Metal Express Radio 's Mick Burgess conducted an interview with guitarist Vivian Campbell (DEF LEPPARD, LAST IN LINE, DIO) before LAST IN LINE's December 1, 2016 concert at O2 Academy in Newcastle, England. You can now listen to the chat below.
On what inspires him to play with LAST IN LINE, which features Campbell alongside fellow founding DIO member Vinny Appice, plus singer Andrew Freeman, who has previously fronted HURRICANE and LYNCH MOB, as well as bassist Phil Soussan (OZZY OSBOURNE, BEGGARS & THIEVES, Steve Lukather):
"I'm still very committed to LEPPARD and I can only do this in my free time from DEF LEPPARD. And literally I just finished a DEF LEPPARD tour and then I had about a week off and then I started in America with this. So it takes a lot out of you. It's a big commitment for me to do this in terms of my time and my energy, but it's very, very rewarding for me, because I'm still wanting to scratch that itch; I still wanna play guitar like that. In LEPPARD, it's fair to say that the main muscle that I exercise there is the vocal thing. DEF LEPPARD's a very strong vocal band and we're really proud of how well we can represent that vocal production live, and to actually really do it live like we do. But the guitar playing here in LAST IN LINE is… You may notice in this band, I do not sing at all — I don't have a mic in front of me — because I'm just so preoccupied with playing guitar. I'm the only guitar player in the band, unlike LEPPARD, where's there's Phil Collen and myself, so it's all about just putting my head down and just playing massive guitar."
On LAST IN LINE's debut album, 2016's "Heavy Crown":
"It came out every bit as good as we'd hoped for, and we're very encouraged by the response that it's gotten — not just the sales, but the reviews. It wasn't a very conscious thing for us to go in and make that kind of a record that sounds classic. But, like I said before, it is just naturally the sound that we made when we started playing. We wanted to make a record in the style of [DIO's] 'Holy Diver', and that's not to say that we wrote songs to sound like it; we didn't put any thought into the songs we were writing — we just jammed, and stuff happened. But when we did 'Holy Diver' back in 1982… We created it in the same spirit, is what I mean. We'd go into a rehearsal room and Jimmy [Bain, original DIO and LAST IN LINE bassist] and Vinny and I would play and we'd come up with a riff, and we'd think, 'Okay, that sounds like a verse riff or a chorus riff.' We'd cobble an arrangement together. Ronnie [James Dio, DIO singer] would come in in the evening. We'd play it for him. Ronnie would give us the thumbs up or the thumbs down, or make suggestions about how to change stuff. He'd start looking through his lyric books, he'd listen to it a couple of times, he'd step up to the mic and he'd sing. And sometimes by the end of the night we had a completed song. And if not by that night, then he'd come back the next day and he'd have all the lyrics written and it was done. It was just a very organic and a very quick process. So that's the way that we approached writing the 'Heavy Crown' album. We also recorded it very much in the same way that 'Holy Diver' was done — live tracks, guitar, bass and drums, and I'd double the guitar track. We'd put on minimum embellishments. Then Ronnie would do a vocal, I'd do a guitar solo — bang, done. And we also mixed it very much in the spirit of records of that era. I'm personally not a big fan of the overuse of compression in modern recordings; there's so much of it at every stage of the recording and the mixing and the mastering. And the reason people do that is so that their records pop out of the radio. Everyone wants their album to sound louder than everyone else's. But I think we've reached the zenith of that sort of activity. Because it really squashes the dynamics so much that, for me, it can give me ear fatigue after a while. I'd much rather listen to an older record that has a bit more air around it. The guy who mixed our record, Chris Collier, we asked him to listen repeatedly to 'Holy Diver' and to use minimal compression, as little as possible, when mixing the record, and I'm happy to say that he did that. So it does have a certain sound that's characteristic of that era."
On LAST IN LINE's decision to part ways with keyboardist Claude Schnell prior to the recording of "Heavy Crown":
"We didn't have a keyboard player when we went in to do 'Holy Diver'. Claude was only brought in after the record was done and for the tour, as a supplemental musician. Again, that was another bridge that we had to cross when we went in to make this record. We had to talk with Claude about that, and that's when we parted ways. We didn't want to write with keyboards; we're not that kind of band. That was never the original brief of the original DIO band; 'Holy Diver' was not written with keyboards. And, obviously, that was a difficult thing for Claude; if I were in his position, I would feel aggrieved about it. But that changed the dynamic and the direction of the band. When we were offered the record deal, and we decided to go that route, that did change the structure and the dynamic of the band, obviously. And now people say to me, 'Well, how come you have a keyboard player when you're playing out?' Well, obviously, certain songs in the live arena require keyboards, so it is what it is. That was a different thing. We took a different approach from when we are writing and recording than we do when we're out here touring."
On LAST IN LINE's plans for a sophomore album:
"We've already started writing — or at least I've already started writing. I've got some ideas for the next record. I guess in January we'll probably start playing a bit in L.A. and coming up with some ideas. So there'll definitely be another album. It'll probably be the end of 2017, I would imagine, before it comes out. I have some more shows coming up [in 2017] with DEF LEPPARD, Vinny's got a bunch of stuff going on, and I know Andy does. Phil does too, so… we've gotta make it work."
"Heavy Crown" was released on February 19, 2016 via Frontiers Music Srl. The CD was recorded at a Santa Clarita, California studio with producer Jeff Pilson, a veteran bassist who has played with DIO, FOREIGNER, DOKKEN and T&N, among others.
Original LAST IN LINE bassist Jimmy Bain passed away in late January 2016 at the age of 68. He was reportedly suffering from lung cancer at the time of his death.