Def Leppard, Taylor Swift jam

JANE STEVENSON - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

Who would have thought 32 years ago when British heavy metal band Def Leppard formed in Sheffield, England, that they would end up performing on a country music awards show in Nashville?

But there they were last month on the CMT awards performing their hit, Pour Some Sugar On Me, with teenaged country music star Taylor Swift alongside them. The two acts had been nominated together for their collaborative work on the CMT Crossroads series.

Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell said he's sure some people in the audience were scratching their heads.

"It was a little bizarre but the industry is changing so much," said the affable musician down the line recently from Nashville, the day after their CMT performance.

"Country music is heading more mainstream and other genres are collaborating and getting involved. It's kind of surreal in a way. It's a little strange. The music industry is a continually moving target. It used to be a fixed target and now it's just whatever goes. And Taylor Swift, for example, has nothing to do with country music. She's definitely pop. If you took away the violin and the banjo that she employs, in my opinion, there's nothing country about it. You could argue that her lyrical content is true to the Nashville side insofar as it is heartfelt but it's also probably closer to teen music than what would normally pass for Nashville country subject matter. I don't really know what's pure country anymore and I'm sure there's a lot of folks in Nashville, who were rolling their eyes at Def Leppard being at the CMT Awards and the rap guy (T-Pain, who appeared in a skit with Swift)."

The idea to hook up in the first place was Swift's idea because her mother was a huge Def Leppard fan.

"The poor child had no choice," Campbell said. "But we heard from her camp that she would like to work with us with regard to the Crossroads show. It's very flattering when not only someone that young, but someone who's such a huge superstar, calls you up and says, 'Hey, I'd like to work with ya.' It has just been an interesting experience. I don't expect a huge percentage of Taylor Swift fans are going to all of a sudden rush out and buy Def Leppard; I'm sure their parents will. Having said that, we have been seeing a lot of younger people coming to our shows in recent years, which is absolutely the upside of music on the Internet as far as I'm concerned. So many of the iPod generation share files with each other so you're getting teens and twenty-somethings who have four or five Def Leppard songs on their iPod, they didn't pay for them I'm sure, but if they're coming to the shows it's all good."

Def Leppard, who have sold an impressive 65 million albums worldwide since their formation, arrive at the Molson Amphitheatre tonight for their sole Canadian stop with openers and fellow hard-rockers Poison and Cheap Trick in tow.

The trio of 'name' acts practically guarantees a crowd-pleasing concert for fans shelling out money in these tough economic times.

"The tour industry is now all about packaging," Campbell said. "And especially more so this year given the state of the economy. It's about giving people value for money. It sort of guarantees you go out there and you're going to pretty much know every song you're going to hear all evening. And that's it. We've toured with some other acts that have some pretty deep catalogues and that's what touring is about nowadays. I kind of feel bad for up-and-coming artists, growing up in this current industry climate, where you don't really get a chance to build a catalogue. Careers kind of come and go really, really quick. If Def Leppard were coming of age today in the music industry, we wouldn't have a chance."

Otherwise, he promises fans will get a high-energy, big production show with each band making the other one work harder than the last on stage.

"One thing lends itself to the other. Like the music requires a big production show and the big production show requires that we shake our booties. We break a serious sweat when we play live. Having more than one band on the bill, when it's more than just your show, when you've got to follow someone else, it kind of ups the ante, you've got to raise your game, you can't afford to be complacent."

For rock veterans Def Leppard nothing beats touring

Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell says the band is currently writing new songs and expects to be back in the studio early next year.

However, he'll admit releasing new work isn't what it used to be.

"It really makes no financial sense to spend a year or whatever making a record the way Def Leppard used to do it because it doesn't pay in the end because not enough people are buying records," Campbell said. "So you're spending money that you're never going to see back. Although it is fun creatively. We'll always do that and we enjoy doing that. We've also fortunately gotten better at making records quicker and cheaper, so that just kind of pans out in the end, but it's all about playing live. That's what we do really, really well and that's what we enjoy doing. And when you're a kid and you pick up a guitar, that's what you want to do. You don't think, 'Oh, great, let's go spend a year and a half in the studio.' It's all about the instant gratification of playing in front of a live audience, that's a thrill that can never be bottled."

In the meantime, the British heavy metal vets released deluxe versions of their classic albums, Pyromania (1983) and Adrenalize (1992).

"It's really just for hardcore fans," said Campbell. "I wouldn't recommend it for the casual Def Leppard listener. We remastered, remixed the original versions of Pyromania and Adrenalize and the packaging, there's more photos from the period, there's more liner notes, there's more detail and then there's a second disc with each thing that features live and previously unreleased material."


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