VANDENBERG'S MOONKINGS (13/01/14)
Rédaction : Chante Basma / Photos credits : Chante Basma
He's back! Adrian Vandenberg is ready to rock again and RUL met him a few weeks before the release of the new record "Vandenberg's MoonKings"!
First of all, happy New Year! How are you?
Adrian Vandenberg (guitar): Thank you! Happy New Year! I'm fine.
So this is your big comeback with a new project. First, can you say a bit more about it? The meaning of MoonKings
A : MoonKings is (saying in French) les Rois de la Lune. It's very hard to find a name because there are millions of names, millions of bands and thought "wow that's gonna be hard" because I didn't wanted to call it Vandenberg because then people would expect me to play a lot of Vandenberg; I'll play one or two as long as it fits with the new record. Then I realize it's very hard to find a new name because every cool name existed and for some reason I thought about "moonkings" because I was thinking to "what would you do when you're in a band?" well you always travel and you always work at night and then I thought about the owl, in the logo, it's like the symbol of a night creature, supposed to be smart, makes an interesting noise. And MoonKings sounded good because it felt good and I was surprised that there wasn't really another band called that way. I realized when I googled it, there's like a folk duo called "Moon King", so that was great; and then the record company suggested to add "Vandenberg" instead of what "you'll have to begin all the way again" but I'm starting again all over again anyway so. Either way, I think I'm going to drop "Vandenberg" maybe like for the next or third record or something.
We got the chance to listen to it and even if we are in 2014, it sounds like in the 80' or 90'. Do you understand this feeling?
A : Yes! What I wanted to do was to make a bridge between the 70's and now, and I was thinking about, for instance, how a band like Hendrix or Led Zeppelin would sound like if they were younger right now, if they were 22 or something. I like very much bands like Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age, the freshness and the punch of it, so I basically tried to let all the influences that I have come in, keeping anything out, just open all the windows and see what happens. But definitely, I really wanted to sound "in your face" like new rock bands do like Foo Fighters for example but obviously there're a lot of influences from the 70's and the 80's, like the verse or intro parts of "Feel It" or "Line Of Fire", I just wanted to mix up everything and see what happens.
What did you enjoy the most around this record?
A : I really always enjoy the writing because I write at home, in my studio, and I play all the instruments myself because I want to have a clear picture of what it's going to sound like and then when we started rehearsing it was a very big adventure for me because the drummer and the bass player -I never auditioned anyone- I met those guys in my home town, sometimes I'm a jury in a talent contest, and ten years ago I saw them playing, they were 13 or 14, and I ran in them two years ago for one project -the soccer song- and it felt good right away. I only wanted to go with my instincts, let my heart so I didn't do any auditions. I got a hundreds of CDs and presentations from all over the world from people hearing that I was going to play again, but the first rehearsal with these guys was exciting and I enjoyed it so much.
Did you write music during your break? Were these tracks written years ago or new material with the band?
A : It's all new material from the last year and a half. I didn't really wrote so much during those ten or eleven years, once or twice for myself but it wasn't really rock; it was instrumental stuff, some gypsy stuff, so I was really curious about "what's gonna happen writing rock again" and it felt right on his place, really exciting.
Can you introduce us your musicians? The stories around the drummer and the bass player are quite funny.
A : The singer is really funny too. For the soccer song, there were two American singers with whom I worked very briefly who really wanted to do it. Once I started writing, I realize the consequences of working with an American singer. It'll be more complicated again, flying to the States etc. and then I realized I haven't kept up with what happened in Holland since I joined Whitesnake because I don't like Dutch rock music, it's not very good in my opinion so. So I did some research and maybe I'll find out a good singer in Holland. Doing that, I remembered a review of a Whitesnake show; when Whitesnake plays in Holland, I always play a couple of songs with them, and there was a really great review about the support act writing "incredibly good vocalist in the support band!" and I thought "wow I got to know how this guy is". This is how I found Jan. I sent him an email to see what he was doing because I didn't wanted to start a rumor that I was looking for guys because I was gonna get bombarded (laughs) so I wanted to keep it quiet. Jan didn't write back because he thought it was a joke from somebody; because he's a big Whitesnake fan and also a Vandenberg fan. So he didn't write back for about three weeks and after that he wrote back very carefully to see what it was, so he answered and I wrote back again and he still thought it was a joke. "Then I'll come to your house" I said, to meet and to see how it goes along. There was another disaster because it was the worst day of the year, storm and warnings at the radio "if you don't really have to go on the road, you should stay at home" "oh f*ck" (laughs) but I had to go otherwise he'd think that's really a joke. He lives an hour from where I was, I took an hour to make a twenty five minute road, so I sent him a text but it didn't arrive, I thought that was because of the weather and bad connections. Finally I arrived two hours later and he lives in the middle of nowhere, he has a very big farm, it's dark and the GPS said "you've reached your destination". (laughs) I asked to the closest farm and got there. When I got to the door, Jan said "are you real? I thought that was a joke" and he smelled alcohol and said "sorry for that, my girlfriend and I just finished a whole bottle because we thought it was a joke and got drunk". (laughs) Whatever, great voice, great guy, big farm, great potatoes.
Jan Hoving, we are certainly not the first to say it but his voice looks like Coverdale's and with the music, it's quite the good old days right?
