Vivian Campbell – LAST IN LINE – Reclaiming Our Heritage

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Bright and sunny on a Southern California morning, Vivian Campbell has a bit of zeal in his voice as he says good morning.  “I’m doing extremely well.  It’s just a bump in the road, but I’m doing well and keeping busy.  The Leppard tour was just too short.  We had just gotten started good and had to stop.  As for the residency we are talking about doing it again and possibly doing another album.  We’re thinking about doing Pyromania, but I’m not sure.”

IMG_1327lowVivian Patrick Campbell may be known today as the new guy in Def Leppard, even though his tenure with the English rock band turned worldwide sensation is now past the twenty year mark.  The rocker from Northern Ireland also cannot be forgotten as the original shredding guitarist in Dio.  “The whole Dio thing, I mean it didn’t end well with me you know.  The original band was great and there was a real chemistry with us.  We were really a team and were really in there together in the trenches.”  Campbell states the wheels started to fall off by the third album and he was the first to be fired from the band.  “In the years after I was fired, it was portrayed by Ronnie and Wendy Dio that I had left and turned my back on the band, which was in fact untrue.  I was literally fired in the middle of a tour so it left a very bad taste in my mouth for a lot of reasons.  Not just because I was fired, but the way I was fired, all the reasons behind it and the way that it went down.”

Listening to Dio wasn’t an option for Campbell, “To be honest, for years and years, even for decades I didn’t even listen to Dio.  I couldn’t listen; I didn’t even own the records.  I kind of wanted nothing to do it because of all of the after effect of it.  A couple of things have happened, most of them, maybe it is because Ronnie died that whole chapter is gone.  But I think, more importantly for me as an individual, I became re-inspired to play the guitar again.  A couple of years back I did a brief stint with Thin Lizzy as a star guitar player, which was great for me,” he says with a smile in his voice.  “Thin Lizzy was such an important band for me.  In my teenage years, sitting in my bedroom back in Ireland, learning to play the instrument, Thin Lizzy were probably the biggest influence on me.  The guitar players that went through that band, Scott Gorham, Brian Robertson and particularly Gary Moore who was probably the most influential guitar player for me. They all were from Thin Lizzy, or that’s at least that’s where I had first heard them.  For me to be invited to do a tour with Lizzy and to play on stage with Scott and Brian Downey, the original drummer, and to play those songs that had inspired me in my youth was amazing.  I came off that tour just really excited about my instrument again.”  Playing with Def Leppard for over two decades, Campbell relishes every year.  “As much as I love Def Leppard and I have been a Def Leppard fan decades before I was even in the band, it’s challenging for me as a singer to perform with Leppard because we are such a vocal heavy band.  As a guitar player, I don’t really get to exercise that muscle very much.  When we play live, 90 percent of the music we play pre-dates my involvement in the band and Phil Collen handles most of the guitar stuff.  Playing with Lizzy was a reconnection for me. It was like, this is what I do and this is who I am.”

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As Campbell came off the tour with Thin Lizzy, he decided to make a few calls.  “Just for fun, I decided to call Vinny Appice, Jimmy Bain and Claude Schnell.  I said ‘hey, you guys want to get together in a rehearsal room and just to play some of the songs again?’  We got together and it just sounded amazing.  Almost thirty years had passed but it felt like it has only been thirty minutes.  We sounded just like we did back then, except we didn’t have a singer.  Literally we are in this rehearsal on an afternoon in the middle of the San Fernando Valley. We take a break and Vinny says, ‘Hey, you know, we do need a singer.  I know this great singer named Andrew Freeman that played with me in Lynch Mob.” (Freeman is a vocalist/guitarist most known for his time in Lynch Mob and The Offspring.)  “He only lives ten minutes away, let me give him a call.  Andy shows up in less than 10 minutes, we do our introductions, we start playing and Andy gets up and starts singing.  It just blew my mind.  He doesn’t have the tonality of Ronnie Dio, but to be honest, very few singers do as Ronnie was in a class of his own.  Andrew does have a similar range and a very similar power and passion in his vocals and he really does tremendous job interpreting Ronnie’s lyrics.”

