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INTERVIEW: PHIL COLLEN – January 2018

| 1 February 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release regarding the new release from Delta Deep: “Blues-Rock-n-Soul supergroup DELTA DEEP is thrilled to announce the release of their live CD/DVD East Coast Live on January 26, 2018 through Frontiers Music Srl which as an added plus is now available on vinyl. The East Coast Live CD is a full show performance filmed at legendary Daryl’s House in Pawling, NY while the DVD showcases select songs and highlights from that night. The label will also be re-releasing DELTA DEEP’s debut album. The group, which made their chart topping debut in 2015, features Phil Collen, lead guitarist of Def Leppard,  Debbi Blackwell-Cook (back-up vocalist for such artists as Michael Buble & Gregory Hines), Robert DeLeo (bassist for Stone Temple Pilots) and Forrest Robinson (drummer for Joe Sample & The Crusaders, India.Arie & TLC).”  Phil is currently touring the US as part of the G3 tour with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci.  We were lucky enough to grab some of his time the other day to discuss the tour, the new material, and so much more…

Photo Credit: Todd Jolicoeur

Toddstar: Phil, how are you, sir?

Phil: Good, thank you. And you?

Toddstar: Doing well. Still a good time to chat?

Phil: Absolutely, yeah.

Toddstar: Well, first off, let me thank you so much for taking time out. This is truly, as a fan of yours, a huge honor for me. You’ve got so much going on Phil, but I want to start with the G3 tour. What can you tell us about how that is going for you so far?

Phil: I’m having an absolute blast. It’s with my band Delta Deep. We do a set each. I do like half an hour, John Petrucci does like 45 minutes, and Joe Satriani does about 50 minutes or an hour, and then we come on and we play together for like 20 minutes. I’m having an absolute ball. We released the Delta Deep live album last week as well, so we’re kind of promoting that at the same time. So, lots and lots of guitar playing. Yeah, I’m getting so much out of it. I’m playing a lot every day. The band’s getting super tight, it sounds amazing. And then, we’re just creating all this music at the end, you know, with amazing guitar playing, so it’s a joy. We’re really into it for guitar playing. We’ve been lucky with the weather so far. It’s the middle of winter and we haven’t got sick, but as far as the weather goes, we haven’t gotten snowed in or any of that stuff yet.

Toddstar: Well, that’s good. You gave me the perfect segue-way into Delta Deep. Not so much the live album, but the debut self-titled disc, Delta Deep, has eleven tracks on it, and I am loving this thing.

Phil: Oh, thank you.

Toddstar: And, it’s a left turn – obviously everyone knows you from Def Leppard and I was a huge fan of the first ManRaze album. But, this is kind of a left turn, kind of going back to the roots for you. What made you decide to put this together at this point?

Phil: It just naturally kind of went on a tangent. Debbie sang at my wedding. She’s a gospel singer, she’s been singing since she was like two years old. She’s my wife’s godmother. That’s how we met, and then we just started singing and playing together, and then writing songs, and before you knew it, it had a shape and a feel. All of those things that blues inspired, you know, all those bands. Zeppelin, Hendrix, and stuff like that. We kind of put that into play. I was a huge Hendrix fan and blue guitar fan. All the guitar players I listened to were all blues inspired. You know, Richie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. All of that. So, it was just an obvious thing for me to do that. And I actually thought that the blues kind of ended. No one was being creative with it. It turned from blues into Chuck Berry rock music, James Brown. It went in all these different directions; funk, soul, and all of that. And everyone seemed to ignore that. They just would either stick to it like a karaoke thing. I thought Zeppelin and the Stones were purveyors of blues music. They actually took it way to the n-th degree, with the songs and that, but using that as a starting point. So, that’s really what I wanted to do, was take it even a different place. We started working our second studio album and a lot of that, you know, there’s a song that’s like almost hard rock/gospel. Again, we don’t do things on purpose like that. It just kind of naturally meanders in that direction, so that’s what’s really great, is that I’ve a muse with it and just following the inspiration, see where it takes you.

