Following on from Steve Vai's admission that he was "a bit of a prima donna" during his stint in WHITESNAKE in a story that made the news last week, Adrian Vandenberg has revealed that his one-time six-string partner apologized to him for his behavior during their tenure in David Coverdale's rock behemoths. Vandenberg made the revelation during a chat with Eonmusic about VANDENBERG's new album "Sin".
Vai joined WHITESNAKE in time for 1989's "Slip Of The Tongue", an album co-written by Vandenberg, and although the Dutch guitarist didn't feature on the album, he rejoined the band for its subsequent touring cycle.
Speaking to Eonmusic about their musical partnership, Adrian said: "Steve and I became really good friends pretty much instantly. I think it worked really well between Steve and I because I thought it sounded so different".
Going on to talk about their differences as players, Vandenberg said: I'm a very melodic player — that's always been my passion — and Steve, especially in that period, was very flashy, because he felt he had to prove himself more. That's what he told me later."
Going on to reveal that Vai had apologized for what he himself last week described as "prima donna" behavior, Vandenberg said: "Steve later on said, 'Man, I have to say, you know, at the time, my ego was a little inflated', and he kind of apologized for it. He said, 'You know, I was just getting carried away by that period of time where everybody was going, 'Oh! Steve Vai.'"
Admitting that it was tough to not get to play on the "Slip Of The Tongue" album, Adrian was philosophical. "As frustrating as it was that I wasn't able to play on my own songs because of this wrist injury, at the same time, I thought, 'Well, in a way, it's kind of cool that a player of Steve's caliber plays on the songs,'" he said.
In a recent interview with Vintage Rock Pod, Vai stated about his decision to join the David Coverdale-fronted band after parting ways with David Lee Roth: "In my mind, that's what I was doing — I was surrendering my career. Because the music for [my solo album] 'Passion And Warfare' [which ended up getting released in 1990]… I knew it was very different."
Vai went on to admit that he lacked the confidence to perform instrumental music in front of an audience as he was used to having a frontman. "So I thought, 'Well, it would make much more sense to tour with WHITESNAKE and make a record with them,'" he explained. "And for the momentum of that other side of my career, and lucky for me, I really liked the music of WHITESNAKE. Back then, their 'Whitesnake' album [had] sold 25 million copies and it was a great record. I just love great singers, and Coverdale was a monster. I mean, come on. I watched that guy get on stage every night and deliver like a boss. So I thought, 'Yeah, man. I want in.' It was great. When I got into the band, all the music was written and recorded for the 'Slip Of The Tongue' record. I just had to put the guitars on it. That was another really great group of guys."
Vai continued: "If anybody was difficult, it was me. I was a bit of a prima donna. I came from Dave Roth, and with Dave Roth, you learn certain things, how to navigate the business and navigate the magazines and the press and things like this. Plus I had 'Passion And Warfare' out. It was blowing up while I was touring with WHITESNAKE. So we did the 'Slip Of The Tongue', and we did a huge tour. It was fantastic. At the end of it, David was going through some personal things. He was going through a divorce, so he disbanded everything. But I knew instinctively that I [had to] do a record and a tour with them, and [then] return to the quirky music that was in my head. And I did."
WHITESNAKE scored the band's third consecutive platinum record with its eighth studio album, "Slip Of The Tongue". Originally released in November 1989, it peaked at No. 10 on the U.K. and U.S. album charts thanks largely to its two Top 40 hits — "Fool For Your Loving" and "The Deeper The Love". The fan favorite turned 30 in 2019 and Rhino celebrated with several new versions, including a colossal seven-disc boxed set.
Following the eight-times-platinum success of its eponymous album in 1987, WHITESNAKE returned two years later with "Slip Of The Tongue". At the time, the band included Coverdale, bassist Rudy Sarzo, drummer Tommy Aldridge, Vandenberg and Vai. Vandenberg and Coverdale co-wrote all but one song on the album, but Vandenberg couldn't record them in the studio at the time due to a hand injury. To fill the void, Vai joined the band for the album and tour.
"When I had joined WHITESNAKE, the tracks were already recorded and Adrian had laid down guide rhythm tracks," Vai told Guitar World. "What had happened was Adrian developed this situation with his wrist that persisted throughout the tour. I'm not sure what caused it, but he'd have to soak his wrist after every show.
"Adrian's such a great player, but the injury made it so he couldn't really sustain for too long because of the pain. I've stayed pretty close with Adrian over the years and I see him whenever I'm in Holland, and when I spoke to him a couple of years ago, he was still having that wrist problem — but they located the source of it to his neck.
"So Adrian had made these guide tracks and that were basically chords and structures, and I obviously copped a lot of the riffs from those, but I put my spin on them because it was all like one track of guitar. I went in with 20 tracks on some songs; it's a very dense guitar record and I definitely did my best to decorate it. It was a departure for what WHITESNAKE was normally known for in the guitar department."
Asked if he had any reservations about not staying wholly true to WHITESNAKE's old signature sound, Vai said: "You have to find a balance between what's expected of you from the band, what the fans are expecting, what the song requires and is telling you to do — and also being true to your own voice. I had no choice but to express my own voice because that's all I know.
"If I had tried to sound like Yngwie [Malmsteen] when I had joined ALCATRAZZ, it just wouldn't have worked because I'm very satisfied with the way I play, but I also can't play like Yngwie. It was the same thing when I was playing with Dave [David Lee] Roth; I needed to deliver in a rock context — which was very natural to me — but I'm not going to compete with Edward Van Halen.
"There's no way those records would've been accepted if I didn't have some kind of rock integrity, but I knew what the songs needed and I knew what the audience was expecting and there's a side of me that I knew could deliver that. It was the same thing with WHITESNAKE.
"The foundation of WHITESNAKE's sound was rooted in rock blues, and there's a whole culture that emanated from Europe in that traditional solid rock blues guitar playing that had a real authenticity to it.
"Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, Adrian Vandenberg, Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page — that was the sound all WHITESNAKE records had been built upon. But WHITESNAKE had gone through different permutations of guitar sounds throughout the years, and the previous one to me was John Sykes, and he absolutely had his own sound.
"Sykes didn't sound like any other previous WHITESNAKE guitarist, but his thumbprint is an indelible part of the WHITESNAKE record he did. The fatness of that record and the rock integrity it had was all Sykes. So I knew I wasn't going to sound like Sykes and I wasn't going to try to.
"You cheat yourself when you try to do that and play like someone else. And the audience is a lot smarter than you think; they're very intuitive and perceptive and if you try to pull anything over on them — like biting someone else's thing — you'll get beat up for it."