Phil Collen Embraces aging, being a kid on stage
FAIRFIELD — Phil Collen, lead guitarist for the multiple-platinum selling Def Leppard, happily converses about his 60th birthday in December 2017.
“It’s a number,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I don’t get hung up on it and don’t dwell on it. I welcome it.”
His outlook on aging wasn’t always so bright. As the band was wrapping up “Hysteria,” Collen said he contemplated turning 30 and felt that was kind of the high number of rock stardom.
A vegan diet and no liquor have helped the new attitude.
“I’m jumping like a kid on stage,” he said. “I’m going to celebrate it rather than be scared of it.”
Collen has been with the band since 1982.
Drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car crash a few years later. A second tragedy struck the band in 1991 when guitarist Steve Clark died from alcohol poisoning. He was 30.
Collen and Clark were called the “The Terror Twins” because of their offstage antics, which often involved alcohol. Collen walked away from liquor; Clark couldn’t quit.
“I loved Steve,” Collen said. “We could literally have an eight-hour conversation and we wouldn’t realize it.”
The two collaborated on songs. They lived in Paris at the same time, dating models who were friends, Collen said.
His initial reaction to Clark’s death was anger. The two had spoken about the path Clark was on and the toll it was having on his life.
It hit him hard a few months later, Collen said.
The band added guitarist Vivian Campbell to the lineup.
The current lineup has been in place since then. Original members Joe Elliott and Rick Savage joined forces in 1977. Allen joined in 1978, the same year as Clark.
Collen attributes the group’s longevity to integrity.
“We believe in what we do,” he said. “We are proud of what we do.”
The quintet is close enough to be brothers, he said.
“We can make each other laugh. Joe can make me cry with laughter,” Collen said. “We’ve been through births, deaths, divorce and marriage. We have always been the constant to each other.”
Collen released his memoir, “Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard and Beyond,” in October 2015. It took a little arm twisting from contributor Chris Epting.
“I thought it was egocentric and that’s not who I am,” Collen said.
He wrote about leaving school at 16, and going from working in a factory to playing live in front of millions of people.
Epting interviewed him tirelessly, Collen said. The project was a lot harder than he thought it would be, he said.
Collen credits his wife, Helen, with helping him put his thoughts on paper.
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