After bringing the band Vandenberg back in 2020 with a new album and a new line-up, the pandemic stalled any plans for touring. In fact, the band had only performed one show in the past two and a half years before heading to the United States last month. But, you sure wouldn’t know it when they took the stage at Magic City Casino to headline the Monsters of Rock Cruise Pre-Party.
Fans were treated to not one, not two, but three Vandenberg performances that week with guitarist Adrian Vandenberg joined by frontman Mats Leven, bassist Randy Van Der Elsen, and drummer Koen Herfst. The band tore through lots of new material, a few classics from the early Vandenberg albums, and of course some Whitesnake hits to round out their sets. It was a blast to say the least.
So, The Pure Rock Shop (TPRS.com) was so excited to have this opportunity to chat with Adrian after he returned home to Holland following an epic sailing with 3,000 or so hardcore rock fans.
Listen in to the full interview here, or read the full article below for the story behind the reboot as well as some exiting news about the potential for more Peavey signature series guitars, upcoming tours, and more new Vandenberg music.
Hello Adrian! how are you doing today? Okay, fine, actually, yeah. Finally, it’s springtime over here in Holland after a long period of gray rainy weather, which was quite a shock coming back from the Monsters of Rock Cruise, of course, because the weather was amazing. So, yeah, that puts you right back in reality.
Well, I really appreciate the opportunity to get your thoughts on your first Monsters of Rock Cruise. As a fan, I was over the moon because you not only surprised us with the pre-party show, but then to play twice on the cruise (It’s typically unheard of to get three shows from one band).
Yeah, I mean, we had we had an amazing time. And for us it felt a little bit like springtime, when the horses get let into the meadow again after being locked up in all winter. That’s how we attacked the stage when the opening show was there, because we’ve only done one show in England about two months ago.
That was the only show we were able to do in the past two and a half years because, it’s COVID, of course. So, such an amazing experience, because as know, you were there. The weather was gorgeous, and everything was very well taken care of. And everybody present was in a festive mood, of course, because, we were all going to go on a great cruise together, where 24 hours a day great rock music was coming out of the speaker. So yeah!
Had you ever performed in a cruise environment like that before? No, no. I mean, I’ve never even been in a cruise ship. So, wow. I was really curious, what is it like? I never pictured, well, I never realized, how big these cruise ships are. It makes the Titanic look like a little rubber rowing boat.
For sure, and the Monsters of Rock Cruise is definitely not a normal cruise experience. I know that you guys were kind of a last-minute addition. Had you had a lot of time to prepare, to practice, you said you only did one show?
Well, since Mats our singer, lives in Stockholm, and the rest of us live in Holland, and funnily enough, as far apart from each other as you could possibly be in even a small country (because Randy the bass player lives in the far south, and our drummer lives in the far west, and I live in the far east of Holland, small Country.) So, we did get together, the three of us: bass, drums and guitar, to go over the tunes that we played in England. And, Mats, for a singer, it’s a little bit easier to practice at home. I think we did one rehearsal before Miami.
But, it was all good. Because for the show two months ago in England, we were there for like three days or something. And even then, it went pretty fast. Because yeah, we were all pretty well prepared at home. And then you get together, and you just get a get a kick out of all the noise that you’re able to make with these guys.
So, I wanted to ask you about the Vandenberg reboot and why you decided to do an album back in 2020.
Well, a couple of reasons. Before this, a lot of people in the states may not know this, but before I restarted Vandenberg, I had a band for about five years called Vandenberg’s Moonkings, and we toured Europe. We did a lot of shows in Holland and Germany and stuff, but our singer [Jan Hoving] has a huge farming company, and he couldn’t really be longer across the border more than a maximum of two/three days. The only tour we actually did was in France with the Scorpions. And, all the other shows we did in other countries were “fly in” dates, just playing for one show. I reached the point where I really started missing touring. And, also I noticed with my songwriting that I was gradually writing stuff that was a lot, a little bit harder, than the Moonkings.
So, at one point, I decided it’s better to maybe do occasionally a couple of shows with Moonkings in Holland along with that particular repertoire, and Vandenberg was something I was already kind of thinking about for quite a while. A lot of people were asking me about it through my socials, and even my record company, my management. For years, I didn’t really want to think about it seriously, because it felt a little bit to me like a nostalgia trip. But then when I ran into players like Koen and Randy, let alone singer Mats, I thought, “man, this is this is the perfect time to give it a boost with a with a new dynamic lineup, and then take the kind of music that I wrote for Vandenberg and take it through them to the 2020s.”
So, on the album you had Ronnie Romero singing, why did Mats end up stepping in?
