Viva Hysteria! The Black Flag Meets Def Leppard’s Rick Savage

You’d have to be living on the moon not to have heard of the band Def Leppard. The Rock legends formed in Sheffield in 1977 and released three albums,...

You’d have to be living on the moon not to have heard of the band Def Leppard. The Rock legends formed in Sheffield in 1977 and released three albums, all to varying degrees of success, before releasing their fourth  ‘Hysteria’ on 3rd August 1987 which catapulted the band to mega stardom and became a Seminal Rock album of its time.

The band recently released a movie VIVA HYSTERIA which consists of ‘Hysteria’ being performed live at the Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas. We were lucky enough to meet up with Rick ‘Sav’ Savage, Bass player and founding member of the iconic band to find out more….

TBF: How does it feel to be back in the UK?

Rick Savage: It’s a bit of a whirlwind, its kinda nice and its where I’m from. And more and more that I actually do it, I kinda like coming back to London. It’s actually nice. I always disliked London back when we were just signed as a band and it was like everything, we’re on a train coming into London. I never really warmed to the place but as I’m older now…. It’s a pretty cool place to be. As it happens, I’m actually going up to Sheffield this evening. I haven’t seen my Mother and family for ten months now. Cause I’m now living in Dublin. Back in Dublin, where I spent 86 to 2001 and then moved back to Sheffield. And then we moved back to Dublin last summer.

TBF: Lovely city though Dublin…

Sav: Yeah lovely city, lovely people

TBF: So last night was the premier of Viva Hysteria

Sav: Yes it was indeed, yes

TBF: How did that go?

Sav: It was good. It was packed. There was a lot of fans there which is nice. But a few friends, the odd musco or two knocking around. It turned into a good night you know. It was great. It’s the first time I’ve actually seen it….

TBF: Oh really?

Sav: Obviously I’ve seen clips that they keep sending for approval, this is where we’re going, is this ok? Blah blah blah. But I never really had much great desire to sit and watch a concert. You know I was there I know what happens. But yeah it was a really good night.

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TBF: The Movie documents your residency in Vegas at the Hard Rock café. Tell us a bit more about that

Sav: Well it’s the first time we’ve ever done anything like that. We were offered it six months previous. Would we be interested in doing something like this by the promoters. It really didn’t take much thinking. It was really a no-brainer. Absolutely. You couldn’t get a better environment. Vegas is a great place to play anyway, but there’s also the advantage of not travelling anywhere. It had all the great things about being on the road, which is playing live, but none of the bad things which is basically travelling. Trying to sleep on a moving bus and getting into the next city at six in the morning and you know, you arrive at the gig you’re playing. Which is the way it is. Its ok. But when you’re doing a residency if you feel like it, service elevator straight up to the rooms and you can go to bed if you want. We did that for three weeks.

It was three shows a week, so the schedule wasn’t particularly heavy. The nights that we did play were busy nights because we were on stage for two and a half hours because we did a pre-set. We were our own support band. We were a band called Dead Flat Turd. We all went into character. We all had different names. We kinda looked a little different. Phil Collen even wore a shirt, that’s how unusual it was. So we actually came out as this support band. Basically a Def Leppard covers band and we played a lot of old songs that some people would have never have heard before and the real die hard fans would have been like FANTASTIC. We played one song ‘Good Morning Freedom’ that never even made the first album. It was just a B-Side of one of our early singles. So it allowed us to play songs like that which we never get the opportunity to play when we’re doing the normal on the road set, because we have to play the songs that people expect us to play but Hysteria being an hour fifteen. Your short changing people we thought so why not do a support set, go off for twenty minutes and then it’s the main event. And the format it worked brilliantly. It was great!

TBF: That’s quite a long time to actually be on stage

Sav: Yeah like I say, the nights that we were working, which were Wednesday night, Friday night and Saturday night. They were hard days, no question about that. But they were enjoyable. I personally think it was one of the best things that we ever did. It was just great. It just seemed an obvious thing to document it on film…

TBF: That’s what I was going to ask next….

