Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott has told Classic Rock that the band’s new album might be the last they ever make. The album, titled Def Leppard, is released on November 27 via earMusic.
Earlier, on October 30, a *Classic Rock *Fanpack edition of the album will be issued, featuring an exclusive bonus track. “I think this is a great album,” Elliott says. “I’m not one of those people that’s going to say it’s the best thing we’ve ever done – that’s something that gets judged over time. Is it great? Yeah. I believe it is. It’s a very guitar-driven record, and it’s got an incredible energy to it.”
But Elliott also admits that this album may mark the end of the band’s 35-year, 100-million-selling recording career. “Who knows?” he says. “The truth is, until we actually made this album we never thought we’d do another.”
It’s now seven years since Leppard’s last studio album, *Songs From The Sparkle Lounge. *The last time any new studio material from the band was released was in 2011, on the live album Mirror Ball, which featured three brand new tracks. And as Elliott explains, when Leppard first started working on new songs in February 2014 the plan was to make a three-track EP.
“We had no mind to make an album,” he says. “In the last few years everybody seemed to be saying that the album is dead. We had three great songs, so we thought we’d do an EP. But after we got together for four days those three songs turned into twelve. We said, whoa, wait a minute. We do have an album here. So we ran with it.”
Its 14 tracks were recorded over a nine-month period at Elliott’s home studio in Dublin, and was produced by the band with Ronan McHugh. “We called it Def Leppard because it really sums up who we are,” Elliott says. “When people heard we were making a new record, they’d ask us: ‘What does it sound like?’ And the collective answer was: ‘It kinda sounds like Def Leppard!’ So the title just made sense.”
That classic Leppard sound is evident in tracks such as Let’s Go – an anthem in the style of past hits Pour Some Sugar On Me and Rock Of Ages – and Dangerous, which Elliott likens to 1983 single Photograph. But there are other tracks that are, as he puts it, “stretching the boundaries”. Man Enough is a funk-rock song reminiscent of Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust; Blind Faith is an epic track with echoes of Zeppelin’s The Rain Song and The Beatles’* I Am The Walrus*; and on We Belong, all five members of the band share lead vocals – a first for Def Leppard.
During the making of the record, guitarist Vivian Campbell was absent for short periods while continuing his treatment for cancer. But as Elliott says: “This wasn’t an issue. Just because Viv’s got cancer it doesn’t mean he’s on his back. He could work around his treatment. This was difficult for him, but when we discussed it he said: ‘I want to work. It’ll do me in if I don’t work.’ So we would carry on without him, and then he’d play catch-up. He recorded most of his solos on a laptop when we were out on tour.”
On Def Leppard’s current world tour, the US leg is followed by shows in Japan and Australia before a return to the UK and Ireland in December for 10 dates co-headlining with Whitesnake. “The American tour has been mad,” Elliott says. “We had twenty thousand people in Dallas, eighteen thousand in Birmingham, Alabama. And even in Seattle, with the grunge connotations, we sold fifteen thousand tickets. There’s a parallel universe that doesn’t know what grunge is. Some people just like what they like.”
In the 1980s, two Def Leppard albums – Pyromania and Hysteria – sold more than 10 million copies in the US. “Now, it could never happen,” Elliott offers. “From a record-selling point of view the music industry is dead on its fucking arse. There are a few exceptions – the odd artist, like Taylor Swift, can still sell millions of albums – but that’s it.”
It was for this reason that Leppard were reluctant, at first, to commit to making this new record. But in February 2014 that attitude changed. With so many new songs written, there was only one way to go.
“We’re from that generation that has a hard‑working ethic,” Elliott says. “You make records, you tour and you write songs. And if you’ve got a head full of songs, you’re going to go bonkers if you don’t record the bloody things.”
The result, the singer reckons, is one of the best albums of Def Leppard’s whole career. “Ultimately,” he says, “it really doesn’t matter what this album sells. We did it as a piece of art, not as a piece of commerce. And I think that really shows through. And if people think the album is dead, let them think that. We’ll go our own way.”
The Def Leppard Fanpack edition, containing the new album and a 116-page magazine devoted to Def Leppard, can be pre-ordered now at www.teamrock.com/defleppard