Def Leppard - Spring 2019

Guitarist Vivian Campbell

Established in 1983 by Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognises and archives the history of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers, and other notable figures who’ve had a major influence on the development of rock and roll. So how do you get in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Well, in short artists become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Criteria include the influence and significance of the artists' contributions to the development and perpetuation of rock and roll. I think it’s fair to say that the Hall of Fame has faced some criticism over the years with this criticism mainly being focussed on how the the nomination process appears to be controlled by a few individuals who are not themselves musicians. There is also the suggestion that some controversy exists around  the lack of transparency in the selection process. Perhaps that makes an artist’s induction on the basis of a fan vote all the more special? Step forward Def Leppard! Def Leppard have been eligible for induction since 2005 meaning they have been ignored by the Hall of Fame for almost 14 years. However, 2019 sees the band finally being inducted having beaten so many other artists – great artists – to win the fan vote. Def Leppard will be inducted into the 2019 Performer Category alongside The Cure, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, Radiohead, Roxy Music and The Zombies at a ceremony which will take place on 29th March in Brooklyn, New York at Barclays Center. As the date draws closer, we catch up guitarist Vivian Campbell to soak up the excitement.

The scores on the doors...

It’s finally happened! You are to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year as a member of Def Leppard. Huge congratulations on this fantastic achievement! How does it feel to know you will be inducted, especially as the band were number 1 in the fan vote?

That’s the main thing that we’ve taken notice of – that we had the highest fan vote. That’s always meant a lot to us and that’s always been the only award that we’ve ever really needed. That’s always been more important than anything – that you have the respect of your fan base – but the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame to be honest isn’t anything I personally gave a lot of thought to prior to it happening but now that its happened, yeah, it’s one of those things where you sit back and reflect upon it you can think ‘Oh, that’s cool!’. It lends a certain ‘cred’. It’s hard to put it into words. There’s an air of credibility that the band steps up a level to rock royalty or something. It’s nice to recognised for your tenure if nothing else, you know? The band has been together 41, heading on for 42 years this year. I’ve been with the band 27 years this year. On personal note I realise that Def Leppard’s getting inducted to the Hall Of Fame mostly of the back of Steve Clarke’s work. I don’t fool myself into thinking that it’s because of anything in particular that I’ve contributed over the last 27 years but at the same time I do realise that when I joined the band back then it was when the tide was starting to turn against us. We went through a lot of bleak years. We kept flying the flag, we didn’t capitulate, we didn’t give in which so many of our contemporaries did. We kept going and we kept adapting and I was there for those years so I feel that I deserve my spot there because I’ve helped maintain the integrity and the dignity of the band for more than a quarter of a century. Things have finally come around where in 2018 we had an absolutely massive co-headlining tour with Journey, where shows in the US sold over a million tickets, selling out baseball stadiums and seeing our audience grown generationally, like 30 or 40% of our audience are young enough to be our children now and that’s consistent show to show to show, especially in North America. So we’ve crossed that generational gap and it really does feel there’s been a massive shift in the way that Def Leppard is appreciated and perceived over the last few years, and having the Hall of Fame nomination really kind of cements that. But I’m very, very cognisant of the fact that on a musical level is the legacy of Steve Clarke’s music that put us there as opposed to anything I wrote on Slang or Euphoria or X or Sparkle Lounge or anything else but still, I’m very proud of my input with the band over these decades and for how we’ve been able to redefine Def Leppard and really finesse it. It’s all good!

How will being a member of the rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame change things for you and the band?

I think it maybe solidifies that next step in the band’s career where we step up. I genuinely do think that the bigger the venue the better Def Leppard is. I noticed that over the summer last year on that tour I was talking about with Journey. We played 60 shows, the majority of them were arenas but 10 of them were baseball stadiums. Massive, massive venues with big, big staging and everything about it was bigger, and that’s where we felt more at home. I really do feel that Def Leppard could step up to that, you know? It felt more natural and more comfortable. The music of Def Leppard is very bombastic, it’s larger than life, and I think the bigger the room that you put Def Leppard in to, the more the music can breath and come alive and the more the show comes alive. So I think that’s where the band belongs, and it’s quite an interesting contrast to Last In Line (Vivian’s side project), because with Last In Line we have zero production. I mean nothing (Laughs!)! It’s just 4 guys on stage with black T shirts, sweating, and I’d love for Last In Line to have some production, as the budget allows, but right now it’s purely about rock songs whereas Leppard it takes on a life of its own. The music feeds the production with Leppard and the shows just become bigger and bigger and bigger. It’s like an ever expanding universe. So I do see more growth in Def Leppard’s career and I see us stepping up to be a stadium band. 

So the ceremony takes place in New York (Barclays Center in Brooklyn) on 29th March. What’s actually planned for the evening and how do you plan to celebrate?

I have no idea! I really don’t. I mean my head’s been in Last In Line since the start of the year so I don’t know. I know that we are going to go to New York several days before hand. We’ve got to do a bunch of press and we’ve got to rehearse, obviously, because I believe we are going to play – I don’t even know what songs we are going to play so it’s all to be determined!

As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on how fully deserving it is that Def Leppard are to be inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame, and how even more special it is that will be there because of the fans themselves. Is there any greater accolade? It is with enormous pride that we look forward to the ceremony itself and with our eyes wide open as we watch what happens next for Def Leppard.  

Def Leppard’s latest greatest hits album The Story So Far is available now. Check out the lead single Personal Jesus below.