Vandenberg - Biography
Vandenberg. A name with an illustrious past. Led by master guitarist Adrian Vandenberg, the Dutch foursome released three quality albums during the early to mid-'80s, namely, the self-titled 1982 debut, Heading For A Storm ('83) and Alibi ('85). They achieved commercial success and earned much acclaim. The band toured the US, Japan and Europe playing with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, Rush, Scorpions, Michael Schenker and more.
Subsequently, the guitarist has had an impressive career. He was a member of Whitesnake for 13 years at the height of their fame, contributing the solo on their #1 hit 'Here I Go Again', and then was part of short-lived supergroup Manic Eden. More recently, he has shown his cultured ability is firmly intact with Vandenberg's Moonkings, who put out two stylish albums plus an acoustic record between 2014 and 2018. Away from music, the man is also renowned as an accomplished and distinguished painter artist.
Now, Adrian has put together a dynamic new line-up of Vandenberg. "There were a few reasons for bringing the band back," explains the guitarist. "For a start, because Jan Hoving the vocalist in Moonkings owns a big farm, he could never get away to play live with the band for more than a couple of days at a time, which made it practically impossible to tour abroad. He understood this was holding the band back."
"Secondly, I realised I was in the same position as when I decided in the early '80s to turn Teaser, the band I was in at time, into Vandenberg. The former were very bluesy rock and I wanted to explore wider musical horizons. The same thing has happened here. I was keen to venture away a bit further from the blues rock idiom than I set out to do with Moonkings and to find the turbo settings on my gear box, so to speak. As I didn't want to come up with yet another new band name, it made sense to reactivate Vandenberg."
The guitarist pulled a master stroke by bringing in Chilean born Ronnie Romero on vocals; he's a huge talent who's forged a formidable reputation over the past few years with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. "I needed an incredible singer in order to make the use of the Vandenberg name make sense and Ronnie more than fits the bill. We got chatting through Facebook, and I asked him if he'd be interested in being in the band. It turns out he is a big fan, as I am of him, so we met in Madrid, where he lives, to see if we could get along, and we really connected."
"As soon as I knew Ronnie was on board, I wrote the songs to suit Ronnie's amazing vocal capabilities. We then met up again in Madrid to demo songs using my iPad, which is the way I do things."
Romero himself recalls the importance of Adrian Vandenberg on his career. "The reason why I started singing when I was in my teens is when I heard the live acoustic album 'Starkers In Tokyo' by David Coverdale and Adrian Vandenberg. So you can imagine that I am very excited and honoured to be the vocalist for the band Vandenberg."
"I feel it's very special that both Adrian and I have an indirect connection to Deep Purple; me through my years with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Adrian through all his years with Whitesnake."
The rhythm section for the new line-up features two Dutchmen, namely bassist Randy van der Elsen (he has been a member of NWOBHM heroes Tank for the past three years) and drummer Koen Herfst, (with an extensive resume that includes working with former Toto man Bobby Kimball, Epica and Doro). Says Vandenberg: "Koen has been voted Holland's best hardrock drummer now for several years. He has the sort of fire in his belly that would make any greats such as John Bonham and Ian Paice smile."
"Randy was highly recommended to me and has a lot of experience. Like Koen he is a brilliant musician." There are also two celebrated guests on the album, namely bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Brian Tichy. "They're both featured on a couple of tracks" reveals the guitarist. "Rudy is a close friend. We were together in Whitesnake and Manic Eden, and always wanted to collaborate on another project. The same goes for Brian. I didn't yet have Koen and Randy in the line-up when we began record sessions, so I asked Rudy and Brian to come in and help out, and they did a great job as one can expect from musicians of their caliber".
The album was produced by Bob Marlette, one of the top producers in this era, having worked with such top names as Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie. Vandenberg explains the choice. "I went to Los Angeles to meet a few potential producers. Bob was one of these, and his melodic yet hard rocking approach fitted in well with what I was after and we had a great connection right away. We spent three weeks working at Bob's own studio in LA, and then I spent a little more time finishing things at my home studio.
"Bob mixed the album. I wasn't there in person, but he sent over mixes via the internet and we made a few alterations, but nothing major. It turned out to be a productive way to work and Bob feels exactly the same as me about what we wanted to achieve with this album."
While nine of the songs here were freshly written by Vandenberg himself, there's one track that will be familiar to all fans. This is a new rendering of 'Burning Heart', which was originally released as a single from their 1982 album, reaching number 39 in the American chart; this is perhaps the band's most famous anthem. So, what prompted this revamp?
"The label wanted a song to put into the public domain when they announced the album," outlines Vandenberg. "But we hadn't finished the album yet, It was then my manager who came up with the idea of doing a new rendition of this track."
There was already a version of the track recorded by Vandenberg's Moonkings for the Japanese edition of their 2017 album 'MK II', and that formed the basis for this 2020 update, as Vandenberg outlines. "I took the rhythm tracks which already existed from Moonkings bassist Sem Christoffel and drummer Mart Nijen Es. Then Ronnie recorded his vocals and I did the guitar parts. I kept the solo very close to the one I did back in 1982, as it has become something of a signature solo of mine, so I didn't want to mess with it."
"We never planned on putting 'Burning Heart' on the album. But this turned out so well that it would have been crazy not to do so."
What Vandenberg offer throughout the album is melody, drive, power and class. This is wrapped in 10 tracks possessing an understanding of the demand from discerning fans for a balance between musical depth and commercial impact. It's what got the band attention in the '80s, and it's what still flows with a coherent richness.The album title, '2020', and the cover artwork reflect the way Adrian Vandenberg feels about this welcome regeneration of a much missed band. "I did the art direction for the cover, and since I wanted a clear signal that the band have returned, the best way to achieve this was to use the classic logo. I worked with Mascot's graphic designer to re-size this a little. I wanted the metal from the original logo to look just a tad worn, indicating that it's been around for a while. These days you also have to take in consideration that a large number of music lovers listen through Spotify, etc. and the cover artwork there is inevitably very tiny. So I thought that the logo, in combination with the album title '2020', would be a strong way of telling everyone: 'Fasten your seat belts, just when you thought all was safe, Vandenberg are back!'"