FEATURES

Vivian Campbell: Belfast Boy | INTERVIEW

Published 5 months ago on September 28, 2023

By Jonathan Graham

For over four decades, Vivian Campbell has been a true force of nature when it comes to the electric guitar. From his early days with Dio to his present with Def Leppard and Last in Line, Campbell has continued to harness that teenage enthusiasm and even angst that keeps his playing sound as fresh and exciting as it did the first time you heard him...if not even more so! With Last in Line back with 'Jericho' and Def Leppard's new album 'Drastic Symphonies' out now (via Universal Music), featuring the band's greatest produced tracks dramatically reimagined alongside The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Jonathan Graham catches up with Vivian to discuss the new releases and so much more.

When Vivian Campbell burst onto the Irish rock scene as a part of the Belfast-based outfit Sweet Savage, it wasn't long until an opportunity to join Ronnie James Dio's band would present itself and launch the then 20-year-old onto the world stage.

Four years and three great studio albums later, Campbell exited Dio following the 'Sacred Heart' U.S. tour and quickly formed a new project called Trinity before stepping into David Coverdale's Whitesnake for what he describes as "about five minutes."

Following albums with Lou Gramm (1989) and the group Shadow King (1991), Vivian was asked to join Def Leppard in 1992 to fill the spot that Steve Clark left after his tragic death the year before. After being officially introduced at the Freddie Mercury AIDS-awareness gig at Wembley Stadium, his first job was to accompany the band on their ADRENALIZE tours (1992 & 1993).

As if being in a world-touring mega-band wasn't enough for him, after the legendary Ronnie James Dio passed in 2010, Campbell set into motion the idea of reuniting the members of the original Dio line-up for the first time since his departure from the band in '86 for a new project. This finally came to fruition in February 2012 when he joined drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Jimmy Bain and keyboardist Claude Schnell for a jam session. In May 2012, it was announced that the group would begin performing live shows with the addition of vocalist Andrew Freeman under the name Last in Line, after the first album they had released together with Dio.

Initially, the band only planned on being a live project, fitting around the member's already busy schedules and performing songs from the first three Dio albums; 'Holy Diver,' 'The Last in Line' and 'Sacred Heart.'

"When we set up this project a few years ago, the idea was to reunite the original Dio band to play the songs we wrote and recorded with Ronnie in the early 1980s. With Andrew Freeman on vocals, we played a handful of shows in southern California, the UK, and Japan. It was a limited ambition, but it's brought us great joy in reconnecting to this great music, to each other, and to our combined history." Explains Campbell.

"When we first got together as the Last In Line line-up, our ambition at that time didn't extend to writing and recording any new music, says Campbell, "but when we got the opportunity to do so, we decided to enter the studio to write this new album in the very same spirit as we did the Holy Diver album; Back in 1982 Ronnie, Vinny, Jimmy and I went into Sound City studios to kick around ideas and riffs, and about six weeks later we started laying down the tracks for what was to become the Holy Diver album."

The debut album was released in 2016, landing at #1 on the Billboard Heat-Seekers Chart. Initially, the release had been preceded by tragedy when bassist Jimmy Bain unexpectedly passed away. Last in Line, honouring what they knew would be Bain's wish to keep the band moving, brought in renowned bassist Phil Soussan (ex-Ozzy Osbourne, ex-Billy Idol) and committed to sustained touring.

In 2022, Last in Line surprised fans with a unique version of the Beatles classic "A Day in the Life", which has been released on the Limited 12" Silver Collector's EP with the same name. In 2023, Last in Line is at the top of its game. On their new studio album "Jericho", Campbell delivers his signature flamboyant guitar playing, Appice and Soussan shake foundations with their unmistakable grooves, and Freeman's vocals are just one of the best of his generation. The 12 tracks boast big guitar riffs and solos; they're catchy and full of energy!

Of course, with more than 110 million albums sold worldwide and two prestigious Diamond Awards, 2019 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees (and Vivian's other day job), Def Leppard also continue to be one of the most important forces in rock music. Over the course of their career, the band has produced a series of classic ground-breaking albums that set the bar for generations of music fans and artists alike. Def Leppard's influential career includes numerous hit singles and ground-breaking multi-platinum albums—including two of the best-selling albums of all time, Pyromania and Hysteria.

