Def Leppard’s recent success in America has been truly phenomenal. When their ‘Pyromania’ LP was released there in February, it rocketed into the Top Ten, where it’s since maintained a steady position.
As I write this it stands at the number two slot and has every chance of knocking Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ off the top of the charts within the next few weeks. The Leppards are currently on the road in the States and their videos of ‘Photograph’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ are getting shown four or five times a day on the music channel MTV.
Mind you, ’Pyromania’ took one hell of a long time to record and also during their marathon stint in the studios, the band lost guitarist Pete Willis, who was then replaced by former Girl axeman Phil Collen. However Phil has proved to be an excellent replacement and, although I thought Pete was extremely competent, young Mr Collen seems far better suited to the group.
When I spoke to Def Leppard’s other strummer STEVE CLARK I asked him how he felt now that Phil is a member of the outfit.
“When Phil turned up it was a great kick up the arse for me,” Steve declared, “and it provided me with some really good competition. I probably got into a bit of a rut before and tended to let things go by, whereas when Phil joined it was a completely fresh attitude. He was very excited about working and I think his drive and enthusiasm rubbed off on everyone else. Like I say, I’d personally been getting into a rut and it could have got a lot worse if I hadn’t done anything about it.”
Did it become frustrating having to spend so long in the studios recording ‘Pyromania’?
“Oh it definitely became frustrating, but then again we knew we were going to have to spend that amount of time on it to get it sounding anything like we wanted it to.”
Mutt Lange (Leppard’s producer) seems to have taken quite a strong hold on things – is he a dominating person to work with?
“I wouldn’t say he’s dominating, it’s just that he knows exactly how to get the best out of you as a musician. He would probably suggest to me a way of doing a solo with a totally different attitude to the way I’d normally approach it. Sometimes he’d ask for something and you’d think to yourself ‘I’m not capable of doing that’ and he’d say ‘Yeah, of course you are’ and eventually you’d end up doing it.”
How much of your lead work is spontaneous?
“On the whole I’d say that about fifty per cent of it is down to spontaneity but some things like ‘Bringin’ On The Heartbreak’ need a bit more thought behind them because of the nature of the song.”
What guitars did you use on ‘Pyromania’?
“Three Les Paul’s, a Fender Strat, a Telecaster and a couple of Hamers, one of which they brought in especially for me.”
Have you actually got a deal with Hamer?
“Well I made a deal to get a guitar every year, but I haven’t really needed it yet.”
Do you get pestered a lot when you’re in the States by people who want you to endorse their guitars?
“Yeah, a lot of people ask us to try out guitars, but once you’ve signed to one company you can’t really sign to anybody else. So you have to be really careful to make the right decision.”
Are you surprised with the success you’re having in America?
“No, I wouldn’t say that we’re surprised by the success because we all expected this album to do really well. But we were all really thrown for six when it had got so high in the first month and we hadn’t even been over there on tour. We thought we might get to the top end of the chart after we’d been touring for a couple of months but we hardly expected things to happen as quickly as they have.”
Has this put a lot of pressure on you?
“It always puts pressure on you when you get success because you have to follow it. But we’re all reasonably confident that we are going to be able to. We expect better things for the future now that Phil’s in the group because he’s going to be contributing a lot more. No disrespect to Pete Willis, but he was shying away from things and I think Phil’s got a lot of energy.”