Music & Nightlife

Def Leppard guitarist on health, longevity, what’s next

Rick Allen, Rick Savage, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, and Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard.
Rick Allen, Rick Savage, Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, and Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard. Maryanne Bilham-Knight

As Def Leppard embarks on its summer tour with Styx and Tesla, guitarist Phil Collen has a lot on his plate. (All vegan, of course. More on that later.)

There’s his bluesy-hard-rock side project Delta Deep, an upcoming biography in the fall, last week’s news that Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell’s cancer had returned, and this week’s news that Campbell is still well enough to join Def Leppard’s tour – which includes a stop at PNC Music Pavilion on Tuesday.

Collen, who is fit at 57, spoke to the Observer about new projects, his healthy lifestyle and the staying power of the group’s hit albums.

Q. What’s the reaction when something like this happens to Vivian?

A. It’s like a regular family. We lose parents and friends. People have accidents. All of these things happen to everyone. You have to deal with it, soldiering on. Like anything. This could bring a band together.

Q. You are in great shape for someone who’s spent the bulk of his life on the road. What’s been your secret?

A. When I stopped drinking 28 years ago, I got two extra hours in the day because I wasn’t hung over. I’ve been a vegetarian for 32 years. That was a moral thing. I’ve been vegan for four years. The exercise and obviously no drinking, no smoking ... avoiding poisonous stuff and keeping moving. The older I get, the benefits are outrageous. I see people I went to school with back in England – even guys 10 or 15 years younger than me – have knee, back and skin problems.

Q. How did your side project Delta Deep come together?

A. (Singer) Debbi (Blackwell-Cook) is my wife Helen’s godmother. She’s 62. We were hanging out together. I was playing acoustic guitar and she was singing and people asked, “Where can we get this?” Now we have an album and we’re in a band. We expected it to be a bluesy-soul thing, but the album has heavy-duty firepower.

Q. My 6-year-old loves Def Leppard. What’s it like knowing you created something that has multi-generational longevity?

A. It’s wonderful, but we can’t take credit on that. That was down to Mutt Lang, the producer. He said, “You could be an OK band, or you can be great.” He made us work harder.

Q. Have you taken those lessons into other albums and projects?

A. Absolutely. It’s something you learn and you can’t forget. If you do forget, you’re quickly reminded. It’s got to be better. You don’t want to start relying on your ego. You have to constantly look in the mirror. Not just with the music, but in everything. We definitely learned that from Mutt.

Q. What’s the status of the new Def Leppard album?

A. We’re so close. We mixed it in March. It will be out in October. It’s really diverse. It goes from really hard rock to absolute over-the-top melodies with super multitrack vocals to Top 40 (style) songs. We went in to record a single and came out with 12 songs. The motivation was purely ours. It wasn’t a business thing, or a label thing. It was done for the right reasons.

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Def Leppard

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd.

TICKETS: $25-$99.

DETAILS: 704-549-5555;