With a career that's produced a series of classic groundbreaking albums—selling over 100 million copies worldwide—truly spectacular live shows and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Def Leppard has and continues to be one of the most important forces in rock music. During the band's London date of the 'Hysteria' anniversary tour, Guitar Interactive Magazine editor Jonathan Graham sat down with the band's guitar legends Phil Collen, Vivian Campbell & Rick Savage to talk about the new record, and their individual approaches to guitar playing that has helped craft the powerful melodic rock anthems synonymous with their name.
Ready to ignite 2022, rock music legends Def Leppard return with their twelfth full-length album, 'Diamond Star Halos.' It marks the band's first new work since 2015's chart-topping self-titled, Def Leppard.
If it wasn't obvious, the title of Def Leppard's 12th album—which steals a lyric from T. Rex's 1971 glam-rock hit "Bang a Gong (Get It On)"—nods to the music the band grew up on. It's also a long-running reference between singer Joe Elliott and guitarist Phil Collen. "We always referred to the era that we got baptized into music as 'hubcap diamond star halo' because it's kind of a ludicrous line from that song," Collen tells Apple Music. "We didn't really know what it meant, but we also knew exactly what it meant." As such, 'Diamond Star Halos' harks back to England's classic glitter-rock bands. "I remember seeing David Bowie on Top of the Pops when I was 14," Collen recalls. "That was the moment that life went into technicolour. It changed everything."
The UK quintet—Joe Elliott [vocals], Rick Savage [bass], Rick Allen [drums], Phil Collen [guitar], and Vivian Campbell [guitar]— have delivered a powerful and rip-roaring new album with this release. An instant classic, 'Diamond Star Halos' thrusts into an anthemic stadium-ready frenzy with driving guitars and bombastic drums woven into its musical fabric throughout—with skyscraping vocals and melodies the band has become synonymous for. The artwork for 'Diamond Star Halos' is art in itself. The design follows pedigree with their instantly recognizable album covers from their celebrated past. With images by world-renowned photographer and director Anton Corbijn, styling concepts by Maryam Malakpour and graphics by the UK-based Munden Brothers; the design truly follows the band's influence through their eyes today.
Below, Phil breaks down each song on 'Diamond Star Halos.'
"Take What You Want"
"Because of the intro, it actually sounds like the start of an album, so it became an obvious track to open with. [Bassist] Rick Savage pretty much done all the music for this one, and I think had the title—and then Joe wrote the lyrics. It represents the rock side of Def Leppard that came a bit later. I want to say that I almost hear the New York Dolls in there as well."
"I wrote this one with a friend of mine, David Bassett. It was influenced by The Glitter Band and T. Rex and Slade, but we originally wrote it with a female artist in mind. Then I played it for Joe, and he said, 'Are you insane? This is obviously a Def Leppard song.' We'd actually finished all the other songs for the record at that point, so this was the last one to come in. My demo guitars and demo backing vocals are on there, so there's this rawness."
"Fire It Up"
"I wrote this one with a guy called Sam Hollander, who's the most amazing songwriter. He did 'High Hopes' by Panic! At the Disco. Again, it wasn't originally meant to be a Def Leppard song, but we were trying to write fist-in-the-air stadium rock, somewhere between 'We Will Rock You' and 'Pour Some Sugar on Me', but they're really hard to write. When I suggested it to the band, they felt it was obviously a Def Leppard song. Our producer, Ronan McHugh, really put his magic touch on this one."
"This Guitar" (feat. Alison Krauss)
"My friend C.J. Vanston and I wrote this song 17 years ago. Every five years or so, we'd revisit it, but the general consensus—well, mainly from me—was that it sounds a bit country for Def Leppard. We've delved into that before, the way the Stones could do country or the Eagles could do country, and obviously we've worked with Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift, but this song was slightly different. This time, Joe asked me to make an acoustic demo for him to sing over, and I think his lead vocal is from the demo. Then Joe was talking to Robert Plant, and Alison come up. Robert knows she's a huge fan, so Joe asked if she'd want to sing something on the album. Her duet with Joe is just beautiful. She's a goddess on vocals and just an amazing person."
"I started writing this one a few years ago, around 2014. I had the music and the chorus, and to me it sounded like a blend between latter-day Police and the Foo Fighters. That was the vibe, melodically. Then I sent it to Joe, and he just couldn't stop writing lyrics. He took the chorus and made it something completely different. It's got an energy that's different to the rest of the album, and I just love that."
"I've travelled to India a bunch of times, and I've always had melodies floating through my head. So, I kind of annexed this rough idea of a melody, and I wanted to have some almost Indian percussion and mix it with trap and hip-hop drum loops—which I did. It's about coming towards the end of your life and realizing that you need more time. What happens after that? So, it's about self-reflection and wondering whether there's reincarnation."
