August 3, 1987 was the release date for one of the most iconic albums in rock history. Def Leppard’s Hysteria, being their fourth studio album, sold over 20 million copies worldwide, which also included 12 million in the U.S. and brought seven hit singles.
Just three weeks after surgery, Phil Collen sits in the California sun and shares his recovery. “It’s ok, I still have another two weeks of this cast thing. It’s in a funny angle that kind of stretches the tendons or flattens them or something to that effect, I’m not really sure actually. It was just three or maybe four weeks ago now that I had the operation in Paris and I’m doing really well. When the cast is off I can start physiotherapy type stuff.” Collen injured his finger during the tour after the Las Vegas residency in what he describes as a freak accident. “It’s the most ridiculous thing. I was getting off the ground and instead of using my palms; I used my fist or rather my knuckles, which I’ve done a million times. When it first happened, it didn’t really hurt it just squelched. A few minutes later I was like this is really bizarre. It felt like it was double jointed as it was popping and I wasn’t able to play the guitar properly after that. It was just a freak accident, and I’m not been in much pain at all.” He continued on with the tour and explained the only time it really hurt was while they were on the tour of Europe and Canada. “The first few days it was sore when I’d play a lot and I’d be making these weird mistakes. I would be playing and my finger would pop the other way or my finger would slip off the fret board. It was semi-embarrassing at first. I was giving disclaimers to all the guitar players on the tour. It was pretty weird,” he says with a laugh. “By the end of the tour I figured a way to play that it didn’t hurt. So yea, now it’s been four weeks and there is a three to six month recovery time and I should hopefully start playing again by December and go from there.” Finishing out the tour after the Vegas residency, Slash with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators joined Leppard for the last two shows. “I’ve known Slash for years obviously and while we finished the tour with them, he was actually going to come on and play with us and we were going to play Tie Your Mother Down by Queen and that was a song I just couldn’t play with my injured finger. We even had to drop a bunch of numbers from our set, Rock Till You Drop, Let It Go and a few others because of my second finger, it was really, really painful and I just couldn’t play them, so we ended up not doing the performance together; next time perhaps.”
Along with Collen recovering from surgery, fellow Leppard, Vivian Campbell, recovers from a cancer diagnosis. “Me, Rick and Vivian hooked up in L.A. just the other day to do a promo for the movie and Vivian is doing fantastic. He just finished his last round of chemo and all fingers crossed, so far so good. After his first treatment he coughed quite a bit. In fact, that was the red flag in the first place. He had this cough for almost a year. When he would cough, it would hurt. The first round of doctors gave him inhalers then Viv said he thought it was something else. He went to another doctor that diagnosed with cancer and it needed to be treated. He found out just before we did Vegas and he literally left the day after the Vegas shows and began his treatment. The cough was gone the first week, it worked really well for him. He’s getting his strength back, his hair’s growing back and everything so we are all thrilled.”
Def Leppard had a monumental task ahead of them to top their previous album Pyromania. After four years of re-writes, re-recordings and tragedy, Hysteria was born and became the album that defined them. “When we did the Hysteria album, we knew we had something really special going on. The first thing Mutt Lange said was we can’t do Pyromania Part II, because everyone had already done that and we would just be copying everyone else. We didn’t want to be just a standard rock band, let’s be bigger than that. Mutt suggested we do a rock version of Thriller, because Michael Jackson had seven singles off that album. That was the thing; we wanted a rock album but we wanted the album to cross over into other genres as well. Different areas like Top 40 and R&B and totally different kinds of musical areas would get into the Hysteria thing. It worked; it did have a different sound. Phonically it was very different, musically it was very different and I think that is one of the reasons it has stood the test of time. There were 7 singles from Hysteria and ironically Love and Affection was going to be the 8th single release. And TODAY, it’s #3 on Classic Rock Radio, which is pretty ironic, that 26 years later the 8th single is at #3 and will probably be #1 this week.”
