‘Holy Diver’, ‘The Last In Line’ and ‘Sacred Heart’ are regulars on the Iron Fist HQ turntable and while Dio’s passing in 2010 means that as a band Dio will never reform, however LAST IN LINE are as close as we’ll get.
Formed in 2011 to play the songs they wrote between 1982 and 1985, Vinny Appice, Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell – the original Dio band – got together after 25 years along with Lynch Mob frontman Andrew Freeman to simply play the “hits”. But in 2013 they were offered a record deal that changed the way they viewed their future.
Heading for the studio, the making of ‘Heavy Crown’ was to be the project to spur bassist Jimmy Bain into battling his substance abuse demons. Writing while in rehab he won and had been sober for over a year. But fate was the deal another card, as the band prepared to release the album they’d been working on for three years Jimmy Bain passed away. Devastated by the news, and wanting to STAND UP AND SHOUT that Last In Line are a band that deserve to be celebrated, we caught up with guitarist VIVIAN CAMPBELL to ask him what lies ahead for this band who laid the very foundations of heavy metal as we know it today.
Last In Line started as a gig-only project, a way for yourself, Vinny Appice and Jimmy Bain – the original Dio band – to play the songs from that era, but you were approached by Frontiers Records to make an album, was it an easy task to come up with all new material?
“We never intended for this to be anything other than the original Dio band playing the original songs but with Andrew Freeman. That’s all it ever was. That’s all our ambition extended to until we were offered a record deal in late 2013 and that’s when we genuinely sat down and thought ‘Well, okay, do we want to take this to a new level and actually write and record some new music?’ We decided we would give it a go and that also preempted some changes to the line-up. We wanted to make the ‘Heavy Crown’ record in the same way that we had done ‘Holy Diver’ and that was as a four-piece band without keyboards so that was a bit of a shake-up. Obviously Claude Schnell was part of the original Last In Line lineup when we were just going out and playing the early songs but when it came down to the new phase of Last In Line we wanted to just do it just guitar, bass, drums and singer.”
It’s a fantastic album that should excite fans of those first three Dio albums and Andrew’s voice has a soaring Glenn Hughes quality to it, was it difficult to re-capture that vibe?
“We had no pressure, we absolutely did not go in thinking we’re gonna make a record like this or a record like that. People have asked, did you deliberately try and make it sound like Dio, and the answer in unequivocally no, we had no agenda whatsoever. We just went into a room and started playing and it happened very easy, we gave it not one iota of thought. Some people say it sounds a bit like Dio and yes, guess what, it’s the original Dio band. Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice and Vivian Campbell, when we play together that’s the sound of the early Dio records so that much is unavoidable but there was no agenda, no deliberate cause of action.
“We actually co-wrote every song on this record, all four of us, so it was very much a collaborative group effort which is what we wanted. We wanted that spirit and that’s how we approached it and I think we achieved it but Jimmy’s input is really strong, his contribution to this record and of course other records too.”
It’s terribly sad that Jimmy reportedly had been through rehab in recent years and come out the other side after years of excessive behaviour, is that the case?
“He finally won that battle. I would like to emphasise that. When Jimmy died he was sober and had been for a least a year and a half. It is ironic that the demons that had plagued him his entire life he finally defeated and then succumbed to something else. It was actually cancer that killed him. We just found out a couple of days ago from the pathologist’s report that Jimmy had been suffering from lung cancer and his entire body was riddled with it so he must have had cancer for many years.”
You were due to perform during the Hysteria On The High Seas, the Def Leppard cruise, is that correct?
“Well we played a show. We were scheduled to play two, one on dry land and one on the ship and we did the one on dry land; a pre-cruise show that turned out to be Jimmy’s last. And he was really struggling, he had a hard time getting through it, he was really weak but he played great, as he always did. And then we got on the ship and we were scheduled to play on the Sunday afternoon and on the Saturday night we found Jimmy dead in his cabin. We ended up doing a very brief tribute, we did four or five songs that Jimmy wrote on Sunday night on the ship with Eric Brittingham from Cinderella. It was a very sad occasion.
