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Throughout his 30-year-career, Vivian Campbell has flirted with a few brands and models of guitars – a Charvel here, a B.C. Rich there, and even a Buddy Blaze custom at one point – but his workhorse axe has always been a Gibson Les Paul. "Most of the guitarists I grew up admiring and wanting to emulate seemed to play Les Pauls," he says. "Once you start playing one yourself, you get kind of hooked."
However, at some point during Def Leppard's co-headline summer tour with Kiss, set to run till the end of August, you just might see Campbell trading licks with fellow Lep guitarist Phil Collen on a brand-new custom Telecaster that Fender is making for him. As Campbell explains, his possible move to a Tele is necessitated more out of physical concerns than tonal considerations.
"I had back surgery in early April – I have a history of back trouble and bad sciatic nerve pain down my right leg that became really chronic over the last year," he says. "Some of my Les Pauls are really heavy, especially for doing a long show. Phil is with Fender/Jackson, and he generously talked to them for me. The guitar they’ve made for me is a very lightweight Telecaster, which should feel really good. I don't have the guitar yet, but I can't wait to try it out.”
Campbell admits that he thought the pairing of Def Leppard and Kiss seemed "a bit odd on paper at first," but he now acknowledges that a show packed with wall-to-wall hits by both bands is an unbeatable summer draw. "They've got their fans, we've got ours, and I think there's a lot of people who like us almost equally, so it's a win-win," he says. "And one thing I can say is, playing with Kiss makes us sort of knuckle down and really perform at our peak level. They literally fly through the air, there’s fireworks going off every three seconds, and they dress in outrageous costumes and wear the face paint. We can’t compete with that kind of production, so we just have to sing and play our best."
He pauses and then adds, "And in this day and age, a band that actually plays and sings has become a sort of rare commodity, so we've got that going for us."
For a full itinerary of Def Leppard's co-headline tour with Kiss, visit this link. On the following pages, Campbell lists and discusses his picks for 10 essential guitar albums.