The new wheels began to turn on the band train as the group decided to get together again.  “A couple of weeks later we decided to meet again and began talking about how fun it would be to do a gig.  One thing led to another.  Everyone from the original band being Jimmy Bain, Vinny Appice and myself, we were all fired from Dio at various stages; I just happened to be the first to go.  We all have a bit of a grievance about that, because we wrote those songs on those first three albums.  We were promised from the onset by Ronnie, come the third album, the Dio band would be an equitable figuration.”  Little did the rock world know then or now that these guys would still be waiting on their money.  “We were working for peanuts!  Back then we were making less than the road crew!  Yet we didn’t mind doing that because we believed in what we were doing and believed in the promise that we had been given.  To make a long story short as to why I was fired, I was the one to say, ‘Hey Ronnie, we’ve done the third album and this is where we are supposed to re-negotiate and I earn as much as the sound engineer or the lighting guy,’” he says with a hint of laughter.  “We all really feel that those first three albums, as we never got paid for them, we were royally cheated.  Those are our records.  We wrote those songs with Ronnie.  It may have been his name, Dio, on those albums, but he didn’t create that music on his own.  It is our heritage and this is us reclaiming it.”

As the rumors and the bashing began, they were called cash grabbers and were scorned for re-uniting by some Dio fans.  “We don’t expect we are going to get rich off doing this.  We first and foremost are doing it for the love of it.  I am fortunate that I have had a good career with Def Leppard for almost 23 years and I am about to go off and do these dates with .  Frankly, it’s costing us a fortune to do it, but it’s the initial thing that we have to do to get the ball rolling.  However, we are hopeful that in due course we can make this an ongoing thing and venture so it won’t cost us money to do it.   Frankly we deserve to make something from it.  As I said, we wrote the songs on those records and we got royally cheated.  It’s our musical history and nobody’s going to play it better than us.  There’s this band called Dio’s Disciples that are out there playing these songs.  None of those guys were ever in the original band or ever did any of the important Dio records.  So you know we may as well be out there doing it.”

IMG_1449low re-formed in early 2012 with very few rehearsals before their first gig.  “We’ve been playing around about a year, but no rehearsals.  We get together about once every two months for about three hours since the first day we got back together.  We start rehearsals three days before the first ever show in Orange County then head off to the UK to do a mini tour.  We could have probably done a gig that night; it was like riding a bicycle.”   The band was very well-known for their extreme power and volume back in the day and Campbell states that hasn’t changed.  “Vinny is the loudest drummer I’ve ever played with.  Jimmy Bain, well he comes in and turns everything to the right, he just turns everything up to 10.  That was the nature of the band it back in the day.  We were of one of those old-fashioned, old school, loud rock bands.  That was before anyone used an ear monitor or anything fancy like that. Fortunately, Ronnie Dio was the kind of singer who had the lung capacity to be able to belt it out over a band that loud.  Honestly compared to the volume of Def Leppard, it is nothing compared to the volume coming off the stage of .  You know that line in Jaws when Roy Scheider (Chief Brody) says ‘You’re going to need a bigger boat’, well I’m going to need a louder amp,” he says as he laughs.  “I’m currently in the process of securing louder amplification before we start rehearsals next week.”

