Interesting Viv Campbell Info…

May 21, 2010 | By | Reply More

…Including Why He Slagged Gibson

Viv in '08 with his "parts" Les Paul (Matt Becker photo).

Viv in '08 with his "parts" Les Paul (Matt Becker photo).

Vivian Campbell has definitely left his mark on hard rock history, in Dio. For a while he sort of got a bum rap after being fired from Dio and then Whitesnake – even though many great guitar-players have been bounced from both bands.

Then he landed a plum gig in Def Leppard (1992), for which guit-slinger-wanna-bes have also criticized him – not enough hard-rockin’ riffs a la High ‘n’ Dry, as if the band would ever go back there!

He’s had an interesting career: A young guy plucked out of Ireland by an American singer who could’ve gotten any one of several hotshot LA guitarists, who has gone full circle from Les Pauls to shreddy axes (Charvels, Kramers) to Les Pauls, and who has been in one of the biggest rock bands of all time for almost 20 years. Some interesting stuff below.


His influences, from the now-defunct

“Marc Bolan, Rory Gallagher, Brian Robertson, Scott Gorham, Gary Moore, the classic Lizzy guys. I was very much a Gary Moore fan for several years. Michael Schenker was a bit of an influence. He’s a great, great guitar player. But I was devoted more to the Gary Moore vibe. He just has so much passion. I would always cop his licks. And the first time I heard Eddie Van Halen, that was pretty mind-blowing. And Rory Gallagher’s Irish tour record, he was peaking there.”

First Les Paul

Those are mostly Les Paul guys, so no surprise that’s the guitar he wanted, from a interview:

“T. Rex was the first one to turn me on. I remember Marc Bolan and his Les Paul. To me, Bolan was synonymous with a Les Paul, and with long hair! I was also really influenced at that time by Gary Moore and Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham, the guitar players for Thin Lizzy. They were all Les Paul cats. At one stage in my life, I could play the Thin Lizzy Live and Dangerous album note for note.

“So I bought that Les Paul when I was 14 [for more on that see part 1]. The serial number is 729****7. It’s the only serial number of a guitar that I have ever memorized. It just meant so much to me because I had to work like f*cker for many, many, many months to get that guitar.

“I wanted a gold Les Paul Standard, but this being Ireland in the ’70s it wasn’t like you could walk into Guitar Center and get what you wanted. I had to order the guitar and I had to wait for about six months. And every day on the way back from school, I’d stop in to the music shop. I walked in one day and the guy said, ‘Good news and bad news: The good news is we got a Les Paul. The bad news is that it’s not a gold Standard. It’s a wine red Deluxe.’

“So being an impatient teenager, I took it. First thing I did—showing my Rory Gallagher influences, I hate guitars that are shiny and new—I took sandpaper to it and I rubbed all the shine out of the finish. I eventually painted it a matte black. That was the guitar I used on the Holy Diver album and tour with Dio. So that was my first Les Paul.

“To me the Les Paul is synonymous to why I got into music in the first place. I go back to Bolan, and back to my earliest influences. They were all Les Paul guys. It is just such a rock ’n’ roll instrument. You can’t go wrong.”

Being Hand-Picked by Dio and Going to LA

On arriving in LA with that same Les Paul, and thoughts on why he was plucked out of Ireland by Ronnie James Dio:

“What I remember most about coming to LA is that I genuinely thought I was a good guitar player until I landed in Los Angeles and then it was a massive blow to my confidence. GIT [Guitar Institute of Technology] was going on. Everywhere I turned I was meeting other musicians. It wasn’t like in Belfast, where I knew maybe three other guys who played guitar. You come to LA and everybody is either an actor or a musician. And every musician was a guitar player and every one of them had these monster chops!

“Sweep arpeggios, alternate picking, it was mind-blowing to me. It was very disturbing. I couldn’t understand why Ronnie Dio had flown all the way to Europe and picked me as a guitar player, when he had all these technically gifted guitar players on his doorstep in LA. But it turned out that is exactly why, because Ronnie didn’t want that kind of guitar player, because they were everywhere.

“But I really wanted to play like that! And I was really frustrated that I couldn’t. I spent most of the ’80s spinning my wheels as a guitar player, just being really frustrated that I couldn’t play like Paul Gilbert or Yngwie Malmsteen. I really wanted to do that, but it was too late by then. I was entirely self-taught. I learned all my bad habits early on, and spent several years reinforcing them. But now I am very much at peace with the kind of guitar player I am and I accept it. I still have a bit of envy for guitar players who can do that, but you are who you are.”

The Gibson Thing

In an ’08 issue of Guitar World (a guy I know calls it Guitar Maxim!), Viv had this to say about Gibson: “I’ve been playing Les Pauls, but I hate to give any press to the f**king Gibson f**king guitar company because they’re a pain. Gibson as a guitar company is really on the slide. They’re not really supportive of their artists. But I really love playing the Les Paul.”

I remember reading that and being like, Wow! Not surprised about Gibson, based on the many things I’ve read, but figured it must’ve been pretty bad for Viv to come out with it in an interview and give his permission to print it. Stumbled across the following, which is what Viv’s tech Dave Wolff said about it at the time on the forum:

“This is Dave Wolff – I’ve been teching for Viv for 16 years now. To make a long story short, Gibson treated Viv great up to ’94, then it ended. Parts here and there, the loaned guitar here and there (off the shelf stuff, mind you). I get [understand?] all the corporate crap, but Gibson has been dissing Viv for years behind their mama’s skirt. This [Viv’s statement] was the truth long coming.

“Viv’s track record speaks for itself – he has done more TV/videos/shows blah blah blah than any other wanna-be boy band fly-by-nighters or one-hit wonders will ever think about, with a Les Paul hanging proudly off him.

“I know because I was there for all of it. I [have] emails after emails asking for guitars and parts, and got blown off. How would you like to show up to a radio show..(VH1 Rock Honors) and look at racks of new Gibsons in these boy bands’ gear and asking the tech how did ya get those, and their reply is, ‘Oh we just called and they showed up.'”

“By no means is [Viv] a multi-millionaire rock star. He has earned everything the hard way. He has kids and a wife, and a very modest lifestyle, and by far he is the nicest, down-to-earth person I’ve ever met. I don’t see Viv ever not playing a LP no matter what Gibson or anyone else says. [That recent] interview has stopped 10 years of at least trying to get stuff from Gibson. I will keep all Viv’s Gibsons up and running with the help of many other friends in all the great companies making parts, so no worries.”


Here’s the second part of an electronic press kit about a pre-Def Lep band for Viv ccalled Riverdogs. Sounds cool.

Category: Gibson, Les Paul, Vivian Campbell

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