By Andrew Catania
The 1980’s turned out to be a great era for the global music industry. This period could be rendered as the time when some remarkable talents emerged and made their mark in their respective genres, revolutionizing old school and contemporary approaches through their penchant for experimentations and innovative techniques. In the midst of them all, Vivian Campbell, aka The Journeyman, the North Irish, Belfast, rock and metal sensation outshines in the most important category of the musicians of the mighty 80s.
Having set his fingers on the chords at the tender age of 12, the bond Campbell developed with guitars in his childhood only strengthened over time as he practiced and learned the intricacies of the strings and chords. By the time Campbell set his feet in the professional music domain at the platform of Sweet Savage, despite being an amateur in the pool of professionals and maestros, he made a quick and promising start of his professional career.
Two years later, he bid farewell to Sweet Savage and joined Dio as the main guitarist, substituting Jake E. Lee. Although Vivian’s association with the Dio only brought in more success and fame to the band, the collaboration didn’t last for long, and Campbell eventually parted his way in 1986.
Whitesnake turned out to be the next milestone in his career. However, the association became even more short-lived than what he had with the Dio. Vivian worked with some music groups later only to make a breakthrough in his career, as he joined Def Leppard in 1992, replacing their deceased guitarist Steve Clark.
The association turned out to be incredibly symbiotic for the band as well as Vivian. The void created by Clark was efficiently filled by Campbell for good, who proved his mettle in his debut performance with Def Leppard. Not looking back since, the band, with Vivian Campbell on board, delivered a fiery performance at the stage of ‘Freddie Mercury Concert for Life.’ Vivian’s association with Def Leppard made an incredible addition to his profile, with last hit records like Retro Active (1993), Slang (1996), Euphoria (1999), X (2002), Yeah! (2006), Songs from the Sparkle Lounge (2008), Mirror Ball – Live and More (2011), Viva! Hysteria (2013), and Def Leppard (2015).
Besides casting his spell at Def Leppard’s platform, Vivian Campbell also worked over his solo ventures and released his personal album titled ‘Two Sides of If,’ featuring some interesting cover editions. He also convinced Jimmy Bain, Vinny Appice, and Andrew Freeman, the former Dio members, to reform and launch their own ‘Last in line, an American heavy metal band, in 2012. The band released their album Heavy Crown in 2016.
Vivian Campbell’s’ music career can be summarized as being punctuated with historic highs and lows, yet the maestro only excelled at his expertise through consistent dabs of style, finesse, versatility, and creativity. Vivian Campbell has managed to maintain his charm and vigor with an evergreen and unforgettable personality. At present, he is suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and is under intense treatment through stem cell therapy and regular courses of immune therapies. However, with his natural liveliness that is a signature hallmark of his playing style, he is optimistic to tame the disease and looks forward to doing more stints in his career profile.
How is the Last in Line Tour going?
It’s not a tour yet. We’ve been weekend warriors for the last couple of weekends. We did three shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and then the following week we did the same just on the west coast out here. It doesn’t feel like we’re on tour yet, but we will be because we are heading to Europe on Tuesday for a solid month worth of shows over there. So, that will feel more like the real thing. The six shows that we have completed through here on the west coast that is evolving significantly. The response is fantastic, and it’s very encouraging. We need to get out and play more. I read a lot on social media people want to see us play in Texas, out west, Detroit, Canada, New Jersey and New York you know. It’s difficult on this level when you’re playing clubs. Exceptionally difficult from an economic point of view. I’m not even talking about making any money; I’m talking about not losing your shirt for the privilege. We’ll try to do something in 2017. Def Leppard’s not going to be too busy next year, so I’ll have a bit more time, and hopefully, we’ll be able to put something else together. Like I said the economics of it are complicated.
