Guitarist Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy, Dio) was a guest on the June 14th edition of Eddie’s Friday Night Rocks show, which airs on Q104.3 in New York City. Portions of the interview appear below as transcribed by blabbermouth.net.
Trunk: How’s it going for you, because, for people who haven’t followed the story all that closely, I was very sorry to hear the news that you announced earlier this week that you have been diagnosed with cancer. So how are you doing?
Vivian Campbell: I am doing very well, all things considered. I’ve got to say the treatment is going great. And I am looking forward to getting out and doing some shows this summer with Leppard and Last In Line.
Trunk: Well, you know, I was telling the audience, Vivian, before you called in earlier in the show, that I remember talking to you about six, eight weeks ago, we spoke on the phone, because you’ve been wanting to come on That Metal Show for a long time. And I remember talking to you; you were doing the [Las] Vegas residency [with DEF LEPPARD] at the time. And you were like, “I can’t do it this time, I’ll explain soon. There’s something going on.” I assume this is what was going on, right?
Vivian Campbell: Indeed. I think it’s a legitimate excuse.
Trunk: Yeah, absolutely I’d say so.
Vivian Campbell: But yeah, I’m looking forward to getting on That Metal Show sometime in the future, if you still want me.
Trunk: Yeah, of course we do. But tell me how this happened in terms of when you found out about it, what exactly is going on and what your symptoms were.
Vivian Campbell: I have Hodgkin’s lymphoma; it’s a kind of blood cancer. And what alerted me to the fact that something was amiss was, pretty much exactly a year ago, we were in rehearsals for the Def Leppard summer tour and I developed this cough and it just wouldn’t go away. Some days it was more pleasant than others, but for the most part, I was coughing 24/7, and I just went to a few doctors and they couldn’t diagnose what was going on until they actually had a look at my chest and realized that I had enlarged lymph nodes. So I got my diagnosis, actually, just before we started, when we were in rehearsal for the Vegas shows this past March and April. And as soon as those shows were finished, I started my chemotherapy treatment, so I’m just over two months into the chemo and is going remarkably well. I’ve got to say I feel so much better, actually, since the first chemo treatment. I stopped coughing and I definitely feel like I have a lot more energy as a result of that. So obviously, there’s a lot of side effects from doing chemo, as I’m sure a lot of your listeners know. Which is one thing that’s actually really resonated with me as a result of going public with this is how many other people suffer from cancer of different shapes and forms, you know. It’s unfortunately a very prevalent disease.
Vivian Campbell: Anyway but I’ve been very, very touched by all the love and support I’ve had via my Facebook page and via the Def Leppard Facebook page and the Last In Line page. So it’s good to know you’re not alone.
Trunk: Yeah, I thought it was good that you did go public with it, because I think that others that are going through it could kind of maybe find, you guys could find some mutual strength and very much a community. I mean, you’re right it’s way too common. I mean, both of my parents are cancer survivors and it’s, you know, I mean, there’s hardly anybody that anybody knows that hasn’t dealt with it directly or an immediate relative. So I think that I would assume that it’s good to kind of reach out to the community and talk to other people that are fighting the same things you are and different experiences they’re having with whatever the treatment would be.
Vivian Campbell: Well, certainly. You can gather a lot of strength from that, you know. For me, I did kind of want to not go public with it at first, because it is a weird kind of thing. You’ve got to kind of learn to deal with it on your own terms before you can address the rest of the world about it. So, you know, I feel very comfortable going public about it. For the first couple months, I even tried to keep it from my children, because they were still in school and doing exams and stuff and I didn’t want to add to their concerns. But after a while, it’s inevitable that you, you know, something’s going on and you have to kind of come out with it and kind of explain what the situation is. But I’m very comfortable with it. I’m very comfortable with the treatment. I’m very comfortable with how my body is reacting to it. Obviously, it’s done a number on my hair, so I’m a bit more Joe Satriani these days. I’m hoping that means I’m going to play even more notes like Joe.