For the first time, in January 2018, Def Leppard debuted their full recording catalogue worldwide via streaming and download platforms. As they did with the original release of their records, Def Leppard dominated the worldwide charts again, which found their albums charting in the iTunes Top 10 in more than 30 countries, including Hysteria at #3 in the US and #5 in the UK (36 years after the album had charted at No 1 in the Billboard charts). The band have gone on to amass a staggering 5.5 billion streams since then.

Last year, Def Leppard released their twelfth studio album 'Diamond Star Halos.' The album debuted at #1 on the Apple and Amazon Music charts and also scored a Top 10 debut on North America's Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart—marking the band's eighth Top 10 album of their career, and garnered a #1 debut on Billboard's Hard Rock chart. Diamond Star Halos had numerous Top 10 chart entries globally, including a Top 5 debut in the UK.

May 2023 saw Rock and Classical royalty unite on the band's brand-new euphoric album titled 'Drastic Symphonies.' Featuring Def Leppard's greatest produced tracks dramatically reimagined and sounding larger and more exhilarating than ever before—the rock icons teamed with London's iconic Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for this new release.

The band deconstructed and rebuilt not only some of their most well-known tracks but also some of their hidden gems as well. By and large, they have intertwined the audio from the original tapes and performed them alongside The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The album includes new vocals and guitars, which culminate in stunningly beautiful symphonic arrangements. At different points, you can hear Joe Elliott duetting with his younger self.

"Def Leppard has always enjoyed veering off the expected path - working with the likes of Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift & Alison Krauss for example. So, when the offer to revisit some of our back catalogue with the Royal Philharmonic was presented to us, we all jumped at it. Although we're far from the first band to ever do this, working directly with an orchestra at Abbey Road on some of our more orchestrated songs seemed too good of an opportunity to pass up."

This album represents a bold new approach to Def Leppard's most loved songs.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was recorded at Abbey Road in March 2022. Produced by Def Leppard, Ronan McHugh & Nick Patrick (producer of the following RPO/Orchestral albums - Elvis, Roy Orbison, Beach Boys and Buddy Holly) with arrangements by Eric Gorfain (Neil Diamond, Ryan Adams, Christina Aguilera).

"It's a new Def Leppard album, it's a greatest hits plus album, with some rarely heard songs, it's a live RPO album and we think it's perfect. We're so proud of how 'Drastic Symphonies' turned out and can't wait to share it with the world."

The album is out now on CD, 2LP black vinyl, limited 2LP coloured vinyl, limited 2LP picture disc, CD/Blu-Ray (Atmos) and digitally.

 

DEF LEPPARD WITH THE ROYAL PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA - 'DRASTIC SYMPHONIES' Tracklist

"Turn To Dust"

"Paper Sun"

"Animal"

"Pour Some Sugar on Me (Stripped version)"

"Hysteria"

"Love Bites"

"Goodbye For Good This Time"

"Love"

"Gods Of War"

"Angels (Can't Help You Now)"

"Bringin' On the Heartbreak"

"Switch 625"

"Too Late for Love"

"When Love & Hate Collide"

"Kings Of the World"

 

The vinyl and Atmos versions will also feature an exclusive bonus track.

"Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad"

 

The group's spectacular live shows and arsenal of hits have become synonymous with their name, leading Def Leppard to be heralded as the world's greatest live rock band.

2022 saw Def Leppard play a sold out stadium tour across North America with Motley Crue - selling over 1.3 million tickets. February and March 2023 saw the tour wow audiences throughout Central and South America. In May, June and July, the must-see tour of 2023 came through Europe, including a stop at the iconic Wembley Stadium on the 1st of July. The band will then return to the USA for more live dates in August 2023.

Aug 5, 2023 — Syracuse, NY, USA — JMA Wireless Dome

Aug 8, 2023 — Columbus, OH USA — Ohio Stadium

Aug 11, 2023 — Fargo, ND, USA — Fargo Dome

Aug 13, 2023 — Omaha, NE, USA — Charles Schwab Field

Aug 16, 2023 — Tulsa, OK, USA — Skelly Field @ H.A. Chapman Stadium

Aug 18, 2023 — El Paso, TX, USA — Sun Bowl

 

For tickets check local listings for complete details, including VIP offerings; on-sale times vary. To purchase tickets, please visit defleppard.com.


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