January 26, 2017 Interview – Phil Collen of Def Leppard
A treacherous terrain filled with roadblocks, storms, and unpredictable events, success in Rock-n-Roll is no easy task. Conquering whatever has been thrown their direction, British Rock band Def Leppard has withstood it all, and forty years since are still pushing forward. One of the world’s best selling bands of all-time, albums such as 1983’s Pyromania and 1987’s Hysteria not only made them superstars, it immortalized them.
Now in 2017 Def Leppard remain a marquee touring band as they are set to hit the road with Poison and Tesla come April after releasing the new live DVD/CD set And There Will Be A Next Time – Live From Detroit on February 10th.
A band of brothers, ones who have grown as musicians and human beings, recently we caught up with long-time Lead Guitarist Phil Collen to breakdown the years gone by. Talking about the success, longevity, life-lessons, and more, Collen’s paints a positive picture about the epic journey of Rock-n-Roll.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll for four plus decades now. When joining Def Leppard back in 1982, you helped launch the band into mega superstar status. First, tell us, what has your journey been like a part of the band?
Phil Collen – A life-learning curve more than anything else. On that kind of learning curve, you actually learn about the band even more than yourself and musically, all that stuff becomes almost secondary. You are on this sort of trajectory, it is just fascinating. All the stuff you learn, all the experience you put into practice, you are supposed to put that in family life, personal life, and all of that, that is the plan. We have found we do that musically as well. We have had the benefit of being together in the same band for so long.
Even our last album, it was very specific to that moment in time. The fact that we are still going and still being inspired, I think, is an amazing thing. It is such a successful event, if you like, because we are still raising the bar, pushing the boat out, we are still trying to do that. I think it is all kinds of combinations of life experience, and again, picking up on that trajectory.
CrypticRock.com – It really has been quite an amazing ride. Through the years, Def Leppard has remained extremely busy. In 2015, the band released their 11th studio album, and you continue to tour extensively. What do you attribute the band’s longevity to?
Phil Collen – Some of it I put down to our British resolve. We are all kinds of World War II survivors. You talk to my mom, Joe’s mom, or anyone from then, and they would tell us they would have to go down to the air raid shelter when the city was getting blown up, you cannot even imagine that. I think they instilled this hard, British, working class thing into all their kids. We kind of carried that over.
It is kind of funny, we always make fun of millennials, because they are all so far removed from that kind of thing. My son is 27, and we make fun of millennials because they are so far removed from that kind of thing, we don’t want our kids to suffer like that. It is an interesting thing, you take this stuff on board, and it shapes who you are. I think with Def Leppard, that we have this resolve, I really do put it down to upbringing.
The fact that we are still here doing it, when so many other bands fall by the wayside, there are a lot of other issues involved there, but, the fact that we are all British and come from the same kind of background helps us remain where we are right now. When you see that everyone else is fading away, and everyone is interested in us because we are still working hard, putting in so much effort, and trying to be a better band all the time, I do not think has not gone unnoticed. That has allowed us this current success which is killer and great.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and there is no subsitute for hardwork. Speaking of live shows, Def Leppard’s signature has always been visual and large stage shows. That said, you are set to release a new live DVD/CD set, entitled And There Will Be A Next Time – Live From Detroit, on February 10th. What inspired this latest live recording?
Phil Collen – When we started this tour, which was in 2016, everyone said this is the best we will ever see Def Leppard. We agreed, the show was amazing, the same with our stage/production manager. They had this vision of what the show should look like, we rose to the occasion, so we thought we have to document this.
We wanted to go back to In the Round, in Your Face, which came out in 1988. We really wanted to revisit that with the show that sold out on the tour, which was the Detroit one. We knew the audience would be great and it would be a wonderful hot summer night. For us, it was a no brainer to record that and release it. It was an itch we had to scratch to just document it for us more than anything else.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like an experience you absolutely would want to document. There is something special about a live performance. What is great about this new live release is it has some crew videos providing fans a day in the life of Def Leppard on the road.
Phil Collen – I have seen the whole concert part of it, which was brilliant. I am thrilled about it. Yes, there are interviews and backstage stuff, it is pretty fascinating.
CrypticRock.com – It would be a great edition to any fans collection. You briefly mentioned the last Def Leppard album. Considering that the 2015 album was received so well and was such a tight collection of new tunes, is there a follow-up in the works?
Phil Collen – Not of yet, there will be though. I think the great thing about that is we had something to say. We actually thought we would just be doing a single and EP, then great ideas started flying. A lot of the time, when you do an album, they tell you, “Well you guys should do an album,” but that isn’t a natural artistic movement, if you like. When you write songs, for example, Hysteria was such a natural progression, we had these great songs and wanted to achieve something.
A lot of the time, the way the business plan works with the industry and the corporations that control the industry is, “We need something from the band.” That is kind of tainted. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, when you look at Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, David Bowie, they were all writing and recording, actually as an artist, and you really heard it in the music. When it becomes more business oriented, you also heard it in the music where it was lacking something.
The 2015 Def Leppard album was back to the artistic flow. It was back to, “We want to do this because we have something to say.” I think that was a very important lesson. It came out great, I love the album, and I think it is the best thing since Hysteria. I think that is one of the reasons why, it was truly an artistic expression.
