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Although Def Leppard is a hard-rock band, it sounds like there are modern country influences in your music. Did that come from Mutt Lange?
Collen: Yeah, Mutt invented that stuff when he got with Shania Twain. He made that crossover possible because, before that, everyone was struggling with pure country and western. A lot of the rock guys who lived in L.A. after the ’80s metal thing kind of went away all moved to Nashville. They cut their hair and started playing other stuff—playing sessions. Mutt actually fused the two together. I’m not a huge country fan, but I remember while we were doing Pyromania and Hysteria, I’d go to his car and he’d have a George Jones cassette lying on the floor.
What are your main guitars now?
Collen: Mutt Lange introduced me to Grover Jackson back in the day, and that’s what I’ve been using since then. I have some great, customized guitars, and Jackson got them right. Some of the guys who do my stuff now worked there back then, 20-something years ago. They know what I like—the size of the neck, everything. We just keep improving on them. My main guitar is a Jackson PC1. I have two models: One’s a natural—and it’s an old workhorse—and I just got another one called the PC Supreme, which is a neck-through. It’s got a big, fat neck. In fact, it’s the biggest neck I think Jackson has ever made. When I pick up other guitars, I don’t enjoy [them] as much. When I play my own, I get a thrill out of it. That’s been a constant thing with Jackson.
Campbell: Mine is a bastardized Les Paul Custom with a silver-sparkle finish. It started life as a ’78 Les Paul Custom that I bought at a pawnshop in Nashville in 1993. It had a great neck, which was the reason why I bought it. Then it got run over by something very heavy when I was traveling to Europe. What remained of the guitar was the headstock, the neck, and the front pickup. I had the guitar re-bodied with a 1958 Jimmy Page-style knock-off body, so it’s smaller and a little bit lighter than a regular Les Paul Custom. I refretted it with Dunlop 6000 fretwire, which I have on all my guitars. It has a DiMarzio Super 3 in the bridge, which is the same one that Phil uses in his Jacksons, and TonePros hardware. I’ve got a 300k pot on the Volume knob, so it cleans up a little more when it rolls off. Basically, the entire guitar has been reworked, but there’s something about that guitar that just sounds and plays great.
You guys have different amp rigs for Def Leppard, depending on where you are in the world, as well as separate rigs for your side projects, right?
Campbell: For Def Leppard, I have the typical switching system, with a refrigerator rack full of digital delays and stereo processing— which is necessary. My Def Leppard rig hasn’t changed for years, but this year I swapped out my Marshall cabs for Engl cabs, which sound a lot brighter to me. I’ve also put in Engl power amps, which have a lot more flexibility. I’m still using the Marshall JMP-1—I’ve had it in my rig for 15 years—but in addition to those, I’ve been given a couple of Engl preamps to try.
I also have a brilliant-sounding rig that I built for the Thin Lizzy tour. It’s basically a Mojave Scorpion 50-watt head and a Mojave 4x12 cab. It’s a very direct signal path. With that rig, I run my Les Paul on a cable, because I don’t like what a wireless does to your guitar sound—but in Def Leppard I have to use a wireless because of the size of that stage. With Thin Lizzy, it’s my Les Paul into a Dunlop Hendrix Wah pedal to a Way Huge Angry Troll boost pedal to the front end of the Mojave. The Mojave doesn’t have an effects loop, but it has an adjustable line out, so I take the line out and feed that into the front of a Fulltone Tube Tape Echo. watt amp that powers a Marshall 4x12 cab. So I have a dry cab and a wet cab with a tape delay, and it sounds so good.
Collen: On the new ManRaze album, I used exactly what I used on the three Def Leppard bonus songs. It’s all software based. I used Native Instruments Guitar Rig 4 from my laptop, and it sounds killer. Live with Def Leppard, I’ve been using the same thing for, like, 15 years—a JMP-1 rackmount with an old Randall solid-state power amp from the ’80s. It’s been really reliable. I’m not really much of an effects guy. In fact, my tech, Scott Appleton, does all the effects changes for me. It saves me from jumping around on the pedalboard. With ManRaze, a lot of the time I use a Fender Cyber-Twin for live shows. It sounds great when you put it through cabinets. It really gets the high gain and everything, and it has effects built into it. I just use an overdriven sound for solos and add a bit of delay. For the most part, it’s very straightforward.
Despite its somewhat straightforward “super strat” look, Collen’s Jackson PC1 signature
model has two pop-out 9-volt-battery hatches around back. One is for the active DiMarzio
humbucker, and the other powers the Jackson Sustainer/Driver in the neck position.