Def Leppard's Phil Collen Talks New Delta Deep Album & Tour With Journey

Phil Collen Def Leppard
Joseph Branston/Guitarist Magazine via Getty Images

Phil Collen of Def Leppard photographed backstage before a live performance at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, on Dec. 16, 2015.

Def Leppard is still Phil Collen's day job and main gig. But the guitarist is taking a Delta Deep moment for the early part of the year.

The blues-oriented group has just released a new concert package, East Coast Live, whose DVD was filmed at Daryl's House in Pawling, New York. Collen has the group on the road with him for the current G3 tour, and he's already begun recording a follow-up to Delta Deep's self-titled 2015 debut album.

"We've started work on our second album," Collen tells Billboard. "I was working on that just before we came out and I've got to finish it by the end of the year. I'm actually going to plan on doing it a lot on the tour bus; I'm just gonna have some speakers set up there and record every day. It's just a process." Collen did much the same in producing the upcoming new album from Tesla, much of which was done on the road during last year's Def Leppard tour.

As for what the next Delta Deep album may sound like, Collen anticipates more of the same but plans to push the diversity the group explored on its debut and on the live album.

"It's taking the original inspiration point," explains Collen, adding that Stone Temple Pilots' Robert DeLeo remains a member of Delta Deep, though Craig Martini is playing bass in his stead on the G3 tour. "Zeppelin and the Stones were both blues bands and they just took it somewhere else, and that's the part that interests me. I think if you stay locked into a specific format you end up being a karaoke band. That's not inspiring, and you're just copying something. So I think the great thing is to roll the dice and see where it takes you. That's the exciting part."

Def Leppard, meanwhile, has rolled out some major endeavors for the year. The group recently released its catalog to digital streaming services after being a longtime holdout. "We didn't want to get ripped off," Collen says. "The industry expected us to just roll over and put it out basically for free, or a small amount. We weren't going to budge, but we agreed on something and it sounded great and we shook hands and there you go." Now Collen and company feel like they're promoting a new release, in a way. "Yeah, we basically have 12 albums to promote -- again," Collen says. "When people say, 'Any new Def Leppard stuff?,' yeah, we've got some new stuff, but it has to be on the back burner 'cause we're kind of promoting the whole catalog now. It's totally exciting, the fact we can finally bring that to people in a different format."

Part of the campaign will be a summer tour with Journey, which will include arenas, amphitheaters and even some stadium shows. The two groups have toured together before, and Collen considers it still a fail-safe package. "It's the songs, the classic songs," he explains. "I remember before, they would finish with 'Don't Stop Believin'" and we'd open up with one of our classics, 'Let's Get Rocked' or one of those things. We've got some amazing songs, and people just love hearing all of them." The joint tour has been talked about since last summer, and Collen says the Def Leppard camp was not unduly concerned by the social media dust-up between Journey members Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain.

"That's what bands do, especially the bands that have been around for a long time," Collen says. "They get over whatever it is and sort it out. We've all had that, so I wasn't worried about it at all. I'm sure they'll be in top form, and so will we."