Sahara’s Liz Vandall talks about Uli John Roth, Lyraka and more Sahara

Sahara’s Liz Vandall talks about  Uli John Roth, Lyraka and more Sahara
September 1, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

To  call Liz Vandall (Uli Jon Roth/Sahara vocalist) anything less than a vocal leviathan would be an understatement. She possesses a vocal range  that encompasses everything from the melodically euphonious to the raw  and gritty.  Todd Houston from the Rockford Rocked page caught up with her at her home in Germany just before  recording vocals for Lyraka 2, a Wagnerian Metal Opera with Andy  DiGelsomina Enjoy!

 

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

You were born in Stockholm Sweden, how was it that your family ended up in Rhode Island?

 

 

Liz Vandall:

 

Well, my mom met who was to become my stepfather in Sweden. He is  American and spent time there coaching a hockey team. They got married  and we moved to RI when I was 3 1/2 years old. I grew up in Cranston and  then moved to North Kingstown when I started Junior High. Later, in  1983, we moved to Los Angeles.

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

Your voice is truly amazing! At what age did you decide that you wanted to be the lead vocalist in a rock band?

 

Liz Vandall:

Thank you Todd! It was all a progression, really. I actually decided that I  wanted to be a singer when I was 9 years old when I saw Cher on the  Sonny and Cher show. I thought she was so beautiful and powerful, so I  started singing to her records. This was all going on at the same time  that I was pretending to be David Cassidy of the Partridge Family and  singing into our upright vacuum cleaner, it was the perfect height,  hahaha. I spent an awful lot of time picking up the needle to the record  player and putting it back until I could copy the singing. Then I moved  up to trying to tape myself. As I got older in Jr. High, I joined the  chorus in school and got a trophy for Most Outstanding, that felt like  it was my Grammy! By the time I was 16 or so, I was hanging out with the  rockers at school which led to singing in bands.

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

Who were your musical influences?

 

Liz Vandall:

I had various influences, both vocal and musical. I liked a lot of the  hard rock bands from mid ’70’s onward, of course what’s become Classic  Rock today. I spent a lot of time singing along with records and loved  Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale, Bruce Dickenson,  Kansas, early Sammy  Hagar, etc., mainly male power-style vocalists. There really weren’t  many females to draw from at that time, Pat Benetar and Ann Wilson come  to mind, but they weren’t really doing the kind of music that I was  interested because I was getting more into the heavier rock, like  Scorpions, Rainbow, Schenker, early Aerosmith, etc. so my influences  pretty much remained male. Also, Ann Wilson is phenomenal, but our  ranges are completely different, I’m more of a contralto. I’ve also  loved Kate Bush for many years now, and she resulted in influencing me  musically. I love a lot of music, from Medieval-Renaissance and Celtic  to progressive bands such as Dream Theater.

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

Were your parents supportive in your musical quest in the begining?

 

Liz Vandall:

Ha ha ha, this is a funny one. I think my parents basically just tried  to cope with me singing along with the blasting stereo, eventually I  drove them crazy by wearing headphones and singing, I would imagine  totally out of key because I couldn’t hear myself. I think drummers and  singers have it rough because we’re loud, I know I was.

 

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

Tell us how you ended up in Los Angeles fronting the band Sahara.

 

 

 

Liz Vandall:

 

My mom decided to move to LA first before me. I didn’t want to go  because I was in my first gigging band in RI called Violation. But I  blew out my voice and had to see a doctor and he told me to give myself  six weeks of complete vocal rest. I knew I couldn’t be quiet that long  if I was still hanging out at rehearsals, so I went out to LA in 1983 to  visit my mom and I never ended up going back. I started taking voice  lessons with Seth Riggs, one of the top coaches in LA and put ads out in  Music Connection magazine and started auditioning for bands. Once I did  that, I realized that I could stand up to the competition there and  thought it didn’t really make any sense to go back. I played with a  couple of bands until I met and joined Sahara, I think in 1986.

 

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

Sahara keyboardist Diane Kornarens was in the 80’s metal band WARLORD!  Yngwie Malmsteen has been quoted as saying that Warlord was one of his  favorite bands. Did any of Warloard’s music spill over into Sahara early  on?

