Home Music Music Features

Def Leppard Are Bringing Their “Best Version” to Australia

Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen looks forward to his band’s epic joint tour with Mötley Crüe

Def Leppard

Anton Corbijn

Two hard rock forces touring Australia together? On their own, Def Leppard would be enough of an exciting proposition, but combined with the threat of Mötley Crüe, and you have the makings of a rock ‘n’ roll tour for the ages.

Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard are heading Down Under together this November, ready to play three huge arena shows in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne (see full details below).

“We truly can’t wait to continue taking the show around the globe with The WORLD Tour in 2023. Crüeheads get ready because we have a few amazing Australian dates set for you!” Mötley Crüe said when the dates were announced.

A lot has changed for both bands since their ’80s heyday – a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, a controversial Netflix film, hundreds of millions of album sales – but one thing remains: the desire to bring true rock ‘n’ roll to the masses.

As Def Leppard’s guitarist Phil Collen told Rolling Stone AU/NZ, committing to doing that doesn’t also mean committing to the crazy antics of the past. That’s why his band are fully prepared to show Australian fans “the best version of Def Leppard” they’ve ever seen on the upcoming tour.

You can read our full conversation with Collen below, in which he discusses giving up drinking, loving Beck, his memories of Australia and much more.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Def Leppard (@defleppard)

Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard 2023 Australian Tour

Presented by Live Nation and Triple M

Ticket information available via livenation.com.au

Wednesday, November 8th
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, QLD

Saturday, November 11th
Giants Stadium, Sydney, NSW

Tuesday, November 14th
Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, VIC

Rolling Stone AU/NZ: You’ve got a lot of tour news this year!

Phil Collen: Yeah! We start Europe in a couple of weeks, then a few (dates) in the States, and then Australia, New Zealand, Japan in November towards the end.

Have you been to Australia much before? 

The first time we came, we did the Aurora Festival in 1984, so that was a while ago. I’d never seen rain like that! That was my first big memory. My cousin lived there actually, and I’ve still got a cousin there just outside Sydney. We were over just a few years ago to visit them.

Do you prefer the California lifestyle these days?

I love the weather, it’s really good. We’ve been lucky this year. – we had so much rain, because it was a hideous drought for so long. And in the rest of the country, there’s some weird stuff happening, like tornadoes and stuff.

You’ve been touring a lot since the ’80s – how does the touring lifestyle compare these days to back then?

I stopped drinking 36 years ago. Before that, I would kind of tear the arse out of it. It was a lot and my best friend died from it, (late, great Def Leppard guitarist) Steve Clark. I’ve been a vegan for 40 years, something like that. The lifestyle has always been on the clearer side, focused on the artistic side, the writing, performing.

I mean, the first album I was on, Pyromania, that was an outrageously fun tour, proper rock ‘n’ roll. But after that, we were in the studio for the most part, and did miss a good chunk of all that excess rock ‘n’ roll stuff.

Does that bother you? Do you feel like you missed out?

I think the fact that I’m running around half naked at 65-years-old and playing better and singing better than I ever did is amazing!

What about the production and the people you work with these days? Is there a different culture?

There is a different culture. The main thing is the competition is so hard – you can’t get away with what you used to get away with, say in the ’80s. You had MTV, you had labels, you had companies throwing money at you, you had all these different things and that really tightened up. The competition got really fierce. You’ve got to be the best version of yourself, otherwise you’ll get left behind.

And also with the crew – not Mötley Crüe, I’m talking about the road crew. The amount of people who go, “oh, do you think you could get me on tour, to be a road crew member?’ I’m like, ‘well, can you take a guitar to pieces in five minutes and put it back perfect?’ And they’re like, ‘well, no I can’t do that.’ The quality and the excellence of everything has really gone up, certainly with our band and the people around it.

Have tour riders changed too?

I guess. I think the big difference is you end up paying for it, and I think you’re aware of that now. Back in the day, you’d go, ‘oh, we’ll have this, that and that,’ but you end up paying for it yourself.

We’ve got two vegans, one pescatarian, one meat eater, and one who does everything in the van. Like I say, I haven’t had a drink in 36 years, so there’s none of that on there. We tour with a trainer, I work out every single day and do something at least every day.

It’s much more professional. We have a female tour manager, Jessica, and she’s amazing. That wouldn’t have happened in the ’80s, it was very misogynistic. Now we have a lot of women, production managers, assistants, there’s a lot of them. A lot of things have changed on that level and we promote that, we push that.

How has your fan base changed?

It’s obviously got younger, which is great, but it’s also retained the older fans, the diehard fans. Whenever we see them, it’s just wonderful.

On that, I’ve got a stat: apparently 58% of your streaming audience are under the age of 40. What do you attribute to that?

Um, all the things I just said. It’s the hard work, just keeping it out there. We waited before making our stuff available to download, as we’re very precious about our stuff. We didn’t want to just throw it away. We waited until the right time. You keep touring, you keep improving, and then we got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so all of these things add up. You move onto the next platform.

We’ve also got t-shirts everywhere. That’s down to quick approval of when someone says, ‘hey, what about this shirt?’ You can’t debate, you have to do it it within 45 minutes. The work ethic has to be really on. That’s what I attribute it to – the work ethic has gone right up. Everyone works a lot harder than they did before.

Not many bands can stay together this long, for various reasons. Why do you think you guys have managed to keep going?

I think they’re spoiled. We have no place for egos in this band. It just wouldn’t happen. It’s really important that we get out there and do all this stuff together. We have a value system that we inherited from our parents. They were WWII survivors in England. They had Nazis trying to blow the house up next door, and they had to get through that. So there was a very strong working class value system that we inherited and we apply it to everything we do.

Is that why it’s much more common for younger bands to break up today?

I think it’s just so throwaway and temporary, and it doesn’t mean as much. I used to work in a factory when I was 16 – I hated it and there’s no way I wanted to do that again! I didn’t have a plan b, it was just playing music. That kind of helped a lot.

What artists are you listening to right now?

Right now I’m going through a bit of a Beck phase! I really liked the last three albums, especially Morning Phase. I’m really into that at the moment. And then I always have my staples, I’m a real fan of ’70s funk.

What about a guilty pleasure?

I like jazz music but that’s not something to be ashamed of obviously! Some of the EDM stuff, some pop music, whatever it is. I’m pretty cool with anything that comes up.

Did you or anyone else in the band leave any crazy antics behind in the past? Obviously you’ve mentioned drinking.

That was the one that got in the way of a lot of things. When I stopped drinking, I actually had two extra hours a day in bed. All of a sudden, you can do other things and become more focused.

Was there a pivotal moment that made you stop?

Yeah, me and Steve Clark were drinking buddies. There was one moment in particular: we’d gone out and I’d borrowed Joe’s (Elliott) car. I was driving and I had completely no idea. I left it parked, engine on, doors open and all that stuff, and I didn’t remember any of it.

That was the first one. There were a few others as well, constantly waking up with strange girls, blacking out. I couldn’t really do the social drinking thing, so I just knocked it on the head.

Finally, what’s your elevator pitch for this tour?

It’s the best version of Def Leppard you’ll ever see. The best five shows we’ve ever done in our career have come in the last nine months. We played SoFI Stadium in LA and I actually think it was the best gig we’ve ever done. It was towards the end of the tour, everyone’s vocals were amazing, the production was really tightened up.

We had this wonderful time in South America, we just went down there with Mötley. It was insane. I practice every day, I practice guitar, I sing every day, so by the time you get on stage, you don’t have to think about it.

That’s what we do, you can honestly expect the best version of Def Leppard you’ve ever seen.