Over 100 million units sold. Topping every 80s hard rock song countdown ever. Writing megahits that miraculously manage to straddle the uneasy divide between metal energy and pop bliss. That’s Def Leppard. The Leps are heading back to Oz this month for a series of shows with Heart and the Chiorboys in support of their killer new live album, Mirrorball. A two-disc set which also features three new songs (“Undefeated,” “Kings Of The World” and “It’s All About Believing”), Mirrorball showcases the band at the top of their game. So, vocalist Joe Elliott, why don’t you tell us about it?
Q. I saw you on the last tour a few years ago with Cheap Trick, and now you’re coming back with Heart, who you’ve been touring with in the States. How have those shows been going?
A. Brilliant! They’re such a fantastic band to tour with, and apparently this is their first time down there, so it should make for a bit of excitement for the rock fan who’s open for both bands. When we were down there three years ago it was the first time for us in 18 years. The last time we’d been there before that was 1993. Now we’re back three years later, and we’re trying to not leave it as long. If we left the gaps the same I’d be 80 years old by the time the next show comes out, which would be ridiculous! But y’know, touring with Heart was great but the American tour was difficult.
My father passed away just as we got going and we had to stop for three weeks so I could go home to bury him – well, not bury him, we cremated him, but I went home to sort that out and make sure my mum was alright. So some shows were moved on to the end, which put us into a 9 1/2 week run. And 9 1/2 weeks without seeing your family, pretty much, is a long, tough sentence that was lightened up for 90 minutes a night by some wonderful gigs.
For me, personally, it was a bit of a tough experience. I haven’t properly grieved for my father yet because I had to be back out two days after we cremated him. But life is life. He was in hospital when the tour started and he was insistent that I went. He said “You have to do this.” But I had to come back when I knew he wasn’t going to recover. So it was a little difficult and it still is a little painful and raw. But just forgetting that, if it’s at all possible to, or just putting that to one side at least, the actual shows, we had some fantastic gigs. Being able to showcase one of the new songs was brilliant, so it’s not all just old stuff. And playing with Heart was an absolute pleasure.
Q. The three new songs on Mirrorball really stand up against all the classics.
A. The thing I’m most happy about is how vastly different they are from each other. It’s not like, say – and all due respect, if you’re reading this please don’t take this as a criticism, but if AC/DC release three new songs, chances are there’d be a slight connection! They’d sound a bit more similar because that’s what they do. And I’m not knocking it, I think it’s brilliant. I’m a huge fan of AC/DC. But they’re never likely to do ballads, or a song like “Kings Of The World,” which is obviously a very Queen-influenced piece, or “Undefeated,” which is a very arena rock anthem-style song, if you like.
So we’ve got the intensity of something like “Kings Of The World,” and then we’ve got the total pop sensibility of “It’s All About Believing.” And the thing that they all have in common is that lyrically there’s an enormous amount of positivity coming out of just the titles alone, this positive thumbs-up thing, which came out of taking a year off the road. I’m convinced of it. The pressure was off. We were all spending a bit of domestic time, which we hadn’t been able to do for five years. I’d forgotten what my house looked like! I had never seen my garden bloom in twenty years! I was always never year. And it energised us. By taking that time off, we came back a much better band for it.
Q. I was glad to hear that you’re playing “Undefeated” on this tour.
A. Yeah! We’re going to start working one of the other two new ones into the set as well. We’re also bringing some old new ones back, if you like. Stuff that’s old but that we’ve never played before or we haven’t played for many, many years. So we’re trying to expand it a little bit so that maybe we can play a totally different show if we have two nights in the same town. But we needed to get settled in on this tour.
A lot of people get temped to change the set because somebody starts moaning on the internet. What they tend to forget, these people …and I had a big fight with one, we’ve named him Dorito Boy because he obviously lives in his mum’s basement and he can’t get out of the chair because he weighs 500 pounds. He’s the guy the FBI go to when they need somebody to hack into the Kremlin. He moans that we played the same set four nights running. He’s not taking into consideration that we don’t pack the crowd up and take them with us and play the same songs to the same people!
If we do a gig in New York and we all come offstage and go “That was the most perfectly paced set we’ve ever played,” why would we not want to play that in Kansas or LA or Chicago? It’s not the same crowd! We don’t play to the internet brigade! But there’s always this temptation to keep changing the set to keep them happy. They don’t come to the gigs! So that’s always a tough call really, but it’s just one of the things you have to deal with.
Q. Well it’s funny, after one of my recent online interviews a fan left a comment along the lines of, “Oh man, another interview with this guy?” But you’ve got to do press, and bands have always done this much press, it’s just that now you can read all of them on the internet!
A. Well god knows what they’re going to say about me then, because this is my 900th interview this year! I’m never off the phone! They want me to promote the tour, they want me to promote this and that. I never shut up! So that guy would really not like me. It was probably Dorito Boy!
– Peter Hodgson
Def Leppard Australian tour dates:
Saturday 15 October Perth, NIB Stadium, Buy Tickets 136 100
Tuesday 18 October Adelaide, Adelaide Entertainment Centre Buy Tickets 132 849
Thursday 20 October Sydney, Sydney Entertainment Centre Buy Tickets 136 100
Saturday 22 October Melbourne, Rod Laver Arena Buy Tickets 132 849
Tuesday 25 October Canberra, AIS Arena Buy Tickets 132 849
Thursday 27 October Brisbane, Brisbane Entertainment Centre Buy Tickets 132 849
Saturday 29 October Newcastle, Newcastle Entertainment Centre Buy Tickets 132 849