Def Leppard pick their spots to rock
Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 11:08
The members of Def Leppard were rock gods in the 1980s. The hard rock band is responsible for bringing us head-banging songs like "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and "Photograph" and those sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs power ballads; "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" and "Love Bites."
Def Leppard have continued to have a tremendous following and have consistently released new material over the years. Their latest album, Mirror Ball, includes three new tracks and is the band's first live CD. After a year-long hiatus, the group is back on tour and will appear in Phoenix this Saturday, September 3 at Ashley Furniture Home Store Pavilion.
College Times caught up with Def Leppard guitarist, Viv Campbell – who joined the band in 1992 – about where the band is at musically and what it's like to be back on the road again more than 30 years into their career. "It's something that we don't take for granted," Campbell said in the phone interview. "At this stage in our career we are very much conscious enough to realize that it's a privilege to be able to do this."
College Times: Def Leppard has many long-time fans, but there are a lot of younger people gravitating towards your music still. How have your audiences changed over the years?
Viv Campbell: Well, it's been great to see – particularly in the last decade – that we've been getting a younger and younger demographic coming to our shows. We still have our core audience: our fans have been very loyal, most of them have been with the band since the beginning and a lot of them bring their kids to the show. But aside from that, we've also been seeing a younger generation coming [to the shows], and that could well be the upside of music inheritance. A lot of these kids were not even born when the band started. They weren't even born when the Pyromania album came out. But they're at the show and they're wearing a t-shirt and singing along. You want to play your music for as many people as possible, so it's really nice for us to see that it crosses generational binds.
Technically you're the "new guy" of the group, though you have been with the band for almost 20 years. What was it like to join the band at that stage in their career?
It was a little bit surreal in a way, [but] by the time I joined Def Leppard I had already been in several bands. I played with Ronnie (James) Dio and Whitesnake and I had a couple other projects in between there, so it wasn't that unusual to find myself on stage with a new bunch of musicians. Whereas for the other guys ... I replaced Steve Clark, who was the original guitar player for Def Leppard, and they had never gone on stage ever before without Steve Clark, so I would imagine it was a lot more difficult for them.
You spent some time touring with Thin Lizzy last summer. As a guitarist, how was playing with Thin Lizzy different than what you do with Def Leppard?
It was a great experience. As a guitar player, it really helped me reconnect with my influences and remind me of the passion that I had for being a guitar player when I was 16. I actually think I'm playing a lot better as a result of it. A lot of people have chastised my decision to join Def Leppard because they feel that it's not a good showcase for me as a guitar player. I think of myself more as a musician than a guitarist and I enjoy aspects of my work with Def Leppard. I get to sing a lot with Def Leppard – I really, really enjoy singing – and I get to develop my skills as a songwriter [...] more so than any other band that I have been associated with and I still get to play a lot. But Leppard is more of a song band than a lot of hard rock bands are. A lot of hard rock bands really glorify the guitar solo and Def Leppard is more about the song first. So yeah, we will have guitar solos, but the guitar solo has to serve the song and not the other way around. I consider myself a better musician now than I was 20 years ago before I joined Def Leppard and I'm also a better singer. Some people would argue that I'm not as good of a guitar player, but I would beg to differ.