DEF LEPPARD’s PHIL COLLEN Says They Are "More Famous" After Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction - "The Wages Have Gone Up, If You Can Believe It "
June 14, 2019, a year ago
They need no introduction, you know the multi-platinum albums, they were part of the early ‘80s New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement for a few years, and now recent Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inductees. In 2019, in Def Leppard’s universe the planets have aligned once again as they are ready to release the Volume Two albums (Adrenalize through Euphoria) remastered, plus rarities, box set on June 21st, and begin another Vegas residency for select dates August 14th through September 4th. BraveWords spoke to guitarist Phil Collen about what, if anything, has changed for the band since the Rock Hall induction, the remasters, Vegas, Collen’s gear, and more.
BraveWords: What has changed in your world after the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame induction?
Phil Collen: “Well, actually the wages have gone up, if you can believe it (laughs). Because as ridiculous as it seems, more people start to respect you more because it is what it is. You become more famous, we’ll go with that, (laughs). For myself, nothing has changed. I do my thing.”
BraveWords: The band made a deal with streaming services, but does the band still make money off the back catalogue CDs, LPs and MP3 sales?
Phil Collen: “Yeah, we did get a good deal…you’re kind of screwed anyway today if you want to make records. It’s a different motivation. We still think it’s important to write new music, but you have to tour, but also have to get music in movies, on commercials, and it’s a real drag that it’s come to that. I remember when book stores started to close down, and CDs started to disappear. But you just have to accept it and move on. As far as CD and LP sales, it’s very minimal in sales. But, having been inducted in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame that has helped with recognition. Especially when it comes to the t-shirts, because I saw a girl in a Leppard shirt, and she didn’t realize I was in the band, and I asked where she got it and she said ‘oh, Forever 21’ (laughs). So that’s kind of cool because between the shirts in commercial stores, and seeing the band on TV for the Rock Hall, they do start to connect the dots.”
BraveWords: How involved was the band with the back catalogue remasters?
Phil Collen: Joe (Elliot, vocalist) is the ultimate fan for stuff like this, he has a lot of ideas on what would be cool to include. He always asks us what we think is cool or not to add on these reissues. And he is a master at that. Ronan McHugh, who is our sound guy, and co-produced all our albums for at least the last ten years, had a big say on the mastering. We just have a really great team, and that’s what it comes down to.”
BraveWords: Do you notice a difference when something has been remastered?
Phil Collen: “Yeah I do. Technology is always evolving and it’s important to improve, not change, the sound. The remastering is louder and crisper. You know, albums from the ‘70s for instance, are very quiet and muffled, so you have to update and clean things up.”
BraveWords: Can you tell us a little bit about the Vegas residency, special surprises you have planned?
Phil Collen: “Well as of now it’s still new to us for this round and things aren’t planned out yet. But, I don’t think we will do a whole album, maybe half of one. Last time we did Vegas we pulled from like 35 songs and switched it up every night.”
BraveWords: Will it be similar to last time, where the band comes out as Ded Flatbird and does a rare deep cuts set, followed by Def Leppard greatest hits?
Phil Collen: “I think that’s the best way to do it because you don’t want to disappoint the fans who want the rare or deep cuts, or the ones who want to greatest hits.”
BraveWords: What are your top five choices for songs to dust off for Vegas?
Phil Collen: “Like ‘White Lighting’ I’d love to do, ‘Paper Sun’, ‘Die Hard The Hunter, some of the more epic ones. It’d be great.”
BraveWords: How is the process of working on new music going.
Phil Collen: “Well, we started last year. One of the great things was, you know, I produced the recent Tesla album, and we did most of that on tour in backstage rooms. We did a new Leppard song last year on the road and you can do it right on your Mac, it’s amazing.”
BraveWords: Fans are always asking for another album that is back to the bands roots from On Through the Night and High ‘N’ Dry. Do you foresee some of that sound coming through on these new songs?
Phil Collen: “Yeah, we are aware of that. The first two Leppard albums were Leppard, definitely influenced by like AC/DC, but Pyromania was something different and more Def Leppard and unique. And Hysteria was even more unique. You know, I get it, people want the Stones to be a blues band, but not really aside from a ‘Jumpin Jack Flash’ or ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’. So with that, you can do the odd song and make it aggressive. The Slang album was king of live and dark, and I thought represented us live too. But people didn’t like that album. You know, sometimes you can’t win. And then you have the other people who want to hear just Hysteria, and we kind of get sick of that. So you have to really do what you want to as a band. Like Queen, Prince, always did their own thing once they got their own sound, and mixed it up. But yeah, I think we will be doing maybe the odd song or a hard rocker.”
BraveWords: Are the band in touch with social media and fan’s opinions?
Phil Collen: “Yeah, but you have to be careful of that. Like if you put up a picture of Beyoncé and she looks fantastic, some dickhead is going to say ‘oh she looks terrible’, and she’s not, she’s gorgeous. Even if it’s like the moon landing, or a great Beatles song, there is always going to be the negative people, regardless if it is good or not. So you have to be careful.”
BraveWords: Is there an album you’d like to go back to and change it in some way?
Phil Collen: “You know, there is always stuff, but it is what it is. It represents us where we were at that time. So no.”
BraveWords: How often are you filming your live shows?
Phil Collen: "We are always recording, we filmed the Royal Albert Hall gig which was spectacular, O2 Arena, Wembley we just recorded. It’s great to document moments in the history and release it at the right time.”
BraveWords: What guitars and gear are you currently using? Do you change it up, try new equipment, or stick to what you like?
Phil Collen: “I always used a Marshall JMP rack mount that I used forever. When I went on tour with the G3 thing, Blackstar made me an amazing amp, and then John Petrucci (Dream Theater) turned me on to this Fractal Audio Axe-FX III and I was sold, and we all switched over, and used it for the Rock Hall, and its less equipment. A three rack space, two wedges 500 watt speakers, it’s great. Technology is just getting great. And I keep updating my Jackson guitar, I’ve been with them for 35 years. I have a 1954 Gibson and its gorgeous, I always try and get in on records. I used it on the last Delta Deep album, and used it on the song ‘Love And Hate Collide’. I also have this Strat that we work on all the time, I have been using DiMarzios for 40 years, and I just came out with a new pickup, and copied a Jackson neck on a Fender Strat, and it’s so awesome. It’s been through the ringer. I have a PC 1 supreme by Jackson, and some cool Telecasters that have DiMarzio super distortion on them.”
BraveWords: Anything else you want to tell the fans?
Phil Collen: “We are about to kick off the European and Canadian tour, and we are looking forward to that, both great markets. And we always keep improving. I think too many bands just kind of accept where they are, we are always working on the vocals. And after doing the G3 tour with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci it improved my playing. Those guys are amazing and great people to be around, just lovely, no egos. It’s great to be in that company. We were just with Brian May and that is always a joy to be with him. A friend of mine, CJ Vanstan, who I have written a lot of songs with, he got me to do some vocals on this project, I don’t know the name right now or when it’s coming out. Look up his name. My friend, Craig Martini, who played with me in Delta Deep, he has become an amazing artist himself, he sings, I am going to work with him again next week. Craig use to play with Paul Gilbert, he would double all of his crazy guitar lines on the bass, he’s outrageous. And also I recently produced the new Tesla album and they are going to tour with us in Canada.”
(Photos by: Jennifer Bartram-Schmitt)