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Def Leppard did us the honor of interviewing them for the first time at Music Waves, on the occasion of the release of their new album, "Diamond Star Halos"!
DARIALYS - 20.05.2022 -
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These last years, the English quintet has not marked the hard rock scene by its prolixity. But in spite of a phenomenal career, the five friends prove their eternal youth with a thirteenth studio album reflecting all the pleasure taken by the musicians. Interview with Rick Savage, bass player and original member -with Joe Elliott- of the band.

We like to start our interviews with the question: what is the question you've been asked too many times and are tired of answering?

Rick Savage : Well... There are many! But after twenty, thirty, forty, there are still people who ask: "So, how did you choose the name of the band?" (Laughs).

Seriously? Anyway, we would like to know how you managed to overcome all that you lived: Rick's accident (Allen, the drummer, who lost his left arm in a car accident in 1984, editor's note), Steve's death (Clark, the former guitarist of the band, who died in 1991), Vivian's illness (Campbell, the guitarist)... You are a very united band. After having lived all this, how did you proceed to record this album each one on your own ?

With the covid, we were confined. But we had songs, and we had to record them. We had only recorded twice together in the studio in our career. So we're used to recording individually, but we never record alone, there's always the other guys around. Also, I became a roadie, an engineer, a producer, and I'm still an artist! I even had to change my strings myself, which I hadn't done in years! (Laughs). In the end, this experience was very useful because it allowed us to record alternative takes. No one was there to say : "No, no, you have to let me record my guitar solo !" It was really free. You can spend a day trying something that's not going to work and you're not going to keep it in the end, but who cares because no one will ever hear about it anyway!

Like Bon Jovi for example, you have always refused to lock yourself in a single style of music. Do you think that this could have done you a disservice, after the success of "Pyromania", "Hysteria", or "Adrenalize" (released respectively in 1983, 1987 and 1992, editor's note), where you created your personal style, that some people now call pop metal?

"Pyromania" kind of laid the groundwork for heavy metal at the time. "Hysteria" also, but in a more mainstream way. We had a clear vision of how we wanted these albums to sound. We wanted "Pyromania" to be a heavy metal album that no one had ever heard before, and we wanted people to try to reproduce it after it was released. It was the same with "Hysteria". When you've done that, it's hard to continue the same process. And that's why, I think, "Adrenalize" didn't work the way I wanted it to.

And what was your reaction when you discovered the disappointment of your fans?

I understood it! You see, I'm a huge Queen fan for example. But really, I'm only a huge fan of their first five albums. For me, Queen is "Sheer Heart Attack", "A Night At The Opera", "A Day At The Races", or "Queen II" which is a fantastic album. After 1980, I wish they would have released another "Sheer Heart Attack", because that's the album I discovered them with. So I understand why some fans wanted another "Pyromania"!

Your new album, "Diamond Star Halos", starts with a very hard rock song ('Take What You Want'), followed by a rock ('Kick') and a pop metal song ('Fire It Up'). Is it a way to destabilize your audience and to assert your artistic freedom by showing the different facets of your identity?

You know... Honestly? When you say it like that, it makes me think. When we write and record, we don't actually think like that. We write a song, we try to make the best song. Everything you say is correct, but you don't really realize it consciously until afterwards. There was one song that reminded us a little bit of Pink Floyd afterwards, another song that reminded us of The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, or other artists from the 70s. But that's something you realize after the fact. We absorbed a lot of music when we were about 12 years old, and you remember it for the rest of your life. But not just hard rock from the 70's, not just Queen, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC, also mainstream music like Fleetwood Mac and Elton John.

You shared two songs ('This Guitar' and 'Lifeless') with Alison Krauss, a country music star who played with Robert Plant?

She still works with him! Actually, we've known Alison for twenty years. She has always been a big fan of Def Leppard. When we released our album "Slang" (in 1996), she did an interview with Joe (Elliott, the singer of the band) for a magazine. That's how we first met her. We wrote these two songs, there was this country rock thing in them, and we thought of Alison for two reasons. The first one is that our manager has Alison's manager's number, and he wanted to contact him and ask Alison to work with us on these songs. The second one is that Joe has Robert Plant's phone number. They call each other to talk about soccer, and as the conversation goes on, Joe tells him : "Keep it to yourself, we're recording an album" ! Robert said, "Okay I won't say anything, but I have to tell Alison because you guys are her favorite band!" (Laughs). He told her, and then this duet with Alison happened. She wanted to hear the two songs we wanted to work with her on. We said, "Would you like to sing on this?" And she said, "Absolutely!" She loved both songs.

