Phil Collen Interview: NAMM Show 2011

By: Rob Cavuoto

In 1982, Phil Collen joined Def Leppard during the recording session for Pyromania, replacing then current guitarist, Pete Willis. In ‘87 the band released their fourth studio LP Hysteria, then in ’91, after Steve Clark’s untimely death, Phil wrote all of the guitar parts for the megahit album Adrenalize.

Since then, Phil has developed himself as one of the main songwriters for the band, and to date Def Leppard has sold more than 65 million albums worldwide and have two albums with RIAA diamond certification for Pyromania and Hysteria.

Phil was at NAMM this past week unveiling his latest guitar, the Jackson PC Supreme, and I had a chance to catch up with him at the Agile Partners booth, where he was demoing the very cool Lick of the Day and Ampkit apps for iPhone and iPad, two of the best apps we saw at this year’s show.

We talked to Phil about what’s coming down the pipe for the Leppard boys, his switch from Ibanez to Jackson guitars in the 80’s and to set the record straight about some comments made by the band’s other guitarist, Vivian Campbell.

Phil Collen AmpKit NAMM 2011

Phil Collen AmpKit NAMM 2011 Photo: Rob Cavuoto


There was a recent interview with Vivian Campbell where he said he isn’t challenged guitar-wise in Def Leppard, and that you get all the good guitar parts. How do you respond to that statement?

Phil Collen: Because it’s all my shit. Vivian joined a band that I helped create. He’s coming into my house! It’s not all the good parts, it’s the Def Leppard sound that me and Steve created.

We got together with Mutt Lang, and there was already a sound in place. Also, we play all the hits live, which were written before Viv was in the band.

Are there hard feelings when he says something like that?

Phil Collen: No not at all. It’s just the ways it falls. I can’t help it that all my shit sounds great! <,p>

I understand that you’re working on a new Def Leppard live CD with some studio tracks.

Phil Collen: Yeah, it’s got three new studio tracks, we wanted five but we couldn’t finish them in time.

When will the new record be out in stores?

Phil Collen: Mid-May

In the beginning with Def Leppard, you made the Ibanez Destroy famous, what was the catalyst for switching to Jackson guitars?

Phil Collen: The Destroyer was great but very difficult to play unless you were on stage. It was a very showy guitar. Mutt Lang introduced me to a Charvel in the ‘80s and it was so easy to play as a studio guitar.

Then I met Grover Jackson and we started making the crazy flashy guitars. They had great playability that I love off, as well as on, stage.


Phil Collen Def Leppard

Phil Collen of Def Leppard Photo: Rob Cavuoto

Phil Collen AmpKit NAMM 2011

Phil Collen AmpKit NAMM 2011Photo: Rob Cavuoto

Phil Collen AmpKit

Phil Collen and Rob Cavuoto in Conversation Photo: Matt Warnock


  1. Tweets that mention NAMM Show 2011: Phil Collen Interview | Guitar International Magazine -- (7 years ago)

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  2. spanky (7 years ago)

    PLEASE tell me you both laughed after he made that remark about how good his shit sounded…

  3. Publisher (7 years ago)

    He’s definitely a confident guy, to his credit he tore up a shred solo at the start of the demo for AmpKit that took us by surprise, he’s got chops in there, just not really on DL tunes

  4. Tracy Simpkins (7 years ago)

    Phil, if I am not mistaken the Def Leppard sound was created way before you were hired by the band. Arrogance at it’s highest!!!

  5. Sharon (7 years ago)

    Actually it wasn’t until Phil was in the band and they started working on ‘Pyromania’ that the sound was developed. Pete Willis helped write a majority of the music, but it was Phil and Steve that created the guitar hooks.

  6. Mike (7 years ago)

    Um, yeah, Phil and Steve worked together but doesn’t Pete Willis factor in there somewhere with the DL twin guitar approach???

  7. SamTTV (7 years ago)

    Thinks a lot of himself. Viv is upset because he knows he’s the better guitar player. Everyone else knows it too.

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  10. David Jensen (7 years ago)

    Pete Willis and Steve Clark were Def Leppard Period!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. James (6 years ago)

    To set the record straight, Phil only played solos on Pyromania (Stagefright, Foolin’, Rock of Ages, Photograph, Rock Rock Til’ You Drop, and the slide sounding guitar lead on Billy’s Got A Gun). The album was practically finished when Pete was fired. With the exception of the guitar leads, everything you hear is Pete Willis and Steve Clark. Phil’s writing contributions started on Hysteria.

  12. Jim (6 years ago)

    I did the 80’s guitar wars thing in Hollywood. Let me just say that I learned a long time ago that when it relates to record sales (which is the name of the game) the shredding thing falls to the wayside very quickly. In fact, more players should strive to sound as good as Phil Collen. He plays what the song needs and all anyone is concerned with is how it sounds on the car radio. Women LOVE the later Phil Collen Def Leppard tunes. Most shedders and Death Metal players run all the women off. That’s all I need to know. Check out Phil’s previous band, Girl. There’s some good Rock and Roll there, in the Les Paul/Marshall vein. Anyone with anything negative to say about Phil Collen’s guitar playing had better achieve his level of success first—then I’ll take you seriously. As far as Viv goes—I was surprised that he got the gig. Sure, he’s technically more proficient than Clarkie was, but not nearly as exciting or Rock and Roll. Give me a basic player that MOVES me over a Van Halen clone ANYDAY. You know—record sales don’t coincide with being a circus freak. It’s whether your songs connect and communicate with the audience. The Phil Collen Def Leppard does just that.

  13. Matt (4 years ago)

    What an arrogant ass. The sound of the band was defined before he joined…he came in and Pyromania was already underway.

    Vivian Campbell is 10X the player Phil will ever be