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DEF LEPPARD – A HEALTHY ROCK HYSTERIA

Def Leppard casual high res

Baz Bardoe chats to Phil Collen, guitarist with legendary Brit rockers Def Leppard ahead of their Australian tour

Where do you begin with a band as massively huge as Def Leppard? The statistics are a little surreal. They are one of only five bands to have had two albums sell over ten million each in the US. They have sold over 100 million albums, and topped charts the world over so many times it seems improbable. They have made countless ‘greatest’ and ‘best’ lists, and played a huge part in pioneering the emergence of music video driven success. In short they are one of the few truly super huge bands out there, and yet talking to guitarist/vocalist Phil Collen you’d be forgiven for thinking he was a member of some new outfit. He is humble, yet incredibly enthusiastic, and say what you like about hard rock music, he is a bright guy who steers the conversation across diverse territory from the classical masters to veganism.

I put it to Phil that the sheer enormity of Def Leppard’s success must seem surreal. He admits ‘there were two periods that did…..’Pyromania’ was like ‘Beatlemania’…..and when we got our first Diamond award. We were in a room with Elton John….members of Pink Floyd……’ But for the most part the band has been motivated by a solid work ethic. ‘We put so much work in’, he recalls. There was always a feeling that they would be successful.

Phil has received solid praise for his guitar playing over the years but it is with his side project ‘Man Raze’ that he has recently received ‘the best reviews I have ever had…..even better than ‘Hysteria’.’ Based around a power trio format it showcases not only his excellent guitar playing, but also his songwriting and vocals. These days his preferred axe is a Jackson PC-1 which he likens to a Formula One car – it has ‘everything’. The band also allows him to delve into slightly different musical territory with material ranging from dubby pop much like The Police, to slightly more punk edged music, and more recently bluesy hard rock.

During the height of Def Leppard’s popularity in the 1980’s he came to a realisation. Alcohol was not doing him any favours, so he quit it altogether. He’d replaced original guitarist Pete Willis, who had been sacked for alcoholism, and as it turns out his co guitarist Steve Clark would suffer from the affliction and die in the early 1990’s. He also decided to go vegetarian and has been on this path for ’32 years now’. More recently he refined it and became vegan. ‘I cut out milk products, and kind of refined it’, he explains. ‘Which means no milk or chocolate, but otherwise pretty much the same….’ His primary motivation has been ‘ethical….I couldn’t eat meat…..it made me want to throw up…..you are putting a dead body in your mouth’. But there has been an unexpected benefit – his voice has become stronger. “I can sing better….I can sing higher….I can hold note s longer…..’ He is known for going on stage shirtless and is in ridiculously good shape. He makes sure that he does plenty of resistance training, whether it is using the bars on the stage set up for pull-ups, or making sure he gets to a gym. Many years ago I saw him perform with the band ‘in the round’ and made the observation that it offered nowhere to hide. He agreed that two hours of running around with a guitar under stage lights was a tough workout, but the experience of doing these ground breaking shows was well worth it.

With a very short amount of time available for this interview I thought I would get his thoughts on what new comers to the industry should be thinking about and prioritising. ‘Don’t expect to be rich and famous in this day and age…’, he says. ‘that is a very narcissistic attitude. You get into it because you love artistic expression, actually making music.’ The internet allows for unprecedented connection with potential fans globally, but of course downloading, and especially illegal downloading has destroyed the old paradigm whereby an artist sold records, and toured to promote sales. He describes the illegal downloading phenomenon as being like a ‘virus that ends up eating the host’, but it is a reality that any new artist will have to deal with. Phil’s view is that if he were starting out now he would be playing ‘the subways….every coffee house’. He would approach it differently but he would still be determined to succeed, and he feels that there is still scope for new artists to forge a career.

Def Leppard’s new self titled album is a stunning showcase of finely crafted hard rock. The band thinks it is their best work since ‘Hysteria’ and they may well be right. It is vintage Def Leppard but with a modern sounding twist, and insanely catchy hooks. The band is undertaking yet another monster world tour and will be playing in Australia in November. There is little doubt that when it comes to old school rock and roll spectacle there is pretty much no one that even gets close.

DEF LEPPARD AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
NOV 17 Sydney, Qantas Credit Union Arena
NOV 18 Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena
NOV 21 Perth, Red Hill Amphitheatre

http://www.defleppard.com/

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