making hearts happy. But then that Dutchman disappeared from the music world for many years and everyone wondered what he had been doing. Well, that Dutchman is Adrian Vandenberg, and he is back! Four years ago, his new band, Vandenberg’s Moonkings released their first album together and this November, they released their sophomore album, MKII.

Many people might expect Vandenberg to put together a group of names that everybody already knows. A supergroup, if you will. But when he put together the Moonkings project, he had a different plan in mind, choosing young musicians from Holland to join him on this leg of the musical journey.  As for drummer Mart Nijen and bassist Sem Christoffel, Vandenberg had run across them almost a decade ago, but they were a little too young to collaborate with at that point.“ I judged both of them in two different talent shows in my hometown when they were about fourteen,” he shared. “And I was amazed by their talent, and coincidentally, I ran into them when I was kind of starting writing for Moonkings, and they asked me, ‘Can we audition?’ And I said, ‘Well, no!’ And they said, ‘Well, why not? Are we too young?’ And I said, ‘No, if you play half as good as you did about ten years ago, you’ve got the gig.’ So it was quite coincidental.”

He went on to describe the addition of vocalist Jan Hoving, by saying, “Jan, the singer, I ran into in a totally different way. Whenever Whitesnake plays in our country, I always get on stage with them for one or two songs and one of those times, a couple years ago, I read a review of the show. I didn’t see the support act, because I’m always chatting with David [Coverdale] because we don’t see each other as much as we would like. So I was chatting with David in the dressing room and I didn’t see the support act. Later, I read a review about that particular night and in the review it said, ‘Well, Coverdale’s gonna have a pretty stiff competition from the singer of the support act.’ And I knew the journalist from that magazine and I knew he had his musical knowledge together. So I thought, ‘Man, I should check this guy out.’ And he appeared to be amazing and he’s young. He’s got a huge farm company pretty close to my hometown, so he’s really busy with the farm as well. So I try to plan around it as much as I can, and kind of combine it.” So it happened a couple of times where we played a huge festival in Holland for 50,000 people or something and an hour and a half later, he called me up and he told me that he was back on his tractor again- his machines. So it’s pretty surrealistic actually.”

Although he had the majority of this album written quite some time ago, some unexpected circumstances caused a bit of a delay. “Well, it’s a spread over quite a period of time because during the last tour, I appeared to have been infected with Lyme Disease,” shared Vandenberg. “It took a delay of pretty much a year or something. I’m really happy I got over it because a lot of people don’t…Then the studio was booked so we had to move that forward and the engineer was booked so we had to move that forward…I was pretty much finished with about 80% of the songs about a year and half, maybe even two years ago. But in the meantime, I kept writing so there were a couple of new songs added as well- newer than the batch from a year and a half ago, so the whole process, over a period of time, probably took about a year and a half, whereas the actual recording only took a couple of weeks, and the mixing took about a week or so.”

He also shared a bit about his songwriting process: “I do all the songwriting. I did that on the first album too. It’s not an ego type thing, but I’ve been writing songs ever since I was a kid and I just love to do it. It comes to me really naturally and everybody’s happy with the material because I really do focus it on this particular band and on Jan, the singer’s style. But when the song is finished for me, I demo it quite extensively, then I send it to the band and the bass player and the drummer just have all the freedom in the world to play it however they like. They don’t just play it like I recorded it on the demo, so that’s where the band input comes into the picture.”

Vandenberg’s Moonkings

Before the Moonkings first album was released in 2014, it had been around 17 years since Vandenberg had released an album. Many people wondered what kept him away from the music world for so long, and he was more than willing to fill in those missing details. As he said,“Well, there’s a combination of factors. First of all, when we kind of disbanded Whitesnake in 1999, David [Coverdale] decided he didn’t want to do it anymore, and I started to catch up on my painting. I was an artist before I started doing music. So I wanted to catch up with my paintings. And my girlfriend at the time had a baby, and three years later the relationship went wrong. And I thought, ‘Man, if I’m gonna put a band together now and start touring…’ I didn’t want to be one of those dads who sticks his head around the corner once a year and goes, ‘Hi, I’m your dad, I’ve got to leave again.’ So I decided to stick around for a couple of years, because we didn’t live in the same house anymore. So I didn’t get to see my daughter as much as I would like anyway. Then I took on exhibitions for painting and stuff, and the whole thing basically took me into a situation that lasted a little longer than I was planning, you know? But I would have to think of John Lennon’s quote, which is, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ You can make all the plans you want, but then your life can take a different turn and follow a different path. In this case, it took about twelve years, which is a long time, but the good thing is, that because of that, it’s really fresh for me. I really enjoy working with these guys that are totally unknown to the rest of the world. And a lot of people were expecting me to put a band together with well-known musicians, and I really like to surprise people with something quite the opposite.”

