THE ART of the guitar hero is well and truly prospering, as witnessed by the appearance of a Fan Library tribute to the genre. not to mention the never-ending letters page debates on the relative merits or deficiencies of Michael, Matthias and Uli, Angus and ‘Fast’ Eddie, Nugent and Hagar.
What a shame that the Guitar Heroes mag has not come out two months later, for It would have been forced to include one Adrian Vandenberg (Adje to those with a penchant for the Dutch dialect). Thanks to the trail-blazing of the Schenker brothers and the likes of Trust’s Nono, European exponents are now as readily accepted in a world where bigotry and prejudice towards US arid UK guitarists was as prevalent as a 10-minute guitar solo.
Adrian Vandenberg has, without doubt, attained the standard (patent and copyright – Michael Schenker) which allows him to be attributed the ancient ritual known as ‘hero worship’. This consists of swaying the head with rhythmic vigour and exorcising the two forefingers by erecting them and holding them above the head in order to receive air.
Unfortunately for those who wish the hero to respond to their adulation in the appropriate manner – namely by being heavy drinkers/smokers/drug-takers (deletion being wholly inappropriate), Adrian will be rather disappointing. His only vices would appear to be of a sexual nature – obviously a legacy of one too many meetings with Blackfoot! Yet maybe this total devotion to perfection of the art rather than perfection of the excess, has led to a lightning quick contract with Atlantic.
Adrian has a wealth of experience to draw on, initially from his time as a young session musician playing on 25 albums of various styles and then as guitarist and sole composer in Teaser, a bad Dutch Bad Company rip-off.
“Teaser disbanded owing to the all-too-obvious ‘musical differences’,” recounts Adrian, “the vocalist wanted to play a more roots style of blues and I was attempting to go both more melodic, yet heavier. I did nothing for about a year simply trying to get new ideas for what kind of band I should form
– or maybe not to form a band at all! When I knew l wanted to continue I started to look for a vocalist who would fit the style of the two songs I’d written (‘Ready For You’ and ‘Out In The Streets’ were the songs which will appear on the album) and that is hard to do In Holland.
“I remembered a guy who l’d seen a few years ago on three or four occasions. The band he was in were covering Led Zap and Uriah Hoop numbers, and he was singing them so perfectly I thought he would definitely be the one. Having got in touch with him I found he hadn’t done any singing for four years and had been repairing vacuum cleaners, TV sets and the like (cue laughter) so he was enthusiastic about trying his hand again. We had one jam session with myself, the vocalist and a drummer and we knew immediately that this was what was needed.”
VOCALIST Bert Herring, drummer Jos Zoomer and Adrian teamed up with bassist Dik Kemper, whom they lured away from another Dutch outfit, Turbo. Two months passed before the band laid down their first demo. Enter important figure number one in the form of one Kees Baars.
“Yeah, I sent a copy of the demo to Kees who was a rock journalist at the time, to see what his opinions were. Two days afterwards he called me up with the tape blasting out in the background and was completely OTT. He said he wanted to give up his job and start to manage the band. Of course I wanted him to be a little cool — you can’t simply go throwing your job up on a whim, but we started to send tapes to British record companies to see if we could gamer a response. Within days we had a number of Dutch companies chasing really heavily to get us to sign, which was amazing. They must have wheedled a tape from someone and had gone out of their skulls over it. We only wanted to sign with an American or British label because of their obvious advantage.”
Why didn’t you work in Britain with British musicians from the start, saving all the problems and anonymity of being stuck in a Dutch backwater town such as Enschede with nothing to do but fiddle with fingers in dykes?
I did at one stage, but things didn’t work out too well. I rehearsed with Thin Lizzy for a couple of weeks but didn’t get on with the guys in the band, so I came home. Apart from that there are practical problems. I had a steady job as a designer in advertising and had I gone to England I would’ve had no source of income.”
ADRIAN’S talent for art is most impressive. The wall of his luxurious Dutch flat is the proud holder of two of the man’s work. One of the paintings depicts a vicious-looking knife jabbed into the side of a wall of all things. What’s more, it looks more than a touch realistic.
“I derive a lot of my influence from an American art form called Super-realism, whereby your work is almost photograph-like in detail and clarity. Yet within that frame I can also try connecting incongruities. You obviously can’t put a knife in a wall in reality but anything is possible on paper.” So did the interest in art begin at the same time as your interest in music?
“Yeah, I discovered art and music simultaneously. When I was two I had a cigar box with elastic bands slung ‘round it which I would twang, and I was scribbling on bits of paper at the same time — or so I was told.
“I didn’t actually pick up a real guitar until I was about 16. I’d only listened to classical music up until then but I was introduced to Hendrix and Cream by older guys in the neighbourhood and I just thought “to hell with classical music, I’m going for this.”
