EXCLUSIVE: Fame’s Phil Allely meets Northern Irish guitar legend Vivian Campbell.We at Fame were very excited to hear that Northern Irish rock legend Vivian Campbell (of Def Leppard/Whitesnake/Dio fame) would be bringing his new band Last In Line to Belfast for the opening live show on their short tour.
This was an opportunity too good to miss, so I hastily made my way to Belfast’s Limelight venue to chat to the man himself and learn more about just how this collective of former Dio band members came to be. Here are highlights from my chat with the an himself.
Hi Vivian. May we kick off by asking you how the band came to start the tour in Northern Ireland. Hailing from here, was it your choice?
Well Phil it was originally supposed to be a tour starting in July. But my treatment for cancer held that up. I have to work my shows around my chemo.
At present I have it every two weeks and need to go back to LA for it. So with that going on we re-scheduled and it was a kind of serendipity that we ended up opening the tour here in my hometown.
I’m guessing you will be seeing a great many old faces in the crowd tonight?
I have been here (Belfast) a few days and already seen some (laughs) and I am sure there will be plenty more too. The audience tonight will be epic and to be honest I cannot think of a better place to start.FAME’s Phil and rock legend Vivian
Exactly, the NI fans always step up to the plate when they are offered a wonderful band to see. What about the set list, what can we expect to hear?
Well the thing a lot of people don’t realise is that we not only played on those classic Dio albums, but we wrote a lot of the songs too. So it is a set consisting of not only the albums/tours we played on, but also the material we wrote.
They are what I would call the crown jewels of the Dio back catalogue. You know the biggest problem with a band is when it begins to lose original members. Anyone can play a song like someone else note for note (or word for word), but it is the gaps in the middle where someone improvises that makes them special.
You can’t copy that and that is where the wheels fall off. Which is why this is so special, when we got together and began to play them, it felt like it did all those years ago. After all who better to play these songs, than the guys who originally recorded them?
So vocalist Andrew (Freeman) was not hired and told to emulate Ronnie then?
No not at all. I didn’t want to bring someone in who sounds just like Ronnie. There are some very good ones out there. But Andrew fits the bill perfectly and bring his own personality to the songs.
When you decided to take this project to the next level and tour was it a natural progression form jamming in the studio together?
Yeah in a way. We basically saw there was a demand for it. I was also made aware of a band out there called Dio Disciples, who are made up of guys who were a part of later releases or tour with Rionnie. But they have very little connection to the classics.
So that gave us a push and we went for it. All we really want to do is get out there and play, but seeing the fans enthusiasm for the work means a lot to us.
We will always have people say it is not the same without Ron, but when they hear us and see us they will change their mind.
You seem very enthusiastic about this project. What about it made you jump in with both feet?
I had just came off a Def Leppard tour and that had really pumped me up. I felt re-energised and excited to get up and play again. So I called the guys and it all fell in to place very quickly. The sound is great and the shows will be epic. I’m so glad it happened.
You have veteran NI rockers Sweet Savage as your guests on this tour. You were of course a member of that band in the early days of your career. How does it feel to meet up with lead singer Ray and hear their material after all those years?
It is great to see Ray and the guys again. They have a great sound a hell of a back catalogue. They are the perfect band to open up for us and will go down a storm.
Can I ask you about the recent Las Vegas Def Leppard had. In it you played the entire Hysteria album in the original order each night, but for the opening set you compiled a collection of little known or unreleased Leppard tracks as well. What was that experience like?
It was a great experience. But you know if bands like Motley Crue and Guns N Roses hadn’t tackled the same sort of residency we may not have taken it on. We (Def Leppard) have never been trailblazers, we like to play it safe, but when we knew others had done it well, we jumped in there.
We actually acted as our own opening band too, so we did indeed play a set of songs we hadn’t played in years. There was even one called ‘Good Morning Freedom’ that I had never even heard and I have been in the band for 20 years. I was slightly embarrassed to have to call up Joe and say man how does this one go (laughs).
The shows went great and we got a big buzz out of doing them. There is a CD or course, but there is also a DVD that will be going in to cinemas (selected ones), we are all really excited about that and what it will be like to see ourselves on the big screen.
Joe (Eliott) is of course a member of the Kings of Chaos touring rock supergroup. Which comprises of a host of rock legends, including members of Guns N Roses, would you ever join up with them?
Well I was scheduled to go to South Africa with them. But my diagnosis and treatment meant I had to give it a miss. But since they are a collective that can chop and change members maybe I will get along next time. I hear they have a great time and people love seeing Joe and others take on iconic songs by other singers/bands.
Finally Vivian may we ask you what the future holds for Last In Line?
Good question Phil. You know we have no real plans beyond these shows and one in Tokyo. We are looking at America and just need the right promoters on board.
Someone has suggested a live DVD, which could be fun. We have no plans for CDs etc, but never say never. If we come up with a song etc anything can happen. I will say that we hope to do more tours like this again though.
Exclusive interview by Phil Allely ©FAMEMAGAZINE.co.uk