Rob Cavuoto of Guitar International recently conducted an interview with DEF LEPPARD guitarist Vivian Campbell. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Guitar International: Tell me about the three new studio tracks on “Mirrorball” and who wrote them?
Vivian Campbell: The idea of doing the three songs came late in the project. Our management said it would add more value to the package if we had some new studio tracks. So it was kind of a scramble, particularly on my end. I actually wrote a song for it but didn’t have it ready in time. Hopefully it will make it on our next studio album. Joe [Elliott, vocals] wrote the song “Undefeated” really, really quick. In my opinion, that’s the most LEPPARD-sounding of the three. It’s a great song. Joe just has a knack for writing DEF LEPPARD songs. The other two songs I guess had been in the works. Phil Collen had written “It’s All About Believing” with a producer/writer friend of his called C.J. Vanston. They had written it over a year ago. And Rick Savage had been working for quite some time on “The Kings Of The World” which is very, very complex. It’s basically Sav paying homage to his favorite band ever, QUEEN, but that all came about at the 11th hour.
Guitar International: I understand that the CD will be a Walmart exclusive. That can really have its pros and its cons, like with AC/DC, it worked out very well, whereas with KISS, it didn’t work well and maybe prevented them from going Top 10. What was the decision to do this Walmart exclusive and was there any apprehension involved?
Vivian Campbell: We had done deals in the past where we sold a certain amount of records through Walmart. So we had a little bit of experience with it. Our manager had a lot of experience with having dealt with big box retailers with the other acts he manages. So we basically followed the advice of our management. We were no longer working with a major label, “Songs From The Sparkle Lounge” was our last record for our label which the band had been with for 30 years and we needed to find some outlets. Like it or dislike it, it kind of is the nature of the beast now. There is no bricks-and-mortar industry for music anymore. It’s Walmart and Best Buy and Target and places like that. Those are the places where people are most likely to buy physical CDs. The business has just been in a tremendous amount of flux and you’ve got to adapt. What’s working this year is not necessarily gonna be doable in a year or two from now. It is what it is.
Guitar International: DEF LEPPARD has such an extensive catalog of songs to choose from, when you are heading out on tour this summer, how do you pick the setlist?
Vivian Campbell: The set list kind of picks itself. There’s a bit of a double-edged sword, having a really strong catalog. People expect the hits, particularly in America and particularly with the nature of the concert industry nowadays, insofar as when we package with other acts. There’s gonna be a certain percentage of the audience that is there primarily for HEART, and they’re only gonna respond to the big LEPPARD hits. So it’s not like we’re going and playing to 100% DEF LEPPARD audience. If that was the case, we would definitely dig deeper into our catalog and play more obscure songs. We are very fortunate that we actually could play an hour and a half of bona fide Top 20 songs. The hardest thing for us is what songs not to play, and make it a little different from year to year. We try different arrangements of songs. Like with “Rocket”, sometimes we do a real guitar extravaganza in the middle between Phil and I. Sometimes we do the more concise single version. We’ll try and do a different album cut, like maybe “Gods of War”, which we haven’t played in a few years. Last tour we played “Mirror, Mirror”. The set list for America hasn’t been formulated yet. I’m actually flying into Dublin tonight and we start rehearsal. We’ll get to it, but my point being that the majority of the set is always gonna be the same. There are certain songs that when people come to see DEF LEPPARD they’re gonna want to hear “Photograph”, “Rock of Ages”, “Sugar”, “Animal” and “Hysteria”. All those songs are gonna be present.
Guitar International: How long does it take DEF LEPPARD to ramp up for a major tour like this?
Vivian Campbell: Not long, actually. Certainly not in terms of the band playing the songs. We’re gonna play “Undefeated” this year. That’ll probably consume most of our time in rehearsal working it up. We find that every successive tour, we rehearse less and less, because we’re playing a lot of the same songs. Even though it’s been a year and a half since we’ve played them, it all comes back. It’s like riding a bike. The biggest part of our tour preparation is actually the technical side for our crew. We have some different crew and some different equipment and you want to get familiar with. I know Rick Allen has a whole new drum kit for this tour, so that is the single most technical aspect of our setup is Rick‘s kit.
Read the entire interview from Guitar International.