Viva Hysteria began March 22 at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Hysteria, the album, celebrated its 25th birthday in August 2012 and was the band’s first time ever playing an entire album live. Prior to the residency, Collen stated that so much went into the record but felt the residency would be a bit more special due to Hysteria being one of their diamond albums and the fact they had never done anything like this before. As for the recording and filming of the residency, it was definitely something special. “All the stars lined up. We were going to record a live show in 2012 in Austin, Texas and it all fell through and we were really bummed. When Vegas came up the questions were; A) Will you do the residency and B) will you do Hysteria; that’s when we said WOW! If we could actually record the show, we’ve got eleven nights to get it right. We recorded every show but only filmed two of them. It was perfect and we really didn’t have to do anything as the stars lined up and it all slipped into place.” It appears that filming live performances and sending them into theatres are a new trend for fans to relish. “I think for a while certain bands will do it until it gets old. The thing is it’s very hard to fill movie theatres these days, unless you have a block buster theme or unless you have all these things going right, it’s a very hard sale. Unless a band is really popular they wouldn’t be able to do it. So I think it’s really cool and we’ll definitely see more of it but I think it’s a limited thing and it will change again. It will have its prime in the sun and like anything else, errrk, next thing!” Collen attended a final cut viewing with his family and was extremely pleased with the movie. “I saw the final cut in August and as I’ve never seen us live before. Obviously I’ve seen live recordings, TV shows on stage, but watching a whole show all the way through with a production like that, I’ve never seen it. It was a new one for me and I was thrilled at our sound. We sounded fantastic and Ronan McHugh did a brilliant job on the mix. The whole production, I loved it. All joking aside, it was exactly how I would want to be seen and I feel we represented ourselves very well and it was a pleasure to see.”
The band joined Paul Davis of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Bobby Reynolds of AEG Live Las Vegas on Thursday, March 21 to unveil a memorabilia exhibit at the main entrance of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Walking into the front door of the hotel, one would first see the Viva Hysteria logo surrounding The Circle Bar over head. 20 feet or so inside the doorway, Rick Allen’s drum kit from the Hysteria era can be seen, as if standing in rock and roll church and Allen’s drum kit is the pulpit. The drum kit was custom designed by Allen so he could continue to play the drums after his near fatal automobile accident. Three additional exhibits were available for viewing on property, “We have platinum albums for days and it’s wild because no one goes platinum any more as that was a different era. All of the gold and platinum albums were from Rick Allen’s house, which were on display at the hotel for Viva Hysteria. Rick lives nearby in L.A., so he brought most of them. However, we all had guitars and clothes at our personal houses and in storage, so we all sent stuff. They made a wonderful collection out of it all and it worked out great. Of course Rick’s drum kit was in storage and we had just recently gotten that back. Shoes, guitars, jackets, and God knows what else we had in there,” Collen laughs. “We all just pitched in with the collection if you like.” Steve Clark’s ‘Black Beauty’ was one of the guitars on display. “Funny enough Steve had a few of those guitars floating around. Of course Steve’s family got most of his guitars and possessions but this guitar we found in a storage facility in Dublin. It was really nice to see that guitar again because it reminded me of Steve. Another interesting fact about that same guitar is I used it on the first Manraze album on the opening track, This Is.”
Fans around the world were given the chance to pre-view the Viva Hysteria Movie. A 2CD+DVD Deluxe edition/Blu-Ray collection was released October 18 in Europe and October 22, in the U.S. CD #1 contains the entire Hysteria album performed live at The Joint during the residency. CD #2 includes performance by Ded Flatbird as the greatest Def Leppard cover band. The first set divulges fans with Good Morning Freedom, Wasted. Stagefright, Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes), Action, Rock Brigade, Undefeated, and Promises. Set #2 brings some classics with On Through The Night, Slang, Let It Go, Another Hit And Run, High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night), Bringin’ On The Heartbreak, and Switch 625. Joe Elliott gave a nice surprise to a theatre at Cineworld in Sheffield on Thursday, September 25 as he gave a brief introduction to the film and then casually enjoyed the movie with friends and fans. October 2 and October 8 brought the previews to America and fans that were not able to attend the Vegas shows now had the chance to do so. Fans that did attend the residency not only were able to re-live the experience but to see if they made it to the big screen as well in audience shots from the nights recordings.
