EXCLUSIVE: Def Leppard's Phil Collen on Why He's Vegan
We had the fortunate pleasure of chatting with Phil Collen, guitarist for Def Leppard, and his newer band Manraze. Not only does he talk all about his vegan diet and what it meant to be a vegetarian man in the rock scene in the 80’s, but we also touch on his current tour, his band Manraze, and Tom Cruise in the new film ‘Rock of Ages.’
Collen is delightfully more forthright than many celebs when it comes to his diet. Read below and you’ll see him compare an omnivore’s fridge to Jeffrey Dahmer’s fridge, and his advice to his seven-year-old son about what to say when people made fun of his diet.
Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to go vegetarian?
Eating dead bodies started freaking me out, you know? I always kind of loved animals and stuff but I think it really hit home…when you actually figure out what you’re eating and all the suffering that the animals go through. So that was it for me. It was real ethical and moral things initially. In the last year, just over a year, I became a vegan as well. I was only eating, like you know, milk and coffee and chocolates and stuff like that but you know I actually read this book “The China Study” and saw the documentary “Forks Over Knives” and that really kind of put an end to the dairy stuff as well.
The actual event that pushed it over the edge was I saw the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movie and just the whole slaughter house and the…hanging carcasses. I mean a terrific movie but you figure this actually happens every single day to animals and we seem to think it’s okay. It’s bizarre actually.
30 years ago, there weren’t many vegetarians around, and probably even fewer men, and even fewer in rock bands. What was that like?
Bit weird actually. It was really interesting that everyone bowed to peer pressure even when something is being tortured and suffering like that. They would rather be okay with eating it because they didn’t want, you know, [to] actually have attention brought on them that could be perceived as negative. I would see that you know…Manly men would not want to go anywhere near that in case people think they were less macho or something. That was something I did notice straight off the bat.
It was, again, it was very difficult and people go “Oh what’s wrong with you? What are you, some kind of hippy?” And I go “Well no, what’s wrong with you? You’re eating all this stuff. You’re eating all this disgusting insides.” I’ll say a meat eaters fridge looks like Jeffrey Dahmer’s fridge. It’s got like hearts and eyes and you know, all sorts of stuff in there disguised as hamburgers and hot dogs and god knows what. It’s just bizarre that no one can actually see that. It’s disgusting and kind of really immoral.
Being a guitarist, and now a lead singer, takes a whole lot of energy. What’s a typical meal you might have before heading up on stage?
Last year when I was 53, I was bench pressing twice my body weight. I’ve never thought I’d be able to do that. I think, you know, if you eat 80% raw or try to and the less cooked stuff the better. The less, you know, sauces and condiments and all that stuff, I think you’re better off. That’s it really. I mean, a lot of the time, me and my wife, we just rustle up something really quick…mixed greens, veggie burger, hot chili peppers and maybe a little bit of soy sauce.
On his vegetarian son:
Well, my son who is 22 now has never had meat in his life. He’s been in and out of being a vegan throughout his life but I think it’s great he’s just stuck to it. One of the things I told him when he was 7, I said “Look, kids at school are going to give you shit at some point so just tell them that they’re eating assholes and eyeballs.” Cause you know, that’s what they put in burgers and hot dogs and that’s the current fare for most young kids…It works every time.
You tend to perform topless, so everyone can plainly see that you’re in amazing shape. Besides for diet, how do you stay so fit?
Just before a tour, I kind of really step it up. We do a lot of martial arts training and combine that with weights. Just a bit of everything really. But I think that the cardio stuff, the kick boxing training is what really kicks it in. Just before a tour you know, I split the workout up into three parts, a cardio, a weights, and actually pads as well, like boxing pads and stuff. That’s three times a day. That with the diet thing. Again, just eat more raw, and just watching what you’re doing. It just really kicks in really very quickly. Usually about three weeks I can get to a state I’m really happy with. And within 12 weeks or something it really kicks in. And it never seems to change. As you get older and stuff, yeah, you make adjustments with your diet and different things. But I find if I stop working out I start aching.
I think a lot of the diseases and again, a lot of people hobbling around and having all these kinds of aging diseases is mainly down to diet and inactivity. We know that for a fact but it’s great to actually prove it by putting it into practice.
After being in Def Leppard for so long, how did Manraze get started?
I was up in London and my dad, he had like two months to live. He had terminal cancer and everything so I was just hanging with him. Just spending as much time as I could and, you know, staying in London and talking and hanging out with him. Simon, I actually have known for years, he used to be in my old band Girl. We just started writing some songs together. And uh, we said wouldn’t it be great if Paul could play drums on this and I literally run into Paul two days later in the street. I told him about it and we started rehearsing. And that was it really. And it just kind of clicked. And the band started to develop and everything.
It was a lot different, you know musically and kind of lyrically. It can be a political song about the British empire which is connected to…You can’t really do that in Def Leppard. You know, we have a different sound and a different kind of style of writing and everything. You have to stay in certain parameters. But with Manraze it was kind of wide open…Lyrically it could be anything from a gripe about social issues or it can be a love song. So it’s very liberating actually like musically and artistically. It’s wonderful.
What can we look forward to from Def Leppard and Manraze in 2012?
We’ve got the Def Leppard tour. That starts probably around June. There is a movie called “Rock of Ages” which is a Def Leppard song. The movie is based on the broadway musical which is “Rock of Ages.” In the movie Tom Cruise is playing the main character and he’s actually singing a Def Leppard song which is really weird but very cool as well.
Because our community loves rescue stories I thought I’d ask, do you have any rescue animals at home?
Two dogs. One was found on the side of the road. My ex wife and son phoned me up and “oh we’ve got a dog” and you know, I used to have a German Shepherd, and “this one’s a half shepherd.” He was so raggedy…I got him home and he stayed ever since and that was like 8 years ago. The other one was a German Shepherd who was going to be put down and we got her and she’s three now. Both of those were rescued from whatever their fate was going to be.
We can’t thank Phil enough for chatting with us. Between Manraze, his current tour with Def Leppard and all the publicity surrounding “Rock of Ages,” he’s a busy guy. But we know his thoughts on veganism will make even the most macho guys out there think twice about their diets.