EXCLUSIVE – PHIL COLLEN INTERVIEW

Phil Collen (far right) made his name with Girl before making his fortune with Def Leppard. Now he’s making a new album with Man Raze.

rushonrock caught up with the former dispatch rider on the day new docu-movie I, Superbiker – featuring a brand new Man Raze track – enjoyed it’s UK premier across the country.

And Collen reveals he’s been busier than ever during Leppard’s hiatus – with just weeks to go before one of Britain’s biggest bands returns to the rock scene with a debut live album and a Download headline slot. 

rushonrock: How did the link-up with I,Superbiker come about?

Phil Collen: Mark Sloper, the director, did some Man Raze videos. He told us about the movie and we kind of wrote the song straight away. He said they needed a theme tune, so to speak, and we had something in mind straight away. It’s faster and a bit madder than the normal Man Raze fare but it suits the film. Even the lyrics reflect the film. We’d seen some footage but it wasn’t until we saw the film that we realised it was the right song.

rushonrock: How many Man Raze songs did you record for the movie?

PC: Just the one, although there are a few mixes. I was in LA the week before last putting the finishing touches to one of the mixes and it’s even madder! We weren’t involved in the score as such. Mark just wanted some kind of theme tune and it suited us down to the ground. I’ve done this kind of thing before with Leppard. Obviously we had Two Steps Behind on the Last Action Hero soundtrack and we did some incidental music for that movie. It’s an area that I find really fascinating and given the time and the opportunity I’d jump at the chance to do more movie stuff.

rushonrock: So could this be the start of a part-time career?

PC: The I, Superbiker thing was just a case of having the right song at the right time. When the director first described the film I had a song in my head. He told me a few of the catch phrases which featured in the film and I loved all of that. Some of the language they use is great. They call each other gladiators and it was real fun working on the lyrics. The video for the song is a snapshot of the film and shows just what those guys go through.

rushonrock: Are you a motorcyle fan?

PC: In actual fact I used to be a dispatch rider in London. For three years I delivered stuff. At 17 or 18 you know no fear and you’re flying around London in the pissing rain without a care in the world. But that was then! I bought a bike a few years ago and I was too terrified to get on the thing having come off a few times in my youth. You realise how mortal you are when you ride a bike. Looking at the guys who feature in the movie – I have total respect for them. It’s dangerous just driving in the street but what they put themselves through is unbelievable.

rushonrock: What’s the state of play with Man Raze right now?

PC: We’ve got a record deal for the second album and. If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting that. But we have a second album’s worth of material ready and work’s already started on recording it. We weren’t really putting that material out there to get a deal but word got round and we had a couple of labels contacting us. We’ve gone with a US label called Rocket Science. I’ve just done a load of press with Joe [Elliott] around Def Leppard’s summer tour with Heart and after that the plan was always to hook up with Paul and Simon to do the new Man Raze record.

rushonrock: How is it different making a Man Raze record compared to making a Leppard album?

PC: It’s a totally different structure. But the two bands want different things. With Man Raze it’s all about the excitement of the performance – with Leppard it’s a very technical process. With Leppard we’d go and do a song in the studio – or do our individual parts – and it was a song we’d never played live as a band. Take Love Bites as an example. That was a total studio song. When it came to the crunch and we needed to include it in our set list we didn’t actually know how to play it live as a band. Then it became our first and only US number one single and we were given two days off on the tour to learn it and work it into our set! With Man Raze it’s a totally different vibe and the songwriting to recording process is a lot more organic.

rushonrock: After your brief hiatus Leppard are back with a bang with the Mirrorball live album and Download headline show to come this summer…

PC: Doing Download again will be fun. We’ll do the US tour with Heart over the summer and then we’ll hopefully come back to the UK later this year. To headline Download twice in three years is incredible really. Just doing it the first time was huge and there are four or five songs from that set featured on the DVD that accompanies the Mirrorball album. That set was really special. As a band we never expected to be asked to do Download again so soon but it’s pretty cool. Everything’s moving very quickly now we have confirmed we’re back but we were never really away. I worked all the way through our so-called time off and I got married! All of a sudden I had no time off at all.

rushonrock: How much of your time off involved working on Leppard projects then?

PC: We’ve been recording. I’ve been recording like crazy! I’ve been doing my stuff from LA – recording it and sending it over to Joe. There are three new songs on the live album and they sound great. But I’m looking forward to getting out on the road again and as long as we look after ourselves we’ll be touring for a long time yet. That’s the fun part.

rushonrock: This first Leppard live album’s been a long time coming – why is that?

PC: There are a couple of reasons really. Firstly the weird thing is that we’ve always recorded everything that we’ve done. But all the energy went into making studio albums and all those live recordings just got left on the back burner. People have been asking us for a live record of Leppard for a long time now and it feels great that we’re finally going to deliver. And the timing’s right. We’re a better band than we’ve ever been and this album followed a five year spell on the road. Like most Leppard records it’s quite polished but that’s the way we are live these days.

rushonrock: Can you give us a flavour of the new material?

PC: The new songs do see the band go in a slightly different direction again to Songs From The Sparkle Lounge. One of them is a real epic. One’s a real anthem and one should have been on Hysteria! I do think in this day and age it’s better to bring out new material as often as possible – even with a live album. A whole studio album takes so long to record and there’s always filler stuff on there anyway. We don’t want to do that really. What we’re doing is offering our fans three pre-mo songs ahead of the next studio album.

* The DVD and Blu-Ray of I, Superbiker will be available from May 9, 2011.

I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.

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