Same for Mike Garson with whom you collaborated (American jazz and rock pianist who played with David Bowie, editor's note)?

You know, if you look at Joe Elliott's repertoire, he has all the musicians in the world in it! Rick likes David Bowie a lot, and all the other musicians. He's a fantastic musician. We write some songs on the piano originally, because Joe plays it. And then we got to a point where we realized that it wasn't enough, so we thought it would be nice to have someone play the piano on some parts. We thought of Mike Garson, so we said to Joe, "Give him a call!" We sent him the song, asked him to play the piano, and it was good!

You often pay tribute to your idols, like on the albums "Retro Active" (1993) and "Yeah!" (2006)...

Yes, we are music fans like everyone else! And we always will be. For the fans, it can be hard to say that the way they see us is the same way I see Brian May! He's a huge star. He's the one who made me want to play in a band.

This new album has a more experimental approach with tracks like 'Liquid Dust' and 'U Rok Mi', which could have been released on your album "Slang" for example. At one time, this could have disappointed some fans, but now you don't seem to have this fear anymore?

The "Slang" album is an album that we had to release. Commercially, it was not a success, it sold less well than the three previous albums.

And it's funny because now it's appreciated by the public!

Now it is! We were ready for this album, and I would even say that without this album, the band would have surely split. We couldn't go on, we had to do things differently. For the band itself, from the inside, "Slang" was a success, but not commercially. We're songwriters, and we don't write a song and wonder what people want to hear, we just say, "Let's write a song!"

And that's a sign of vitality, to keep experimenting.

We do what comes naturally to us. We don't say to ourselves that we should write this type of song. If you think like that, things become false and forced. You're not honest with yourself anymore.

On tracks like 'SOS Emergency' or 'From Here To Eternity', you can feel a little bit of Led Zeppelin?

'From Here To Eternity' is a song that I wrote, and there is indeed an inspiration from Led Zeppelin, but also from the Beatles and Queen. I wanted to write a song with a 1940s black and white movie in mind about murders, gangsters, etc. (laughs). Visually, I could see it in my head.

Do you always compose this way?

I always start writing a song with a riff. It's very easy for me. The hardest thing is to finish the work. Writing lyrics, writing melodies, it's complicated. Joe usually finishes the job (laughs). On 'From Here To Eternity', I had ideas for lyrics that I sent to Joe, but he said: "No, that's not good enough! I'd say, "That's not bad!" But he'd tell me, "It's got to be better than not bad!" We're always trying to improve what we're doing. The final version was much better than I imagined.

Generally speaking, it seems that this album is a tribute to many English rock artists, as well as being a summary of what you have played throughout your career. If we wanted to introduce someone to Def Leppard, is this the album we could recommend to them?

Potentially. But it's still with "Hysteria" that we created our sound. But actually, on our last album, there are 15 tracks, so technically it's a double album. It's got everything, with our early influences and our current influences. There's something for everyone. It leaves room for a next album.

You are going to tour with Mötley Crüe in the USA. It's a band that is known for its excesses, while you have a more wise image. Is it a bit like the "good" Beatles touring with the "bad" Rolling Stones?

Maybe, yes! But the poster is great. When Mötley goes on stage, they go all out. Whether you like them or not, what they represent is very cool. We're different, and Mötley worked differently from us, but it's going to be a great night.

What are your expectations for this new album? And with such a career, do you still have expectations ?

Our expectations are to do our best! Playing shows, etc. There is a lot of respect and love in this band. It's the entity that prevails. We love doing what we do, we have fun. As long as people want to come see us, it's fantastic.

We started this interview by asking you what was the question you were asked too often. On the contrary, what would you like me to ask you?

That's a very, very good question! The question I would like to be asked is: "How long do you think you can continue? Because the answer is, "As long as we can!". It's not a week or even a year from now. We'd like to do this for at least another ten years. From our point of view, bands like the Rolling Stones are still touring! We are younger than them, we are fifteen years younger! If we can do this for another 15 years...

Thank you very much!

Thanks to you!

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