I can imagine because you do not have any Florida dates on here, I kept looking. The Last in Line album that I mean, Jimmy Baine RIP, that album rocked! As soon as it came out, l was like this had it, it just did, it reminded me of you, Vinny Appice, I forgot how you pronounce it
They both pronounce it. Differently Carmine says Appice (A-peace) and Vinny says Appice (Ap-pacie)
What I was saying
Yeah, that means that the record was great! We were pleased with how it came out and the response to it apparently, you know, Jimmy passing away when he did, that was a major blow to us. We had a tour planned. You know a pretty comprehensive North American club tour was in place for March, April, and May of this year. When Jimmy passed away we immediately just canceled those plans apparently. It took us a little while to regroup and rethink what it was we wanted to do, and in the end, we felt that we owed it to Jimmy, and we owed it to ourselves to do something with the record because it did so well. You know we had incredible responses as I said. This record meant a lot to Jimmy. He put his heart and soul into it. You know something that ticked me off when Jimmy died was that so many people immediately jumped to the conclusion that his past was associated with his addictions and that wasn’t the case at all. For the last year and a half or two years of Jimmy’s life, he was very sober, and he was very focused. Being in this band, writing and recording this album was his focus in the last couple years of his life, and it meant a lot to him. And Jimmy felt like it was his band. He was very creatively involved in it. He even went out and got a Last in Line tattoo. It was the only tattoo he had. So, you know it was hurtful that a lot of people just jumped to that conclusion that he died because of his former addictions. His addiction, he won that battle. Finally, you know.
Well, that’s too bad. I liked Jimmy a lot. He was on all the Dio albums and like I said when your Last in Line album came out there was a great response to it. Do you feel like, I don’t know if the word redemption is the exact word I’m looking for but do you think that with this album you’re kind of getting some closure you think of previous Dio albums where you thought, I just read that you didn’t get individual credit for writing stuff and all that? Do you think this is kind of redemption for that because the other albums didn’t sound so fantastic?
Well, Yes. It does make it clear that the sound of the band is the result of some of the parts, you know. The band was called DIO for obvious reasons. I mean Ronnie was the damaged one. It wouldn’t have made any sense to call it Appice or Campbell. It’s a long story that whole Dio thing.
I got you
Let me just back up by saying none of this happened, this Last in Line project it happened by accident at the time. This wasn’t an intentional thing. It just grew out of a jam. One thing led to another and even when we were first starting several years ago when we were first starting playing shows as Last in Line we were just doing the songs that we had written and recorded with Ronnie from the first three Dio albums. Our intentions were very much just a fun side project. We weren’t thinking about writing and recording music. It was only when Frontier Records approached us in 2013 they offered us a record deal. They asked if we’d be interested in writing and recording the music. Honestly up to that point we had never even thought of it. That’s when we sat down, and we talked and decided that that would be the next natural progression you know. So, went about writing the record and recording very much in the way we had gotten with Holy Diver with Ronnie and that’s not to say that we were trying to make a record that sounded like Holy Diver, but we wanted to set up similar parameters. When the band Dio was formed, Ronnie had one and a half songs. He had the title track Holy Diver, and he had half the idea of a song that would go on to become Don’t Talk to Strangers. The rest of the album was written with Jimmy, Vinny and I. The way that it was written is that we would go into a rehearsal room and that was usually just Vinny and Jimmy and myself. We’d go into the room in the afternoon, and I would have an idea for a riff or Jimmy would have an idea for a riff or if neither of us had an idea to start with Vinny would just play a beat and I’d always find Vinny Appice, the most inspiring drummer I’ve ever played with. When Vinny plays, even if I don’t have anything to bring to the party, we’d just jam something that would come up with an incredible idea for a song. So, that’s how a lot of the early Dio songs were written, and that’s how everything on the Heavy Crown album was written they all grew out of jams, and we don’t sweat it much, we don’t think much about what kind of song we want to write or what direction we want the album to go in. There’s none of that bullshit. There’s no preconceived notion of what the records were going to be. It’s just if somebody has an idea we just go with it we don’t think about it a lot it’s very straightforward organic hard rock music. Going back to the Holy Diver album, Ronnie would come in in the evening, and we’d play him what we had, and sometimes he would say, “no I don’t hear that” or other times he would say “ok, that sounds good.” He always had books with lyrics, he’d sit down and