Vivian Campbell was at home, but not for long, when he picked up his phone to tackle an interview.
“That’s a rare, rare treat for me to be at home,” he said.
Campbell said it’s a self-inflicted wound that he spends so little time at home. That’s what happens when you play guitar in two bands.
When Campell isn’t busy with Def Leppard (he and band mates recently got inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), he’s gigging with his other band, Last In Line, and that means he’s headed back to Tulsa, albeit to a much more intimate venue.
Def Leppard and Journey co-headlined a 2018 tour stop at Tulsa’s BOK Center. On Saturday, Oct. 19, Last In Line will perform an Eddie Trunk-hosted show at downtown Tulsa’s IDL Ballroom, 230 E. 1st St. Advance general admission tickets are available at stubwire.com.
Last In Line is phase next of the 1980s heavy metal supergroup Dio. That band was fronted by Ronnie James Dio, who died in 2010.
After Dio’s death, the musicians who collaborated with him on the first three Dio albums (Holy Diver, Last in Line, Sacred Heart) reunited and formed a band that got its name from one of the albums. Campbell was at the forefront of Last In Line’s launch even though he was firmly entrenched in Def Leppard’s lineup and hadn’t been a part of Dio since 1985.
“I wouldn’t have done it if Ronnie was still alive because, if Ronnie was still alive, then there would have been some incarnation of the band Dio and I wouldn’t have wanted to compete with that or be in conflict with it,” Campbell said.
Some have accused Last In Line of being a cash grab, according to Campbell. He laughs off the criticism.
“You’re talking about flying Southwest, staying at a Holiday Inn Express, driving in a ... van and eating cheese sandwiches every day,” he said.
“I do not need to do the Last In Line thing. I do it because it’s catharsis for the soul. I’m certainly not doing it for the money. It makes me a better guitar player and I think I’m playing better than I’ve ever played in my life and I think Def Leppard benefits from it.”
You can credit Thin Lizzy, sort of, for Last In Line’s existence. Def Leppard was taking a rest when Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy invited Campbell to be a stand-in guitarist for Thin Lizzy during a brief tour. Are you kidding?
“Thin Lizzy, you have got to understand, is perhaps the most important band that helped shape me in my formative years,” Campbell said.
“When I was a teenager, when I learned how to play my instruments, when I was really crafting my style, Thin Lizzy is the band that I drew from the most.”
Campbell said he “totally jumped” at the chance to tour with Thin Lizzy. He called it one of the highlights of his career. “It was so surreal,” he said.
What does that all have to do with Last In Line? Campbell said it’s difficult to keep the “fire” burning as intensely as it once did when your passion becomes your career. Before the Thin Lizzy experience, he suspects he had settled into a groove professionally.
But playing the songs of his youth with Thin Lizzy re-energized his passion for playing guitar. He felt like a teen again. So he did “The Boys Are Back in Town” thing with his Dio boys.
Campbell said he called former Dio band mates Vinny Appice and Jimmy Bain only to rehearse and exercise different guitar muscles than he exercises with Def Leppard.
“It had been 27 years since we had played together and, as soon as we started playing together, it was like riding a bike,” Campbell said. “It all just connected and the immediate chemistry was there. We got goosebumps.”
Appice summoned a singer, Andy Freeman, who lived nearby. Boom. Instant band.
Campbell, citing a “light bulb moment,” said the guys agreed to book some shows and play songs from the first three Dio albums — songs they had a hand in writing and recording. Shows led to festivals and an inquiry from a record label. Campbell said Last In Line got a little more serious when the band agreed to a record deal and started writing new songs.
Two albums later, Last In Line is headed to Tulsa. A lineup change occurred when former Ozzy Osbourne bassist Phil Soussan came aboard following Bain’s death in 2016. Bain passed away prior to the release of Last In Line’s inaugural album. The band canceled a post-album tour, but eventually decided to forge ahead.
“We decided we owed it to Jimmy and ourselves to continue,” Campbell said, citing positive response to the album.
Continuing allows Campbell to scratch an itch. He does the heavy guitar lifting in Last In Line. Phil Collen handles that responsibility in Def Leppard. One band is a very polished rock group with pop overtones. One is a hard rock/metal group that glorifies the guitar. Different strokes.
“Last in Line is a very spontaneous band,” Campbell said.
“We don’t have a budget for any sort of production. We just go out there and we play and frequently we go off script and we improvise, particularly at the end of songs. Sometimes we just start playing something entirely free form, which is something that Def Leppard has never, ever, ever, ever, ever done is and is never likely to do. A Def Leppard show is a high production quality show, very rehearsed, very scripted, very choreographed. A Last in Line show is anything but. It’s very casual.”
Campbell said he feels blessed that he gets to work with so many great musicians. Even though he might grumble a bit about a lack of home time, he said he loves what he does for a living.
“I believe in Last In Line and I realize in this day and age especially you have go to out and do the work,” he said. “You can’t phone it in. You can’t just put out a record and a video and do a couple of interviews and think that is going to work. You’ve got to go out and beat the streets. But that’s the most enjoyable part of all this for me. Playing in front of people and doing the live work, that’s instant gratification right there.”