Leppard changing its spots

TYLER McLEOD

, Last Updated: 4:34 PM ET

September 2, 1996 By TYLER McLEOD --

Def Leppard isn't deaf, dumb, or blind.

They know North America's musical tastes have changed in the four years since their last album, Adrenalize.

"The main thing is radio format has changed so drastically," Def drummer Rick Allen says. "I guess a record like Slang is the kind of record we had to make."

Calling from the middle of another massive world tour, one which hits the Saddledome Sept. 5, Allen voices concern over the fate of their newest disc.

"People can be sheepish at times. Instead of just liking music for music, there has to be a fashion or trend attached to it." The dour drummer adds, "It's unfortunate because we feel this is one of the best albums we've ever made. Making a record like Adrenalize or Pyromania would have been suicide."

He may be right. After kicking hit after hit out of a static formula, Def Leppard has diversified its portfolio.

Allen recounts how industry types were played Lep's new material without being told who it was. The consensus was great and then, "as soon as the band was mentioned it was like `Oh...'"

Touring the world and taking control were as instrumental as the instruments in the development of Slang. Though the band is nearly 20 years old, only recently have they begun to solidify independence. Uberproducer Mutt Lange is no longer responsible for Lep's sound.

"Mutt always had a vision of what the band should sound like and it was very successful," Allen credits. "This was the first opportunity we had to make the record we wanted and use the musical influences we'd picked up."

The album wanders about -- the title track has a rap meter, the ballads are less sappy, and are those sitars you hear at the beginning of Turn To Dust?

"Right before we finished the album we were in Southeast Asia," explains Allen. "It reinforced what we had done on some of the songs, trying to conjure up eastern flavor."

Call it Electric Ethnic.

"We were playing some to people of various Indian backgrounds, they thought we'd done a good job. They also gave a few pointers as to how to make it sound a little more modern."

Lep does so much touring, this tour doesn't even have name, but among the cultures Allen enjoys most on tour is Canadian.

"I remember certain things about Calgary but the Stampede is the one that stands out the most," the road warrior says. "Canadians have always been the most enthusiastic about our band. You know, sometimes we wish the rest of the world would catch up with Canada."

The band has overcome obstacle after challenge, including the New Year's Eve car crash in which Allen lost his left arm and the accidental death of guitarist Steve Clark in 1990, only to release some of its best work to an audience who has lost interest. Why do they keep on keeping on?

"We actually like working together," a wiser rocker says. "As you get older your egos begin to grow in different ways, but when it comes to the band we all realize it's a team effort. It's like anything or anybody -- you go through life and different challenges come up. You either deal with them or slink back into the darkness."


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