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Vivian Campbell - Def Leppard, Signature Les Paul, and More - An Interview

Pour some 'guitar' sugar on me ...


by Anne Erickson

Head to any Def Leppard show, and you'll quickly be able to tell that these guys have just as much energy, onstage charisma and musicality as they did back when hits such as "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Rocket" and "Animal" were first taking shape.

Vivian Campbell is a major part of the band's sound, and the Les Paul is at the forefront of his arsenal. Now, Campbell's prized Les Paul is being celebrated with his own Vivian Campbell Signature Gibson Les Paul Custom. It's a beauty of a guitar, and you'll see it live if you head to one of the band's upcoming tour dates with Journey.

Campbell spoke with Harmony Central about the killer details of his Vivian Campbell Signature Gibson Les Paul Custom, his experience at CES 2018 and more.


Anne Erickson: Thanks for speaking with us today, Vivian! You just got back from CES. How was it?

Vivian Campbell: It was interesting! It was the first time I had ever been to CES, and I didn't get the chance to wander the show, because I flew in and out for the guitar launch. But, it was great!


I saw some photos of you with fellow Gibson players Jason Hook from Five Finger Death Punch and Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. Did you enjoy hanging with them?

It was great! I had never met them before, and they were both very interesting people and great guitar players. Lzzy is an incredible singer. She did a little performance solo, and it was very powerful and impressive. It was nice. I also enjoyed the fact it wasn't just me there, because that's a lot of pressure! (Laughs)


Congratulations on the new Vivian Campbell Signature Gibson Les Paul Custom! What are you most excited about when it comes to this release?

I started in music playing on a Gibson. My first Les Paul I bought in the late-1970s, and it's the only guitar where I ever knew its serial number. I had to work every weekend and school holiday to be able to afford that guitar, so the Les Paul means a lot to me. It's the instrument I learned to play on. In the '80s, I got seduced by some other guitars and played other things for a while, but after several years, I came full circle and started gravitating back to a Les Paul. So, for the better part of the last 30 years, I've been playing Les Pauls again. It's a great honor for me, after so many decades of being a professional guitar player, to have a signature model with a company that, to me, is what it's all about. All of my heroes played Gibsons, such as the guys in Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore. To actually have one with my name on it is a thrill.


What specifics did you want to have in the design of your Les Paul?

Well, this instrument is a hybrid of all the best Les Pauls I've owned and played over the years. It's, in short, an interpretation of the Les Paul I've been playing for the last 10 years with Def Leppard. It started with my '78 Les Paul Custom that I bought at a pawn shop in Nashville. I happened to be in a pawn shop with Phil Collen, our other guitarist, in 1992, and I saw this guitar, picked it up and tried it. I loved it, especially the shape of the neck, and it was a well-worn guitar, which I like. It had a lot of character and road use. I bought that guitar, but eventually it got damaged in transit when flying to Europe, and the only thing that survived was the neck and head stock. So, I took that, and we had some friends of mine connect that '70s Les Paul Custom neck to a lightweight Gibson Les Paul Standard body, and I put custom hardware on it. It was this Frankenstein sort of guitar, and I played it many years, and in a sense, that's what this guitar is based on. It's a Les Paul Custom neck cloned after the '70s shaped neck with a lighter weight Les Paul Standard body built from the lightest wood we could find.




What else went into the design of your signature?

Doing a Les Paul model is kind of like reinventing the wheel, because any Les Paul is always going to be a Les Paul, but you do tiny things to make it unique. When the custom shop was making it, they sent me the prototype, and I asked them not to put too much of a finish on it, because I don't like guitars too shiny. It's a personal thing, so I said, "If you spend three hours buffing a new guitar, spend an hour buffing this one," and it's a unique finish, as result.


What ultimately draws you to the Gibson Les Paul?

Well, Gary Moore is my ultimate guitar hero to this day and the guitarist who influenced me more than any other. He played a beat-up Gibson Les Paul. I was into Thin Lizzy and their guitarists, and all of my guitar heroes played Les Pauls, so that's what I wanted. It's the iconic shape of rock 'n' roll. My original Les Paul was the instrument on which I seriously learned to play, so the Gibson Les Paul is special to me.

For more on Def Leppard, including a list of the band's upcoming list of tour dates, visit the group's official website.




Anne Erickson holds years of bylines in Gannett Media publications, as well as music magazines Premier Guitar, Guitar Edge and more. She also hosts radio shows with iHeartRadio and has been syndicated in Seattle, Dayton, Central Coast California and beyond. Anne is a loyal Spartan and holds a Master’s degree from MSU. She resides in Lansing, Michigan.


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