INTERVIEW: Vivian Campbell
One of the coolest things to come out of NAMM this year will no doubt be the 25th Anniversary Vivian Campbell Shredder by Buddy Blaze. The original version of this guitar became the Kramer Nightswan, one of the greatest mass-produced shred guitars ever. To commemorate 25 years since the original guitar, Buddy and Vivian have teamed up to create a limited edition of 25 pieces. Buddy and Vivian will unveil the guitar at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California on Saturday at 2:30pm. Vivian was kind enough to answer some questions about the Shredder.
How did you first meet Buddy?
Buddy and I met in Dallas TX in early ’87. I was there for a guitar clinic for LaBella strings. Buddy had some of his guitars on display in the store and we got to talking about them. One thing led to another and Buddy offered to make me a guitar to my specs. The original blue polka dot guitar was the result.
At the time, there must have been millions of guitar companies chasing you. What was it about Blaze guitars that stood out?
I had actually just ended a disastrous relationship with B.C. Rich guitars – one that I was talked into by a slimy A+R rep with whom I had previously worked with at Charvel/Jackson. Having the fresh but bitter taste of ‘big-guitar-company-politics-gone-bad’ in my mouth, I was quite drawn to the idea of working one-on-one with a guy who simply wanted to build guitars as opposed to a bigger company that was more concerned with marketing.
The Shredder/Nightswan design was very innovative. What were the main design features you requested?
I liked the idea of a short scale guitar of 24 3/4 inches. I had been playing Charvel/Jackson strats for a year or two before that, and whilst I certainly appreciated those instruments there were certain features that were unnatural to me, one of which was the wide, flat and unfinished fretboard. Another, as mentioned, was the 25 1/2 inch scale; although I have big hands, I liked the idea of a smaller instrument with a smaller neck as I tend to use my left hand thumb over the top of the neck when playing bar chords and that was difficult to do with larger, wider necks.
Did you test many different pickups before settling on the final ones?
It was so long ago that I don’t recall the specifics of how many different pickups we may have tried. I vaguely remember going back and fourth with Seymour Duncan about the Full Shred and tweaking that. Perhaps Buddy’s memory is in better shape than mine!
Where’s the original Shredder today?
Buddy has been the custodian of the original guitar.
I see you with Les Pauls a lot (and that cool gold top Yamaha) – do you ever pick up the old Superstrat-type guitars and reminisce? Think they’d ever make an appearance at a Def Leppard show?
As a teenager, I started out on a Les Paul with my first band, Sweet Savage. It seems fitting to have come full-circle after all these years and having played so many different instruments. Nowadays I feel a lot more comfortable playing a fixed-bridge guitar and I could never see myself going back to playing a strat style tremolo guitar other than as a one-off experience. With Def Leppard, Phil plays strats, so the Les Paul (or Yamaha) is a good contrast – as indeed is our differing styles of playing.