Trunk: Well, that’s the least of your worries. That could always come back, you know.
Vivian Campbell: Yes, indeed. So, you know, but it’s all good you know. I have no issues with [any of it]; I’m perfectly at peace with it all.
Trunk: Struggling with a cough, which you said was your major symptom, I mean, that had to wreak havoc on you in DEF LEPPARD because, as everybody knows, with the harmonies in that band, and you’re a big part of that singing, it must have interfered at times with the live show, right?
Vivian Campbell: It did, actually. It was difficult, because, you’re right, we’re singing, we’re on the mic every song, so I actually had to keep turning and looking at [drummer] Rick Allen, and people, I think, were thinking maybe I was just rocking out with Rick, but I was actually coughing up a lung the whole time. It was very uncomfortable and it just got worse and worse towards the end of the tour last summer. And it was kind of pretty bad when I was in Vegas too. I mean, I had some things that were more tolerable than others. But a lot of people noticed it too. I know I wasn’t fooling anyone with it. I’m glad that that part is gone at least. I can breathe a lot easier now, and now I’m essentially dealing with the chemo and not with the cancer. I’m pretty sure I’ve knocked the shit out of the cancer at this stage. It’s just dealing with the side effects of chemo, you know.
Trunk: Viv, did this, and of course, we’ll talk about a few other things as well, but was there any history of this in your family at all?
Vivian Campbell: No, this is an idiopathic disease. There’s no rhyme nor reason for getting it. It strikes anyone. It doesn’t have anything to do with your lifestyle or your diet or your ethnicity or your genetic makeup or anything. In fact normally it strikes people younger — usually in their 20s and their 30s. So there’s no reason for it at all; it just kind of was a random thing.
Trunk: Yeah, I think that’s what I learned about cancers, because there’s some that are obviously hereditary. Like my dad is a colon cancer survivor, so as a result I get screened every three years, just because that is something that’s very hereditary. My mom survived a very rare form of leukemia, and when that happened, the doctors were, like, “No, it’s completely random, so you don’t have to worry about it; there’s no screening for that.” So you learn a lot about this, whether directly through you coming forward or just having experiences with it, that I imagine help you. What was your… When you got this news, were you floored? How did you handle it?
Vivian Campbell: No, I wasn’t floored. I knew something was wrong, and I was just glad to find out what it was, to be honest, you know. I was glad that there was finally an explanation. Obviously, when your doctor says you’re going to finish six months of chemo, you immediately think that’s probably not going to be fun. But now I’ve taken it in my stride. It’s a bump in the road. It is what it is. It could be a lot worse, you know, and there’s a lot worse cancers out there and I was very, very lucky to find it very early so it’s just a question of riding out the treatment. It’s actually been good for me in a lot of ways. It’s been a very humbling experience, and it kind a helps you recalibrate and put the focus on what’s important in life.
Trunk: What exactly is the treatment? I mean, are you taking injections or do you have to go to the hospital on a regular basis? What are you doing exactly?
Vivian Campbell: Yeah, yeah. I go to my doctor’s office approximately every two weeks and they hook me up and drip chemo into me for about two or three hours.
Trunk: And is it — have you had real — besides the hair loss, have you had really — what are the major side effects? You being sick to your stomach and things like that?
Vivian Campbell: Yeah. It’s uncomfortable. It hasn’t been debilitating for me, you know, which is why I’m able to go on tour with LEPPARD and with LAST IN LINE this summer, because it’s not anything that brings me to my knees, where I am puking 24/7 or anything like that. I do have moments of discomfort and nausea, bone pain and tiredness and stuff, but it’s nothing that’s affected, or at least I haven’t let it affect my daily life. You know, I’m sitting here having a beer, to be honest. And I’ve had a full day. I’ve been up since seven this morning and being out and doing this and that and the other. So it’s — I really haven’t let it impinge on my lifestyle too much. But maybe that’s just me; I’m just an ignorant cunt when it comes to that shit.
