Saturday, January 26, 2008

JOE ELLIOT TALKS ABOUT TRAVELS OF A ROCK STAR


By Doug Miller Special to msnbc.com 9:40 a.m. CT, Wed., Jan. 23, 2008

Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott talks about his favorite destinations

Joe Elliott is the charismatic frontman of the ubiquitous British radio rock band known as Def Leppard, who scored huge hits in the 1980s with mega-albums "Pyromania" and "Hysteria." The band will be back with their latest album, "Songs From the Sparkle Lounge", on March 18. They're scheduled begin a tour with Styx and REO Speedwagon starting March 27 in Greensboro, N.C., and their first single off the new album, "Nine Lives," features country star Tim McGraw. We caught up with Elliott by phone recently and talked about his favorite places to travel.

Q: Def Leppard is constantly touring. Have you managed to spend enough time in cities to actually figure out which ones you like the best?

A: Well, I don't think we ever actually played a gig in Rome, but the Vatican takes your breath away. We were there doing TV stuff for a couple of days and got a chance to wander around Vatican City. It really blew our minds. Manhattan's always fascinating, too, just a big, stinky, smelly conglomeration of numbered avenues and streets, but it's just got a vibe that's hard to beat. I shouldn't like it, but I do. I can't put my finger on it. Especially in T-shirt weather. We wander around thinking, "It's really scrubbed up well, this place." It wasn't the nicest place in the world 10 or 15 years ago, but I love hanging out there now. With Los Angeles, it's kind of a love-hate thing. Sometimes I think it's marvelous, and sometimes I think it's a dump. It's so fake and I can't deal with how fake it is.

Q: Any other hidden gems of cities that come to mind?

A: Honestly, with most cities, we're not there long enough to judge, so you can jump to conclusions about places that are unfair. You can be overly impressed with one place if your hotel happens to be in a great neighborhood or you can think another city is a complete dump just because you happen to be in the wrong part of town. It's tough to judge sometimes when all you're doing is walking around the block for three minutes looking for a Starbucks.

Q: Those aren't too hard to find these days.

A: No. That's a good thing. But you know what I mean. We're not really going to get the time to spend in Omaha, Neb., to really get to know the place. But there are other places we really like. Canada has three great cities in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. Spain is great with Madrid and Barcelona. I've always liked traveling around Europe and seeing the architecture. The buildings in capital cities have been there for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years. Some look better than the new ones. And we went to Russia for the first time in 2003. We did the whole museum trek and St. Petersburg and Moscow and it was absolutely phenomenal. If you're going to go to one of these places, you might as well check out what there is instead of sitting inside checking out room service. And if your wife happens to be along on tour and drags you by the hair and says, "We're going to check something out," it's a good idea to go along with it.

Q: When the band isn't touring, do you ever get away for vacation or do you just stay home and relax?

A: The thing we tend to do is hang in one spot. We live in Ireland in the mountains outside of Dublin. When we finish touring, I generally go lovingly to my house, because I might go seven months without seeing it more than like eight or nine times. Once I get home and we settle in, we might stay weekends somewhere. We tend to go stay in a castle for a weekend. They have these resort castles in Ireland. These things have been around since the 1400s. You go there and you wonder, "How did they build these things?" You know, "How did they get the top stone on?"

Q: Do you travel so much that you forget your hotel room number or wake up not remembering which city you're in?

A: Absolutely. That's a no-brainer. You develop a brilliant short-term memory for room numbers, depending on how much alcohol you have. Toward the end of the tour, your brain starts completely shutting down. The key is to keep your room key in your back pocket, and to go out in groups, because somebody always remembers what hotel you're in.

Q: Are you active on days off or do you keep typical rock-star hours?

A: Pretty active. I'll sometimes play golf on days off. And with the band, we're a collective, but we're individuals. We'll go to movies, we occasionally go bowling with the crew. We don't go mountaineering or nothing when we go on tour. I mean, if you can't give 100 percent then you're cheating people. And peoples' jobs are on the line when there's a touring situation.

Q: Do you seek out musical attractions in cities?

A: You tend to gravitate to the history of stuff. In Memphis in 1993, for example, we were invited to some studios by the owner to record a song. If you're in Nashville long enough, you should try to find something relative to country music or whatever you think is cool. In New Orleans, you have to do the whole Bourbon Street trip. Sometimes it's real awful and not even authentic music, but sometimes it is. Generally speaking, it's really hard for English chaps running around the States. When we were in Tupelo, Miss., we visited the house Elvis was born in. It's great to say you've seen it, but essentially it's just a (freaking) wooden hut and a tourist trap. We got more satisfaction at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in Cleveland) because collectively it's more impressive. You see Jimi Hendrix's guitars, Elvis stuff, stuff from Eric Clapton, and you're like, "Wow," every three seconds, as opposed to, "Wow, he was born here. Big deal." We did do Graceland in 1983. As for the Leopard Room, well, let's just say that people make fun of 1980s hair metal bands, but that was tacky.

Q: You guys are from Sheffield, England. Do they have a Def Leppard museum there yet?

A: You know, it's funny. Those who are in the know, the complete crazy Lep fans, they all have brochures of where we were all born, the first gig we played, the regular haunts we played when we were getting established, etc. Some are still there and some are gone. The house I was born in, it's just a regular terraced house. Until you're dead 40 years, I don't think there's anything important.

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