Def Leppard

An interview with guitarist Phil Collen
by Tina Hall
May 2012

Def Leppard

Def Leppard

Phil Collen is best known as the guitarist for Def Leppard where he perfected the dual guitar style alongside Steve Clark that gave the band its signature sound. Before all of that he was a member of the rock band Girl. He can currently be found in Manraze as well with drummer Paul Cook(Sex Pistols) and Simon Laffy(Girl). Their sophmore album PunkFunkRootsRock is out now.  He can be found on tour with Def Leppard this summer headlining with Poison and Lita Ford.  Phil endorses the Jackson PC 1, a limited edition Jackson PC1 Splatter 30th Anniversary, and the Jackson PC Supreme.

Maximum Ink: Are you looking forward to hitting the road with Poison and Lita Ford later this year?
Phil Collen: Always. We’ve toured with Poison before in 2009 and we’ve known those guys for years. We’ve never toured with Lita but are looking forward to it.

MI: You have said you picked up the guitar as a means of self-expression. Do you think it is important for people to have an outlet that encourages the growth of the self?
PC: Absolutely especially kids when they don’t know how to express themselves with words. Grownups should have an outlet too…

MI: You seem to live a rather healthy lifestyle. Do you think it has helped you survive the rock n roll n roll lifestyle as well as you have?
PC: I guess so but I see people in their everyday lives not in the business, 10 to 15 years younger than me, in really bad shape. Not just physically because it’s not just about working out but pretty much all around in their lives.There seems to be an overall ‘agony’.To me it’s a no brainer.

MI: You are also working on a Physical Mechanics routine that involves muay thai, heavy cardio, and weight training. Can you tell our readers a little more about that, what exactly is muay thai? What is it like working with Jean Carrillo?
PC: Muay Thai is a martial arts Thai fighting style sometimes known as ‘Thai Boxing’. Jean Carrillo is a former European world champion and a five time world champion coach. I get the benefit of having someone who has such a vast knowledge train me in the same way he would train his fighters. There are lots of benefits. The physical, mental, and spiritual awareness that evolves is unsurpassed.

MI: You have said Jeff Beck is at the top of your list of greatest living guitarists. Why is that, for those that don’t already know?
PC: He’s totally unique and was & is one of the pioneers of the electric guitar. Most guitarists sound like somebody else. Jeff Beck sounds like Jeff Beck.

MI: Have you ever had the chance to meet him? What is he like as a person?
PC: Yeah. A couple of times. I had a great name drop moment when I was listening to these guys outside of a studio room door during the making of the Hysteria album in Holland. The door flew open and Mick Jagger said, “Hey man! Do you want to come in and have a listen?” So I ended up sitting on the couch listening to Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Simon Phillips, and Doug Wimbish play live to me. Pretty cool memory. I don’t know him too deep but it appears that he’s been able to keep his personality in tact through all of this. He seems perfectly normal.

MI: You have been asked to speak at Cal State in regards to your career and the industry. Have you ever done that sort of thing before?
PC: I talk non-stop. (laughs). But last year I was invited to speak at Dana Hills High School. Last October my band Manraze had a show at the ROXY in LA. The Grammy Foundation brought in a group of high school students during our rehearsal for a Q&A. They asked some of the best questions I’ve ever heard. It was refreshing.

MI: Do you enjoy passing along what you have learned to the musicians of tomorrow?
PC: Absolutely. Mutt Lange did that for me along with other people I’ve met along the way.

MI: What does it feel like to get paid to do what you love?
PC: I still appreciate that greatly. I think it’s an amazing thing.

MI: Do you think it makes life in general a little better to be able to do that?
PC: Absolutely.

MI: What is it like to get to work with Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols?
PC: It’s great. Paul is one of my favorite drummers. I love the sound of him. When I got to play with him it was a thrill. He’s so open-minded in his approach to music.

MI: Do you consider yourself a fan of the Sex Pistols?
PC: Totally.

MI: Why do you think they have had such a lasting influence on the music industry?
PC: They completely changed the rules musically, lyrically, and fashion-wise in England and it had a far reaching influence. They went against the grain with their integrity intact and it worked.

MI: You have also known Simon Laffy for awhile now. Do you find playing alongside people you have known for so long gives the music more meaning so to speak?
PC:  It’s not really about how long you’ve known someone.You can get good chemistry from new people. But there’s definitely something to be said regarding playing with someone for years, it’s like ESP or a sixth sense when it comes to your blends or anticipated movements and we definitely have that.

MI: How would you describe the Manraze sound to those who haven’t heard it yet?
PC: The best description I’ve heard is that we sound like a cross between The Police and The Foo-Fighters. I also love the fact that we’re a three-piece. We try to live up to the standard of great three-piece bands like The Police, Jimi Hendrix, and Nirvana. For those who haven’t heard us yet they should check out our current album ‘Punkfunkrootsrock’. It sums our sound all up.

MI: You have a charity auction coming up with United Way in which you painted a 10 foot replica of your Jackson PC 1 Splatter. Are you excited about that?
PC: I’m extremely excited about that. In 2009 I painted 30 Jackson PC1 ‘Splatter 30th Anniversary’ guitars for Jackson’s 30th anniversary. This 10 foot Fender Strat is going to be placed on display in the streets of Cleveland before it’s auctioned off for UW’s ‘Guitar Mania’ charity later this year in October.

MI: Do you enjoy painting?
PC: Well this was more like splashing so I got to act like a 3 year old. Of course I enjoy it.

MI: Why do you think art and music seem to mix so well?
PC: Well, music IS an art-form.

MI: When it comes to charity do you think it is important for those that ‘can give’ ‘to give’ to those who are less fortunate?
PC: It’s a wonderful thing if it ends up in the hands of those who need it with as few middle men involved as possible.

MI: How do you think you have changed the most over the years as an individual?
PC: I’m still a work in progress. But I love the fact that traveling and meeting all types of people opens your mind right up and continues to do so.

MI: What would you say is the craziest thing you have ever done, so far?
PC: I don’t remember. it was too crazy.

MI: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans before you go?
PC: I’ll see ‘you’ on tour hopefully. I’m going to actually be doing a few acoustic performances on local radio shows as I hit various cities. So I guess they should just listen out for those. We’ll try and keep them posted from our Facebook pages and twitter.

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