Def Leppard's Viv Campbell on bringing tour with Motley Crue to Ireland

Veteran rockers Def Leppard are bringing their double-headliner tour with Motley Crue to Dublin's Marlay Park next year. David Roy quizzed their Co Down-born guitar star Viv Campbell about what fans can expect...

Def Leppard, with Viv Campbell (second on right). Picture by Ross Halfin
Def Leppard, with Viv Campbell (second on right). Picture by Ross Halfin Def Leppard, with Viv Campbell (second on right). Picture by Ross Halfin

:: Hi Viv, are you looking forward to bringing the Def Leppard and Motley Crue tour to Ireland next summer?

It's a big, big year for us next year: we start February 18 in Mexico and go to South America and then we start the European run.

The second to last show before Glasgow is Marlay Park in Dublin, which is lovely. I'll be able to tag on some time back in Ireland at the end of that – we'll do Dublin and Glasgow and then I'll head back to Ireland for at least a week.

My wife will be with me because our anniversary is July 4, the day we play. And it's her birthday on July 6. So we have good reasons to come back to Ireland and celebrate for a week.

:: Did you have to get special dispensation to play a show on your anniversary?

We're pretty much always playing shows in July: whether we're overseas or playing in North America, we're almost always on tour on our anniversary – and her birthday, and my birthday and Joe's birthday.

:: The tour is a double headliner, but who gets to close the show at Marlay Park?

We're going to close in Dublin, which is great. I mean, whether we close or Motley closes, the show is the same: both bands play about 90 minutes. The difference is really in whether you're going on in dusk, or in darkness – and obviously the show works better for both bands in darkness. You get the full benefit of the lights and the videos and stuff.

So yeah, we close in Dublin – it was important for us to try and win that one.

:: It will also be Irish fans' first chance to see the new Motley Crue line-up with John Five taking over from Mick Mars due to his recent retirement. Did you know about that in advance?

You know as much or more about that than I do. Like, I was told about it by a friend of mine about a week or so ago and I said, 'You've got to be kidding?'. And then I read something about it. So I guess it's true.

That'll be interesting. John Five is an incredible guitar player. I mean, he's absolutely amazing. But then again, I mean, Mick Mars is such an integral part of Motley. So I don't know what's going on.

:: There's quite a difference between the two bands both musically and in terms of stage production. Does that work for the tour?

Motley's show is a very, very different thing from our show – and that's what made it a great, great package: we're two bands loosely within the hard rock genre, but very, very different in how we present the shows.

Our show is super clean, very much focused on the music – although we have probably the best lighting engineer and designer in the rock world. He's a Japanese guy called Kenji, who's unbelievable. So our light show is pretty spectacular. Our video content is always a great element of the show too. But other than that, you know, we keep our 'stage look' very, very clean and focused on the music.

The Motley show is much more chaotic than ours – which is good, you know, there's contrast there. Their show is a lot of pyro, there are strippers on stage, you know, what you would expect from them – it looks like an industrial Mad Max, post-apocalyptic wasteland sort of thing.

:: You would have been in LA around 1983 when you were joining Dio and Motley Crue were just breaking big for the first time. Did you ever cross paths with Nikki Sixx and co back then, and were they always as crazed as they became at the height of their fame?

Yeah, they were always like that – that was kind of their 'thing'. I remember one night going to the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Strip and ending up at a party with Motley Crue afterwards. Very quickly I realised, "I gotta go home – this is getting a little wild and crazy".

I mean, they always built their image around this mad partying sort of vibe, and the guys in the band are all like caricatures of themselves. Whereas with Leppard, people don't really know us. I mean, they know Joe, they recognise Rick because he's got one arm. But other than that, people know Def Leppard for the music – we're pretty much a faceless band. Very, very, very, very different to Motley – it's not every band where everyone knows the drummer.

Tommy Lee is, like, internationally famous, you know, as much for his homemade porno movies or his arrest warrants as his drumming. So you know, these guys are authentic in that way. I mean, they're not putting it on as a show. OK, maybe there was a degree of exaggeration in the live performance, obviously, but that's their thing. That's who they are. But it's very, very different to who we are as Def Leppard.

We're much, much more reserved, I guess. It's a British, you know, European sensibility, as opposed to the American, Californian, Sunset Strip, "let's get drunk and get strippers and do cocaine" thing.

:: It sounds like the 'vibe' must be very different when it comes to the band's respective backstage areas on the tour?

You know, we actually didn't see each other too often backstage. I mean, just with the logistics of being in these super huge venues and the time constraints, we'd mostly just pass each other in golf carts.

But you know, Nikki Sixx would stop by our hospitality area on occasion, because we had a chef with us who would cook really exotic food in the afternoon. And Nikki followed his nose one day early in the tour: he came and knocked on our door and said, "Hey, can I have some?". So then he'd show up every other day just to see what was cooking.

:: Leppard's new album Diamond Star Heroes was recorded during lockdown by largely virtual means, with the band members in different countries and time zones. How was that experience for you and how do you feel about the Top Five success of the record?

The first major hurdle for me was the technology learning curve. And I learned enough just to get the job done. I still don't feel comfortable with tech, at all. But the record turned out to be great. Diamond Star Halos is a super strong record. It's also the first record that we've done with a major label in 14 or 15 years, and the label is actually genuinely enthused about it. So that was great too.

We believe in the record so much, we went strong and opened the shows with a brand new song, Take What You Want, which opens the album and has that sort of high energy thing to it. And the other new songs went over great too, so we were very very happy about that.

:: Do you think writing and performing with your 'Dio survivors' group Last In Line helps your creativity and performance in Def Leppard?

Well, I think I'm playing guitar better than I've ever played in my life, because when I'm not doing Def Leppard I'm off doing Last in Line, which is really challenging for me as a player. And then, when I when I come back to Leppard, I find that I can focus even more on the vocals, you know, and so my vocals get better.

My vocals are better than they were three or four years ago, by a country mile. I feel very, very comfortable and very confident about my performance with Def Leppard as a result of all that, so there's definitely benefits to it.

Musically, it's always good to go off and do something different and then come back to something fresh with Leppard. And the same is true of Last in Line when I go play with them off the back of a Def Leppard tour. It's a different mindset, you know?

:: Def Leppard and Motley Crue, July 4, Marlay Park, Dublin. Tickets on sale now via Ticketmaster.ie.