INTERVJU: Adrian Vandenberg i Moonkings

Adrian Vandenberg släppte för en tid sedan det andra albumet med sitt band Moonkings. Vi ringde upp holländaren för att snacka om just Moonkings, men även vilka egna album han håller högst, hans målande, turnén med Whitesnake och Mötley Crüe 1987 och en del annat.

“We did hang out quite a lot and we went to a lot of strip bars and we went out for dinner. It was always a lot of fun, especially Tommy Lee who was a crazy guy. I have great memories about that tour because the album (1987) and the singles rocketed up the charts to number 1.”


There´s a really great sound to the new album.

Once again, I´m really proud of it. Everytime you´re working on an album, you try to improve what you do and I had this sound in mind and it was closer to what we sound like live and I went for that. On the first album, which I´m still very happy about, but I had a different goal with the first one sonically because the big part of all the hard rocking bands all sound very similar to me, in the respect that there are layers of sounds, lots of guitars, lots of keyboards and backing vocals. On the first album I had to let it sound pretty small in such a respect that if you´re like in a rock club, so really close. Not too big. But of course, we hadn´t played live yet when we recorded that one. This time I really wanted it to be very close to what we sound like live and I think it´s been achieved. It sounds like we do.

It´s been three years since the first Moonkings album. How have you guys jelled as a band now?

It clicked right away musically ever since the first rehearsal and then it´s turned into a well oiled machine and that happened pretty quickly during the first tour we did. We toured in Europe roght away. We went to Germany, England, France, Spain, Scandinavia, Belgium and if you play pretty much every day, it just took about five or six gigs and BAM! Right now we´ve done a couple of shows and we hadn´t played live for seven months and we played the first festival this past summer without rehearsing and it was just right there. It kinda shocked me, in a positive way. It was a blast and it proved to me that this band is so cool to play in and I´m having such a blast with these guys.

You´ve been doing this for a long time now. Coming up with new stuff, is that something that gets easier or harder over time?

One of the main things is that I´m making music that comes from my heart and I´ve done that ever since the first album when I was 20 and put the band Teaser together, which was very much in the Free, Bad Company style. Those were some of my favorite bands at the time and still are. Free is probably my all time favorite band together with Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. With the first Moonkings album I had no idea what was gonna happen. People might´ve thought ”Oh, it´s the Vandenberg guy again and he thinks he needs to make another record.” I didn´t know and I didn´t really care. I just thought I was gonna make an album that I would like to buy myself, because there´s not too much of this music being made and that´s exactly what I did. Even if it didn´t sell anything, at least I made an album that I´m proud of and it´s the same thing with this album. I just started writing and I just thought ”Let´s see where it goes.” It´s still along the same lines. There are a couple of little sideways that I took to see where it would go. I´m playing for my own fun.

It´s gotta be pretty cool to come up with an idea, turn it into a song, record it and then you know that people listen to it and so on?

Yeah, I totally agree. It´s still as big a kick as when I recorded my very first album. I realize every time that this is why I do this. It´s a weird thing. You kinda stick out some kinda antennae into the air and you hope you catch something. Then you do pick up something and it turns into a song and then you hear it 10.000 times because you make all these demos, you rehearse it with the band, then you hear it in the studio and if you´re not tired of hearing it after all that, that´s a good sign. Yesterday I listened to the new album again after not listening to it for a while. I put it on in my car, rolled down the windows and it was a blast and I thought ”man, I´m a lucky bastard!”

What do you think it is that you have, that has made you successful and come this far?

I ask myself that too. I think it´s a combination of the drive that I have plus I was lucky enough to be blessed with a couple of talents, which I never took for granted. My brother has many talents and he´s a high ranked guy in NATO and my sister is a piano player. I´ve always been busy with music and I´ve been very driven with making this kind of music no matter where it would go. You also have to have a certain amount of luck and be in the right places at the right time. To have your own identity is important. It´s a big compliment to have something of your own that people can recognize you by. It´s a combination of all those things. And I never quit, to my own surprise because if I sell 10 paintings in a year I make more money than I make with this band. I´ve never been into it for the money and that´s probably one of the reasons why it went so well. I went to art university and I finished it and i lived off my paintings and i taught art at school while I was attending university. I knew I could make a living off my art, so if it would have worked out with my music, I could always go back to teaching or making more paintings. I never had to go sideways and cater to other trends and commercial stuff and I guess that´s another thing.

Where do you get the inspiration for your paintings? Do you have an idea when you start out or do you just go for it?

That´s an intersting question because… I don´t know if you´ve seen the paintings I did for the Vandenberg albums? I was a big Salvador Dali fan in those days and a big fan of Maerican realists. Then during the 13 years in Whitesnake, I didn´t have the time to paint, so when the whole thing was over in 1999, I started painting again. I happened to paint in this style suddenly and the goofy thing is that during my university years, I didn´t like this kind of style at all, expressionism. I always thought it was stupid and messy and it never did anything for me and I was really shocked when this came out of my fingers. I thought about it a lot later and I thought that what probably happened is that this hectic period of touring the world for 13 years and exploding on stage for five or six nights a week, kinda came through in my paintings suddenly. What you do on stage is that you attack the stage and you see what happens and that´s what I do now with my paintings. It´s a blank canvas in front of me and I just attack it and see where it goes. Once again, I´m a lucky bastard.

There´s a song on the album called ”What doesn´t kill you”. There´s the saying that ”What doesn´t kill you makes you stronger.” Have you had those moments in life where you´ve gone through stuff and come out a stronger person from it?