Trunk: I was going to say, is that almost more of a mental outlook? I mean, I know that this stuff can be a really brutal to deal with in terms of the treatments, but it sounds to me almost like your mental disposition, going into it, is, like, “Well I’m going to take this down, I’m going to not miss a beat playing with the band and I’m even going to have a beer on the weekend.” It sounds like that’s probably pretty healthy in terms of your mental approach.
Vivian Campbell: I do think so, yeah. It definitely starts in the mind, and I’m not of the mindset that I’m about to be sick, and I certainly have no intention of dying anytime soon.
Trunk: And they’re telling you that the prognosis to cure this I think I read in your online statement was about 80 percent, right?
Vivian Campbell: Well, yeah. I mean if you’re going to have a cancer, it’s the one to get. It’s over 80 percent cure rate, especially when you catch it early, like I did. It didn’t get to the bone marrow or anything like that, you know. So I’m really not at all concerned about it, you know. It’s just a question of dealing with the side effects of chemo, as far as I’m concerned.
Trunk: So tell me about the touring plans then, because I don’t know if DEF LEPPARD has anything scheduled for America, but what is your next move as far as playing?
Vivian Campbell: I’m leaving for France on Wednesday morning. We have a brief European run of shows, starting at Hellfest in France next Friday, a week from today. So that’s the first show, and then we have four shows in Spain, arena shows that were going with WHITESNAKE in Europe. And then we have three shows in Scandinavia. That’s one in Norway and two in Sweden. And then I’ve got to fly back to L.A. to do a chemo treatment for a day and a half. And then I fly up to Canada to rejoin the band. Two shows in Canada, and we have to on the East Coast of America and that’s it for LEPPARD for this summer.
Trunk: Wow. So you really feel good enough and confident enough that you’re going to be able to handle all that travel and doing that stuff?
Vivian Campbell: I am 100 percent confident I can do it. Yes.
Trunk: Wow. That’s remarkable, man. Good for you. And then I know that we had Rick Allen, he’s coming up on “That Metal Show”. We had him in there this season and he was telling me that he and the band had an absolute blast with that Vegas residency and kind of let us to believe that there might be more of that coming somewhere down the line, I guess.
Vivian Campbell: Well, it was a lot of fun. I’d say the most fun part of it was being DEAD FLAT BIRD, being own opening act, because we could get out there and just — there were no rules as regards to what DEAD FLAT BIRD played, so we were playing some really early LEPPARD stuff.
Trunk: All the stuff that I probably pestered everybody to hear.
Vivian Campbell: Exactly, yeah. I mean, that was great. It’s very refreshing for us to play something other than “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, you know. You can understand yourself. I mean, we’re sort of between a rock and a hard place. We have to play the hit songs, and we’re very fortunate that the band has those hit songs to play, but, you know, it’s a lot more fun for us to get out there and do something obscure. So we got to do that, which was a lot of fun. And, actually, to break the show up into two parts was very theatrical too, so that adds a lot to the excitement level for us.
Trunk: When I saw online some of the songs you guys were doing, ’cause if people didn’t understand what happened. DEF LEPPARD came out as their own opening act when they did their residency in Vegas and you played all these deep tracks, early tracks, obscure tracks. And when I saw that stuff coming through online, I mean, I was so pissed that I didn’t get there to see it, because I was dying seeing that setlist. But the way Rick made it sound, it probably will happen again at some point, so that would be good to see.
Vivian Campbell: I would hope so, yeah.
Trunk: Have you guys talked about or work on any new music yet?
Vivian Campbell: We’ve done a lot talking about it, that’s for sure. And we even done a little work on it. Yeah, we started a song when we were in Vegas. It’s just difficult to get us altogether. As you know yourself, we’re kind of scattered geographically in terms of where we all live, and it’s difficult to get us all on the same page at the same time. And when we do get together or work, it’s always for another purpose other than specifically to do a record. I mean, we haven’t scheduled time to do that for many years. And at this stage, we are long, long, long overdue having some new music. It’s kind of embarrassing, actually, but we’ve started something at least.