listen to what we had, and we’d play it for him a couple of times he’d step up to the mic, and he’d start singing. Other times he would start changing the arrangement and say I hear this part saying this, so we’d start rearranging the building blocks of it, but it all happened very quickly. Within a couple of days, we’d have a song written and then when we came to the recording of the Holy Diver record it was again very organic we cut the tracks live, guitar, bass, drums, Ronnie singing a scratch vocal, I double the rhythm track, we’d do the lead vocal, do the guitar solo, bang! The mix was done. There are very few mix embellishments on the record. We also did much of the Heavy Crown album the same way. We recorded tracks live; I’d double the rhythm track, we’d do a couple of minor guitar embellishments here and there. I’d do the solo, and we’d do the vocal, and away we’d go. Also, when we went in to do the Heavy Crown record, it meant that we had parted ways with Claude Schnell, the original keyboard player. Again, because we were going back to the way we approached the Holy Diver record and Claude was not part of the band when we wrote and recorded Holy Diver. Ronnie brought him in at the end of the record, and that’s when the keyboard embellishments were done. Even the keyboard in Rainbow in The Dark that was Jimmy Bain that played that, he wrote it, so keyboards were not part of the creative process of the early Dio band. In fact, they only became so in the Sacred Heart album. That was the first time that we wrote with Claude. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Jimmy, Vinny and I that’s when we were having issues creatively with Ronnie. We kind of all felt that Ronnie was trying to bring keyboards into the sound of Dio too much that we were getting away from the original guitar, drums, vocal vibe of the original Dio band. None of us had particularly good feelings about the Sacred Heart album, but there were also a lot of business things going on with Ronnie then. Ronnie was in a very dark place when we were doing Sacred Heart that’s when he was divorcing from Wendy. He was miserable; he was very moody. Nobody wanted to be in the studio when we were making that record. We all would just go in do our parts and leave which was very different from Holy Diver and Last in Line records where we were very much all encouraging each other we were all in the studio all day every day. It was very much a group effort, but that is the assigned job with all of this. You know a lot of people were wondering why we parted ways with Claude, which was the major component that we wanted to clear it with our keyboards. It was important to Jimmy, Vinny and I that we did. Apparently, that made a difficult situation for Claude. When we did the Heavy Crown album, we just wanted to approach it in the writing and recording aspect and very much as we had done in the Holy Diver and the original Last in Line record with Ronnie.
Well, it does, it sounds phenomenal. You left DIO back in what ’86? I saw you on the Holy Diver tour
” I GOT FIRED HALFWAY THROUGH THE SACRED HEART TOUR”
I think it was ’85. We had gone tour for Sacred Heart, and we had done the first leg of the tour which was a North American tour although I think it was the second leg of North America where Craig Goldy perform. We finished the first leg of the tour of North America, and we were supposed to start in the UK, and I GOT FIRED in the transition, and they brought in Craig Goldy. I think it was ’85 sometime. I would like to make emphasis on the point that I was fired from the band. So many people here 30 something years later people still think that I left DIO, I didn’t leave DIO. It was never my intention to leave the band. I was fired from the band. The reason I was fired from the band was that I refused to accept a contract that they offered me which was contrary to the original agreement Ronnie had made with Jimmy, Vinny and myself when the band was first formed. Wendy had different ideas for how it was going to be, and for me, it was a matter of principle, and I refused to sign the contract, and that’s why I was fired.
Ok. I had read so much back when Metal Edge was around that time and Hit Parader we read so many kinds of different stuff that you were fired, that you quit
Back then there were no social media, so the only way for me to counter what the DIO camp was putting out in the press was for me to hire a publicist to get out my side of the story. I couldn’t have afforded to do that back then and obviously; I didn’t. That’s one of the things that hurt me because not only was I fired from the band I put my heart and soul into for three albums, but I would think the stain in the press that I was the one that turned my back on the band. It was absolutely 100% untrue, so that left a bitter taste in my mouth for many many years which is why I didn’t want anything to do with DIO or the band or even that genre of music for so long. You know I’ll admit that I was foolish for saying some very hurtful things in the press, as was Ronnie, we both said some unnecessary and nasty shit about each other, but you know you do that when you’re hurt.
Yes, I understand. A lot of people 30 years later like Guns & Roses and all them are reuniting and all, they put everything behind them. Do you think if Ronnie was alive, do you think you could do the same and reunite?