Toddstar: Again, top to bottom, I love it. From “Bang the Lid” into “Burnt Sally”, and even “Feel It” near the end of the disc. But, going through the songs, now that you’ve had time to absorb them, so when you’re looking back over it, and like you mentioned, you’re playing some of the stuff live now, what’s the one or two songs that you just really can’t wait to start playing in front of a crowd?

Phil: Well, “Bless These Blues”, we’re doing that on this tour. What’s interesting, we kick off with a couple of instrumentals, it’s me and Joe Satriani playing on this one song I wrote last year when I done the G4 thing. And so, we’re doing that song, which is a big rock guitar instrumental, and then we kick off with “Quadrant Four”, which was a jazz/rock fusion classic from the early 70s. So we kick off with that. It’s got a flavor to it, and then all of a sudden we just slow it right down, Debbie comes out and we do “Bless These Blues”. And we’re trying to play even slower. It’s really funny, the first two songs are really fast, like “Quadrant Four” is like 200 BPM or something stupid like that and then when we get to play “Bless These Blues”, we really hold it back and actually we slowed it down. We’ve actually been slowing it down, I love that fact. This really heavy duty, nasty slow blues thing. The slower we do it, the better it seems to work, which is pretty interesting.

Toddstar: Well, I for one am very much looking forward to it – you guys land in Detroit on February 12th, you guys are playing the Fillmore and I can’t wait to hear you play some of this stuff. So many fans are going to expect a whole Def Leppard thing, even though it’s you up there. How do you approach this to make sure that you’re pleasing those fans that are coming to hear, sort of your catalog, but they’re going to get something new?

Phil: They do already, I think the thing that I am getting from a lot of people is that they’re blown away, and they’re shocked. It’s also a show, the whole G3 thing is a show. Three guitar players who do very different sets. You know, we have vocals in it, and it’s a different type of thing. Actually, when we played L.A., I got Vivian Campbell up and we done “Love Bites” and “Hysteria” as well, so because it was Def Leppard Day. So, I mean we’re not doing that all the time, but it was kind of nice to throw that in there. So, we keep changing it up. We added a segue-way funk thing two days ago. It’s amazing. I think when it comes… and a lot of Def Leppard fans who are coming… they don’t know what to expect, but they go away just loving it. It like freaks them out in a really good way.

Toddstar: I can only imagine. Again, I know when I listened through the Delta Deep disc the first time, I was floored. Every song is so different, yet it’s a very cohesive album, which is what I found really attractive about this. I can put it in and I don’t feel like I’m listening to 11 different singles at one time, because it just rolls from song to song. During the writing process, what did you put into this where you kind of wanted to put together a blues package, but you had to stay true to who you were? Did a lot come into play with writing or, like you said earlier, it just flows?

Phil: It just flows. It’s a very natural thing. I never try and force that thing. Again, when I produced the Tesla album, which was a very similar thing. Not in a blues context, but in the fact that it we followed the muse. If there was a song that kind of almost sounds like a big Queen ballad, and we just followed it. We didn’t go with all these changes and make it not that. Let’s see where it’s going to go, I mean, putting piano, and strings, and massive backing vocals all over it. It worked for that particular song, and I think that the great thing is, I’ve seen so many bands and they’re like they’re scared and they want to stay in a box and don’t want to move outside. I’m the opposite. I want to experiment, I want it naturally to inspire me to go somewhere else. And that’s really what I usually do, and we certainly did that on the last Def Leppard album, as well. It’s a jigsaw. We thought we were going for a single, just one song, and we came in two weeks with 12 songs written. And we were like, “Whoa. This is an album. Let’s just go with it.” And that was great. As an artist, that’s really what you want. You want to be inspired to make something else. Just opens out. Yeah, that’s the really exciting part about the whole process, I find. And you know, everything I do is dealt with people, either Tesla or Def Leppard, you never really know what you’re going to get. It inspires… it’s a jigsaw puzzle.

