» Vivian/Vinnie - Last In Line
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Interview conducted August 04 2017
Interview published August 25 2017

"It was difficult for us, because from a business point of view we were always shut out from it, but from a creative point of view we all contributed to it."

Last In Line came to Skogsröjet festival in Sweden and Metal Covenant seized the opportunity to talk to original Dio members guitarist Vivian Campbell and drummer Vinny Appice.

"It's the same exact formula as we did back then, except we smoked a lot more pot back then."

Tobbe: A new record is in the works, I've heard, so when will we see that record out?

Vivian: That's difficult to answer. We know that we start to record in September and we know we'll have it finished by the end of the year, or January, but we don't know when exactly Frontiers will choose to release it, because we have to look at everyone's availability for next year to tour and promote the record.

Tobbe: If you look at the songwriting: Is it a little bit strange to try to find old Dio attributes, but at the same time not, like, making a carbon copy of them?

Vivian: Well, I think there's a certain style that you have, you know. Individually, and especially collectively, like when Vinny and Jimmy [Bain, bass. Deceased in 2016] and I would get together and play we have a natural tendency. We sound like the original Dio band, because that's what we are, but we also have a certain tendency to play in a certain way. I know I play guitar different when I play with Vinny then when I play with Rick Allen [Def Leppard] or Mark Danzeisen [Riverdogs] or any other drummer. You know, Vinny has a certain style and… (Vinny:) Be nice. [Laughs]

(Vivian:) …and has a certain method to his playing that brings out certain things in my playing, you know, that are obviously reminiscent of early Dio, because that's what it is, you know. It's a little bit different for the next record because Jimmy obviously is no longer with us. You know, Phil [Soussan] is similar in style, but not quite as fundamental a player as Jimmy was. You know, he's maybe a little bit more busy. But, you know, so far writing with Phil has worked very, very well. We were a little concerned about how it was gonna go, but it's been very positive so far. (Vinny:) He comes from the same school as us, you know. Same era, been there. We've been friends with him for a long time. So he was a good fit, you know.

Tobbe: You know, by putting out records you guys have really taken the epithet "Tribute band" to a whole different level. If you wanna call it a tribute…

Vinny: No, we don't. [Collective laughter] We don't wanna call it that.

Tobbe: But still, is that, like, a statement to all the rest of the bands who play old Dio stuff that you are the one who rules?

Vivian: Well, yeah. I don't think you can really call this band… In fact, you can't call it a tribute band, because a tribute would mean it's not an original band. I mean, around the same time we started jamming together… And that's really what it was; I just wanted to play guitar again. I called Vinny and Jimmy and we went into a rehearsal room. I remember that day actually, 'cause that was the very first day I heard about Dio Disciples. 'Cause we were talking and it came up in conversation and I said "Who? What?". [Vinny laughs] I never heard that these guys, who were all in Dio after, you know, in different incarnations and…

(Vinny:) After the fact. (Vivian:) …after the fact, and are going out there and playing our songs. And that was also a part of why I thought "Well, why don't we just go and play them?" We wrote them, you know. [Laughs] We made the records, so "Let's go do it!". But obviously a bulk of our set and in fact, to be honest, the majority of the show is made up of Dio songs. So yeah, in a certain way I understand why people view it that way.

Right now the band is at that stage where: When we first started out we were only playing songs from the first three Dio records and then, since we released the Heavy Crown album, we're sort of a hybrid band, you know. I'm sure, once we get the second Last In Line album released, you know, obviously our set will grow and we'll include more and more of the newer material. (Vinny:) A good way to look at it is: The Dio Disciples and all the tributes; they know the songs; we know all the notes… 'Cause we wrote them. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Isn't it a little bit odd that we're having two well-known bands doing kind of the same thing? In the fans' perspective, I mean.

Vivian: Well, I don't see it as being a bad thing. I mean, I actually think that it's probably of mutual benefit. You know, if Dio Disciples are out there playing songs that we wrote with Ronnie, then that's stimulating interest in the genre and in the Last In Line band. And vice versa; what we're doing I think will have a benefit to Dio Disciples. (Vinny:) Keeping the music alive. (Vivian:) Keeping the music alive. Exactly, you know, so. I do think there's a remarkable difference in pedigree in both bands. I mean, this is a serious fucking band [laughs] and when you'll hear us play today you'll know exactly what I'm talking about, you know.