Reminding Campbell of a show in Philadelphia, he reflects on the memory.  “Ahhh, that was Spectrum, my 22nd birthday, August 25, 1984.  That was when the band was on fire and it was not too long after that the wheels started to fall off.  A fiery guitar was definitely always my passion and I’m genuinely excited about doing it again.  Sometimes it just takes a while in life for things to come around full circle, but it’s challenging for me to play like that again.  It’s not that I can’t do it; it’s that I haven’t done it in a while.  And that’s not even the challenge.  You have to know it’s been thirty years since we’ve done the first Dio record.  Even back then in the original Dio days, I never played the same thing exactly twice.  I’ve always varied and that has always been my m.o. throughout my career.  I’ve never been a very schooled player, but with this thing, all these songs have been in people’s ears for thirty years.  The people who are coming to see are going to expect us to sound just like the records.  Now, I have to go back and re-learn the solos as I played them on the original album.  That’s been the challenge for me, because it wasn’t something that was schooled.  It was something that was always erratic, very in the moment and hit or miss.  To go back and learn something you never knew what you were doing in the first place is kind of awkward,” he laughs, “but it’s been a joyous challenge.  In fact the last two shows with Leppard, I was back stage re-learning solos during the opening act,” he laughs harder.  “I’m really having to step up my guitar playing to do this.  Yea, I was backstage shredding the entire time Slash was on stage.”

IMG_1341lowOriginally planning a three-week tour in Europe that was to start in Romania, several festivals with club shows in between had been booked.  “Yea, we were starting in Romania of all places, but we had to cut the tour short because I got this cancer diagnosis.  I have to do chemo approximately every 14 days here in LA.  In the end all we could fit it was the four shows in the UK because of my schedule.  I just finished a treatment this past Monday and I have another scheduled for August 5th and on August 6th I fly to the UK.  We arrive on the 7th and our first show is on the 8th.  We scheduled the shows according to my chemo schedule and hurry back home.”  Wanting to play for the fans and establish their presence, Campbell’s states his concern, “I know there’s a demand for us, but it’s just a question of economics.  It’s hard getting a band off the ground and it’s hard to make it so that we’re not losing money doing it.  These four shows in the UK are actually costing us thousands and thousands of dollars, but I feel it’s important that we do it, just to establish ourselves.”  Having been talking about the reunion for almost a year, Campbell felt the need to do the mini tour even though they couldn’t do the three-week tour in Europe as planned. and to pull in some U.S. dates also. “I think it’s important that we do something to establish it.  The only other thing I know we have on the calendar is a festival in Tokyo in October, but certainly later this year or early next year before Leppard becomes active again, I would really, really like to do some U.S. dates.  I have our agent on the case but we can’t fall between the cracks right now.  Until we’ve establish ourselves, it’s difficult to demand or command the kind of money that will make it so we’re not losing money to go out and play shows in the U.S.  It’s an ongoing project and it’s something that we want to do as we know there are a lot of people in the States that want to hear it.”

Last In Line is the name of one of the Dio albums and the fact that Campbell, Appice and Bain are the last in line to actually make any money from it explains the name choice.  “I thought it kind of ironic and a bit tongue in cheek.  I’ve said we are still a long, long way from ever seeing any money out of it, but maybe we will.  I just think it was kind of funny.  I mean, Ronnie made millions; Wendy made millions and us poor fuckers who wrote the songs made less than the road crews.  We’ve paid our dues.” He states with conviction that he hopes people understand their reasons for their band reformation.  “I’ve seen people saying, ‘oh Ronnie would be turning in his grave’ and this is a cash grab and all that.  If it wasn’t so pathetic, it’s funny that people actually think we’re making money doing this.  We’re certainly doing this for the right reasons, we enjoy playing together and we’re doing it for the love of the music.  It would be great to get paid for it, and maybe in time that will happen.  I’m just so sick and tired of people saying, for whatever reason, that I have no right to be doing this.   You know Ronnie Dio didn’t write those guitar licks.  I get so frustrated sometimes at people’s ignorance about this.  They weren’t there, they don’t know the situation and no situation is ever black and white.  It was our music and nobody has more of a right to play it than us, and frankly no one is ever going to play it better than us.  This is the closest as anyone is ever going to get to the original Dio band…it is the original Dio band.”

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