The M Interview: Def Leppard, rock's survivors
When it comes to personal setbacks and adversities, veteran British rockers Def Leppard have seen it all.
In 1984, a serious car accident caused drummer Rick Allen to lose his left arm, yet he continued playing and till today, uses a specially-designed electronic drum kit.
Then in 1991, guitarist Steve Maynard Clark died from respiration failure, brought on by an overdose of alcohol, anti-depressants and prescription drugs.
More than three decades later, the struggles for these hair metal giants appear to be an ongoing reality — their guitarist Vivian Campbell, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013, revealed last month that his cancer has returned after being in remission for a couple of years.
Yet, just like their upbeat hits Photograph, Animal and Pour Some Sugar On Me, the Sheffield quintet — which also comprises frontman Joe Elliott, bassist Rick Savage and guitarist Phil Collen — have stayed positive throughout.
Ahead of their one-night concert in Singapore next month, M spoke to Collen, 57, over the phone from “a beach in California” to talk about overcoming ordeals, their new single Dangerous and that 1D song...
You guys last played in Singapore in 1996. Any fond memories of our country?
We had a great time. I remember we were at Boat Quay, which was really cool. I don’t drink, but it was wonderful to take in the sights. Singapore is very clean, one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to in my life.
With your new single being titled Dangerous, what’s the most dangerous situation you guys have found yourselves in?
Once, we were on a plane that almost crashed. We were on tour, flying to St. Louis (in the US) when our plane dropped 2,000 feet (610m) in two seconds. It was extremely scary and pretty weird.
After the encounter, we found out that two storms had met each other and our pilot didn’t have any choice but to manoeuvre the plane out of the way.
The first few years after Rick lost his arm, did he have a rough time getting back to speed with the band?
It wasn’t an easy time for all of us, as we had also lost (bandmate) Steve Clark.
We were living in a house in Ireland and Rick would get up at 8am every morning to play the drums. He would blast away, not stopping till midnight. He wanted to get his left foot as accurate as possible (Allen utilises a combination of electronic pads and foot pedals to trigger the snare drum, using the foot normally used for hi-hat pedals).
Of course it was a lot of hard work on his part and he has done so much.
PHOTO: ROSS HALFIN
How is Vivian coping with cancer?
He has different types of cancer therapy going on, we are keeping our fingers crossed that his treatments work.
You guys were huge in the 1980s. Personally, what was the best and worst part about the 1980s?
The music industry really took off in the 80s, but unfortunately, it was more a business thing than an art form.
To put it simply, the 80s marked the start of a flourishing music business, but the end of good music.
Do you listen to today’s pop music? Any new pop acts you like?
Today’s pop tunes are mostly written by a bunch of producers and songwriters and they’re very much contrived.
Everyone is copying everyone, there’s a lot of duplication. The last good material I heard was at least five years ago, by (US electronic music producer-DJ) Skrillex. He came up with some very cool stuff.
Speaking of copying, I’m sure you’ve read that netizens found UK boy band One Direction’s song, Midnight Memories, strikingly similar to Pour Some Sugar On Me. What is your take on that?
Well, someone else wrote and produced that song for (One Direction), (the boys) didn’t write it.
All of us musicians get inspired by older songs and duplicate things here and there, we all do it to a certain extent. It’s all fine. That said, I do think Midnight Memories sounds a little too close to Pour Some Sugar On Me.
What are your favourite Def Leppard hits to play live?
I don’t get tired of playing anything. (Laughs) I mean, sound checks are boring, but the minute you put an audience there, everything becomes amazing.
It’s wonderful seeing people halfway across the world singing along to songs that you recorded in a studio.
I prefer doing our high-energy tunes, as it’s more of a challenge, rhythm-wise. Slow songs are fine, but our faster songs are the ones that really show off our amazing grooves.
WHAT: Def Leppard Live In Singapore
WHEN: Nov 24, 8pm
WHERE: Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre Level 6, Hall 601-604
TICKETS: $108 to $168 from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg or 6348-5555)