Adrian Vandenberg recently made an appearance at NAMM 2024, showing his newly redesigned Peavey guitar. Metal Contraband’s Chelsea had a chance to sit down with Adrian and discuss his signature guitar, the recent Vandenberg release, and more.
We’re here at NAMM 2024, sitting down with Adrian Vandenberg in the Peavey room. How are you doing today?
Doing great. As usual, I’m a lucky guy. I’m always doing great, actually. As the saying in Dutch goes, luck is with the stupid people. In my case, I’m all good.
That’s kind of a musician stereotype anyway, right? *laughs* So we are here in the Peavey room because of course, you’ve had a long time connection with the Peavey brands and guitars and everything, but you have a new one right here, a signature guitar, that I’d like to ask you to talk to me a little bit about.
Well, it’s a re-release of this guitar I designed in the 80’s for Peavey. When Whitesnake exploded, before that I had my band Vandenberg, of course, which I have again, but at the time…You get bombarded by all kinds of companies like Kramer, ESP, all those companies say, “Hey, you want to play our guitar?” And I go, “Well, I have a guitar”, you know? And then Peavey approached me, if I was willing to design a guitar, a signature guitar for them. And I thought it was great because Peavey guitars were not successful in the rock business, but then everybody knew them from the great amplifiers and stuff. But as far as the guitars, you know, some bass players, but not rock players. So I thought, there’s a challenge there – to come up with a guitar that is sexy and that sounds great and that really is a serious rock guitar, but that has its own character because what I found…I used to be a designer before, that was my job. I taught art at schools and academies, and I worked as a graphic designer, so I’ve always been into shapes and forms and the way things feel. So I thought I wanted to come up with a guitar that, from a distance, you still would recognize for what it is, like a Les Paul or a Stratocaster or a Telecaster. When you’re miles away you still say hey, there’s a Telecaster. So I wanted to have a different shape, plus I wanted to have the opportunity to have it sound like a Gibson Les Paul, but at the same time with a switch, just make it sound like a Stratocaster, whatever you need it, you know. So the shape was very important to me, and the way it feels when you play it. It has a really thin neck. I was never very much into those really clunky necks, you know, where you feel like you’re playing a baseball bat. So I wanted it to be elegant and sexy, and at the same time have an attitude. So as you can tell, it’s got a very recognizable shape. I had those violin cuts in there because classical music has always been important to me and it shows in my playing, my style has got classical elements in it because of my dad and my sister, they’re classical piano players, professional…well, my sister professional, for my dad it was a passion, so I thought it was a nice link to do it like that. And make it sexy, basically, because rock and roll without sex is useless. You don’t want to play a baseball bat or a tennis racket or something. So that was my point to design this, but I was on the road. That Whitesnake tour lasted a year and a half. So what I did is, I put big pieces of paper on the walls of my hotel room and started drawing shapes, you know? And every time when I was in the next hotel room, I put the paper on the wall from the day before, and think about it, and go, do I like it? If not, what is it that I don’t like about it? And what is different than any other guitar? So in the end, after sketching and sketching, I came up with this shape. And I’m still really happy with it.
So now it’s re-released, with a couple of minor differences like, first of all, the Seymour Duncan pickups are on it now, because at the time, I noticed that a lot of people who were really happy with the guitar, they started to change the pickups, and very often people go to Seymour Duncan pickups, so I suggested to Peavey, let’s put Seymour Duncans on it so most people are going to be happy right away. And there’s a Floyd Rose on it because at the time, there was a Kahler on it, and people found it really hard to find the parts for it. So when you’re in the midwest or something, and something breaks down on your tremolo system, people can’t get the parts, you know? So with a Floyd Rose, you can get them anywhere. And those are basically the only two differences. Everything else is the same, it’s still the same great guitar and I’m really happy.
Also, because since they stopped producing it, which was in the early 90s, there aren’t three days going by through DM messages on my social media, [without] people asking, “Hey, do you still have any of those Peaveys? Are you wanting to let one go?” And I go, “no, I only have five left”, So for those people, it’s really great that it’s back on the market again…I’m sorry, I’m like a second-hand car salesman, but I’m just really excited about the guitar.
Not at all, that wasn’t salesy, that was showing your passion for this beautiful guitar that you designed and created. And I love that because you have a design background, you had the aesthetics of it in mind, you created a unique look, but then of course, as a skilled player, you created something that was functional, also conventional, that people could actually find the parts easily, like you said, something that’s still accessible, even though it’s a very unique guitar in its own way.
