Def Leppard is trying to break new ground with their upcoming first foray into orchestral collaboration. On May 19th, the band will release Drastic Symphonies featuring, “tracks dramatically reimagined by London’s iconic Royal Philharmonic Orchestra” — along with new vocals and instrumentation from the band.
Frontman Joe Elliott spoke to Classic Rock and said the band is treating the project differently than others that have gone the orchestral route: “We’re stepping into territory previously visited by other bands of our ilk. But we’ve never done anything like this before, and what’s really interesting is how we’ve dug really deep.”
Elliot went on to say, “It’s all about expanding these songs. Most of it is stripping back our backing tracks to allow the orchestra to shine and be at the forefront, because that’s the point of the record. But it’s not just our greatest hits with orchestra on top — like slapping butter on a piece of toast. What we wanted to do with this album is glorify what we’ve done in the past as rock songs, and make them epic.”
Joe Elliott explained that coloring outside the box has always been Def Leppard’s M.O.: “This has turned out to be another of the weird things that we’ve done — like a show with Taylor Swift, or a duet with a country singer like Alison Krauss or Tim McGraw. It’s another thing that’s out of the norm for us.”
Bassist Rick Savage revealed how the process for the album was one of trial and error: “When we mocked up orchestral versions of some of the big rock songs, like ‘Photograph’ and ‘Rock Of
Ages,’ it was hideous! If a song is written in a minor key, it’s easier to fit string parts and be more melodic. But with ‘Photograph’ and ‘Rock Of Ages,’ which are very major key songs, an orchestral version just sounds a bit whimsical, even comical. . . That’s why this album is so cool, because we didn’t just pick the hits. We picked the ones that really lent themselves to strings and all that drama.”
With Def Leppard surviving both musical and cultural shifts across the decades, Joe Elliott admitted to us that having a band last over 40 years is still a mind-boggling proposition: “We were in the front-end of a whole new way of doin’ this — and we’re lucky that we’ve stayed together to be able to exploit that and enjoy it and all that kind of stuff. But even when we got together, we thought (we’d last) maybe five or ten years. Because that’s all there was. There was an eight-year-old Led Zeppelin when we formed — the Beatles had only been split for seven. The Rolling Stones and the Who were essentially, maybe 13, 14-years-old. So, there was no band that had been around for 40 years. So it’s insane when you say it off the top of your head just like that.”