You know what they say…after a certain point, if you want details and facts of what happened during a tour or in the studio, the official biographies just don’t cover that need for a variety of reasons. In addition, if someone is a die-hard fan of a band, it’s almost imperative that he knows by heart all the well-known episodes of his favorite band’s career. So, he craves for something unique, more focused and -truth be told her far more interesting. In the case of Def Leppard, Mike Rogers’ book is an ideal choice as he puts down in paper previously unknown things about the British super group. Also, you will read below an exclusive interview that we did with him a while ago and we sincerely thank him for taking the time.
Rogers was a musician that found himself in the early 80s being the roadie of Def Leppard when they were embarking on the highly successful “Pyromania Tour” in 1983. He stayed with them up until the recordings of Hysteria and their mini summer tour in 1986. In other words, he was constantly around Def Leppard for almost 4 years thus he forged not only a professional relationship but a friendship to be cherished for the years to come. Let me tell you that this book is packed with rare and previously unpublished photos from the personal archives of Mike Rogers and Irish photographer Una Williams while it should be noted that Mutt Lange is heavily featured on them; this fact alone should send all the Leppard fans to Seventh Heaven as we all know what an introvert person is the famous producer. The best thing is that these are not posed photos but totally casual ones from everyday life on the road and in the studio. These are personal moments that you don’t get to see in a typical publication. Last but certainly not least, we should also add that Rogers shares some really funny and enjoyable stories although I must say that when he speaks about the late Steve Clark there’s an obvious bittersweet feeling surrounding his narration as it was evident even back then that Steve was having a hard time with all his demons…
All in all, “Fabulist Icons” is a priceless treasure for the Def Leppard fans. Trust me when I am saying, you will revisit it numerous times in the years to come as there are some many brilliant photos and anecdotes in there that…one reading experience is simply not enough!
Fore more info on how to purchase the book, check this link: https://fabulisticons.shop/product/fabulist-icons/
Mike Rogers Interview
Mike, most of the die-hard Leppard fans know your name due to the fact that you worked closely with the band in between 1983 and 1986. For those of you who still haven’t purchased your book, would you tell us which were your duties during that period?
I was first introduced to Def Leppard in the summer of 1981 when they were looking for two guitar techs. I got the job, along with Malvin Mortimer, and it was decided that I would look after Phil Collen’s guitars, and Malvin would look after Steve and Sav’s instruments. I went on to work with the band all through rehearsals for the Pyromania tour, then the tour itself, which took us all around the world. After that I was with them during the recording of Hysteria at Wisseloord Studios in the Netherlands.
From the moment band rehearsals for the Pyromania tour began in Sheffield, and I was confronted with the size of the DL stage equipment – the cabling, amps and speaker cabinets – it became clear that there would be a lot more involved that just tuning and stringing guitars. For any show, large or small, I would also be responsible for distributing the mains power cables to the whole stage and for wiring up Sav’s monster bass rig. Then I would wire Phil’s amps and cabinets, and string and tune his three guitars. During all of the shows I would also be ready to supply Joe Elliott with a hot honey and lemon drink.
Most venues provide a house crew (humpers) to help load and unload trucks. However, it was the responsibility of the band’s crew to see that the equipment is loaded safely after a show and to be on hand at a load-in to make sure flight cases are put in the correct places.
By the time Pyromania touring had finished, we all knew each other really well. Def Leppard were then focused on writing and recording new material, for which they needed a crew to help maintain a wider range of guitars and basses, amplifiers and pieces of recording equipment for making demos. I was part of that crew, and was constantly at work, arranging catering and doing laundry, plus making and repairing the many different cables required for the recording process. I was also responsible for checking all the shipping papers for the band’s equipment as we moved between Dublin, the Netherlands and France during this time. This meant maintaining a close relationship with the band’s shipping and insurance agents.
But this is all really just touching the surface… There were endless other things, most of which are in the book.
The “Pyromania Tour” established Def Leppard’s name especially in USA. As one who lived and breathed closely to the band during that tour, was it obvious back then that they would achieve success and top the charts (as they eventually did)?
