With their new Greatest Hits album out this week, we talk to Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen...
With 11 studio albums to their name over a career that spans more than four decades, Sheffield rock legends Def Leppard are hardly short of hits. But despite this, it has been a full 13 years since the band last released a Greatest Hits compilation, so today represents a bit of a bonanza for Def Leppard fans, with the band releasing not only a vinyl box set of 7" singles from their 1987 masterpiece Hysteria, but also a brand new compilation entitled The Story So Far: The Best of Def Leppard.
The new compilation features a selection of the band's finest tunes, as well as a couple of other surprises including a Depeche Mode cover and even the first Def Leppard Christmas song.
With both arriving in stores today we caught up with the band's guitarist Phil Collen for a char about putting the album together...
It has been 13 years since you last released a Greatest Hits compilation, why did you decide that now was the right time for another?
"Because there are more fans out there. There are more people who don’t know who Def Leppard are – even 13 year-old kids who weren’t around when we released the last one! We have a whole new audience and it’s great to release old material in a new package because it lets new fans know what we are all about. Especially now all our music is now available digitally too."
How did you go about choosing which songs to include? Was it a fairly democratic process or does Def Leppard have a hierarchy when it comes to decisions like this?
"The songs kind of choose themselves. Obviously the 'hot chestnuts', as we call them, like 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', 'Love Bites', 'Hysteria', 'Photograph' and that stuff takes care of itself. Then there is other stuff like 'Promises', which was a hit in America. 'Nine Lives' with Tim McGraw was also a big radio hit in America. Eventually you then hit a cut-off point when the album has picked itself. It’s almost nothing to do with us in a way – all we have to take care of is the running order!"
Were there any songs that you wanted on there which didn't make the cut? If so, what were they and why did they end up being left out?
"There are songs I would love to be on there – like 'White Lightning', 'Paper Sun' – but they don’t deserve to be on there as they weren’t really hits. Because you only have x amount of space to fill they just don’t make it. The album is a popularity contest for the public!"
There are a couple interesting of interesting inclusions on the tracklist, one of which being a cover of Depeche Mode's 'Personal Jesus' – how did that come about? Was it a tough choice to put that on there at the expense of one of your own songs?
"It wasn’t a tough choice as it’s a new song so it works for existing fans who might know the other material. The song was originally recorded for a live session that needed one old track and one cover. We couldn’t all agree on one cover but our producer and sound tech Ronan plays Depeche Mode’s 'Personal Jesus' every day to test the PA. Eventually Vivian said 'How about Personal Jesus?' and we all said 'yeah, alright!' We all jumped on that and agreed so that’s how we ended up recording it."
The other thing that caught our eye is that you've recorded a Christmas song! Who came up with that idea? Any plans for a Def Leppard Christmas album?
"There are definitely NO plans for a Def Leppard Christmas album! Rick Savage had an idea for a song but he said 'it’s kind of Christmassy!' It was a great song but it did have a Christmas feel about it. We recorded it on tour and we ended up doing the backing vocals in Miami. It was about 40 degrees outside and we were doing a song about winter and Christmas. We recorded the whole song backstage, in hotel rooms, anywhere quiet for the right acoustics. It was good fun to do and great to pull it off."
You've been touring the world with Journey this year, how has that been? What have been the highlights of the tour?
"I think to do the stadiums. It’s always great to do them and just think 'wow, here we are'. I think doing Hysteria in its entirety is great too. The fact we can take something older and repackage it and do it in a new way is great – as are the reactions to it."
Can you see yourselves touring into old age like the Rolling Stones? Or do you think there will come a time when you all say 'enough'?
"Well, I’ll be 61 when we play Nottingham (in December 2018), so we are already there! I remember after we released Hysteria I was 29 and I was honestly onstage thinking 'I’m not sure how many more years we have left as I’ll be 30 soon!' Now, at 60, I don’t care – I’ve never felt this good physically (I feel better than I did when I was 30). So, I guess not. We kind of bypassed middle aged I think and here we are and it doesn’t seem to bother us. I can get a senior rate at the movies now, it’s great!"
There was a 7-year gap in between your last two studio albums – any idea when we can expect another?
"Asking a member of Def Leppard when their next album is coming out?! People should have learned by now! We haven’t got a clue. We have started working on the new one – even last year. We will be doing bits of recording on tour. But no idea when it will be ready as we’ve never met a deadline!"
What does 2019 hold for Def Leppard? More touring? Recording? Taking a break?
"Lots more touring!"
The Story So Far: The Best of Def Leppard is out now - you can find it here in our online store.