Steve Clark on rehearsing

SOURCE: GUITAR For The Practicing Musician – December 1986. [The All-Steve issue] | By John Stix

Though their long-awaited follow-up to Pyromania has been beset with tragedy and set back a mile or so along the way to eventual Platinumville, Steve Clark and his cronies in Def Leppard would not have come so far without good rehearsal habits. It’s probably safe to say they’d still be having glory dreams instead of being the stuff they’re made of. So when we got to Steve we quizzed him on the process by which those dreams were spun into gold.

From the beginning, one of the main things we found out in putting our sound together is that it didn’t matter how much equipment we had, as long as it was good. We discovered it was a lot easier, when you’re starting out, to keep it simple. I used to use a Marshall Combo which sounded great.

For tuning up, we do it in such a way that everybody arrives at ten minute intervals. This way you get your own time to sort it out. As soon as you sort out your sound and tune up, put down your guitar and have a drink. We plan our soundchecks the same way. We never walk up at the same time and try and do a soundcheck. Everybody has ten minutes to get their sound together and then we do a number.

During the rehearsal it’s best to keep things real quiet so you can all talk to each other over the music. Another good reason for playing quietly is if everyone is loud and you’re all jamming away, you can’t hear if there’s any mistakes being made. If you play quietly you can hear everything that’s going on and get tight. We don’t worry about the sound at all when we’re getting songs together. It doesn’t matter how much equipment you play through.

But to get it tight you’ve got to hear every note that’s being played. If you get it tight at a low volume, everybody is playing together as a band rather than as individuals. It’s going to be so tight that when you do turn it up you’ll have more than a full sound; you’ll have it right as well.

Steve with black Fender Stratocaster

One important thing about rehearsing when you’re starting out is to tape everything. Start the tape and let it run straight through till the end. When you play it back you can hear the mistakes that you’ve made. If you just keep on jamming without taping yourself, you can be doing something wrong and you’ll never notice it. It’s hard to change habits once you start doing something. If you want to be in a good band and get to the top, you’ve got to have that professional attitude. You’ve got to go for it from the beginning and get into a routine where you know it’s going to be the same every time you do it.

The attitude about rehearsing changes a lot after you make records. When we started out we had no comparison. We just played with what we thought were the best arrangements. When we made our first LP, High ‘n’ Dry, we had never played any of those songs live before. So we had to play the record and think how are we going to get this overdub.

Your attitude changes. It’s not, let’s just pump these chords out, it’s, who is going to play this guitar part and can we miss that bit? There’s certain things that I might do on record and Phil actually plays live. So the main thing we do now in rehearsal is figuring out who is going to play which part.

We were lucky when we started because we didn’t rehearse at anybody’s house or garage. We got a rehearsal room and fitted it out with a coffee machine and chairs. Everybody had a key so that whenever you felt like it, you could go down and make as much noise as you wanted on your own and tape it too.

We rehearsed from six to eleven every night. On weekends we’d probably stay there until four in the morning.