So moving on to some other things going on in your life, of course Vandenberg, you have the new album SIN, absolutely awesome album. Can you give me a little bit of a quick background on just how that all came together?
Yeah, as people know, I’ve made quite a number of albums over the last decades and so I suppose, just like most writers, you run into a certain way that works for you. For me, it usually starts with a riff on a guitar, and at the same time melodies pop up in my head when I’m on my bicycle or when I’m roller skating or taking a shower…which I do at Christmas every year.
Maybe I should move my chair away a little?
*laughs* So, there’s always melodies bouncing around in my head. So when I think out it’s pretty cool and I burp it into my iPhone and the same goes for…that actually creates very funny situations, like very often when I’m in the airport and waiting for the check-in, and suddenly this melody pops up in my head, I hum it into my iPhone. So I get to a quiet corner and then I see people looking, seeing this guy going, *hums*, and they go, “Oh man, we better stay away from that guy, he’s not quite normal”, you know? But so, when I get home and when I get into the situation where I think it’s time to make a song out of it, then I just listen back to all those little ideas, hundreds, thousands of them, I go, “Oh wait a minute, this part goes really well with that riff that I came up with two weeks ago”, and I compare them. And that’s when you’re basically turning into a carpenter because you’ve got the parts, or most of the parts, but you want to make it complete. And that’s usually most of the work because sometimes it feels like work. Because you go, man, something’s not right about it and I can’t figure out right away what’s not right about it and I have to think about it. Then I just kind of keep chiseling away, and I put them together again, and it’s very rewarding afterwards. Sometimes something falls together in a couple of minutes, or sometimes in a day or in two days, and I think people who write songs, or make paintings, or whatever, the feeling that you get when you know that something is right that has been bugging you for all this time, and man, there it is, you know, that’s so great. And that’s actually why I still really enjoy doing it. And I will probably keep doing that until I drop, you know, so, which is not going to be any sooner than 70 years from now or 80 years from now, I think. That’s the plan.
I agree with the songwriting perspective as well, especially when you’re sitting on something for a few days and it’s just not quite right, you’ve got to walk away from it, something has got to change, then when you finally hit it, it’s just like, “okay, there it is”.
It’s just an interesting process, you know, it always fascinates me to find out what is it that I don’t likes, and with my paintings it’s even more difficult because you’ve got the colors, you’ve got the shapes, you’ve got whatever you wanted to do, and at the same time I go, I know it can be better. What I sometimes do with my painting, I turn it upside down, and then I look at it and I go, oh wait a minute, there’s something in the balance that is not dynamic enough or something. But with a song you can’t do that, you know? With a song, you play it over and over again. Then I leave it, sometimes I leave it for weeks. I know there’s gotta be a solution somewhere, you know? And then I run into the solution and I go, oh great, thanks. Open up a nice bottle of wine and celebrate. That’s it.
With great results, there’s been some awesome music coming from Vandenberg – always – but also lately with the new album as well. You also worked with producer Bob Marlette on that, and he’s iconic as well, with his background as a producer. So any experiences to share?
Yeah, we hit it off right away on the phone already, even before we met, and we became really good friends. It’s great to work with friends, life is too short to work with assholes, you don’t want to do that, you know, and it’s not inspiring either. But yeah, Bob and I, like already after the first couple of days, I told him, “Man, we have a problem”. And he said, “Uh-oh, what is it?” I said, “Well, you’re screwed because we’re going to keep working together from now on”. He goes, “Oh, phew, I thought you weren’t happy”.
So you also have plenty of Vandenberg tour dates coming up and you have a US tour on the horizon and European tours beyond that. So just give us a little outlook on what’s on the horizon for you.
Well, in February and March, we’re touring the East Coast, the United States. Most of the shows we’re co-headlining with Geoff Tate, the former Queensrÿche singer. We’re doing a bunch of headline shows first, then we go back to Europe and we do the second leg of our Dutch tour. Touring in Holland is pretty easy compared to the States, because the distances are short. Most of the time you can go home at night, which is very nice. I love Dutch tours too, because you always see familiar faces in the place, or friends come with me to hang out. Yeah, I’m really looking forward to that too. And then there’s gonna be a bunch of European festivals in summer. And hopefully more American stuff after summer, because we’re hoping to do a West Coast tour after the summer, which would be great. California, man!
Absolutely. California, home of NAMM too. Well, it’s been awesome talking with you and wonderful to see your new guitar. Best of luck with everything. And thank you very much for your time. Enjoy the rest of NAMM!
My pleasure, thank you.