Well, it became more and more difficult to plan with Ronnie, because he does a trillion projects every year. And in the beginning, it was kind of doable. But at a certain point in time, it became very complicated to plan a tour and to plan more than a couple of shows. So, I decided that as good as a singer as Ronnie is, I thought, “this is not gonna work because, like, for instance, this was a rock cruise. Larry got in touch with us pretty late, and we were talking originally about next year. So we would have time to attach a tour to it in the United States while we’re there. So, when this thing happened with Ronnie, it would have been almost impossible, because it was like a quick decision, and we want to be available for everybody who wants Vandenberg in his backyard. And we wouldn’t be there. So, that was the main reason, actually.
So I know you’re dealing with a lot of challenges as far as planning a tour, the pandemic, and now there’s even a war that we have to worry about. Do you have any concrete plans for touring this year?
Oh, yeah, we had a pretty extensive European tour planned, which we had to postpone three times because of COVID. And now, it’s being planned for after the summer, all the way through Europe. And I assume we’ll do Japan and we want to come back as soon as we can through the States. And there’s already talks about it, which will most likely be at the beginning of next year or something.
But we can’t wait, especially me, and all the other guys. Actually, Mats and Koen have experience in the States but me, with all my years of early Vandenberg and my 13 years with Whitesnake, I’ve always missed playing in the States because it’s very special to me. I had some of the best years of my career in the States of course.
Oh well, it was definitely wonderful to have you here! I actually flew to Paris to see the Moonkings play at Download Festival, I think was like four years ago. And I was happy to have you here in the US for sure. I know a lot of people were really excited about that first show in Miami. It was a great surprise that day.
Yeah, I got so many great reactions on my social pages. I also realized right away when Larry got in touch with my manager that, I have nothing but the highest respect for Larry to stick his neck out and do something like this because so many people are afraid to plan anything because of COVID. I’m very up to date with the situation in the States, because I read American news every morning with my cup of coffee, because I feel so connected. I think it’s really brave that he just did it. And everybody had an amazing time. And, you could tell that the crowd, everybody was like, high school went on holiday. Yeah, a lot of fun. Everybody was so happy and smiling. Really great time. Fantastic!
We’ve definitely been waiting. He’s dealt with a lot of rescheduling as well tried to even have a land event on an island, and nothing was working! But, it finally happened. So, I think everybody was just waiting for that party.
I know the Moonkings music is very different than Vandenberg. But, do you anticipate ever adding any of those songs into a Vandenberg setlist?
Not right now, a couple of people have been asking me about it. I think it’s probably more logical to keep it separated. I might, at some point, you never know. Like James Bond always says, “Never say never.”
But, right now I’m writing material with Mats, which is the only time in my whole life since I wrote with David Coverdale for Whitesnake. I’d written two albums with David at that time. With Mats it is the first time, apart from Coverdale, that I’m working together with somebody on songs, which is really nice, because you’ve heard what level singer Mats is. And, and it’s inspiring too, because you don’t really… I always try to avoid to get anywhere near like an automatic pilot type of thing. And it’s pretty cool if you can inspire each other with certain things. So that’s why I’m really looking forward to record that album, which will actually be pretty soon. So, yeah, it’s gonna be great. By the time we get back on the road, we’ll have a second new album out.
So, I have to talk guitars with you. I brought my Peavey custom on that cruise to get you to autograph it, and I appreciate that so much. I was talking with a friend who was who is a guitar player and he told me that back with Whitesnake, your 1990 solo at Castle Donington changed his life.
He had a question and wanted to know (and I don’t know if you even remember this solo, but it’s out there on YouTube. And we’ve all watched it.). He wanted to know if you had deliberately left your wah wah pedal open for the intro or not? If it was, a mistake?
Oh, actually, yeah, I did it deliberately, because I wanted to have that kind of sad nasal tone for the intro thing. And that’s what I always did. And that’s actually what I’ve done a lot over the years, and it was inspired by one of my early heroes Leslie West from the band Mountain, an American band. That was 70s, when I was growing up, and I always wanted that sound and thought “how am I going to get it,” because I had a cheap ass guitar and crappy amplifier, and I had no idea. So, at some point, a guy from my hometown gave me a worn out wah wah pedal, because, Jimi Hendrix is another hero of mine. I started playing with that. And then, I tried to get as close to Leslie West’s tone using the wah wah pedal. So that’s what I’ve done a lot over the years.
Very cool. So, back then you were playing that Peavey guitar and now you’re playing a Les Paul. Is the Les Paul something you used back in Vandenberg way back at the beginning of the band because I’m a little bit too young to recall that?
Yeah, exactly, this particular Les Paul. I’ve been carrying this Les Paul with me since 1980 when I bought it new. And, at the time, it was a pretty dark sunburst. But, over the years because I have been dragging it across the world with me for so many years. It’s gotten a lot lighter because of all the lights in the sun and all the stuff, but I’m kind of married to this Les Paul because the history we have together. It’s like a lady, like my mistress.
