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Adrian Vandenbergs MoonKings interview 

Adrian Vandenbergs MoonKings
Submitted by Arie van der Graaf on 2017-11-09
Arised from the ashes in 2014 is Adrian Vandenberg, with his new band Vandenberg's Moonkings.

After conquering the world with his breakthru band Vandenberg back in the 80's he got many invitations from other rock legends who wanted Adrian to play his guitar with them.

He landed a job with Whitesnake and plays on their biggest single Here I Go Again.

Adrian gives a full insight in past present and future talking about the various bands he played with, his musical roots, several lawsuits in which he had to defend his own name Vandenberg.

 He talks about his current band Vandenberg's Moonkings which just delivered their new album MKII.

Hi Adrian, how are you doing today?

I'm Fine, doing great.

Exited about the upcoming release of our second Moonkings album.


At what age did you start playing guitar and can you tell us how you got started?

I started playing the guitar around the age of 12 or 13.

I was playing a littlebit of piano before that and i found pretty soon that i was drawn for the guitar.

One of my aunts gave me a plywood piece of shit acoustic guitar.

After a year or so my parents bought me a proper acoustic guitar and from my pocketmoney i bought myself a little pickup so i could connect it to the radio, so it sounded a bit destorted, creating a sound like Hendrix and other guys from that era used.

Thats basically how it started.


If i'm correct blues are your roots, who are your fav. blues guitar players and why? 

Yes blues are among my roots. Some of the first records i got were Van Morrisson, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and thru those guys i discovered their heroes.

So it was indirectly that i discovered Freddie King, Albert King, Albert Collins, you know and still up to these days i love Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I really play that a lot, it inspires me because it is stuff from the heart so i am still listening to that shit.


After playing in your first band Mother of Pearl and later on with Jaap Dekkers Boogie and Blues band, you started the rock band Teaser.

This band became quite popular getting airplay on Dutch radio and having the same feel as Free and Bad Company.

Can you describe your time with Teaser?

Yeah Teaser, I was very inspired by Free and Bad Company and funny enough i found a singer who not only sounded like Paul Rodgers for those days but also looked like him a lot.

So we ended up doing a lot of shows with the four of us in a little van with our equipment and everything driving up to the North of Germany where we played a lot for American soldiers stationed there.

A couple of times they even billed us as Bad Company and asked us to close the curtains as soon as the show was over to escape thru a side window, so the soldiers would not find out we actually weren't Bad Company.

Apparently we got away with it.

It was a great time, we got a lot of airplay on Dutch rock radio at the time. There was a rock show and the guy who ran it, Alfred Lagarde was a big rockfan and he was really into Teaser, so he gave us a lot of airplay which resulted in getting us a lot of gigs. We ended up in all sorts of poularity polls which surpised many because even back then rock was not really on the radio outside that particular rock show.

So it was an exiting time, we made it one album and after the album the singer kind of decided he wanted to do something else.

A littlebit later i formed Vandenberg and in the beginning we even played under the name Teaser because it was easier to get gigs and also because we were thinking of keeping the name

But then the record company decided that my familly name would be a good name so thats what happened.


In 1981 you were invited to do audition with  Phil Lynott's Thin Lizzy, you decided not to become a Lizzy member and decided to finish your art study.

You spent one week with Phil.

Can you recall anything about this week?

Why did you decide not become a member of this iconic band back then?

Yeah in 1981 i was invited to audition with Thin Lizzy.

It was a very exiting week actually.

I spent a lot of time with Phil, he was one of my heroes and still is.

We rehearsed, very loud, i wasn't used of having so many stacks behind my ass and the other guys were on full blast too.

There was quite some use of certain chemicals which i was completely not used to and i still am not actually.

That was one of the reasons i decided, after a talk with their manager who actually also said “Well are you sure you are gonna be happy in this band” because he knew i just started on my university of arts study and he knew i was very motivated on that.

I thought about it and a day later i talked to my dad too and i decided to finish my art university study which i am really happy about because later on it resulted in the fact that i never wanted to do any concessions to the music i like to play because i never had the illusion i would be able to live from my music.