I think we are going to wait for that again, we may release a single or something like that in the meantime for 2018, possibly an EP. I truly think you need the muse. When we did the album, we had no record company or executive saying, “Hey, you guys should do an album.” It was purely made from our love of making Def Leppard music and it shows.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed completely. That does make the best music, it cannot be forced. Speaking of passion, Def Leppard put on amazing live shows. Those who want to see the band live in the flesh, you will also be partaking in a fantastic tour with Poison and Tesla April into June. What can fans expect from this forthcoming run of shows?
Phil Collen – Last year’s tour was so great, that is why we did the DVD, but there was a lot of places we didn’t get to. A lot of these places we have not played in years, they are different markets, they are not just regular New York and Los Angeles. Poison has not been out on tour since they were out with us in 2012.
Tesla, we have an ongoing relationship with. I was recently in Sacramento with Tesla producing their new album. That is really exciting, I am thrilled about it. The album is really diverse and sounds like a great Rock mixture. It is kind of The Beatles one second and Led Zeppelin the next, it sounds very much like Tesla. I am thrilled the way it is turning out. Obviously we love being on tour, we have been touring with Tesla for 30 years on and off. I am looking forward to it all, it is going to be a blast.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly will be. It is a wonderful touring bill. A heavy touring schedule can be stressful on the mind and body. Through your years of experience, what is the key for you to keep healthy and stay in the impeccable shape you are in?
Phil Collen – Well thank you. I think the main thing is, when you are on tour, I certainly have a different mind set. The main thing is to stay healthy, try and eat ok, try and not get stressed. I work out like crazy on tour, eat right, it all kind of falls into place. I absolutely have cheat days of laying on the couch binge watching TV or whatever. I think when you are on tour, you are there for something quite specifically.
I do think being in a record studio is very unhealthy; there is no daylight and you have to really be careful. I actually find that harder than being on tour. Touring is a no brainer, you stay healthy and your live show, your performance, literally slides into place. When you are in the studio, when you are racking your brains, you are working through it all, it can be really stressful. It gets late, you don’t eat right, you are not working out, that is where I see the problem more than anything else. Again, we have been doing it for so long I can recognize that and literally put them into a compartment. I think consistency is really good. And again, on tour, consistency is great if you keep doing the right thing of eating right and staying healthy.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is a matter of staying focused. Temptation to get off a regiment is always there, but keeping with a routine is a great thing to do.
Phil Collen – Yes, you have to stay focused. It is so easy to get off focus. You get distracted, and before you know, you can’t be bothered to do something, then your performance kind of suffers. Working out, eating right, the body kind of rewards that behavior, if you like. Just keep doing that seems to work.
CrypticRock.com – It is a wonderful way to keep healthy. Beyond Def Leppard, in recent years you formed a Blues project named Delta Deep. How have things been going with that?
Phil Collen – It has been going awesome. We actually recorded a live album last year. We thought we would get it out by the end of last year, but we didn’t because we had a problem of what label we were going to release it on. We are actually doing a new studio album. The live album should be out this year, and no later in the year the new studio album.
I was also out in Japan with Joe Elliott, the guys from Tesla, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Johnny Depp, it was a Classic Rock awards and we actually got to play together, it was phenomenal. Robert Deleo was actually playing bass and his brother Dean were part of the house band. We did a Delta Deep song, did “Hysteria,” did an Iggy Pop song, it was a blast. I play with Robert as much as I can, because he is just phenomenal.
I am looking forward to writing with Robert, when we did the last Delta Deep album, it was me Debbi Blackwell-Cook, my wife Helen, and I writing the songs. Now Robert is going to be writing. I love his songwriting, I love all the STP stuff they did. It is going to be a thrill, we have already started talking about some of the stuff there. We have seven songs already on the go, it is going to be ultra exciting.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like something to look forward to. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of the genres, what are some of your all-time favorites?
Phil Collen – My favorite movie ever was Alien (1979). I am really looking forward to this year’s Alien: Covenant, I love Ridley Scott. My favorite actor, Tom Hardy, I think he is just phenomenal. The new TV show he is in, Taboo, is pretty dark and dreamy. I love the genre. Me and my wife Helen get deep into Slasher movies, Human Centipede 2 (2011), you name it, we have it all covered. I like some amazing, dramatic acting movies, anything really. I like trash stuff, I like Tarantino stuff, anything with depth. It could be Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor (1996) and Saw (2004) the next.
CrypticRock.com – It is wonderful you are so into films like that. It seems like you are very passionate about it.
Phil Collen – It is something I do all the time. Again, you talk about being on tour and focusing. I do the same thing with books, I read very deep, philosophical books and then I can read something totally trashy. I think it is good having the combination, you can nurture yourself spiritually one minute and then get some nice nastiness. That is great, I think it helps the way you address things. I don’t get too stressed out, I have a release with music, but also with entertainment with books and movies. They are a great reference for letting things out. I am totally inspired by it, I think it is great.
CrypticRock.com – It is a great form of release, whether for creative inspiration or just relaxing.
Phil Collen – Yes, absolutely. I was recently on a thing called Comedy Jam where they get a comedian with an actor or musician and they perform a song. Taryn Manning, which is in Orange Is the New Black, she has is really cool. She got into music via Def Leppard and I ended up performing a song with her on this. It was a blast, it should be out mid-April.