Phil Collen talks about Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith's audition for Def Leppard: "Adrian's great"

Phil Collen and Adrian Smith
(Image credit: Phil Collen - Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia / Adrian Smith - Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen has revealed that Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith and ex-Whitesnake/Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes were invited to try out for Def Leppard following the passing of original guitarist Steve Clarke, and explained why ultimately ex-Dio/Whitesnake guitarist Vivian Campbell was given the job.

Speaking to eonmusic at a press conference at Hellfest, Collen recalled the audition process to find him a new guitar partner after Clarke's January 1991 death.

"We invited five people we knew, five friends," said Collen, "and Vivian  just fitted in straight away. It was like it was meant to be. [But] Adrian's great, he's a great singer, and that was one of the other things [we were looking for]; if you can sing."

"There was some other people," Collen continued. "We played with John Sykes, also an amazing player, amazing singer, but Vivian's voice was just unbelievable, but more than that, he just fit in the style of what we do."

At the time, Adrian Smith was not a member of Iron Maiden, as he left the band in 1990, during the making of the band's No Prayer For The Dying album.

Speaking about the emotional side of trying to replace Clarke, Phil Collen added, "We didn't do casting calls or anything like that. It was still a bit painful after losing Steve, to be totally honest, so we wanted someone who emotionally, we could work with as a family member, and Viv did, straight off the bat."

"With Adrian, he played in context with what we were doing when we were rehearsing, I mean, we were doing Def Leppard songs, we weren't doing Iron Maiden songs, we weren't doing Dio songs. So, whoever comes into our house has to play by the same rules."

Def Leppard play Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium tomorrow, June 18. They will play London's Wembley Stadium with Mötley Crüe on July 1. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.