Welcome Back: Phil Collen / Delta Deep

Born out of an impromptu acoustic jam between Def Leppard’s pec-flexing guitar slinger Phil Collen and Michael Buble’s backing vocalist (and godmother to Collen’s wife, Helen), Debbi Blackwell-Cook, Delta Deep quickly became more than a couple of old friends messing around. When drummer Forrest Robinson and Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo jumped on board, the band went electric, and according to Collen, became a “fire-breathing dragon”.

Their self-titled debut – which features guest spots from Joe Elliott and David Coverdale – touches on soul, blues and, as Collen tells us, one or two elephants in the room.

**Def Leppard, Stone Temple Pilots, Michael Buble. Delta Deep’s line-up shouldn’t work, so why does it? **

It all just came from the blues. I’m very disappointed where most music has gone – country, jazz and blues especially. Blues was initially a reaction and an expression from people beaten down by slavery. It had an energy and vibe that came from that. It was pain and suffering.

**And you don’t see that in blues today? **

Now, blues is stylistic and doesn’t have that stuff. In this band, Debbi and Forrest are black and an element of that pain and suffering comes out. Me and Robert are just fans and we’re into it. That [pain] isn’t recognised in a lot of modern blues.

Lyrically, this album is a world away from Def Leppard.

Down In The Delta is a metaphor between hell and what happened down in the South, going back to slavery. I don’t really hear that on radio, I hear people copying a style. A lot of that stuff is very taboo. A white artist wouldn’t be able to do it and black artists don’t really do it any more. We have a mixture of the two, which gives us liberty to write about whatever we want. I think it’s great. It’s the elephant in the room. We have a lyric video out for Down In The Delta that shows pictures of slaves in America. A couple of people said it was a bit racist. How is it okay to show a hundred thousand people dying when you show a mushroom cloud? And you see Holocaust victims, and we have the ISIS beheadings, all of which is terrible, but for some reason, when we show a picture of a slave, people get weirded out. We can’t figure that out and it needs to be addressed.

You’ve also been in the studio with Leppard. What stage is that record at?

It’s pretty much done. Today I’m doing one vocal line. We’re just finishing little bits off and then it’ll be mixed and mastered. We went in to do one song or an EP because there’s no real point in doing albums these days as a major artist. We went in and ended up with 12 songs. I think that was because there was no restriction, no record company executives wanting singles and filler. Some of the songs have more guitars than we’ve ever had, and then we went overboard on the vocals – it makes Queen sound like Popeye doing a capella! We did this album for us, for no one else.

Classic Rock 213: News & Regulars

Rich Chamberlain

Rich Chamberlain has written for Classic Rock, Musicradar.com, Total Guitar, Nuts, FourFourTwo, Billboard, Classic Rock Presents The Blues and Classic Rock Presents Country.