Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #63
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
With a career, that's produced a series of classic groundbreaking album—selling over 100 million copies worldwide—truly spectacular live shows and now finally 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 band's guitar legends Phil Collen & Vivian Campbell, to talk what's next for the band, their reflections on the 'Hysteria' record, and their individual approaches to guitar playing that has helped craft the powerful melodic rock anthems synonymous with their name.
It is nearly impossible that Phil Collen's guitar skills have not made it into your airwaves at some point. The 62-year-old guitarist joined English heavy/glam metal superheroes, Def Leppard in 1982, from which he achieved worldwide success throughout his career. Additionally, Collen has been involved in more than a few side projects, with the most notable being English alternative rock band, Man Raze, and Collen’s band prior to joining Def Leppard, Girl.
Born in Hackney, London, England in December of 1957, Collen (born Phillip Kenneth Collen) began his love affair with playing the guitar at a relatively young age as a form of release, he said. After receiving a guitar at 16-years-old, he taught himself how to play and set out to seriously pursue a career in music soon after.
“Playing guitar was expression, especially as a kid when you can’t get stuff out,” he recalled in an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock last year. “When you actually have an instrument, you can fly and it kind of lets the steam off of other things. It’s a wonderful thing to be in the arts, whether it’s writing music or poetry, painting – whatever it is, it’s expression and it really helps people out, that’s why it’s so important for kids.”
His early career began with involvement in a series of rock and roll bands including Lucy, Tush, and Dumb Blondes. It wasn’t until his work with the band, Girl, and the decent success of albums Sheer Greed and Wasted Youth, that his career really began to blossom. Collen later joined Def Leppard in 1982 while the band was in the process of recording their third studio album, Pyromania, following the departure of Pete Willis.
Emphatically, it was during this time that the band’s already rapidly developing career began to skyrocket, especially following the release of Pyromania in early 1983. That year, Pyromania sold over six million copies and consistently topped charts in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Just to put the progression of the band’s prolonged success into perspective - since then, that particular album surpassed certified diamond status (10x platinum).
In 1992, Def Leppard saw the addition of rock and roll guitar powerhouse, Vivian Campbell. Born in 1962 in Northern Ireland, Campbell, like Collen, developed an infatuation with guitar at a young age.
At the age of fifteen, Campbell joined the band, Teaser, which would later become the better-known Sweet Savage – sparking the beginning of a remarkable career. Shortly after, Campbell would leave Sweet Savage and go on to take the place of guitarist Jake E. Lee in U.S. heavy metal band, Dio, in 1983. To the fortune of Campbell, this personnel change occurred not long before the band’s release of the album, Holy Diver, which would go on to be the band’s most notable effort. Additionally, Campbell joined British rock band Whitesnake in 1987 following the dismissal of guitarist John Sykes. However, Campbell’s time with Whitesnake was short-lived, and he was fired from the band after their world tour from 1987-1988.
Despite prior contentious relationships with both bands, both Campbell and Def Leppard (as a whole) spoke positively of his transition into the band in 1992. His joining came soon after the unfortunate passing of Steve Clark.
“The transition was actually easier for me than it was for them because you know ever since day one with Def Leppard, every time that Joe or Sav or Rick or Phil, or even Pete Willis back in the day – any time that they looked to their right it would’ve been Steve Clark on stage right and all of the sudden it wasn’t, it was somebody else,” Campbell said in a Talk Is Jericho podcast.
With no shortage of successes under their belts, both Collen and Campbell (ages 62 and 56, respectively) show no signs in slowing down in their careers. In fact, Def Leppard was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2019, a prestigious distinction many fans and fellow artists believe was long overdue.
“After 26 years as the new guy, I can assure you that the work ethic and the collective focus of this band is just as strong to this day,” Campbell said following the band’s induction.
“We started 2018 off at the Royal Albert Hall and to now cap it all off with a nod into The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame is brilliant,” Collen added.
Also, despite a brief hiatus a few years back and a slam-packed touring schedule in 2018, Def Leppard is set to produce a new record and tour in 2019, a move that Campbell considers “necessary” for the band.
