The recent death of bassist Jimmy Bain has made this week’s release of Last In Line’s debut album Heavy Crown decidedly bittersweet — and has left the group wondering how to proceed in the future.
“We are all immensely proud of the record — as was Jimmy,” says guitarist Vivian Campbell, who convened with fellow Dio alumni Bain and drummer Vinny Appice in 2011, later adding vocalist Andrew Freeman. Bain died Jan. 23 at the age of 68 from lung cancer during Def Leppard‘s Hysteria on the High Seas cruise, where Last In Line was booked to play. “It was a great record to make. It was a joyous experience to reconnect with Jimmy and Vinny again after all these years and Andrew was a perfect fit with us and it was an easy record to make. It was very effortless, very joyous and very organic and it just kind of fell out of us, yet it came out great.” Proof of that can be seen in the accompanying behind-the-scenes video of footage from the Heavy Crown sessions.
The project was particularly important to Bain, who was in court-ordered rehab during the sessions with a curfew that dictated he return before 10 p.m., about the time many bands are just getting warmed up. “I used to pick him up to go to rehearsal and bring him back, and it was the most dismal place,” Campbell, who does double duty with Def Leppard, recalls. “So for Jimmy this record wasn’t just an album; it was a real point of focus for him. He was dealing with his sobriety and I think what really helped him get through all of that bullshit was focusing on this band and this record.”
Last In Line was planning a full-scale tour during April and May to promote the 11-track Heavy Crown, but for now the group — which has not yet named a replacement bassist — is planning only to honor bookings at the Frontiers Festival during April in Milan, Italy, and at Rocklahoma during Memorial Day weekend. All other plans are on hold, although the group hasn’t ruled out touring in the future. “We owe it to ourselves and to Jimmy’s memory to do something with it,” says Campbell, who himself is taking experimental treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “We’re all really, really proud of this record — Jimmy was, too. We all really believed in it. We knew it was gonna be good and we were super thrilled that it came out even better than our expectations. It would be sad to just let it go, so we’ll see what the future holds.”
Ironically, Heavy Crown was finished in April of 2015, but Last In Line delayed its release until a time when all four band members schedules’ aligned to allow them to promote it. “We didn’t want it to just go out there and wither on the vine. We wanted it to get the best should it could,” Campbell says. “So to have [Bain’s death] come at the 11th hour makes it that much sadder.”
Campbell, Appice and Bain were part of the original Dio lineup in 1982, recording the first three albums and considering itself a band — at frontman Ronnie James Dio’s insistence. “There was just the four of us in a rehearsal room in north London in late 1982,” Campbell recalls. “Ronnie said to us, ‘Here’s the deal; we’re gonna call the project Dio for obvious name recognition, but we’re gonna create this record as a band. We’re gonna present it as a band. I want it to be a band. I don’t want to be a solo artist.” Campbell parted ways acrimoniously in 1986 over financial issues, while Appice and Bain split three years later, but both logged second tenures in Dio later on. Campbell never reconciled or even spoke with Dio after his departure.
“Through the years Ronnie and I both got suckered into slandering each other in the press, like you do. We were both stupid in that regard,” Campbell says now. “I’d like to think that we could’ve kissed and made up and that the original band could’ve gotten back together, but…”
Dio’s widow and former manager Wendy Dio has nothing to do with, and no love for, Last In Line. “Vinny still has occasional contact with her,” Campbell says, “and when we first started doing this project she said something along the lines of ‘Ronnie would be spinning in his grave.’ So there you go.”