When Rolling Stone catches up with Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott, he’s enjoying a short break in Los Angeles between dates on his band’s extensive summer arena tour with Styx and Tesla. “We have a couple days off out here,” the 56-year-old frontman says, before quickly correcting himself. “Well, not days off, just days with no gigs. Instead, I’m doing a lot of talking.”
What Elliott is doing all that talking about is his band’s new album, simply titled Def Leppard and due out October 30th. The veteran British hard-rockers’ 10th studio effort of new material, it’s also their first in a full seven years — an unusually large span, even on Def Leppard time, where three- or four-year breaks between albums are common, if not the norm.
And yet, the album demonstrates that, even while the Leps — who also include guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, bassist Rick Savage, and drummer Rick Allen — are far removed from their Eighties heyday, when videos for songs like “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” ruled MTV, and albums like 1983’s Pyromania and 1987’s Hysteria moved ridiculous numbers of units (they’re currently at 10 and 12 times platinum, respectively — and that’s just in the U.S.), they’re still able to whip up some first-rate melodic pop-metal. Def Leppard tracks like “Let’s Go” (the first single, premiering here), “All Time High” and “Broke ‘n’ Brokenhearted” exude the band’s classic mix of Seventies pomp-glam riffing, Eighties electro-shock rhythms and patented, tremendously stacked chorus vocal harmonies in a manner that’s strikingly redolent of their past. But the album also finds the band moving beyond well-trod territory, as evidenced by the slinky pop-funk strut of “Man Enough,” the downtuned, acoustic psych-blues of “Battle of My Own” and the sleek New Wave–isms of “Invincible.”
Even with these occasional stylistic dalliances, in the end Def Leppard sounds like nothing so much as, well, Def Leppard. Which explains why the album is self-titled. “All the time we were working on the songs, we would be having these neighborly types of conversations with friends and colleagues, and everyone would ask, ‘What does it sound like?'” Elliott says. “And we found ourselves answering, ‘Well, it sounds like Def Leppard!’ I think after that kept happening over and over, it was Phil [Collen] who finally said, ‘Why don’t we just call the thing Def Leppard?’ We were umm-ing and ahh-ing about titles, none of which I remember anymore, and so we just went, ‘Fine.’ Thirty-five years as a recording band and we’ve never had a self-titled album. Maybe now’s the time.'”
On a warm Los Angeles morning, Elliott talked to Rolling Stone about Def Leppard, recording “forgeries” of his own band’s greatest hits and why he believes the Eighties were a “golden age” for music. He also discussed going up against Michael Jackson, performing with Taylor Swift and whether or not he thinks Def Leppard has a fan in one Donald Trump.