I think Ronnie and me fundamentally never had a problem. I don’t believe we would have ever worked again if Wendy Dio was involved in his career. Wendy was the one who was never on the same page as the rest of us. She never saw us as being a band. Wendy always thought like ten Ozzy Osbourne’s she saw it as Ronnie and his backing band. She didn’t care who was in Ronnie’s band. She’s not musical. She doesn’t know that the sign of a great band is the sum of the parts. It’s not just about the singer. You know it would have been one thing to put Ronnie out on tour behind a bunch of fierce fewer musicians if Ronnie was the one who created all the music in the first place. That was never the point, Ronnie never did. We created it as a band look at the writing credits on any of the first three DIO records, yes there’s a couple of songs like Don’t Talk to Strangers and Holy Diver like I said that was Ronnie’s songs, everything else we wrote together and in fact, you know I could go on. Jimmy Bain and I we wrote, we rocked. Ronnie was not a guitar player; he didn’t write those riffs. We didn’t get credit for a lot of the songs we wrote, and that’s all well and good. I’m not bitching or anything like that that is water under the bridge. We very very much created as a band and that’s what made those first records so special. Wendy doesn’t understand that she’s not a musician. Ronnie knew that. That’s why when the band was formed there were four people in the room, and Wendy Dio was not one of them. Me and Jimmy and Vinny and Ronnie and Ronnie made a promise to us that by the third album Sacred Heart we would have an equity situation at that point, we got none of the records, none of the tour receipts, none of the t-shirts, none of the mechanicals. We got paid less than the road crew which was awkward. Somewhere along the way Ronnie kind of lost sight of that. Wendy pushed him toward being a solo act. The original DIO band was not a solo act. The original DIO band was a four-piece creative unit, and Wendy never understood that. So, Ronnie and I, I think would have been fine. Hypothetically if somebody else, if Ronnie had a proper manager and not his ex-wife, I would have never been fired from the band and Ronnie, and I would’ve never had an issue. I mean our relationship was always a little catchy. It was an awkward relationship. We didn’t communicate very well together on a personal level but on a musical level we worked together. We worked well. So, to answer your question, would I have gotten back together with Ronnie? Yes, but Wendy Dio never would have never allowed it to happen if she was involved in his career. Right up until his death she was involved in his career, I’m going to go with No on that.
Did you write any credits to We’re Stars where everybody got together? Did you write anything about that? Did you write any of the leads or anything?
Jimmy Bain and I wrote the music for that. It was while we were doing the Sacred Heart album. We brought it to Ronnie and like I said when we were doing Sacred Heart earlier Ronnie was in a very dark, very stressed place in his lifetime. So, we brought this idea to Ronnie to do this project I asked him to help us and would he write the lyrics. At first Ronnie said no then he changed his mind and he came back to us later and he agreed he would be involved in the project and it was at that point that Wendy took over a lot of the management of the Stars project and took it away from Jimmy and me which is ok because we needed that official sort of DIO involvement for us to make it happen. It would have never happened without that. Yes, Ronnie wrote the lyrics, Jimmy and I wrote the music.
Having all that immense talent coming in there, you’ve had everybody from George Lynch; you had Yngwie Malmsteen you had all them. Then you had I know that Wendy has talked about remastering that. That’s one of the soundtracks that I’ve been after for years, and you can’t find them except for in Japan for like $500.00. Have you heard anything about that? Or is it kind of a conversation you’re not privileged to?
Yes, Wendy took it over. My involvement in the project stopped like I said we wrote the songs and took them to Ronnie. I worked the phones extensively with our lady who was a deal publicist back then, and I utilized her connections, and I’d go to her office every day, and I’d get on the phone, and I’d call people. I’d be calling people I never met in my life you know, “Hi my name is Vivian Campbell, I play guitar for Dio” I had my whole schpeel done, tell them what we’re doing. I’d ask if they can get involved in it. So, we did, my involvement with the entire project ended that night after we had done the recording session. That was it, from that point on I had nothing to do with it.
You’re Last in Line, you have the Dio Disciples which Wendy manages.
Is there any or was there any comparisons? Did anybody give you any flack about Last in Line? Because of the Dio Disciples, have they said that Wendy’s involvement makes them “Official.”