Well Things have changed over the years.


Around that time you played with various blues rock and jazz bands and toured with Pointer Sisters and Fats Domino.

With all these different tastes of music, how should we describe you as a guitar player?

Yeah i played with various blues, rock and jazz bands and played with Pointed Sisters and Fats when they toured Germany.

I have always been influenced by all kinds of music thats played from the heart, wether its cetain kinds of jazz. I love Gypsy jazz for instance, i love funk, blues, rock you know, any kind of music that has got soul in it and played from the heart.

Inluding classical music which must have resulted in my style of guitar playing because i have all kinds of influences in my playing you know.

From little Gypsy runs and a lot of blues influenses as far as feeling goes.

In my Vandenberg days i wanted to combine blues with some classcal influences which kindof worked but then a lot of guys started doing it so i decided to calm down on the classicsl influences.


Can you tell us something about the gear you used back then?

The gear i used back then was just a Vox AC30 combo amplifier with eather my Les Paul or my Fender Strat.

So that was just just very simple.


After a while rock n roll started boiling in your veins again and you started Vandenberg.

You recorded 5 demo songs and got signed to Atlantic.

Around that time while i was still playing with various jazz and blues bands indeed i started Vandenberg.

We recorded a demo song, a 5 demo songs cassette actually and our manager Kees Baars and me sent it to a couple of international record companies of which we thought did well with releasing and promoting rock music.

Kees Baars knew Phil Carson, president at Atlantic Records

He came over to Holland and signed Vendenberg on the spot.

Although i have to be honest he really didn't want the bassplayer and the singer in the band.

So he wasn't really interested in Bert Heerink and Dick Kemper.

I wanted to keep the band together though, instead of kicking them out because Atlantic wanted that..

Atlantic settled for it.

If i would have known that more then 30 years later both Kemper and Heerink started 6 lawsuits over the name Vandenberg i would have listened to the Atlantic guy of course.

But you never know everything in advance.


With Vandenberg you were able to conquer USA and Japan by storm after releasing the single Burning heart.

How much did this band change your life?

Yes we did were well in the USA and Japan as well as some European countries like Sweden/Germany and of course this band changed my life because suddenly i realized that with the music i love playing and the music that i write, you can actually as a Dutch band cross the borders and the atlantic ocean, so that gave me a lot of inspiration and motivation to keep following my heart, and keep playing the music that i love.


While supporting Ozzy Osbourne you were asked to join his band immediately and around that time you were also asked by David Coverdale more than once to join Whitesnake.

You decided not to agree to any proposals at that time.

Would you have done anything different if you could travel back in time?

Indeed the first american tour we were special guest to Ozzy Osbourne and on very first day of this his tourmanager came and picked me up when we entered the hotel and asked me if i wanted to join and meet Ozzy.

Ozzy was in the restaurant of the hotel

I shook his hand you know, he was a little under the influence of quit a couple of beers i think.

He stood up kind of and he asked me to join his band.

I didn't want to do that at the time.

Actually is wasn't really familliar with Ozzy's success in the States, i didn't have a clue you know and later during that tour Jake E Lee played of whom i think is a fantastic player.

If i could travel back in time i would have done exactly the same thing you know, i always follow my instincts and intuition

I am glad i did because i am a very happy guy, very happy to having done all those incredible things that i have done this far and i still have the feeling that i am just getting started.

I am really happy with the Moonkings band and the guys in it so no regrets there.


After a while Vandenberg's success was drying out a bit and you guys called it quits. You finally agreed to Whitesnake after Geffen's John Kalodner asked you to join them.

David has become a very close friend.

Can you describe the friendship you both share?

Vandenbergs success wasn't really drying out, i was just fed up with Bert Heerinks behaviour and irresponsable behaviour towards the audience.

So i decided to fire him.

We worked with one other singer to see how it would go.

In the mean time i got a phone call from John Kalodner from Geffen and he asked me to come over to LA to talk about a new Vandenberg contract so while i was there he told me he actually had two propositions one of which was firing the band come over to LA and forn a new version of Vandenberg with three great LA musicians.