Although there is an age difference between Vandenberg and the rest of the band, their social media accounts show a group of guys just having a great time,and Vandenberg agrees. “Oh definitely. It’s an unusual chemistry on both a personal level and a musical level with this band. You can look on YouTube at any show that we do, and you can see us having an incredible time on stage, and it really translates to the audience because all I see is happy faces in the crowd. People are having an incredible time. So this really fell into my lap as a band with a lot of chemistry on every field.” And for those who may wonder, they don’t only play Moonkings tunes during their sets. Vandenberg said, “Yeah, we do some Whitesnake stuff, and a little Vandenberg stuff because, yeah, I’ve been doing this ever since ‘82 and there are a lot of Vandenberg and Whitesnake fans that come to our shows, so first off you owe them something, and at the same time, we enjoy playing them and it never gets old for me, even though I’ve played those songs hundreds of times. It’s a little bit different every night, and the vibe is a little bit different every night. And, yeah, you want to give the people that paid to come to see you… you want to give them something that you know they love to hear.”

And as far as the songs on MK II go, Vandenberg took the time to discuss a few of the tunes. One of the first video releases for the album was Tightrope and as Vandenberg added, “When I started writing it, I had it immediately in mind as an opener for the album, because it’s got that kind of introduction, you know? We’re actually going to open the set with it because it’s very suitable for that…and the lyrics in Tightrope are basically about- as much as you feel as if you’re walking on a tightrope every once in awhile, you don’t want to look back or down to much. You’ve got to look forward in order to survive basically.” The longest song on the album, coming it at around seven minutes long is The Fire, which he describes as an epic-style song, and added, “The drummer and the bass player- I asked them to jam on the end section. I just wanted to play accompanying rhythm guitar to it, to showcase their capabilities. They’re incredibly talented guys, and initially I was planning to let the jamming kind of fade away in the mix, but it appeared to be so good to just keep the whole thing. Because growing up as a kid, I really enjoyed the jamming on studio records from bands like Zeppelin, and Cream and that doesn’t seem to happen anymore on studio albums at all. Everything has become so formula-ized and kind of business-like. I really wanted to have those kind of dynamics on this album, and let it breathe, and live and sparkle.”

And of course there has to be a ballad: “Well, as a lot of people looking over my career know, I always like one or two ballads on an album. I love writing ballads. That comes to me very naturally. It usually comes easier to me than a rock song, when I sit behind a piano especially. Walk Away is about a situation a lot of people may recognize where you have to end the relationship, whereas at the same time both people involved are not quite sure about if it should be finished.  They both decided that it’s better to let it go, even though it hurts.You have to make up your mind and you’re just afraid that it might be too much. It’s not your regular, ‘Oh, baby, I’m leaving you, I’m gonna miss you’ kind of thing.And we brought in a 15-piece classical violin orchestra to add another dimension to the ballad, to enhance the melancholy. The only electric bit is actually the guitar solo because I wanted it to be singing, weeping, if you will. And with acoustic guitar, I can’t really make it sing like that.”

The band is scheduled to tour around Europe, but will they ever make their way over to the United States? Vandenberg is eager to do that, but so far it is not in the cards: “I really, really want to try that. The last time, for a number of reasons, we couldn’t get it together but I really want to work with my record company to see if we can get something happening, because I really miss playing in the States. The last time I played in the States was I think in ‘94 or something, so it’s high time. I really hope we can get it together. I really miss playing in the States and I get so much mail from people that follow my music from the States. I almost feel guilty that we haven’t been able to get over there. Because, of course, as a lot of people know, you’ve got to have a reasonable offer from promoters in order to cover your costs, you know? For us to fly over to the States with a road crew and equipment and all that stuff is pretty expensive, so we need to break even, and hopefully make a little bit of money. But it’s not for the money for me. I just really like to play in the States and I really miss it, so I hope we can come back as soon as we can.”

Vandenberg is already working on things for the next Moonkings album. He said, “Well, actually, slowly but surely, I’m already starting to record a couple of riffs here and there and maybe a chorus or something. I really want to try to be a lot better on time, this time around. This last time, this Lyme infection, I couldn’t foresee that, you know? But as they say, ‘Shit happens.’ But this time around, I really want to make sure the next album is going to be out a lot quicker.”

In closing, Vandenberg just hopes people like the album he has put together: “I just really hope that people enjoy the record as much as I do, because it really comes from my heart, and the whole band actually poured their souls into it. You basically make an album for yourself is what I think, because if you please yourself, a lot more people are going to be pleased. And you throw it out there and you hope that people are going to like it as much as you do yourself. So, I’m really curious and it’s a really exciting period to read the first reviews and all that. I’m very anxious to see what’s going to happen.”



One thought on “ADRIAN VANDENBERG – The Dutchman Returns

  1. V. MOONKINGS is one ofthe two most pleasant hard rock band of these current years with BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION. They really have the class of the greatest, thanks, of course to the A.V. talent, never before at this level; but the 3 others are especialy good, special mention for Jon HOVING, the best singer I have heard for a long, long, long time… Guaranteed thrills hearing him singing!

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