Interview with Bassist Phil Soussan – On the Road with Last In Line

by: Carox Rox
Carox: I wanted to talk about your British roots and coming from England. How did that happen?
Phil: Wow, you got a couple of hours?
Carox: Was it with music?
Phil: Coming to America? Yes absolutely. I had this crazy, silly idea when I was a kid. Some of my friends would say “We are going to plan a trip to New York - do you want to go?” And I would say “No, the first time I come to America, I want to be playing with some huge rock band.” They would laugh and so would I and we thought it was a big joke. And that is precisely what ended up happening which was as surprising to me as it was to anyone else. That happened with Ozzy in 1985-6, so that is how I first came here.
Carox: How did you get hooked up with Ozzy, you were just in your 20’s then?
Phil: I still am!
Carox: So am I!
Phil: I sort of knew people in the Ozzy camp. I knew Sharon and I knew her secretary so that sort of gave me a little bit of a tie in, only as much as getting an audition. It came down to an audition process. Ozzy had asked me to audition this one time and the next morning I got a call from Sharon saying, “he is drunk and he doesn’t know what he is talking about.” It wasn’t until a couple of months later than I ran into him pretty much by accident in Brighton. I bumped him into the street. I said, “What are you doing here?” He said, “We are looking for a bass player.” I said, “Oh, I thought you had already found one.” So he said, “Why didn’t you come down?” I told him Sharon had told me not to and he said, “Oh she doesn’t know what she is talking about.” I said, “Okay”, and then Ozzy’s tour manager suggested I go home, get my stuff and come back out, so I did. They had an audio studio near Brighton and I went through the audition process for a few days, went home, came back again, played for a few more days, ten days and then I think it was actually on my birthday, they told me I had got the gig – did I want it? I was delighted but confused. I had been playing with Jimmy Page at the time and now I had a dilemma. Did I want to join Ozzy or stay with Jimmy? That was a problem looking back that I guess most people would be very happy to have.
Carox: To kill for!
Phil: To kill for! It was a dilemma because I loved Jimmy – still do – was a huge fan of his and still am. I felt tremendous loyalty to what we were doing. I think I ended up talking to Jimmy about it. It was then an early version of The Firm and he said, “Well we are not going to be doing anything for a time so if your goal is to go out on the road, shows and stuff, you might want to consider that.” So we shook hands and I am still in touch with him.
Carox: You have played with a lot of very well known people which I find interesting – people like Billy Idol – he used to be my hero in Britain.
Phil: Well there is a very good reason for that which only you could maybe understand. I grew up in Maida Vale which is near Paddington, London. Going through my teenage years I was sort of being pulled in many musical directions. I was a big classic rock fan. I had been a huge glam rock fan growing up. I was also very interested in 50’s American rockabilly – that became a huge part of what I loved. Growing up in Maida Vale that is where the London SS began and where Chelsea began. All of a sudden all these punk bands came out in the 70’s eventually forming Generation X, the Clash, Kilburn and the High Roads that of course became Ian Drury and then Chelsea, and that sort of thing morphed into the UK Subs. So there was all this punk music going on around me and that was the music of my generation. But I wasn’t really that visibly into it because I was part of all the other cults for want of a better word. I met a drummer called John Towe who had been the drummer in Chelsea and for Generation X. He really liked my playing and he was trying to get me into one of these bands like Adam and the Ants. I had just missed that movement by about 3 years – everyone was 3 or 4 years older than me so that never proved to be successful. Of course when the opportunity came to play with Billy Idol that reignited that whole time in my teenage years. I absolutely wanted to do that and no one else could figure out why I would do something different from Ozzy.
Carox: I understand! In Britain, at that time the music scene was so diverse and all of these great bands emerged! Now you are playing again with some even more famous people. Did you know Ronnie James Dio?
Phil: Yes of course. I knew Ronnie quite well. At that time I was playing with Ozzy, we were two sister bands, counterparts, and peers. My peer was Jimmy Bain, and I met Ronnie many times.
Carox: I am asking that because in some of the interviews I have seen this is not clear. You had a past history and it is not like you were a brand new person to Last In Line. You knew everyone and were asked to step in when Jimmy Bain died.
Phil: It is quite a tricky thing because I don’t think the band knew what they wanted to do. The first inclination was, “Well that’s the end of that, then”. And then after some time, they sort of said, “Well, we did this record and Jimmy worked hard on it. It meant a lot to him and maybe we should take it out to perform it for the fans.” Andy and Vinny asked me at that time if I would be interested in having a play. I said “Sure.” It wasn’t that I was replacing Jimmy (people have said that). The point was that we were not really sure what we were going to do. We were going to go out and play some shows that had been pre-organized and that was going to be the end of it. It was my honor to do that. I was good friends with Jimmy and this was one thing I could do for him. It was only during the course of doing some extensive touring for some time that we realized we were gelling and the chemistry we had was not dissimilar from before. After a while, it came up all of a sudden we should do another record. I think the one factor that determined it was that there were many bands that go out and play “heritage rock” and then when they play a new song everyone goes to the restroom! We are in a very fortunate position in that people wanted to hear our new songs – Starmaker – The Devil in Me!
Carox: The reason is that there is too much talent there to play only “heritage rock”. A new lineup is naturally going to generate new music and people get very excited about what is going to come out of different combinations of musicians.
Phil: That is very nice of you to say Carox. I don’t take that for granted. In this business you can do everything right and yet there is one planet spinning alignment thing that you can’t control and it just doesn’t work. And then sometimes it does. It is that X factor. There are some fantastic musicians out there playing the “hits”. I can’t imagine Journey playing new songs and them being as well received as their hits. It is a challenge and a difficult thing to deal with. If we have managed to do that it is very fortunate and we are very blessed and grateful.