Yes, Def Leppard did really well when they toured Pyromania in the US – all the signs were there that they would go on to even greater success. They were supporting Billy Squier, but it soon became clear that a growing percentage of the audiences were attending the shows to see Def Leppard – who were loud, exciting, tight and slick. At one point we even heard that Def Leppard were selling more merchandise at these dates than the headliners. By the time we finished the support dates in Spring 1983, the band’s name was on the lips of every heavy rock fan in the US, and headlining and European dates were booked right through to December, following which the band achieved great success in Japan, the Far East and Australia. So a momentum was building that was compounded when the Mutt Lange-produced Pyromania album, and the accompanying videos, were released to a ready-made fan base worldwide.
Your excellent book gives a rare inside look of the band during the recording of the seminal “Hysteria” album is Holland and Ireland. Most specifically, you underline Nigel Green’s importance in the overall shaping of the album. Do you think that Nigel deserves more credit for the success of “Hysteria”?
Nigel Green certainly turned out to be the right guy, in the right place, at the right time. Mutt Lange was already engaged on a recording project in London at the time, so couldn’t be with Def Leppard in the Netherlands. So, when the band parted company with Jim Steinman it created a real problem. The solution was for Mutt to send over a Battery Studios engineer who could best translate his advice and instructions to the band, and then onto tape. The person who was sent over to Wisseloord was Nigel Green.
If a take of a guitar track went well overall, but had a small problem, Mutt was all for keeping the take and just dropping out any offending note and dropping in another one. This calls for extraordinarily fast reactions and great dexterity. Nigel Green was particularly skilled at this technique. He quickly showed that the band could chop and change the parts of the recordings without losing the original feel. It was exactly what Mutt would have done had he been there. In some cases tracks were even played over the phone to Mutt. I regularly took master tapes back and forth between the Netherlands and Battery Studios so he could check on progress and make suggestions.
Nigel Green was both charming and modest, and his attention never faded. And yes, he was the magical element that kept the band glued to the job. He was something of a genius in his field. I would say that Nigel is quite satisfied with his split of the Hysteria income, and most probably, like myself, he would be pleased to have a name credit on one of the most influential heavy rock albums of all time.
I really enjoyed reading all about Jim Steinman and Mutt Lange as they both have a tendency of not sharing too much info about their lives and their work. How different they were as producers and I guess it goes without saying that Def Leppard never bonded with Steinman and his…peculiar demands.
There was certainly no chemistry between Steinman (R.I.P.) and the band, and looking back to his first meetings with them I’m amazed the deal happened at all. Except for particular meetings the band had with Steinman and Mensch together, I was with the outfit the whole time, and there was never a buzz of excitement in their conversations about the what and how of recording. From the get-go at Wisseloord Studios, Steinman’s work ethic just wasn’t on a par with theirs. Jim had issues with the carpet in his hotel suite, which held up work, and on weekends he would fly to exotic European locations for fancy meals when the band just wanted to work, seven days a week.
By contrast, Mutt, once you got him, he was more dedicated to the job than any other producer I have ever met. He became totally engrossed, and no detail was overlooked. I got on well with Mutt and we spent much time together, so I was able to observe the man close-up, and I believe he got Hysteria recorded by sheer power of personality.
It was, however, extraordinary to be around when both Steinman and Lange were in Dublin. But, truly, Def Leppard cannot have asked the difficult questions that would have given them an outline plan of how the songs for Hysteria would be recorded. I was sorry to hear of Steinman’s demise, but he wasn’t the guy for Def Leppard, and his departure was a great relief to all, even though it posed the next problem for the Def Leppard journey – one which would be solved in the most unlikely way.
The most sensitive topic for decades has always been Steve’s addiction with alcohol and drugs. The band has said that they expected -even back then- that Steve would succumb to his demons. How about you? Did you see it happening? And one more thing regarding Steve…have you ever had an intimate conversation with him regarding that subject?
Yes, I had seen Steve Clark begin a slow downward trajectory. There’s quite a bit of detail about this in the book. When you’re on the road, time together is limited, as the show just has to go on. But when the band were in Holland recording Hysteria, I believe Steve had too much time on his hands. Nigel Green’s way of working meant Steve often wasn’t needed in the studio, sometimes for days on end. Sav, Joe and Phil on the other hand, were at the studio no matter what or who was required, and so they were always occupied. Steve and Phil also occasionally partied a bit too hard. While Phil would be up and out to meet the day head-on, Steve slept in late, so when I collected him to take him to the studio, he was already out of step with the others. It was difficult. Steve always had his demons though, and there was a certain inevitability to how things turned out for him.