Trunk: Well, you’re an Irishman living in Los Angeles and Joe’s [Elliott, vocals] an Englishman living in Ireland. So I would think that you would be, if anything, pushing to either do the record in L.A. or in Ireland so you could go home for a little bit.
Vivian Campbell: Well, I certainly rather do it in Ireland. I’m not in L.A. by choice. I mean, I’m here because my children live here. And as soon as they go to college, I’m getting out of [Los Angeles]. I’m not saying I’m going to go back to Ireland specifically but yeah, L.A. is a strange spot, as you know. Home is where you make it and, you know, that’s where my kids are. But yeah, we have, in the past when DEF LEPPARD did actually make albums, it is geographically beneficial for us to record it in Ireland, for one reason or another.
Trunk: Yeah, and I saw a documentary on THIN LIZZY and they went into Joe’s house with Scott [Gorham, THIN LIZZY guitarist] when they were remixing some of that stuff and I saw in the video Joe looks like he has a nice setup there.
Vivian Campbell: He certainly does, yeah.
Trunk: It wouldn’t be a bad place, it doesn’t look like, that’s for sure. Let me ask you one more thing on another topic here, Viv, before I let you go. You mentioned LAST IN LINE, which, for those that don’t know, you’re going to go out with Jimmy Bain [bass] and Vinny Appice [drums] and a singer and do material from the first two DIO records, which, of course, you were a huge part of. Where does that stand? What’s the progress report there?
Vivian Campbell: Well, we actually had intended to do a three-week European tour incorporating a lot of festivals, but because of my chemo treatment schedule, we’ve had to curtail that seriously. So as it happens, I mean, we’re fitting shows between my treatments so we can only manage to do four shows. They’re going to be in the U.K. actually. Well, the first one is in Northern Ireland, in my hometown of Belfast, on August 8. So basically we have three shows, three club shows and one festival date in the second week of August.
Trunk: Have you guys rehearsed?
Vivian Campbell: A little bit, not a lot.
Trunk: I was just wondering for you, how did it feel to revisit music that is 30 years old and such a huge part of how people discovered you as a player? But for a long time you kind of moved away from that and embracing it again and did you have to relearn and re-listen to it to remember what you actually did?
Vivian Campbell: I actually did, yeah. I didn’t listen to those records for decades, for one reason or another. So yeah, I literally had to go in and relearn it. I specifically want to play my guitar solos as they were on the record, or as close to as possible, because that’s the way that people have been listening to it for 30 years. So it’s going to be in people’s DNA, and that’s what people are going to want to hear. So it has been a bit challenging for me to go back and relearn my original guitar solos, because even when I was with DIO, I don’t think I ever played them exactly the same live. I was always a bit haphazard with regard to how I approach recording guitar solos. So they’re a bit sporadic, they’re a bit challenging to relearn. But it’s been good for me. It’s been a really good exercise and I’m getting back into playing my guitar again, which I would blame on THIN LIZZY. The stint I did with LIZZY in 2011 really kind of reignited my passion for shredding again. So that’s kind of what led to me calling Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice and Claude Schnell to see if they wanted to get together and play. So it’s been fantastic. I mean the first time we actually got in there and play together it sounded really, really, really tight like it was 90-something percent there. We could have done a gig that night, you know. It just kind of comes back to you.
Trunk: And the all important question is tell everybody about the singer because he’s got some big shoes to fill.