Other Leppard band mates have side projects as does Collen. His band, Manraze, with Simon Laffy and Paul Cook have been together since 2008. “Yea, it’s crazy! Nine years now! I can’t believe we’ve been together that long. We have two albums out, with a third on the way. I think it should be out sometime early November. It’s getting quite a buzz already. People have been commenting WOW, this is the best Manraze song I’ve ever heard and this is definitely a hit. We’re really, really excited about it.” Ger McDonald who produced both of the other albums also mixed the new album that is due out. “What’s really interesting about it is, it started off as a demo eight years ago in a little rehearsal room where we recorded it. Paul’s songs were brilliant and we had this lovely song, but we just couldn’t seem to get the chorus right, we just couldn’t finish it off.” Collen states, “A year and a half ago I was sitting out by a swimming pool while on the Def Leppard tour. I started singing this tune and realized wow, it was that song, but with new lyrics. I got really excited and I asked Simon to send me Paul’s original drum track and we just re-wrote the song around the drums.” They re-worked the guitars and Simon did another bass line. Ger McDonald did his magic on mixing. “Ger always does magic, this time chopping it down to make it sound really modern. He did his special twist by using Paul’s original drum tracks and adding to it, so some of the sounds from Paul’s kit from the first two albums are caught on this one too, and it’s really special and an amazing groove to it.” Also appearing on the album is Debbi Blackwell-Cook who sang on Take On The World, another Manraze track. “On this album at the end she does this amazing vocal thing. It kind of reminds me of this song from Pink Floyd with this special vocal that just takes over and it’s a very magical track.” Collen explains his return to his punk roots, “It’s great to go to Manraze, because we are so diverse. Everything we do because you can have hard core, you can have shred guitar and the reggae within one song and that’s the really cool thing I love about it. It just strides over and includes every kind of genre and we’re not stuck inside a box and say we can’t do anything. A lot of bands say they can’t cross over but we never ever say we can’t do something and it’s very liberating.” As Manraze does plan to do a few gigs in support of the new album, Collen says it all depends on the recovery of his finger. “We do plan to do some gigs, but of course I can’t play guitar for a while. Even when I start playing again, I’m not sure I’ll really be able to do a gig. I’m thinking about asking a couple of friends to stand in for me. Even though I haven’t mentioned it to them yet, but I can actually see that happening and that’s cool for me.” In 2011 they were to open for Leppard, but things did not work out. “I’m sure I’m going to be busy with Leppard because we keep getting these offers, but the buzz on the Manraze song, I can also see something happening there too. It would absolutely cool for Manraze to open for Leppard, we will just have to wait to see. As for Manraze doing a Vegas gig, yes we would love to. Of course we’d have to get someone to ask us,” he laughs. He likes to remain busy and has another project going on with Debbi Blackwell-Cook. “We are going to do a blues album or maybe an EP first. It’s like a really nasty funky blues. I’ve already done most of the guitar for it because I knew I was going to have this operation. The vibe of it, if you can imagine, is like this nasty blues guitar playing with her sounding like a cross between Tina Turner and Chaka Khan. We’re doing harmonies and duets with me doing my screamy vocals and her singing like that along with me playing this nasty ass guitar.” Having a few friends playing on there as well, Cook will be playing drums and Laffy playing bass on a couple of tracks adds to the coolness of the album. “It’s just this nasty blues and it’s called Delta Deep. I don’t know when it will be out as I have to sing some of the stuff. What’s interesting is I ‘ll be able to play the slide guitar a bit this year and do some of that,” he laughs. “So we can get it mixed and probably initially put an EP out and see where it goes from there next year.”
