Joe Elliott Calls Poison, Winger And Warrant “Shite Bands”


June 22, 2008

One of the biggest bands of the 1980s, Sheffield’s Def Leppard are currently on tour with fellow rock survivors Whitesnake and newcomers Black Stone Cherry. Scene spoke to frontman Joe Elliott in advance of the Hysteria heroes’ sold-out show at the Odyssey tomorrow night

Euro 2008 may be well under way, but Def Leppard mainman and football fanatic Joe Elliott only has one thing on his mind at the moment – the conquest of Europe by stadium friendly rock and roll.

“We’re right in the middle of a European tour,” he informs us. “It’s all been going really well. We just did three brilliant shows in Norway, so it’s Def Leppard 3 – Norway 0, I suppose.”

When it comes to his chosen profession of rock god, Sheffield United fan Elliott is as competitive and ego driven as you’d expect from the face and voice of a band who’ve sold over 50 million units thanks to hit albums like Pyromania, Hysteria and Adrenalize.

Thus, when the current tour with David Coverdale’s Whitesnake is described a co-headliner, the Dublin based star is quick to clarify the situation.

“It’s only a co-headliner in Britain,” he says. “The European dates are just us. We’re closing the show on the whole tour, but we’re very pally with David and there’s no one-upmanship involved. He was very gracious and insisted that’s how it should be.”

Elliott adds with a chuckle: “Of course, being the egotistical b******* that we are, we weren’t about to argue with him!

“I think everyone realises that over the years both bands have been successful but if there’s an edge we’d probably just have it for whatever reason.”

Several million album sales are probably one major factor. Indeed, some Leppard fans may scoff at the idea of them having to ‘co-headline’ with anyone. Joe explains where the idea came from.

He says: “Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson did a tour of baseball stadiums in America where they would each headline on alternate nights. I remember being amazed that Dylan would agree to open a show, but it was phenomenally successful.

“Having a couple of big names on the same bill makes each gig an event, like a mini Glastonbury with less bands. I’ve never seen a downside to that kind of thing. As a kid I remember seeing Blondie with special guests Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers at the City Hall in Sheffield. That looked a lot better on the posters than just ‘Blondie plus support’.

“I remember the first time we did a double headliner with Bryan Adams a few years ago, there was 18,500 people there on the first night. We’d do 10-12,000 on our own, but to up the crowd by 6,500 a show confirmed that we’d made the right decision.

“We did a similar thing with Journey the year after that, and then last year we went out in the States with Styx and REO Speedwagon opening up for us. It works a lot better having two name bands there than a band who no one’s ever heard of opening up. People go straight to their seats rather than to the bar.”

You can’t argue with that – though teaming up with some popular younger bands might help silence the cynics – suggesting the motivating factor behind such vintage line-ups is an attempt to cash in on the nostalgia of aging rockers.

“Well, we are quite picky,” explains Joe. “We refused to go out with Poison or Winger or Warrant or any of those shite bands. It’s a real pity that a lot of the newer bands we’ve dug over the years haven’t actually dug us. But that’s just music, man.

“For example, there’s a lot of bands from here who don’t mean s*** in America, like Manic Street Preachers and Stereophonics. We could take them out with us to play stadiums but they wouldn’t come with us; they think we’re more Status Quo than The Rolling Stones.

“Hopefully we’re turning that around slowly but surely. Now you’ve got bands like My Chemical Romance name-checking us. People who grew up loving Hysteria have now become musicians, DJs, journalists (guilty as charged, Joe) and movie directors, so you know, things eventually come back around.”

Indeed, as Lemmy says, ‘stick around long enough and you’ll become a legend’. Having just celebrated the 30th anniversary of their formation, Leppard are right on schedule for a critical re-assessment – not that the critics count for much when you’re 50 million albums in the black.

Their latest LP is called Songs From The Sparkle Lounge. While that might set the AOR alarm bells ringing, it’s actually Def Leppard’s most rocking album since 1999’s return to form, Euphoria, getting right back to their Queen meets AC/DC roots.

“When we called the new record Songs From The Sparkle Lounge, we were being ironic,” laughs Joe. “It’s something we don’t get enough credit for – we’re the most ironic bunch of b******* you’ve ever met!

“Every night we had the crew set up a secondary set of gear back there so we could start writing, just to help kill some downtime between soundcheck and the show.

“Pretty soon they were putting Christmas lights and pictures of naked ladies up and laying out hippie rugs. Viv (Campbell, Belfast-born guitarist) ended up nicknaming it The Sparkle Lounge.”

He continues: “It was good and bad, because you can’t put a time limit on this creative process. It’s not woodwork. Sometimes we’d be one chord or word away from victory and Malvin the tour manager would be putting his head around the door saying you’re on in half an hour. It could be incredibly frustrating at times.

“On the other hand, normally we finish a tour absolutely knackered and take a few months off. When we get back together, we have to sit around on beer crates in the rehearsal room scratching our heads trying to think of some new songs. This time around, we’d already got that out of the way.”

The band are looking forward to playing Belfast, the only Irish date on the current tour. Perhaps understandably given Viv’s roots and Joe’s long-standing Dublin residence, it was the fastest selling date on the whole tour.

“It’s going to be a special night,” the frontman enthuses. “Belfast is Vivian’s home town and it sold out four months ago, so you’ve got to look forward to those gigs. It’s almost scary how quickly it sold out, it’s definitely been the most talked about show of the lot so far for us.

“We’ve been told to keep the guest list low, because obviously Viv’s going to need a bunch and I’ve got crowds of people wanting to come up from Dublin.

“Luckily, I know the promoter very, very well – I’m the godfather of one of his children, so I’m going to leverage off a little corner of Odyssey land just for me!”

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