“It was also heightened by the fact that the Def Leppard show didn’t go as scheduled either. Joe [Elliot] completely lost his voice, he couldn’t sing. If we were on dry land we would have cancelled the show but given that we were at sea with a bunch of people we ended up doing a very makeshift show on the Saturday night on the boat. We performed seven Def Leppard songs; I sang, Phil sang, Eric Martin sang, Kip Winger sang and the one that really saved the day was Andrew. He got up and knocked it out of the park, he was exceptional so it was very hard, the most bizarre Def Leppard show we’ve ever done, ever. It was made even more surreal by the fact we’d found Jimmy’s body an hour before so it was a surreal performance to be up there on stage playing this most bizarre Def Leppard show ever knowing that Jimmy was dead.”
The tragedy was made worse by the fact that word got out before you make an official statement, is that right?
“That was part of the problem, we were at sea, we couldn’t get hold of his family. They wouldn’t allow us into his cabin once we’d found the body, they sealed it and we wanted to get his cell phone so that we could get his daughter’s number to let her know and it was made even more sad by the fact that some idiot sent a text to someone who told someone who told someone else and that person posted it on Facebook and then it went viral. His family found out though social media. His daughter and grandchildren, so that was particularly sad.”
There does seem to be a rush to post news online these days, sometimes media organisations – and we at Iron Fist are part of this pressure too – feel like they have to be the first to report news without taking into consideration the family or, in fact, their own sadness. It becomes a media circus, we recently experienced that with the passing of both Bowie and Lemmy.
“It says more about the person posting than the subject matter, it’s more about their ego than having sensitivity to the fact that someone has passed. It’s an ego thing. It’s very bizarre. Very indicative of the times we live in.”
Were you aware of the rumours flying around around the death of Jimmy?
“I wasn’t aware and it doesn’t surprise me and that’s why it makes it even more infuriating that people so quickly post things like this without having full knowledge. I knew the first thing that people would assume was that Jimmy died with a needle in his arm, which is absolutely untrue, which is why I was to emphasise to you that he’s been completely sober for a year and a half. That had nothing to do with his demise.”
Will you go ahead and release the ‘Heavy Crown’ album and still tour it in his honour?
“Well, obviously it changes things dramatically. We really owe it to ourselves and especially to Jimmy that this record still comes out and that we still do everything we can to make sure people get to hear it because it does stand alongside some of his best work. It was very much a Jimmy Bain record as well as those early Dio records and Rainbow records and Wild Horses and what have you. It was very much Jimmy’s heart and soul so we will do whatever we can to work this record.
“We were actually booking a tour in the US for March and April, we won’t be doing that now but we will do whatever we can, as we can. I don’t know with whom yet, I don’t want to just go out as Last In Line just with some guy playing bass guitar, it’s a little bit too early to really think about these sort of things but we had a certain number of more high profile shows scheduled in the coming months and at this point it’s our intention to meet those obligations but we haven’t even begun to think about how to do it.”
You were fired from the Dio band in 1986, it’s well publicised that there was a rift between yourself and Ronnie, but did you remain close to Vinny and Jimmy through the years?
“I never had any issues with Vinny and Jimmy when I was with the band, my issues were with Ronnie and Wendy and that’s what got me fired, but Jimmy and Vinny were always close, were always friends and we’d see each other now and then at some event in LA, but it was so great to get back and play with them again. That really reinforced our relationship and the chemistry with the band was absolutely immediate. It had never gone away, when we started playing together again in 2011 it was right there.”
The fact that we’ve lost Jimmy, Lemmy and Bowie as well as countless other musicians and actors to cancer, to mention people in our own personal lives is so devastating, but you’re fighting your own battle too, how are you at the moment?
“It keeps coming back, so I did a stem cell transplant exactly a year ago actually, this time last year and I had really, really pinned my hopes on that being it. It was sold to me that way, if you do this it will be all good. Then after that you have follow-up scans every 90 days so my first set of scans were good and then the second set, last April or early May, they showed that it had started to come back and this was right on the eve of the start of the US tour so it wasn’t good timing. My doctor initially wanted me to do a course of radiation and I didn’t want to do that for various reasons and my lovely wife took it upon herself to do some research and she found about this clinical trial, a whole new way of treating cancers, it’s called immunotherapy and it’s still a drug that’s infused the way chemo is, it goes in through an IV but it’s not like chemo. Chemo is carpet-bombing, kills all fast growing cells, which is why you lose your hair and skin and nails go weird. Immunotherapy approaches it from the other angle and basically boosts your immune system so it can fight the cancer, so there’s been a new class of drugs that have been going through FDA clinical trials and so basically I started taking one of those.
