Vivian Campbell states that his firing from Dio had been planned for some time
Current Def Leppard and Last In Line guitarist and former Dio axeman Vivian Campbell was recently interviewed by Rock Cellar Magazine and looked back to his time in Dio and his tumultuous relationship with the now deceased but formidable singer Ronnie James Dio.
The following are excerpts from the interview conducted by Rock Cellar Magazine:
Rock Cellar Magazine: You had a contentious relationship with Ronnie Dio. What drew you together and what pulled you apart?
Vivian Campbell: For me it was never easy, but it wasn’t always contentious. It was always a little bit difficult because of the respect I had for Ronnie. He was so much older than me and he was one of my heroes. The cassette that I had in my car that was on constant play was Black Sabbath’s Heaven & Hell album, which featured Ronnie on lead vocals. This was up until a couple of days before Jimmy Bain called me asking if I could fly to London the next day to audition with Ronnie.
So this was a guy, a hero of mine, and all of a sudden to go from listening to his records and a couple of days later you’re auditioning for him in London and then a few weeks after that you’re flying to L.A. to write a record with him (laughs), I was starstruck.
I was kind of dumbfounded and I was a little bit uncomfortable around him because of it, but it was my own thing. It wasn’t anything that Ronnie was putting out; it was my own issue and I’m very much aware of that and I own that but it kind of set the tone for what was an awkward kind of relationship. It was a bit like being in a band with your stepdad. Ronnie had that kind of protective feeling towards me. He knew that I was a green as the grass and I was fresh off the boat and in L.A. in the ‘80s and there were all sorts of things going on around me that he knew I had no experience of and I kind of did get the sense that he was wanting to protect me from some of it. So it was a weird kind of thing and a really weird relationship that he and I had. We didn’t talk a lot but we did have a very sympathetic musical understanding of each other. We kind of instinctively knew what each of us were looking for. He didn’t have to tell me a lot about what to play; I kind of instinctively found it and I think that’s what attracted Ronnie to my playing in the first place.
Rock Cellar Magazine: What did you draw from your experience working with Ronnie and how did you apply it toward your tenure with Def Leppard later on?
Vivian Campbell: Well, between Leppard there were a bunch of other projects. The Dio thing didn’t end well. A lot of people think I turned my back on that band and I left, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I was fired in the middle of a tour, between the first leg of the American tour and the start of the European tour. I was replaced by Craig Goldy. It was a seamless transition and it had obviously been planned for some time. Craig was the guitar player for Rough Cutt, another one of Wendy Dio’s management projects.
It was very painful for me and it left a bad taste in my mouth and I actually turned my back not only on Dio and then work that I had done with Ronnie, but that kid of music in general. It left such a bad taste in my mouth and the way that it happened that I wanted nothing to do with that kind of music for years and years and years. In fact at the time I got together 27 years later with Vinny and Jimmy in the middle of 20011 and we started jamming, to that day I still didn’t own any Dio records.
I hadn’t listened to them and if they came on the radio I’d turn the radio off; such was the issue with me the way that it went down. Between being fired from Dio I went on to play for about 25 minutes with Whitesnake. It was a fun time and it also didn’t end well. I didn’t see a future for that band for me in the long term so it didn’t work out, but it was fun for the brief time it lasted. Then I went on to do a project with Lou Gramm and I did a record with a band called The River Dogs. So by the time Joe Elliot called me about joining Def Leppard I’d been around the block a couple of times so it was very easy for me to walk into Def Leppard for a couple of reasons.
Number one, I’d had the experience of being in and out of bands so I was used to walking into these situations and assimilating with these different groups of musicians and making it work. I’d also had a lot more experience in the studio and on tour as a singer and becoming more rounded as a musician, not just focused on being a guitar player. So it was certainly a lot easier for me to join Def Leppard than it was for the others to accept me — because for all the early years of Def Leppard’s career Steve Clark was an original member, and all of a sudden he was gone and they had to deal with someone else. So it was much much more difficult for Joe and Sav and Rick and Phil to get used to playing with me as it was for me to get used to playing with them.
Plus I was always a huge Def Leppard fan right from day one. Back when I was in Sweet Savage we looked up to Def Leppard. They were part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement as we were, even though Joe will deny it (laughs). We in Sweet Savage looked up to Def Leppard because they went out and initially did it on their own. They released their own independent single, they managed to get it to John Peel and it got played on Radio One and they managed to get an interview with the music publication, Sounds with Geoff Barton.
All these things started to happen for them so they were much kind of a home grown thing and had a kind of D.I.Y approach to making it and personally I was very inspired by that. Not only was I a fan of the music, but I was very very much watching there gradual ascent through the music business and the way that they were just clawing at it and making it happen and creating their own opportunities.
You can read the rest of the interview at Rock Cellar Magazine.
Former Dio guitarist Craig Goldy was interviewed by Sleaze Roxx back in September 2016 and stated the following about Campbell’s attitude towards Ronnie James Dio: “Anyway, getting back to the Vivian thing. I wish he’d just say “I’m sorry.” Maybe something happened behind closed doors that Vivian finds ‘unforgivable?’ I just find that just so hard to believe. I don’t know what happened between the two of them but maybe he stepped over some boundaries and ‘felt the heat?’ He got called on it and was let go.”