For Def Leppard, it's 'Adrenalize' and take to the highways rockin'

November 03, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Getting ready for the road is always an adjustment, even for the most seasoned musicians. But when you spend as much time making an album as Def Leppard does -- which, in the case of the current "Adrenalize," amounts to almost three years of writing and recording -- the transition from recording studio to concert stage can be a bit of a jolt.

"It's unbelievably alien," admits guitarist Phil Collen over the phone from a tour stop in Toronto. "I always compare it to how drastically different it is when you go from your last few years at school to your first job. It's the same.

"You sit in a studio and have bad posture for God knows how many years. Then all of a sudden you have to get on tour. You have to be fit."

Collen laughs, then adds, "I think the touring part's a lot more fun. It's more spontaneous. The studio thing's a bit of a drag in comparison."

Not that Collen is complaining. Indeed, considering how many copies the typical Def Leppard album sells -- "Adrenalize" has sold more than 3 million copies in the United States alone -- it's easy to see why the band believes that if an album is worth making, it's worth making right.

"An album is kind of immortal," Collen says. "It's always going to be there. You've got to make it have moods -- impressions, if you like -- and images. It takes a whole lot of work.

"Whereas live, people have the audio and visual. They've got all these lights, and they can see the band. They don't need as much encouragement to the ears. There's a lot more excitement and adrenalin."

Def Leppard does its best to compensate, though, approaching its arrangements as if its guitars, bass and drums had all power, range and depth of a full orchestra. "The fact that we don't have a keyboard, that we have to rely on guitar, means that we do a lot of experimenting," he says. "But that really makes it exciting. It's like orchestrating it, finding a sequence on guitar that actually makes a certain section come alive."

Collen learned how to manage that trick alongside fellow guitarist Steve Clark.

But Clark died during the making of "Adrenalize." While that understandably threw a pall over the production, Collen says that what helearned from working with Clark on "Hysteria" made it easier for him to fill his bandmate's shoes on the new album.

"We learned so much making 'Hysteria,' because a lot of it was experimenting," he says. "Me and Steve, we'd spend an enormous amount of time together, trying to get these guitar bits happening. So when it came to 'Adrenalize,' I knew exactly what I had to do. It was just a matter of applying it."

Taking the album on the road was a bit trickier. For one thing, he had to settle in with the band's new guitarist, Vivian Campbell; for another, he had to condense what were often as many as eight guitar parts into something that could be played on stage by the two of them.

Of the two, the first was the easiest. "How me and Steve used to do it was, we'd decide based on whether one person played a particular part better than the other one," he says. "Basically, me and Vivian have done exactly the same thing."

Somehow, the multilayered arrangements had to be consolidated into workable stage parts. "What you do is, you make a collage," Collen says. "There's two of us, and there's eight parts here on the record. But only really three or four are very apparent; the other stuff is just there for atmosphere or whatever.

"So you take the most prominent parts, and that may mean kind of making a combination part that's not exactly what's on the record, but close to two of the guitars that are on the record. Then the other guy takes the other two. It turns out pretty well."

Why doesn't the band simply use electronics to fill in the missing parts? "Because we cheat so much in the studio, we figure it's got to be the complete opposite live," answers Collen. "Live's got to be live.

"It's OK if there's a bum note, or your singing's shot; it makes it fun. If we were out there and it was just a tape running and we were just lip-syncing, we wouldn't be able to tour for this long. It just would take all the fun out of it."

Def Leppard

When: Tonight, 8 p.m.

Where: Capital Centre

Tickets: $22.50

Call: (410) 792-7490 for information; (410) 481-7328 for tickets

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