Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Def Leppard’s amazing race to maturity

Phil Collen, 53, joined Def Leppard as a guitarist in 1982, after a successful run with the glam metal band Girl. LEO caught up with him at a Starbucks.

LEO: You’re known for performing shirtless. Are you wearing a shirt now?
PC: Right! Yeah, actually, I’m wearing a shirt right now, so I guess it’s a disguise.

LEO: The last time you were in Louisville, a friend of mine was surprised to see you guys in a Starbucks, ordering decaf lattes. How do you balance being a rock star vs. being a regular guy in real life?
Phil Collen: Easy, actually. I’ve always led a very normal life. I go to the beach all the time, and me and my wife are just hanging here, right now, at Starbucks, yeah. Sometimes people go, “Dude, I love your album, I’ve got your stuff,” it’s great. The only time anything’s ever really happened was years ago, in the ’80s at a Bon Jovi concert in Japan; I got mobbed by a gang of girls and someone tried to tear a hair out.

LEO: You’re know as a studio band. Why a live album now?
PC: Well, we took our first break in 30 years. We took a year off, after being wrapped up in that cycle of album/tour/album/tour. I enjoyed having time to reflect. We got to look back at some of the live stuff – we took it from two tours, in 2008 and 2009. Our producer, who’s our out-front sound guy, literally marked off good versions of songs. It wasn’t a real daunting task, where we’re having to listen to 100 versions of “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” It’d be, like, maybe two.

LEO: 5 songs with “rock” in the title (“Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop),” “Rocket,” “Rock On,” “Rock of Ages,” “Let’s Get Rocked”) appear on this album. Are you aware that 20% of your set involves “rock” in some way?
PC: I think that’s probably the lack of imagination of a teenage boy. When these songs were written, that’s what you’re dealing with. It’s one of those things – be careful what you wish for. You want to be a rock star, then you go, “Shit, we’ve got all these songs, ‘Rock’ this, ‘Rock’ that”… But to be quite honest, they are rockin’ songs; they kind of work in that way. I do think that that’s what happens with younger guys – before you travel and get a different view of the world. So much has happened – politically, socially, spiritually – just from traveling around the world. I guess if we were to write songs about “rockin’ out” now, it wouldn’t be where we’re actually at.

LEO: What inspires you these days?
PC: You meet people, you grow, you get more experience, you see how the world works… I think it’s great, traveling. I’ve been in the most amazing conversations around the world – in India, talking to someone about the prime minister; In Russia, I talked to a dissident. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity, talking to people all over the world. You can say, “I’ve got songs about rockin’ out, and I’ve had a conversation with an arms dealer.” All of a sudden you can put that in your book of experiences, and you just constantly grow. It’s good to be open minded, you can let all these things in, if you write songs or books or poems or paint, even. You can let all this out in an artist way. It’s fantastic, and I really appreciate it. I didn’t really realize that when I went into it in the first place, when I took up the guitar, that it would take me to all these places. You can talk to people on either side of the political fence and, if you’re open minded, you can become an ambassador. Hopefully, you can do some of that in your music, as well.

LEO: Do you have any favorite young bands today?
PC: Something happened – this isn’t just ’cause of the internet, but I think the motivation changed. People want to be famous and rich, but they don’t necessarily want to have an artistic expression. I think that’s a big difference, if you listen to the Beatles, the Stones, Hendrix, Bob Dylan, there was an expression, regardless of genre. If you listen to Erykah Badu, she is an artist, she gets her shit out, what she wants to get out there. There’s some great stuff out there, but you have to dig in and reach for it. There’s not a lot of it.

c. 2011 LEO Weekly

No comments: