Def Leppard's Joe Elliott stopped by the Noisecreep offices recently to chat with us about the band's summer tour with Poison and Cheap Trick, their appearance at the CMT Awards with Taylor Swift and the band's recent appearance at the Donington's Download Festival. As always, Elliott was candid, hilarious and honest. And we even managed to sneak in some fan-submitted questions to this gentle, blond giant.
One such question focused on whether Def Leppard would ever consider going country, because of their recent work with Swift and Tim McGraw.
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What in tarnation is going on with Def Leppard?
Last year, country superstar Tim McGraw sang with the British band on the single "Nine Lives." Taylor Swift, the omnipresent teen sensation, sang with the band on a "CMT Crossroads" performance in 2008, joining singer Joe Elliott and company for versions of "Photograph" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me."
It's not that Def Leppard has traded its Union Jack motif for cowboy hats. It's only country musicians acknowledging the pervasive influence of Def Leppard.
"There was never any intention of Def Leppard going country," guitarist Viv Campbell says in advance of Friday's concert with Poison and Cheap Trick at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in Burgettstown. "Nor are we influenced by it any way."
According to Campbell, Swift's affection for Def Leppard came by way of her mother's passion for the band.
Who would have thought 32 years ago when British heavy metal band Def Leppard formed in Sheffield, England, that they would end up performing on a country music awards show in Nashville?
But there they were last month on the CMT awards performing their hit, Pour Some Sugar On Me, with teenaged country music star Taylor Swift alongside them. The two acts had been nominated together for their collaborative work on the CMT Crossroads series.
Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell said he's sure some people in the audience were scratching their heads.
"It was a little bizarre but the industry is changing so much," said the affable musician down the line recently from Nashville, the day after their CMT performance.
"Country music is heading more mainstream and other genres are collaborating and getting involved. It's kind of surreal in a way. It's a little strange. The music industry is a continually moving target. It used to be a fixed target and now it's just whatever goes. And Taylor Swift, for example, has nothing to do with country music. She's definitely pop. If you took away the violin and the banjo that she employs, in my opinion, there's nothing country about it."
Rick Allen knows about drumming. Since he was 15, he's been the drummer for the heavy-metal band Def Leppard.
And he knows about crisis. In 1984, when he was 21, he lost his left arm in a car wreck. Two years later, he returned as Def Leppard's drummer, manipulating electronic pedals with his left foot to play what he used to with his left arm. Now 45, he will drum with the band Friday at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Offstage, Allen has put the two together — musicianship and hardship — in a nonprofit organization, founded with his wife, Lauren Monroe, that combines drumming with alternative therapies to bring relief to people in crisis.
Started in 2001, their Raven Drum Foundation has evolved into a group that focuses on helping veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many have lost limbs in bombings and require years of rehabilitation and a lifetime of adaptation.
Def Leppard found itself in one of the most unlikely settings one could have ever considered for a group that came out of England in the late 1970s with a sound influenced by early '70s glammy rockers such as T. Rex, David Essex and Thin Lizzy.
The band was at the CMT Music Awards June 16, beside country stars Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts and Sugarland. The group was there because of "CMT Crossroads," a show from which their performance with country sensation Taylor Swift of the Def Leppard song "Photograph" was nominated for both CMT Performance of the Year and Wide Open Country Video of the Year.
To say the least, Def Leppard was caught off guard by its nominations, said guitarist Phil Collen. Even though the band lost out on the awards, it felt honored to be nominated.
Hamburg isn't exactly known as a heavy metal capital – yet. But after Friday, who knows?
Friday has been proclaimed Def Leppard Day in the Town of Hamburg, by virtue of a unanimous vote Monday by a bemused Town Board.
Two members of the famed band, Phil Collen and Rick Savage, will be on hand to sign autographs for an hour at 1 p.m. at Music Exchange, 4514 Camp Road. The band is scheduled to play at 7 p. m. Friday at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center.
"It's a great opportunity to showcase the town," said Supervisor Steven J. Walters, who was 3 years old when the band formed in England in 1977.
At the height of his group's worldwide fame in 1984, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen had a life-changing experience when he lost an arm in a car accident. Instead of letting that stop him, he found a way to continue his musical career. Seventeen years later, he and his then-soon-to-be wife, Lauren Monroe, founded the Raven Drum Foundation to share his journey and help others discover their own paths to recovery.
"I was kind of the inspiration for the thing, and Lauren had the language for some of the things I went through," he said in a recent phone call from Nashville as his band was gearing up for a summer-long tour with Poison and Cheap Trick that brings them to Moosic on Sunday. "This is our way of helping other people heal."
Joe Elliott is slightly confused by some fans' reaction to Def Leppard's performance of "Pour Some Sugar On Me" with country-music sensation Taylor Swift during Tuesday night's 2009 CMT Music Awards. While the performance was well received by the Nashville audience, post-show some critics described Swift's delivery of the song's first line as "breathless."
"What a lot of people don't know, because they're not supposed to, is, she was up for five awards; two of them with us, and three on her own," Def Leppard's frontman says. "She won three of them, and about a minute before we started that song, she had just picked up an award. So, after she accepted the award, she had to run down the stairs, run back to her dressing room, and change her clothes."
As Swift was sprinting back towards the stage, Elliott says the director started counting down to the band's live performance. "Literally, she's running up the ramp, trying to put her in-ear monitoring in and clip the pack to the back of her skirt, so she can try to sing this thing," says Elliott.
Performing at Donington Park on Sunday will bring back fond memories for rock giants Def Leppard.
The band, who headline Sunday's Download Festival bill, last played at the Leicestershire venue in 1986, their first major gig following drummer Rick Allen's car accident in which he lost an arm.
