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Def Leppard’s Phil Collen Talks Skrillex, Tom Cruise and His New Work of Art

Charles Epting

Phil Collen and his band Def Leppard are a beautiful musical blur these days. Their new single, “All About Believin’” is soaring on the rock charts and on Monday (June 4) the band’s new versions “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Rock of Ages” — both featured in the Tom Cruise musical Rock of Ages — will be premiering on Noisecreep. It will be the first time the classic songs are officially available on iTunes.

Def Leppard will also be heading out on a huge summer tour with Poison and Lita Ford. Oh yeah, Collen is even going to New York to curate a photography exhibit.

With a schedule that hectic, Noisecreep was excited to be able to spend a few quieter hours with Collen at his gorgeous home in Orange County, Calif., where he was spending time with his lovely wife Helen and godmother-in-law Debbie. Oh sure, there were still guitars scattered all over the place as Collen gets ready for Def’s summer tour, and he was still focused on his now-famous workout regimen – but in the eye of the hurricane, Collen showed once more why he is one of our favorite interviews – relaxed, funny and ever the gentleman, he gave us a nice long view into his vaunted world as one of the world’s premier rock ‘n’ roll guitarists.

Phil, are you happy to have the band’s music in the new movie, Rock of Ages?

Oh yeah! I mean, we had wanted it in the Broadway show, but because of legal things, it didn’t happen. But we got to redeem it with the new movie. I just saw it and absolutely love it.

Watch Rock of Ages Trailer

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Tom Cruise really does “Pour Some Sugar on Me?

He does and it’s amazing! I was really impressed with it, as well as his version of the Guns N’ Roses song “Paradise City.” He brings great attention to our song, and we have a new version of the song coming out as well. We played it as close as we could to the original and it sounds very cool.

Did you meet Tom Cruise?

I did – the whole band did. Actually, we saw him film the “Pour Some Sugar” segment and it was brilliant. He learned how to sing for the movie and he said he was nervous that we were all there. We had been on tour and it worked out that we were in Florida the day they shot so we sat in. But he was so gracious and told us he wanted to give the song all the respect it deserved. He did lead vocals, backing vocals – he was just incredible.

What is it about the Def Leppard sound, in your opinion, that holds up so well?

I was hanging out with Mutt Lange recently and he is such an inspiring musical genius. The ultimate inspiration. I enjoy his company today more than anybody else in music, he is just amazing. And I think he really tapped into something with us. First of course, it comes down to the songs. But as for our sound, going back to Mutt Lange, it was he who said to us, ‘We have to make Def Leppard sound different than other rock bands.

Let’s cross Queen with AC/DC.’ He said, when you do melodies, a lot of English bands can’t sing as well American guys, like Steve Perry and Lou Gramm and Dennis DeYoung who were all very big back when we started. Journey, Foreigner and Styx, of course. So we sang more with a punk ethos – we’d sort of chant it – that was the difference. That was Mutt. And all those layered guitar parts, the orchestration, it was so different. It wasn’t about shredding, it was about creating an all-new sound that felt big and timeless – but we still blended that element of raw, smack-you-in-the-face rock thing, which a lot of the bigger American bands didn’t have then.

You also painted a guitar recently for charity, too, right?

I did! At the Corona, Calif., Fender factory I painted a 10-foot Fender Stratocaster. Known as the ‘Splat-o-Caster’!

Helen Collen

And it pays homage to your 30 signature Jackson PC ‘Splatter’ guitars painted in 2011 for Jackson Guitars’ 30th anniversary?

Exactly. I did it sort of Jackson Pollack style. The giant guitar I painted will join others along the streets of Cleveland, then this fall it will be auctioned off for United Way’s ‘Guitar Mania.’

Is it true you still have your very first guitar?

I do – let me go get it. My folks went into debt over it – a Gibson SG when I was just a teenager. (Moments later, he is holding the burgundy colored guitar.)

Is it hard staying in shape like you do on tour?

Not too bad. I do intense pre-tour workouts with my trainer Jean Carillo to stay in shape. Then once we are on the road I have a series of things I do each day to maintain my regimen.

Charles Epting

Any other band members take their physical fitness as seriously as you?

Vivian does for sure; he’s really into it. And Rick Allen just did a vegan cleanse diet. I’d like to think that maybe I influenced them a little [laughs].

What do you listen to when you work out?

When I work out, I listen almost exclusively to dub step. My son got me into it. And my new absolute favorite artist is Skrillex. The production on Skrillex records is just crazy. I saw Steve Vai the other day – we reconnected after like 15 years, he’ such a beautiful guy. So we’re talking and Skrillex comes up and Steve’s like, ‘My God I love Skrillex!’ He has no restrictions. He was lead singer in a screamo band, so he just knows how to cut loose. This kid! But he is so sophisticated and these sounds are the best things I’ve ever heard Just smacks you in the face. Nothing safe about him – breaks all these rules, which so few do anymore. But he’s got the grooves and melodies and everything. Love him.

Watch Phil Shred for Noisecreep

Stay tuned to Noisecreep on Monday, June 4, at 9AM EST for our double-premiere of the new versions of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Rock of Ages.”

Def Leppard, Poison and Lita Ford tour dates:

Jun. 20 – Salt Lake City, UT @ USANA Amphitheater
Jun. 22 – Irvine, CA @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
Jun. 23 – Las Vegas, NV @ Red Rock Amphitheatre
Jun. 25 – Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center
Jun. 27 – Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center
Jun. 29 – Atlanta, GA @ Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood
Jun. 30 – Tampa, FL @ Tampa Bay Times Forum
Jul. 02 – Cincinnati, OH @ Riverbend Music Center
Jul. 03 – Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
Jul. 06 – Cleveland, OH @ Quickens Loan Arena
Jul. 07 – Detroit, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre
Jul. 10 – Baltimore, MD @ Merriweather Pavilion
Jul. 11 – Newark, NJ @ Prudential Center
Jul. 13 – Wantagh, NY @ Nikon at Jones Beach Pavilion
Jul. 16 – Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
Jul. 17 – Hamilton, ON @ Copps Coliseum
Jul. 19 – Chicago, IL @ Allstate Arena
Jul. 22 – Cadott, WI @ Rock Fest

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