Steve: My dream came true. When we first started I did some gear humping for a band called Wild Horses. Their guitarist, Brian Robertson, the new guy in Motorhead, was one of my heroes. His roadie gave me five quid for humping. A year later I ended up jamming with Wild Horses and the guitar roadie who gave me five quid for helping him ended up working for me! I also remember lying in bed at night, thinking that when I get rich I’ll have a wall full of guitars.
Guitar: Can you remember your first guitar?
Steve: My dad asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said a guitar. He said he’d buy it for me on the condition that I learn it properly. He made me take classical guitar lessons for a year. But when I heard Jimmy Page on How Many More Times, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Before that I knew a few chords but I didn’t know what direction I wanted to take. When I heard that riff, I said ”That’s it!”
Phil: I was an only child, so when I said I wanted a guitar, I got one. I couldn’t play it, but it was a Gibson SG. Steve and I started playing about the same time. I started because I saw Deep Purple in concert. The Led Zeppelin album was also great for guitar inspiration. I sat down and listed to loads of Blackmore and Jan Akkerman.
Guitar: Thousands of guitar players get into Zeppelin and play along with records. What’s the break-off point where you knew you were headed beyond the local pubs?
Pete: It was determination. I know a lot of bands that started off with 16-year-old kids who have never touched an instrument before. They say “Let’s get a band together and start doing concerts, because you can get loads of girls and free drinks.” It wasn’t like that for us. We enjoyed playing together and that’s why we practiced for ten months before performing.
Steve: You can practice and rehearse as a group forever. The only way you can learn how to do it live is on stage. The only way you can learn to be a performer is to actually perform.
Guitar: How soon after your first gig did you make the Getcha Rocks Off EP?
Pete: About three months.
Steve: We’d never been in a studio and thought we’d like to try it. The idea was to make a thousand records and sell them to our friends at local gigs. When we got into the studio we couldn’t believe it would sound like that. We really enjoyed it and learnt a lot because we produced ourselves. It turned out to be one of the best things we ever did, because we actually got into the top 50 on the English charts without a record company. It cost us $300 and we sold 20,000 copies. Then all the record companies started making offers. The radio stations started playing it because (lead vocalist) Joe Elliott got in his car and knocked on their doors asking if they would play our record. They said they would if it was good enough. So we were getting played all over the country and kids were going into record shops and asking for Def Leppard.
Everybody jumped on the bandwagon. We couldn’t wait to get into the studio again to show people what we could really do. But in the end I think some of the tracks on the EP sounded better than the first album.
Guitar: Was it like being kids in a candy store when you finally had all the backing you needed?
Steve: With each successive record we’ve spent more time in the studio. That’s been intentional. On the first record we had no experience whatsoever. We went in and relied on energy. Without experience we got our ideas off of other records, which is a mistake. On Pyromania we spent a hell of a lot of time. It’s not just the time we spent, but the maturity that comes with age and playing together over a long period of time.
With the first album On Through The Night, we did all the backing tracks in two days. We had it finished in two weeks. We had booked the studio for a month, so the second half of the month we were just playing around. We didn’t know when to stop. It was like painting. We got it to its peak and then we thought “we’ve got more time”, so we started throwing more paint on there. We didn’t know where to stop. When you’re a kid and you see a new effect like a flanger or an octave divider, you don’t listen to it for its actual qualities. You use it as a gimmick. You think it sounds great, so you use it on everything until you get bored with it and throw it away.