INTERVIEW: Def Leppard | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The second album I bought (after Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son) was Hysteria by Def Leppard after seeing the video for Rocket on Top Of the Pops; since then the band have always had a little place in my heart, even if they did follow up that masterpiece of 80’s pomp and flawless production with lukewarm offerings and downright terrible errors of judgement.

I spoke to guitarist Vivian Campbell about the new album and current tour, which stops off at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on Wednesday 9th December, the events that lead to the (to be frank) complete mess of an album Slang, and how they’ve managed to stick together through thick and thin to be back at the top of the nostalgic pop rock scene.

How’s the tour been going?
It’s been going fantastic actually, I don’t know what’s happened. It’s not like we’re dead or anything, but all of a sudden we’re selling a load of t-shirts and tickets. We’ve had a really successful year so far, we started in Canada and the US tour has been hugely successful. We’ve done 60+ shows and most of them were sold out, so things are on the up for whatever reason – like I said, we’re not even dead yet!

Have you noticed a particular shift in your audience over the years?
A lot of young people are coming to the shows, but this year more than ever. I noticed a lot this summer in America – kids under 20, not just ones there with their parents, but ones that are going there with their friends and singing along – so something’s happened, people think we’re alright again, you know.

You’ve recently released a new self-titled album, which to me feels like a bit of a hark back to the days of Hysteria and Pyromania, how did you come to make the new record?
It’s a diverse album, there’s 14 tracks on it and they all go in different directions. The first song, Let’s Go, is very reminiscent of Sugar and it’s very classic Def Leppard. Dangerous has a chorus very similar to Photograph, but when you hear the whole album it’s very diverse, there’s some musical genres we’ve never tackled before. The last track on the record called Blind Faith is a psychedelic song, it sounds a bit like the Beatles. But all these songs have a unifying factor that runs through the record; that’s the sound of our collective vocals, that’s what defines the Def Leppard sound more than anything else. That’s why we called the album Def Leppard, because no matter what genre we tackle it still has that cohesion.

we’re kind of like the elder statesmen of rock, we’ve been around and we’ve done it and we’ve got the battle scars to prove it.

When you joined back in 1992, it was a bit of a turbulent time for rock music; the advent of grunge had dominated somewhat, was it daunting to be making new music then?
It was actually, we were a band in crisis at that time, with no idea what musical direction we should take. The only thing we knew for certain when we went into the studio to make the Slang album was that we couldn’t sound like Def Leppard. We were the wrong band at the wrong time, we went in and did a grunge record and reflected the musical mood at the time. It was interesting, with hindsight I think we went a bit too leftfield, we should have adhered more to the principles and sounds of a traditional Def Leppard record. We‘re not a grunge band and never will be, but it’s not a bad record for what it is. We were definitely a band without direction, but the late 90’s we released the Euphoria record and we figured it was ok to stick our heads out again from behind the wall.

Do you think your longevity says something about how your fans perceive you and the way you’ve carried yourselves over the years?
Through the years we’ve battled with form, a lot of bands from the 80’s when they encountered that resistance in the mid-90’s they split up, they quit or went away, we never really did. We battled against the odds, we continued to tour, and that’s starting to pay dividends, so now we’re kind of like the elder statesmen of rock, we’ve been around and we’ve done it and we’ve got the battle scars to prove it.

I think people liked that we stuck to our guns in that regard. We’re as original as the band can possibly be, obviously I replaced Steve [Clark] in ‘92 but the band has continued, if Steve was still alive he’d very much still be part of the band, we’re just that kind of band. A lot of other bands have like a revolving door of different musicians; that’s all well and good but it does water down the credibility, whereas with Def Leppard it’s still the same band and the same guys and we get better and better as we get older.

You’re doing this tour with Whitesnake, a band you got fired from in the late 80s. How do you get on with David Coverdale these days?
We get on fine. Having said that, I’m not about to jump onstage with him. I don’t personally think of Whitesnake as a big part of my musical legacy as I never wrote or recorded with the band. I don’t have that emotional attachment to it, whereas I did with the original Dio – I co-wrote and recorded the first three albums and did three tours, so that’s an important part of my musical legacy, whereas being in Whitesnake was fun while it lasted but isn’t something I’d be quick to put on my CV.

Technically speaking, I’ve been in all three bands on this tour, because Black Star Riders are for all intents and purposes what’s left of Thin Lizzy, and I played with them for a few months in 2011 as a stunt guitar player. I have some legitimate claim to all three bands on the tour.

I was sorry to hear about your battle with cancer over the last couple of years, how are things at the moment?
The music has been a big part of dealing with my recovery, it’s been really important to make sure I continue to work. I’ve reunited the original Dio band, and we have a new record with them, the band’s called Last In Line after the second Dio album, so when the record’s released we’ll be touring with that as Def Leppard takes some time off. It’s a lot of work for me but it’s keeping me busy and that’s a big part of my recovery, and it’s catharsis for me.

Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Black Star Riders play Metro Radio Arena on Wednesday 9th December.

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