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Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen can't help but laugh at established rock stars who complain about how tough their schedules are.
Yes, there can be a lot of work involved, he concedes, but if you're doing it right, it shouldn't really feel like work.
"People say to me, 'Well, isn't it hard doing all that travel?' And I say, 'No, when I left school at 16, I worked in a factory. That was hard.' That wasn't fun, that wasn't rewarding. That was just really, really hard," Collen told the Tribune in a phone interview. "So to do this, it kind of cancels out sitting 'round the airport or going on a big journey. Big deal. You get dressed, you go onstage, and you do all this crazy stuff. It's brilliant!"
Collen and his Def Lep bandmates will be doing their crazy, brilliant stuff at West Valley's USANA Amphitheatre this Monday when they headline an '80s rock bill that also features Tesla and a reunited Poison lineup.
This will be Def Leppard's sixth USANA appearance. They've sold out each of the previous five.
Collen is certainly appreciative of the local support, even if he can't pinpoint the specific reasons behind it.
"The only thing I can kinda put it down to is that people know what they're gonna get; it's sharp every time," he said. "And at this point, it's like an annual event, a yearly occurrence."
Def Leppard were arguably the biggest band in the world for a time. The first album Collen appeared on, 1983's "Pyromania," became a huge hit thanks to songs such as "Photograph," "Foolin' " and "Rock of Ages," and went on to sell more than 10 million copies. The follow-up, 1987's "Hysteria," went supernova, spawning seven hit singles (notably "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Love Bites," "Rocket," "Animal," and "Armageddon It") and has sold more than 25 million copies to date.
Still, because of the era Def Leppard was popular in, the band is often dismissed critically due to the company it kept.
Not that it's keeping Collen up at nights.
"As far as legacies go, we're just a band playing music. I don't even think of stuff like that. My ego wouldn't allow that," he said. "It's great that we get to do this, and it's great that we're at this level. I think we have the 'working hard' part achieved. And what we get to do is really such a great reward. But I don't place that kind of self-importance on the band. We're just a rock band that has a great time and had some success based on insanely hard work. That's it, that's all really."
Collen is proud of the band's catalog beyond the hits, and admits he'd love to play more deep cuts at live shows, even if he knows the logistics and time constraints usually don't allow for it.
"Time gets gobbled up really quick, and you do have to play 'Pour Some Sugar' and 'Love Bites,' 'Hysteria.' There's a bunch of them you have to do, otherwise the audience will be kind of bummed," he said. "But I dig that as well it's a great problem to have."
He also knows it's just as well that so much of the band's setlist chooses itself. Singer Joe Elliott famously said a few years ago there was little point to playing much if any new stuff at live shows, as audiences generally treated such performances as opportunities for bathroom breaks or to get in the beer line.
Still, that doesn't mean Def Leppard are going to stop making new music. They issued a self-titled album in 2015, and Collen said an EP's worth of new stuff will probably be out next year in advance of "a massive world tour [being] planned, with a bunch of different places we haven't played before, and places we haven't been to in years."
The fact that it might never be played at a concert or be as commercially successful as earlier stuff is hardly sufficient reason for artists to quit trying to be artistic, he explained.
"It's more than an itch that's your reason to exist. You have this creative expression. You always need to put more in your arsenal. It just keeps growing so have a better take on it lyrically, groove-wise, everything. That, to me, is probably the most exciting and rewarding part of the whole thing," Collen said. "I used to just love playing live it's a no-brainer, you get out there, it's a physical thing. But you do that whole songwriting thing, where you get to try and write and create something new, and it's exciting. You don't know what's going to happen, but it grabs you and takes you in a direction somewhere. So, to me, that's the most exciting part. If you can do that, and keep doing that, that's the biggest reward right there."
In the meantime, he recognizes his very career is a reward in itself.
Regardless of how the next EP sells or what critics say, Collen is well-aware that having an arena full of people fete you with love and devotion beats working in a factory any day.
"It is exciting! It's the most amazing thing in the world. I'll be 60 this year, and I get to run around onstage," he said. "I also get better as a singer, as a guitar player and as a producer every year I'm in the band. That's a really lovely trajectory that we're all a part of. That's exciting in itself, the fact that you can write a song that the next year you're playing and someone's singing the words back to you it's the ultimate, a dream gig!"
With Poison, Tesla
When • Monday, 7 p.m.
Where • USANA Amphitheatre, 5150 Upper Ridge Road, West Valley City
Tickets • $29.50-$125; Smith's Tix