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Vivian Campbell on Gary Moore: "No matter what genre he was playing, he brought a real intensity to his guitar playing that no one has ever matched for me"

If you only know Vivian Campbell as one of the guitarists from Def Leppard you're missing out. As a teenager in Northern Ireland he was part of the NWOBHM pioneers with Sweet Savage (whose Killing Time was later covered by Metallica) before he played on seminal albums with Dio – including the Sabbath and Rainbow legend's debut solo outing Holy Diver in 1983. His work with Riverdogs and Shadow King is also well worth checking out and he discussed it all during a recent podcast of Dean Delray's Let There Be Talk podcast, including paying tribute to his own guitar heroes.

Unsurprisingly, Northern Ireland guitar icon Gary Moore loomed large in the life of the young Campbell. And the former Whitesnake guitarist was keen to explain why. 

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"Gary Moore was such an intense guitar player – an incredible musician," says Campbell. "The first time I heard Gary play he was with Jon Hiseman's Colosseum [II], it was jazz fusion… Don Airey on keys. It was mad – a lot of notes. Real muso stuff. It wasn;t the kind of music I gravitated towards per se, but the way that Gary played it, the same way he played everything, with pure aggression. I never, ever heard Gary More play something like he didn't mean it. He played everything like he wanted to murder his guitar, just a real intensity to his playing.

"The first time I heard Gary play it totally put something in me and I just became obsessed with Gary Moore. I got hold of every record he ever did and every record I could get my hands on and just try to listen to it and try to play like him, to emulate him. He covered so many genres – it was jazz fusion and then he did rock, he did blues, he ever did pop to some extent. But no matter what genre he was playing he just brought a real intensity to his guitar playing that no one has ever matched for me."

Gary Moore

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Thin Lizzy

(Image credit: Erica Echenberg/Redferns)

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Campbell's tribute had added poignancy as Moore would have turned 70 on 4 April. He also lived a dream scenario and got to play some of Moore's parts alongside Scott Gorham in Thin Lizzy as a "stunt guitarist"" in 2010 / early 2011. "It was one of the highlights of my career," Campbell reveals. "I made no money – any money I made from that tour I spent on gear to try and get a more authentic Thin Lizzy-type sound. It was so much fun, playing with Scott Gorham and Darren Wharton on keys, just playing the songs of my youth, it really took me back to being a teenager again."

But Campbell reveals the experience had a deeper meaning too; its set a whole chain of events in motion for him as a guitarist. 

"It really helped  my guitar playing because I came off that tour really enthused again about playing guitar in a way that I hadn't been in many many years. Just really excited to play again. It definitely relit my inner 17 year-old."

The whole 90-minute chat is well worth a listen with Campbell sharing memories of Phil Lynott – who was an early supporter of Campbell's band Sweet Savage. "At this stage of my life I've been in the industry for decades, I've never met so many rockstars, celebrities whatever. I've never met anyone that had the charisma of Phil Lynott," says the guitarist. "Phil would walk into a room – any room anywhere – and everyone would stare at him. He was tall, he was striking looking, he dressed like a rockstar… he oozed rockstar. He was just magnetic and when he was running around onstage you couldn't take your eyes off him. He was the show with Lizzy. He had this intense charisma that you just couldn't ignore."

Check out the full podcast at the top for Campbell's memories of Dio and his controversial departure from the lineup after three albums, joining Leppard and their forthcoming album. 

Classic interview: Gary Moore talks Blues For Greeny, Jack Bruce, Albert Collins and never playing with Clapton

Rob Laing
Rob Laing

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar. I've currently set aside any pipe dreams of getting anywhere with my own songs and I am enjoying playing covers in function bands.