Exclusive Interview: Joe Elliott and Phil Collen from Def Leppard


With more than 65 million albums sold worldwide and two prestigious Diamond Awards to their credit, Def Leppard – Joe Elliott (vocals), Phil Collen (guitar), Rick “Sav” Savage (bass), Vivian Campbell (guitar) and Rick Allen (drums) – continue to be one of the most important forces in rock music. Over the course of their career, the band has produced a series of classic groundbreaking albums that set the bar for generations of music fans and artists alike. The group’s spectacular live shows, filled with powerful melodic rock anthems, continue to sell out venues worldwide. Their epic live show and arsenal of hits have become synonymous with their name, leading Def Leppard to be heralded as an institution in both the music and touring industry.

This fall, NCM Fathom Events together with AEG Live and Network Live take movie-goers back to the ‘80s on a rocking, Sin City roller coaster ride with the two-night cinema event Def Leppard Viva! Hysteria Concert on Wednesday, October 2 and Tuesday, October 8 at 8PM local time. Recorded live over two nights in March and April 2013 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s intimate and award-winning music venue The Joint, Def Leppard Viva! Hysteria Concert includes a full front-to-back performance of the classic album Hysteria, along with many of the band’s greatest hits such as “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph.”

Rock Confidential had the opportunity to take part in a conference call with Joe and Phil earlier today to discuss this rockin’ event. Here is our exclusive part of the call.

To celebrate an entire album, especially one as iconic and important to fans as Hysteria, did that give you the opportunity to take a bit more pride in the material and step back and really take notice of what you accomplished with that record?

Joe Elliott: Yeah, I suppose it did. We make records. That’s what we do – from the first record we made to the last record we’ll make. In fairness, as much effort goes into every record we make. Sometimes certain records capture people’s imaginations more than others. Then it becomes part of your DNA, part of who you are. You’re forever reminded of it when you do interviews and things like this, but it doesn’t really need reminding because it was our most commercially successful record. We were always aware it could go in one of two directions: it was going to be a big hit and disappear after a while or it was going to be a big hit and it was going to remain a hit the way Sgt. Pepper or Dark Side Of The Moon did. I do believe that Hysteria is one of those kind of records. Like Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. It’s in our fans’ DNA for the rest of their lives. It’s a massive source of pride for everybody involved that it’s gone that far into people’s lives that it’s going to be with them until the day they die. It’s a great feeling.

Things had to have moved so quickly with the success of Hysteria. I’m sure you didn’t have time to think about how huge a record it really was. Getting a chance to perform the entire album in Vegas had to be more fun for you as you got to celebrate Hysteria with your fans that have embraced those songs so passionately.

Phil Collen: One thing I did notice was the ‘celebration’ part. When we were in Vegas we’d bump into fans from Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico. All over Europe. They said “I wouldn’t miss this for the world!” It really made it special, especially 25 years after the event. It was definitely a celebration and we did feel that.

A couple of years ago you guys re-recorded some of your classic hits. Looking back, did that process help prepare you for performing Hysteria live as far as capturing guitar tones, harmonies and all the bells and whistles?

Joe: It more likely just reminded us what effort went into making that record. People vision a band plugs in, plays and someone punches the record button and then you go “Ok, we got it!” It was done so meticulously it was like architecture. We wrote the songs in the spirit of rock but we totally used all the technology available to record them. When you spend as much time as Phil did getting a guitar sound or as much time as I did with my singing a certain way, you never forget that. It’s just in your blood for the rest of your life. It was a long, arduous task. It wasn’t something you did overnight and you’d forget about it the next day. It was a learning process, really. We came out of that project exhausted but much better musicians and singers and certainly much more knowledgeable about how a studio works. Going into the re-records was actually much easier than doing it the first time around. We’re much better at it these days and the technology has improved tenfold since then. We could do it much, much quicker and make it sound the same.

Phil, could you please tell me about the gear you used on Viva! Hysteria?

I play exclusively Jackson guitars. The only reason I change them out so much is because I’ve got so many really cool guitars! They don’t really have different sounds or anything, I just want the tuning to be fresh. I did use a crackle black shiny Jackson that I actually used on the Hysteria album. I use it on “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” I made a point of bringing it out. That guitar is from 1986. It’s wonderful. It’s in the “Women” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” videos. I use a JMP1 which is a rack-mounted Marshall. I’ve got a new system that’s really cool. It’s called a Fractal. That’s what I use for all the effects and everything. My guitar tech does all the changes. I don’t punch any buttons or anything like that. We’re so tied to doing vocals and running up and down this ramp I couldn’t push buttons – I’m crap at doing that anyway! That’s pretty much it, really. My own signature guitars, a PC-1 Jackson or a PC Supreme. I use them all night. They’re just great. And the black crackly one from the 80s. I’ve used pretty much all the same stuff for the past 15 or 16 years when we play live. When we’re in the studio it’s something completely different. I use computer-based systems like Guitar Rig 5. It’s very straightforward.