Adrian Vandenberg

Return Of The Flying Dutchman
Adrian Vandenberg
Adrian Vandenberg: Neil A. Lim Sang.

On Adrian Vandenberg’s latest album, Sin, the Flying Dutchman joins forces with former Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Mats Levén for the heaviest album of his career. Gothic riffs, Led Zep breakdowns, and classically influenced Euro metal intensity rule. But as always, Vandenberg leans into strong songs and the good notes.

What are your thoughts on the new record?
I’m extremely happy. Every album is an adventure that represents a special time in my life. I get antsy because, a couple of weeks after the mix, I hope I’m still excited about it – and I am.

When I was 20 and got my first recording contract, I didn’t have enough experience to translate the ideas I had in my head; I listened to stuff from Jeff Lynne and Rainbow and other great bands. Sitting next to my Marshalls, I’d get excited. Then I’d go into the control room and everything sounded thin. I wondered, “How the hell can I translate my guitar sound to a record?” It comes down to experience and getting a performance out of people. A live experience is what I always try to achieve on an album. It’s also about attitude. When I record, I close my eyes and imagine playing live onstage, with air coming out of the Marshalls. It always has to do with a state of mind.

What’s different about this album?
I had to kick some serious ass to go further than my last album, because I was pretty happy with that one, too. I decided to go heavier with everything, and was fortunate to run into Mats. Anybody who survives working with Yngwie is pretty cool in my book (laughs). He’s one of those true singers who digs into his soul. There are technical demands, but singing is all about getting your emotions across. He really performs, and I’m very happy to be working with him.

Since emerging in the early ’80s, you’ve maintained a very distinctive vibrato.
That’s great to hear. I don’t think about it, but it’s essential for any guitar player. I could hear three or four notes from my heroes – Brian May, Leslie West, Eric Clapton early in his career – and know it was them. That’s lost on the last couple of generations of guitar players. They play on Youtube, pay for personal lessons with Steve Vai or Joe Satriani, and they all sound similar to my ears. The guys I grew up with had a very personal identity.

I played at a festival in Holland three years ago, and Extreme was playing. Nuno Bettencourt came up and said, “Mr. Vandenberg, do you mind if we take a picture together?” He’s such a nice guy. Nuno is one of my favorite players. He’s a brilliant guitarist with no attitude who loves what he does. Guys like that leave an echo for other players, and I’m still inspired. It makes me want to pick up the guitar.

Do you still play your Peavey signature model from the ’80s?
I used my trusty Les Paul Heritage on Sin, which I’ve been dragging around the world since 1980 and has been relic’d by my own blood, sweat, and tears. I still play my Peavey Vandenberg; there are things I can do with it that I can’t do with the Les Paul because it has the vibrato, and I can reach the high notes.

I’ve been working with Peavey on a reissue. I’ve had millions of questions on social media about it, and those people are going to be very happy because they’ll be able to get one.

Are you doing anything different with the reissue?
I experimented with different pickups because the originals were very bright. So, the reissue will have Seymour Duncans, and the vibrato will be a Floyd Rose instead of a Kahler. Those are the only differences.

Do you ever play guitar around L.A. or hang out with friends and jam?
I’ve never really done that. My music and playing are so connected that I’ve only played a minimal amount on other records. I rarely play at jams because it doesn’t inspire me.

If Nuno called, would you jam with him?
Oh, yeah (laughs)!

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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