More about Vivian Campbell and his Def Leppard rig

When I interviewed Vivian Campbell for Guitar World’s “Vulgar Display of Power, Guitar Rigs of the Stars” (August 2011) he told me he’s a bit disconnected from his massive Def Leppard rig, but that’s part of the gig with Leppard. The guys are perfectionists and this huge behemoth is what he needs. I’ll bet the band picked up this perfectionist attitude about sound while working with their old producer Mutt Lange. Viv says, Wolfie, his guitar tech, is switching gear in and out constantly, often between verses, pre-choruses, choruses, etc. Viv’s tones are changing all the time.

I watched Leppard on the Jay Leno show a day or so after I talked to Vivian, and through my Bose home theater system the sound was absolutely amazing, just like the record. So bottom line is, this Def Leppard approach works.

Although Viv collected all the gear in his racks over years, his rig is so complex only his tech Wolfie really knows how it all fits together. I talked with Wolfie for about an hour and a half and after that we exchanged about 30 follow up emails. Jeff Kitts at Guitar World told me this was the most complicated rig GW has done, if you have the magazine check it out. Adam Cooper, the artist, did a great job.

Also, though Vivian’s using the most expensive wireless system you can get, he’s not a big fan of it. It’s just necessary because the band moves around the stage so much. I can relate to this, I used a high-end Sony wireless years ago on tour and hated it. Something about the signal from your pickup being changed into radio waves and then converted back, it just sucks the life out of a guitar tone.

Another thing Vivian told me, when he joined Leppard, Phil Collin, the other guitarist, kept asking him to turn down. Viv said his volume was already down so he decided he needed to create a smaller tone to fit with the band, so he did. This is a very mature way to think about your guitar tone, in terms as a part of the overall band sound.

Vivian also plays with Thin Lizzy these days, and that rig is exactly the opposite of the Leppard rig, very simple, which he likes. The Thin Lizzy rig is made up of a Dunlop Hendrix wah and an Angry Troll Overdrive, these are plugged into a Mojave 50 watt Scorpion head, and last a Mojave 4X12 cab for his main tone. Then Vivian takes a line out from the Mojave head and goes to a Full Tone Tube Tape Delay, which he says it’s a glorious little unit. The delay runs into a Crate power block amp, and then a Marshall 4X12, this is his wet signal. Very cool, one amp for the delayed sound and the other amp for the dry tone, this keeps the delay out of the way of the straight guitar sound.

There were a lot of gear pieces I thought were notable in the Leppard rig [right] but two in particular were Vivian’s RJM Effects Gizmo, and his Marshall JMP-1 programmable preamps. BTW, the Voodoo Amp mods done to the JMP-1s are to darken the tone a bit, this is because the Palmer speaker simulator they use is so bright. Vivian was also trying out the programmable Engle preamps, and was thinking of using them instead. These programable preamps are very interesting. I’ve always loved the preamp concept. My favorite was the Reinhold Bogner Fish Amp. Wow! They sounded amazing. BTW, the Fish Amp was used by Jerry Cantrell for those great tones on the Alice and Chains records. A cool thing about a preamp is that you can get your sound at any volume depending on what power amp you use. And the midi programable ones make changing tones a snap.

The RJM really caught my attention, check it out at: ( Everything in Vivian’s racks are patched into it. The RJM has twelve loops and then individual or groups of effects can be inserted into the loops. In a preset you can activate any loop or group of loops and then save the preset. Whenever you activate that preset you’ll have those effects, whatever gear combinations you want. I think Wolfie told me he had 90 or so presets saved at that point, getting ready for the summer tours. The RJM also sends midi; so within the preset, Wolfie can save program change info for the JMP-1 preamp, or use midi to change presets in a delay unit so the delays are in tempo with the song.

Anyway there ya go.

Photos courtesy of David (Wolfie) Wolff.


© Mercury Magnetics
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.