VIVIAN CAMPBELL: 'It's A Bit Of A Struggle For Me To Write For DEF LEPPARD'

Amy Kelly of recently conducted an interview with DEF LEPPARD guitarist Vivian Campbell. A few excerpts from the chat follows below. Do you still look forward to taking the stage after 30 years in the business?

Campbell: I thoroughly enjoy playing live. That's the main reason why you pick up your instrument in the first place. You get that instant gratification in front of an audience. We've done it all before, but I still get very excited about doing it. As far as getting nervous before a gig, I don't really. I get apprehensive, but I wouldn't say it's really nervous. There is an excitement and an adrenaline. I enjoy it for what it is. Like everything else, nothing lasts forever. I try to enjoy it every day. I'm sure that each member of DEF LEPPARD has a unique way of approaching the songwriting process. Do you wait until you get off the road or are you someone who might bring along a makeshift studio on the tour bus to record demos?

Campbell: I don't normally write on the road, but occasionally I have. You never know when you're going to be inspired by something. I come up with something while I'm on tour, but all I'll do is make a note of it. I don't demo it on the road. I do have a full Pro Tools rig at home. We did bring that on tour once in 2006 when we were writing "Songs From The Sparkle Lounge". That was the exception because I had my portable Pro Tools on my laptop. So it was easy for me. That was the only time I've ever actually demoed something while on tour. Normally I collect ideas and then when I go home, I have the home studio and do it there. We all have very different styles. And to be honest, it's a bit of a struggle for me to write for DEF LEPPARD. It's not really my natural inclination to write LEPPARD-like songs. I always find that I have to kind of step outside of the box and try to be objective about what I'm doing. I'll say to myself, "Is this going to work for Joe [Elliott, DEF LEPPARD singer]?" I especially think that because of the way I sing. On my demos I tend to be more of a soul-type singer. I've come to realize that Joe doesn't naturally follow the same thought process in terms of the melodies. I'm not a good enough songwriter where I can write to order. If somebody says, "Write a song for Britney Spears" — I can't do that. I'm not a prolific songwriter. I'm not one of these songwriter hacks who can churn out a song a day for so-and-so. It's a painful process for me. I'm also not a great technician when it comes to engineering. I rely on the generosity of my clever engineering friends who help me to do things that I can't. Was the recording process of your blues album a different experience altogether from your work with DEF LEPPARD in the studio?

Campbell: Yeah. It certainly is the polar opposite of the way DEF LEPPARD records. With LEPPARD, we totally do everything separately. In recent years, for "Songs From The Sparkle Lounge" and a couple of tracks on the "Yeah!" album, Phil [Collen, DEF LEPPARD's other guitarist] and I would record together. There is one track where we actually recorded the guitar solos live because we trade off in a couple parts. That was the first time we had ever done that. Other than that, everything is one guy at a time. It's very piecemeal and it's a very tedious process. Although with the first DIO album that we did, we did tracking live with Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice and myself. Then Ronnie would be singing the vocals. With "Two Sides Of If", we were taking it a stage further. Not only was I cutting all the guitars live, but I was also cutting the vocals at the same time. When I listen back to it, it's kind of hard for me to listen to sometimes. I'm always thinking about my performance. If I'm singing I'll say, "Oh, I'm a little flat there" or "That guitar was a little sharp." If it was a rock record or a regular record, you could fix it. To me, there had to be a certain integrity to it. It had to be live. Are there any techniques or methods that you would suggest for a beginning guitarist?

Campbell: Yeah. I think that it's because I taught myself that I am here where I am. I believe that the idiosyncrasies in your playing and your style make you unique. That becomes your signature. There is no one in the world that plays like me, and therefore there is no one in the world that sounds like me. That got me the first gig with DIO. He auditioned Jake E. Lee and a bunch of other guitar players in L.A. While they're all fine guitar players and amazing technicians and certainly technically better than me, there was something about my playing that was unique. That's why I got the gig. It becomes about passion. It's about trying to find the right expression. It's not about technique. That's one thing that I tell kids when they come up to me. Yes, you need a certain amount of technique. You have to get over that hump to be able to play your instrument. It's not about trying to play fast. It's about playing in time, in key, in pitch, and expressing yourself. It's finding your place.

Read the entire interview from


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