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Vivian Campbell: Exclusive Interview With Ultimate Classic Rock

It’s now been 25 years since Vivan Campbell joined Def Leppard, stepping in after the death of original guitarist Steve Clark. Campbell spoke to Ultimate Classic Rock as the band was wrapping up a summer tour with Poison and a new album from his pre-Leppard project Riverdogs celebrates the recent release of 'California,' a long-awaited reunion that found the group knocking out its first full album of studio recordings with Campbell since the 1990 debut. And fans can look forward to even more new music by the veteran guitarist, who’s getting ready to resume work on songs for the sophomore release from Last in Line, his group with former Dio bandmate Vinny Appice.

This is the 25th anniversary of you coming into Def Leppard. That must be pretty hard for you to believe.

It is bizarre, yeah. Because it’s also the 40th anniversary of the band itself, of Def Leppard, and that’s something that Joe [Elliott] speaks about every night onstage. The irony is that I’ve been in Def Leppard longer than Steve Clark was, which is really bizarre to think about. The way the band works is quite extraordinary. In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fueled by younger people coming to the shows. We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially.

I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy. You know, people bemoan the fact that you can’t sell records anymore, but for a band like Def Leppard at least, there is a silver lining in the fact that our music is reaching a whole new audience, and that audience is excited to hear it and they’re coming to the shows. It’s been fantastic. There’s a whole new energy around Leppard, in fact. I think we’re playing better than we ever have. Which you’d like to think anyway. They always say that musicians, unlike athletes, you’re supposed to get better. Athletes have a finite window for their career, whereas with music, you do get to nuance your performances. I’m not sure that anyone other than the band really notices, but I notice it and I know that the other guys do too. When I play “Rock of Ages” for the 3,000,000 time, it’s not the song that excites me, it’s the energy from the audience. That’s what really lifts our performance. When you’ve got a more youthful audience coming to your shows, it only goes in one direction.

When you came into the band, was there a particular song that was difficult for you to get a hold on?

I’m not saying this just because I was a guy who was brought in to replace Steve Clark, but I always, still to this day, prefer playing the songs that were obviously Clarky riffs. “Too Late for Love,” “Gods of War,” “Billy’s Got A Gun,” even though we haven’t played that in a long, long time. Steve was a great riff writer. I think he was very inspired by Jimmy Page, probably the ultimate riff writer. But it’s always fun to play the Clarky songs. There’s a bit more of a rock intent to that. There’s obviously a great amount of diversity to Def Leppard’s music, but it’s nice to do the rock stuff, because, as a guitar player, I like to connect to my licks.

Read More: Vivian Campbell Reveals the 'Upside of Music Piracy' for Def Leppard: Exclusive Interview