 

 

Liz Vandall:

 

I didn’t know that about Yngwie. I  do know that Phil Woodward, Sahara’s guitarist, used to hang out with  Yngwie in those days. I’m also not so familiar with Warlord, Diane had  played me some stuff, but considering at that point that Sahara’s music  was written then by Diane and Phil, I’m sure there was some type of  influence.

 

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

The 1992 Sahara album  “Going Crazy” has some fantastic melodic rock stuff going on! How much  influence did you have in the writing process of this album?

 

 

Liz Vandall:

 

Generally, Phil and Diane used to come up with most of the music and I  would write the melodies and lyrics. But as the band evolved, all of us  had some input in various songs. I also play keyboards enough to write,  but not perform though, and many times, I would come up with a part and  show it to Diane and it would be incorporated. I did have a few songs on  both albums that I wrote by myself as well.

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

Some people might say that “Going Crazy” has some disturbing,  nightmarish cover art! Not quite as disturbing as Black Sabbath’s “Born  again” cover art but still! Who came up with the concept?

 

 

Liz Vandall:

 

I had found a brochure of a really way out there artist named Laurie  Lipton and we contacted the gallery and got permission to use the  picture for the cover. We thought it epitomized the story behind the  song Going Crazy, with how the psychological effects of society and  family shape people and begins in childhood. The name of the drawing was  “When the Bough Breaks”. They didn’t let us alter or superimpose  anything over the image, so it ended up looking pretty funky with the  typeset by the time it was finished. A lot of her artwork is pretty  disturbing, you can check out her website at  http://www.laurielipton.com/

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

The follow up album 1995’s “Seventh House” features the song  “AQUARIUS”. I personally love the production! Your vocals are haunting  as well as the the whole vibe of the song. Who’s idea was it to cover  this song and make it your own?

 

 

Liz Vandall:

 

Aquarius  came to me driving in my car. I heard the keyboard notes of the verse in  my head and started singing the melody. When I got home, I recorded it  and showed it to Diane. We worked it out in rehearsal and they came up  with the rest of the music. We really put a lot into that song and  although the production is dated today, I still remain very proud of it.  For all intents and purposes, although it is technically a cover song,  it truly became our own as it is so different from the original. It  almost feels like we wrote it. At the very least, the creativity and  effort that went into it was the same as writing our own anyway.

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

Let’s face it, 85% of hard rock/metal concert goers tend to be white  males 18 to 35 years old! What was is like being a beautiful women  fronting a hard rock band in the 80’s and 90’s?  And did the guys in  your band keep a close eye on you?

 

 

Liz Vandall:

 

Well…thanks for that complement Todd, but I never thought of myself as  beautiful and I never had that problem with guys chasing me around after  shows or anything like that! I think honestly, in some ways, we were  intimidating or something. Also, you have to keep in mind that we played  mostly in the LA area and when I’d look out, I’d see a bunch of  musicians with their arms crossed trying to look cool. However, I do  recall Blackie Lawless chasing me and Diane home in his car one night  (lAUGHS!)

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

In 1995 after 9 years  in the band, Diane Kornarens decided to call it a day and split from the  music bizz all together. Where did this leave you and the other members  of Sahara?

 

Liz Vandall:

We were very disoriented  after Diane quit. So much of our sound was from the combination of  Diane, Phil and myself and it never crossed our minds really to carry on  without her. She got completely disillusioned with the whole thing  after getting burned a couple of times monetarily. When we were  recording The Seventh House, we went over budget and the record company,  Dreamcircle, which was basically Ole Bergfleth, wouldn’t pay and she  had to put it on her credit card. Then, we shot a pro video of the song  Aquarius. We had hours of footage, a pro crew and even had a stage set  built. I think he had run out of money at this point and never paid to  even get the film out of the lab. It still kills us to this day, we  don’t even know what lab it was and if it still exists.  All we ended up  with was a few snapshots somebody took and a few minutes shot on a home  camera. Very sad. I think it really would have been such a cool video,  it still upsets me.

 

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

Tell us how you met your Boyfriend (former Scorpions guitarist) Uli Jon Roth.

