Def Leppardís Phil Collen: We had more in common with Duran Duran than Iron Maiden
They started in their teens and served up one of the greatest 1, 2, 3 punches in music history Ė the seminal crunch of 1981ís High Ní Dry, followed by the razor-sharp arena rock of Pyromania in í83, to their genre-smashing, 12x platinum, multi-layered masterpiece, 1987ís Hysteria. To date, Def Leppard have sold over 100 million records worldwide, and acts as diverse as Slayer, Metallica, Taylor Swift, and Tim McGraw cite them as a major influence.
Whatís it like to ride that wave? Founding guitarist, vegan kickboxer, and one of the nicest guys in rock, Phil Collen, gets it all down in his new memoir, Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard, and Beyond. We caught up with him to talk about the book and the bandís forthcoming album Ė their 11th Ė the self-titled Def Leppard.
So whatís the key to playing guitar with your shirt off at age 57 & still looking great?
Itís a really easy fix but no oneís prepared to do it, yíknow? Eating right and not drinking alcohol. Or if you are drinking, not much of it. And being a bit active. Honestly, itís that simple. It amazes me no one will do that!
Yeah, but youíre not just fit, youíre jacked.
When I was lifting heavy I would have a vegan protein powder, and I still do occasionally but I try to balance it out. Iíve always done a lot of martial arts and I take a kick bag on tour and do a lot of drills so that keeps me loose and supple and basically young. Thatís the fountain of youth part. I actually screwed my back up a few months ago and I could only do two things that didnít hurt ó push-ups and pull-ups on a bar. So thatís all I did with some really light crunches. Iíve been doing this a lot of years so Iíve been able to figure out what works and what does not. You can get away with a lot less, just by tweaking it here and there.
You mention working with legendary kickboxer Benny ďThe JetĒ Urquidez. Have you ever sparred with Duff McKagan?
I havenít! I trained with Benny in the late 90s and I believe Duff still trains with him now. Duff and I have spoken about it since we have such fond memories of Sensei Benny.
A revelation from Adrenalized Ė youíre still not an official member of Def Leppard.
Right! (laughs) I think they did sneak me in there somewhere though.
Why did you decide to write a memoir now?
I didnít, actually. I was at the Gerson Institute for a fund raiser and a friend of mine, Chris Epting, whoís my co-writer, suggested I write a book. I donít really like the idea, as it seems egotistical but Chris convinced me we could do it in a different sort of way.
This was my takeaway on the secret of Def Leppardís success: You were frugal, loyal and never forgot your working class roots.
Iíd say you hit it bang-on the head. Thatís it in a nutshell. Itís like fitness in that itís not rocket science, but few are willing to do it. Our parents grew up in war-torn England with the Blitz going off trying to kill them and buildings blowing up here and there and they took that value system and instilled it into us. I think the further you get away from that sort of suffering and hard work, the less respect and honor people have in their everyday lives. All the guys in Def Leppard had that same working class background and it was based on those values. Even down to things like not wasting water, because there were rations.
I loved the part where youíre on the biggest tour in the world but you still refuse limos.
Absolutely! But then again, we were also surrounded by really cool people. At first we said, ďLimos are great!Ē Then Peter Mensch, our former manager, would say ďGuys, let me break it down for youÖĒ
So we were fortunate that we had people who would nurture us and explain those things. A lot of bands donít know or simply donít care. Even with our management, it was very much a team and a family. And it still is to this day.
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