CLEVELAND, Ohio — More than two decades after releasing an album called “Euphoria,” Def Leppard is feeling a surge of elation these days. And with good reason.
The veteran British quintet – Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 2018 – have publicly spent most of the pandemic hiatus in the past, with two retrospective box sets and a live album taken from gigs in Las Vegas and London. But the Leps were also quietly making a new album, “Diamond Star Halos,” recording remotely with co-producer Ronan McHugh to tie things together. Its 14 tracks became 15 when guitarist Phil Collen arrived at the last minute with the first single, “Kick”, and the set includes guest appearances from Alison Krauss and longtime David Bowie pianist Mike Garson.
Released May 27, “Diamond Star Halos” gave Def Leppard its eighth Billboard 200 Top 10 album, alongside classics “Pyromania” and “Hysteria.” “Kick” and follow-up single “Take What You Want”, meanwhile, joined the ranks of rock radio anthems such as “Photograph”, “Rock of Ages”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Armageddon It”. . In addition to this, the band announced a self-penned autobiography, “Definitely: The Official Story Of Def Leppard”, for the fall and launched a Def Leppard x Rock And Roll Beauty cosmetics line.
Best of all for the band, of course, is to be on the road again. His stadium tour with Motley Crue, Poison and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts was delayed twice by the pandemic but finally started last month. It stops Thursday, July 14 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
As Collen, frontman Joe Elliott and bassist Rick Savage reunite on Zoom, they promise to make no mistake that this is one of the best times in the band’s 45 years together…
We’ve been waiting for two years and the Stadium Tour is finally happening. It feels good?
Collen: Great. When we explain this tour to other people, they say, ‘What?! The same evening? The same bill? Yeah, all of us – Motley, Joan Jett, Poison and the rest, it blows them away. They really want this to happen in other countries as well, so hopefully the better we do there, the more we can keep pushing things forward. We want to go at least three years if we can.
Elliott: You know, if we had done the tour when we were supposed to (in 2020), we would have done the tour without new music. Now we’re doing it with a new album to promote, which gives it a totally different angle. I think the fact that we come out refreshed and energized with new music that we can incorporate into the show, which we couldn’t have done in 2020, is going to make a huge difference in how we present ourselves.
Collen: We feel like we’re entering a different league. There are a lot of bands that have stopped touring, performing, or lost interest. There are a lot of bands that we have a lot of respect for, but they lost interest, and it shows. We are quite the opposite. We can’t wait to go there. We have this album, and we’re a really “live” live band, so we can’t wait to come out and prove it.
The four main acts date from a similar time, or at least overlap. Do you feel a sense of affinity with everyone?
Savage: It’s a brilliant package. It’s Motley Crue, the real guys. Same thing with Poison. These are the guys who formed the bands, so you can’t get any better than that. It’s authentic. It’s the biggest tour Def Leppard has done in our career, and after 40 years it’s just a fantastic achievement to be able to do that.
Elliott: And let’s not forget Joan Jett, who is a real ball of energy. We’ve basically watched this thing since it was announced because it’s like taking a festival on the road. It’s a four-band festival, and we’ve always had the idea that everything we do is an event. We’ve toured with some amazing bands…but that’s a big deal. These three artists with us make it a special tour.
You’ve had a few weeks with “Diamond Star Halos” being released globally. What do you think of how it was received?
Collen: That’s the best reaction we’ve ever had to anything. I remember when “Hysteria” came out (in 1987) it was a mixed bag. It was 100% positive. It was, “Omigod, we were expecting something like this!” It’s incredible. We’ve put a lot of work into it, so it’s nice to hear that response.
The recording was actually done remotely because of the pandemic. How did you find this process?
Elliott: It was joyful to do. Everyone was home, so you didn’t have to constantly work there or wait in a hotel room in a foreign country, waiting to do your part. We could keep doing other things, and when we were working, we could concentrate entirely on the record. It was a quiet way to record.
Collen: I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. There was so much more energy in not having to go into the studio or in a situation where you’re always waiting while someone else records their part. It stops creative flow and expression. With that, everyone could do their thing; I would be in California and Joe and Sav would be in England and Ireland. I would finish something, send it to Joe, he would receive it, put stuff in it and we would just go back and forth. I woke up in the morning and there was something in my inbox.
Savage: There was such forward momentum doing it that way. There was someone working on the case at all times of the day.
