Written By Chrissy Mauck
Despite the music industry’s ever-changing landscape, Def Leppard remains a rock n’ roll institution, even after more than 30 years.
|This summer, Collen has about eight guitars out on
the road with him, including Dread (shown above).
“Dread is a PC1, but it’s different from all of the other
Photo credit: Ash Newell Photography
One of only five rock groups that can claim two separate original 10-million-plus selling albums—Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987)—Def Leppard watched their most recent studio album, Songs from the Sparkle Lounge, debut last year at number five on the Billboard Top 200, proving that some bands are timeless.
In mid-June, a manic sold-out crowd of 80,000 showed up at Donington Park in Leicestershire, England, for the Download Festival, headlined by Def Leppard. The band then immediately traveled to Nashville, Tenn., to perform at the CMT Music Awards with Taylor Swift, before kicking off a summer tour with Poison and Cheap Trick.
Just over halfway through the tour, Phil Collen is leaving a Starbucks in Raleigh, N.C., when Jackson News hooks up with the esteemed lead guitarist for a phone interview.
“It’s a bit noisy in there, so I’m just leaving, actually. But yeah, in North Carolina on tour and so I got a red eye, which is a grande coffee with a shot of espresso in it,” he says of his mid-morning energizer.
Not that he needs much of one. At 51, the vegan and martial arts enthusiast is in excellent shape, his ripped physique apparent to all given his famously shirtless onstage performances.
Thousands have witnessed such this summer, as the two-night stint in North Carolina is part of a 40-city North American tour that kicked off in Camden, N.J., on June 23.
Considered one of the leaders of the ‘80s British heavy metal renaissance, Def Leppard has toured consistently since 1978, playing more than 1,700 shows in that time.
“It’s really cool to be out touring again, but it is a lot different now than it was back in the 80s,” the Jackson signature artist says. “The thing is, you tour to support an album. That’s what you used to do when the industry was a record industry. Now you put an album out to support a tour. It’s less important, being a traveling rock band, to actually have albums out. I do think it’s still essential that you put new music out to keep your growth going, but it’s totally changed from what it used to be.”
Unchanged is the fact that Def Leppard can still draw and please the masses, as they’ve done so far this summer, performing their classic cuts with “big riffs and big showmanship.”
“We just played Detroit and Chicago and they were sold out,” says Collen. “It’s really cool. It’s great to be this far into our career and still have that kind of thing going—it’s amazing really.”
Collen attributes the band’s longevity to a variety of factors.
“Actually, (I think it’s) the songs and everything,” he says. “We’ve done these amazing albums that were huge hits, and then, I think it’s the fact that the whole retro thing is going right now. A lot of people are interested in ‘70s and ‘80s rock music again because there were some great bands, great records and all of that stuff. I think it really helps us that there’s a lot of focus, and energy on those things. Also, we’ve branched out. We are still valid, we’re still relevant, we’re still touring, we’re still putting records out, and that’s the reason I’d say.“
In conjunction with the summer tour, Def Leppard released deluxe editions of Pyromania (1983) and Adrenalize (1992), both of which Collen had a heavy stake in.
Pyromania, Def Leppard’s third studio album, led to his 1982 arrival in the band.