He may look and sound like a rock star, but Def Leppard’s Rick Savage certainly doesn’t behave like a well-known rock star. The down to earth, friendly musician and his blonde bombshell wife Paige recently caught up with RSVP to do a sexy, rock ‘n’ roll inspired photo shoot in Dublin’s Four Seasons Hotel, where it was all about leather, skinny jeans and big hair – and that’s just Rick we are talking about! The Def Leppard bassist and his stunning wife, who live in the south of Dublin with their three children Jordan, 19, Tyler, 12, and Scott, 11, spoke honestly to us about the lifestyle of a rock star, Rick’s struggle with Bell’s palsy, Paige’s crippling battle with depression, being a good house husband and how Def Leppard continued on after their drummer lost his arm.
Rick, Def Leppard has proven there is longevity in the music business. What has made you guys last the test of time?
The main reason – and it is one simple thing – we actually like each other and respect each other and although we have gone our separate ways in many instances, we actually get on with each other, and that’s the beauty of being 30 years in the business. We’re at a stage where if we didn’t like each other there would be no point in doing it.
Do you remember the start of the madness for you guys in the band? Def Leppard mania!
Yeah absolutely, I can almost remember it to the day. It was crazy because it took us completely by surprise. We were releasing our third album ‘Pyromania’, the first two had done okay but for some reason this particular album went through the roof. It was number two in America for six months and only because Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ was number one. We were number two behind the biggest selling album of all time, but we went from one level to another level almost overnight and the recognition and the fans just tripled in the blink of an eye. It took a lot of getting used to.
Is it true that you recorded an album at Ringo Star’s house?
We recorded our first album there, I was 18. It was actually John Lennon’s house, he sold it to Ringo. If you ever see the video ‘Imagine’ where it is all in white rooms and they are dressed in white, that is the house we recorded our first record in.
Was it wild, with lots of parties, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll?
No it’s not as wild as people think it is or would like to think it is. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when it was wild but like any teenagers or early twenties, you have your party nights but there was always a sense of enjoying yourself on your time off or after a show. If you are not able to perform properly the following night then what’s the point!
When you were doing the ‘Hysteria’ album, you had a lot of unfortunate events which lead people to believe the band was cursed?
We have had two major tragedies in our life span; one was losing our guitar player (Steve Clark) and the other was a drummer who lost his arm (Rick Allen), which are two pretty big things, but when you think of the amount of years we’ve been around… We’ve grown up in the public, our drummer was in the band before he even left school, anyone that’s over the age of 45, I can guarantee you they will have come across certain tragedies in their lives. We have been around a long time, so dotted along the timeline there have been some instances of things that have gone wrong. The Rolling Stones, Queen, The Who, Led Zeppelin – they have all lost members. It’s only recognisable because they’ve been around so long and these things happen.
Was there a point when Rick (Allen) lost his arm that you felt it was all over?
No. There was a serious point when you just felt for him as an individual. This is all he has ever known, this is what he is really good at, and how is he going to be able to carry on? It just didn’t seem logical for him to continue doing this, he had just lost a limb but he found a way. Fortunately we were still recording the Hysteria album, which took four years to complete and it was during that time, so he had time to rehabilitate himself and to relearn how to play the drums again with his left leg, hitting pedals that made sounds that his left arm would have done. It is inspirational.
Did the band ever consider replacing him?
Rick is going to be the only person to put himself out of the band. We are like a family and if something bad happens to a family member you’re not going to disown them. He found a way to make it work.
You had your own share of misfortune getting Bell’s palsy, what was that time like?
I had never heard of it when it happened, I thought it was a stroke. Literally the whole side of my face was numb. I woke up one morning and knew that something was wrong, looked in the mirror and my whole face looked like it had melted. Almost 80 per cent of people within two months make 100 per cent recovery, back to normal. There is 20 per cent where it never really goes away and it has never really gone away with me. It improves with time, it’s just certain nerves are not connecting to certain muscle groups within your face. Consequently I can’t move my forehead. It looks like I have gotten bloody Botox years before it was invented. I took steroid tablets but the best thing that helped me was acupuncture. Again it was traumatic for a short space of time and then you look at the drummer and put things into perspective.
You have taken the positive from it?
