By Vivian Campbell’s admission, Last In Line’s career has been “a bit haphazard”. Founded in 2012 by Def Leppard guitarist Campbell, his former-Dio bandmates Jimmy Bain (bass) and Vinnie Appice (drums), and vocalist Andrew Freeman as a Dio covers band, the LA-based group became a more serious concern when Italian hard rock label Frontiers reached out with the offer of a deal.
Bain’s death in January 2016, less than a month before the release of the group’s debut album Heavy Crown, was “a major kick in the nuts”, Campbell recalls. But seven years on, with album number three, Jericho, in the stores, he’s determined that Last In Line (now including former Ozzy Osbourne bassist Phil Soussan) should be given a fair hearing, and not dismissed as an inconsequential hobby.
“It’s a side band,” he acknowledges, “but it’s a serious side band for me.”
Def Leppard have been busy in recent years, so was a third record from Last In Line ever in doubt?
It was always in my mind. At times, though we’ve certainly been doing the work, we’ve been treading water a little, not always being on the right stages, for the right ears and eyeballs. And obviously that’s very much complicated by the fact that I’m in Def Leppard, and Andy, Phil and Vinnie have been very patient and understanding. But Last In Line is tremendously joyous, cathartic and important for me as a musician, and this record feels like a pivotal point.
So many records over the past few years have been conceived over Zoom calls. Was that the case with Jericho?
No. One thing we insist on in Last In Line is that we have to be in the room together when we cut the tracks, old-school, because that’s how we did the early Dio records with Ronnie. We started this record in January 2020 in LA, intending to finish itthat April, and then obviously covid happened and things got… discombobulated. It wasn’t until February 2022 that we were able to get back into the studio, but that break only made the record stronger.
The album sounds like it could come have from the mind of the eighteen-year-old Vivian Campbell, in the sense that it has the feel of classic metal albums.
I’m happy you think that, because that’s definitely what I’m looking for, that idea of going back to when I was sixteen/ seventeen, murdering my Les Paul. I’m sixty years old now, but I still play like I’m sixteen, in my head.
Lyrically it seems like a dark album.
Aye, well, we live in anxious times. And without presuming to know exactly what Andy is singing about, he reflects that. I’m an eternal optimist, and if I were to offer to help out with lyrics I’d probably annoy him. I’d bring too much fucking sunshine!
If as a teenager you’d popped into Caroline Music in Belfast and bought a copy of Jericho, what do you think the teenage Vivian Campbell would have made of the record?
I like to think I’d have loved it. I used to buy records from Caroline Music based solely on the artwork, and then lose myself in this music I knew nothing about, listening in the dark, headphones on, totally immersed. In an ideal world that’s how I’d love people to hear Jericho. If you’re open to that, I promise we’ll take you on a journey.
Last In Line's Jericho is out now.