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April 3, 1997


Def Leppard's Phil Collen

"My love for India influenced my career as a guitarist!"

Niyanta Singh in Durban, South Africa

Think of the world's leading rockers. Or, perhaps, a Hollywood star. Would you associate these adored contemporary "role-models" as mortals who survive on a diet of vegetables and other "natural" foods as they seek spirituality in the ancient religions of the world?

Of course not! After all, rockers, especially, are hard boozers, substance abusers and hard-core smokers who get their thrills when they are on a so-called "high".



So maybe you've never met Def Leppard's guitarist Phil Collen. He could teach you a thing or two about the laws of cause and effect, how to attain nirvana and the significance of traditional lifestyles.

Chilling out at a hotel on Durban's famed golden mile, Collen - in a blue t-shirt and trackpants - was ready to discuss anything from how rock music helped shape his life to his approach towards his somewhat unexpected holistic lifestyle. On the eve of the Durban concert - which also happens to be the last leg of their world tour - superfit bleach blonde Collen, kick boxing fundi and vegetarian, said he was "spiritually happy".

And why, you may ask, would a rocker want to be spiritual? Was everyone suddenly following Buddhist Richard Gere up the Tibetan hills? "No," says Collen impatiently. "I'm drawn by the mysticism of the cultures of the world, specifically to India and to what that country has offered the world."

He continued in the same vein, "My experiences in India have taught me the importance of respecting, and living, according to the law of karma - which believes that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. One must accept responsibility for one's words, thoughts and deeds if one is to consider oneself a human being. My love for India brought out the vegetarian in me. It also brought out my passion for all things spiritual and, ultimately, influenced my career as a guitarist."

Def Leppard's newly released CD Slang features tracks thathave used the tabla and the dhol, especially on the title track Turn To Dust. ''The new sound is a blend of R&B, alternative and hip-hop," says Collen, "which the band has incorporated into the existing hard rock foundation."

The title Slang came from the jacket of a book which Collen happened to notice in a shop. Browsing for books happens to be a favourite hobby with this divorced father, when he can steal the time to do so from recording at studios and sleeping off jet-lag from flying around the globe.

"I saw this book," he recalled, "called American Slang and it just seemed like a great title - it was relevant and, thus, was symbolic of pop music. Jazz, blues, rock, pop, anything that's not classical or opera or anything is based around slang, more now than ever."

Def Leppard's Phil Collen
The feelings of the band after the death, in 1991, of guitarist Steve Clark (who died after years of substance abuse) have been marked down in the song Blood Runs Cold. On the personal side, Collen and vocalist Joe Elliot have written about their recent divorces - Collen in Turn To Dust and Breathe A Sign and Elliot in All I Want Is Everything.

Now, though, with the tour at its fag end, all Collen wants to do is return home to sun-drenched California, browse through more bookstores and spend time with his son. Quipped the beach-bum: "I'm just gonna relax. I 'ate travelling - I'll just be damn glad to be back 'ome."

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