Def Leppard will offer an early taste of its next studio album with three new songs that will be part of a live album, “Mirrorball,” which is due out this summer. The group is also planning to release a retrospective book, “Def Leppard, The Definitive Visual History,” featuring more than 30 years of photographs by Ross Halfin, in June.
“When we decided to do (the live album), it just got said — I don’t know by who — ‘Why don’t we chuck a couple of new songs on the end?’ ” frontman Joe Elliott tells Billboard.com. “And that two became three, and in fairness it could’ve been four if we’d just had a little bit more time. But we wanted to tour this summer, so any fourth or fifth song we had brewing, we’ll save them for the next record.”
Elliott composed “Undefeated,” which he describes as “a very Queen-type vocal thing. It even features piano and stuff.” Guitarist Phil Collen’s “All About Believin’ ” is “a pop-rock song,” while bassist Rick Savage’s “Kings of the World” is “a big, epic, rock anthem that will sound great in arenas and stadiums all over the world — kind of ‘We Will Rock You’ with guitars, if you like.”
“They’re all very different to each other,” Elliott adds. “They don’t sound specifically like any previous Def Leppard songs, but they sound like Def Leppard songs. They have to have our identity on them, otherwise they might as well be Tom Waits or R.E.M. We have a signature sound that we’re not scared of anymore.”
Elliott says the group will continue to assemble new songs while on the road this summer, working on them backstage in much the same way it made 2008’s “Songs From the Sparkle Lounge,” which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. “If we can pull together the other seven or eight songs we’d like to do,” Elliott says, “we’d start recording them when the tour’s over and hopefully have them ready for summer of 2012…or if not, then out in the autumn for the Christmas market.”
The live tracks on “Mirrorball,” meanwhile, were recorded during 2008 and 2009. Elliott says Def Leppard records and rates each show and selected the performances — which will include “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Rock of Ages,” “Foolin’,” “Hysteria,” “Photograph” and “Bringing on the Heartache” — from the very best concerts.
“I think one of the reasons a lot of artists used to — how can I say this — cheat and clean up their live recordings was because they only recorded the one night,” Elliott explains. “Somebody makes the odd mistake and they don’t want it going out forever, so they go in and clean it up. We didn’t have to do that because we just chose the versions that had no mistakes on them. A very nice luxury. Thank you, technology.”
“Mirrorball” marks the first official live album in Def Leppard’s discography. The group has released a selection of live B-sides over the years and has included live recordings on deluxe editions of its albums, including an edited 1983 show from the Los Angeles Forum for the 2009 “Pyromania” reissue.
For the photo book, Halfin and the band tapped a Japanese “uber fan” to sift through some 30,000 images which were ultimately knocked down to 450 dating back to 1979. Elliot says it was an emotional experience. “It was an interesting journey that we’ve taken together,” he notes. “You see pictures of (the late founding guitarist) Steve Clarke and you get a wry smile on your face. It’s just a journey. A lot of it was with anger, a lot of it was with humor, a lot of it was with regrets, a lot of it was with honor — every single emotion you can have over a 30-year period of being in the trenches with these guys.”
Def Leppard plans to play “Mirrorball’s” new songs when it hits the road starting June 7 in Belfast, Ireland. The group will play the Download Festival on June 10 in the U.K., then begins a North American run through the summer that will include a series of dates with Heart, who Elliott says “I’m going to want to stand at the side of the set and watch them play every night.”
Elliott, meanwhile, will also be touring with his Mott the Hoople-celebrating side band the Down ‘N’ Outz, which will be opening 10 U.K. shows for Paul Rodgers in April. The group is also “about halfway through” recording a second album, Elliott says, and will be releasing a live DVD with some bonus video material this spring.