Interview with Steve Clark and Phil Collen by John Stix (editor for GFTPM) | SOURCE: Play It Like It Is Music Book

John: Pyromania kicks off with Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop). The intro is quite a bit different from the body of the song.

Phil: We do that live and the intro is perfect for us to come on to as a first number. We didn’t think we would start the record off with a long intro, it just turned out that way.

Steve: But we did want to contrast that keyboard thing with some heavy guitar riffs.

John: Phil’s solo in this one makes good use of false harmonics. Can you explain that a bit?

Phil: You pinch the pick and hit the string with the pick and your finger at the same time. I used a Les Paul on that. For the tremolo bar bit I used my Ibanez Destroyer.

John: There’s a chord section in here that reminds me of The Who.

Steve: We put some power chords in and it worked as a nice bridge to lead into the middle section. We weren’t really influenced by The Who. We just thought it worked in the song.

John: Next up is Photograph. Was this written as a single?

Steve: We didn’t go out to write any single material. It just became obvious from the way it was forming in the studio that this song would be a single. We used Les Pauls on this track too. The intro is all harmony chords. It’s done with two guitars. On the last part of those chords there is a good example of what I mean. I play the 7th fret notes of A, D and F#. Phil plays an A, E and the A octave. You’ve got to put those two chords together if you want it to work. You can’t get it exactly on one guitar.

John: Keyboards sound important to this song as well.

Phil: On the bridge section there is a mix of keyboards and guitars. The way I got that effect is that instead of hitting full chords, I hit the notes of the chords individually. Each note had its own track and I faded them in.

Steve: If I’m playing a C chord, I’ll play the C note on the top E string on the 8th fret. The next track would be the G of that chord. On the third track I’d record an E note. When you fade them in together it sounds a lot like keyboards. There are a few keyboards in this song, but a lot more guitars.

Phil: My solo on this one came from working with our producer Mutt Lange. Before this, everytime I took a solo I ripped one off right away. Now I see that you’ve got to treat it like a vocal melody. On this one I thought about the melody instead of just vibing it out. The guitar solo is important but if it’s got nothing to do with the rest of the song it’s wasted.

John: Stagefright opens complete with phony clapping.

Phil: That was done because the song is about being on stage. It works well on record to help create a certain atmosphere.

John: It’s a rough and ready song with a lot of rhythmic tension. The solo also builds to an exciting peak.

Steve Clark live with Gibson Les Paul XR-1

Phil: This solo was the first thing I did when I came into the studio. I went down, listened to the song a few times and layed it down.

John: So this was recorded before you were an actual band member?

Steve: When Pete was no longer in the band we asked Phil if he wanted to come down and do a few solos with us. This was the first one we recorded. After we heard him play on this one we said “Phil, you’re in.”

John: Too Late For Love has a synth opening to it.

Steve: Not really, there are only a few synthesizer effects on the opening. The intro was done on a Telecaster and a Strat. Then it moves into the A section where we play Les Pauls.

John: Die Hard The Hunter does a pretty good job of simulating the sounds of war.

Steve: The war simulation was done on synthesizers. I used acoustic guitars and 12-string electrics for the background.

Phil: It took quite a while to do the vocals on this one. It’s sort of an epic.

Steve: This is also a song where we decided to use the synthesiser for more than just sound effects.

John: Foolin’ is one of my favourites.

Steve: I feature the acoustic guitar on this one. I use an Ovation Balladeer. I think the build up works nicely with the synthesizers.

John: Do I detect a slight Zep influence?

Steve: Vaguely yes. It’s a definite contrast to the rest of the album. It was a bit of breathing space.

Phil: My guitar solo was a contrast to the rest of the song. I go mad at the beginning. All of my solos are double tracked on this album. I played them all twice with the exact same phrasing.

John: Did you change guitars or sound and then blend them?

Phil: I used my Ibanez Destroyer on every solo except for Rock Till You Drop, where I used a Les Paul. On that solo there is some stereo panning as well.

John: Were there any songs that were either hard or easy to record?

Phil: When you work with Mutt Lange he makes you play differently. At the time we thought it was a bit difficult. In hindsight we can appreciate what he made us do and we’re glad that we went through it.

John: What did he do?

Phil: He made the guitars so tight. When Steve and I double track or play something together, he makes it sound like one guitar. One a lot of albums you can hear one guy starting early. On Pyromania we did a lot of work to get it down perfectly.

Steve: While recording we also did more than just one song at a time. We did one song one day and went on to a fresh song so we didn’t get stale. If you stay on one song the whole day you lose something and the result is that the song loses something. So we played a song and then left it alone for close to a week. Then we could look at it again clearly and with a fresh approach.

John: Side two opens with Rock of Ages which is a bit tongue in cheek.

Phil: Totally. It’s everything that went on in the last two years with rock and roll singles.

Steve: The intro is an example of what Phil mentioned where it’s so tight it sounds like one guitar. There’s a Moog bass on this track. We didn’t use a bass guitar.

John: Is there perhaps a Linn Drum Machine on here as well?

Steve: When we recorded the album we used the Linn on some of the tracks so we could get everything right. We used it on this song because it was so sparse when we were recording it, that we needed something to keep it kicking over in perfect time.

John: There’s a lot of fire in the guitar solo on this one.

Phil: That’s my Destroyer with the tremolo arm.

John: Comin’ Under Fire has a lot of dynamics to it.

Steve: It’s pretty similar to Too Late For Love. The beginning section is on Teles and Strats and again it moves to Les Pauls.

John: Do you use a volume pedal on the chords?

Steve: I did the first verse with delays, choruses and a volume pedal to swell it in. But instead of using chords I hit each string individually. I made the chords one note at a time and mixed them in. That way every note came out strongly.

John: I noticed a wall of vocals on the words “Comin’ Under Fire.”

Phil: All the backing vocals on the album were pretty much done with several tracks. On parts of Rock of Ages we used almost 100 vocal tracks! Then we took the best of the lot and mixed them all together. They too have to be as tight as the guitars.

John: If I were to pick out the musical mixture that makes Leppard such a success, I would point to a song like this. It has hard rock verses and a pop chorus.

Steve: I don’t think that’s intentional. It’s just the way they come out. Comin’ Under Fire does have heavy chords and a sing-along chorus but it’s a natural style.

John: Steve, I believe you take the solo in this one.

Steve: That’s right. I decided to use a bit of echo on this solo. All the way through the song there are guitars popping up here and there with a bit of echo on them. I got the idea from the Jimi Hendrix version of All Along The Watchtower.

John: Action! Not Words has sort of a “Start Me Up” type feel.

Phil: I did the intro to this on bottleneck guitar. I remember we did loads of heavier guitar chords. It does have a sort of a Stones feel to it.

Steve: I did the stop section into the solo. Here’s another example of two guitars playing across each other.

John: Next up is Billy’s Got A Gun.

Steve: We call it the epic of the album. This one we enjoy playing live.

Phil: There’s a hell of a lot of different things going on. It’s quite a challenge to play.

Steve: There’s harmony chords with the two guitars and harmonics leading into the verses. 

Phil: The bridge section needed something so I did a riff that sounded like slide guitar. But it’s really a bend that I tried to make sound like a slide guitar. This was also double or triple tracked. This song is easily the most demanding on the album.

John: That brings us to High ‘n’ Dry. The opener, Let It Go, is a simple let’s rock type song.

Steve: It’s a little more straight forward that anything we did on Pyromania. But it’s got some subtle thing happening in it to make more of the song. On the A section of the first go around is one open note. Then the section is played staccato. Then the next time there is another rhythmic variation. But it’s always the same note. So we play it with a slightly different feel each time around to keep it from getting boring. This song has become a standard for us live.

John: The segues between songs on this album are very short.

Steve Clark of Def Leppard 1983

Phil: Live we do Let It Go right into Hit ‘n’ Run just like on the record. They work well straight away in both cases. On the record it doesn’t give you much time to breathe. It’s like a slap in the face.

John: The title track sounds like a Saturday night party song.

Steve: It’s just a riff that we came up with in rehearsal. The songs seemed to take shape from that. It’s a classic sort of rock song form.

John: Again I detect a Stones feel.

Steve: Yeah, we sort of played this sparse riff over a heavy drum beat without any bass guitar. Pete did the solo on this one.

John: Bringin’ On The Heartbreak is a special number for the band.

Steve: It’s always been a special song for us. We haven’t done too many songs in this way. It’s sort of a rock ballad. The actual guitar sounds we got through playing two guitars slightly out of tune with each other. It gave the sound of a spacey chorus-like effect.

John: Then Switch [625] slides right in there. Why did you choose an instrumental?

Steve: I had this basic intro riff and a chord section. I thought it would be good if we tried to put all these different melodies over the top of each other. It’s an idea that we later explored on Pyromania. At the end of the song there are three different sections coming together. It’s difficult to do because it sounds very cluttered if you don’t do it right. But because the idea worked here we decided to do it on Pyromania.

John: There are no solos on this one.

Steve: It was really part of Heartbreak because we didn’t know how to finish that song. We decided to go right into Switch. I did a solo on Heartbreak but in the instrumental with all these guitar things going on, it seemed pointless to do another solo.

John: You Got Me Runnin’ has a good vocal melody on the chorus.

Steve: It’s more of a pop song. We just decided we wanted a bit of fun. I did the staccato 8th section with a Police sort of feel over the heavy riff at the beginning.

Phil: Like Steve said, this one breaks up the album Otherwise you’d get a record that sounds all the same. We don’t do this one live.

John: Lady Strange has an interesting middle section that is pretty different when it goes into the solo.

Steve: That song had the same chord riff all the way through. We thought we needed something to break it so it wouldn’t be monotonous. The part you mentioned split it up nicely. Otherwise the song would have been a drag.

John: On Throught The Night

Steve: I don’t remember this song. There’s a TV program in Switzerland that uses this for its theme song. It was fun to name a song after the actual title of the first album. I do recall that there are a lot of different sections in this one. To be honest, this is not one of my favourites. But the album needed something a bit more up-tempo to split it up. When we do a record we always try to vary the tempo and feel.

John: Mirror Mirror.

Steve: This is one we still do live and everybody likes it. There’s a section in here where we first recorded separate strings to make chords.

John: I found it interesting that at one point the vocals and the guitar line were the same.

Steve: It was so simple that we ended up adding the guitars. If we had done something across it, that would have cluttered the song. You wouldn’t have heard the vocals. We did it exactly the same and it worked really well.

John: No No No is a bit of a riff rocker.

Steve: It’s an out and out heavy metal rocker. We did it for a bit of fun more than anything else. Pete Willis did this guitar solo.

John: Do you have advice for the people who use this book?

Steve: You’ve got to watch your timing. To get a powerful sound it all boils down to how tight the band is. If you can get the bass drum, snare, bass guitar and the guitars to hit it exactly at the same time, you’ll get a big sound. For an easy intro to the book I’d start with Mirror Mirror or the opening riff to Rock of Ages, which is pretty straight forward.