“The accent of my interest always see-sawed from art to music. I was at Art College but I got an offer from a blues piano player to go to Germany as a guitarist for the Pointer Sisters. I accepted, of course, so art took a back seat for a time. It was always like that! For the last two years I’ve lived off my drawings but since Phil (Carson — head of Atlantic Records) came along I’ve given it up.
Phil is important individual number three In the saga of Vandenberg but we must backtrack to a Michael Schenker party in Hamburg to meet with important figure number two.
“Kees and I were at the party in Hamburg and bumped into Peter Mensch (top Rock manager). We asked him if he’d be interested in managing the band but he turned us down because he had four of the world’s top bands on his books at the time. We sent him a tape anyway and got a call from him a couple of days later saying that he thought the tape was great. He asked us to go to London to talk, which we did and he promised to try and help us, even ‘though he couldn’t burden himself with management.
“That gave us a lot of confidence in ourselves because a man who knows about music thought we were really worthwhile — even If he was too busy to get back to us.’
THUS encouraged, a tape was dispatched with haste to Phil Carson, who was also suitably impressed. He demanded a second demo and having seen the band play a gig in Hilversum, established a deal for Britain and America.
Coping with English vocals must have been a problem for Bert
“It was a problem, because we’re bombarded with both American and British films which are not overdubbed, so we get a strange combination of accents. We solved the problem, because Phil Carson sent Phil May from the Pretty Things to help Bert with pronunciation. We re-did a few vocal lines from the demo and things were generally much improved.”
The Vandenberg album was recorded in April at Jimmy Page’s studio in the English countryside and is indeed an exciting debut, fit to rub shoulders with the best of product. The actual production, handled by the band with Adrian at the helm, is of an exceptionally high standard, bringing Adrian’s excellent guitar play to the fore in a crisp, clean sound while never neglecting the individual contributions of the other three musicians:
“Atlantic in Britain wanted to bring in a top-line producer to take control, maybe Martin Birch or Mutt Lange. Yet Atlantic America liked the sound of our demo so much they were fearful that our sound would change if an outside influence were brought in. They basically vetoed any move so we did the job ourselves.”
THE album is good enough to scare the spots off any other young hopefuls who have their sights on the top. Not only does each song contain essential dynamics which make a heavy rock song interesting and effective, but Adrian is a guitarist of rare quality. His sound is extremely Schenkeresque as you’ll see on checking Back On My Feet Again’ or ‘Lost In The City’.
Thus fuelled with essential information on Vandenberg, I can happily report this band can surely kill in the live scenario. Witnessing these four guys in rehearsal in a tiny room in the heart of Holland is an event that impinges itself on the brain quicker than a limpet sticking to a rock.
Bert slips the scarf away from his neck (a part of his anatomy which has been giving him a fair amount of trouble of late) and casually steps up to a microphone, while Adrian releases the opening salvo of ‘Back On My Feet Again’. Dik and Jos sweat it out and provide a tremendously potent rhythm section that is tighter than a Scotsman’s wallet while Bert lets forth effortlessly. Even if he is not happy with his form he sounds fine.
The songs from the album spring out with a great deal more vigour live, and stick with you for a fair while afterwards. Particularly memorable ‘is ‘Wait (‘till The S**t Hits The Fan)’ which must be the most incredible title ever dreamed up, (“It’s one of my ambitions to hear an audience crying that out at the top of their voices,” says Adrian. “The song is a slow rocker with a burning passion that I’m sure Tommy Vance will love getting his teeth into,”
The band are yearning to play in Britain and have signed a deal with the Cowbell agency for promotion, which should mean a tour is a distinct possibility.
A juicy snippet would round off the Vandenberg saga nicely. Y&T have asked them if they might open the show for the Dutchmen when they make it to the States. Now that surely signifies a band of quality!
KERRANG! NO. 30 DECEMBER 1982
When did you begin playing guitar? About eight years ago when I was sixteen.
Why did you start? I used to mess about with imitation guitars so I guess it was in the blood and I was just a late starter.
First type of guitar? An old Dutch brand, an Egmond.
Musical training: 2 years of piano.
Early influences: Leslie West, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Jan Akkerman.
First public performance: at a school party. I knew a song containing two chords which I was supposed to perform with a friend on cardboard boxes for drums but he lost his nerve and I did it alone.
First appearance on record: I was nineteen and did a single with a band called Darling titled ‘Guitar Man’ or something.
Recording bands: Darling, Jaap Dekkar, Teaser and Vandenberg.
Other vinyl appearances: A lot of session work in Holland with various unknowns.
Equipment (live): 4 Marshall 50 Watt amps, 6 cabs with Celestion speakers and two Les Pauls, ‘though I’m building my own new guitar at the moment.
Studio equipment: the same.
Number of guitars owned: Eight. Two acoustics, five electrics and a bass.
Most memorable solo on record: On the Vandenberg LP: ‘Back On My Feet Again, ‘Burning Heart’ and ‘Too Late’.
Other guitarists you admire: Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads and Michael Schenker.