The second offer was to Join Whitesnake and if i wanted to rearrange the guitarparts on Here I Go Again and play those parts and the solo on it.

I did, David and i got on great.during the week i was there and we've been very good friends ever since.

We have a special friendhip, we both cherish it because we kind of feel like brothers from a different mother so to speak.

We have very simillar influences and love music.

We love to hang out together and some nice wine you know.

I've stayed at his house for over a year in one shot when we worked on new material.

We never have any friction or anything you know so yeah its a special friendhip we both sherish as said before

Unusual for this business too.


During the writing process of the Slip of the Tongue album you sadly had a wrist injury causing you unable to play.

Steve Vai came in to play your guitar parts.

So how did he do? would you have done the solo's very different?

Yeah the wrist injury was very frustrating as you can imagine because David and i wrote the songs together apart from Fool For Your Loving that was a rerecording.

And then suddenly my wrist didn't work anymore, it didn't have the proper flexibility to play my own guitarparts and that was really really frustrating because also everybody was waiting on me you know, the management, the record company, the studio.

So i decided to fly back to Holland to get treatment to find out what was going on Steve Vai was invited in the band which was of course fantastic because he is a great player.

At the same time it wa a little ruff on me which is only natural because you want to play your own stuff.

Steve of course did a great job.

A lot of people thought his playing style didn't really fit the band which to a certain sence is true but at the same time he gave another dimension to it and made it interesting in a different way and less predictable.

A lot of people think the album didn't do very well but i can tell you it still sold a bunch of million records

We did a one and a half year tour.

I became really good friends with Steve too, we are still in touch so that's fantastic and this also is unusual in this business specially between two guitarplayers.


After Whitesnake went on hiatus and David started working with Jimmy Page you also briefly had a band called Manic Eden holding some other ex Whitesnake members.

How much was this band different from Whitesnake next to having another singer?

So yeah, after Whitesnake in '94 David started working with Jimmy Page it was which was supposed to be a longtime project but in the end they recorded one album did two or three shows and bam that was it.

In the meantime i didn't want to wait and started Manic Eden including Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge and the fantastic singer Ron Young from Little Caesar.

We really wanted to go back from the glossy 80's as cool as they were but we in the meantime you know we were in the middle of the '90s and were wantec to make a really basis organic album with just one guitar, bass, drums and a great singer.

I was really hoping we would stick together you know, extensive touring was planned but unfortunately David called and said the whole Page project was already over after a couple of months anf i had to make a very difficult decision to choose between Manic Eden and Whitesnake.

I decided to go back to Whitesnake because for a big reason apart from my friendhip with David and the fact thatWhitesnake is still a fantastic band but also it would feel really strange for me having been in Whitesnake for almost seven to eight years and not have been playing on an album.

So that was an important thing to me to properly finish my Whitesnake period and at the end you know it lasted to 1999 we still wrote and redorded another album Restless Heart. David and i recorded the album Starkers in Tokyo, completely acoustic. One guitar, one singer a beautiful album, we still play it for our own entertainment.


Lets jump into the 21st century!

The music business can't be compared today to how it all worked back in the 80's and 90's.

What is your perspective to the way it all works these days?

So yeah, the music business has changed a lot.

I was prepared for that so other than being in this business for the money, so whatever happens i just wanna play the music that i love and i am extremely happy with my current band Vandenberg's Moonkings, the fact that we can make great records and tour.

Whatever it takes, it is for the music you know and no matter how high the waves are or the undertow i just keep doing it, because i love it.


Next to playing music art is a very big part of your life.

Can you tell us more about your art.

Well art has always been a very big part of my life

Actually before Vandenberg went out of hand i was living from my paintings and designs for companies and i was doing well with selling my paintings.

Right now i don't have much time because of Moonkings but i am gonna make some time hopefully in the future.

In the past 12 years before Moonkings i did a lot of painting exhibitions and i am looking forward to the next phase where i can combine painting and music which is a little hard right now.


