This Friday will see Def Leppard mark their comeback from a brief hiatus as they reprise their 2009 Download headline berth at Donington.

But this is no ordinary comeback. Debut live album Mirrorball hits stores this month and the band will head out across North America during the summer with fellow 80s chart busters Heart!

In the second of our Rushonrock Rock Gods interviews we catch up with Leppard frontman Joe Elliott – look out for more big names throughout the summer! 

rushonrock: Have you been on the brink of releasing a live album for some time now?

Joe Elliott: We’ve never been on the brink of making a live album before because we never felt we could do it justice. Our studio records are always really well produced and it just wasn’t an option to make a live record which didn’t match up. Also you have to remember that because bands used to put albums out every year they needed some time off and a live album allowed them that break. We took four years to make an album anyway so there wasn’t the same expectation for a new Leppard album in such a short space of time. And when we did get a record finished it was straight out on tour and there wasn’t time to think about anything else. We’d do the tour and then we’d start writing new material.

rushonrock: So was the timing finally right last year?

JE: Being off the road in 2010 gave us the first opportunity we’ve had to really nail a true Def Leppard live album. For the first time in our career we didn’t have anyone telling us what we had to do or what we should be doing and so we did our own thing. I wanted to do the Down N Outz thing but as a band we started listening to these tapes of shows that we’d recorded on the Sparkle Lounge tour.

rushonrock: Did you use material from the co-headline UK arena tour with Whitesnake?

JE: We taped some of the shows we did with Whitesnake but I honestly don’t know what we used apart from when I mention a place name on the odd song! It was a case of picking the best versions we could from a big pool and putting it together so that the fans get the perfect Def Leppard live experience.

rushonrock: How on earth did you decide what made the cut?

JE: There were 10/10 performances that had to be on there and what you get with Mirrorball is the best of the best from a band that had been on the road for four or five years solid. Ronan (McHugh, co-producer) rated and reviewed all the performances – we went through them in my studio and then he said leave it with me for a week. I came back, listened to the tracks he’d picked and it sounded great. Now everyone can listen to the band in perfect performance mode.

rushonrock: Are there any personal highlights?

JE: With the version of Bringin’ On The Heartbreak we use the crowd sings it in two parts and it sounds incredible. Action and Bad Actress come from a little club show we did and then there’s the three new studio tracks. But there’s everything on there that we did on the Sparkle Lounge tour. Having recorded more than 100 shows on the tour we had to try and capture the mood.

rushonrock: As a band renowned for its world class production values was the pressure on to make the perfect live album?

JE: With a lot of live albums in the 70s and 80s people asked can these bands cut it live? Often the records suggested not but it wasn’t the bands’ fault. It was down to budgets and time constraints and all that shit. With us it was more a case of people have seen us live, they know what we can do but can we capture that on an album? And we didn’t have the excuse of budget or time constraints. Mirrorball had to be the best it possibly could be.

rushonrock: Was the intention always to release it to coincide with your return to Download?

JE: When the Download offer came along we knew we had to get Mirrorball out this month. The Download set will include at least one of the new songs on the live album but as for the rest of the songs? Some will get played and some won’t but of course the set will be different from when we played Donington a couple of years back. Put it this way – the first 30 minutes will be nothing like the first 30 minutes from 2009. After that we’ll play the hits because that’s what people want to hear.

rushonrock: The live album’s finally done and dusted – now for the box set, right?

JE: There are still plans to put the box set together but we’re having a few issues with out ex-record label. When they get their heads from out of their arses we’ll talk to them. We’re ready and willing and able to put together the definitive Def Leppard box set but not on their terms.