Ahead of the release of Down ‘n’ Outz second studio album, ‘The Further Adventures of…’ (Released on April 21st), Rock N’ Load were granted a rare interview with their front man, Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott.
The Down ‘n’ Outz were formed to get the music of Mott the Hoople out to a wider audience, are you happy with the response so far?
This project has taken on a very organic life of its own because we were never going to really make records. When we got together, we were supposed to only play a 45 minute gig supporting Mott the Hoople at Hammersmith in 2009. I was asked to get involved as a thank you for the 30 odd years that I’ve been telling the world what a great band they are! The first album ‘My Re-Generation’ was just an afterthought when we were, pretty much, hounded by a tonne of kids afterwards in the bar asking us to record the songs we’d just performed on stage. So the second album is now a case of being able to go back and play Hoople songs. The first is all Mott, British Lions and Ian Hunter’s solo stuff because, opening for Hoople, we weren’t going to play their own songs.
For me, it’s just a case of them being my favourite band and I don’t think they get the kind of credit they deserve. There’s more to Mott the Hoople than ‘All the Young Dudes’. Let’s hear a ‘Marionette’ or a ‘Crash Street Kidds’ on the radio as opposed to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or ‘Smoke on the Water’.
Have you chosen the songs on the new album because they are favourites of yours, Joe?
They’re all favourites of mine! That’s the weird thing, no matter how much you love a band, you’re always going to have a pecking order. You’ll always have a favourite Zeppelin or Beatles song, and the rest are all great. If you compiled a top ten favourite tracks by an artist, there’ll always be a number eleven. It doesn’t mean you don’t like it, it just means that you like the others a bit more. So basically, these songs are a playlist of the songs I would choose for my Ipod. I avoided recording any of their hits because I just don’t see the point. I wanted to go deeper. I recorded ‘All the Young Dudes’ with Cybernauts and ‘The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ with Def Leppard. It was more fun to take risks. I can guarantee that 90% of Leppard fans listening to this record won’t have heard any of these songs before.
Yourself and the other guys in the band, (Paul Guerin, Keith Weir and Guy Griffin from The Quireboys, plus Phil Martin on drums) seem to really enjoy working together.
I love working with them! I couldn’t possibly have done this without them. We do a lot of the backing tracks when we’re not even in the same room, but towards the end of the album, I had the guys over to Dublin and we worked, and drank, and bonded, and finished off the album in 3 days, and it was exciting, because we did it quick and we did it well. Some of the stuff we achieved in that time put the gloss on what we’ve been working on and off for over two years. To watch Paul play the guitar solo on ‘The Journey’ was a jaw dropping moment. He not only did it in one take, it was the first take! It was outstanding, and a monumental moment in my career!
I believe Ian Hunter is also blown away by Paul’s solo.
He is! He rang me up at midnight about two weeks ago after he got a copy of it, and he was just raving about how well it sounded.
Is the plan still to record at least four Down ‘n’ Outz albums, and will the fourth still be all original material?
The third will now be original material! We scrapped the idea of the third being covers of other people. I had a little purple patch in the middle of last year when I had a bit of downtime, so I sat down at the piano and wrote 5 or 6 songs and the guys were really happy with them.
Did you write the new songs with Mott the Hoople as a huge influence, or are they a different style?
I don’t know if any of the songs actually sound like Hoople, but they certainly don’t sound like Def Leppard. When you have more than one outlet, you can sit down and write songs accordingly. I always imagine Tony Iommi having a folk outfit on the side, waking up one morning with a folky type song in his head, sitting down and finishing it off; but if he didn’t have that outlet he’d think he couldn’t do it for Sabbath so he’d just forget about it! The beautiful thing about having two or three outlets is being able to write a song and go ‘this is definitely part of a Def Leppard song’ so you put it in that particular basket, or ‘definitely a Down ‘n’ Outz song’, so you can let it just flow out knowing full well that you’re not limited as to where it’s going to finish up. I know the new songs don’t lean towards Leppard, but I’m not so sure they lean towards Hoople either, so it’ll be intriguing to see how far they go to actually sounding like them.
Do you have plans to tour with this album?
Not at the moment. Both myself and The Quireboys are really busy for the rest of this year, it looks like any touring with the Down ‘n’ Outz will be in 2015, which is ok because we toured the first album fifteen months after it came out when we did the Paul Rodgers arena tour and it didn’t do anybody any harm. It’s more important that we get the songs out to the media and get the singles, like ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen’ on the radio.
Can you remember one defining moment, when you were younger, that made you think Mott the Hoople are the band for me?
Yeah, in fact two defining moments! The first was when Island records used to, once a year, release compilation albums of their eclectic range of artists with one or two songs by each artist. There was a Hoople song on the compilation called ‘L.P’ called ‘The Original Mixed-Up Kid’ which resonated with me. I liked Ian Hunter’s voice, I loved the lyrics; and when I saw the photo’s of the band, I loved the image. One of the reasons why we covered it on the new album is because it was the first song I ever heard by them.
The next time that the name started to cement itself into my brain was when Radio Luxembourg chose Hoople’s cover of ‘Downtown’ by Danny Whitten as their record of the week. Which meant you heard it once every hour for seven days, and that kind of started it off and I fell in love with the band there and then.
Finally, Def Leppard are going out on the road in the USA this summer on a co-headlining tour with KISS. How did that happen?
Myself and Gene Simmons talked about it around three years ago, and it’s the first time that our orbits have aligned. Both bands get to perform a headline set. We both get to use our full stage production. It’s a great example of one and one makes three. In theory, it could easily be the summer tour of 2014! I love the idea that when kids buy a ticket they get two or three bands and want to see and hear, possibly, every song that they play! The old idea of some band you’ve never heard of opening up and playing for 45 minutes is, I think, a thing of the past.
It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Joe. Thank you very much.
Thanks, Mike. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to voice the other side of me, which is the Down ‘n’ Outz. Give the cd a good listen when you get it because it’s a great album and the songs are fantastic, and that’s the main thing!