Def Leppard Interview

Band Name: Def Leppard
Interviewed: Phil Collen
Date: 2008-05-30

Previous Def Leppard Interviews
The Gauntlet: Where are you right now?

Phil Collen: I am in Orange County right now, not too far from you.

The Gauntet: What brings you to Orange County?

Phil: I live here, I have lived here for 18 years. I'm almost a California native. I love going down to Laguna Beach. It is my favorite place.

The Gauntlet: Great beaches there, do you go down to the beach often?

Phil: Yeah, I kind of do. I like to go down there to just hang.

The Gauntlet: Def Leppard just released "Song From The Sparkle Lounge." The album is full of energy.

Phil: The main reason for this was we did this album while we were on tour. We didn't take a year off; we have been touring for four years straight. I would say that is where the energy came from. We were working and seeing each other every day, I was playing the guitar every day, getting a bit aggressive. When you take time off, you really forget who you are; you forget that you are in a rock band. That has certainly happened to us before. Then when the band gets back together, the band starts to dick around and the album sounds so political and you don't have that fire in you. Once we had one or two songs made, in our case it was "Nine Lives" which has an AC/DC feel to it, we just built on that energy. I think for the next album we'll do it the same way. We really prefer that kind of energy.

The Gauntlet: Are you ready to spend another four years on the road?

Phil: Yeah, the road is the easy part. The boring and clinical part is sitting in a studio getting fat. It just seems so unhealthy. I just don't get that studio thing. It is not exactly fun. I love the creative process, but it all gets so laborious. I have an idea for the next album; divided it into three of four projects. Especially now since albums are going away. In England, I don't see CD's as much anymore in the stores. Soon there won't be CD's at all. They will all just be bargain bins. It is an interesting time. Music is more popular than ever now. You just need to get music out there in a different way.

The Gauntlet: Do you blame the labels for not keeping up with the times?

Phil: It is so easy for me to be the bitter musician. For 15 years we have been telling them what to do. Especially in England, they have been fucked up a lot lately. With our last album, they really screwed that up. Unfortunately it isn't the whole label. It is just a few people in certain positions. A lot of people work really hard and have great ideas, others don't. The concept of a record label is just so dated and antiquated. That is why the industry is falling to pieces. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy really.

The Gauntlet: Did Def Leppard pick the single that was used for Guitar Hero III?

Phil: I think it was a no-brainer. "Nine Lives" was the first song that we had finished. It was the first song that people wanted to hear. The minute people found out Tim McGraw was going to be on it, it created a buzz. It was a no brainer really. We have been working with Guitar Hero and wanted to get something on there for a few years, but there has been so much red tape with the bureaucracy that we just couldn't do it. They are basically what record companies are not. They are young people and hip guys who understand what's going on. It really is a great outlet. So we decided to release it on there. It is why labels are such dinosaurs, they don't do stuff like that or have people around who that think like that. Labels are just a bunch of suits who number crunch and are uncreative people. When people compare the film industry to the music industry they realize we have much smarter people in the film industry. They can't believe the music industry is just letting their business erode like that. It is interesting.

The Gauntlet: Did you push for it more seeing as you are the lead guitar player and it is a guitar based band?

Phil: Umm, not really. I kind of suck at it. It is just a game. I was playing the other day with my stepson who is seven. He was playing "Slow Ride" by Foghat. It is really amazing. I don't think it is a guitar thing though. It is just bringing a new profile to songs that are classics for the right reasons, songs with great guitar parts. They aren't being played because they are of a certain genre, but just because they are great rock songs.

The Gauntlet: I was one of those people who thought because I beat the easy level I could now play the guitar. So I went out and spent $1500 on a guitar and amp. I almost have "Mary Had A Little Lamb" masteredůso disappointing going from great songs on Guitar Hero to a simple kids song.

Phil: [laughs] You should get someone to show you a guitar lick. Get one little thing you are familiar with and learn to play that. The other day I was showing my girlfriend a Dave Matthews song; "A Space Between." It is really simple to know. You get hooked and 3 hours later you don't want to put it down. And you can also play along with the song.

The Gauntlet: What inspired you to pick up the guitar?

Phil: My cousin is two years older than me and he got me into rock music. I was always into music, The Who, The Rolling Stones, everything and anything. He would get all these bootlegs and stuff from the states. He had a really amazing collection at the age of 14. Every week my cousin would come by with a new album, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, etc and he'd have me check it out. I really wanted to see Deep Purple and my cousin took me. I was just standing there thinking "shit, this is what I want to do." That was the event that made me think of what I wanted to do. He even had the Boston album before anyone else had heard it. He'd bring albums over right up until Van Halen came out in the late 70's. Somehow my cousin got all this shit early. He was always on top of it and got me hooked on it.

The Gauntlet: Def Leppard has another tour coming up in North America. The band has been giving us a lot of attention lately.

Phil: You are right, we have been hitting it hard. We have played a lot of shows in the US and Canada as well. This time we have a new album. We never used to do that before. We would only tour with an album. So this tour, things will change up a bit as we have a new album to work into the set.

The Gauntlet: Are the bands days of trashing hotel rooms in the past?

Phil: [laughs] I actually stopped drinking 20 years ago. I have kids, an 18 year old son who comes out on all the tours. I also have a 3 year old daughter. I just can't do that anymore. I sat down and really figured it out. Why do people trash hotels. I really don't think it is rock n roll. I'd rather be with the fans. The worst thing I ever got into was the chicks just throw themselves at you. You just think 'wow, this is great!' Again, it wasn't the reason we really got into this, it was the music. But it was kind of a nice bonus. The focus for us has always been the music, albums and the show. That is why we are still around.

The Gauntlet: Does it bother you that the UK has never given you a #1 single in the bands 30 years with all the hits you've had?

Phil: No, people ask us why we don't go to certain countries. We go where there is a demand, where someone appreciates us. If we play in Turkey and the fans go nuts, we'll be back. A few years ago, this might have upset me, but now it really doesn't bother me.

The Gauntlet: But the band really supports its home country a lot wearing the union jack clothes and you play a ton of shows in the UK.

Phil: Yeah, we do. It is kind of weird. I don't understand it. With the new album, the people are really loving the sound of it. I don't know to be honest. It is a weird one actually.

The Gauntlet: You also have a side project coming out June 3 called Man-Raze. How are you going to find time to juggle the two bands?

Phil: Well I don't drink or do drugs so I have a lot more energy to do stuff like that. Man-Raze is a lot of fun to me. It is like The Clash meets The Police meets Nirvana if you can imagine that. Paul [Cook] is also the drummer in the Sex Pistols and they are going to be touring this summer also. We will do some TV shows, maybe some radio. When we have time off, we might do a two week run here and there whenever we can. It is a lot of fun and more aggressive than Def Leppard. It's not a punk band but it definitely has some of that in there.