Def Leppard on surviving personal tragedy, grunge and a global pandemic: ‘Just move on and keep making records’ & More Trending News

 

Diamond Star Halos, the twelfth studio album by Sheffield rock legends Def Leppard, is a full-circle report in additional methods than one. For occasion, fist-pumping stadium anthems just like the fittingly titled “Kick” and “Fire It Up” are paying homage to Pyromania — the traditional first Lep album to characteristic guitarist Phil Collen, who joined the band nearly precisely 40 years in the past, in June 1982. The album additionally faucets into the group’s ‘70s glam-rock influences — its title is a nod to Marc Bolan and T. Rex — like never before.

“Me and Joe had pretty much identical record collections before we even knew each other,” Collen chuckles, as he and Leppard frontman/glam-rock obsessive Joe Elliott speak to Yahoo Entertainment about the new LP. “Marc Bolan, the Bowie stuff, all of that. … It was only halfway through [making] the album that we [realized] were pretty much celebrating the era that got us kind of baptized into music.”

“We have so much fun doing all sorts of music… but glam was the one that floated to the top,” says Elliott. “Because watching the likes of Pink Floyd and whatever on The Old Grey Whistle Test, it was great to watch, but it didn’t have the oomph of watching Sweet or Slade or Bowie or T. Rex on Top of the Pops — who would come out dressed in all this ridiculous garb, play three-minute hardcore pop/rock, big choruses, massive guitars, massive drums. It was rock, but it was dressed up as pop, I suppose. And we’d all just got color TVs [in 1971]! So, this stuff was really making a massive impact on our brains as 10, 12, 14-year-old kids. … It was like really cool aliens landing on Earth and handing out candy. It was amazing.”

Fast-forward a decade later, and Def Leppard were on television themselves, as one of the first hard rock acts to receive high-rotation airplay on a new cable network called MTV. They arguably laid down the foundation for dozens of bands that would soon be labeled “glam-metal” in the mid-to-late ‘80s, but few of the Headbanger’s Ball-era bands actually descended from the glam-rock custom the best way Def Leppard did, except for carrying lengthy, poodly hair or the occasional feather boa. When requested if he thinks Lep have been certainly answerable for the hair-metal increase —or backlash — Elliott flatly solutions, “I think we side-stepped it.”

Def Leppard's Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, and Vivian Campbell in 2022. (Photo: Anton Corbijn)

Def Leppard’s Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, and Vivian Campbell in 2022. (Photo: Anton Corbijn)

“I always found it fascinating that the media chose to lump us in with that, just because we had two guitars and made rock music of a certain style,” Elliott elaborates. “We couldn’t have been further removed from this ‘glam-metal’ thing. People called it ‘hair-metal.’ I just find it the most ridiculous term — because does that make Robert Plant hair-metal, because he’s got hair down to his shoulders? Or these days, Paul Weller? It’s just a dumb, lazy media term. I think it’s also fair to say, without blowing our trumpet too much, that we survived way beyond all those bands, or the majority of them, because we were always more than that.

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“There’s a certain thing where we have a song like ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me,’ and then a dozen bands rip it off. And we tragically get dragged into the same whirlpool that they’re sliding down,” Elliott continues. “We did something really innovative, and what happens is A&R men at record labels go, ‘Sign me a band that sounds like Def Leppard!’ And you end up with 200 Def Leppards. And then you end up with Kurt Cobain, who goes, ‘Enough!’”

Famously, a decade after MTV’s debut and a few years after MTV hit saturation level with all of these Def Leppard wannabes, Cobain and Nirvana swooped in with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to usher in an alt-rock revolution. Many of Leppard’s friends didn’t survive the transition, however Def Leppard, who have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Queen’s Brian May in 2019, maintained their cred. “I’m convinced — I almost kind of got it almost from the horse’s mouth, with Dave Grohl — that Kurt Cobain would’ve been fine with us. It was the millions of us that he couldn’t handle,” Elliott explains. “And I completely understand that. It’s just one of those things that it’s just part of what happens. And I think one of the reasons we survived is because we took it on the chin. We took it with a good sense of humor and went, ‘Well, it’s nothing to do with us. There’s nothing we can do about it. So, just move on and keep making records and see what happens.’”

And that’s simply what Def Leppard have completed with the superb Diamond Star Halos. Of course, in the course of the previous 4 many years, Def Leppard have needed to endure setbacks way more catastrophic than mere shifts in pop-music developments — like drummer Rick Allen dropping his arm in a 1985 automobile crash, or guitarist Steve Clark dying at age 30 in 1991. (They’ve withstood sufficient hardship to be the topic of a made-for-TV film, VH1’s Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story, again in 1999, lengthy earlier than rock biopics have been in vogue — though Elliott, who grudgingly served because the VH1 movie’s unofficial “script doctor,” says he has “kind of haunting nightmares” about that low-budget venture, and humbly argues that tragedy-beset band Lynyrd Skynyrd ought to get the right massive-screen biopic remedy earlier than Leppard do.)

“You take any group of people, any family, any band that stays there, they have tragedy,” says an equally humble Collen. “Most bands don’t have that long, and you know, we’re just getting going. … So, you are going have a history of terrible things happening, along with the great stuff that continues to happen as well.”

“If you stick around long enough, you learn to take the hits and the lows and just say, ‘Oh well, we’ve been there before,’” says Elliott. “When somebody comes bursting into a room going, ‘Oh my God, you won’t believe what’s happened!’ — we just go, ‘Yes, so what? Just move on. Been there, done that. No big deal. By the way, I’ve written a new song. Wanna hear it?’ And this new album is the epitome of that.”

In one other full-circle profession improvement, it was Def Leppard’s skill to adapt — not simply to personal tragedy, however to new studio know-how, which they embraced whereas recording 1987’s Hysteria after Allen’s accident — that helped them create Diamond Star Halos underneath troublesome and unexpected circumstances. Literally inside an hour of studying that their 2020 tour with Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Joan Jett had been indefinitely delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, “We took one phone call — 30 minutes — to go, ‘F*** that! We’re gonna do this!’” The Leppard members, unfold out throughout Ireland, England, and the United States, instantly started working remotely, a course of that Collen surprisingly describes as “totally a dream.”

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“I don’t think we ever want to go back to recording the traditional sense ever again, because it was inspiring working this way,” raves Elliott. “There was no time limit. We didn’t have a deal. When we started the record, we didn’t have an end date. So, we just did this as a piece of art. And it worked out amazingly. … In fact, it enhanced the songwriting. It took the blinkers off. It broadened our horizons. Nothing was off the table. When Phil said, ‘I’ve got a song with a ukulele in it,’ I’m like, ‘OK, great!’ I said, ‘I’ve written two on the piano,’ and he’s like, ‘Fine!’ And then he’s like, ‘Let’s get Alison Kraus on board! Let’s get [longtime Bowie pianist] Mike Garson on board!’

“This is technology coming to our advantage once again, similar to how it was in the ‘80s with the studio gear,” Elliott explains. “But this time, it was the internet. It was all the applications that you can use on a laptop to literally turn a MacBook pro into the new Abbey Road.”

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