We recently caught up with Vivian Campbell, who was eager to discuss Def Leppard's new self-titled album and his more recent project, Last in Line, which reunites the veteran guitarist with his fellow Dio bandmates Vinny Appice and Jimmy Bain. Their new album, Heavy Crown, is set for a February 2016 release.
You can check out the complete interview below.
GUITAR WORLD: How did Def Leppard approach recording the new album?
The first thing we did was to write, record and play live in the studio, which was something we hadn’t done since ’96 and the Slang album. The one thing I think really unifies all of the songs is the Def Leppard vocals. It makes us who we are. Although it’s stylistically a very diverse record, it also undeniably sounds like the band. That’s why we ended up calling it Def Leppard.
What’s the writing process like for Def Leppard? Does it begin with a melody, a riff, a hook?
All of the above. Sometimes, someone will come in with a completed song or someone might just have an idea and we’ll all talk about it. A lot of times on this record, we started off with a conceptual idea or an emotion, and a song was written to fulfill that notion.
What can you tell me about the track “Dangerous”?
Phil had a musical idea for that song and worked up a demo for it. It’s flashy and punky with a very immediate chorus. It’s very reminiscent of “Photograph” in a way, and it's one of the catchiest songs on the album.
How about “We Belong”?
That’s a Joe [Elliott] song and one of my favorite songs on the record. Joe had that written just as we started working on the record. He also had a concept that the song would feature all of us individually taking turns on lead vocals. We’re known for our collective, group vocals and it was nice way to showcase us as individuals. That was a first for the band.
What are Def Leppard’s touring plans for 2016?
We’re looking at next year as being a continuation of this year’s summer tour, especially January and February, because we’re touring again with Styx and Tesla. We’ll definitely be very busy in America and around the world because of this record.
What made you decide to reunite with Vinny Appice and Jimmy Bain for Last in Line?
I’ve got to give a shout out to Thin Lizzy, because it really started during my little role as a stunt guitar player with them back in 2011. To be onstage with Scott Gorham and Brian Downey and playing songs “Emerald” and “Black Rose”—I came off of that tour completely energized. That’s when I called Vinny and Jimmy.
What else can you tell me about Last In Line?
It’s the original band that wrote and recorded the first three Dio albums, Holy Diver, Last in Line and Sacred Heart. That's me on guitar, Vinny Appice on drums and Jimmy Bain on bass. Andrew Freeman, the young chap we’ve asked to sing with us, is going to surprise a lot of people. Ronnie was the best, and we didn’t want to have someone just come in and imitate him. Andrew is a very powerful and passionate singer who does justice to the early songs, yet makes them his own. We have something that’s the original Dio band but is also an entirely different thing.
How did you approach recording the band’s new album?
We went in and started writing songs in exactly the same way we had written for Holy Diver, which was Jimmy, Vinny and I going into a rehearsal room, kicking around ideas and creating a musical bed for Ronnie to come in and write melodies and lyrics to. It all happened very organically. Getting to play with Vinny and Jimmy again on those old songs as well as some new ones has given me a chance to rediscover my 16-year-old angry guitar playing! [laughs]. We knew it was going to be good, but it’s far and away surpassed our expectations.
Will Last in Line be touring next year?
Yes. Our first show is going to be on the Def Leppard Cruise in January. Then as soon as Def Leppard finishes the next run of U.S. shows, the Last in Line album drops and we’ll start doing shows the following week. So it will basically be me jumping off one tour and onto another.
What are you looking forward to most in 2016?
Playing live. It’s the reason we all started doing it. You don’t just pick up the guitar and think, “Oh, it will be great to spend the next year in the studio and make a record.” I’ve always loved the thrill you get playing in front of an audience and playing with other great musicians. It’s also exciting to have new music to promote and play. That keeps the lifeblood pumping in any band.
For more about Def Leppard, visit defleppard.com.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.