Steve Clark

The following excerpt from an interview with Phil Collen back in April/May 2011 appeared on Gibson’s website. As always Phil Collen talked fondly and positively about Steve and again he describes a bit about his friend’s musical style and their partnership:

By Michael Wright | 5th May 2011

T wenty years ago this past January, Def Leppard guitarist and founding member Steve Clark died of a drug and alcohol overdose. He was 30 years old at the time of his death. By that time, Clark had shared the stage with guitarist Phil Collen for over eight years. Collen had joined the band following the departure of guitarist Pete Willis and partnered with Clark on the group’s popular Pyromania and Hysteria albums, becoming the best of friends along the way.

Collen recently sat down with MusicRadar and discussed his partnership with the late guitarist.

“Sometimes it seems like just yesterday that I saw him,” Collen said. “His style of playing and his personality… You know, Steve was just the loveliest guy in the world. He was like my best friend. We’d talk for hours and hours about everything under the sun.”

Collen said the two guitarists were different stylistically, though they shared a major influence.

“As guitarists, our styles were quite different,” he recalled. “Although some things would overlap, our influences weren’t the same, really. Steve’s favorite player was Jimmy Page, but not just because of the actual playing per se—he really dug Jimmy was a producer and writer and the guy who put together so much of Led Zeppelin’s music.

Here, Steve and I were in total agreement, because I think Jimmy Page is a genius. A lot of people just get the guitar stuff from Page, but Steve would really tune in to what he did as an arranger. The music was very complex, almost like classical arrangements in many ways.

Steve absorbed a lot of that from Jimmy Page. The biggest thing he took was a complete sense of musicality. The song, the sound, the mood… the impact. It’s not about just ‘shredding’ or doing all kinds of crazy guitar licks. It’s more of an overall style and finesse thing. Steve definitely had all of that down.”

Even two decades removed from Clark’s death, Collen said he still thinks of his old friend.

“It is hard to believe that he’s been gone for 20 years. My son, Rory, is 21 now, and I can still remember Steve meeting him for the first time – and only time, for that matter – when he was just one year old. Steve kind of rubbed Rory’s little bald head and smiled. It was very sweet… a nice memory.”