Def Leppard's Collen On New Album: 'It's Not For Fans'

artist: def leppard date: 05/17/2006 category: interviews
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Def Leppard's Collen On New Album: 'It's Not For Fans'
After last year's tour with Bryan Adams proved a massive success, Def Leppard are poised to repeat the experience again when the band embark on another U.S coast to coast run this summer, this time teaming up with another '80s classic act, Journey. Add to this, the group's soon to be released and long anticipated covers album Yeah!, and 2006 is looking to be another hectic year for the English lads. Midway through preparations for the upcoming tour, Joe Matera spoke to one half of the blitzing Def Leppard six-string team Phil Collen, for this exclusive interview for Ultimate-Guitar.com. UG: Yeah! suffered from constant delays in its release for the past year, but now it's finally here. Phil Collen: We finished the album awhile ago, but we had to mix and then remix and have it mastered. So it's good to have it finally out as it was in the can for such a long time. The idea for Def Leppard to do a covers album has been bandied about for many years by Joe Elliott? Yeah, Joe has been wanting to do this album for close to twenty yearsreally ever since Bowie released Pin-Ups. (laughs) I think what happened was someone at our UK record label said 'I think it'll be great if Def Leppard did a covers album?'. So that got the ball rolling for us. And we didn't want to do a typical one, we didn't want to do a bunch of hits, it was purely done for us, it wasn't really about, 'let's choose a massive hit and do our thing with it'. I mean some of these songs on the album most people haven't even heard. You would have kind of have had been there in the room in 1972 or something. So that was an interesting thing because the motivation, wasn't about trying to further our career or that we should do this or that thing, it was totally for us. It wasn't for the fans. It's all about us with this one. We had to get it off our chests. By that virtue it's not transparent and a lot more real.
"We didn't want to do a typical covers album, we didn't want to do a bunch of hits, it was purely done for us."
You recorded parts of the album while out on the road? We did some of the backing vocals backstage on the last tour. For example on He's Gonna Step On You Again, I actually did the high backing vocal at some gig in a shitty old room somewhere, straight into a Macintosh. It was pretty wild. You've remained true to the covers' original spirit, but adding that distinct Leppard touch to proceedings, has really taken the covers to a whole different level. The fact that we are so familiar with these songs, and because of the era we got into the music with everyone in the band, it was one of the reasons why we done it this way. It's also so we could show everyone where we actually come from musically. A lot people say 'you guys are a metal band', well no we're not, we're a rock band. And this is pretty much the era that we all kind of based the band around. Yeah there are other influences in our music that runs the gamut from Stevie Wonder to Led Zeppelin, but when we discovered music for the first time ourselves, it was this kind of era and genre. You've done a great job with the cover of Hangin' On The Telephone, which was a hit for Blondie. Blondie actually made it bigger in England before they made it in the States, so it still fell into that bag of a very English thing. Not that we would have not liked American bands, as there was some really great stuff obviously back then, it just happened to be Bowie and Bolan. And stuff like that Blondie song was on the tail end, and the latest song that we did for the album. I noticed a lot of the song choices aren't necessarily the most well-known numbers from each respective artist covered? For example when it came to do a T-Rex cover, we went with 20th Century Boy rather Get It On because it had been done to death. We wanted to do something different. Like with The Kinks too, Vivian originally suggested You Really Got Me but that has been done a zillion times too. I don't think there are many versions of Waterloo Sunset so went with that one instead. It all fits in with what I said earlier about not making the typical covers album a greatest hits thing.
"A lot people say 'you guys are a metal band', well no we're not, we're a rock band."
You went back to miking your amps for this record rather than use the normal way of recording which has always utilized direct input recording? Absolutely, for most of the stuff I used a Fender Cyber Twin that was miked up and on some songs, a Marshall to record the odd solo here and there. Vivian used his Marshall JMP rig with a 4 X 12 cab and we did it at Joe's house. And most of the backing tracks we did were done live, sitting together and playing in the room so we could bounce of each other. It was fun to do and pretty quick as well. What's you stage set-up like these days? I stick to exclusively using my Jackson PC1 guitar. As for amplification, it is basically a Marshall JMP1 pre-amp rack-mount, a Palmer Speaker Simulator and a Randall Power Amp. I've had the Randall since the 80s and though it's a transistor thing it still sounds amazing. I hardly use any effects nowadays except for a TC Electronic multi-effects thing for when I'm in need of a bit of delay and stereo chorus. It is pretty much a basic set-up and sound. Speaking of your Jackson PC1, it's about to celebrate ten years? The first Jackson Phil Collen signature model PC1 came out in late 1996 so it's been around for ten years now. The only slight change on this version I use now is the the Fender headstock instead of the Jackson. Before, we couldn't have used exactly the Fender Strat headstock because Fender wouldn't allow Jackson or Charvel to use it. But since Fender owns the company now, the new models can now have them. And it actually looks better because of it. It's had tiny refinements along the way but more or less it's exactly the same thing. It's still got a Sustainer, a Floyd Rose and DiMarzios, a mahogony back, maple top, maple fretboard and a fatter neck. The biggest neck that Jackson makes with jumbo fat frets because of I'm a big fan of fat frets. Do you spend a lot of time on your quest for tone? Yeah but not on this album, where it was, what it was. I've just been doing this Man-Raze stuff and I'm blown away by the guitar sounds. And it's the same gear too. I'm using a Marshall on a lot of this stuff, yet it's a slightly different feel and it's a bit more punky and alternative. The interesting this is, that it's done on the same amps and stuff. It's a weird one that one. How is your side-project Man-Raze coming along, are you any closer to the debut album coming out? We just recorded another six tracks and they sound so different to everything we've done so far because we did it as a band and we recorded it live. After we did our first shows last year in London, the sound started to fall into itself and it developed, so now we want to give the other songs we've already recorded that same kind of treatment. And we're working on getting a label to release the album.
"We've got some good ideas and songs already kind of written for the new album."
Do you ever write out on the road? It's kind of hard to get whole song things together because of all the distractions. You may get bits and parts of songssometimes it works. But for us, we've always had a bit of a struggle with it. I think we're going to try and do the next Def Leppard album a little bit more like that. We've got some good ideas and songs already kind of written. So I think what would be good is if we can bang them around in sound checks and record them backstage. We'd be a lot further down the road with the next album if we do that. But as far as writing a whole song as such, we don't do that very much. It's coming up to the 20th anniversary of Hysteria, got anything in the works for that? Not as yet but I'm sure we will. Has it already been 20 years? Hasn't that time gone quick Joe Matera 2006
More def leppard interviews:
+ Rock Chronicles. 1990s: Def Leppard Rock Chronicles 03/02/2011
+ Vivian Campbell: Def Leppard Guitarist Calls Songwriting 'A Painful Process' Interviews 10/21/2009
+ Phil Collen: 'I've Got More Excitement And Energy Than I've Ever Had' Interviews 09/16/2009
+ Def Leppard: 'Records Are Less Important Now' Interviews 09/20/2008
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