Collen: We definitely don’t want to go back to what we were doing before. It’s so much better.
What do you know about “Diamond Star Halos” now that you didn’t have, or couldn’t have, while you were making it?
Collen: We know it’s a concept album, and I don’t mean, say, “Aqualung” or “Quadrophenia” or anything like that. But there’s a theme and a thread running through it, and we didn’t know that at first. It’s influenced by that time when we were all baptized into music, the very early 70s. As we were making the record, it became apparent that that time and that feeling was also evident on this album – the vibe, lyrics, look, everything.
“Kick” was the last song but the first single released. What’s the story behind it?
Elliott: Phil called me, and because there was no release date, there was no recording contract yet, I said, “OK, send me an MP3. We have to apply it to the whole group,” and everyone loved it. It’s a stadium anthem, and we were about to walk into stadiums so… “Yeah!”
Collen: It also represented where we were at as well. It’s got that glam rock feel, that clapping groove, big vocals. It was just obvious. It wasn’t just that it had to be on the album, but it also had to be the first single.
Elliott: Sav was the first to comment, “OMG. ‘Sugar’, anyone? He wasn’t comparing one song to another. He compared the situation. At the end of 1986, “Sugar” was the last song written for Hysteria. We had already finished. It was an 11-track record, finished, and then the idea for “Sugar” came, and it became arguably the most important song on the record, if not our entire career, eventually. So with (“Kick”), it was like the same kind of feeling, that it could be a very important song for us, and it just comes at the end when we didn’t expect it. It’s a nice little gift, totally unexpected.
Since your last album in 2015, you’ve spent a lot of time immersed in Def Leppard’s past – a greatest hits album, box sets, etc. What kind of perspective did it give you on the band’s history?
Elliott: Our real mission has always been to follow the tailcoats, if you will, of all of our great British pop-rock that came out in the 70s. Bowie, Bolan, Mott, Queen, Slade, Sweet… c That’s where our three-minute pop-rock songs like ‘Photograph’ and ‘Rock of Ages’ come from. We’re still chained to the LA hair-metal scene or the (New Wave of British Heavy Metal), but it’s not like we’re channeling (Black) Sabbath all the time. We wanted to do the harmonies and melodies. We are happy to be called a hybrid of AC/DC and Queen.
It’s been 45 years since the band formed in Sheffield, 42 years since the first album. At the time, did you know it was built to last the way it did?
Elliott: I don’t think we expected to go as far as 1983. When we formed in 1977, Led Zeppelin were still together, the Beatles were only seven, the Stones were only 15 and the Who were maybe 13 years old. years or something like that. The only thing that lasted about 20 years would have been a solo artist. And you don’t see headlines like “Frank Sinatra breaks up!”, do you? So, it was just a forward momentum, and then someone tells you it’s been 45 years and you’re like, “Oh? Really?!”
Collen: Someone has to tell you. It’s not something where we go, “Oh, guess what? It’s going to be 40! or 45 or whatever. We are so busy doing other things, so these things surprise us in this way. It’s pretty cool.
Elliott: We didn’t achieve what we set out to do, and that’s kind of what we’re doing now. That’s exactly what we want, and that’s what we want to do — an album like this, a tour like this, that mindset, all those things together. This is what you want to achieve. Even with, like, massive albums, two Diamond Award albums, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, it’s still not enough.
So, what else do you want?
Elliott: We’ve always said that what we should try to accomplish before we get it all in our head or leave is to be bracketed among the greats: Lennon-McCartney, Jagger-Richards, Ray Davies , Pete Townshend. We probably never will, but we’ll never stop trying. We’re not interested in trying to be a second division, like, “Oh, that’s fine.” We’re just gonna do our best and keep going.
Savage: We’re also always excited. We are excited to write new songs. We are happy to record them. We are always happy to go on tour again. We still have that very youthful enthusiasm that you have when you are a teenager. It’s still going well, and we still think we have places to go that are worthwhile and we can improve and grow and keep going.
Collen: The singing is getting better, the playing is getting better, the songwriting…it’s still growing pretty big and fast. It’s so exciting so you don’t want to put the kibosh on it. You want it to continue. The wheels are far from falling off. They’re actually well-oiled – and accelerating!
The Stadium Tour with Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Poison, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts and Classless Act takes place at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 14 at FirstEnergy Stadium, 100 Alfred Lerner Way, Cleveland. Tickets available at livenation.com.