PHIL COLLEN Talks DELTA DEEP, Says New "Self-Titled" DEF LEPPARD Album “Is Finished - I Think It's The Best Thing We've Done Since Hysteria"
June 22, 2015, 2 years ago
For most members of established/successful rock bands, one side project takes up all their free time. Not Phil Collen. In addition to being a long-time guitarist of Def Leppard, he is also the singer/guitarist of Manraze, and now, is a member of a rockin' and bluesy quartet, Delta Deep. The band - which also includes singer Debbi Blackwell-Cook, Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo, and drummer Forrest Robinson - will be releasing their self-titled debut on June 23rd (via Mailboat Records), which also includes guest appearances by the likes of Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliott, Whitesnake vocalist David Coverdale, Sex Pistols/Manraze drummer Paul Cook, and Girl/Manraze bassist, Simon Laffy. Collen spoke with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato about Delta Deep, as well as offering a status update on Def Leppard's eleventh studio album overall.
BraveWords: Let's discuss Delta Deep.
Phil Collen: "It's me and Debbi Blackwell-Cook, who is a 60-year-old black woman, who's got this great soul voice. It's somewhere between Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner…a Chaka Khan kind of power voice. She's my wife's godmother, so she has sung at our wedding and has been singing since she was two years old in her church - gospel and soul and everything. We would sit around the house and just goof off, and before you know it, we had people going, 'What is this you guys are doing?' Initially, it was just Motown stuff. And they'd say, 'Where can we buy this?' So we started writing songs. When we got Robert DeLeo from STP and Forrest Robinson on drums - who played with everyone, from TLC to India.Arie, and the Crusaders - it sounded like Rage Against The Machine does blues or something! It had this different kind of energy. We hadn't really planned it that way, but we tracked all these elements of black music - from where it started from slavery to gospel music, blues, soul, jazz, rock, the whole gamut. Just an expression of all that. I think you hear all these elements coming out in the music. We were blown away by the direction it took, really."
BraveWords: Was it a stretch to do bluesier material compared to the style you're known primarily for?
Phil Collen: "No. It was great fun. It was actually so much easier, because there were no restrictions - even on the style of music. I know a lot of people, they do a genre of music and it really lets you know whether you're an artist or not. If you want to stick by the rules and want to exactly copy something else, then go ahead. But I've always wanted to expand - the Stones, Zeppelin, David Bowie, even Linkin Park and stuff later on, just combining everything you can and just letting it out and following your muse, and 'Let's see where it goes.' For me, it was a lot easier - guitar playing wise, it has been so much fun. Because again, with a lot of the songs I write in Def Leppard, we have a structure and you have to remain in that structure. You can't get in the way of the lead vocal, or even the backing vocals. Rhythm is very important. With this, it's more of an immediate expression. So it came out a different way, but it's a lot easier - just fun in a totally different way."
BraveWords: Which are your favorite tracks?
Phil Collen: "I love 'Treat Her Like Candy' - that was one of the last songs we'd done. Again, it sounds like a soul song to me. In this day and age, when soul lost all its soul, it's kind of nice to go back and try to conjure up some of those images. And like I said, it's the expression part. I love 'Bang the Lid,' 'Down in the Delta' is great. 'Mistreated' is such a great epic highlight - Debbi gets to do a vocal solo, Joe Elliott is on there, I get to solo like crazy, and Forrest and Robert…everyone gets to go nuts on that song, so it was a nice way to end the record."
BraveWords: I was impressed with Joe's vocals on 'Mistreated.'
Phil Collen: "Forrest has always been a Def Leppard fan, and he said that he thinks that is Joe's best vocal he's heard. So that was nice."
BraveWords: Are there plans for Delta Deep to play live?
Phil Collen: "Yes, we're doing our first show next week in LA [June 17th at the Hotel Cafe]. We're really excited about that - we've been rehearsing. I was actually on tour with Def Leppard, and I got home on Sunday from Scandinavia, and the next day, I was rehearsing with Delta Deep. We're waiting to do a tour, as well - we have to fit that in with all the scheduling, but we'll make that happen."
BraveWords: And you also have an upcoming autobiography, Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard and Beyond.
Phil Collen: "It's not finished yet, so we're working on that. It's me from 0 to 57, and all the bits in between, really."
BraveWords: What is the status of the upcoming Def Leppard studio album?