Sav: That was the thing. It’s like why not? It started off with a suggestion and then, as these things happen, it snowballed and next thing you know, theres a 28 camera crew in there. They filmed two nights, which I think were the second night we played and the third night and basically created the concert. The director was kinda smart cause he filmed the Friday night and he came backstage after the Friday show and he said ‘To be honest guys I think we’ve got it. It was great, you guys were good. I think we’ll just use tomorrow night for certain edits and blah blah blah’. Then on the Saturday night he came back and said ‘ We’re taking 99% of it from the Saturday night and we’ll put in little edits from the Friday night.’

So you know they were really good, they wasn’t intrusive in any way. When you were on stage, you kind of forgot that the cameras were on you. Which is the best environment to do something like that in. Again it was just another facet to the event. We’ve got it documented. It’s coming out on DVD. It will be out in cinemas on Thursday 19th September, nationwide in the UK and then the rest of the world sometime in early October. Only for one or two nights. And then the DVD/Blu-Ray will be released, I think it’s the 19th October for people to go and buy.

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TBF: Hysteria is a seminal rock album. Do you think it’s a natural progression to take that to the big screen?

Sav: I think it is and the way that we did it. It’s becoming more and more popular or in vogue for bands to be on screen…

TBF: Well bands and One Direction…

Sav: See people keep mentioning One Direction. Obviously they’ve done something similar. I wouldn’t exactly cross the street to go and watch that but even Robbie Williams did a live show, I think it was in the Ukraine, that was beamed back to loads of cinemas in the UK. It’s becoming a bit of a thing for people to do. The musical landscape and the industry is changing so quickly so much and in so many different ways that all these new innovations and ideas are all part of it. So why not you know. We’ve got it, lets see if people want to see it.

TBF: How do you think the music industry has changed in the time that you guys have been playing?

Sav: Oh on such a massive amount. Obviously the digital age and the way that people now pay for their music has changed so much and that has changed the attitude of record companies. Because record companies are becoming less and less important. Back in the Eighties they were the bosses. That’s how it worked. That’s how the industry worked. Now people don’t really need the record company as long as the music still exists in some form. They can download it off iTunes or whatever you know. The computer has actually become the company, for want of a better expression. So that’s changed but it’s also changed the attitude within the record company in the sense that the record company will no longer sign new bands on a five album deal, it just doesn’t happen anymore. They sign new artists more or less, on a one album deal and its got to be a hit. And even if it is a hit, they tend to then drop you because somebody else has come along and they go in that direction

TBF: So you think it’s become more fickle?

Sav: It’s become totally more fickle and to be fair, I’d hate to be starting a band up now as opposed to 1977 when Joe and I first started because if the same attitudes prevailed then, we wouldn’t have had the chance to record Hysteria, it would never have happened, there is no such thing now as giving the band a certain amount of albums to establish themselves and grow and build. Which is what happened with us, our first album did really well for a first album and a new band, our second album did well in America but not in the UK, but we were still aloud to make our third album which was Pyromania, that went massive and from that the Hysteria thing went even bigger on a worldwide basis, so we were aloud that time. Nowadays the third album would never see the light of day and that’s a real shame.

And because of that, there’s not as many bands around or artists around, which is really sad as the teenagers of today really don’t have their own music. They’re going back to the Eighties and that’s where their references are now, the rock of the Eighties, U2 or maybe REM, it’s all sort of Eighties and maybe some Seventies bands and that’s where their gravitating to, they’re not gravitating to anything new and fresh, cause there really isn’t anything. It’s great for us, don’t get me wrong, it’s sad from an industry point of view, but it’s brilliant for us cause we’re gaining more fans and the stature of the band is either as it was or getting bigger, so like I said from our point of view its kinder cool for us. But I would never have dreamed that it would be that way in this day and age….

Def Leppard Viva Hysteria is out now on DVD

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