Interview with Phil Collen from Def Leppard: Pure (Mirror) Balls

Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen recently called me from his home in L.A. to catch me up on the band’s current tour with Heart, their new (and first ever) live album, Mirrorball, and his enjoyment of The Jersey Shore!

You’ve been around for 30 years and you are just now putting out your first live album, does it really take 30 years to put out your first live album?

(Laughs) It’s the first break we’ve had in 30 years, actually. It has always been album tour, album tour and to be honest there’s never been a real demand for this. We recorded every tour we’ve ever been on. This is the first album that’s not with our record label [Mercury/Universal].

How did you go about picking the songs out?

We recorded every show for the last two years and our ‘out front’ guy is also our producer. So picking the songs was the easy part. It was just a matter of finding which ones sounded the best. Our producer would literally make a note on each of the songs of where the audience response was good or if something sounded really good. So when we did weed through we knew where to go for it. It wasn’t the case of weeding through a million tapes. It’s all digital and easy to find.

Where did the title, Mirrorball, come from?

We didn’t want to do Def Leppard “Live” because there are three new tracks and a DVD, so we didn’t want to get lumped into the, “Oh it’s just a live album” mentality. So we gave it a name and character. Mirrorball gives it that live feel, and it was a nice follow up to our last album, Songs from the Sparkle Lounge.

How did this tour with Heart come about?

This time it came down to who was available and Heart was actually available, and then we asked them if they were up to it. The cool thing is we’ve never toured with Heart before. They have lots of hits so that makes for a great rock show.

What’s the band’s plan for the next five years?

We’ve done five years straight of touring. It’s hard to do albums between that. What I really like about this album is we have three studio tracks. The way the industry is going, most people want to hear some new music just in general, that particular window. They have a short attention span and don’t want to wait. It’s a perfect situation for us. We would tour every year for the next five years and put an album out each year.

You’ve been around for three decades and you mentioned how the industry is changing, how do you adapt and constant change?

We have to go with it; otherwise you end up like a black and white movie or a silent film. If you stand there and stamp your feet, you get bitter, you get left behind. You have to be aware of what’s going on out there. I’ve always been a fan of all different types of music. If you get stuck in an ivory tower then you’re kind of lost, and that’s what happens with some of the older bands; they sort of lose touch with what actually is reality. We haven’t done that. There were no CDs at one point, and now you can’t even give them away. We’ve been through a lot.

Are there any other plans for the band to do anything outside of touring and making albums?

We have a cartoon in the works. I also have my solo stuff, Man Raze, we’re about to drop our second album and our latest single is out, called “Over My Dead Body.” That’s a totally different type of music. The album is called Punk Funk Boots Rock. It’s me, the drummer of the Sex Pistols and other guys. Joe has another band he’s working on too. We’re doing stuff outside the band as well. It’s all good.

What kind of music are you into now?

Anything that has a groove to it. I love really electronic music. I love ‘70s funk. When I work out I have Pandora on the funk or progressive, indie, hardcore. So it’s one of those. I also like hardcore punk like the Sex Pistols. Lady Gaga was the last thing I bought. I love downloading music from iTunes. But I like a range of stuff.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

I’m not a complete TV addict, but I can sit and watch and episode of The Jersey Shore.

Where does your inspiration come from when writing?

Lots of it comes from books. That’s wide open especially something that’s poetic. Anyone that writes with great imagination. There could be a line in a movie or something random. I always put things into my iPhone and make notes from when I get inspired. I either make notes or record a riff in the phone.


Def Leppard’s Mirrorball is in stores now. The band will play PNC Bank Arts Center on July 13 with special guests Heart. More info at