Def Leppard's Joe Elliott on life, death and new songs 

See them at Klipsch tonight

  • Def Leppard
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Gunter, glieben, glauten globen: Def Leppard is coming to Klispch tonight on tour with REO Speedwagon and Tesla, continuing their three-part tour promoting their new, self-titled, “accidental” eleventh studio album.

Lead singer, Joe Elliot, chattedwith us earlier this week about the ongoing tour, the fans, and the realities of life and death as a rock star. The oldies, the goodies, and definitely some new anthems will be performed at the outdoor arena tonight.

NUVO: How is the tour going so far?

Joe Elliott: So far so good! It’s 47 shows in total. ... It’s broken into three sections, 15, 15 and 13. We’ve done four so far, and then we’ve got 11 before we get a little break. Mostly on the East Coast all at the moment… but it’s been great at the moment. Great crowds, really really great crowds.

The weather is starting to heat up now, and it’s getting rather sweaty. But, we’re kinda used to that because we tour the States in the summer all the time, so it’s just part of the live experience seeing five guys on stage covered in sweat [laughing]. It makes for a fun night.

NUVO: I noticed that this isn’t an international tour. Why is that?

Elliott: It’s a continuation of last year. We started the tour in Canada, we did twelve shows in Canada, then we did 12 shows in Europe, we did five shows I believe in the States last summer. And then we went down to Singapore, Japan and Australia. Then we toured the UK and Ireland.

We finished up in December, and now we’re back in the States again. So, it’s a more of continuation of the album promotion and into the brand new starting tour. The rest of the world is very different from America, you can’t do Australia every year. There’s only seven or eight major cities. Same with the UK, and obviously same with Japan. But with the States, you could play one hundred shows one summer, and one hundred shows in totally different towns the next. The opportunity to play in the States more often is just there because of the vastness of the actual country and how many cities there are.

NUVO: Can you talk a little bit about Def Leppard’s involvement with Tesla’s upcoming album?

Elliott: Well, there’s no Def Leppard involvement in it, but there’s Phil Collen's [lead guitarist] involvement in it. We’ve known these guys since 1987 when they opened for us on the Hysteria tour. We’ve always been really tight with them. ... Phil got heavily involved with them about a year or so ago. They just started talking one night, I think it was Brian who said, “Why don’t you produce our next record,” and Phil said, “All right.” And then, they’ve actually been working on it throughout the tour.

They have a recording studio set up back stage, very similar to the way we did Sparkle Lounge in 2008. They’re demoing songs, they’re writing songs, Phil is overseeing the whole thing, obviously, in his spare time. I know he was recording some stuff with them during their last break, about six weeks ago, and during the next upcoming break I have no doubt that he’ll go in and do a little bit more, and then they’ll do a short tour at the end of the year. But me, Sav [Rick Savage] Vivian [Campbell] and Rick [Allen] aren’t involved. It’s totally Phil’s thing.

NUVO: What was the motivation behind your new studio album?

Elliott: Just to make some new music. That was the whole motivation. We haven’t made an album of new music, such as a full project, since 2008, which was the Sparkle Lounge album. Since then it’s been mostly either touring, or we did the live album, Mirror Ball, in 2011. We put the Viva Hysteria album out in 2013, I think it was. And there were three new songs on the end of the live album.
We got our writing mojo back, and we got good at it for a while… we just knew it was time for us to make some new music. We didn’t want to exist as a nostalgia band- going out there and playing songs from one hundred years ago. We always want to play them, but we also want to make sure you’re hearing something different. We were fortunate enough when we got together to write two or three songs, which is what we thought we were going to do, but we ended up writing 12. When we went back on the second stint of working on them, we wrote two more, so we ended up with 14 songs. We got very fluid; songs were just pouring out of us. It was just a buildup.

We stopped recording studio records seven years or so when we started putting these records together. There were plenty of ideas running around, and we were really having a lot of fun making this record because there was no pressure on us. We didn’t realize we were actually making a record because we set out to write three or four songs. All of a sudden we realized we had 12, and it was like “I think we just made an album without knowing it.”