“Unfortunately I had to miss the first four shows of the US Leppard tour to get that all sorted out, which was heartbreaking, I absolutely hate it. The thought of missing shows, that’s just the worst consequence of all of this as far as I’m concerned. The treatment is great because there’s no real side-effects to it, other than it’s lowered my thyroid a bit which was to be expected but that’s minimal side-effect, not like chemo, no hair loss, no nausea, nothing like that. The hardest part is the scheduling because I have to get an infusion every three weeks so had to schedule flights back to Los Angeles, which I’ve managed to do. It’s a lot more travel but it’s the best possible outcome because I feel 100 percent healthy and the tumour’s very small. The doctor’s won’t make a determination on the advocacy of the treatment until I do another set of scans so if it’s working I can do this treatment for up to two years. If it’s not working I’ll have to reconsider other options.”
Does your health and the health of your peers make you consider the effect of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle?
“Well, it never was [bad] for me. I’ve always been a little bit too cautious as a human being to go gung-ho. I was never into doing hard drugs, all things in moderation except moderation. So nothing has changed too much for me. Even with all this cancer bollocks I haven’t changed my lifestyle that much, I’m still very fond of a tipple. Leppard has always been a much more grown-up band than any other, certainly in the years I’ve been with them. Obviously prior to that there were a few shenanigans, particularly between Steve [Clark] and Phil [Collen] but then I guess Steve’s demise [in 1991] was a real wake-up call for Phil and that obviously led to him radically altering his life, but as far as I can tell just by the personalities of Joe and Sav and Rick, I don’t think any of those guys were too gung-ho in the past. They may have talked about it [laughs], but I think it was the stuff of folklore.”
1983’s ‘Pyromania’ made Leppard a household name in America and you became almost synonymous with the wild days of the LA rock music scene, which was all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. You must have felt that too being in Whitesnake throughout that late-’80s period too. Was it not tempting to fall in with the harder aspects of that scene?
“It was crazy back in the ’80s, especially in LA. I’ve had the misfortune of having to live in LA for decades, it’s not my favourite city and I never intended to stay there but you know back in the ’80s, the whole Sunset Strip, Hollywood thing was off the hook. Bands like Motley Crüe and Poison and Ratt, they almost put the lifestyle before the music. Leppard were never that band and maybe that’s more of a British and Irish sensibility. I never wanted to be a performer, I wanted to be a guitar player but I’m aware enough to realise I’m more of a performer than a musician, ironically. That was never my intention and the most uncomfortable aspect of what I do is that I’m not naturally comfortable in front of people as a performer. I never thought about it when I started playing. But you get used to it, I’m used to it now and accept it for what it is but I’d be a little bit disingenuous if I were to look somebody in the eye and tell them I was strictly-speaking a musician because I made the bulk of my money performing songs as opposed to writing. My teenage daughter’s a proper musician, she was doing her homework and asked me there was a B(flat) in the key of F and I couldn’t answer.”
Did you enjoy the movie ‘Rock Of Ages’ which took a good poke at the whole scene and took its name from a Def Leppard song?
“I actually haven’t seen it. I did see the play, when it first came around. We had different management at the time and they advised us to not get involved and let them use the name, the irony of it being called ‘Rock Of Ages’ with no Def Leppard music in it. I don’t know if that was a good or bad choice, but regardless I did get to see it on Broadway years and years later and I thought it was fantastic but I’ve never seen the movie. We did visit the set when they were shooting it in Miami with Tom Cruise, we stopped by for an hour. I’m flattered, I suppose, but I guess it’s inevitable, everything comes around a full circle. In the ’90s everything to do with Def Leppard and the ’80s was anathema and then this whole new generation started discovering this music and making it popular again and it becomes Hollywood fodder. Everything from that generation, directors of our generation are starting to make movies that reflect upon their youth so I suppose it’s inevitable that if you hang around long enough you become cool again.”
A full version of this interview will be in Iron Fist #17
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