Your former Vandenberg singer Bert Heerink is also painting these days.

You have had some differences about the use of the band name Vandenberg a while ago.

Are you back on speaking terms and both discussing art?

Yeah Bert Heerink painting, sorry man but Bert is just moving away i don't even think he makes of himself,  you know because of the past also you know.

Bert is not a painter, he's never been, he probably tries to , pretend like you gotta do what other guys do you know.

He can't you know.

He is a decent singer, he can immitate people, he's making a living immitating when he is allowed to play with Jan Akkerman.

I Don't have a lot of respect for Bert since the whole court case and i never have respect for people pretending to be a painter and they are not so...!

The Vandenberg name that was a ridiculas situation we're not on speaking terms and as far as im concerned we are never gonna be anymore because it was like a case of backstabbing for me.

I invited those guys in my band Vandenberg at the time and 35 years later they sued me six times in court to try to get my name and they lost all six court cases so i never want to see those guys again.

It's just like a very sad situation. I think they are very sad individuals you know making desperate moves like that and whaever they do you know it's all fine with me, but not with me.


Which song do you consider being the best song you have written so far and why?

That is hard, i've written many great songs, songs like the Manic Eden song Do Angels Die, songs like Judgement Day, Sailing Ships. From the first Moonkings album Close to you, Lust and Lies.

It's kin of hard, on the upcoming Moonkings album i have a bunch of fav,s  like If You Can't Handle The Heat, Walk Away, The Fire. It is really hard to choose it varies from day to day too.


After court gave you the rights to use the name Vandenberg you started your current band Vandenberg's Moonkings.

Why did you add Moonkings to the name instead of just calling it Vandenberg?

I started the band before the end of those cases and back then already chose the Moonkings name.

Also i didn't think it would be a good idea because Vandenberg is rather old you know, it was a long time ago.

On top of that i did not want to give the audience the impression we would play Vandenberg repertoire.

We do play a couple of songs of course that i'm proud of. We also play a couple of Whitesnake songs you know.

But the bottom line is this is a new band with new guys.


What was your goal when you started the band?

I never want to look back now and just want to look forward.

So a brand new band you know, start from scratch.

It is an adventure and it is going really really great so i'm happy i made that decision


Obviously you have a powerful singer in Jan Hoving.

How would you describe him as singer frontman?

Yeah, Jan is an amazing singer, really happy i discovered him you know, he was unknown.

A lot of my American friends asked me whre the hell did you find that singer.

He grew incredibly fast and not just as a sanger but also as a frontman.

Our third or fourth gig was on a huge rockfestival called Fortarock here in Holland where we played for 50/6000 people and Jan was stepping on the 50 / 60 meter long stage like he had never done anything else.

He is a very great singer and also a very nice honest guy, no primadonna.

We got a great atmosphere in the band and there is never any bullshit.


Are there any other projects beside your Moonkings you have worked on in recent years? 

Besides moonkings i haven't been working on other stuff in recent years because i am fully focussed on Moonkings.


On Nov.3 Vandenberg's Moonkings released the second album simply titled as MKII.

Can you tell us about the gear you use on this album?

The gear i use on the new album is my main Les Paul and another one of my Les Pauls which is from the same year. But they are a bit different.

When i double a rythm part i use both of them.

As far as amplifiers i used around 80% one of my 100Watt Marshall Plexi's, a Van Weelden Twinkeland all parallel, i use them both at the same time.

They were all switched on an both pretty much at maximum.

Also another Marshall which is a Silver Jubilee, a Victoria Two Rock amp and some others of which i can't remeber their names at the moment you know.

I was using nine amps simultaniously and they were all amped.

The engineer made a blend out of all those amps but like i said 80 / 85% of what you hear is coming from the Marshall plexi amp.

No boxes or pedal in between just my Lep Pauls straight into those amps.


You produced this album yourself.

Can you tell us how the writing and recording process went for MKII?

Like the first one, i really really enjoy writing songs and once i made very extensive demo's just for myself because i don't wanna fool myself thinking well this song is gonna be great once it's been recorded and mixed.