Collen was asked if he could go back in time to the first gig with Def Leppard which happened to be at The Marquise Club in London, and tell his band mates one thing, what would it be? He replied, “I’d say in the first song make sure you’re guitar strap is on tightly,” he laughs loudly. “That would be the thing, I have this memory! Just as I started doing the first solo, in the first song which was Rock Till You Drop, my guitar strap broke! I was like Oh My God!! Here’s my big intro to the band and I had to sit on the drum riser and blazed out my solo like that,” he says as he laughs heartily. “All joking aside, we didn’t know it was going to go where it went.” Def Leppard came to America opening for Billy Squier on March 18, 1983 at The Omni in Atlanta, Georgia. “You know that was my first gig in America, it was great. I am amazed you were there, that seems forever ago!” A quote found some years back was read to Collen; ‘In 1983, Squier did his first headlining arena US tour with Def Leppard as opening act. Def Leppard upstaged Squier as he later confirmed this on the VH1 show, Ultimate Albums, on the episode which spotlighted the making of Def Leppard’s Pyromania album.’ Collen is quiet for a moment and finally answers, “WOW! I remember it very well, it was great. Going from sideline to opening act in just a few months was spectacular. We didn’t know the band was going to be so popular and that we would make music that would touch people’s lives. You have no idea of that. One great thing about being a musician, it’s not about the success. The real success is actually the fulfillment you get from doing what you like or even more so, what you love doing. You’re not hurting anyone else you’re just expressing yourself and that IS the best part about it.” Collen explains that a lot of bands today just want to be famous and they are not even worried about making money or being creative. The only desire is to be famous. “The number one fulfilling thing about being an artist is to do things to express yourself, that’s honestly where the main fulfillment comes and all the rest is a bonus. If you can make some money out of it, if you can make people happy, if you can do all these other things, that’s great, but the number one thing for me is expressing myself. It’s like being able to fly. Playing guitar like that, singing and writing the songs and when they pull together and you see the magic and say wow!” Going back in time to change or re-arrange things, he says that would be an absolute yes. “To do things differently or change things within the band, that’s all the time. That’s why you all go through the process. It’s almost like process of life in general, you wouldn’t go out with that person, you would never hang out with this person, you wouldn’t do certain events and think, man, I was stupid for doing that…it’s almost like a karmic field, if you like. That’s something you have to go through that shapes who you have become. You had to experience that to become a better you. It’s totally essential because you have to have some awful shitty times to appreciate anything good that comes out of it.”
The buzz from fans wanting to know if the band will be returning to Las Vegas for another residency next year is loud. “Hopefully yes, we will return depending on how Vivian and I both heal. We still haven’t confirmed any dates for the new residency. Many people have been talking about it and all these speculations. We will obviously do Pyromania as we have two diamond albums. After Hysteria, it will definitely be the other one. Of course I have to heal first, because I can only stand up there and sing, wouldn’t be playing any guitar at all,” he laughs. “We’re supposed to be recording, or certainly getting together to write some songs in January. Again, you know I’m still not sure I’ll even be able to play by then, but at least I will go to write some songs. We will keep the residency at about the same number of shows because it’s kind of a good number, if you got into any bit more it becomes really exhausting.” Traveling versus staying in place for gigs was fine by Collen. “It was great staying there in Vegas and not having to travel afterwards. I find traveling on a plane to be more exhausting than traveling on a bus. After a show, I run off stage, have a shower, thankfully. Jump on the bus, go to sleep at wake up in the next town. But if you’re traveling by plane, you have to get up, go to the airport, do the thing; you have the air pressure to deal with messing with your system. There’s a lot involved in it so I’m not a fan of flying around; Joe is, but I don’t like it. I think it’s exhausting.”
For those not able to attend a residency, they may do another small tour. “We would have to have the offers come in, but yea we would love to. We’re due to go back to Japan and Australia, I think that’s about right. We’ve just done some of Europe, so there’s a lot more to do and of course more of the states. What was really interesting about the shows we did this summer, we did one of the best five shows we’ve ever done and that was in Quebec. Even with me not playing 100%, the audience was one of the best audiences we’ve ever had. That was pretty interesting that 30 years after the event, it was an interesting thing to experience.” When asked about rumors of Ded Flatbird taking the stage again and if they were indeed touring with Poison next year, he replied, “You know it was a nice joke doing Ded Flatbird. If we did it again, we’d definitely have to do it a bit different. We’d obviously play some more songs and not sure how we would do the format, we’d have to work that out. It was definitely amazing and crazy at the people that didn’t understand what we were doing. With the drama that tends to go on sometime on Facebook over fake pages and such, I guess it means we’re doing ok. If you get that kind of stuff from grown people, it’s wild, because they exist and they are out there,” he laughs. As for going on tour with Poison, I’ve heard it as well, but that’s all it is, rumors. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Musician, Vegan, Workout Enthusiast, one may wonder what makes Phil Collen tick beyond these and Def Leppard. “All of the above I would have to say. Being the kind of musician I am allows me to do what I want to do. I play the guitar exactly like I want to. I don’t have to do someone else’s thing, which is pretty cool. I’m passionate about everything. I don’t like eating dead bodies that’s why I’m a vegan; I’m healthy because I work out. It’s life that’s great. I’ve got a wonderful family; my lovely wife, Helen is great, my three kids are brilliant. Everything is really wonderful. I’m in a great place and feeling really blessed at the moment. It all works great and even sometimes when it doesn’t, I’ve got nothing to complain about, it’s perfect.”
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