WHEN it was announced that British rock royalty Def Leppard were to play one of the headline slots at this summer’s Lytham Festival many fans did a double-take.

One of the most successful bands of all time - just the 100 million plus album sales around the world - the group will form part of a double bill with Motley Crue which is likely to rattle the windows of the seaside town.

For Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, Lytham is just another opportunity for the band to do what it loves doing most.

“It’s why we all got in bands in the first place, to play live in front of people,” said Phil speaking from his home in California. “Even after all these years - Phil will have part of the Def Leppard line-up for 41 years this summer - it’s still a dream come true.

The Bolton News: Def Leppard (Picture: Ross Halfin)

“We just keep getting rewarded. To be able to create, to still get out there and play live and make the songs sound better each time, it’s amazing.”

Phil joined Def Leppard during the recording of Pyromania, an album which would transform the band from hardworking rockers into global superstars.

“When I first joined I was really just helping my mates out,” said Phil, who had been part of the band Girl. “I knew the guys from touring, we’d all play the same sort of places, the clubs and the smaller theatres.

“Joe and Steve (singer Joe Elliott and original guitarist Steve Clark) would sometimes come and crash on my mum’s couch when they came down to London and I remember staying with Joe’s mum and dad when Girl played in Sheffield.

“We were all doing the same thing and I had no idea it was going to do what it did after I joined the band. I didn’t realise it could be that big.

“When I left school at 16 I was working as a despatch rider in London. When Girl got a record deal it meant I could give that up and be a professional musician, that’s all I wanted to do.”

With producer Mutt Lange at the controls Pyromania spawned the singles Photograph and Rock of Ages which topped the US rock charts. The album went to number two in the US rock charts and Def Leppard were on their way.

The Bolton News: Phil Collen (Picture: Anton Corbijn)

“It was at a time when MTV was beginning and when Photograph came out it all took off,” said Phil. “It was all so different, we were suddenly being compared with Michael Jackson’s Thriller.”

If Pyromania introduced Def Leppard to music fans, the follow-up Hysteria took the band into the stratosphere, topping the charts in the UK and US and selling more than 20 million copies.

“I think with both those albums and all our subsequent recordings there’s a bit of class to them,” said Phil. “Mutt Lange was very keen to make sure that they had a classic sound and were different to other rock records and I believe that they have stood the test of time, they have that classy stamp on them.”

Eight more studio albums have followed since Hysteria, the most recent being Diamond Star Haloes which was released last year to both fan and critical acclaim.

“The last album particularly was a celebration of our love of music, a celebration of fandom,” said Phil. “We didn’t have to write that album, we could have just settled into being a touring band but that’s kind of naff.

“We got into this whole thing because of our shared love of music and the album was a way of celebrating that.”

Lytham Festival line-up revealed

Featuring guest artists including Alison Krauss, the songs on Diamond Star Halos reflect the band’s musical inspirations with songs having hints of Bowie, Bolan, Queen and even Pink Floyd.

“That keeps us alive and keeps us as fans,” said Phil. “I think you have to be fans of your own music and we all still get thrilled by the process of creating new music, we love it.”

When it comes to putting on a show, Def Leppard are in their element.

“We would never just dial it in,” said Phil, “we can’t. You need that reward you get from playing live whatever THAT is.

“I love the way that songs take on a whole new life when you play them live. Every time we go out there we turn it up a bit. There can be a tendency for some rock bands to be a bit lazy but not with us. I wouldn’t want to go on after us if I was in another band, that’s for sure.”

Def Leppard come to Lytham in July with Motley Crue. The two bands have already shared stages across the US and South America.

“Is there a bit of a rivalry? Of course there is,” laughed Phil. “We’ve known the guys from Motley Crue since 83 so this whole experience with them has been so much fun.

“But when we played the first shows there stage set was so amazing, we were like ‘ours is so boring in comparison, we’ll have to change it’ so we did.

“When we toured South America we had this giant plane which could take all out gear, all our crew and we all had beds to sleep in. It was like the best tour bus ever. We just had so much fun. It was like being back at school with all your mates - although I think we are all a bit older and wiser than when we were kids.”

Many bands find it impossible to stay together for any length of time, successful or not, but with Def Leppard you get the feeling that the lads from 40 years ago are having more fun now in their sixties than they did in their twenties.

“People often ask what do I think of new bands,” said Phil, “ and I have to say I think a lot of them are lazy. You have to work really hard at it all the time and that’s something we still do. “We played the So-fi Stadium in LA recently and the next day Joe did an eight hour vocal warm-up.The Bolton News: Def Leppard ready to rock Lytham Festival alongside Motley Crue                                           (Picture: Ross Halfin)

“We all put in that effort, although perhaps not to that extreme. But it’s a bit like being an athlete or part of a football team. If you don’t work at it you can quickly lose it.

“But it’s not like it’s hard work is it? When I left school at 16 I worked in a burglar alarm factory, now that was a slog.

“This is just heaven. I’m still getting to go out there playing my guitar like I never dreamed I could, playing songs you’ve written in front of people who are singing your songs back to you. It’s just so cool.

“I do feel blessed to be on tour and run around like a kid still. And I get the chance to do it with my mates. People sometimes ask doesn’t all that travelling become a slog? I just remember back to the days in the factory, as I say this is heaven, I love it.”

Def Leppard and Motley Crue headline Lytham Festival on Sunday, July 2. Other headliners include Jamiroquai on June 28, George Ezra on June 29, Sting on June 30 and Lionel Richie on July 1. For details visit www.lythamfestival.com