"U Rok Mi"
"The song is about being inspired—it's not a reference to a person. The spelling could be from a text message, but it's also something that Prince used to do all the time as well. My daughter wanted a ukulele a few years ago, so I got her one—and then we all got ukuleles on tour. So, I ended up playing one pretty much every day, and this idea came out. It starts as, like, a folky-type thing that sounds like it should be on Zeppelin III, but then I used these hip-hop drum loops, and it explodes into this big rock chorus."
"Goodbye for Good This Time"
"Joe and me, our favourite Bowie album is Aladdin Sane. That's where we first heard Mike Garson, who played the piano with Bowie from that album until he died. Joe had been doing some birthday tribute celebrations for Bowie with Mike, so he knew him. Joe had written two great piano ballads that reminded me of early Elton John, like Madman Across the Water era, so he asked Mike, 'Would you?' The next thing you know, we've got our favourite pianist on the album! He really added another dimension to this song as well. In the middle, I play a Spanish acoustic guitar solo that's a tribute to Bowie's guitar player Mick Ronson."
"All We Need"
"This is a real hopeful song, a kind of celebration. It was one of the first ones that me and Joe wrote during the pandemic, when we were sending ideas back and forth to each other and talking about the album as we went into lockdown. He was in Dublin, I'm in California, so we'd each wake up to the other's new ideas. I really enjoyed that process of writing and recording. I done all my guitars and vocals on a laptop, and Joe did some of his vocals on his laptop with a real cheap little microphone. It sounds great, and I'd hate to go back to the other way of recording."
"Open Your Eyes"
"This was the very first one that Joe and I did during lockdown, and we realized that working this way was a total energy-saver. I had ordered this Squier bass and wrote the opening riff straight out of the box. I sent it to Joe and before you knew it, we had a song. Rick Savage replaced my bass with a killer sound he had at home—a bass he pulled out of his closet—and boom! We sent our demo over to Ronan McHugh, our producer, engineer and out-front live guy, and he put it all in a session and made it sound incredible."
"Gimme a Kiss"
"This one's got some Johnny Thunders and some Chuck Berry inspiration. All my demo guitars are on it, so it's got a rawness that's cool. It's just a fun, smash-you-in-the-face rock song that's not to be taken too seriously. It's pretty hefty-sounding, I think, because we kept so much of the demo. We added to it, obviously, with proper drums and Sav playing bass and Vivian on guitar. We all sung on it, but we kept the original spirit of it, which was really important."
"Angels (Can't Help You Now)"
"Mike Garson is on this one as well, and it's just a beautiful song. Joe wrote this and felt that, perhaps, it wasn't a Def Leppard song because of the piano. But I said, 'Why not? Why can't we do what we want at this stage?' And of course, when Mike played it, it took on a different dimension again. Songwriting-wise, it reminds me of Elton John again. But by the time we get to the last chorus, it sounds like Pink Floyd, from Dark Side of the Moon."
"Lifeless" (feat. Alison Krauss)
"Again, I started this one almost like when the Stones do country, and I was trying to find a way where Def Leppard could do it. I think if U2 were country and Def Leppard was playing the song, it would sound something like this. I had the chorus and sent it to Joe. He came back the next day with the whole thing. We always say we can finish each other's sentences, but we can also finish each other's songs. Alison added all these harmonies and countermelodies that were just like, 'Wow!' It's like a beautiful choir of one of our favourite singers."
"Joe had the idea for this one a while ago—I remember him playing bits of it when we were on tour last. We initially tried it like a rock thing—it almost sounded like AC/DC—but it wasn't working. So, we shifted tracks and almost took on an element of INXS—not that we're trying to copy Australian bands, but it sounds better with this vibe. We used a whole different palette of guitar tones because the standard ones weren't working. Joe had already written the lyrics, but he then presented them in a different way, almost like an actor choosing a role."
"From Here to Eternity"
"This is a Rick Savage song. It's very different to everything else on the record, but we were working on the lyrics and the phrase 'film noir' came up. With that image, we were able to finish the lyrics and, all of a sudden, we knew what the song was going to be. It took on a little bit of a Queen direction. It's the longest song, so it was obviously going to be at the end of the album, and it's probably my favourite guitar solo that I've done on the record."
Def Leppard - 'Diamond Star Halos' is out now worldwide through Universal Music.
Def Leppard 'Diamond Star Halos' Tracklist:
1) Take What You Want
3) Fire It Up
4) This Guitar ft. Alison Krauss
5) SOS Emergency
6) Liquid Dust
7) U Rok Mi
8) Goodbye For Good This Time
9) All We Need
10) Open Your Eyes
11) Gimme A Kiss
12) Angels (Can't Help You Now)
13) Lifeless ft. Alison Krauss
15) From Here To Eternity
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