When he’s not selling out arenas and stadiums around the world with Def Leppard, Vivian Campbell is busy getting down and dirty in the clubs with Last in Line. What started out as reclaiming their shared ownership of the Dio band’s past, has now blossomed, and two albums in, and the band is developing into its’ own entity. Opening and closing Download Festival 2019’s first day, we caught up with Viv, along with bassist Phil Soussan to talk Donington past and present, touring, and album number three. Heavy crown; Eamon O’Neill.
Welcome to Download 2019; how was it opening up the festival today?
Vivian Campbell: It Was brilliant. The rain held off for us. That was great, and we’re thankful for that. You know, it’s a difficult festival show; it’s a bit throw and go, so it wasn't without incident, but it keeps it fun. I thought we played well, and I thought we were well received.
Notably, there was only one Dio song in the set today.
Phil Soussan: Well, it’s a very, what some might consider to be a bit of a bold move, but I think it really talks about what this band is doing, which is taking that legacy, and then taking it forward and growing it out. With such a short set that we had, we wondered whether we should just go ahead and play the songs that everybody’s already familiar with, or or introduce the audience to what we’re doing now.
VC: We wanted to make a bit of a statement about it; we’ve got two albums out. Like Phil said, we’re always going to touch on that – that’s the heritage of Vinnie [Appice, drummer] and I, and what was Jimmy [Bain]’s, and obviously with Ronnie, and there’s a great demand for that I think. But because it was such a short set for us today, we had to take this opportunity in a high profile show to just make that statement that it’s a new band and we’re pushing it forward.
When we first spoke, you said it was very much about reclaiming that shared legacy; do you feel that you have achieved that now, so it’s easier to move forward?
VC: Absolutely, but we will always play Dio songs. If we had a ninety minute set instead of thirty minutes, we would balance it out. But I still say that now we’re at the point where I would like us to always have a slightly larger percentage, at least, of the show being Last in Line music, as opposed to the Dio catalogue. I think it’s only fair to Andy [Freeman, vocalist] and to Phil. They’re very invested in this, and we’re very very proud of the ‘Heavy Crown’ album and the ‘II’ album. And we think it sits side by side with the Dio stuff, so we’ve got to put that emphasis in; we can’t allow ourselves to fall, or to look backwards; we’ve got to keep moving.
Phil; you’re the new boy in the band, even though you’ve been in it a couple of years now; you seem to be very much one of the gang.
PS: It is very much like that. There’s a great camaraderie in this band. We get together, and we rough it from time to time; it’s not exactly very high on creature comforts, but we love what we’re doing, and for us, this means a tremendous amount. We’ve also gelled together as a unit. I think that became apparent. For me, the affirmation of that was when we went in and started writing songs for the next record, because no one really knew how that was going to work out, because there’s that factor that you don’t know if it’s going to show up or not. And once that came together, it was a great moment; it was a very inspiring moment for me at least, and I’d like to think for the rest of the guys as well. I’m very proud to work with these guys, and I consider them close friends, and people I like to hang out with even when we’re not playing.
I have to ask, how are the headliners Def Leppard treating you today?
PS: I haven’t seen them too much, but this guy’s [pointing to Vivian] treating me pretty good.
What is it like for you Viv, opening the show today, and then closing it with Def Leppard?
VC: It has occurred to me that this is the exact tenth anniversary of when Leppard first headlined Download; it was June 14th 2009, and on that day, I remember that Phil [Collen, Def Leppard co-guitarist] had his band Man Raze, and they played, although they weren’t on the same stage. So Phil did double duty then, so I’m not the first Leppard to do it. But, it’s great; I was really, really happy that Andy Copping and Dennis Desmond from Live Nation [Download Festival organisers] gave us the chance, to put Last in Line on the main stage. It really means a lot to me to play such a high profile festival show for us, because normally we’re doing clubs and stuff. Yeah, it’s going to be great; I know a lot of Leppard people were here early to see us, and we appreciate that support.
What’s it like to be performing ‘Hysteria’ in full at Donington?
VC: It’ll be different from what we just did, you know! [*Laughing*] It’s a different muscle with that band; it’s a very, very slick show, very polished, very high production, everything is well rehearsed and on cue, and the Last in Line thing is just the total opposite. It’s like we’ve got no production; we’ve got nothing out there, it’s all about head down, and just rock!
PS: But it’s fantastic because it’s stripped down and, speaking for myself, that’s my favourite format of bands; it's when it’s just a three-piece and a singer; whether it was The Who, or it was Free or Zeppelin or Bad Company, or any of these bands. We go out there, and there’s no nonsense; Viv uses a guitar going into an amp with a chord. There’s not a load of effects or anything; it’s just very raw, and because it is, it’s intense, and it’s inspiring.
You’re no stranger to performing a headlining set at Donington Phil; you were here with Ozzy in 1986.
PS: That’s right. Was that with Dio? [To Viv] Were you right beneath us, or Scorpions?
VC: I wasn’t with Dio in ’86. I got fired in ’85, so…
PS: It was us I think, The Scorpions, and then Leppard. If you look at the photograph on the inside of the ‘Hysteria’ album, those are my amps.
What’s happening next for Last in Line?
VC: Well, up until September, I’ll be with Leppard between now and then, but Leppard have a residency in Las Vegas in August and September, and we in Last in Line are going to use that time – the days off when Leppard aren’t playing – we’re going to start writing the next album. We’ll just get a rehearsal room and go in and kick around some ideas, which is good in a lot of ways, because we’ll get a head start on the album, and it’s good for me that I don’t have days off on Las Vegas, because I couldn’t imagine that!
And in terms of live shows?
But then, we’re playing a bunch more shows, and we’re actually back here [in the UK], and we’re playing Belfast on November 29th; that’s our first show, and then for another two or three weeks beyond that, we’ll be in the UK and mainland Europe.
How did you enjoy this years’ US tour?
PS: Those shows, they’ve been fantastic. It’s really been remarkable, the support, and the way that the album has been accepted and the band has been accepted. People are really liking where we’re going, and a lot of the time you see bands who get together with some kind of heritage and they go out there, and people just want to ear the old songs; the nostalgia kind of experience, and then when you play new songs they want to get up and go and get a drink, go to the bathroom. But here, people want to hear those songs; they know the lyrics, and we don’t take that lightly. We’re very appreciative of that, and we’re very fortunate that we seem to be striking a chord with the audience, and it’s as exciting for, if not more for us, than it is for them.
Finally Viv, you seem to be busier now than you’ve ever been; do you ever take a day off?
VC: Not a lot, no, but I never realised until these last couple of years how much work it would be, so I do intend to try and schedule a little bit of time for myself next year. Having said that, I love my work, and I know if I wasn’t doing this, if all of a sudden it wasn’t here anymore, I’d really, really miss it, and it would really make me sad, so I try not to take it for granted, and I try and enjoy it all. I really believe in Last in Line, and I understand that to elevate a band and to move it forward, you’ve got to go out and do live shows. So, I’m invested in it, and I’m investing as much of my time as possible. But next year I will take a holiday.
PS: We had a day off yesterday! We went for an Indian. [*Laughing*]
VC: That’s true, we had a day off! It was almost a day off. We spent four hours in a van, but other than that, it was a day off! [*Laughing*]
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