Sure, I wish it hadn’t happened but you can get vain and that’s when you have to put things into perspective. You’re not one of these people who has had acid thrown in their face. Everyone notices things about themselves way more than anyone else, to be honest. That thought gets you through.
Def Leppard are off to Las Vegas in March with a new tour, Viva Hysteria?
Well you can call it a tour but we are in the same place. It’s the best way to tour really; we’re doing the one gig 13 times, basically playing the same show. It’s a residency. The best part of being on tour is playing, the worst part is travelling.
Paige, are you going to go to Las Vegas with him?
Paige - I don’t know, I haven’t decided. I don’t know if I want to because the boys have just moved back here (from Sheffield) and I want them, Scott and Tyler, to spend time here, to settle down and find their feet. To be honest, I’m not mad about going on tour. It is actually quite boring, no offense Rick! And when he’s away you get the whole bed to yourself, no snoring! You can get the girls around and talk girlie stuff, it’s great.
Rick - If you are not part of it, it can be boring. You’re only there to support someone.
Is being a Rock star’s wife all it is cracked up to be?
Paige - I know nothing about Rick’s musical background because I don’t want to know, I just learnt through you he was in Ringo Star’s house!
Rick - Paige is really not into the music. I mean she is with me in spite of what I do, not because of what I do and there is a difference.
Paige - It can be a pain in the ass. When Rick comes home he is a husband, he does husband duties like any other husband, there is no rock stars in our house. He does more than I do and I am more of a drama queen than he is; I am even lazier than he is. We just do normal things; you have to for your kids. There is madness in our house like in anyones house; same crap, same school runs, same dinners.
Are your kids into your music?
No not at all. Jordan, 19, sang on stage with me. She’s into it because she is at the age where she took an interest in music and has quite a good voice. The boys at this point have not really been exposed to music like when I was 12, because that is all we really had. They have so many other things.
Do they even realise you are who you are?
Paige - You know what is funny, when they were little we would say ‘Dad has gone to get on the plane now’ and for years they thought he was a pilot! That is true.
Paige you have spoken briefly about suffering from depression. From the outside, people may feel that as a rock star’s wife you have everything and wonder how can you be depressed?
Paige - People are not educated about depression. It’s one word with a thousand things around it. Being a rock star’s wife doesn’t mean you can’t get depression, I had a life before Rick. It is a clinical depression, it’s in the mind. With me, I could be fine today and then suddenly I wouldn’t want to leave the house, ever. I would have to be shoved into the bath to have a shower. It’s dark and it’s black and it is horrible. You could be living in heaven or hell, in a council house or a mansion but still feel like you have had enough.
Can you feel it when it’s coming on?
Paige - Funny enough, I feel it coming on quicker, faster and heavier as I get older.
Have you made life changes to deal with it? For example, I know that a lot of folk who suffer from depression don’t drink anymore.
Paige - Well that’s why I’m not having a drink now. When you start drinking you feel very good, then you go down a route where you start doing things to yourself you shouldn’t maybe do. Then it gets worse from there. If I fall off or get wasted, I go right down and the chances of getting back up are slimmer, so it is not worth my while. You can hate yourself so much you can actually physically hurt yourself.
Rick - I think a lot of people associate depression with feeling depressed because we all feel depressed from time to time, but there is a difference between the two. So that’s why you get the ‘can’t you shake yourself out of it’ attitude.
Paige - You don’t know where it comes from or what starts it and it’s not about your upbringing. You could have had a bad upbringing or the best upbringing and have depression. It doesn’t matter who you are.
Rick, is there any sign of Def Leppard ever stopping?
Not really no, unless someone gets really fed up with doing what they’re doing, but the age thing doesn’t come into it anymore. There have always been bands in front of us, be it Aerosmith or The Rolling Stones, people of our era are still playing.
You have a very loyal fan base.
Very loyal and you would see the same people turning up. You do find there is a pocket of fans that come to at least 10 shows on a tour and while you respect them and appreciate their support, you have to remember when you have sold a hundred million albums like we have, not to put too much importance on 50 people. Certain fans can be so fanatical they think they are owed something and that can be a little annoying, because while they may be the biggest fans it doesn’t give them an extra right or closeness to the band. Certain individuals think they are more important than the masses. We are thankful people to those who support and buy our albums.