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Let's get rocked, again

It's easy to think that, just because someone isn't giving Girls Aloud and Lady GaGa a run for their money, well, an artist must be struggling. Wrong.

In the case of Def Leppard -- who broke though in the 1980s with Pyromania, Hysteria and Adrenalize, a trio of albums that have sold more than 30 million copies -- recent years have seen their sales dip drastically on this side of the Atlantic, just as America embraces them once again.

Having spent the last few months deep in the vaults, pouring over demos for special reissues of Pyromania and Adrenalize -- Hysteria having already had an anniversary release -- Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott is perfectly happy to take a walk down memory lane.

Catching up with the Dalkey resident as he prepares for a sell-out world tour, that includes June 12 at the O2, it's plain that the soon-to-be-50 Joe Elliott has got plenty to be happy about.

PAUL BYRNE: For the reissues of 1983's Pyromania and 1992's Adrenalize was it a walk in the park, or did you tread carefully?

JOE ELLIOTT: It's not a case of treading carefully, it's just like looking back over some old photobook, but an audio one. It's a case of opening it up, and giggling at yourself. I mean, sometimes we'd laugh at the trousers, and sometimes we'd laugh at the demos, but I've got to say, I've been blessed working with the people that I've worked with in this band. We've never really written what I would call a shit song.

Going back to these early albums, are you completely happy with them?

I'm enormously happy with those albums -- why wouldn't I be? They both sold over six million copies. There are lots of things on every single album that we've ever made -- including Hysteria, which has sold over 20 million copies -- that I would go back and redo. There are songs that I would leave off, but, that's a personal thing. There are other guys in the band who would disagree with me.

Do you ever get bored with playing those monster hits live?

I get bored s**tless doing Sugar and Photograph in rehearsals, I absolutely do, but not in front of an audience. When you hear a cheer at the beginning of a song, your mind can go into reverse mode, all the way back to the day when someone walked into the room and said: 'I've got this idea for a song'. And you see the song getting recorded, and being released, and becoming a hit.

Do you feel defensive of the newer albums, such as X (2002), Yeah! (2006) and last year's Songs From The Sparkle Lounge?

Yeah, but it depends on which way you want to look at it. If you're looking at it from an Irish perspective, where they didn't get played on the radio so much, yeah, but in the States, they did. Sparkle Lounge went Top 5 in the States, and it's still getting played. When we had Yeah! out in America, the singles, Rock On and No Matter What were No 1 for five weeks and six weeks respectively, on regular Top 40 radio. That album gave us our biggest tour since Hysteria.

So, you never wake up in the middle of the night, screaming: "Frick you, Radio 2!"?

Oh, God no, never, never. There's no point. I'm not a bitter person. Def Leppard are becoming the biggest cult band in the world. I don't really see a downside to that. People start supporting you because you're not being supported by The Man, or the machine. You get a solid foundation, and they do a lot of the groundwork on your behalf, these really die-hard fans.

So, you're a happy man . . .

I'm absolutely at peace. I don't lose any sleep over anything. The O2 is going to be sold out. We're headlining Donington -- or the The Download, as it's called now -- 23 years after we last played there, third on the bill to Ozzy. We've got a tour of the States coming up, 40 dates that are going to be sold out. I don't see anything to moan about.

You've left yourself six days off the current tour for your 50th birthday on August 1. Is that going to be a big deal for you?

Yeah, it is. That's why, you've noticed, we're not doing any gigs around it. I said a year ago: 'I'm not going to spend my 50th in a hotel room in Boise, Idaho, so, don't put me in one. I'm going to be at home and I'm going to have a nice, big, stupid party, and invite all my really close friends -- plumbers, plasterers, some guys on the dole. Some of them are in the music business but most of the people will just be really close friends. We'll have a good time, and if it doesn't rain, we'll have a barbecue, and we'll drink till the sun goes down. And we'll play music, and there'll be some dancing, and there'll be some shenanigans.

Def Leppard play the O2 on June 12, with Whitesnake and Journey in support