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Phil Collen - "We're still the same bad we've always promised to be"

For the men who make up English rock band Def Leppard, the last 30 years have been full of lifestyle changes and a constantly evolving music industry. And when it comes to the heart of it all — their music and their fans — that change has been only positive.

In fact, if you ask guitarist Phil Collen, he'll tell you things have only gotten bigger and better.

'I don't know what it is, but the crowds have surged in size,' Collen said in a recent phone interview with the Courier & Press. 'There's more energy and there's more people. I don't know if it's something in the water, something in the air, but something is really working for us at the moment.'

Def Leppard will perform with REO Speedwagon and Tesla on Monday at the Ford Center.

Collen says the band is still just as focused as ever on producing the same sound and quality they were providing to their fans over 30 years ago when the band made their debut.

'We've always had the same goal, and we always try to do better,' Collen said. 'I think we have less and less bands breaking through and really taking over the music scene because of the Internet and music streaming. All of that put a pause on bigger bands making breakthroughs. There is definitely a different feel out there nowadays and there are no bands coming through and making an impact like they used to. I think why we still draw these crowds is because we're still the same band we've always promised to be and we still have our integrity intact.'

Collen has been with the band for 33 years. Outside of Def Leppard, the 58-year-old keeps himself plenty busy. He's currently working with Tesla on producing their new album, and he has another band, Delta Deep.

'When it comes to Delta Deep, we have this blues/soul/hard-rock sound that is just incredible, really,' Collen said. 'It started out at a blues thing, inspired by my wife's godmother, Debbi Blackwell-Cook, after she sang at our wedding. She is an amazing gospel singer and has this Tina Turner voice that gives you the chills. So yeah, that's how it started and now we have this really good thing going. We play shows whenever we can.'

Some might wonder how a man who juggles so many major projects at once manages to do it all, but for Collen, he says the answer is pretty simple: You can always make the time to do the things you love, with the people you love.

'People won't hesitate to say 'Hey man, don't you need a break?' And while it doesn't seem like it, my wife and I do make time for ourselves,' Collen said. 'It's like being on a permanent vacation. You just make the effort. You get up early, and you have a really long day, but I think the most horrific thing would be just to stay in a hotel room when you're in a fantastic city or even somewhere in the boonies. Some might think it's draining, but when you get out there and do stuff, it's the opposite, it energizes you and gives you power and energy.'

Collen said the same goes for music. He doesn't get tired of performing Def Leppard songs, and he probably never will.

'When I'm around these great musicians, it inspires me to do more instead of the opposite. I get fueled by it,' he said.

The band released a self-titled album back in October and Collen played a major role in the songwriting. When it came to producing the album, Collen said the project started out as recording a single — but when the ideas didn't stop flowing, they didn't stop recording.

'We just kept coming up with ideas, it was an exciting thing,' Collen said. 'We got really excited about writing music and it was really inspiring. None of the songs sounded like they should be on the same album, but we got a really great flow going. It was just nonstop and it was great fun for all of us, and I think the fun part was we were doing it purely for us and it was just raw and very real. We weren't being pressured by a record company's agenda or anything like that.'

Read more here.