Philip Kenneth "Phil" Collen (born December 8, 1957) is the co-lead guitarist and one of the backing vocalists for the English rock band Def Leppard. He joined the band in 1982 following the departure of Pete Willis.
Phillip Kenneth Collen was born in Hackney, London, England. He got his first guitar from his cousin David Pilley, who said "he used to just sit in his bedroom just playing it". Then, at the age of 16, Phil got his first guitar (a red Gibson SG), taught himself how to play, and left school to pursue a career in music. He then joined a line-up of early bands including Lucy, Tush, Dumb Blondes, and Girl. During his tenure at Girl, Collen's career began rising, spurred by the relative success of the Girl albums Sheer Greed and Wasted Youth, which allowed Collen the opportunity to play at more significant venues.
A young Phil Collen can also be seen on the back cover of Deep Purple´s classic live album Made in Japan as the live photo is actually taken at the Brixton Academy in London, UK, a concert Collen attended, and not in Japan.
Before Collen's entrance into Def Leppard on 12 July 1982, during the recording of Pyromania, he had previously been asked to consider joining the band during the 1981 tour for High 'n' Dry by Joe Elliott and Steve Clark, whom he knew at the time. Despite this invitation, there was no need to replace Pete Willis yet and as a result, Collen stayed as a member of Girl for the time being.
After Willis was fired due to alcohol problems, Joe Elliott called and asked Collen to audition performing the solo on "Photograph" in one take during the recording sessions of Pyromania. Soon after, Collen officially joined the band, impressing both producer Mutt Lange and the rest of the band with his ability at playing the guitar. He and fellow guitarist Clark quickly bonded, becoming close friends and leading to the trademark dual-guitar sound of Def Leppard. He and Clark became known as the "Terror Twins," in recognition of their talents. By this time, Collen had also become noted for his trademark bare-chested stage appearances.
During the 1980s, Collen quit drinking alcohol, which he had developed a serious addiction to, stopped eating meat, and adopted a generally healthy lifestyle. According to Collen, he began to suffer blackouts due to alcohol, and quit when he realized that alcohol was beginning to dominate his life, and he was losing control of his addiction. In contrast, Clark did not follow such standards and died due to alcohol abuse in early 1991.
After Clark died, Collen was faced with the challenge of not only dealing with the loss of a friend and band-mate, but also with the burden and responsibility of the Adrenalize recordings. The music had been written by this time, but Clark's playing style differed so much from Collen's that actually recording all of his parts proved very difficult. While Clark's playing style was rhythmic, melodic, and sometimes even characterized as "sloppy," Collen's style was technical and precise, leading to difficulties in mimicking the sound of Clark's guitar parts. Due to the aftermath of Clark's death, as well as the issues with the recording of Adrenalize, Collen seriously considered leaving Def Leppard. According to Joe Elliott, Collen said that he couldn't bear to play guitar anymore after Clark's death. He said, "I'd rather be a plumber." However, once Vivian Campbell joined the band to replace the spot of second guitarist shortly before the Adrenalize tour, Collen was relieved of some of the pressures of the "overkill" production style of Def Leppard, as well as the challenge of reproducing Clark's guitar parts for live shows.
In 1989, Collen worked with Jackson Guitars to develop an ergonomically correct electric guitar, although according to Collen, he designed them because "they looked cool," and they ended up having bad balance, as well as a "really weird shape."
Recently, his live rig with Def Leppard is generally various Jackson PC1 Signature Dinky (Some are stock, some are modified in the custom shop), all equipped with Dimarzio and Floyd Rose Sustainer pickups (Except for the Supreme models). For acoustics, Collen uses several Fenders, Breedloves, and a Guild acoustic guitar. The electric guitar signal is sent, via a Shure wireless unit, to Marshall JMP 1 preamps and TC Electronic Chorus/Flanger, TC Electronic D-Two, and Alesis Midiverb effect processors. The signal is then sent through old (1980s) Randall Power Amps. Finally the signal is fed into the PA and Palmer Cabinet Simulators. For strings, Collen uses D'Addario 0.13 - 0.54 and 0.13 - 0.56 gauge strings.
Collen has been involved in several side projects over his career, most notably the band Man Raze, formed as a joint collaboration with former Girl bandmate Simon Laffy as bassist and drummer Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols.
In 1990, Collen co-produced the On the Edge album of the Australian band BB Steal.
In 1991, Collen offered a song he had written, "Miss You In A Heartbeat" to the band The Law, which was featured on the band's self-titled album. This album was the band's only release. "Miss You In A Heartbeat" was later recorded and released by Def Leppard.
In 1993, Collen executive produced the album Sublime To The Ridiculous for the band, Sheer Greed, composed of former members of Girl, an act Collen was also associated earlier in his career.
Collen has also worked in side projects with Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott. One of these recent projects was a tribute to David Bowie and Mick Ronson. He and Elliott also joined with Trevor Bolder and Mick "Woody" Woodmansey from Spiders from Mars and keyboardist Dick Decent to form the band Cybernauts. In 2001 they released a live album of Bowie songs.
In 1996, Collen performed as a featured guitarist on the Jeffology: A Guitar Chronicle album - a tribute album to Jeff Beck. Collen performed on the single, "'Cause We've Ended As Lovers" from the album.
In 2010, Collen recorded the song "Hard Times Celebrate" with rapper Bazaar Royale, featured on the album "The Ride."
Collen currently resides in Southern California, in Orange County, where he has lived for more than eighteen years. According to Collen, "I'm almost a California native now." He has three children. He married costume designer Helen L. Simmons in 2010.
Collen is a vegan and teetotaler, and has worked with PETA to promote vegetarianism. Phil Collen is also color blind.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license