Tobbe: But in the beginning, weren't you, like, a little bit hesitant about what people were gonna say about this thing?

Vivian: I think, you know, it was unfortunate that my parting with Ronnie wasn't amicable and then that Ronnie and I both made the same mistake over the years of talking about each other in the press, which is never a good idea. It was well documented, you know. [Laughs] There was a little bit of animosity there. But a lot of things have changed, you know. I think when somebody passes from this life you have to draw that line in the sand and you've gotta reevaluate things. Ronnie is no longer here for he and I to have a discussion, so I've let that one go.

But interestingly, as a side effect of that, as a result of that, it did allow me to listen to this music and to appreciate this music and this time in my life in a whole different light, you know. I recognize this as being as much a part of my heritage, and as much a part of Vinny's and Jimmy Bain's, as it was Ronnie's. We created those records together. We wrote those songs together. They would not exist without the four of us, so even though the band was called Dio and, you know, after we were all let go, or fired, or whatever, however you wanna describe it, the band Dio continued and they continued playing those songs.

It was difficult for us, because from a business point of view we were always shut out from it, but from a creative point of view we all contributed to it. It's like being disassociated from your child and then being reunited many, many years later and celebrating that and embracing that. This is very joyous for me, to play on stage, to play with Vinny again and to play these songs again. A lot of people out there are ignorant enough, and I mean that in the literal sense of the word, ignorant as in they just don't know, that people actually think I'm doing this for money. [Collective laughter]

Tobbe: Well, you play in Def Leppard. I think you get your money that way…

Vivian: Yeah, so I got the money part covered, yeah. You know, all I can do is tell you, with hand on heart, honestly, I believe that I'm here for the right reason. I'm here to celebrate the music and to celebrate that creative period in my life, because I genuinely, honestly, 100 percent believe that it was kind of taken from us. It was certainly taken from me. I don't know how Vinny feels, but it was taken from me and in the way that I just totally shut myself out from it for literally decades.

But with the passage of time and I guess to a certain extent with Ronnie's passing also, the Dio band no longer exists, so I was able to come back to it and look at it in a different light and we're keeping the music alive, more than anyone, because we are the originators of that music and no one will play it better than Vinny and I, you know.

Tobbe: And then there will be a full tour now with Ronnie as a hologram. What is your opinion on that?

Vivian: I have never seen the hologram. I know they did it at Wacken a year or two ago. I've never seen it. (Vinny:) I've never seen it either. (Vivian:) But again, like I said before, I think it's mutually beneficial. I think both parties are gonna benefit out of it. They're gonna benefit from what we're doing and we'll benefit from that, you know. (Vinny:) Certain people are gonna like that and certain people are gonna find it…eerie, and not like it. But that's good. It's good for all of us. (Vivian:) It's all good indeed.

Tobbe: The more songs you put out with Last In Line, the more songs you obviously wanna play live from that and will it be hard to not cross some kind of thin line and play too many Last In Line songs instead of Dio songs?

Vivian: No, no, no. There will always be certain keystone Dio songs, I think, in the set. I mean, we'll always play certain tunes. We'll always Rainbow In The Dark; I think we'll always play [The] Last In Line. (Vinny:) Holy Diver. (Vivian:) Holy Diver, yeah. I mean, all the big songs, I think, kind of have to be there, you know. You gotta build your set around that. And also, you know, when the next Last In Line album comes along we may drop one or two songs from Heavy Crown. We'll see; we'll see how it comes out. (Vinny:) Or play a little longer. [Laughs]

Tobbe: It's hard to do that on a festival though.

Vinny: Yeah, well, these things are limited, but on our own shows we can get away with it.

Tobbe: So how far can Last In Line kind of deviate from the original Dio sound and still come out valid?

Vivian: I think the sound is what it is. I mean, that's just how we're like. (Vinny:) Everybody misconcepts it; "How do you guys get that sound?", but it doesn't work that way. Even when I'm with Black Sabbath; there's four guys in a room. We were four guys in a room with Holy Diver, just playing, and that's what it sounded like, and that's what it sounded like with Sabbath, and whatever came out, all the personalities were there and they created the sound. So when we play together, especially Viv and I, it sounds like… Viv and I [Laughs] and it's got a reminiscence of the old Holy Diver stuff, 'cause that's the way we play together, so.

