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Vandenberg’s Moonkings

In 2014 verscheen het debuutalbum ‘Moonkings’ van de band Vandenberg’s Moonkings, de nieuwe band van gitarist Ad Vandenberg, die een uitstekende indruk achter wist te laten. Ruim drie jaar later is het tijd geworden om de opvolger getiteld ‘MK II’ op de markt te brengen en die is nog een stuk beter geworden dan het debuut. Op vrijdag 13 oktober reisde Lords Of Metal af naar Amsterdam om van bandleider Vandenberg de nodige informatie te verkrijgen omtrent dit tweede werkstuk van zijn band.

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder hardrock / aor

Hi Ad, the debut album ‘Moonkings’ was released about four years ago and was the first sign of life of your new band, so what did this debut album mean for the band?
From an artistic perspective the album was very important to the band as I’ve had been out of the scene for about twelve years. The advantage of this was that there were no expectations whatsoever, so there was absolutely no pressure for this first album. That made me make the kind of music that I like listening to myself and which I would purchase myself as well. I didn’t want to sound like many of the other bands and I wanted to keep things rather simple. I’m very happy that the record got such a positive response from both the fans as well as the press. After the release we started touring and after four or five gigs the band really became a well-oiled machine.

I saw you perform on the Fortarock 2014 festival, but back then the band wasn’t exactly a well-oiled machine yet due to a lot of technical issues. How do you look back on that performance yourself?
My guitar continuously malfunctioned during that show, which caused quite some headaches for my guitar tech. But I’m not easily stressed, so we continued with the show which was indeed one of our very first performances. Despite of this the guys in the band really acted as if they were experienced professionals already and that was great to watch.

How many shows did you do for the debut album and how long did it take before it truly became the well-oiled machine?
This didn’t take as long as I had actually expected. We did two show in the Netherlands first before we went into Europe and after about four or five shows I really felt that we were on a roll. What was kind of funny is that last year we were playing at Westerpop in Delft after not having played for about half a year and with almost no time for rehearsal we did a great show there, which was a clear indication that we have grown enormously as a band.

What was the intention that you had with this second release?
Production-wise we wanted to stay closer to our live-sound and next to this things were done in a more spontaneous way. We just reviewed the songs and started recording, which led to a number of jams that we left on the album. So we were able to capture some moments which originated in the studio and that’s something that I’m really proud of.

Did the song writing process differ in any way compared to the first album as the band has been together for a number of years now? If so, in what way?
We did things quite the same as for our first album, so I created the framework for the songs and recorded the demos. I’ve got great confidence in the guys, so I didn’t tell them how this needed to be played on the record, that’s up to them.

The release of the record was delayed quite a bit. How come?
At first I had an infection which created a couple of months of delay. Then Jan, who has a big farmhouse, wasn’t available because of the high season there and when he became available again we had to re-book the studio and align this with Ronald Prent, our mixer. All in all this accounted for quite a big delay, while more than seventy percent of the material was already written about two years ago.

You are from another generation than the other band members, so how does that work in reality? I can image that this is a positive thing as they bring other influences in the music of the band?
What’s great about these guys is that they were very much influenced by the musicians in the seventies and eighties, but also by bands like the Foo Fighters, Queens Of The Stone Age and Kings Of Leon for instance. What these younger guys bring is the dynamics of the modern times, while our roots are definitely in the seventies and eighties and that’s a very nice combination, because that we can really bridge the gap between those earlier periods and the current period.

If you take a look in what you used to do in the past and your current musical style, more blues elements are prominently present in the songs, which sometimes reminds me about your Manic Eden period. Is this really the sound that you were looking for?
This type of music comes from the heart and my very first Teaser record already had touchpoints with Manic Eden and what we’re doing now. With Vandenberg we tried to mix blues with a more classic hard rock style because that was also expected in that period, but this is really the type of music that I’ve grown up with and mostly listen to. So when I write songs, this is the type of music that comes natural to me, although I want to add more melody to the music than what’s normally to be found in real blues rock, but I’m careful not to add too much melody as this decreases the rawness of the music.

How do you look at the evolution that the band has gone through during the years?
When I “discovered” Jan, I heard a lot of possibilities in his voice, more than he realized himself. I have really pushed him to try things to explore these possibilities more which made him grow tremendously as a singer, which is clearly shown on the new record. Furthermore due to the many shows we did also Sem and Mart have become better musicians so the band has evolved quite a lot in a positive way during the last couple of years.