 

 

 

Liz Vandall:

 

I met Uli in 1996. I was debating at that point if I would maybe go  solo, but then I got the call from Uli and he flew me out to record  vocals for his album, Requiem for an Angel. Diane’s brothers were great  Uli fans from way back and one of them had a Sky Guitar that Uli let him  hang onto for a while. Phil got permission to play the Sky Guitar in  the song Aquarius. When the album got finished, her brother Anthony went  out to visit Uli and played him the song and then the next thing I knew  I was on my way to England to record. We hit it off professionally and  personally and a year later, I moved to the UK and moved in with him.

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

You’ve toured with Uli since the 1998’s G3 tour. Since then you have  done many more including, Ledgends of Rock, Rock meets Renaissance and  more recently for Uli’s “Under a Dark Sky” album. What were some of the  highlights during this period?

 

 

Liz Vandall:

 

Doing the  G3 tour was the first major tour I had ever done. The lineup was Joe  Satriani, Michael Schenker and Uli. Obviously, it was fantastic and  exciting, but at the same time stressful, because by the end of it, I  was 5 months pregnant. It was a time of many firsts. Gary Barden was so  much fun to be around, he was singing with Michael’s band and used to  always tease me about my stomach. Uli’s band itself was fantastic to  play with, we rehearsed in our house. Don Airey made me a really  delicious Shepherd’s Pie (actually I think it’s called Cottage Pie when  they make it with hamburger), anyway it was a dream come true for me to  work with musicians of that calibre. We also had Clive Bunker on drums  who was the original drummer of Jethro Tull. I took the next couple of  years off to be a full-time mother, which inadvertently ended up being  an unplanned retirement of sorts. I only made a few appearances here and  there at shows on the tours you mentioned. I truly wanted to keep on  with the music, but we lived way out in the boonies and Uli was the  active one, so I had to take a back seat.

 

In 2001, Uli did The  Legends of Rock at Castle Donnington with Jack Bruce and Michael  Schenker. They all rehearsed at our house which was pretty cool. Phil  Mogg and Pete Way played with Michael. I remember I had to sing one song  with them because Phil was out of the room or something. All I remember  is being really nervous. I couldn’t believe it, I mean I grew up  listening to Michael Schenker! That show progressed into a Legends of  Rock tour in 2002 with Frank Marino, Glenn Hughes and again Jack Bruce. I  can’t remember now, but I know I did play with them at Shepherd’s Bush  Empire in London and a few others. One really great thing that came out  of it was a very close friendship with Frank Marino. He spent a lot of  time with me in between rehearsals trying to help me out with getting my  material together. I needed technical help with my studio, as in  engineering, in fact that’s been my main problem all along throughout  the years and flew out to Canada to his studio. He recorded one of my  songs for me, Falling from the Sky. I haven’t talked to him in a while  now, but I know I could just pick up the phone and it would be like no  time has gone by. He’s a great person.  What I remember most of  Rock Meets Renaissance was how unseasonably cold it was that October in  Germany. It was an outdoor show and we could see our breath. It was hard  on everyone, including the audience. We had a chamber orchestra and the  girls were in Renaissance gowns and looked so beautiful, it was  magical. Doro Pesch and I sang a duet of the song Angel by Jimi Hendrix  and I did one of my own along with Uli’s songs. Victor Smolski also  played with us.

 

In 2008, came the Under a Dark Sky Album and  World Tour. We recorded it here at our house and brought it to a studio  in Hamburg to mix. The highlight for me was singing with Mark Boals and  the friendship that developed. We had so much fun together and got along  really well. When he was here recording his vocals, it was so great for  me to be right there and be able to study another singer close up like  that because all I knew was myself! Most of the highlights for me were  the learning experiences  because we had classical musicians and a choir  here. It was great for me to be around and taking it all in. Mixing it  was a nightmare and very intense because the music was so intricate and  big, we could have spent 6 months on it, but we only had a couple of  weeks or so.  Then we toured the USA, Europe, New Zealand and  Japan. Loved it, but at times it was pretty chaotic. Like one morning,  we stopped somewhere to get something to eat, I think it was after our  show in PA and we were maybe in Maryland, I’m not sure, but I left my  purse in the tour bus and just brought some money with me. When I came  out, the bus was gone. I didn’t have a phone, didn’t know where we were  going, my hair was sticking out all crazy because I had just woken up,  so then some truck driver let me borrow his phone and I called my mom in  PA and I thought that was the end of my tour. I knew everybody else was  sleeping on the bus and they probably didn’t even know I was missing.  Finally, I saw a police car and went over to them, but I must have  looked like a nut because they told me to please step away from the car.  Just at that moment though, I saw the bass player walking towards me, I  was jumping up and down, I was so happy. Turns out they had just moved  the bus and it was hidden!

