Former DIO and current DEF LEPPARD guitarist Vivian Campbell says that Ronnie James Dio “would approve” of him and other former DIO members reuniting to perform material from the early DIO records that Campbell appeared on.
Campbell and Ronnie James Dio worked together on the first three DIO albums 1983’s ‘Holy Diver’, 1984’s ‘The Last In Line’ and 1985’s ‘Sacred Heart’ — before Irishman Campbell left to join WHITESNAKE in 1987.
Vivian, along with drummer Vinny Appice and bassist Jimmy Bain, was part of the original DIO lineup, which reunited in 2012 alongside singer Andrew Freeman to form LAST IN LINE.
When LAST IN LINE formed, the intent was to celebrate Ronnie James Dio‘s early work by reuniting the members of the original DIO lineup. After playing shows that featured a setlist composed exclusively of material from the first three DIO albums, the band decided to move forward and create new music in a similar vein.
During an appearance on the “Talk Is Jericho” podcast, Vivian spoke about his acrimonious departure from DIO and the eventual decision to revisit the band’s early material with his new band.
“When [the original DIO band] went in to do the ‘Holy Diver’ record, Ronnie had written the title track and he was working on ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’,” Campbell explained. “And the other seven songs on the record we wrote collectively here in L.A. And the same for ‘The Last In Line’ album and the ‘Sacred Heart’ album — they were very, very much a band effort. And that’s what Ronnie wanted, ironically. That first night when I auditioned for the band in London, that’s what Ronnie told us. He said he left [BLACK] SABBATH [and] he had an existing solo deal. We were gonna call the band DIO — obviously, for name recognition. Nobody’s gonna call it CAMPBELL or BAIN or APPICE. And it made perfect sense. He said, ‘You’re gonna work on a wage, but we’re gonna create together as a band.’ And he said, ‘If this is successful, by the third album we’ll make it an equity situation.’ And that’s why I got fired — because I was the first one to hold my hand up and say, ‘Ronnie, we’ve done the third album. Remember that night in London.’ And he just kept pushing it off and pushing it off, and he said, ‘We’ll talk about it when Wendy gets here.’ And in hindsight, I now realize that he never shared his initial vision with his ex-wife, Wendy, who was managing the band. And she had a whole different idea; she wanted Ronnie to be the solo artist. She didn’t see the value in what Ronnie saw, in the unit being a creative unit. She just didn’t get that. She just thought it was Ronnie and whoever. Get a bunch of guys on stage; it doesn’t matter. Well, guess what — it does matter. It makes a big difference.”
Vivian went on to say that the sound of the DIO band changed after his exit from the group, a consequence of the fact that his songwriting contributions and one-of-a-kind playing style were no longer there to add that special flavor to the band’s music.
“I’m a firm believer that each and every one of us is unique, like your fingerprints,” Campbell said. “We all bring something different to the table; no two guitar players ever play exactly the same, no two singers, no two drummers or bass players. It’s the timing, the feel, the dynamic, the angle of the attack on the pick, your vibrato, your phrasing, your tone. So every musician is unique, and you find the right combination to play with, and that creates a unique sound of a band. It’s never the same when you start pulling elements out of it; it never can be. You can always just find the closest thing to that, but it’s never gonna be quite the same.”
Vivian also talked about his time away from the heavy metal scene before reuniting with his onetime DIO bandmates to launch LAST IN LINE.
“I didn’t even own the records or want anything to do with that for the longest time, because it did leave such a bad taste in my mouth, the way that things went down,” Vivian explained. “Like I said, Ronnie, from day one, had promised us that by the third album, it would be an equitable situation.”
He continued: “A lot of people don’t understand: it’s not about money; it’s about principle. I’m very, very big on principle. And we were out there playing arenas around the world, playing songs that we wrote with Ronnie, and earning less than our road crew. There were certain people on the crew who were getting paid more than the band. After a while, that’s just wrong. So I was very big on the principle. And I was the first one… ‘Cause I had the least to lose. Back then, I wasn’t married or anything, didn’t have any kids. I was just young and reckless. And so I went to Ronnie and I said, ‘Ronnie, you promised us this. When do you want to discuss this?’ And like I said, he kept pushing it off, and eventually Wendy fired me. So it left such a bad taste in my mouth, because I had invested so much, emotionally, into that band, into those records, those songs. I felt part of the team. I was definitely part of the creative team, and then to just be dismissed like that left me feeling so hurt, I wanted nothing to do with it for years.
“With the passage of all this time, you know… Time changes your perception, and things happened. I think that also… Ronnie passed away in 2010, and I think once Ronnie had passed away, I was able to look at it in a different way. The fact that Ronnie had passed away really kind of cast all of this in a different light. I said, ‘This is our heritage as much as it was his.’ And I think Ronnie would actually approve. I think Ronnie is up there somewhere smiling down on us.”
According to Vivian, he never got a chance to bury the hatchet with Dio, who has called Campbell “a fucking asshole” and “a piece of shit.” Vivian has since expressed regret over referring to Dio as “one of the vilest people in the industry” and says that they likely would have made up if they had the opportunity to sit down face to face and talk things out. “We made the mistake of talking to each other in the press, and that never works out well,” the guitarist said. “I said some very mean things about Ronnie, and he said some very mean things about me. And I know that if he were sitting at this table here today, it would be good. We would have been good.”
He added: “Ronnie and I never had a great relationship personally. At times we did, but it was a bit like being in a band with your dad, to be honest, ’cause he was that much older than me. When I started, I was a kid. To correct that, it was like being in a band with your stepfather. We had this very strange kind of relationship. And I was very respectful, but also very fearful of him, because he was a hero to me. I was listening to ‘The Mob Rules’ and ‘Heaven And Hell’ literally the week before I [flew] to London to audition for this band. So it was a very surreal experience to be with Ronnie, and I actually lived in the house with him for many, many months too. We had a difficult kind of relationship, but it definitely worked musically. Absolutely.”
In a May 2011 interview with Brazil’s Roadie Crew magazine, Dio‘s widow and manager Wendy stated about the controversy surrounding Ronnie‘s relationship with Campbell: “[Vivian] always said that he hated all the albums that he played on with Ronnie, and that was very hurtful to Ronnie. Very hurtful. Would you like someone who said something like that about your albums? He said a lot of things in the press that I don’t wanna get into, because it really wasn’t Ronnie‘s feud at all. Ronnie didn’t fire him. I fired [Vivian]. He wanted as much money as Ronnie wanted. He thought he was as important as Ronnie was, and that was just wrong. But I don’t wanna get into that. It’s water under the bridge. It doesn’t matter.”
Listen to the “Talk Is Jericho” podcast using the audio player below.