Interview by: Robert Cavuoto
Photos: Robert Cavuoto
On January 26, 2018, Delta Deep released their first live CD/DVD called East Coast Live. Delta Deep is a fuel injected blues band featuring Phil Collen of Def Leppard on guitar and vocals, Debbi Blackwell-Cook on vocals, Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots on bass, and Forrest Robinson on drums.
The East Coast Live CD/DVD was recorded on one magical night at Daryl’s House in Pawling, NY. It showcases the band’s ability to smoke the blues and make the listener feel something special. Songs designed to inspire and drive people to take notice! The covers tunes are reimagined classic blues hits written by musical legends, and the originals are raw and filled with pulsing sexual energy.
I spoke to Phil Collen while on the G3 Tour with Joe Satriani to share some insights into the making of the new live CD, to provide an update on the writing of new Def Leppard songs, and what lies on the horizon for Delta Deep.
Robert Cavuoto: I saw Delta Deep in Asbury Park, NJ last March and the CD truly captures the band’s energy. From when we last spoke you mentioned that you recorded multiple shows on the West Coast and were planning to release that as the CD. What made you pick this East Coast show?
Phil Collen: We did record a bunch of shows on the West Coast, but by the time we got to the East Coast the band was really locked in. All of the CD was recorded from one night at Darryl’s House in Pawling NY. It was one of those magic moments on one of those magical nights. Everything fell together. We took it all from that one show, it wasn’t planned, but it really worked out well.
Robert Cavuoto: Was the West Coast CD going to be a complication from multiple nights or all one show?
Phil Collen: There was some okay stuff from the West Coast shows, but it didn’t come close to this show. The band was like a different band by the time we got to the East Coast. It’s funny as a lot of live albums like Mirrorball are recorded from multiple places over the course of a year and a half. It was great to get it in one night for Delta Deep.
Robert Cavuoto: I was really impressed with the quality of the sound, was there any edits in post-production?
Phil Collen: It was really straightforward. That was another great thing about it. There were a few little things here and there; nothing that would upset the apple cart.
Robert Cavuoto: You opened your Delta Deep CD and your shows with a searing version of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.” What is the significance of that song?
Phil Collen: Led Zeppelin was a really important band; symbolically they were a blues band. They had a different trajectory and used it as a starting point. They morphed into other great things. The first album was very different than later albums. “When the Levee Breaks” is an example of another great blues song with heavy rock power. We like songs like that as well as “Black Dog.” Led Zeppelin was an important starting point for music and that is why they are important to us.
Robert Cavuoto: I noticed that when you performed with Delta Deep, you bring a lot of the same guitars that you use with Def Leppard. Tell me about their ability to dial into the correct bluestone for Delta Deep and hard rock tone for Def Leppard?
Phil Collen: It’s always the Jackson PC1, that’s what I play as they are really versatile guitars. It pretty much does everything. I used only one guitar all night for that performance. If you can just play one guitar all night without having to swap it out, you get more out of playing. If you are changing guitars on every song, you have to get used to the change and feel of each guitar. I have that same guitar out with me for the G3 Tour as well. It’s the root beer colored Jackson; I’ve had it since the 90s.
Robert Cavuoto: The reception to the band has been great. What lies on the horizon for Delta Deep while you are out touring with Def Leppard? I know you are the master of writing and recording with your iRig while on the road?
Phil Collen: I’ve already started writing. We have seven new tracks for the new Delta Deep studio album. So that is exactly what I’ll be doing on the back of the tour bus; I have some speakers, microphones, and a laptop. It’s the same thing we did on the Tesla album. It was done backstage, in hotel rooms, in bunkers, and trailers. I’ll be doing the same for the new Def Leppard album as well. We already started some of those new songs and ideas as well. It takes a lot of the pain out of thing so when you go to a studio; you don’t have to start from scratch.
Robert Cavuoto: When writing new Delta Deep songs, what are some of the band’s strong points that you want to emphasize?
Phil Collen: It’s always about the songs. There are a few songs we want to record live as a band. I know Robert DeLeo has a two-inch tape machine so we may record a couple of the new songs live. For the most part, I think a song works better when you give it respect. We always record the drums last to avoid any surprises like a cymbal jumping out at you when you wanted to add a vocal part there. I think it’s going to be a pretty cool approach to recording.
Robert Cavuoto: You have been out on the G3 Tour for a few weeks; how are things going and what songs are you performing?
Phil Collen: It’s going phenomenal, and I’m getting so much out of it. We start with a jazz-rock-fusion classic song called “Quadrant Four” from the early ‘70s. It’s performed at 200 bpm which is ridiculously fast. We then do another instrumental song called “Yo 2 Joe” which I released last year from the G4 camp. It was the first guitar instrumental that I ever released. Then we come out to do a bunch of the Delta Deep songs with Debbi singing and Forrest on drums. At the end, we all get up on stage together and do a 20-minute jam. It’s so much fun.
Robert Cavuoto: Have you picked up any tricks or new guitar techniques from performing with Joe Satriani?
Phil Collen: Totally! Every night I’m learning from him. We get off stage after a show we talk about the evening and how things went. It’s quite exciting because we are all inspiring each other. It’s not about showing off. We all get so much out of it.
Robert Cavuoto: I’m planning to attend either the NYC or NJ show, will there be any surprise guests like you had in Los Angeles with Glenn Hughes, Vivian Campbell, and Chad Smith?
Phil Collen: I hope so; it’s really about who’s available. We tried to get Billy Gibbons the other night, and he just wasn’t around.
Robert Cavuoto: Def Leppard also announced a tour with Journey; tell me about partnering to do such a massive tour?
Phil Collen: We toured together in 2006, and it was unexpectedly amazing. It’s really about the songs. Both bands have a bunch of massive songs that fans say changed their life. That’s the common thread and a tour worth repeating.
Robert Cavuoto: What is the status of Manraze?
Phil Collen: Simon Laffy and I already started writing for the next CD. I just played on The Professionals album with Paul Cook and Steve Jones. It was the band they put together after the Sex Pistols broke up. The album came out the end of last year. I played on three tracks. Mick Jones from the Clash, Billy Duffy from The Cult also played on it.