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

What  is a typical day like at the Vandall/Roth household? Is it loud guitars  and singing or more like making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and  doing homework with your daughter Akashal

 

 

Liz Vandall:

Ha  ha, very boring really! Musically, mostly, it’s pretty quiet actually,  except for Akasha driving us crazy with her electronic hip hoppy music.  I’ve got my home studio and usually have my headphones on. Uli always is  playing his guitar, but it’s not plugged in. When he’s recording or  testing out some equipment, is when the house starts shaking, but he’s  been doing a lot of live stuff lately.  Very very rarely will you hear  him just listening to music for pleasure because he finds it to be too  strenuous because he listens so deeply. Other than that, yes, we do all  the normal stuff that everybody else does, but since living in Germany,  Uli’s been the one to deal with the schoolwork because I can’t read  anything.

 

Let’s have some fun! The last time Liz Vandall :

 

Had dinner with the Schenker’s =

At our house in 2001 during the Legends of Rock rehearsals. Don’t ask me what we ate cause I can’t remember.

 

Had to tell Uli to turn down his guitar because you couldn’t hear the Television =

We don’t watch TV, just DVD’s and videos, mainly old stuff like I Love  Lucy, Lost in Space, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, some British  shows like Fawlty Towers, etc. His guitar never bothers me though  because he never plays loud late into the night anyway. The problem is  usually the other way around when I do start blasting music sometimes  because either I’m really quiet or it’s playing on 11. It’s a great way  to get him to stop working anyway.

 

Listened to The Scorpions “Virgin Killers”album in it’s entirety  =

Don’t think I have at one time…

 

 

Spoke to Tony Martin (former Black Sabbath singer) =

 

(Editors note: Tony is currently dodging an interview with us!)

 

This morning. Just tried out recording some vocals on a song of his  that he sent me the tracks for. I’m in the process of moving to the UK  soon and we’ve been talking about perhaps doing something, not sure what  yet, maybe writing together when I  get there. He’s become my favorite  singer, I think he’s wonderful and a great songwriter as well!

 

 

Had to tell a male fan to quit stalking you =

 

No hardcore stalking, thank God, just maybe being poked on Facebook by a few habitual pokers! But it’s fun.

 

 

 

Had Mark Boals ( Yngwie Malmsteen singer) call you “Lizzy baby” =

 

He always calls me that, he’s my bud!

 

 

 

Shook hands with Joe Satriani =

 

Don’t think I ever did, I only met him for a minute, think he kept to himself mostly.

 

 

Had a cocktail with Doro Pesch =

 

No cocktails, but we shared our dressing room. In between doing our  hair, we tried to figure out who would be singing what in the song Angel  because there were no rehearsals. She was very sweet and nice to be  around.

 

 

 

Sighned an autograph for one of your daughter’s friends parents =

 

Never!

 

 

 

Totally dismantled a trampoline all by yourself =

 

Recently tried to, but after getting attacked by stinging nettles and big scary spiders, I ran away!

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

What’s next for Liz Vandall?

 

 

Liz Vandall:

Next up is recording vocals for Lyraka 2, a Wagnerian Metal Opera by  Andy DiGelsomina and his fiance Jasmine.  Rob Diaz Will be on also alongside  Graham Bonnet, Mark Boals, Veronica Freeman and Allan Atkins! Should be  coming out in 2012.   Also hope to get my own songs together  and perhaps collaborate with a few people and finally get them out  there. There’s so much that can be done now via the internet and it sure  helps to make the world a smaller place and more accessible. Have been  approached for a few recording projects as well. All in all, things are  looking good and it feels exciting and alive.

 

 

 

Legendary Rock Interviews:

 

 

 

Thanks for chatting with us Liz!

 

Liz Vandall:

 

Thank you Todd!

 

 

 

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Category: Interviews

Comments (2)

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  1. Chris Yancik says:

    The thought of Uli watching Gilligan’s Island is so great, I can’t even stand it!!!

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