Phil Collen On Why Vivian Campbell Was A Better Fit To Replace Steve Clark

During Def Leppard’s ongoing world tour with Mötley Crüe, Phil Collen took a moment to chat with Eonmusic at a new pre-show press conference at Hellfest. He recalled how the band found its new second guitarist after Steve Clark’s death and revealed what made Vivian Campbell the best choice.

Mentioning names like Adrian Smith and John Sykes, who also auditioned for the part, Collen said:

“We invited five people we knew, five friends, and Vivian just fit in straight away; it was just like [it was] meant to be. [But] Adrian is great — he’s a great singer. That was one of the other things [we were looking for] if you can sing. And there was some other people. We played with John Sykes — also an amazing player, amazing singer. Vivian’s voice [was] unbelievable. And more than that, he just fit in the style of what we’re doing.”

He highlighted Campbell’s harmony with Def Leppard and went on:

“With Adrian, he played in context with what we were doing when we were rehearsing. I mean, we were doing Def Leppard songs — we weren’t doing Iron Maiden songs, we weren’t doing Dio songs; we were doing Def Leppard. So, whoever comes into our house has to kind of play by the same rules.

So that was the thing, and Viv fit straight in. And like I said, there was only five people. We didn’t do, like, cattle calls or anything like that because it was still a bit painful after losing Steve, to be quite honest. So we wanted someone who emotionally would work with us as a family member. And Viv did straight off the bat. It was just wonderful.”

Joe Elliott agreed that their new guitarist’s on and off-stage chemistry with the other members played a part in their choice, as he told American Songwriter the following a few months ago:

“When Steve sadly passed away, we were finishing the album [Adrenalize, 1992] and were looking for somebody to come in and be the fifth member, the new Ronnie Wood of Def Leppard as we always call him. Vivian was perfect because we all knew he could play guitar, that wasn’t a problem, but it’s the other 22 hours you’re not on stage. We love what we do, and 45 years in, it helps if you can look each other in the eye. I think the fact that we all just love music is one just massive happy coincidence.”

The band did not only test Vivian Campbell’s playing skills at that audition, but they also tested his personality. According to the guitarist’s 1992 interview with Georgia Straight, the process went as follows:

“[…] most of my ‘audition,’ so to speak, was them asking me questions as opposed to me playing guitar. I mean, it was more a personality test than it was to see whether the guy can sing or play.”

You can watch Def Leppard’s press conference at Hellfest in the video below.