Since they recorded their first EP in 1978 with money lead singer Joe Elliot borrowed from his father, Def Leppard has sold millions of albums, generated over a dozen radio hits, and filled arenas and stadiums all over the world. This Saturday night, all of those hits and the great memories they produced will be on display as the band takes center stage at Nikon Theater at Jones Beach in Wantagh alongside fellow classic rock staple, Heart.
Recently, Patch had a chance to speak with Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell via telephone about the band, being on the road, and playing at Jones Beach.
Patch: How was the transition going from a band like Dio that had a relatively small but loyal following to one of the biggest and most established rock bands in the world?
Campbell: Well, Def Leppard is a very different thing. I've been in for 20 years and it's very much a song focused band and a very democratic organization which I wouldn't say was true of Dio. It's very much along different lines, you know, everybody has a different role to play in the band. We all know who does what best and we kind of, um, everybody falls into their position naturally and it works pretty well.
Patch: What's it been like touring with Heart?
Campbell: It's been brilliant. Um, you know, they're a very seasoned band, very professional, good working environment, and they've got a s--- load of hits and that's what people want to hear.
Patch: Is it weird to you guys that the music business has changed to the point where bands used to tour behind an album and now the tour itself is a band's bread and butter? And does that fact put even more pressure on you guys to deliver at your live shows?
Campbell: Um, no, I don't think we feel any more pressure, but we've always been very good live. Um, you know, the band always works very hard and I think, um, you asked about differences before and that's the biggest one probably that the work ethic in Def Leppard is much greater than any other band that I've had experience with in every aspect. With Def Leppard, we take our work seriously. We don't take ourselves seriously, but we take our work very seriously. When I first joined the band, we rehearsed for two f---ing months, which frankly was a little overkill, but um, you know, that's where the band was at during that time. We don't do that much anymore, but um, we certainly apply ourselves to everything we do. If it's writing songs, recording songs, or performing live we have certain standards that we never let slip, but that would exist anyway regardless of whether or not we were focused on selling records.
Patch: Do you ever get tired out on the road?
Campbell: No, we plan everything accordingly, you know and we're all very aware that it's a privilege to do this for a living so we don't take it for granted.
Patch: Here on Long Island, everybody looks forward to the Jones Beach concert series every summer and in previous years, many people would have gone to a bunch of different Jones Beach shows. That said, with the economy, people are cutting back now, so they may go to fewer concerts. If I'm a Long Islander on a tight budget and I can only afford to go to one concert at Jones Beach this summer, tell me why Def Leppard on July 12 is the show I should go to?
Campbell: Um, well, the case that would be for Def Leppard is if you're a fan of Def Leppard. I don't know who else is playing at Jones Beach this summer, so frankly, I might go see someone else. Um, people who are Def Leppard fans probably have seen us before and they very rarely seem to complain. Sometimes they might say we don't play enough rock songs or um, you know, we don't play enough of the obscure, some of the earlier cuts. That's the one downside to touring with another act, because when you do tour with another act like Heart, it is um, essentially a co-headline bill, so you have to afford them a generous amount of time to perform their catalog. So consequently, we can't go on stage and play for two and a half hours, so we go out and play for about 85-90 minutes. And um you know, we're kind of fortunate that we have a genuine number of top 20 hits and to get those performed it does take the majority of that time. Um, we do usually try to do something a little bit different from tour to tour, throw in something that's more of an obscure cut for the more hardcore fans, but the majority of the people who do come to see us, particularly in North America, are expecting to hear those big radio hits and not necessarily tracks from the "High 'n' Dry" album, so we do our best to please as many people as we can.