Of course you’ve had big successes with both Vandenberg and Whitesnake, but doesn’t it frustrate you that starting bands can be hyped and become an overnight success, while much better musicians don’t get any recognition?
It doesn’t really frustrate me, as this more or less always has been the case in the music scene. Also in the seventies and eighties you had “one-hit wonders” whose music didn’t have any quality, but that made it big. Of course nowadays it has become more of an industry and bands are using modern technology on stage to bring the sound that they’ve created in the studio. That’s not for me as I want to stay authentic and be able to deliver on stage what we’ve created in the studio without additional tools or tapes.

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Back to the album: you remained loyal to the Wisseloord studios and to sound man Ronald Prent. Is this consistency important for you?
Well, we’ve done most of the recording in a studio in Dalfsen and a big part of the guitars were done in Wisseloord. Ronald is very important for me as we exactly know what to expect from one another. From the very first moment there was a great click between us and that accounts for a strong collaboration. So for this second one I really “didn’t want to change the winning team” and asked Ronald again to be our engineer.

As a first single ‘Tightrope’ was released, so why did you choose for this particular track as the first single?
The release of ‘Tightrope’ was first of all meant to show that we were still around and secondly to show that we’re a true rock band. Furthermore I think that ‘Tightrope’ is a good indication of what we’re about and therefore it was kind of a logical choice to use this song as a first single. In two weeks the first “real” single will be released with which we will see if in these days we can still get airplay on the radio. For me it’s not to score a hit, but to let people know that we’re still there and to get opportunities to play in nice places.

Which song will be used as the “first real single” of ‘MK II’?
We have chosen for ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ as this is quite a catchy tune, but with a serious message underneath.

Are you also going to create a video clips for the new single ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ and how important is a video nowadays in your opinion as there aren’t too many broadcast possibilities anymore besides Youtube?
Yes, we’re going to create a video for ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’ and we’re brainstorming a bit how it’s going to look like exactly. A video clip is still kind of a must as you need to let the people know that you’re still around and since people are much more visual nowadays you just have to create a video.

Another track that stands out is the epic, more than seven minutes long ‘The Fire’, which is quite different from the rest of the album. Why did you have the urge to write such an epic tune?
On the first album we really wanted to keep things short and powerful, while I wanted to take another step on this second record. I love epic tracks, if they’re capable of keeping your attention that is, and this one has even become a bit more epic that I had originally intended because of the spontaneous jam at the end.

I know it’s always a difficult question, but if you had to pick one song from this second album that would represent Vandenberg’s Moonkings best, which one would that be and why?
That would be ‘If You Can’t Handle The Heat’ or ‘The Fire’, because on both tracks Jan is singing at his best like a combination of David Coverdale, Chris Cornell and Ronny James Dio, while also the band is showcasing everything they’ve got on these tracks but in such a way that it’s not at the expense of the song.

Did you write and/or record more material than the ten songs that are to be found on this album. If so, which ones and what is going to happen with them?
The strange thing is that the only cover that is placed on the album ‘Love Runs Out’ was originally meant as a bonus track for the Japanese release, but when our record company Mascot heard this track they wanted this to be on the European release as well and so it did. But besides this cover there were no other songs written or recorded for possible bonus tracks.

Just like the debut album, this new one is released by the Mascot record label. I can however imagine that more record companies were interested, so was this also a case of not changing a winning team?
Indeed more record companies were interested to release this new album, but a good friend of mine who’s working as an independent promotor in France indicated that of all the companies that contacted me for our first release, only Mascot Records was a company that put the money where their mouth is. Knowing this and having their main office in the Netherlands, it was an easy choice to go for them for the release of our first album. As they’ve done a great job for the first record, there was no reason for us to change record labels for this successor.

The album will be released on November 3rd, so what are our own personal expectations from the album? When will it be a success for you?
For me the album already is a success, because I make records for which I would run to the store myself and I think we have accomplished that. The rest is out of my hands, so we’ll just wait and see what the reactions from the press and the music fans will be.

You will be touring through the Netherlands in November and December, but what can we expect from Vandenberg’s Moonkings (on the touring front) in 2018?
We’re going to do a second Dutch tour in the March/April time-frame and after that we will be doing some summer festivals. Probably a lot more will be happening in 2018, but those things are not concrete yet.

Okay Ad, I would like to thank you for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to express to our readers?
I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot of the fans back again during our next coming tour(s) as playing live is still the most important aspect of a musician’s career.

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