Carox: So you are playing on their second album ““II” – out now.

Phil: Yes and we have all been very proactive about the “Pledge situation”. It has been a mess but we are making sure all our fans are being sorted out.

Carox: How have the gigs been going so far?

Phil: It has been unbelievable, it really has. Most of the shows we have been played have been packed with people. They love the band and find energy they might not have been expecting. Andrew is a phenomenal frontman. He has a great rapport with the audience. He very quickly establishes that he is Andy Freeman – people do not do a comparison between him and Ronnie James Dio. It is evident that he is someone different and he is there to do justice and homage to the original songs and interpret them in a different way. Also, do new stuff.

Carox: How are the other band members enjoying the tour?

Phil: Well we are all enjoying it. We are all good friends. We have known each other that long; it is not like a new band. We just have fun. Sometimes the conditions are less than ideal with driving around in a van and planes, trains and automobiles that kind of thing! But we have fun, it’s nothing but humor. We tell jokes and poke fun at each other, Vivian is a trooper. His schedule with Def Leppard means we have to work around his schedule. It means the minute he gets off stage with them he jumps straight into a van. He is loving it. In photographs, he has a big grin on his face all the time.

Carox: He has an amazing work ethic I think! I have always thought that! What would you like to say to your fans?

Phil: Well, just be prepared to enjoy yourself and the show, the material we play. There are certain songs we have to play - ones that Vinny and Vivian and Jimmy wrote – then songs from the first album and new album - and there is quite a cross section of music to enjoy. I would like to thank our fans for the tremendous support during the Pledge debacle but the most important thing is our fans are taken care of. Thank you to those fans coming out again to venues that we circle back to and to the new faces. Come out and see us, there is something for everyone.

About Last In Line:  What started as a casual reunion jam in a Los Angeles rehearsal room between former DIO bandmates in 2011 has grown into a full-fledged band that has taken on a life of its own. Last In Line founders, Vinny Appice,  Jimmy Bain, and Vivian Campbell, were Ronnie Dio’s co-conspirators and co-writers on the "Holy Diver", "Last In Line" (the album from which they took their name), and "Sacred Heart” albums.  These records have gone on to become part of metal history, as anyone can tell you. During that first jam, it was apparent that the chemistry of the original band was very much intact, even after a 27-year hiatus. The excitement generated by that rediscovery led to a second session, where this time they called in acclaimed vocalist Andrew  Freeman. Hearing Andrew’s interpretations of the original DIO songs was a revelation and the inspiration to move forward as a band. Over the ensuing years, a handful of local LA shows led to a handful of overseas shows in the U.K. and Japan, and eventually to an offer from Frontiers to record an album of original material.
During the course of 2014 and 2015, the band wrote and recorded 12 new songs and chose longtime friend Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner) as producer. Jeff very much captured the organic vibe of the band and the very best in Andrew’s voice and delivery.
Last In Line’s debut album, “Heavy Crown” was released in February 2016, hitting number 1 on the Billboard Heat-Seekers Chart, with the singles “Devil In Me” and “Starmaker” leading the charge.
But the release was preceded by tragedy when Jimmy Bain passed away at the age of
68 on January 23, 2016. Last In Line brought in renowned bassist Phil Soussan (ex-Ozzy) to fill
Bain’s spot and kept playing shows in support of the album, headlining festivals and playing with such bands as Saxon and Megadeth.
 In late 2017, the band gathered again in LA to start the recording of the second album, again under the direction of producer Jeff Pilson.  Having really gelled as a band during the touring for the debut, the songwriting is now fully realized, personal and the band’s sound is now immediately recognizable as “Last In Line” thanks to the unmistakable Vinny Appice rhythms, thunderous bass from Soussan and the amazing vocals from Freeman combined with the roaring guitars from Campbell. This album is going to be on many people’s best of lists in 2019, without a doubt!

Last In Line Current Tour Schedule:
 Lineup: Andrew Freeman – Vocals
Vinny Appice – Drums
Phil Soussan – Bass
Vivian Campbell – Guitars