Joe Elliott hates the term “80s band”. After all, the singer also released new music with Def Leppard in the decades that followed. On “Diamond Star Halos” the hard rockers present themselves in top form.
Actually, Def Leppard could rest on the laurels of the past, on hits like “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, “Let’s Get Rocked” or “Rock Of Ages”. But that’s out of the question for the hard rock band from Sheffield, who are now releasing their twelfth album.
«The motivation is that we are musicians. And we make music, »clarifies frontman Joe Elliott in an interview with the German Press Agency. “We like to write songs. If someone says it’s not necessary, it’s not in my DNA. It is always necessary. It is necessary for me. Even if nobody hears the songs.”
The boys love their job
The danger does not exist for the songs on «Diamond Star Halos». Finally, Def Leppard’s last studio album made it to #10 on the US Billboard 200 and #11 on the UK Albums Chart in 2015. The halls they play in Germany are no longer as big as they were in the 1980s. But across the Atlantic, rock veterans are filling big stadiums these days.
“It’s no different than being a carpenter, plumber or electrician,” says Elliott in an adjoining room at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. There the 62-year-old is already working with his band on the next big project, which is still secret. “If you like your job, why should you have to retire?”
The Brits don’t just love their job, they are ardent music fans. On “Diamond Star Halos” you can hear the influences of their glam rock role models here and there – a bit of Mott The Hoople (“Take What You Want”), a big portion of T. Rex (“Kick”). Overall, Def Leppard remain true to their classic, powerful sound with fat guitar riffs, driving drums and distinctive band choral singing. A song like “SOS Emergency” would also have fit on the mega-seller “Hysteria” from 1987, which finally made Def Leppard superstars.
“I don’t agree when people say we’ve written our best songs and we’ll never write a better one,” Elliott says. «Bullshit! That’s not true. We’ve written songs that we can’t possibly top in popularity because people have been carrying them for 30 or 40 years. But that doesn’t mean we can’t write something better. At least we should try. And that’s the inner drive that we all have.” The singer says his band can never reach the sales figures for the cult albums “Hysteria” and “Pyromania” (1983) again.
Alison Krauss provides the country impact
Def Leppard has duetted with country stars Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw and even Taylor Swift. The new album features Alison Krauss singing “This Guitar” and “Lifeless” with Elliott. She’s a Def Leppard fan herself. Former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant, who has already recorded two albums with Krauss, made the contact. “We heard that she’s looking forward to our new disc,” says Elliott. “And we have two songs with a country twist. Then why shouldn’t we just ask her?”
Elliott is obviously particularly proud of the fact that David Bowie’s longtime pianist Mike Garson refined his keyboard playing “Goodbye For Good This Time” and “Angels (Can’t Help You Now)”. The blond front man laughs in disbelief. «An avant-garde jazz pianist on a Def Leppard album, what can go wrong?»
Experience has shown that the two power ballads with thick strings should be more popular with fans in the USA than with the more riff-oriented fan community in Europe. Diamond Star Halos has something for everyone. The 15 partly very different new songs of the former MTV stars harmonize surprisingly well.
Starting in June, Def Leppard will be on a stadium tour in North America. Concerts in Europe are planned for next year – not only with the old hits. “I hate the term ’80s band’,” says Joe Elliott. “We are also a band of the 90s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s. We are survivors. And we’re doing so well because we’re making new music.”