There wasn’t pressure from our A&R man, or the label, or even from ourselves to try and compete with Hysteria, or try to make it sound like Hysteria, or avoid it all together. There were none of those boundaries, we just wrote what we wanted to write, and it just flowed out of us. It was kind of like an accidental album… I suggest that everyone who reads this in a month makes an album like we did because it’ll be the most fun album you’ll ever make, and it’ll probably be a very productive piece of work. It’s a great album, we really like this record. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done. It was certainly fun and enjoyable to make and create…you don’t want it to be an unpleasant experience making an album just to fulfill a contract, you know? We weren’t doing that, we were making an artistic statement, and that was the most original, organic way you can make a record.

NUVO: How would you describe Def Leppard’s growth as a band over time?

Elliott: We exist, we constantly exist like the Rolling Stones, or even like individuals like Paul McCartney. It’s a career, this is something we’ve always wanted to do and we don’t really want to stop doing it. We never saw a shelf life, as long as we enjoyed it, and as long we don’t become a parody of ourselves, we can still do what we do which is make a collection of songs into an album. Worldwide, I believe we are better at what we do as musicians. We are better songwriters than we were, we understand the process better, we can make records on our own and make them sound as good as any record we’ve ever made.
And as people, we’ve all grown as well. Everybody is older, everybody has got different priorities, where the band starts to be less important when you’ve got families and kids and all that kind of stuff. It prioritizes what should be made a priority, and sometimes music will take the backseat for a while you’re dealing with family stuff. But that makes you appreciate it more because you’re not laboring on yourself. So, we’re just all-around better people better musicians than we were starting out. We still have the enthusiasm to keep doing it, keep playing shows because there’s an audience out there that wants to see it.

NUVO: What does Def Leppard do differently from other bands so you don’t become another '80s-has-been?

Elliott: There are certain clichés that we try to avoid. We’ve never been the kind of band that you’ll see clamoring to be on TMZ, looking drunk and all hung over wearing headbands and sweat wristbands and all the '80s gear and all that kind of crap. We’ve always wanted to progress. We were what we were, and we are what we are, and I think a lot of the 80s bands are what they were. But, with us, you see progress. If you don’t see progress, you at least try something different. We don’t try and remain what we were, I think that would be quite sad. There’s a certain amount of growth, and there’s also a certain amount of change.
Marketing has nothing to do with it. We make a record, we make ourselves available for a tour… people are coming — still. In fact there’s more coming now than there were before, so we must be doing something right, but it’s not like we labor over what it is. It’s very natural what we do, so it’s difficult to pinpoint what it is. We don’t sit down and work it out, I guess we’re blessed to a point. There’s a certain amount of talent, and there’s a certain amount of naturalness to what we do where we’re not labored and forced. We’re not told what to wear, and told to cut our hair… we just are what we are. And, I guess people seem to like it.

NUVO: How did the recent passing of so many rock greats- Lemmy, Bowie, and Prince- effect you?

Elliott: It affects me greatly, you know, because these are all people that I grew up listening to as a kid. It’s way more than those three, you’re looking at Buffin [Dale Griffin] the drummer from Mott the Hoople died this year. They were one of my favorite ever bands. Glenn Frey from the Eagles died. January was a particularly bad month this year, and it kinda makes you think about your own mortality.

You look at it and it’s sad. These people have been in our lives since we were 10. In the case of David Bowie, I bought my first Bowie album when I was 11… and they’re not here anymore. The positive side of it is that their music will last forever. The fact is that there won’t be any new stuff, and that’s it’s old, you have to go back into the vaults like you had to do with Elvis, which itself can be exciting.

Life is a strange thing, when you’re your age, you don’t think about it, but when you’re my age you realize that the longer you go on in life, there are only two certain things: one, you’re born, and that’s one of them. The other is dying. You try to keep those two things as far apart as possible. That’s what we all try to do, I guess. 


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