"When we saw the bill afterward, that's why we're in this room now": Joe Elliot offers a tour of the home studio he built to save Def Leppard money after the cost of making Hysteria

Joe Elliot in his home studio
(Image credit: AMS Neve / YouTube)

"Here we are 35 years later and we're still using it" – Joe Elliot is a smart guy, and he also seems humble for a man whose band has sold 100 million records. But a big part of Def Leppard's continued success is this mix of business and musical savvy, with feet firmly on the ground. And it led Joe Elliot to invest in a studio in his Dublin home after their biggest-selling album, when others might have been far more reckless with their cash.

In a new video tour with AMS Neve, Joe takes us around the space that was previously three bedrooms. Established in 1988, he calls 'Joe's Garage' a "fun" studio but the band has done serious work here since their Adrenalize album in 1992.

"I bought all the gear and I was happy to do that because it was my studio and I was going to have it forever," Joe tells Neve. "We're still using it, I've pretty much recorded something on every album since Adrenalize in this studio."

Def Leppard's 1983 album Pyromania (that will see a special 40th anniversary reissue in April) proved to be a huge breakthrough for the Sheffield band in the US, and a far cry from the NWOBHM tag they'd picked up in their early years. For this third album they fully embraced the technology of the time.

“What has happened between '81 [and then] was just drum machines and synthesizers, and how bands like Joy Division or New Order or the Human League had used all this technology and it just became a talking point, like, wonder what it would sound like if a rock band incorporated some of that into the standard rock sound?" reflects Joe. 

But it was the long multi-year process of recording the band's follow-up, 1987's masterpiece Hysteria that prompted Joe's decision to create a home recording facility. Because long also meant costly when it came to studio time.  

That was another learning curve – if we're gonna make another record of that standard, we're not paying that amount of money for it

"Hysteria was recorded in Dublin, Holland, a little bit in France," explains Joe in the video above. "We went through all sorts of emotional trauma recording that record – Rick lost his arm [drummer Rick Allen was in a car crash during this time and had to effectively relearn to play using a modified drum kit], Mutt (Lange, producer] had a car crash, everyone got sick. We started it with Jim Steinman, it didn't work out, Mutt wasn't gonna do it then he came back and he was, we wasted an entire year – if not more – and scrapped it and started again.

"Then it was the raging success that it was," reflects Joe. "It's one of the biggest-selling albums of all time. But then when we saw the bill afterward, that's why we're in this room now. Because that was another learning curve – if we're gonna make another record of that standard, we're not paying that amount of money for it."

Building a studio for the band meant they could "turn the clock off" while recording when it came to studio hire fees. And it's paid dividends for other projects too – including the most recent Thin Lizzy album remixes where Joe worked alongside Leppard's live and studio engineer Ronan McHugh, with Lizzy's Scott Gorham and Brian Downey.

Joe's Garage hosts a Neve 8424 console (we later discover he actually bought two) a purchase prompted by Ronan's suggestion. "This is my first analogue console since 1988," notes Joe. For Ronan it was a huge advantage to get back to the studio workflows he'd been used to in the past.

“We had a controller before and trying to do everything in the box - like multi-input guitar tracking and that kind of thing - is quite fiddly," he notes.

"It's just more natural, it's easier – it's faster. We had a bunch of stuff but it was all in racks. Now it's all here in front of me and it makes life easier."

Neve 8424 console

(Image credit: Neve)

The second 8424 is at Ronan's studio space ten minutes down the road where he can continue to work on projects; "All editing, arrangements – that kind of stuff," he explains. Def Leppard's most recent album Diamond Star Halos was mixed on it too. 

"It sounds like it could have been recorded in Abbey Road," notes Joe. "This is the use of technology – Bounce Boss was this incredible filing system that we used to send stems to each other, and you could work on your own leisure.

Check out the full video above and find out more at Neve. The 40th anniversary remastered and repackaged version of Def Leppard's Pyromania is released on 26 April 2024. Preorder here. 

Def Leppard Pyromania 40th Anniversary

(Image credit: Def Leppard)
Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.   




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