Are Def Leppard coming to New Zealand? Belinda McCammon talks to Vivian Campbell about tour rumours and the band's first musical collaboration in thirty years.
Guitarist Viv Campbell remembers clearly the one and only time he performed in New Zealand with British band Def Leppard.
Someone in the Auckland crowd at the 1992 concert lobbed a coin at him, striking him between the eyes.
"Someone down there is a great shot."
An inch either way Campbell, speaking from Los Angeles, and he would have lost an eye.
"Whenever people ask me what I remember about that show, I say 'I'm grateful I still have my eyeballs'."
Campbell, who has been with the rock band for 16 years, is promoting the band's latest album Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, amid rumours of a tour to New Zealand.
Despite the years in the band Campbell describes himself as the Ronnie Wood of Def Leppard.
"No matter after how many years I'll always be the new guy."
Campbell was hired in 1992 to replace Steve Clark who died, raising more than a few eyebrows.
"I'd been in a few bands and I'd been fired from every band.
"I had a real bad reputation for not being able to work with people.
Lead singer Joe Elliott had mutual friends with Campbell and "knew the real me".
While Elliott felt Campbell would be right for the band he had a hard time selling it to the other guys, so they went through an "audition process" involving movies and dinner.
Elliott made it clear to Campbell he had great ambitions - for Def Leppard to be one of the great British rock institutions.
"He wanted them to be up there with Queen and The Rolling Stones."
Campbell says the band works with egos and differences of opinions put aside.
"We understand the music is more important than us and there is strength in our unity.
"We don't always get along and some get on better than others but we make it work and we go out of our way to make it work."
Def Leppard is a professional organisation, he says.
"We take our work very seriously but not ourselves."
Def Leppard still has something worth offering audiences despite a music industry which is changing at a rapid pace, Campbell believes.
"We've achieved some serious milestones.
"No band again will sell 15 or 16 million copies of one album, which Def Leppard did with Hysteria because I don't think the record industry exists like that anymore.
"We are always wanting to make more music.
"A lot of bands from our era that are still together with or without the original lineup are touring mostly on their catalogues."
Def Leppard is different because it harbours ambitions to keep moving forward, he says.
It also wants to reach a younger audience.
It's working for the band so far in America where they have been touring intently for the past four years.
"There are an increasing number of younger people in the audience who know all the words to the songs, not just the big hits but also
some of their more obscure songs.
"You know they have our catalogue on their ipod - chances are they haven't paid for it but the upside of music piracy is that it's turning on a whole new generation of fans to the band."
Campbell believes Def Leppard's style can hold it's own against other genres, especially hip hop which dominates the American charts.
"Hip hop doesn't transfer to the live arena at all, its studio crafted music.
"We play really well and we sing really well.
"A compliment we get all the time, a backhanded one, is whether we are sampling our vocals.
"Absolutely not. For a hard rock band we have incredibly strong vocals.
"We're a very dynamic live act and because we've been touring more we're getting better."
The band also know its strengths, never allowing itself to play more than six weeks at a time to allow for the different "ebbs and flows through any tour".
For Campbell a highlight of any show is the guitar solo he has at the end of Love Bites.
"But I also try not to bore the audience, I have to balance that out.
"The audience are not there to see me do my Jimi Hendrix impersonation.
Campbell describes Def Leppard as "part Chippendales, part rock band".
"I'm the fittest I've ever been in my life, we've been working hardcore with a trainer for the last couple of years.
"We actually take him on the road with us, we're very serious .
"Phil [Collen] and I are not afraid of going out there and taking our shirts off."
Campbell denies the trainer and the need to bare his 45-year-old body sounds like a midlife crisis.
"I would not want to go on the stage feeling fat because the world doesn't really like overweight rockstars."
Campbell is pleased with the response their album has received but admits when you make a record you "can't see the wood for the trees".
"You lose perspective of whether it's any good."
The album also marks the first time in the band's 30 year history that they have collaborated with another artist, American country music star Tim McGraw.
The collaboration came about because Rick Allen, the world famous one-armed drummer, is the brother of McGraw's manager.
For years Robert Allen had been telling the band McGraw and his wife country singer Faith Hill were big Def Leppard fans, he says.
McGraw came to their concert in 2006 and sang Pour Some Sugar on Me on stage with the band.
"I'm not sure if our audience knew who he was.
"He was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt, with a baseball cap.
"I'm sure about three percent of the audience got it but everyone else was waiting for security to come on."
McGraw's enthusiasm for his work was infectious, Campbell says and after the show McGraw said he had an idea for a song called Nine Lives.
"We thought 'whatever', cos you hear that a lot in show business but McGraw was persistent."
The collaboration happened and six weeks ago the band filmed a video with McGraw for the single.
"We have a tendency to go a little cold and stiff when we make videos and Tim really helped us interact with us a bit more."
*Songs From the Sparkle Lounge is out on April 28.
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