Phil Collen is known primarily for his work as lead guitarist for the juggernaut that is Def Leppard. However, 2018 is gearing up to be an interesting year for Mr. Collen. With multiple projects including new material from, blues-based The Delta Deep, and the more pop friendly Manraze, as well as the G3 tour with Joe Satriani, and of course Def Leppard. He literally has something new happening every day. Chimera Magazine was afforded some time to sit down with Mr. Collen to discuss jamming with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci, playing the blues, and the possibility of new music from Def Leppard.
You are currently on the G3 tour with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci, how did the tour come together and what is it like playing with those guys every night?
Phil Collen – It’s amazing. I’ve done the G4 experience with Joe Satriani before where you get to play with people for 1-2 hours a day and then jam at night. It was such an amazing thing that he asked me to do the tour. I had some time before we kicked off the Def Leppard thing. It’s something very different for me, my band The Delta Deep are on it as well. Robert DeLeo is the bass player in the band, and normally he is doing Stone Temple Pilots, he couldn’t make it, so I got Craig Martini, an amazing bass player that was at G4. This guy is so incredible and he is the nicest guy, so two elements you have to have. So I asked Craig if he was up for it, and we have been having a blast every night.We do a couple of instrumentals and Debbie Blackwell – Cook, lead singer of Delta Deep, comes out and starts singing. It’s very different, this stuff is very blues based and hard rock, jazz fusion the way it kicks off, even within our own set. At the end we get on stage and I jam with John (Petrucci), and Joe (Satriani) and we’ve gotten into some really amazing jams. We really feed off each other.We had some collaborations on stage with Chad Smith from the Chili Peppers, and Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple. We also Vivian Campbell, my fellow guitar player in Def Leppard, come up on stage for Def Leppard day when our catalog started streaming. We had Neal Schon come up on stage when we played Oakland, CA. It’s just been really wonderful.
I heard a rumor that you are producing a new Tesla Record?
Phil Collen – “I just finished it, it sounds incredible. We did most of it while on tour, we have been touring the last year and a half together, with Def Leppard. We would get together back stage for short little slots of time and write guitar parts together. We did the drums and lead vocals at the end, just like we do with Def Leppard and Delta Deep. That was really cool. Again, it’s just really diverse and something that we’ve never done before. Arranges and influences, one minute it will be like Queen, the next will be like The Beatles or some Brit-Pop, and then it’ll move into AC/DC or modern Aerosmith. It’s fascinating, Everyone was really open for it. Artistically we let it take us where it needed to go. I am absolutely thrilled with out it came out, and can’t wait for it to be released. It’s kind of mind-blowing.
There is also a new Delta Deep Live Record on the horizon. Delta Deep is deeply entrenched in the blues. What is it about the blues that you find most satisfying?
Phil Collen – When I got into music my cousin got me into progressive rock like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple. We went and saw Deep Purple on the Machine Head tour, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, I was always into Motown. I just love everything that comes through as a rock fan. When I started playing guitar I realized it was all blues based. Hendrix and Jimmy Page were blues guitarists. Clapton and BB King were blues guitarist, Jeff Beck… those guys were where I gravitated apart from T. Rex and David Bowie and stuff like that… Which I loved the whole glam thing… I really vibed all of this stuff. When we came to the Delta Deep thing, it was really natural, it was all the things that really got me into playing music in the first place. It wasn’t a stretch at all. The blues started in a field somewhere in the Deep South. With a guy that played on a guitar with 2 strings. Eventually it morphed into Chicago Blues which was more electric with Buddy Guy and then Jimi Hendrix took that and made is something else. So it kind of morphed where a lot people stay stagnant and try to keep true to the blues or certain things, and they do it a disservice. I think it’s all about broadening your horizons. I saw a poster once of James Brown, The Isley Brothers with Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry and BB King, all on the same night. Can you imagine that… All of that great music started with the Blues. We use that as a yardstick. We have a second Delta Deep studio album that we’ve started and that is sounding unbelievable. We’ve opened up to new interpretations and letting it flow and abide by it and not be karaoke.”
I read that you started playing guitar as a teenager, what was the vibe like at the time you started playing?
Phil Collen – “You have to understand that musically it’s so rich in the UK, especially in London. Everyone would play there. The Rolling Stones are from there, The Who, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix made it in London before he made it in the States. The Beatles lived there, so you were kind of spoiled for choice. Queen…the list is endless. You had a lot of these British bands being influenced by American pop culture and the Blues. Nearly all those bands I just mentioned started from a blues based beginning. It was fascinating. Not long after that you had the punk explosion which, again, just blew me away. Just a new, very aggressive way of expressing yourself. The Sex Pistols were just amazing. So for me it was like a toy shop, just a wonderland. There were so many places to play, and went on from there. I didn’t even really think about it, it was very fertile ground. I’m in a band called Manraze with Paul Cook from The Sex Pistols. He’s got an album out with his band called The Professionals which he played in with Steve Jones after The Sex Pistols. So he’s got me on a track, Steve Jones on a track, Mick Jones from The Clash on a track, Billy Duffy from the Cult is on a track. It’s got the right spirit with a punk rock ethos. So, that just came out and I’m really excited about it.”
