Earlier this year rushonrock was fortunate enough to witness Def Leppard’s Phil Collen strut his stuff in front of a few hundred die-hards at London’s Islington Academy and from that moment on Songs From The Sparkle Lounge made a massive impact on the classic rock world. But with Leppard put to bed for the next few months Collen is back in the UK playing a handful of shows with side project Man Raze in support of this week’s release of the brilliant Surreal. Read on…

rushonrock: Why Man Raze and why now?

Phil Collen: Man Raze is something that I’ve wanted to devote some serious time and attention to for many years now but it was a case of getting the right conditions and the right time. This is the perfect time to push the band in the UK as I’ve just wrapped things up with Def Leppard and I can give Surreal my full focus.

rushonrock: It’s no Def Leppard record though is it?

PC: I’ve always wanted to do something a bit different. Maybe something alternative and a little bit edgy. It’s an eclectic mix of styles but one of the most important things about this record is that it’s an English record. We’re all from London and it’s a very London-influenced album and we’ve even been rehearsing in Shepherd’s Bush. We’re proud of our roots and wanted that to come across on the record.

rushonrock: There’s a real mix of material. was that important?

PC: It’s a record which reflects the kind of music we listened to and learned as kids. There’s T Rex and Bowie and then there’s the reggae stuff. The Trojan Records-influenced sounds could never make it on to a Leppard record. We’d get slaughtered. But Man Raze is free of any preconceptions or baggage and Surreal proves that.

rushonrock: As a rocker did you ever agonize about the reggae/dub influences?

PC: We were a bit sceptical going down the reggae route with the dub sounds and what have you. But it’s been so well received and sat so well with what we were doing. We’ve been working together as Man Raze for four years now and it’s always been part of what we wanted to be. But over that time we’ve changed a lot of the songs after experimenting with different things. All of a sudden there were more influences coming to the table and it took on a life of its own.

rushonrock: So why the long wait for your UK fans to discover the delights of Surreal – a record which has been available in the US for months?

PC: It’s all been about finding the right time to make our music public in the UK. It has been frustrating at times, knowing that we have this excellent band and these great songs, but we were always quite positive about the situation. It’s been an ongoing thing for all of us and we knew it would happen one day. There have been gaps in the band’s progression but we were always mindful of that and knew we’d nail it eventually.

rushonrock: And you’ve been getting some great reviews on the other side of The Pond…

PC: The reaction there’s been to Surreal in the States has been amazing. A lot of the rock stuff and the alternative kind of thing we’ve got going on has been likened to bands like The Clash and Foo Fighters and we couldn’t have had a better press if we’d done it ourselves!

rushonrock: Do you feel it’s a brave record for a member of Def leppard to put out at this time?

PC: Surreal is not just a brave record, it’s very valid. It’s not just about doing something weird. We worked very hard to get these songs to click and we did this record in a very different way to how I’d do a Def Leppard record.

rushonrock: How have the other guys responded to Man Raze?

PC: Everyone in Def Leppard has been very supportive of my work and we recorded Surreal at Joe Elliot’s studio at his house outside Dublin. We got it done in two-and-a-half weeks and every day was amazing. I’d had bits and pieces of Man Raze songs floating around for some time so all the guys knew what to expect and they were making suggestions all the time. There was never any real criticism of what I was doing but there was some helpful advice along the way! I was always playing the stuff to everyone so none of it came as much of a surprise to the guys in Def Leppard.

rushonrock: And talking of the day job, just how good has this year been for all things Leppard?

PC: 2008 has been a great year for Def Leppard. It really has. Two weeks ago we wrapped up the Songs From The Sparkle Lounge world tour in New Zealand and it’s been a whirlwind few months. I don’t think we’re quite finished yet either! There’s going to be some more US shows next summer – around May I think – because we didn’t really focus on the major theatres this year. It was more a case of going into all the secondary markets and playing to as many people as possible. It’s been nuts!