Steve definitely had deeper issues eating away at his subconscious, which were normally kept at bay by the excitement of touring. When not in motion though, he became pre-occupied. His time with girlfriend Lorelei was, of course, immensely good for him, but she was a top model and had a hectic work schedule of her own so couldn’t always be there for him.
Steve eventually got back into gear with the onset of Hysteria touring – but was he better in himself? I don’t think so. Steve’s access to alcohol and substances increased during the long months of recording prior to the launch of Hysteria. I have recently been studying in detail the sheer size and scope of the Hysteria touring schedule. The chop and change of stage construction, playing in the round, and some 240 shows is a big task for a fit musician, but for one weakened like Steve – it must have been hellish, and his only prop was vodka! I believe all of these things contributed to his ultimate demise. I spent many long hours with Steve but we never talked about ‘the problem’. That was taboo.
It’s plain obvious upon reading your book that you were really close with Phil Collen. Were you disappointed that he didn’t talk you out of quitting your Def Leppard job in 1986 or for that matter asking you why you did it?
Yes, Phil and I were close. He was great to be around and had a bit of the devil in him. We had a lot in common, and it was great looking after his guitars. But by the time the 1986 Monsters of Rock dates came around I was experiencing burn-out. I was seldom at rehearsals because I was dealing with administrative work that would normally be done by an assistant from the management office. But the Q Prime office was in New York, and Mensch was in London most of the time. I had so little time to be with the guys, absorbing the new tech and guitar choices. I did get a handle on things though, and the dates went really well – although I knew I wanted to leave the regime that had developed. I told the guys I was done after the M.O.R. show in Mannheim.
But no, I was not necessarily disappointed in Phil, although it would have been nice if he had contacted me to see if I was OK. I was disappointed in my crew buddies though, who had not encouraged me to stay on. This is the rock and roll lifestyle. One day you are the most important person in a musician’s life, the next day you’re not, plain and simple. After a world tour with Rick Wakeman, for instance, Wakeman left the stage after the last show without even saying thank-you and goodbye.
Deep inside I already knew that my time as a guitar tech with Def Leppard was at an end. I had taken on too many other responsibilities and had learned a lot about admin and production, but had collapsed physically and mentally. I needed to move on to another level, and that position was not there with Def Leppard.
What was the absolute highlight of working with Def Leppard?
At first I thought this was going to be easy to answer because I had, after all, met Brian May on a number of occasions and, of course Mutt and Def Leppard themselves. But, I can safely say that the highlight of my Def years was being around before, during and after Rick Allen’s car crash. The thoughts that went through our minds at that time were many. Would Rick pull through at all was one question, because nobody knew, at first, what other damage he may have suffered.
I had spent so much time with Pyromanian Rick (who always called me ‘Miguel’), getting up to all sorts of mischief. He was such a dynamic and intuitive drummer at such a young age, with a heart and personality to match, and the thought of losing him was unimaginably painful for all of us. Def Leppard also had to consider the possibility that they might need a new drummer. These things had to be considered, but how on earth do you find a replacement for someone who was so much more than just a band member?
We were all aware though, as was Rick, that bands were using electronic drum kits live at that time. Rick, and Def Leppard, also woke up to the fact that Mutt had been triggering drums on their albums already. So a good feeling washed over us – we knew that all Rick had to do was re-learn the way he approached drumming, using his feet for more than just hi-hat and bass drum.
The road to full recovery was long but I was pleased to be a friend when he needed one, and any suggestion he had was followed up immediately and in detail. It was a pleasure because we were all, in a sense, putting Rick back together in our own different ways, and when Hysteria was ready for release, Rick Allen was ready to rock – and then some.
When was the last time that you spoke with Def Leppard?
The last time I was with the band as a whole was backstage after the August 1986 Monsters of Rock show in Mannheim, Germany. Joe and Sav later came to my place in Dublin in 1988 for my 40th birthday party. Oh boy, did we party! Def Leppard had flown Wisseloord Studio boss Baart Sloothaak to Dublin for the occasion.
I last saw Sav on 8th January 1991. He had walked to my place, in the cold and the snow, to tell me about Steve’s passing. I exchange emails with Joe quite often, on a number of topics, and both Sav and Joe emailed their blessings for my book Fabulist Icons.