Although Def Leppard has been one of the leading arena rock bands for decades by this point, their guitarist, Phil Collen, has long fancied punk rock and alt-rock. Case in point, who he plays with in his side bands – Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook (in Man-Raze) and STP bassist Robert DeLeo (in Delta Deep).
Last year, the blues rock-based Delta Deep issued their self-titled debut, and are planning a live release (titled ‘West Coast Live’) for later this year. And during late March/early April, the band – including Mr. DeLeo – will be touring the east coast.
Phil spoke with Alternative Nation about how it is playing in Delta Deep with Robert, and his favorite STP tunes.
How did the idea come up to play with Robert DeLeo?
A friend of mine, Chris Epting, who I had wrote a book with [‘Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard, and Beyond’], he said, “Do you know Robert DeLeo?” And I said, “No, but I’m a huge fan! A huge STP fan. Loved the songs, loved the songwriting, and everything he did.” He says, “Well, he’s a disciple of Motown – James Jamerson and those guys. That’s really what he does. And funk and blues and jazz. That’s really his thing.” He introduced us, I played him the demos for Delta Deep, and he said, “Oh man. This is going to be great.” And that was it, really. And the same deal with Forrest Robinson, the drummer – he used to play with India.Arie and TLC and the Crusaders and all these other acts. And hip-hop stuff in Atlanta, he had done a bunch of that, as well. It just fit perfectly. And I loved Robert’s songwriting, as well, which is another thing that hopefully we’ll get to do on the next Delta Deep album – we’ve got a bunch of stuff written already, but we haven’t written anything together. So that’s going to be a blast.
How it playing with Robert, stylistically?
Obviously, because he’s in a rock band…the big difference is it’s like, funk on steroids. It’s not your typical soul or groove or blues band, because me and Robert are from hard rock bands. Alternative, metal, whatever you want to call it. And what’s really interesting about Forrest Robinson is the fact that he’s from Memphis, he’s played with all these…the Crusaders is a jazz group. But when I first met him, what he said, “All I really want to play is double kick drum metal.” I said, “Really?!” Never judge a book by its cover! Because I thought he was like a groove guy, which he is, but that’s what he loves playing. So when Debbi [Blackwell] gets out and sings over the top of it, it reminds me of early Zeppelin. It’s got a feel like that. I didn’t really expect that – I thought it was going to be more subdued, it was going to be a bit of a groove and bluesy, but it turned into this other thing. It’s got element of Zeppelin, Def Leppard, STP – only it’s this soulful, funky, rock thing. It’s a very muscular version of that. Like I said, playing with Robert is a joy. We’re basically a three-piece – guitar, bass, and drums. And there’s so much going on that you’ll fill all of the gaps – and not just all with notes, but with aggression. And that’s the one thing that I always love. I have another band, Man-Raze, and we’ve got two albums out. Paul Cook is the drummer, and he’s the drummer from the Sex Pistols. I loved Paul Cook’s drumming. I loved the Sex Pistols album [‘Never Mind the Bollocks…’]. I always wanted that aggression in something. So we pretty much got that down, and again, with Man-Raze, it was that thing, it was the aggression. A lot of people miss out on that. It’s like a lot of rock bands are kind of wimpy or whatever and don’t quite have that thing. But this is…steroidal and muscular are the only words to describe it!
What are some of your favorite STP songs or albums?
I love the ‘Purple’ album. I think that’s just great. Obviously, “Interstate Love Song” is such a great song. But even when I first heard them, when I heard “Sex Type Thing” and “Wicked Garden,” I just loved the vibe of it, it was just amazing. All the way up the last album, actually. Even stuff like “Sour Girl.” I loved the fact that they were so different and had this very artistic frontman, and they actually combined elements of Zeppelin and the Beatles, and still made it sound fresh – not like a karaoke band. A lot of people go, “I’m influenced by the Beatles and Zeppelin,” and they just sound like a karaoke. But STP sounded like STP, but you could still hear those influences. It’s amazing.
DELTA DEEP’s East Coast “Sugar Shack” Tour Itinerary
March 28 Howard Theatre Washington, DC
March 29 Ortlieb’s Lounge Philadelphia, PA
March 30 Wonder Bar Asbury Park, NJ
March 31 Iron Horse Music Hall Northampton, MA
April 3 BB Kings New York, NY
April 5 Cavern Club at Hard Rock Café Boston, MA
April 6 Daryl’s House Pawling, NY
April 8 YMCA Boulton Center Bay Shore, NY
Photo by Helen L. Collen.