Adrian Vandenberg Reveals Why He Initially Disliked Steve Vai’s Playing in Whitesnake, Names Major Regret About the Band

Guitar legend Adrian Vandenberg reflected on his time in Whitesnake and sharing guitar duties with Steve Vai back in 1989 and 1990. Speaking to Guitar World recently, Vandenberg also pointed out that, initially, he wasn’t all that happy about Vai’s input on the “Slip of the Tongue” album, explaining that he expected Dave Coverdale to go in a more bluesy direction rather than the usual shreddy glam metal stuff.

Vandenberg touched upon this while talking about his work in Whitesnake. Recalling how he got the gig in the first place, he said:

“The way I ended up in Whitesnake was unexpected. I had parted ways with Vandenberg’s singer, and while I was looking for another singer, I got a call from John Kolodner, the A&R manager for Geffen at the time to discuss the new contract for Vandenberg.”

Whitesnake - Live At Donington 1990 (Full Concert)

However, his band wasn’t all that popular among the business people surrounding him and, instead, he was asked to join Whitesnake:

“He didn’t like the idea of a completely new lineup, so he suggested that I move away from it and join David [Coverdale] in Whitesnake. And David had already asked me like three times since ’82 to join, so I knew he wanted me.”

Of course, before Vandenberg joined, Coverdale had none other than John Sykes in the lineup. And those were some seriously big shoes to fill. He continued:

“When I joined, I knew I wouldn’t be able to equal what John [Sykes] had done, but David immediately asked me to devise a new rhythm arrangement for ‘Here I Go Again.’ What John had done was what was described to me as a ‘metal version of country and western music.'”

Adrian Vandenberg on David Coverdale

“So, I came up with some rhythm parts, and I recorded the solo in around 10 minutes, and then that arpeggio rhythm part in the second verse after the first chorus through a Rockman. The whole thing was done very quickly; I had no idea it would be huge.”

The legendary self-titled album that was in the works was almost done. Vandenberg did his solo on the new version of “Here I Go Again” and then hit the road with Whitesnake.

However, for the recording of the next album, Coverdale brought in Steve Vai. Although Vandenberg’s name was on the record, he was pretty much only a co-writer while Steve did all the guitar parts. However, as Adrian recalls, despite being Steve’s fan, he wasn’t all that happy about the general direction of the new guitar player’s input, directed by David Coverdale. He said:

“It took me a while to come to terms with it. I was a big admirer of Steve, but I had a vision of how I wanted those songs to sound: I wanted big rhythm guitars, melodic, and bluesy licks.”

Whitesnake - Adrian Vandenberg Guitar Solo (live in Russia 1994) HD

But despite the differences in the creative approach, Vandenberg eventually came to terms and accepted Steve Vai’s guitar parts for what they were. Sure, it was tough, but he “overcame his frustration” and even formed a close bond with Vai:

“It was one of the most challenging things I’d ever done, and it took me a few weeks to start appreciating Steve’s work. I had to overcome my frustration about not being able to play the songs as I’d hoped, but once I overcame my frustration and became close with Steve, I came to love how they turned out.”

This new lineup featuring Adrian Vandenberg and Steve Vai on guitars, as well as Rudy Sarzo on bass and Tommy Aldridge on drums, went on tour. But despite its success, Coverdale then disbanded Whitesnake. As Adrian recalls, this was one of his biggest regrets about the band:

“I definitely regret that the lineup with Steve and I didn’t get to continue. But grunge came up, and I’ve always been the kind of guy who sticks to his guns and does what he does best. So, if I could go back, I would have chosen to stay together and make at least one more album. I wish we had stuck to our guns, stayed together, and gotten back in the saddle like good cowboys [laughs].”

Whitesnake + Adrian Vandenberg - Here I go Again+Still o.t. Night @ 013 Tilburg 2016-aug-11 re-upl

During the 1990s, Vandenberg would rejoin Whitesnake on two occasions. Most famously, he was there with David Coverdale on the legendary Japan-only album ” Starkers in Tokyo” which saw the two doing an acoustic performance. Of course, there were also one-off reunions with Vandenberg appearing on some of Whitesnake’s live shows.  

A few years back, Steve Vai recalled what David Coverdale was like to work with for the “Slip of the Tongue” album. In particular, Vai explained what Coverdale requested of him and how the whole recording process went with the frontman and band leader directing this album. Steve explained:

“David was a prince! He had a lot of confidence in me and basically knew he needed to just let me do my thing. David knew what I was capable of and didn’t really interfere with what I wanted to do.”

“I just did it, and if there was something he didn’t like I was happy to change it because it was his thing. Working with David was great and there was something in his phrasing as a singer that I just adored.”

As he also added, there was just one solo that Coverdale wasn’t really happy with and Vai had to do it again. And, most importantly, there was no fuss about it. As he recalled:

“There was really only one situation where David asked me to redo something and I completely agreed. It was on ‘The Deeper the Love.'”

“I had done a solo using a piece of rack gear that was the hot new piece of gear at the time. I won’t mention who it was made by, but I hated the thing, but everybody was saying how great it was, so I gave it a spin.”

Whitesnake & Steve Vai - Hellfest 2022 - Still of the Night

“It sounded like shit – thin and buzzy like a deranged mosquito! I wasn’t really satisfied with the sound on the solo and, sure enough, David heard it and went, ‘Steven darling, would you mind redoing this solo – it sounds a bit thin.’ Other than that, he just let me run with it.”

Photos: Unknown (Metal revista whitesnake)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.