Well, I know that it’s more official if Wendy Dio manages that band or the original DIO band put a real band together when we started doing the Last in Line project I had to go to extremes sometimes to explain to people the difference between the Dio Disciples and us. Dio Disciples are a tribute band. No one in that band was part of the original DIO band, no one! Not like one person. Where on Last in Line you had 75% of the original DIO band. People were referring to us as a tribute band you cannot be a tribute band if you are the original band. Obviously, Andrew Freeman is not Ronnie. So, it’s not the original DIO band which is why we didn’t call it DIO obviously
Andrew Freeman knows his thing
It’s a good thing. It’s technically incorrect to refer to Last in Line as a tribute band. We cannot be a tribute band because we are the original DIO members. The group superseded all that once we started writing and recording music it became something very very different
When you got fired and then joined Whitesnake how did that go? Did David Coverdale call you up?
No. The Whitesnake band was put together by John Kalodner; he was an analog guy for Geffen Records back in the ’80’s. In a nutshell, the album was written by John Sykes and David Coverdale. The album was recorded, and John Sykes played all but one of the guitar solos on the record. John Sykes played 97% guitar on the album to pick a figure or something like that, but he and Coverdale parted ways. So basically, they brought in some session musicians to finish off the record. They sweetened it; they could hear real potential. They brought in a keyboard guy and did several different mixes for certain singles and stuff. It was a very well-orchestrated camp, and they knew they had a big record on their hands, and they find themselves in the situation where they didn’t have a band it was the zenith of the MTV era you know where they had the hair metal. John Kolodner had the idea to put together a superstar band that would-be image driven, video group. So, the first thing, he called me and asked me if I’d be interested, and he sent me a copy of the record, and as soon as I heard the record, I knew it was going to be huge. It’s monster playing and writing from John Sykes.
John’s a great player. Very underrated too
He is, yes! People to this day don’t even realize that’s his record that’s his writing and his playing. Not mine, not Adrian Vandenberg. I feel sorry for him because he is missing the credit for that. It was a great record; it went to number 1 in the U.S. and sold gazillion copies, the tour was immensely successful. With the band, the first thing we did was we met on a video set, and we shot a couple of videos over the period of a few days, and then we went into rehearsal and started playing together. On paper, we were an excellent musical unit regarding pedigree but in my opinion and I do not mean this to be offensive in any way shape or form but I don’t think that we gelled on a musical level certainly not like the original DIO band. That was real chemistry. When Vinny and Jimmy and I played together right from the first moment, we played together in London in 1982 when I auditioned there was an immediate chemistry to the original DIO band that was undeniable. When I played with Vinny and Jimmy again in 2011 for the first time in 27 years that chemistry was immediate again. I don’t believe that Whitesnake lineup ever had that chemistry. We were brought together despairingly to make music videos, and I think that set the tone in a way we were more of a performance band than we were a solid musical group and that has nothing to do with the pedigree of the performers. I mean Tommy Aldridge, Rudy Sarzo and Adrian Vandenberg, Coverdale and myself I mean every one of us has a pedigree and experiences, but I don’t feel we ever had that magic and musical connection and like I said I don’t say that to sound disrespectful to the other guys in the band in any way because that’s not what I mean. I just say for nine years it just never gelled as a unit on a musical level.
Wasn’t your solo remixed in the Give Me All Your Love video?
Yes. That’s the only thing I recorded with Whitesnake. We went in and mixed that track. I did a guitar solo on it. By then what was supposed to be the follow-up album that’s when the wheels were starting to fall off. I knew. David was writing with Adrian, and they had a good thing going on together, and that’s David came and said he was going to write the record with Adrian and from that point on I could tell that I didn’t have a future in the band. I wasn’t going to be in a group that I couldn’t participate in, but I fully respected his decision to want to write with Adrian. They had a connection that David and I didn’t so be it
It sounds like Jake E Lee with Ozzy Osbourne he didn’t get any credit on those albums like you did with DIO it’s just the similarities your telling me it sounds like with Sharon on Ozzy and Jake on those couple of albums
Yes, I’ve heard a lot from other people who have worked with Ozzy as well that the Osbourne’s do that a lot. Have you write songs for them and you sign it away. It’s a timeworn school concept, not something I agree with. I don’t think it makes for good music. I believe that you must keep your employee’s happy if you know what I mean. People must feel like there a part of something to bring out the best in them. That’s why the early DIO records were much more vital because even though Jimmy and Vinny and I got nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing from those early records we were promised that by the third record we would. So, we were working towards it. We were a team we were in the trenches together. Like I said nobody left the studio early. We were all encouraging one another, bringing out the best of each other, making suggestions. By the time we got to Sacred Heart, it was evident that that wasn’t going to materialize. What had been promised to us was not going to happen that’s when it started to go sour. You know when we did the Heavy Crown record with Andrew we split everything on that record twenty-five percent for each guy. It doesn’t matter who had the idea for a song where it started or who contributed what it’s a full four-way split on that record and that’s part of the reason I honestly believe it’s an excellent record because everyone is in it together. When you’re working as a team you bring your best; you bring your A-game when you know you’re writing a song for someone, and he’s not even going to put your name on it you’re less inclined to want to bring your A-game. Even like a song We Rock where Jimmy and I we be involved in that song but we have no writing credit in it we were kind of ok with that at the time because we had writing credit on other songs on the record and us still trying to work toward the end goal that Ronnie had promised us you know. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t turn out to be, but it’s part of the pitfalls of the music industry.