“I think there are a few things that keep bands vital,” Campbell explained in a 2018 interview with Ultimate Classic Rock. “For Def Leppard, one of those things is that we continue to occasionally make new albums. It’s been a couple years: I think we still do that, even though some people say, ‘Why do you even bother? People just want to hear your hits. You do very good business by just going out and playing your hit songs.’ But it’s important for the lifeblood of Def Leppard as a band that we continue to be a creative unit.”
Meanwhile, Campbell has also been hard at work with his relatively recent heavy metal project, Last in Line. The band formed in 2011 in conjunction with some of Campbell’s former bandmates in Dio after the death of Ronnie James Dio the year prior. According to Campbell, Last in Line essentially formed as a nod to his own musical past and was birthed out of some temporary downtime with Def Leppard.
While Last in Line originally intended to perform songs from previous Dio albums, the band released their first original album called 'Heavy Crown' in 2016. Like Def Leppard, Last in Line also confirmed that a new album is scheduled for release in 2019, again under the direction of producer Jeff Pilson. Having really gelled as a band during the touring for the debut release, the songwriting is now fully realized, personal and the band’s sound is now immediately recognizable as “Last In Line” thanks to the unmistakeable Vinny Appice rhythms, thunderous bass from Soussa and the amazing vocals from Freeman combined with the roaring guitars from Campbell. This album is going to be on many people’s best of lists in 2019, without a doubt!
Black Out The Sun
Gods And Tyrants
Year Of The Gun
Give Up The Ghost
Sword From The Stone
Love And War
To accompany this issue's cover feature, we also have an exclusive Def Leppard style lesson from Jamie Humphries looking at the classic 'Hysteria' period and the magical guitar partnership of Phil Collen and Steve Clark. This lesson uses such tracks as “Run Riot”, “Animal," “Gods of War” and “Love Bites” as a source of inspiration for the composition.
Bars 1-5 introduce our track with an eighth note chord arpeggio figure that outlines the accompanying chords. This figure is based in an idea heard in “Run Riot”, and makes use of a half time feel, which is a greet tool for adding impact and variation with the main verse groove. This section should be performed with distorted driven tone.
Bars 6-13 include the first half of our verse, which is based around a progression in the style of “Animal”. This section uses a clean compressed tone, and includes chord based melodic figure performed against a 1st string drone.
Bars 14-21 features a new riff for the second half of the verse, and illustrates an example of how Collen and Clark would use a complimentary riff to outline the chord progression as opposed to performing straight power chords. For this section you should switch to an overdriven tone.
Bars 22-31 introduce our chorus progression, which includes a melodic chord sequence that outlines the accompanying chords of D5, A5 and E5 with two string partial chords. This really adds width and texture to the progression, and a contrast to the accompanying rhythm guitar part.
Bars 32-47 include out middle section, and here I have used “Love Bites” for inspiration in both feel, groove and harmony. For this section you should use a clean, compressed tone with plenty of chorus and delay fore that classic 80’s ballad feel. The progression includes the chords of Dm7, A majadd9, B7sus4, F#madd9 and G#m7, performed with sparse chord arpeggios.
Bars 48-51 See us switch to a distorted tone for a riff inspired by “Gods of War”. This riff makes use of a chord arpeggio figure that outlines the accented power chords of C#5, A5, B5 and E5. This figure attempts to show Steve Clarks unique angular riff composition and is a great example of the duos guitar orchestration.
Bars 52-55 kick off our solo, and we are back to our verse progression. This section kicks off with a Phil Collen inspired melodic figure that makes great use of chord tones for a strong harmonic connection, as well as a pinched harmonic whammy bar dive.
Bars 56-58 includes a Steve Clark descending pedal tone figure, similar to a lick heard in “Armageddon It” which pedals off of the open 1st string. This figure concludes with some melodic double stops.
Bars 59-60 conclude our solo with some Phil Collen pyrotechnics, and feature a fast sixteenth note triplet scalar picking line based around the A major scale using a three note per string figure. We conclude with a high register accented A5 chord.
Def Leppard is currently scheduled to tour the U.K., Europe and Canada beginning in June 2019.
For more information, please visit: