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Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott talks Down ‘n’ Outz LP, tour with Mötley Crüe

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If you haven’t heard “This is How We Roll,” the new LP from Down ‘n’ Outz, the periodically active all-star side project from Def Leppard front man Joe Elliott and friends, you’re missing out on a truly great rock record that Elliott says has been five years in the making.

Down ‘n’ Outz formed more than a decade ago when Elliott teamed with members of The Quireboys, and Raw Glory, to open for glam-rock legends Mott the Hoople on the final night of that band’s 2009 reunion tour.

Jazzed by the joy of that initial experience and the glowing reaction from fans led to the recording of two Down ‘n’ Outz studio albums and a live record mostly dedicated to songs plucked from the Mott the Hoople family tree. Elliott admits that he and the band considered a third album of covers but is glad they decided against it.

“That conversation lasted about five minutes,” Elliott said during an interview with The Maine Edge. “We contemplated a third covers album made up songs by a bunch of different artists, and it would have been very easy to pick 10 songs and go record them, but I told the guys we’d try to come up with some songs ourselves.”

In a welcome about-face, “This is How We Roll” consists of 11 fresh band originals and a cover of The Tubes’ “White Punks on Dope,” all recorded over a five-year period whenever busy band schedules allowed. Elliott refers to the album as one of his favorite projects to date, and intentionally different - from conception to execution - to his work with Def Leppard.

Highlights include the rocking Leppard-esque title track, the power ballad “Walking to Babylon” and a touching tribute to David Bowie in “Goodnight Mr. Jones.”

Late last year, Def Leppard announced “The Stadium Tour,” a co-headlining tour of US stadiums with Mötley Crüe, and supporting bands Poison and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, set to begin this June. Elliott says ticket sales for what he envisions as “a traveling festival” have far exceeded expectations, with many dates selling out within weeks of going on sale. The tour will include two consecutive nights at Fenway Park in Boston on August 25 and 26.

Elliott has also been scouring the vault for never before heard material from Def Leppard’s early days for a five-CD box set representing the group’s first two albums. “The Early Years ’79-’81” is due on March 20, and will include B-sides, rarities, Radio One recordings, and freshly mixed live material, with remastered versions of the band’s first two records, “On Through the Night” and “High ‘N’ Dry.”

Def Leppard was ushered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year after a rousing induction speech by Queen guitarist Brian May, who referred to the musicians as “a magnificent rock group, in the classic tradition of what a rock group really is” and “a bunch of magnificent human beings.”

The Maine Edge: I think “This is How We Roll” is one of the best things you’ve been involved with. Was the songwriting approach different than it is when you’re working on a project with Def Leppard?

Joe Elliott: The songs come from a different place when I’m writing for something other than Def Leppard. When Def Leppard sits down to write collectively, we’ll sort of do it campfire style, sitting around a table with a bunch of guitars and a notepad. With this record, I wrote on the piano which is something Def Leppard is not notorious for doing.

The Down ‘n’ Outz and Def Leppard are vastly different to my ears, and I the biggest difference is in the sound, and the piano is the driving factor in that sonic difference.

The Maine Edge: You have melody to spare on the new Down ‘n’ Outz album, which seems to be a missing component in a lot of new rock these days.

Joe Elliott: Melody is totally overlooked today; it went out the window in the ‘90s. There’s always a certain amount of melody, or else it would be completely monotone, but you can be accused to being too melodic, which to me is an oxymoron; it doesn’t make any sense.

I grew up in an era where the first generation of British rockers - The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Kinks, were all writing glorious melodies that still had the oomph of rock. Then the ’70s came along and we were listening to Bowie, T-Rex, Roxy Music, Slade, and Sweet, in addition to Zeppelin and the ‘70s version of the Stones. There was always melody and I never understood why it went out of fashion; it was never out of fashion in my head, and it never will.

(For a number of years, Elliott has been both fan and friend to the Dublin, Ireland based melodic rock band Pugwash, led by songwriter Thomas Walsh. Elliott lives in Dublin, where he maintains his Joe’s Garage recording studio. Since we were on the subject of melody, I cited Pugwash as an example of a great band driven by melody.)

Joe Elliott: Tommy Walsh is a phenomenal songwriter and I love his work. I’m a big fan of Pugwash, and I think they are one of the most underrated bands on the planet. It’s such a shame that not enough people know who they are but you’re so right, he writes glorious melodies.

The Maine Edge: Def Leppard’s upcoming “Stadium Tour” with Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, has already sold more than one million tickets. How will your band approach these shows?

Joe Elliott: Like a traveling festival, because that’s really what it will be. Once the idea was put in front of us, it was irresistible. I imagine something like the California Jam or the Monsters of Rock, but we’re taking it to stadiums across the USA and it’s going to be a phenomenal time. Half of these shows were sold out before Christmas, which is just insane considering the first one was 6 months away.

The Maine Edge: You can’t fake the friendship like the one shared by the members of Def Leppard. You guys are tight after all of these years, which shouldn’t be unusual, but in rock and roll, it sort of is. How do you guys get on so well after all this time?

Joe Elliott: Shouldn’t that be how it is for everybody? I never understood how that initial excitement of being in a band and making music together, and getting somewhere and trying to sustain it, somehow goes away with some groups.

Every band has arguments and I’d be lying if I told you we’ve never fallen out or had different opinions about certain things. We deal with them in a real adult way, I suppose. We never wanted to ruin what we had, and I think that’s what it is. We all know that you don’t get many opportunities to do what we do. It’s a blessing when you’re given the chance to be successful.

We didn’t so much remain successful, we regained our success. We’d lost it but we weren’t prepared to let it go. We worked very hard to get back to where we are now because we believed in what we did. All of us have a massive respect for each other and we know we can’t do it without each other, and that’s the beauty of it. There’s a lot of love and respect within this band.

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 February 2020 05:56

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