Def Leppard's Phil Collen: Viva! Hysteria

By Jeb Wright

On March 22, 2013, Def Leppard will begin their residency in Las Vegas, performing 11 shows at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.  The shows are being touted as Viva! Hysteria & More and will feature two sets from the band each show, with the second set featuring their iconic album Hysteria, start to finish.

Classic Rock Revisited caught up with guitarist Phil Collen to fill us in on what fans can expect if they head out West to Sin City between March 22 and April 13th.   

Tour dates can be found here:

Jeb: The big news is that Def Leppard is going to do a residency in Las Vegas at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.  

Phil: We are going to do Hysteria from start to finish.  We are actually doing two sets; we are going to open up for ourselves.  We are going to do 45 minutes, take a break and then do Hysteria.  We are learning hundreds of songs and we are going to be doing songs that we’ve not played in years, or that we’ve never done.  It is going to be really great. 

The first set will never be the same; we will change it every night. They will all be Def Leppard songs.  We may play songs that we’ve covered of other people.  It is going to be very fun for us.  We are not sure what we are going to play.  We are digging stuff up from the first album and the second album and we are just going to really do a lot of stuff that the fans will love.

Jeb: How did the whole residency at the Hard Rock even come up?

Phil: Joe and I have wanted to do this for probably ten, or fifteen, years.  Cheap Trick used to do this sort of thing in theaters.  They would do the entire Dream Police album, or something like that and we thought that was cool.  We wanted to do something like that.  The Hard Rock people came to us and asked if we wanted to do the residency and if we would play an entire album.  We said we wanted to do Hysteria in its entirety because we’ve never done that before. 

Jeb: You do play a lot of those songs in your main set, but you’ve never done the whole thing. 

Phil:  We’ve never played it all the way through.  And, we’ve never done it like this, with no gaps and no talking in-between songs.  It is going to be really tricky to do it.  When I’ve seen bands before, there are times where I really want them to play the next song that is on the album that they are playing right then.  Now, we are going to do just that.  It is going to be great.

Jeb:  What will the stage show be like?

Phil: We are going to do something really special.  We want the production to be really cool. 

Jeb:  Are you going to record any of the Vegas shows?

Phil: Absolutely, we are going to do Hysteria Live

Jeb: How important is it for a band that has been around as long as Def Leppard to continue doing new things? 

Phil: To be quite on honest, as important as it is to keep writing new songs—even if you’re just writing songs to be writing songs—the reality is that the audience wants to see the old stuff. 

Take the Rolling Stones for example, they can play their new album until they are blue in the face, but the audience doesn’t care, as they want to see “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Brown Sugar.” 

We would love it if we could just play new stuff, but that is not what people want.  Any successful band faces this and I find it interesting.  I think it is really a good thing that people want to hear our old music, as that means it is still important to them.  And that is the reality of the whole situation and we are well aware of that.  

This day and age, we don’t have to release an entire new album.  We can release EPs, or we can do one song at a time.  It works out well.  We can put a lot of energy into the new song and really get into it and then we have the back catalog.  It is kind of going back to the ‘60s, in a way, because they used to have singles and not albums, as much.  I really like it and I really like the energy about it.  

Jeb: Is this the future for Def Leppard?  Will you do another album, or will it be just be a song here and there?

Phil: I think we will do both.  We are going to be writing songs while we are there; I write all the time, anyway.  We are notoriously slow in Def Leppard.  We will do a few songs at a time that will come out individually and then we can put them all out on an album.  People don’t buy albums as much anymore, which is again, the reality of it. 

Jeb: On a side note, you have Manraze, your other band, which you can use as a creative outlet as Def Lep slows down. 

Phil: I love to be able to write like we do in Manraze.  We will do an album in two weeks where Def can’t make an album in two years.  We’ve got a lot of songs ready to go and more that are almost done. 

Jeb: I heard that the new Manraze is not as hard edged and is more like The Police.

Phil: One of the songs is.  Another one sounds kind of like a ‘70’s soul record.  It is really varied and I love that about Manraze.  It really is cool.  Between the two bands, I am totally busy all the time.

Jeb:  I see where Def Leppard is going to do the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. 

Phil:  I have done that once before; I was on the TV show.  I went in as a mentor and I played with them on the songs.  I played with Duff’s band and with Matt Sorum.  I got to play with ten different bands.  Rudy Sarzo, Ronnie Montrose and George Lynch, they all had a room each with a band and I got to play with them all.  It was fun.  The entire band will be there; we will be splitting up, so the entire band won’t be playing together.  But everyone will get to check everyone out; it will be really cool.  We are also doing a VIP Meet & Greet, which will be really cool and we’ve not done that before. 

Jeb:  You enjoy this kind of stuff. 

Phil: I do.  It is actually part of it.  I have always welcomed it.  If you’re going to be a rock star, or a musician, or whatever, then that is just part of it.  I don’t understand why people don’t do that who are in this business.  They want all of the attention, but then when they get it, they don’t want it.  I don’t really believe that is their motive; they want it, but then they don’t want to do it.  I think it is really cool to do it.  You put all of this hard work into what you’re doing and then you get to meet someone who really appreciates it and I think that is really cool.  It completes the circle.  I am definitely up for that.

Jeb: You are celebrating Hysteria with this residency.  As you look back, today, tell me what Hysteria means to you. 

Phil: The whole recording process was really great.  Mutt had this idea to do a rock album that would be able to cross over to a pop audience and be Top 40.  That is exactly what happened.  It went exactly as he planned it.  As I am going back and learning some of those parts on the songs that we’ve not played for so long, I am realizing how much there really was to the record. 

Hysteria was the highlight of our career. It was very personal because of all the shit Rick [Allen, Def Leppard’s drummer who lost his arm in an automobile accident while the album was being recorded] went through and overcame. It is also very rare to have this sound in your head and actually be able to pull it off in the end. It totally worked and it was huge. If everything else we ever did after Hysteria completely sucked, then we would still be happy. Fortunately, we are still going strong.