A : Well you know, I just write music that comes from my heart and it goes like this and this but you know, my first album with Teaser, this is still the kind of music that's close to my heart you know. There're a lot of retro bands like The Answer, Rival Sons and I like them all but the thing I find a little bit strange is that they wanted to sound like it was recorded in the 70's and this is what I don't understand because you use mobile phones etc. so you've to take advantage of what we have now for recordings. I used analog equipment like it's the best in the world but in the same time, I wanted to make the mix to sound really fresh and used a more modern desk. And Jan, he's a fan of Rod Stewart, David Coverdale, he's 39 so when he grew up, he listened to all that stuff too and he has a voice like that, I didn't really intentionally looked for it. Sometime you can hear David's influence, or he could sound like Dio or Rod, but in the same time, in the ballads for instance "Out Of Reach" when he starts with the verse, you can't really compare him to anybody and I'm very happy that he got all these influences instead of Justin Bieber you know. (laughs) Then he got such a great range that I can write the music to his voice.
If you had to pick up the 3 songs that describe the best the album, which ones and why?
A : "Lust And Lies", "Close To You" and "Breathing" probably. Because "Lust And Lies" shows the energy of this band as an opposite to "Breathing" which is a power ballad, my niece plays violin in there and really shows Jan's voice and "Close To You" is one of my personal favorites because when it starts, you can hear my Led Zeppelin influence going in different directions, and I put so many riffs in that songs that I could write four or five songs (laughs) I really like the whole package showing all the sides of the band. It was difficult to choose because initially we were supposed to put 10 or 11 tracks, I didn't want to pull out any track off, because Japan was asking for a bonus but I didn't want to do that.
Talking about Coverdale, he guests on the last track "Sailing Ships". How went on the collaboration? How did it happen?
A : It was a lot of fun because when I told David that I was finally going to work on an album he said "oh great this is about time lazy Dutchman" (imitating perfectly David's voice) and he said that it would be an honor to sing on a track. He was on tour for a year so there was no time to write a new song together so I thought, you know, I always was a little bit frustrated that I couldn't play on the "Slip Of The Tongue" album and "Sailing Ships" is one of my favorite song ever but the version on the album was great but more Steve Vai's style. So I always thought about the way it may sound with an acoustic version and violins. So I called David while he was on the road and he was excited about my idea. I recorded everything in Holland with a string quartet and then sent the tracks to David, knowing he'll be at home for a couple of days, he did it in his studio, sent it back and that was it. And you can notice that his voice is a bit tired because of the road but it emphasize the melancholy on the track, because I made it a little bit slower and lower, more reflective.
By the way, did you listen to the latest Whitesnake records?
A : Yeah, it's great! I like the energy of the band, there are all fantastic players, the bass player and the drummer change all the time (laughs) but there are always great and I really enjoy Brian Tichy's playing and Tommy is, of course, the man. David can sing anything and I liked that he stick to his guns. It was great to hear David to his highest especially the last two records.
During those years, which events/bands/albums kept your attention?
A : I do like Foo Fighters, some early Queens Of The Stone Age, of course Them Crooked Vulture, bands like Rival Sons, fantastic singer. I like Kings Of Leon a lot, not everything; Adele as a singer, she's an amazing singer. I listen to a lot of gypsy jazz. Last ten years I spent a lot of time listening to gypsy music. When I was painting, I usually put on gypsy music, I love to absorb as many influence that I can.
About the music industry and internet, what's your point of view on downloading and social Medias?
A : I really enjoy the freedom that social media gives, I like to discover new things, new bands and stuff. It was harder in the early days because you'll have to wait until the record is out, if you're lucky you can hear two tracks. Now you can research and with something like Spotify you got tips so I think it's wonderful. The disadvantage of course, the artist only gets a few cents so... My ambition was never to be a rich guy or something but the difficulty for a lot of bands is -I was fortunate with Whitesnake, selling lots of records and doing expensive tours as long as we could- that record companies become more careful and want to make money so they sign less bands and they want the bands to score right away otherwise you're out. The good thing, I think, is that because of the low record sales, the bands really have to prove themselves live and that's a good thing because in the 80's there were a lot of bands and weren't very good live but the productions sounded great "oh wow, these are pretty good" and then live you go "urghh". The live circuit is more alive than in the past; strange thing is in the US, dance and DJs are getting more popular. I try to respect that for what it is but it doesn't have a lot to do with making music, I like handmade music.
Total different topic, during your Whitesnake years, Coverdale was a sex symbol and is still for many women. Was it easier with chicks hanging out with David?
A : The thing was, there were a lot of chicks. In the US, we played for between 20.000 and 50.000 people every night and 60% of them were beautiful girls. David was with Tawny at the time, so she kept him safe. (laughs) And it was fun because what I liked about when there's a lot of beautiful girls in the hall, it's great for the guys, like an excitement where everybody goes rock n'roll with lots of testosterone and pheromones in the air, that's a good vibe.
You'll hit the road nearly so what about the setlist? Will there be some covers? Whitesnake covers?
A : Yeah I'm looking forward doing a couple of covers, we have to because it's brand new stuff for the people and it's good to have some songs that are more well-known. I'll do a couple of Whitesnake songs, probably one or two Vandenberg songs. And I thought about some kind of poll on our website where fans could vote for their favorites from a large list, it's great to have involvement from the audience. I'll be around 15/16/17 tracks.
And finally, we are "RockUrLife", so what rocks your life Adrian?
A : What rocks my life? Making music of course, great food, great music, France because I've been a Francophile (said in French) since I'm 5 or 6, and I bought a house in the South of France seven years ago. I really enjoy being in France, as soon as I cross the border with Belgium I'm like "woow" (laughs). And I like to write music in France as well, great influence, I wrote a couple of the songs here. But you know, everything that inspire your senses -food, music, paintings, walking around in the city- that stuff always inspires me and I end up with some ideas that I record, singing throw my phone "ta ta taaa ta taa" and people in the street goes "what the f*ck with that guy?!". (laughs)
Website : moonkingsband.com