Out but not down

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AS side projects go it’s fair to say Joe Elliott’s Down ‘N’ Outz hasn’t gone according to plan.

The frontman of Sheffield rock giants Def Leppard had little more than a covers set in mind for a one-off London show but landed a number in the American rock charts.

“It’s definitely snowballed a lot bigger than I ever thought it would – it was originally just going to be a 45-minute set,” says Joe, who makes his hometown debut with the band comprising members of The Quireboys on April 16.

“When Mott The Hoople announced they were reforming for a week of shows at Hammersmith Odeon I was asked to participate in some capacity.

“They’ve always been my favourite band and it’s nice to see the rest of the rock world finally catch up and give them their due.

“As their ambassador for 35 years, they said ‘We want to thank you for flying the flag so why don’t you come down and get involved’.

“I thought they’d mean get up and go ‘Ladies and gentlemen...’. They said ‘Why don’t you open for us’.

It would have been totally inappropriate for Leppard to do it. Luckily Mick Brown who was promoting the gigs looks after The Quireboys and suggested they’d be up for it. Spike gracefully stood to one side and a band was born.”

The timing helped. Joe was on a year off from Leppard to, among other things, experience being a first time dad to his new son.

“It’s been the busiest year off I’ve ever had,” laughs the singer, who also helped compile a live Leppard album and a new retrospective photobook ahead of them headlining Download June 10-12.

“We did all the hard work during the summer. The Quireboys were out touring Europe but rehearsed to a CD, and I was doing the same on the back of a bus on tour with Poison and Cheap Trick. When we got together for rehearsals we were ready after about three hours – very economical.”

So apart from finally getting to see his idols live at last – seven times in a week – Joe also sang All The Young Dudes at Ian Hunter’s insistence and saw a future for his Mott enthusiasts who performed Hunter, English Lions and Easybeats songs penned after Mott split.

“We went into the bar after the gig and all these kids were going ‘You’ve got to make a record’. We were half thinking it anyway so while it was still fresh in our DNA we got it done in about 40 days, including mixing.”

Initially gratis with Classic Rock magazine, My Re-Generation included Who Do You Love, that recent US number one Overnight Angels, new single Good Times and England Rocks, prior to the World Cup with a video featuring Bryan May, Rick Savage, Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper and Ian and Mick from Mott.

It got to number four on the American rock chart.

“That’s what you get when a country has an infrastructure that plays rock ‘n’ roll 24 hours a day,” says Joe, who also headlines Holmfirth Picturedrome on Wednesday.

He got to record/produce most of the album at his Dublin garage studio.

Now halfway through a second, they’re also releasing a DVD of that Hammersmith support show and Joe and Rick Savage’s performance at the City Hall tribute night for former Hallam FM jock Dave Kilner.

“The Down ‘N’ Outz is a totally different dynamic (to Leppard) because we don’t know each other that well. At the moment it’s a honeymoon period where it’s just a laugh, but a very successful one.

“It’s not going to be my major job forever, but it’s something I can always go back to and do two weeks like we’re doing with Paul Rodgers at City Hall because it really is better than having a game of golf.

“It’s a different outlet. It stretches you and makes you see things a different way.

“I don’t know if any Outz fans are going to become Leppard fans because I don’t think any Outz fans would exist if they didn’t know who Leppard were.

“I don’t expect us to become the Foo Fighters. It’s not that kind of project and it doesn’t have the same backing. I don’t have a proper record label, it’s all my own work.

“But what we definitely have is a few people who are a cross section of Mott fans really appreciative of somebody like us getting up there and doing it on their behalf and bringing these criminally underplayed songs back to the forefront.”