There’s never any shortage of hyperbole when most a band releases a new album. But Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen promises he means it when he says the group’s 11th studio album Def Leppard is the group’s best since 1987’s 12-times platinum Hysteria.
“It’s the freest, most liberating thing we’ve ever done,” Collen tells Billboard. “It’s the first time we’ve ever done an album where there weren’t any constraints. We didn’t have a record company or an executive at a label going, ‘OK, we need this, we need that’ or ‘OK, the concept of the album is gonna be blah, blah, blah…’ It was the first time we were allowed to be an artist, going back to the Zeppelin, Beatles, Bowie, Stones thing. When the Stones did ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Brown Sugar,’ they just had some great ideas and were like, ‘Oh shit, we want to go record this,’ so they did. That’s really refreshing. So we pretty much did that and just followed the muse.”
That, in turn, led the group to make Def Leppard (which comes out Oct. 30), the first self-titled release in the group’s 38-year history. Listen to the the song “Dangerous,” which Billboard is premiering exclusively below.
“We started out sitting around, writing all these stupid names down like we normally do, and I said, ‘Why don’t we call it Def Leppard?” Collen recalls. ” ‘Cause who knows if there will BE another Def Leppard album, per se, the way the industry is, and the fact that this record actually represents us. It doesn’t represent someone else’s idea, a label or a business agenda or anyone else’s idea of what Def Leppard is. This is actually Def Leppard’s version of Def Leppard, and it was actually scary. This had never happened before in our career. this is the first time we’ve ever done an album for us, not to please anyone else, hence the title.
The quintet’s first studio set since 2008’s Songs From the Sparkle Lounge, the album was recorded over three sessions, mostly at frontman Joe Elliott’s home studio in Dublin, Ireland, with some additional work done while the group was on the road this year.
“We didn’t think we were doing an album. We were just doing songs,” Collen says. “Every song was its own project.” Some of the 14 tracks date back awhile: “Let’s Go,” the first song released from the album, came from one of bassist Rick Savage’s demos, while “Dangerous” is also a few years old and was initially titled “Dangerous Drug” until Elliott suggested shortening the name.
“I started it a few years ago; I think I had just been working with (former Def Lep producer) Mutt Lange on something,” Collen says. “We copied it exactly. I redid the guitars, just a slightly different guitar sound. We didn’t change anything musically at all.”
“We Belong,” meanwhile, is a song Elliott had been playing with for at least five years, and in its finished version all five members take turns singing lead vocals — including reticent drummer Rick Allen. “He doesn’t normally sing, so he had to be convinced,” Collen says. “He CAN sing; he chooses not to. But this time we told him, ‘OK, it’s time for you to sing,’ ’cause we’d each done a verse and it was down to him to sing as well. He didn’t need much convincing; It was like, ‘We’re all doing this, so you got to do this as well.'”
The arrival of Def Leppard will keep the band on the road for an extended stretch — longer than it intended after heavy touring the past two years. It wraps up a U.S. jaunt this weekend before heading over to Japan and Australia in November and then touring the U.K. with Whitesnake during December. A Hysteria On The High Seas cruise departs Jan. 21 from Miami, and more dates will be announced for 2016 to promote Def Leppard.
“This tour we’re on now started in April, and we thought the end of the year would be, ‘Yeah, that’s it,’ but that’s not the case. All of a sudden we have an album on our hands and we have to get out there and promote it, so yay!” says Collen, who launched another band, Delta Deep, earlier this year and publishes a memoir, Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard and Beyond on Oct. 27. “This is, like, the never-ending tour, and it’s brilliant in this day and age when you’ve been around for 30-odd years to actually be experiencing something brand new. It’s nice to get this excited and write and record something we all feel this passionate about this late in the game, when a lot of people give up and stop trying. We have the opposite going on. We have an absolute muse, which has been very inspiring. We’re all just thrilled.”
Check out Def Leppard’s 2016 tour dates below.
January 27, 2016 — Greensboro, NC, Greensboro Coliseum
January 29, 2016 — Ft. Lauderdale, FL, BB&T Center
January 30, 2016 — Orlando, FL, Amway Center
February 02, 2016 — San Antonio, TX, AT&T Center
February 03, 2016 — Lafayette, LA, Lafayette Cajundome
February 05, 2016 — Corpus Christi, TX, American Bank Center Arena
February 06, 2016 — Hidalgo, TX, State Farm Arena
February 09, 2016 — Little Rock, AR, Verizon Arena
February 10, 2016 — Bossier City, LA, CenturyLink Center
February 13, 2016 — Uncasville, CT, Mohegan Sun Arena
February 14, 2016 — Atlantic City, NJ, Boardwalk Hall
February 16, 2016 — Brooklyn, NY, Barclays Center
February 17, 2016 — Allentown, PA, PPL Center