Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott Explains How Working With AC/DC Producer Made Him A Better Singer


During a recent interview with Mitch Lafon and Jerremy White, Joe Elliott recalled the time when Def Leppard worked with the legendary AC/DC producer John ‘Mutt’ Lange during the recording process of many iconic Def Leppard albums, and revealed how Lange made him a better vocalist.

John ‘Mutt’ Lange was the producer of some of AC/DC’s legendary albums such as ‘Highway to Hell,’ ‘Back in Black,’ and ‘For Those About to Rock We Salute You.’ He also started to work with Def Leppard in their second studio album entitled ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ which was released on July 6, 1981. The collaboration of Lange and Def Leppard continued with ‘Pyromania’ and ‘Hysteria.’

The band’s co-lead guitarist Phil Collen previously revealed that Lange gave them the idea about finding their own sound and added that AC/DC’s Malcolm and Angus Young‘s clear sounds inspired Mutt Lange in one of his previous interviews. Joe Elliott also stated that he owned a lot to him while he was building his career as a lead singer. The secret behind Lange’s success as a producer was pushing the limits of the artists with whom he worked.

In a recent interview, Joe Elliot talked about working with Mutt Lange and mentioned that he had a great role in Def Leppard’s breakthrough. Lange was always pushing him to do it again and again until he found the best version of his performance. Elliot mentioned that he learned from Lange how to push the absolute limits to become a better lead vocalist.

Elliott stated in the interview that:

“The ‘train factor,’ as I call it. Do it again, do it again, do it again… He won’t take the first take, he wants to see if you’ve got a better one.

So it’s like a bridge – what you’ll do is sometimes you’ll peak, you’ll reach a certain level of performance here, you’ll go past it and you’ll come down the other side, and that’s the one he’ll take, and it’s exactly the same level as you want that you were trying 20 minutes earlier, but your voice would have been in much better condition.

I could have stopped there instead of here. I remember meeting Lou Graham at Wembley Arena in ’84, I walked into their dressing room and he went, ‘Hi, nice to meet you. So tell me, did Mutt make you think you couldn’t sing either?’

The first thing out of his mouth! Bryan Adams would probably tell you the same thing. Strangely enough, though, Mutt is not about perfection because all you’ve got to do is listen to the Boomtown Rats albums, and listen to Bob Geldoff – it’s about the attitude, it’s all about the tune, man.

“It’s all attitude. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfectly in tune, whatever it was. You listen to Ozzy, and Alice Cooper, and Ian Hunter, and Gary Halton from the Heavy Metal Kids – they had a vibe. It wasn’t about singing like Paul Rodgers, it was getting your thing across.”

He went on:

“John Lydon in the Sex Pistols, maybe Joe Strummer in The Clash – it was awesome but it wasn’t what you might call correct singing, as they said for the guy from Kansas who could sing the phone book and make you sound good.

But it’s you’re doing your own thing and that’s what gives it its independence, what gives its character. What Mutt would do was he would push you as hard as he possibly could until you, as a singer, just gave him that look, and you go, ‘Ok, ok, fine, it’s fine…’

He’s very grounded, everything he did to us as a band, and he wasn’t just the singers, he’d do the same thing to any drummer, a bass player, guitarist… he pushes them to their absolute limits.

And then you listen back to it afterward, you go, ‘I can’t believe that’s me.’ And then you have to take that now as your new standard to improve on, which is why we always got better.

You can watch the interview below.