Phil Collen – ‘Def Leppard Is Better Than It’s Ever Been’
On Tuesday night’s Loudwire Nights (May 23), Def Leppard’s Phil Collen joined host Chuck Armstrong to discuss the band’s latest album, the massive Drastic Symphonies.
Drastic Symphonies finds Def Leppard re-imagining the work of their career with the help and guidance of the Royal Philharmonic, with many of the songs undergoing, well, drastic changes.
When the idea of working closely with the Philharmonic was brought up to the band, Collen explained to Chuck that they were quickly interested, but with one important caveat: “We want to be totally involved. We don’t want someone else doing their version or their intention of our music. We’ve been so guarded over our career. We said we’d do it if we can re-do things.”
With that mentality, Collen said that things fell into place pretty quickly and the whole experience was seamless.
“Everything from the first moment we started getting the ideas together, everybody was on board and got the briefing, got the vibe. It was such a fun thing to do.”
While the Royal Philharmonic helped re-imagine the songs, Def Leppard also contributed their own updates, too, all the while using some of their original tapes, which meant there are moments on Drastic Symphonies where fans might hear Joe Elliott harmonizing with himself from a few decades ago.
“We are so much better than we were before,” Collen admitted with an obvious smile on his face. “Literally, I practice every day. I sing every day. The band is better than it’s ever been. I can’t believe this is actually our singing—Joe is singing way better than he was in his 20s. We’ve kind of kept elevating it. We’ve raised the bar.”
Collen wasn’t just saying that to puff himself up; he has recognized that fans’ reactions have changed and elevated over the years, too.
“We just did South America with Motley Crue. It was insane. Just nuts. The reaction—people crying and us, the best we’ve ever been. I keep saying probably the best five shows we’ve ever done in our career happened in the last nine months.”
When Def Leppard and Metallica Crossed Paths in the ’80s
As Collen talked about the evolution—and growth—of the band’s sound over the decades, it led Chuck to thinking about the earliest days of Def Leppard when they were picked up as the first and for a moment, only, client of Q Prime Management, the same team that would eventually start to manage Metallica in the ’80s.
“Peter Mensch, who was one of our managers, lived in London,” Collen told Chuck. “Lars [Ulrich] would come by and see him. I loved what they were doing. I loved their approach to it. It was new. It was refreshing—and they still sound like that. They’re an awesome band.”
As Collen reflected on his admiration for Metallica, he kept his focus on Ulrich.
“I loved the way Lars approached it,” he explained. “He was so passionate, I think he’s one of the reasons they became that big. He would push them. He was really focused. Apart from being the drummer and a part of the band, he was the spearhead. James [Hetfield] writes the song, the band had the sound—and it was a monster sound—but he was the spokesman, if you’d like. I should tell Lars, I saw him recently, I haven’t seen him in 20 years. I was very impressed with how he pushed the band forward like that. He had all this passion and enthusiasm, it was great. They are such a great band, this sound that is totally unique and everybody copied them and still does.”
READ MORE: Joe Elliott on Problem With Making ‘Proper’ Def Leppard Biopic
Surprisingly, Collen’s appreciation for Ulrich and Metallica didn’t have much to do with the thrash legends’ love of British heavy metal.
“We are kind of huge fans of American music,” he admitted. “We sing with American accents because we learned how to sing like that. That only dawned on me a few years ago—’How come I sing American?’ It’s because I learned everything from the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, Van Halen—everything was Americanized. Even the Stones, they learned from listening to Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, James Brown and stuff. So I can totally see why Metallica would kind of have that reciprocal thing, because all of a sudden, there are these British bands doing something.”
What Else Did Def Leppard’s Phil Collen Discuss on Loudwire Nights?
- The biggest surprise on Drastic Symphonies came with their biggest song, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”
- What it was like losing some of the spotlight on his guitar work because of the involvement of the Royal Philharmonic
- How producer Mutt Lange continues to shape the band: “There’s talent. There’s hard work. And then there’s Mutt.”
Listen to the Full Interview in the Podcast Player Below
Phil Collen joined Loudwire Nights on Tuesday, May 23; the show replays online here, and you can tune in live every weeknight at 7PM ET or on the Loudwire app; you can also see if the show is available on your local radio station and listen to interviews on-demand. Stream Drastic Symponies at this location and then check out Def Leppard’s full tour schedule.
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