Def Leppard guitarist/songwriter Phil Collen is one of the busiest musicians in Rock right now. Not only is he currently touring the world in support of the Lep’s brilliant recent release “Sparkle Lounge.” He has also just released a CD from his side project Manraze. In addition to Collen, ManRaze also includes veteran musicians Simon Laffy(Girl) on bass and Paul Cook(Sex Pistols) on drums. The band has really flexed their musical muscle with their debut CD, ’Surreal.’ This CD has impressed many, including music critics who are calling the band a cross between a modern day version of The Police and The Clash. What follows is an exclusive interview with Phil Collen. During this chat we discuss the dynamics behind his new project and much more.
What led to the formation of your side project ManRaze?
I was in London four years ago when my dad passed away. I came in contact with Simon Laffy, who was in the band Girl with me years back. And I meet up with Paul Cook in the streets, which was kind of weird. We started playing around with some song ideas that were quite different from what I was doing with Def Leppard or anything that either of us done before. We really clicked and it was a unique sound at the time. And the more we played the more it become a natural thing.
Yes, it is very different from Def Leppard. How fulfilling was it to take on this project and come out with such a musically unique and interesting release?
It was very fulfilling. I kind of had a bit of writers block and this project in a way opened the gates and helped me get over it and helped me even to write Def Leppard songs. The thing with Def Leppard is that it has to be a certain way. With Manraze, I could go where I really couldn’t go with Def Leppard. It was really very inspirational.
How close did this CD come to meeting your original expectations?
What is interesting is how people are reviewing it. They are saying that we sound like a modern day version of the Clash and The Police and that was what we really set out to do at the beginning. That was a nice compliment. ManRaze is a bit more alternative, even lyrically. This is something that we wouldn’t do in Def Leppard, we kind of went off in that direction with Def Leppard and people didn’t like it. So with Def Leppard we have to be very careful. It’s great doing different things, but you still have to keep your audience in mind as well. So with ManRaze, we really got out of it what we wanted.
Def Leppard has a reputation for spending a long time in the studio and a long time in between putting out records. Was it liberating not having the big production on the ManRaze release?
Yes, very much so. We recorded this CD at Joe Elliott house in Dublin in a studio where we do all the Def Leppard stuff. We had a two week period to record the CD. We started after our one and only gig in London. The fact that we only had a short period of time, resulted in a lot of spontaneity and that was rather liberating. And that was the intention of doing this record, to capture a lot of firepower. Some songs were recorded in a few takes and that was the way it was suppose to be. We even went off on some tangents here and there and we would experiment. Someone would have a suggestion and it would just work. We really wanted to avoid getting too picky with the vocals or background vocals. With Def Leppard the way we do the back ground vocals is really structured and we wanted to get away from that with ManRaze.
So what do the other members of Def Leppard think of ManRaze?
They love it. Joe was pretty much around when we recorded it because we were at his house recording it. He would keep coming down and check it out. Ever since I started ManRaze, I would ask Joe for his opinion. He sort of turned out to be our A&R guy.
Do you think that this may influence the writing and recording style for future Def Leppard releases?
Yeah, I think that it already did with the new Def Leppard CD. We actually started writing some of the new Def Leppard tracks while out on tour, which is something that we never done in the past. It was get off tour then, come up with ideas then write the songs and then record the CD. It would take sometimes nine months before we would even get into the studio and that’s not good. It kind of ruins any type of spontaneity and takes away from the magic that you might have.
Now with Def Leppard currently on tour, did you ever consider having ManRaze open and you doing double duty?
It was suggested. We were going to do one show like that, but then we all got sick. But yeah, if we were to do it, it would have to be in the states, because it’s a lot easier. It’s just too hard to do that in Europe with all of the traveling. On this tour that we are currently on, it’s really been a nightmare. We have missed flights and a lot of flights have been delayed. But if we were traveling on a bus we could do something like that.
Are there tour plans for ManRaze after the Def Leppard tour?
Yes, a month period in September, most likely east coast dates in America. It should be a lot of fun.
In an age when it’s really difficult to sell records, how important do you think it is having VH1 Classics behind this project?
I think that it’s really good. I think that I big problem with a lot of the labels today is that are so out of touch and they have been out of touch for so many years. They have had excessive spending, all in the wrong areas. I think all of the smart people in the music business must all gone on vacation or something because it’s so screwed up. With Vh1 Classics they take a real interest in what we are doing and keep costs in line.
Back to the band for a second, is ManRaze a real band or a Phil Collen solo project?
No, it’s a real band band. Simon and I write together, even if most of its through e-mail. With the demos we went to Simon’s house in London and worked on them. And when we are together Paul adds a lot with the drum tracks. So absolutely this is a very much a democracy and a real band with every one contributing.
My last question, is will we ever see you reunite with Phil Lewis and bring back your pre- Leppard band Girl?
No, I doubt it. You have 2/5 of Girl with ManRaze right. I think that’s the closest you are going to get. I’m just too busy to take on anything else .
for more info check out www.myspace.com/manraze