DEF LEPPARD guitarist Phil Collen spoke to "Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon" about the circumstances that forced him to temporarily leave the band's tour with JOURNEY at the end of May. Replacing him until he returned was TRIXTER's Steve Brown, who previously subbed for Vivian Campbell at several shows in 2014 and 2015 while the DEF LEPPARD guitarist received treatment in his fight against Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Helen, my wife [of eight years], was giving birth to our son, but there was real bad complications — she actually died and they brought her back to life, and internal bleeding and just craziness," Collen revealed (hear audio below). "This isn't common knowledge, but it is now. So I was actually on tour, and when this happened, I obviously had to go to California. So I flew out there. Steve actually was coming to the show anyway. And I said, 'Steve, I know you know Viv's parts.' He sings great; he can do all of this stuff. So he learned my parts, and my vocal parts, which is more serious than the guitar parts, I think. In our band, we have backing vocals — it's an instrument.
"When Steve [Clark, late DEF LEPPARD guitarist] passed away, we actually said, 'We want somebody who's gonna fit in with us and someone who can sing,' and a lot of guitar players can't actually sing," he explained. "With Steve [Brown], he can sing like a champ — he knows all Joe's [Elliott, DEF LEPPARD singer] parts even; he sings amazing and he's a great guitar player. So it was a no-brainer. And I said, 'Can you step in for me?' Everyone was cool; they said, 'Go.' I went, and everything was fine. Everything is great now. Little Jackson was born. He's doing great, and Helen is doing great, and I'm back out on tour. Yeah, thanks to Steve; he really kind of saved the day there. That was wonderful."
In a 2017 interview with Sleaze Roxx, Brown said that he believed that he got the DEF LEPPARD gig "not because of my ability as a guitarist but more because of my vocal ability." He added that "the DEF LEPPARD catalog is not the easiest thing to learn. There's some very intricate guitar parts, very unique guitar parts," he explained. "Steve Clark wrote things in shapes and boxes that I haven't played before. So it was challenging, for sure. I have said this to friends of mine that are guitarists, 'Man, the LEPPARD gig isn't as easy as you think it is.' It was a challenge to dig in and learn the Mutt Lange/DEF LEPPARD collection. They are not your typical cookie-cutter rock and roll band. They have a unique way of writing songs."
DEF LEPPARD and JOURNEY's 58-city tour kicked off on May 21 in Hartford, Connecticut and will run through October 6 in Los Angeles.