DEF LEPPARD GUITARIST PHIL COLLEN SAYS THE BAND HAS MORE IN COMMON WITH DURAN DURAN THAN IRON MAIDEN
Salon: So what’s the key to playing guitar with your shirt off at age 57 & still looking great?
Phil Collen: It’s a really easy fix but no one’s prepared to do it, y’know? Eating right and not drinking alcohol. Or if you are drinking, not much of it. And being a bit active. Honestly, it’s that simple. It amazes me no one will do that!
Salon: Yeah, but you’re not just fit, you’re jacked.
Phil Collen: When I was lifting heavy I would have a vegan protein powder, and I still do occasionally but I try to balance it out. I’ve always done a lot of martial arts and I take a kick bag on tour and do a lot of drills so that keeps me loose and supple and basically young. That’s the fountain of youth part. I actually screwed my back up a few months ago and I could only do two things that didn’t hurt — push-ups and pull-ups on a bar. So that’s all I did with some really light crunches. I’ve been doing this a lot of years so I’ve been able to figure out what works and what does not. You can get away with a lot less, just by tweaking it here and there.
Salon: My wife and I watched the In the Round DVD recently. How were multi-tracked masterpieces likePyromania and Hysteriarecreated so faithfully? I heard you didn’t use tracks.
Phil Collen: Ah, In the Round! No [recorded] backing vocals, no tracks. Every member of this band is a bad-ass singer and we thought it was a cop out out to rely on tracks.
Salon: You guys are working double up, every song on that show. Rick Savage is singing harmony, playing bass, guitar, keyboards, samples….
Phil Collen: Here’s a fun story for you. When we recorded Love Bites we were never in the same room at the same time. We all sang on it but most of the backing vocals were Mutt Lange, he’s the one you hear more than anyone else and Mutt’s an amazing singer.
So we release the album and Love Bites goes to Number One. We’d never played it! It was so hard to work out how to play guitar and sing those parts at the same time. We had to come up with hybrid parts because before, where there had been eight guitar parts — you had to choose the most prominent ones and make a collage of sorts. Same thing with the vocals. I remember we had two days off but instead of taking the downtime we actually went into a studio just to practice that song and try to work it out. Again, it goes back to that thing: you want to be proud of your work. We were and we are.
Salon: After In the Round, we watched Duran Duran’s Arena. I always thought you two were similar: because you were considered teen idols, no one realized what incredibly adept musicians both bands were. So it was very interesting that there was talk of a Duran Duran / Def Leppard supergroup.
Phil Collen: That was when I used to drink so it was one drunken night in Tokyo, but absolutely I do think we had a lot more in common with Duran Duran than a lot of the other rock groups. I think that’s the thing, being open to different styles of music. When people ask me what Def Leppard sounds like I say, imagine a rock version of Earth, Wind & Fire with all their melodies and grooves. So yeah, I’d say we had more in common with them than say, Iron Maiden.
Salon: Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith was nearly the guitarist in Def Leppard. What would that have been like?
Phil Collen: Well, he’s coming into our house so it’s still gonna be the Def Leppard sound. When Vivian Campbell joined, a lot of people asked how he would change our style. What Viv brought was some really killer vocals. I think that’s more noticeable than the guitars.
Salon: I was talking with Eddie Trunk recently and we got on the subject of Def Leppard teaming with Mutt Lange again. Eddie’s opinion was that you guys probably didn’t want to go through that rigorous of a recording process in this day and age. But you did some tracks with Mutt recently, right?
Phil Collen: About two years ago, yeah, but they haven’t come out yet. Mutt is even more talented now than he was back when we were all working together. The guy is just amazing. Hopefully those songs we did will come out soon. I think Def Leppard could work together with Mutt again. Maybe a song or something. Mutt brings out things in you that you didn’t even know were there. Totally inspiring.
Salon: I’ve been listening to Let’s Go [click here to listen] this week. What can you tell us about the new LP?
Phil Collen: For the first time ever in our career we don’t have a record company or anyone to please but ourselves. Let’s make a record for us. Initially we went in to just make a single but the ideas started flying and we really felt we had something to say. We didn’t even know we were making an album. It was shocking to us. One song sounds Top 40, another sounds like the Sex Pistols and then another very classic Def Leppard. I think it’s the best thing since Hysteria.
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