I recently listened to the Girl record Sheer Greed, what a punch in the face that record is…
Phil Collen – When we recorded that album, we recorded it in two studios. One was in Olympic Studio in Barnes where Zeppelin and Queen had recorded. The room where I did “Hollywood Tease” was the same studio that I did the solo for “Photograph” It’s really interesting when I hear that cause it’s the same studio where I recorded those two songs. It’s really kind of bizarre.
I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you about Def Leppard, did you ever think that Def Leppard was going to be the juggernaut of a band that it has become?
Phil Collen – No, we didn’t think it would, of course we thought it sounded amazing, but it just blew up. With MTV, and the image at the right time, it just exploded. What is really interesting, is… just this week on iTunes, we have Hysteria at #3 on the iTunes charts and Pyromania is at #5 on the iTunes charts. So Pyromania came out 35 years ago last week and then Hysteria is 30 years old. To have two albums that are so far from their release dates is pretty shocking.
And now I heard that you are going to play Hysteria in its entirety on your tour through the UK later this year.
Phil Collen – We are during a UK tour with Cheap Trick in December, and I think that Japan was requesting is as well, so we will do that there as well. I’m not sure when those dates are because May through October we’ve got the US tour with Journey. I’ve got a feeling we will do that in the States at some point as well.
Are you planning on doing anything new with Manraze?
Phil Collen – We are, I think we are going to release a best-of album. We were just talking about a new song we were writing. We haven’t finished it, but we may feature that on the record as well.
What is one, or two records, that you would take to the grave?
Phil Collen – I really, really, really loved Aladdin Sane, and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie. And my favorite band of all time is actually The Police. I love Ghost in the Machine, and I almost think that Synchronicity is the crowning glory, but I like the mood of Ghost in the Machine better I think.
What’s next for Phil Collen?
Phil Collen – There is literally something everyday. We have the Delta Deep Live record out. We have seven tracks on the go for the new Delta Deep studio album. It’s so different but it’s taken the same trajectory. I’m going to turn the back of my bus into a studio to be able to record. And then Def Leppard started writing for the new album which is sounding great. And then the Tesla album is coming out in May or June, so they will be promoting that and that was such a thrill, and so much fun. There are a bunch of other projects that I want to do, but I just have to find the time to do them.
Interview by Brian Furman
For more on all things Phil Collen check out:
January 11 The Moore Theatre Seattle, WAJanuary 12 Historic Elsinore Theatre Salem, ORJanuary 13 Grand Sierra Theatre Reno, NVJanuary 14 Fox Theater Oakland, CAJanuary 16 Delta Hall at Eccles Theater Salt Lake City, UTJanuary 17 Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas, NVJanuary 18 Mesa Arts Center Mesa, AZJanuary 19 Orpheum Theatre Los Angeles, CAJanuary 20 Balboa Theatre San Diego, CAJanuary 21 Fox Tucson Theatre Tucson, AZJanuary 24 Historic Paramount Theatre Denver, COJanuary 25 Uptown Theater Kansas City MOJanuary 26 The Pavillion at The Toyota Music Factory Irving, TXJanuary 27 Austin City Limits – Moody Theater Austin, TXJanuary 28 Hobby Center for the Performing Arts Houston, TXJanuary 30 Hard Rock Live Orlando, FLJanuary 31 Florida Theatre Jacksonville, FLFebruary 1 Pompano Beach Amphitheatre Pompano Beach, FLFebruary 2 Barbara B Mann Performing Arts Hall Fort Myers, FLFebruary 3 Mahaffey Theater St. Petersberg, FLFebruary 6 Raleigh Memorial Auditorium Raleigh, NCFebruary 8 Toyota Presents Oakdale Wallingford, CTFebruary 9 Landmark Theatre Syracuse, NYFebruary 10 Palace Theatre Albany, NYFebruary 12 The Fillmore Detroit Detroit, MIFebruary 14 Warner Theatre Washington, DCFebruary 15 Orpheum Theatre Boston, MAFebruary 16 Beacon Theatre New York, NYFebruary 17 Merriam Theater Philadelphia, PAFebruary 20 Auditorium Theatre Rochester, NYFebruary 21 Massey Hall Toronto, ONTFebruary 22 Hard Rock Live Northfield, OHFebruary 23 Chicago Theatre Chicago, ILFebruary 24 State Theatre Minneapolis, MNFebruary 25 Riverside Theater Milwaukee, WI