Toddstar: I’ve been lucky enough to see you live and even more fun for me is photograph you live. What is your favorite aspect of playing live, Phil?

Phil: It completes the circle. It’s a bit like an artist doing a painting. As much as they may say otherwise, they really need the, I don’t want to say approval, but they need for their art to be seen. They like it to be seen in a gallery or appreciated by someone. That’s the whole idea, and I think that when you play live, that’s what you’re doing, you’re completing that artistic circle. You’re getting out and you’ve done all that stuff in the studio, and now it’s time to play it live and represent it in a different way. And I think that’s really exciting. To me, it’s probably the most exciting part of the whole process, is actually getting out there and playing live.

Photo credit: Todd Jolicoeur

Toddstar: That makes total sense. Again, you’ve got so much going on and I know that they’ve just announced a huge tour for this year. But, are you already looking past that, are you thinking next step, are you looking at how much further can I take Delta Deep?

Phil: Absolutely. I mean, the new album is just wide open. I’m so excited about that. Again, it’s really diverse, but using that same starting point. I saw a poster once and it was Jimi Hendrix was either playing with Little Richard or the Ivey Brothers. It was James Brown, B.B. King, I think Chuck Barry was on it. They were all playing on the same night in a club in the South. And that was blues morphing into soul, rock and roll, and funk. So, I thought that was great, and I like that trajectory for Delta Deep. You can be diverse, there’s no reason you should stay in a box. I know, like I said, I know a lot of bands that they do that, they obviously don’t get inspired on the road to some other creativity, they just stay exactly there. I find that tragic. I think you have to grow and change all the time, morph into whatever it is. So, it’s pretty exciting, it’s the most exciting thing for me. So, Delta Deep – it’s got some soul stuff. There’s a song that reminds me of early Zeppelin as well. It’s like, really heavy, rock, bluesy thing, and it’s yeah. I like all the above. I like the idea of challenged with a tangent, and following it.

Toddstar: Phil, what are the one or two things looking back… when you look back retrospectively at your career, that make you smile? What are the couple things that just you think, “Oh my God, that was amazing”?

Phil: There’s so many of them. I have really fond memories of Steve Clark, and he was my best friend, and a lot of that makes me smile. It actually makes me laugh. And again, you know, all the real positive things, obviously there was some terrible things that happened to Steve, but you know, I remember the really great things more so. And there’s so many of them. I remember me and Steve were sitting listening to the final mixes of the Hysteria album, and we put so much into the record and we’re talking to each other. I said to him, “You know, I don’t care, I really don’t care if no one else apart from their parents listens and they love it. ‘Cause we’ve reached the apex of our career. We’ve really done something that’s worth something. It’s really meaningful and all of that.” It made me laugh. And still, when I listen, when I think of that conversation, we were so into that fact, that just their mums hear it, we’d be okay and they like it. But, it obviously, it was huge. You know 25 million albums later or whatever it is. It kind of, you know, it took us somewhere else, completely. Yeah, it’s really interesting looking back at stuff like that.

Toddstar: Well, you talk about 25 million albums, that’s a hell of a feat for a band to have 25 million total sold, let alone just one title. I cannot wait, again, to see you in Detroit in a couple weeks. Two weeks from tonight, as a matter of fact. As part of the G3 tour promoting Delta Deep, and all things Phil Collen, and I wish you safe travels until then. I can’t wait.

Phil: Well, thank you. Great stuff. Yeah, Detroit’s always great, and Delta Deep’s never played there, so that’s going to be a blast.

Toddstar: It’s going to be awesome. Thank you again for the time, Phil, and see you next month.

Phil: Sounds good, thank you.

PHIL COLLEN LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

DELTA DEEP LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Featured Articles, Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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