By: Robert Cavuoto
The premiere arena rock band, Def Leppard, have announced that they will be doing a Las Vegas residency at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino from March 22, 2013 to April 13, 2013. In a stretch of 11 shows, they will be performing their 1987 release, Hysteria in its entirety from beginning to end, more than a few added surprises.
Unless you have been living under a rock in the late ’80s or didn’t own a radio for some crazy reason, I can promise you that you know at least five songs off Hysteria; from “Pour Some Sugar on Me” to “Armageddon It” to ‘Animal” to “Women” to “Love Bites”. This LP earned the band a prestigious Diamond Award for selling more than 10+ million copies. Think about that for a minute!
I had the opportunity to sit with guitarist, Phil Collen, to talk about what audiences can expect during this Las Vegas engagement, as well as some exciting news that the band is planning to work on so new material while out there!
Robert: I have to tell you when I think of Vegas residency, I think of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, what made the band decide to do this residency?
Phil Collen: We have been playing many of the songs off Hysteria for 20-some-odd-years and always wanted to play it in its entirety. We’ve asked promoters and our management and they said it would be cool but it never happened. All of sudden the Vegas scene started to change, so when we got asked to do it. We said ‘absolutely”. It’s different from touring, because of the travel so take that part out of it. So it should be interesting.
Robert: There has to be a lot of personal advantages for the band to stay in one location and have the audience come to you. What’s the biggest advantage?
Phil Collen: I think the biggest thing is the travel aspect that we don’t have to deal with planes and transportation; it’s easy to get run down from that.
The great thing about touring though is the audience. One day you can be in Kansas and it can be a very different audience than says the next night in Virginia Beach. This is brand new to us so we will just see how this works for us.
Robert: I image your audience will be a mix of diehards and people just visiting Vegas or who have received a complimentary ticket, how do you please everybody with your set list?
Phil Collen: We are going to do Hysteria as is, in order. We’re planning to do other songs say off High ‘n’ Dry where each night it could be completely different. We also are going to do some other songs based on what each band member wants to do. I’ll know more when we start rehearsing for it. A lot of stuff on Hysteria is really complicated to sing and play at the same time so it will be interesting.
Robert: Many of these songs were written when you were in a different place in your life and career, how has performing those songs changed for you over the years?
Phil Collen: We did a couple of re-record’s from Hysteria and play about seven songs live from it. When we did the re-records we sat down to listen to the guitar parts and vocal and said “Wow we’ve be doing this wrong”. We did it different for a concert so when we did the re-records we tried to make them sound exactly like the originals.
By doing that you really notice some of the subtleties and riffs are not really what we thought they were [Laughing].
It’s important, but you don’t want to kill yourself over it as some of the songs have eight different guitar parts, so you have to choose the most relevant ones. Same goes for vocals, being Def Leppard we actually have another instrument that a lot of other bands don’t have which is the vocal arrangements. So we had to compensate for that as well and we do pretty well with it. It really comes down to is hard work and we want to be proud of all that hard work so that it’s easy when you get on tour.
Robert: Are you guys doing anything special promotions to kick off the residency shows, say TV shows, warm up gigs, etc?
Phil Collen: No, we’re going right into it. I’m going to be releasing my Physical Mechanics Fitness DVD and we’ll do things around that at the same time. As far as Def Leppard, were actually going to be writing some new songs as well while we are out there. We kind of thought while we have everybody out there we would figure out some ideas.
Robert: That exciting news! Do you have any ideas that you are bring to the band?
Phil Collen: I’m actually working on the next Manraze CD and have about three or four songs. Whenever I start writing for Manraze or Def Leppard I keep writing and let it flow, even if it leads to other musical ideas.
Robert: When we last spoke about the Manraze CD, you mentioned you did much of the writing and recording off your laptop using Guitar Rig 4. I’m assuming you can do the same with Def Leppard.
Phil Collen: Absolutely, even the last three studio songs on Mirrorball where all done on my laptop. It was great and really cool. Instead of dicking around in the studio, you can go straight to the idea because you can travel around with it. I love it.
Robert: Is there more pressure now when you put out a CD or back in the ’80s? It seems that anything you do will always be compared to those early albums?
Phil Collen: Yeah, but you try not to worry about stuff like that because it’s not really important. The industry has completely changed, and there are like only two record companies left. Also the fact that most people don’t want an LP. The truth is that they just want to download one or two of their favorite songs. I like LPs and all that stuff, but this is the new reality.
The great thing you can actually write a song and don’t have to do an entire LP. Sometimes you can have songs on the LP that get watered down because you put more effort into other ones. I do like being able to release two or three songs with more substance to them.
Robert: After more than three decades you guys don’t show any signs of slowing down, will there ever get to a point where you feel that it needs to come to a close?
Phil Collen: Well, not me. That’s more of an individual question. I write and play guitar every day. I sing every day. I guess that depends who you ask. Wrong person to ask actually.
Robert: Tell me about the importance of your work out regime and your guitar practice routine? How do you manage those two?
Phil Collen: It’s important to work out, you don’t have to kill yourself, you just have to do something. There is a benefit to it. I actually feel like when I was 22 or 23. Most people my age don’t give a shit about it.
They look older, they’re ill, and they struggle. For me, it’s really important not to struggle. You have to watch what you eat and learn what to eat. To understand what poisons you and what nourishes you. There a danger to it, I think everyone should do it, there’s such a huge benefit from it. So I continue to do that.
With guitar playing, I never really sit down and practice. I’m always playing guitar whether on the couch, in the toilet [Both laughing] or whatever. There is a guitar everywhere. I’m constantly playing.
For me it’s more of a fun thing, it’s habitual for me. It’s a way to blow off steam and expressing myself. I treat it different way. I’m fan of it but not like a lot of other guitar player, I approach it very different.
Robert: Will it be difficult to avoid the excess trappings while in Sin City?
Phil Collen: Not really, we do have a little extra time on our hands to do stuff. There is always shows going on and I plan to check out some of them while I’m out there, but for the most part it is unhealthy place with all the smoke, air conditioners and poor air circulation. We are going to be there for about four weeks, so thats a totally different set-up from what I’m use to, so I have to find that balance.
Robert: The last time I was in Vegas the smoke in the casinos and bars was overwhelming. I had to leave early many nights.
Phil Collen: That’s my fear exactly, I’m sure they must have places out there that aren’t like that. I’m going to try and avoid those types of situations.
Robert: I spoke to Rick Allen last April and he equates the success of the band to the strong friendships between the guys. What’s your take on what has kept the band together and still going strong all these years?
Phil Collen: I do think just fact of all the experiences that we have been through together as a band, longer than most families. That’s thiry-something years. Longer than I was home for. I think there’s strength in that all of the things we go through as a family like, marriages, divorces, accidents, diseases, and so on.
It does keep you all on the same page. You have your successes and even your failures, you have all these things in common and it does keep you strong. It’s like a loyalty; there’s a lot of different things that made us who we are in Def Leppard. We are a band and I don’t mean to sound cliché, I have been in this family longer than I have been in my own.
Robert: Will this Vegas residency tour lead to a summer tour?
Phil Collen: No, I don’t think so, unless there are some offers. You never know. Maybe something like what we are going to do in Vegas in another part of the country. Maybe something more along those lines.