(Vivian:) Yeah, I think we don't put thought into it, you know. I mean, there's no preconceived sound, like "Oh, let's make a record or write a song that sounds like this.". We just play and like "Is that any good?" and "OK. That's good. Let's work with that." or if it's not any good, we'll leave it and go on to something else, you know. (Vinny:) It's the same exact formula as we did back then, except we smoked a lot more pot back then. Viv got contact high; he didn't smoke. Now, we don't do that. We're already high.

Tobbe: But I would say that maybe it's possible that you guys will be kind of stifled because you still wanna belong to that kind of style of music and it's hard to widen your music style when people expect still a little bit of a Dio sound? So is that stifling sometimes?

Vivian: The Dio sound is always gonna be there, like Vinny said, because that's the sound we make when we're playing.

Tobbe: Yes, I understand that, but…

Vivian: When we started jamming in 2011 it had been 27 years or something since we played together in a room and as soon as we started playing, it was the sound of the original Dio band. It was like "Oh! That sounds familiar.". It's not like we're trying to do it; it is what we do, you know. I mean, the chemistry of a band is unique to that band and every individual plays differently and you tailor your playing depending on who you're playing with.

When I play guitar with Def Leppard I don't play guitar like I do with Last In Line. It's a very, very different approach, you know. I use different equipment. I play differently. I mean, there's still a certain essence that's always gonna be me, but I play very differently when I play with Vinny. You know, all of a sudden it's like "Whoa! I gotta turn up, I gotta be louder, I gotta be more aggressive in my playing." and that leads back to the early Dio records. The chemistry of the band is what makes the unique sound, so as long as Vinny and I are playing together it's always gonna have that element of early Dio.

Tobbe: And then you have Andrew [Freeman] on vocals too and he's kind of different from what Ronnie was, so was that important for you guys to bring in such a vocalist and not a clone?

Vivian: Very, very. Yeah, we wouldn't be having this discussion if Andrew sounded like Ronnie. That would be weird, you know. (Vinny:) Some people think "Why don't you get somebody that sounds like Dio?", and tapes are coming in and it's like "We don't want that. It's ridiculous.". Andy sings from the heart. He sings from the soul. He sings the shit out of the old songs and the new stuff is unbelievable. Hooks and great vocal melodies and lyrics and stuff. He's powerful. (Vivian:) He's very powerful. You need to be a really powerful singer to sing in this band because we are very aggressive and very loud. (Vinny:) It's loud and we're doing four shows in a row and he's fucking singing that shit, bam, on the top.

(Vivian:) He's bulletproof, yeah. But the fact that he doesn't sound like Ronnie is what made this viable in the first place, because when Jimmy and Vinny and I played, it sounded like, like I said before, like the early Dio band, because that was what it was, but yet you had this singer, who was powerful enough to sing on top of it, but sounded nothing like Ronnie, and that's what made it an interesting proposition, to me at least. I mean, like "OK. This is interesting.". This unmistakable sound of early Dio band; singer: powerful, but sounds nothing like Ronnie. That's what made it interesting and that's what makes it viable.

You know, Ronnie was the best singer of the genre, so it would be foolish to even try and find someone who sounds a little bit like that and try and pass it off. That would be cheap and it would be tacky and it would be a waste of time, you know. Like I said before, everyone is unique, whether you're a drummer, or a bass player, or a singer, or a guitar player, whatever. We all have a unique thumbprint that we bring to our sound and Ronnie had his and it would just be so misguiding to try and replace that or replicate that. This is something similar, but different, you know, with Andy.

Tobbe: And I gotta ask you Vinny about the newly announced Sinister album. So, how did that come into realization? Finally, you and your brother are doing a studio album together.

Vinny: Yeah, because we've been doing this forever and we never did an album together. We started saying "Let's put this together." and we just contacted friends and family and got songs from different people. Carmine wrote a couple and I had some things on the computer that I worked with other people and we started putting it together and it came out great. It's unique 'cause the drums, I'm on the left and he's on the right on certain songs. Certain songs we're both playing together, certain songs he's playing one part and I'm playing the next part. It's all different mixes; it's crazy. But the two drums and left and right; the whole set's pretty unique.

Tobbe: When you're playing simultaneously maybe it will be hard for people to perceive both drums at the same time.

Vinny: Yeah, it's pretty crazy. Although he played a little bit behind the beat; I had to fix his stuff a little bit. [Collective laughter] Like "Who's ahead there? Hang on!". But it came out fantastic. So it's gonna come out October 27th and then hopefully we'll do some dates at some point.

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