True. When you worked with Lou Graham, and then you did your Riverdogs album did you have input there? Was that entirely different creativity for you?
Riverdogs is a very different project. Everyone wrote in Riverdogs, but the majority of the songs in Riverdogs were already written by Rob Lamothe when I got involved with the band when I first worked with Riverdogs it was as a producer. I was producing demos for them. They already had a guitar player. It was never my intentions to join the band, in fact, I was with Whitesnake when I first started working with them, but it was one of those things where the Whitesnake thing was starting to fall apart, and Riverdogs were losing patience with their guitar player and I ended up segwaying into that band. So yes, that was a very different thing.
How do you like the current state with Def Leppard? Are you enjoying doing that?
Well, it’s been 25 years. Def Leppard is a unique band in every aspect. How the band creates. How the band performs live. You know I’m still the new guy. I’m going to be forever the Ronnie Wood of Def Leppard. You know Ronnie Wood’s been in the Stones for close to 40 years, and I’ve been 25 years with Leppard. It’s a very different challenge for me being in Def Leppard. It’s challenged me as a songwriter to grow and to think in a variety of ways. I’ve learned an awful lot from being in the band. It’s challenged me as a singer. I’ve become much more proficient vocally than I ever was. That was important to me. I always wanted to sing. I didn’t do that with DIO, but from everything after DIO, Whitesnake, Riverdogs, Def Leppard I’ve been very active as a singer and Def Leppard is a big challenge for me on the singing. That’s the big challenge for all of us. There are so many intense vocals in each song that Def Leppard does it’s kind of cathartic to me in a different kind of muscle that I exercise when I go on stage with Last in Line because Last in Line I do not sing at all. I just play guitar, and it’s very challenging guitar to me in Last in Line to play the original DIO songs. To play the songs from the Heavy Crown album. It’s a very different muscle that I’m exercising than when I’m on stage with Def Leppard. Def Leppard is an incredible band, and I was always a fan even from the early day’s way before I knew Joe way before I became part of the group. I was very much a Def Leppard fan, and I followed them in their career since day one, so it was quite a privilege to be able to join the band back in ’92
My last question, how is your health? Are you doing alright?
It’s a work in progress. I mean it’s as good as it can be. Sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back but I’m happy with where I am right now. The kind of treatment I am doing right now is called Immunotherapy, and I’m taking a drug called Pembrolizumab which is the same thing that cured Jimmy Carter’s melanoma. I’m taking that as part of a clinical trial. It’s FDA approved. I’ve been on it for a year and a half. At the very least it is holding my tumors where they are, and it might even be slowly starting to shrink them. I can do the treatment for about another 7 to 8 months so by summer of next year I’m going to have to possibly consider doing something else because I don’t think it’s going to cure it but at least I can continue to work with this treatment. There are minimal side effects. It’s not like doing chemo or anything its very benign very easy and the schedule is enough where it allows me to work I just must come back to LA every 3 or 4 weeks to do the infusions. So, for now, it’s good. Next summer I don’t know I might have to do radiation or something, combination therapy. I don’t know. That’s going to be next summer’s problem
I wish you the best like I said I would give some prayers on I hope a full recovery.
Thank you, Andrew,
You need a solo record out there too!
Well I know between Riverdogs and Def Leppard, there’s not a lot of time for that. Plus, my health. I got to jump. Nice to talk to you!