Since Phil replaced Pete Willis on guitar, it would seem like the success the band achieved after Pyromania could have been partly due to the change in line up. Why did Pete leave?
Eh… well he…one, he had a drinking problem. But it wasn’t because of that. A spark had gone. It wasn’t good for him anymore and it wasn’t good for us. It was like a mutual agreement that he probably shouldn’t play anymore.
You and Phil were old friends. Did that make a difference?
Yeah, it would have made a lot of difference if we didn’t get on. That would have been really tough and hard work, and half of the thing with Def Leppard is that it has to be natural and fun. But Phil brought a little more energy to the group, more enthusiasm. Pete started grinding things to a halt on occasion and he was a bit tough, but Phil’s enthusiasm and attitude made everybody sort of pick up and pound through it.
Do you work closely with Phil on riffs, or do you both come into the studio with your own ideas?
Yeah, we always work really close together, even to working out solos together; we’ll suggest things to each other. We’re actually sitting in with each other when we do solos and things like that, and he’ll say, “That sounds weird,” or “I don’t like that,” and I do the same for Phil. So it’s a very close relationship. Neither of us is scared to admit something is great or something’s terrible. (laughs) It works really good together. We’re very different. Phil goes for playing fast (laughs) and I try for something with a bit more melody, or orchestrate it a bit more. The two together really compliment each other. I don’t think about it too much, to be quite honest. (laughs)
Who influenced your playing?
Mainly Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page. I like Jimmy Page not just for the guitar playing, but he wrote most of the material, he produced it, played his solos, and live, he was a good showman. So the whole package really influenced me a lot, rather than just to sit down on a stool and play faster than somebody else. I mean, I’m aware of Steve Vai and things like that, I’ve heard them. I really don’t care for what they do. I don’t really enjoy guitarists who just show how great they are. I appreciate what they do, but it don’t put me out.
As heavy pop bands like Bon Jovi brought metal styles into the foreground, the guitar has sort of taken a back seat. On Hysteria the solos are pretty short. Is that a problem for you as musicians?
No. Even on some of the early albums the solos were always cut down to a minimum; there were never any sort of self-indulgent parts. We prefer it that way. We don’t want long drawn-out solos. Everything is for the good of the song and the solo has to compliment it. We never write a song to find an excuse to solo. It all has to work together.
Do you listen to any hot soloists?
Not really. I prefer to listen to The Police or Prince or Led Zeppelin when I feel like rocking out, rather than other bands I’m competing with. We’ve never let the market influence what we do. We always thought we were going to stretch it a little bit with Pyromania and things like that. A lot of groups really ripped off Pyromania and they made Pyromania too horrid, (laughs) so we thought we’d do something slightly different. We’ve always set the standards rather than follow them. With Hysteria we just looked for something to try to stay one step ahead. But in the future we’ll probably change again. I don’t really know what kind of direction we’ll take, I don’t know if it will be heavier or poppier. It’ll be just what feels right next time we make an album.
We’ve already started working on songs for the next one. We were a bit naive after Pyromania: We were obviously aware that we had to make another album, but we never faced up to it until the last minute: “Oh shit, we’re gonna make another one.” We’re very conscious not to let that happen ever again. So this time, even when Hysteria was being mixed, Phil and myself were still working on some songs. We’ve got about four ideas on board. Whether they’ll be on the next album or not, I don’t know, but at least it’s healthy that we’re thinking about it beforehand.
Will Mutt Lange produce it?
We don’t know yet. I’d love it if he could, but we’ve learned the best thing is just to see what happens at the time, (laughs) like everything with this group.