But at the same time, I do love my Peaveys. And as a matter of fact, I am talking to Peavey right now, because there’s so much demand for it still. We’re talking about possibly re-releasing that particular guitar.
That would be great. That means I could get one for my daughter, and then she won’t steal mine.
Of course, you’re gonna get a pink one of course, for a little girl!
Wonderful. I know that guitar is something that I had wanted as a child. I was like 14/15. And I’d go to the music store and play it, and was saving up my money. And sadly, the store that had the guitars had a fire, and they were lost in the fire. So, I actually got that red one about four or five years ago on eBay. Finally got my Vandenberg guitar. So, it was kind of full circle and awesome to see you, and have you sign it for me. So, it’s very cool to hear that you might be making more of them.
Because at the time, I didn’t even realize that it would have so much and impact, because I just wanted to design a guitar shape and sound wise and playability wise, it wasn’t there yet. I wanted to design a guitar that that you could recognize, like a Les Paul, or a Stratocaster from two miles different in those distances, in those days, all those Jackson’s and Kramer’s and stuff in the 80s look very much alike to me. They were all completely based on a Stratocaster so I thought [I could] since I used to be a designer. When I got out of Art College, which I studied for six years and I started working as a designer and stuff. So, it’s in my blood basically to design shapes and like paintings and all the stuff to create something that pleases me and then you hope that it’s going to please other people too.
So as far as artwork, are you creating a lot of art now? I know that you’ve done the Manic Eden album cover and I saw on the Moonkings when I got the album, I noticed that you have a credit for the logo there as well. Are you creating art and paintings that you’re showing places?
I have done so. Lately, because I’m so deep into music again, I didn’t really have much time for it. Actually, had made oil paintings for my very first albums, the early Vandenberg albums those covers, so realistic almost, they were all oil paintings that I still have in my studio, but even in 1977 when I had when I put my very first blues rock band together, I made a painting that was apparently a little suggestive for some countries and Germany wasn’t going to release it like that, so they put like a guy who’s playing guitar from a back view, so people would assume it was supposed to be me. But yeah, they felt it was too suggestive. So, it was actually my first award for anything target basically. So yeah, I’m actually thinking about that, to maybe make a painting for the next album again in the style of the second and third albums, Alibi and Heading for A Storm, that would be pretty cool. To keep that line going both musically and visually.
Apparently, they were a little bit too realistic, because most people didn’t realize they were, but in those days, that was my style. I was always a big fan. I still am, of guys like Salvador Dali and the American super-realists as they are called. They are really good at making paintings look really real. And, in those days it was my style.
I kind of changed my style over the years, and that had a little bit to do with the fact that once the Photoshop started coming up, people were able to create very real looking pictures of things that don’t exist, and that was my purpose at the time when I’d made those paintings.
Over the years my style changed much more to expressionist, like Manic Eden for instance. I’ve done a couple of exhibitions and I’ve sold a lot of my paintings over the years and still do. Actually, although it’s time, I’m going to make a couple of new ones because I only have a few left that I’ve got hanging in my own living room.
Very cool. So, before we say goodbye, Adrian, is there anything else on the horizon for Vandenberg or you personally that we haven’t talked about today?
Now, actually, we talked about the upcoming album and hopefully there’s going to be many more after that. About the touring, and definitely coming back to the States. Yeah, I can’t wait. It’s gonna be so much fun. And then, there’s a lot of things that I’ve missed in the States when you’re traveling. And obviously, the states have changed like every other country in the world, there is probably more even more McDonald’s and Wendy’s and Burger Kings and stuff. But still, I don’t know, I’ve always loved the Gypsy lifestyle that you lead when you’re on the road, you don’t have to think about kind of boring daily things like taking care of your bills and your house and whatever. You’re in the Twilight Zone somewhere and all you have to think about is kick ass on stage in the evening with a couple of great, great musicians. I really love that.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today to recap the cruise and talk about what’s coming next for Vandenberg. And I hope we do meet again soon.
Oh, we will. Thanks very much for calling, and we will definitely see each other somewhere in the States.
For more Vandenberg coverage from the cruise, check out the pre-party re-cap and follow us @ThePureRockShop on Facebook and Instagram for more local show coverage like Firewind and Dragonforce, Firehouse, and Slaughter, as well as festival coverage including more from the Monsters of Rock Cruise and upcoming M3 Music Festival.
More new interviews including another cruise recap with Chip Z’ Nuff (Enuff Z’ Nuff), as well as interviews with Chris Caffery (Spirits of Fire, Savatage, Trans Siberian Orchestra), Roy Cathey (Cold Sweat, The Fifth) and Olli Herman (Reckless Love).