Phil Collen: "It is finished. We need to mix and master it, and it should be out in October. It's called Def Leppard."
BraveWords: Who is the producer?
Phil Collen: "Us, with Ronan McHugh - who's done our last four or five albums. He's our sound engineer, so he's got it all down."
BraveWords: Is it comparable to any previous Def Leppard albums?
Phil Collen: "I think it's the best thing we've done since Hysteria. Every song is different - we only went in to record an EP, and came out with twelve songs. It's actually going to be fourteen on the record. And they vary. Some songs have got the biggest guitars that we've ever done - just smack-you-in-the-face-loud-rock-songs. And other songs sound like they should be top-40. And we've done everything at separate times - we did two weeks initially, and then another month in May last year, and then we finished off this winter, in January/February. It was a great way of doing it - there was no real pressure, there was no record company executive, and the fans weren't really expecting anything. So it was really down to us - like in the old days, when the Stones could go, 'OK, we're going to go record 'Brown Sugar' and 'Wild Horses' at Muscle Shoals,' and just went in to record it because they'd written the songs. It was done for all the right reasons, I think, as opposed to the contrived version of things that we've unfortunately gotten into over the years - I'm talking about everyone in the industry."
BraveWords: What can fans expect from the upcoming Leppard summer tour?
Phil Collen: "We're badass - we've been over in Europe again, the most exciting European tour we've done. For some reason, people were going nuts - especially in places like Lithuania and Prague, and Eastern Europe, especially. So we just get better each year - I think the vocals get better, Joe's singing better than I've ever heard him, even on this new album and the Delta Deep stuff, he's killing it. So we just keep improving. And the only way you do that is work it a little bit harder. So that's really what we've been doing - just trying a little bit harder each time. And it shows. Plus, a lot of bands are disappearing. We never split up and had a reunion - our integrity is bang-on, it's still intact, whereas a lot of bands can't really say that. We really sing all our vocals - it's not on ProTools or tapes or anything. It's the real deal. So all of those things, ultimately, you eventually get rewarded for. That's really where we're at."
BraveWords: I read a while back that Def Leppard was going to do another residency in Las Vegas, and do the Pyromania album in its entirety. Are there any plans to still do that?
Phil Collen: "We keep getting a slot, if you like, but it keeps getting changed - something comes up, and it's like, in this case, we have to go to Japan or England. Hopefully, we'll get it sometime next year. There's only so many slots. But we'd love to do that though."
BraveWords: Do you plan on recording any more music with Manraze?
Phil Collen: "Absolutely. Well, one of the songs on Delta Deep is actually Manraze - 'Black Coffee.' Paul Cook on drums and Simon Laffy on bass, and it's me and Debbi singing. It's the same team that played the song 'Surrender,' Manraze's last single. Yeah, we've got loads of stuff - it's just a matter of getting the right time of putting that in, so there will be another album at some point, as well."
BraveWords: Lastly, how do you stay in such bloody good shape?
Phil Collen: "Oh, thank you! There's a difference between working out and training - I like doing something in between, without killing myself, because you're on tour and everything. The main thing, the 'ripped body' that everyone wants is really people who have low body fat. So the main thing is what you put in your body. Even alcohol - which I don't drink - a lot of people put on weight and they don't realize, 'I'm doing all this stuff, and I can't seem to lose weight,' because of all the sugar that turns to fat from the alcohol. I do a mixture of everything - my cardio is kickboxing and boxing drills and stuff like that, with kicking and everything. I think you have to keep doing something all the time, and that's really the key here. The minute you stop…like, I wasn't able to have an access to a bag to kick all the time. And I started getting really bad back pains. And this was the last three weeks. As soon as I got home, I'm kicking this stuff; I'm exercising like I normally do, and all the pain went away. So the consistency thing is very important - as is the cardio thing, and the food thing. It's like a mixture of everything, if you can do that. I try to do one body part a day. There's a lot of different systems out there - there's a thing called HIIT, which 'High Intensity Interval Training.' So you do circuits - you get the cardio part and you get the weights. And I think a lot of people don't do enough weights when they do weight workouts, so it doesn't register and people don't get their heart rate going high enough when they do cardio. I think that's the main difference, when you hear people go, 'I go to the gym, I go every day, but nothing seems to be happening.' It's because they're not pushing it out there quite enough. It's just all of the above - doing it just a little more intensely, without hurting yourself."