Def Leppard is in the midst of many firsts
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Def Leppard is always ready for something new.
If you go
• What: Def Leppard in concert with Heart.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14.
• Where: Sleep Country Amphitheater, 17200 N.E. Delfel Road, Ridgefield.
• Cost: $40-$103.50.
• Information: www.sleepcountryamphitheater.com.
Even though the veteran British rockers behind “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Photograph” are nearing 35 years in the business, this summer, they are in the midst of a whole lot of firsts.
“We’re certainly not just sitting on our laurels,” says singer Joe Elliott, calling from a tour stop in Boston.
The band — Elliott, guitarist Phil Collen, bassist Rick Savage and drummer Rick Allen — has just released its first live album, “Mirror Ball,” which is also its first release on its own Bludgeon Riffola label.
“We’ve always been the kind of people who are prepared to put our hands up in the air and say, ‘My bad,’ which I much prefer to do than pointing my finger and screaming at somebody for screwing up,” Elliott says of leaving the major-label world behind. “We got so fed up with people thinking they knew what was best for this band without even discussing it with us. We just said enough. We’re not going to do that anymore.”
Def Leppard signed a distribution deal with Walmart and Sam’s Club for “Mirror Ball” and another deal to make it the only album from the band on iTunes — an arrangement that Elliott says the band finds “superb.”
“People say, ‘Don’t you think it’s a bit weird that you can only buy it at Walmart?’” Elliott says. “Well, record shops are closing — the numbers I see, about three to five a week. I don’t see any Walmarts closing down. At least, they’re consistently available. To appease the die-hards, we’ve also put it out on 180-gram vinyl available at independent record stores like Amoeba.
“It’s a triple album on vinyl,” he says, with a laugh. “We’ve gone completely prog rock.”
Elliott says the “Mirror Ball” set is selling well, especially on iTunes. “It’s flying at the moment,” he says, adding that the band plans to continue to keep the rest of its catalog off the site for now.
Of course, Def Leppard will continue recording new music for themselves as well and the three new songs on “Mirror Ball,” especially the ready-for-stadiums rocker “Undefeated,” show that the band’s winning streak will likely continue.
“I think ‘Undefeated’ shows we’re still a current band,” Elliott says. “It started with a drum idea … and I just kept trying different chords over it until I found something that worked. I spent a month or so working on that song off and on. That’s a luxury we haven’t had since ‘Hysteria.’”
The band is so happy with the way “Undefeated” turned out that they’re starting their summer concerts with it. “It’s a fantastic statement of intent,” Elliott says. “We make a big deal of the intro. And I think opening the set with a brand new song shows what we’re about … We’re no nostalgia band.”
While the current tour is in support of “Mirror Ball,” Elliott says the band isn’t playing the whole set on tour, switching out some songs in favor of tracks from the band’s breakthrough “High and Dry” album and other songs that weren’t singles.
One song that the band won’t be playing live, though, is its new ambitious rock ballad “Kings of the World,” which features a bit of recording studio craftsmanship to achieve the style of Queen.
“It’s a total studio creation like Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or maybe an Abba single,” Elliott says of the song written by Savage that will serve as the exit music at the shows. “He wanted to write a song that was a stadium rock anthem. It’s something that goes back to his childhood.”
For Def Leppard, the new songs on “Mirror Ball” have them excited about returning to the studio after taking their longest break from each other in the band’s history. “We had no agenda with those songs,” Elliott says. “They were written for fun, the fun of writing new songs.”
And fun is an important component of Def Leppard these days.
“We’re free agents now,” Elliott says. “We’re in control of our own destiny. It’s going to be fun.”