I want to make shure that when it's finished it's gonna sound good so thats why i make very complete demo's at home.

Then it's also easy to explain to the other guys.

When my part is clear the can fill in their part with all freedom, i never tell them how to play because they are fantastic musicians and they play in to the song.

I like to give them all their freedom to go crazy like they did on the outro of the song The Fire.

I asked them to jam between the three of us.

I kept playing rythm guitar and we kept everything on the record, so it turned into a seven minute song.


Is this any different compared to how you worked on the previous album?

It was done basically the same way as the first one, recording everything as much as possible directly and later on fixing what needs to be fixed.

It's not that compicated. We are a simple band as much as the line-up goes, guitar, bass, drums.

When you get the good sounds, uor fantastic sound engineer Ronald Prent is one of the most talented guys i've ever worked with internationally and we love to work with each other. We know exactly that we are striving for.

The only differnce is this time i wanted to go more to how we sound like live and i think we really acheeved that, we sound like we are live.

I leave the judgement up to the listeners actually.


Can you introduce your fellow band members to those that don't know them yet? 

Jan Hoving, our great, amazing singer.

Our drummer Mart Nijen Es wwho is incredibly telented too, he is really playing from the age of 1 year old (i heard this from his mom).

Just as amazig is Sem Cristoffel and i am not saying this because they are in my band.

You know i've played with the best guys in the world and these guys are worldclass.

I am very happy they are in my band, our band so to speak.

I really look at Monkings as a band, thats why we do short solo's, no ego tripping and short songs basically because most songs are between three and four minutes which should be enough you know.


Are there any unique or even strange habits your band members have?

No we don't have any strange habits but our singer Jan has a huge farming company which in his busy seasons takes him quite some time.

So we have to plan around it. We still can do shows but you know we can do shows in Holland and Germany and we do some flyin's.

We do some flyin's like Spain and some other countries.

I don't mind this because it is to great of a band to fuck around with line-up changes, i don't like that.


Is there a theme or story on MKII? 

Yeah there are a couple of songs that are about that you can run into your struggles in life and how you can deal with them maybe you know.

I love songs that have maybe not a typicall easy rock n roll lyric but at the same time i want to give them a positive feel

I don't like songs that meke you feel really depressed actually, you don't need rock n roll for that you know there is enough shit going on in the world.

There is one song that i wrote that is about what is going on in the world but not in a preaching kind of way. Just the way i look at it and how you can deal with it daily.


How important are lyrics for you, and do you wish to give life lessons thru your lyrics?

Lyrics are important to me.

I don't want to give life lessons to my listeners in a preaching kind of way but sometimes i like to give a positve message thru them.

I love positivity in rock n roll so that's what shines thru in most of my lyrics unless it's a ballad.

There is a bit of a melancholic ballad on this album called Walk Away which i am really proud of and that's of course not a really happy song you know, it shouldn't be.


So what is next, touring the world as a support of Whitesnake maybe, who are working on their new album as well?

Coming up now is a lot of touring going on.

We are gonna start in holland, we're gonna do shows everywhere we can. Japan, England maybe France and hopefully we get to do States because we get a lot of demands coming from the States about playing there.

So we look into everything and we are talking about various other countries as well.


Can you tell us the funniest thing that ever happened to you or a band member while performing on stage? 

Actually that was one of our last shows.

Inger Jan started singing a different song on the intro of one of the songs, we played the intro of Feel It and he kept starting with the song Line of Fire. This happened three times, he starte three times and he could not believe why we didn't continue that song. So that was really funny.

When i whispered it in his ear he fell on his knees laughing and the audience had a great time.


I always end an interview with this question:

Is there any music related question that was never asked during an interview before which you are still waiting for to be asked?

Tell me the question and your answer to it

O lets see,Not really to be honest, i have must havedone thousands of interviews over the years.

I always have an answer for everything because i have no sevrets.

I am not holding anything back so anybody can always ask me anything.


Thanks Adrian for your time.

Good luck with Vandenberg's Moonkings and the release of MKII.