Vivian Campbell: Yeah. We have this great singer name of Andrew Freeman. When I called Vinny and Jimmy and Claude to get together and play, I mean, it was literally just to do that. Like, “Hey do you want to get together and jam?” And we booked a rehearsal room on an afternoon somewhere in the valley here in L.A. and went out and played. And while we were there, Vinny actually said, “Hey, I know this great singer. He lives nearby. His name’s Andrew Freeman. He sang in LYNCH MOB when I played with George Lynch.” And I said, “Well, give him a call see what he’s doing.” So Andy actually came down that very afternoon, that first afternoon we were playing, and he just walked in and he set up his little iPad, he had his lyrics on it and he just started singing. And it gave me goose bumps. He doesn’t sound like Ronnie, he doesn’t have that tonality and very few people do. And in a way, I’m grateful that he doesn’t, because I think it would’ve been weird to try to have a Ronnie clone. But he certainly has the same power in his voice and he has the same passion and he certainly has a similar range, so he can hit the notes and he brings his own twist to it. So hearing Andy sing, and just playing with those guys again, it kind of — we sat down afterwards and we all said well let’s take this a stage further. Let’s go out and do a gig or something. So one thing kind of led to another and we’re talking about doing a tour. Then we decided to call it LAST IN LINE and here we are. We’re actually going ahead and doing it.
Trunk: Viv, you know, it’s no secret, and of course, it spilled out many times publicly that you and Ronnie had differences when Ronnie was still alive. And I wonder, what has been the reaction from the fan base? Have you gotten a sense of, you know, I’m sure there’s a degree of people that agree that those albums you were a part of are the definitive albums — I do, for one — but, obviously, look at it a little bit cross-eyed, saying, “Well, this guy kind of distanced himself and had this kind of sparring with Dio and now Ronnie’s gone, and now he’s going to go out and embrace it. I mean, how do you answer that and what is your feelings about that?
Vivian Campbell: Well, as far as I can gauge, I mean, opinion is kind of impassioned one-way or the other, which is good. I mean, I’d rather people cared than didn’t care. I mean, people either seem to be very passionately in favor of it or very passionately against it, you know. There’s very few in between. For those you actually embrace the music for what it was, I mean, those songs were not only recorded and played by Vinny and Jimmy and myself, but they were also written by us. You know, I think a lot of people forget that that we were very, very much a creative part of those records. And I think people have to approach it with an open mind. I do regret a lot of the things I said about Ronnie, and I’m sure if Ronnie were alive today, he would sit down with me and have a beer and shake my hand and that he would probably apologize for wishing me dead. It was an unfortunate situation. I wanted to distance myself from that music and from that organization, because I was very unceremoniously fired from that band. And then, in the years afterwards, it was portrayed by Ronnie and Wendy Dio that I had turned my back on the band, that I had left the band, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I was fired in the middle of a tour for only asking that Ronnie and Wendy fulfill a promise. Actually, Ronnie fulfill a promise; Wendy knew nothing about it.
Trunk: Can you reveal what that promise was?
Vivian Campbell: Well, when we first met on the very first night that the DIO band formed, it was in a rehearsal studio in north London in October 1982. And it was Ronnie and myself and Jimmy and Vinny, and we hung out and we played. And that was the birth of the band. And Ronnie kind of explained to us that he didn’t want to be a solo artist, he wanted to have a band, but he was going to call it DIO for a number of reasons. Number one, for name recognition because he was a celebrity, he was a star. Obviously, number two, he had an existing record deal at the time and he kind of explained to us that he wanted us all to contribute creatively, which we did. And he explained to us that by the third album, that through our blood sweat and tears, that it would be an equitable situation. And I just held him to that promise come the third album. Apparently, the promise was forgotten, so the result of that was I was fired. And that really did hurt me a lot, because I did give blood sweat and tears for that band. I wrote those songs with Ronnie, I gave it some of my best years and I worked for nothing, practically. I worked for less than our road crew. Anyone who was in that band at that time will tell you that our road crew got paid more than the band did, because we believe that we were working toward something that had been promised to us. So it was an unfortunate situation, and it really, really hurt me. So for many, many years I wanted nothing to do with the music. I wanted nothing to do with Ronnie or Wendy Dio. And as a result of that, I did lash out and I did say some things that perhaps were a little bit harsh.
additional source: blabbermouth.net