Phil Collen onstage with his Jackson PC1 signature model.
It’s amazing that, after a 34-year career full of hits and sold-out arenas,
Def Leppard is just now releasing its first live album. Mirror
Ball: Live & More
bristles with the same raw, visceral excitement that
made the band’s music the inescapable rock soundtrack of the ’80s.
It’s a power-packed, two-CD set culled from the best performances
of their 2008-2009 tour. Staples such as “Foolin’,” “Rock of Ages,”
“Too Late for Love,” and “Photograph” are served up with gut-level
urgency, while three additional studio tracks round out the package.
Though the band first got attention based on the work of original
guitarists Pete Willis and Steve Clark—as exemplified by hits like
“Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and “High ’n’ Dry (Saturday Night)”—
Phil Collen replaced Willis during the recording of Lep’s 1983 breakout
. In 1991, Clark died from an accidental overdose,
and in 1992 former Dio and Whitesnake guitarist Vivian Campbell
took his place. Since then, Collen and Campbell have constituted the
band’s 6-string team, though both have also moonlighted in various
side projects to keep their creative juices flowing in directions not
quite fitting the Leppard mold: ManRaze is Collen’s edgy, punk-funk-dub
project starring Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and former Girl
bassist Simon Laffy, and Vivian Campbell is finishing up a dream gig
touring with one of the greatest rock bands of all time—Thin Lizzy.
caught up with Collen and Campbell just before Leppard’s
2011 tour to talk about the new album, their creative process, and
the gear they love.
Why did it take so long for you guys to
release a live album?
It’s well known that it takes
forever for Def Leppard to make a record.
.] This is true. It’s
been that cycle of album, tour, album, tour.
Traditionally, when you’re with a major
label they’re not really fond of you doing a
live album because, historically, they don’t
sell as well as a studio album.
We were always focused on
making studio albums and didn’t have the
time to focus on anything else. Between
tours, we’d take some time off, write
some songs, and be back in the studio.
We’ve always done that, and we’ve always
wanted to keep moving forward that way.
In fact, we didn’t actually record Mirror
specifically to release as a live album.
We just started to archive it. In the old
days, when you did a live album you had
to get a mobile truck and it was big and
expensive—and it was just one show.
There was all the pressure and red-light
fever—“Oh my God! I better get this
right, it’s going on a record forever!” We
didn’t have any of that because we were
just doing our shows.
The technology nowadays is cheap,
affordable, and portable enough that all
you need is a laptop, some software, and a
bunch of hard drives. Basically, we started
recording every night, and we did that all
over the 2008–2009 tour. It also takes the
pressure off the band, because you forget
you’re being recorded. The hardest part was
actually going through the material and
deciding what the best performances were.
We left it to Joe [Elliott, vocals] to figure
out which night he sang best on a certain
song. He has the hardest gig, being the lead
singer. The human voice wears down more
than my fingers.