JOE ELLIOTT: How DEF LEPPARD Survived The Rise Of Grunge In '90s

April 14, 2016

Meltdown of the WRIF radio station in Detroit, Michigan recently conducted an interview with DEF LEPPARD singer Joe Elliott. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below.

Speaking about how DEF LEPPARD survived the rise of grunge in the early '90s, Elliott said: "What we did in the '90s was remember what we said to ourselves in the '80s. Bands like REO [SPEEDWAGON] and FOREIGNER and JOURNEY and STYX… When we came along, there seemed to be a lot of bands from that '80s era that just… I don't know… They kind of gave up, or their record companies gave up. I don't think the bands ever gave up, but the industry gave up on them, and the new boys came along. We said to each other, 'One day, this is gonna happen to us. In ten years' time, there'll be the new boys coming along and they're gonna try to do to us what we apparently, supposedly did to the '70s bands.' And we said, 'We have to make sure that we don't let that happen. And even if it does happen, we just have to keep going until it comes back around.'"

He continued: "Success, or just life in general, is like a wheel. As long as it's in motion, every single part of the wheel always ends up back at the top. So, yeah, GUNS [N' ROSES] came along. When GUNS kicked it in '92, we were still selling three nights out in every arena in the States with an album that was No. 1 for six weeks on the Billboard charts. And then in the mid-'90s, it got tough. And then towards the end of the '90s, we noticed that the grunge music started to sound happier; it wasn't all ALICE IN CHAINS and PEARL JAM and NIRVANA. A lot of the bands that kicked our ass, if you like, kind of went away or died, or people died within the bands. And then you had bands like SUGAR RAY coming along that were kind of grungy, but they were happy-sounding stuff, and the GOO GOO DOLLS. They were going, like, Top 40. [And I was] like, 'This is a pop song [packaged] as grunge.' And then people started re-accepting us, and we realized, 'There's a lot of hard work gonna be involved here. We can't take it for granted. We can't expect to be lifted up like the Pope and carried around in a box. We've gotta get back up there and do this ourselves.' It took a long time, but we were always prepared to do the hard work. And I think the difference between us and a lot of other bands is that we aren't scared of the perspiration… Inspiration is one thing, but perspiration is another. And we've always been keen to get the point across."

One band that Elliott and his bandmates looked to for inspiration is THE ROLLING STONES. "You watch THE STONES live and you look at Mick Jagger at the age of 72 and think, 'How the hell does he do that?'" he said. "And that's the yardstick that we judge ourselves against — people like Jagger. He goes out of his way to kind of prove that you don't have to be twelve to look twelve. You can still do… He can outdo Justin Bieber, and he's old enough to be his great-grandfather. And Jagger is a hero of ours from a perspiration point of view; he goes out there and he works his ass off and he gets the job done."

He added: "So the '90s were, you know… They were a wake-up call, but they were a wake-up call that we didn't receive… It wasn't like a police bust where we didn't expect the door to get kicked in. We knew it was coming, but we had a gameplan. And as long as it took, it didn't matter. We believe in each other, we get on, we love and respect each other, and we're all the same… we're all on the same page when it comes to which direction we wanna go in."

DEF LEPPARD's latest, self-titled album entered The Billboard 200 chart at position No. 10 with first-week sales of just over 30,000 units — nearly all from pure album sales.

The record is the band's first studio effort since "Songs From the Sparkle Lounge" in 2008.

Interview (audio):

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