Oh, definitely, like everybody. Relationships that´ve gone wrong, like the mother of my daughter. She was three years old and it was a shitty period. Then there was a really surrealistic period that lasted for five years when the bass player and the singer in the band Vandenberg, 30 years later started a string of lawsuits in order to get ownership of my own name. It was just a weird thing and it took a lot of negative energy and a lot of time and money and you can´t do anything but defend yourself. I´m just like everybody else. You go through shit in life and when it´s over you think ”I´m never gonna let myself get carried away and sucked into something like this.” and then it happens again. I´ve always lived by the words of John Lennon ”Life is what happens when you´re busy making other plans.” It´s a great line, because that´s what it is. I´m very fortunate ho have inherited a ridiculous amount of positive attitude from both my parents. My mom is 94 right now and she´s still joking around and pulling pranks in the nursing home where she´s staying.

You mentioned your brother earlier. He´s in NATO?

Yeah, he´s been a colonel in the Dutch army for years and then he went into diplomatic circles and right now he´s been in Mali for a couple of months on a diplomatic mission. We have a lot of interesting conversations. He´s really into my music and he walks around in diplomatic circles with a Moonkings t-shirt on. It´s really funny. He´s not musical at all.

With all the stuff happening in the world, do you get some inside information from your brother?

I try to get it out of him, but he´s also been some kind of a James Bond type secret agent and in those days I was really trying to pry his brain, but we do have some interesting conversations.

Another thing. It´s been 20 years since the album ”Starkers in Tokyo” came out. What are your memories from that?

That was a lot of fun, because, as you might know, it was some kind of contest on Japanese radio. We were there doing promotion and the prize was ticktes for an acoustic show by me and David. We worked througfh a couple of songs and I made some guitar arrangements. We went there and did the show and listened to it afterwards and thought it was pretty good and since it was on live radio, you could count on that there would be bootlegs, so we decided to go into the studio the same night and just mix it a little bit and improved the guitar sound a little bit. It took about 45 minutes and I think it was the cheapest album ever made. We released it right away, so we beat all the bootleggers and to our surprise the album became really successful. I get a lot of e-mails about it. It has a special vibe because it was so loose. David was really relaxed and he sings amazing. There are no overdubs, it was just the way it was. You can feel that it has a relaxed atmosphere. It´s just like two guys sitting by a campfire going through a couple of songs. I really love his voice when he sings in a relaxed way. He´s got this beautiful resonance… a Richard Burton voice.

And then there´s the deluxe version of the ”1987” album. That was a hugely successful album and tour. I believe the first date on that tour was Texxas Jam.

Yeah, it was really exciting. We were like a bunch of cows after being in the stables during winter and we were let loose and we were bouncing all over the stage like crazy. We rehearsed for a couple of days because we only needed a short set. We had no time to make a full set anyway. We were supposed to play for 50 or 60 minutes and it went down great and I´ve never seen so many people in my life (75.000). It was blistering hot and it was the end of the afternoon and it was one of those Texas days where it was way over 40 degrees Celsius. I think we did great and everybody was in top shape and David was singing amazing. Every night he sang like on the record and it was a very exciting and to be in because they were all great musicians. It was unforgettable. I never expected it to last for 13 years.

You toured with Mötley Crüe and that was during their craziest time. Did you take part in the partying?

I didn´t see it being as bad as they describe it in ”The Dirt” (2001). I did hang out with them a lot and I had a lot of fun with them. The thing with me is that I didn´t drink at the time. I didn´t drink at all during that tour. I started drinking alcohol pretty late anyway. I think I was like 24 and I never did any drugs so that´s probably one of the reasons why I´m still here and kicking ass. But we did hang out quite a lot and we went to a lot of strip bars and we went out for dinner. It was always a lot of fun, especially Tommy Lee who was a crazy guy. I have great memories about that tour because the album and the single rocketed up the charts to number 1.

It just feels like that every night must´ve felt like a party?

Definitely. I must say it still does. Every night when I play with Moonkings, it´s such a blast and I feel lucky. The reason I cherished those days in Whitesnake is because every day I thought it could be over by the next week. Every day I got up pretty early and I went into town at 9 o´clock in the morning and walked around in the city. I just wanted to take it all in and I´m so glad I did. I remember everything and I could write a book just about that tour alone.

In the new video for ”Here I go again”, at the end of it you´re walking off stage and there´s a big smile on everybody´s face. You can really see that you were having the time of your lives.

You´re absolutely right. It definitely was and I couldn´t stop smiling. And with Moonkings it´s exactly the same thing. Playing in a great band with a great crowd and having a great chemistry with the crowd and the other musicians is probably the ultimate thing for me to do. It´s like a drug, but a healthy one.

During all these years, have you been offered to play in a lot of bands?

Yes and the thing is that with a couple of bands I promised to not ever tell which bands they were and in some cases I actually signed a contract to keep quiet, because those bands were still together and most of them still are. It was very flattering, but at the same time I wasn´t ready for it because I wanted to be with my daughter when she was growing up and I was into my paintings. I had a lot of commitments for exhibitions and you make those a long time before hand.

Not counting the new Moonkings album, which album are you the most happy with?

I probably have two. One is the Manic Eden (1994) album and the other one would probably be the first Moonkings (2014) album. That´s the stuff that has come out of my heart the most natural without any concessions. It could´ve been the ”Slip of the tongue” (1989) album, but I couldn´t play on it because of my injury at the time. It feels kinda strange because I love the songs on it. The ”Restless heart” (1997) album is still a great album that I think has been overlooked. We initially worked towards a heavy album with Mike Fraser and it was going to be a lot heavier and a lot more rocking, but because of the pressure from the record company, Mike Shipley (1956-2013) was brought in to make it more of an accesible album. For me personally it´s a little bit of a pity because it rocked like crazy. It´s a great album but it lost a little bit of what it had.

Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen