Phil Collen did not exactly dive into his new memoir Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard, and Beyond — which publishes Tuesday — with a great deal of initial enthusiasm.
“I didn’t really want to do it,” the guitarist tells Billboard with a laugh. “I think memoirs and books like that are a bit egotistical, and I don’t really like them. I think that whole thing of people going, ‘Well, you know, it was really kind of cathartic for me to do a book…’ That’s a load of bullshit. It’s egotistical. It’s just talking about yourself, isn’t it?”
Collen credits co-writer Chris Epting, who has previously written about Kiss and Led Zeppelin, with convincing him he had an interesting enough story to tell and then conducting a series of interviews from which Collen and his wife, Helen, culled the story he wanted to tell. “It’s my story, that type of thing,” he explains. “It’s all the pretty interesting things that happened along the way, from growing up over here in London to all the travel and meeting different types of people and how that influences and changes your life, the crazy highs and lows everyone has, just thundering on and that type of thing and how it changes your outlook on life and your perception. It’s just about everything, really.”
Collen did, however, keep his standards high, using his favorite memoirs — Keith Richards‘ Life, Bob Dylan‘s Chronicles Volume One and boxing champ Mike Tyson’s Undisputed Truth — as models for what he hoped to achieve. “I thought they were great because they actually dealt with things that were happening in these fascinating people’s lives,” Collen explains. “It wasn’t really about showing off and name-dropping; these people had a lot to say about what they did and how they got there. Obviously, my life isn’t as interesting as, say, a Mike Tyson’s life or Keith Richards — although having said that, the growing-up part’s almost identical to Keith Richards’ book or Rod Stewart‘s book. From there onward, it kind of takes a turn.”
Those looking for sex and drugs along with the rock ‘n’ roll won’t be disappointed, although Collen doesn’t dwell on lascivious details. And many will be surprised to learn that some of his very craziest days were behind him — during his tenure with the band Girl — by the time he joined Def Leppard in July 1982.
“Bear in mind that I haven’t had a drink for 28 years and I’ve been a vegetarian for 32, so a lot of the crazy stuff actually happened while I was in Girl,” he says. “The really nuts stuff happened before I joined Def Leppard. Even when we were multi-platinum and everything and all that stuff was happening, it was still pretty mild compared to everything that happened during those three years with Girl. It was just a lot darker and nastier, and even the people that would come to see Girl was a darker and nastier contingent, I guess, than the Def Leppard thing. It happens a million times to a million other bands, but there was an element to the Girl thing I haven’t seen since that time, really.”
Adrenalized is well-timed to this week’s release of Def Leppard, the group’s 11th studio album, which comes out Oct. 30. The group is on what Collen calls “a never-ending tour,” with dates during November in Japan and Australia and a U.K. run with Whitesnake in December. The group’s Hysteria on the High Seas cruise departs Jan. 21 from Miami, and it returns to kick off a U.S. tour with Styx and Tesla starting Jan. 27 in Greensboro, S.C. And Collen fully expects to start adding up new chapters for a sequel or even expanded memoir down the road.
“I certainly know that [life] is still in constant change,” he says. “There’s still stuff going on all the time. The fact that Def Leppard have been together for 30-something years and you have these experiences — birth, death, marriages, divorces — you have them all together. You’re a work in progress, and that never changes.”