Recalls frontman Joe Elliott: "My overall memory of Donington is pretty much the major one which was introducing Rick at the end of the set. We kinda felt this uncontrollable urge to mention ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Rick Allen on the drums'.
"It was his first proper gig back after his accident so Donington is Rick Allen's rebirth place, if you like.
Thatcherism, yuppies, mobile phones big enough to warrant a tow-bar on the back of your Jaguar, arriving home to the off-green neon glow of your Commodore, and Casio-standard synthesizer music on almost constant rotation on Radio One; welcome to 1983. Startling, then, that amongst all of this one of the best releases of the year would come from five poodle-haired, twenty-somethings from Sheffield.
At the time, few could have predicted the impact that Pyromania would have, not just in the future of Def Leppard but on the entire musical landscape of the time. Coming on the back of the competent but somewhat contrived shoals of On Through The Night and High 'n' Dry, Pyromania deserved to cement the mighty Leppard as a household name UK, just as it did in the US. It was an indefectible amalgam of fist pumping, caterwauling vocals, guitars fuzzed to within an inch of their lives and a truly gluttonous amount of power chords – it seemed as if Angus Young might enter the studio to reclaim them at any moment. As cliché as it may be to point it out, Pyromania really is the sound of a band at the peak of their powers. As the rock world drooled and limped its way into the mid-80s, it reeked of over-reliance on studio gimmicks – an era's worth of over-produced dirge followed, compressed and polished to death. Pyromania didn't so much buck as extirpate this trend.
Never under-estimate the enduring power of fantasy. However improbable it seems that a video simulation game in which the player thuds away at a scaled down, colour co-ordinated plastic axe could revitalise a musical genre traditionally more at ease with bat-chomping and over-sized inflatable women, there's no question the huge popularity of Guitar Hero has radically rejuvenated the fortunes of hard rock.
Last month AC/DC sold out two nights at the cavernous O2 Arena, every stripe of rock band – from Faith No More to Whitesnake – have reformed, and now here come Def Leppard, primped, peroxide-blonde and ready to headline this year's Download festival with their ridiculously infectious airbrushed glam-metal.
"Can you imagine a Keyboard Hero game?" chortles lead singer Joe Elliott, cocooned in the Dublin home that includes his own private studio, Joe's Garage. Although the band moved to Ireland en masse in the mid-1980s to take advantage of the country's artistic-friendly tax breaks, Elliott's accent remains as quintessentially Yorkshire as Pontefract cake, while he's as down to earth as a gravedigger. "It just doesn't have balls, does it? There's nothing that the Pet Shop Boys or the Human League can do that even compares with the Kinks, or the Who, or Maiden, or Zeppelin. Sometimes we laugh at those songs on Guitar Hero, but we know all the words when they come on. Kids are playing Barracuda by Heart. It's nuts!"
A year ago, when the guys in Def Leppard heard that Taylor Swift wanted to do an episode of the Country Music Television show "Crossroads" with them, they had just one question: Who's Taylor Swift?
"There's always a first time when you discover a band, whether it's the Beatles or Taylor Swift," Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott said.
"So we Googled her and iTuned her and listened to it all and said 'Wow.' And you look at how many records she's selling and how lovely and pretty she is and how exciting it is to be at that point in your career, because we were there once — before you were born," he added glancing over at the 18-year-old Swift at a recent press conference.
A boy who was one of the youngest children ever to undergo open heart surgery in Northern Ireland has come face to face with his rock heroes.
Most youngsters dream of meeting their childhood heroes and for the Co Antrim boy this dream came true when he met rock 'n' roll legends Def Leppard.
Coleraine schoolboy JD Dinsmore met the Sheffield rockers in June and, says mum Gillian Shiels, the normally outgoing 11-year-old was left speechless.
"He would have been a bit shy about it," she explained, "but it was his dream come true. All he wants to be is a rock star. He loves his guitar and his rock and roll music. And he has always been into Def Leppard. There is no Daniel O'Donnell in this house!"
Gillian said the once in a lifetime meeting came about after JD's uncle, David Shiels, contacted the Make-a-Wish Foundation to see if it could help.
After more than 30 years in the music business, rockers Def Leppard are seeing their audiences getting younger and younger–but, according to guitarist Vivian Campbell, that's not because parents who loved Def Leppard as teens are turning their kids on to the group.
"That's a byproduct of music piracy more than anything else," Campbell said in his Irish accent. "I'm not saying that as a negative. I think it's very positive.
"A lot of younger kids get turned on to classic bands because they're trading files. They have 4,000 or 5,000 songs on their iPod, that's $4,000 or $5,000 on their iPod, at iTunes' prices, at least. A 12-year-old can't afford that. When kids trade files, it's actually a good thing for classic bands such as us. It's not such a good thing for up-and-coming artists who need to sell records."
Turns out staging a successful rock concert is a lot like making a killer mix-tape: It's all about the songs you choose and the order in which you choose to play 'em.
At least, so says arena-show veteran Vivian Campbell, who should know — after all, he's been slinging an axe for Def Leppard for the last 16 years.
But while you'd assume the hard rockers would have little trouble keeping their fans entertained — given the scores of album and radio hits they've racked up since the late '70s — Campbell says sequencing is still a tricky business.
"It's a tough thing for us, and we're kind of between a rock and a hard place," says Campbell, who also logged time with Dio and Whitesnake before signing on with Def Leppard. "As artists, you keep wanting to move forward and play your new material, but you're kind of beholden to your success of the past. We're fortunate, in that we have a truckload of bona fide Top 20 hits, but the other side of the equation is that's all our audience wants to hear."