Carol Ruth Weber
Def Leppard Rick Allen Speaks Drumming and His Fine Art [Interview]
Reprinted from Medium article by Carol Ruth Weber
Rick Allen, the famed drummer for Def Leppard, has revealed an amazing artistic side beyond his musical attributes. Allen is wowing fans and gaining new ones with his beautiful fine art collections named "Drums for Peace" and his "Art To Wear" Collections.
Rick Allen Drums On
Allen has proven to be a powerful force continuously drumming his life beyond expectations. The drummer, born Richard John Cyril Allen, joined the British rock band, Def Leppard, at the young age of 15 in 1977 right before the group signed their first contract in 1978. With Allen putting the beat in their heavy metal sound, the band quickly gained fame.
Only four years after the release of their first album in 1980, the drummer was sidelined by a horrific car accident in 1984. Admittedly speeding in the English countryside, Allen could not maneuver his corvette around a sharp turn and literally hit a wall. That wall would change his life forever.
Although wearing a seatbelt, with the car flipping over multiple times, Allen was thrown from the vehicle. His left arm was literally ripped off during the accident. The drummer survived the crash but despite efforts to reattach his limb, his arm did not make it.
Yet this was not to be the end of Allen’s drumming career. The band had just been commercially recognized by the masses in 1983 after the release of “Pyromania.” Not only did Allen not concede to the notion of never drumming again, his bandmates rallied in full support of Allen’s efforts to continue drumming.
Allen looked to his feet to take over for the loss of his left arm. A customized drum kit was designed for Allen to be able to play the snare #drum with his foot. In 1986 the band got together in a pub to watch Allen perform his new-found #drumming skills. He was a hit, and, soon after, Def Leppard was back on stage in full force at the “Monsters of Rock” festival in England. Fans excited to have their favorite drummer return on stage, gave Allen a wonderful inspiring ovation.
Rick Allen Is an Artistic Force
With their bandmate drumming in full force, Def Leppard played on. Their “Hysteria” album, released in 1987, firmly planting the heavy metal group in the top hierarchy of rock groups. As Allen continued on with his amazing drumming talent, he has also found another art outlet in #painting and creating wearable #art.
In 2006 the artist visited armed forces patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Relating to those who were dealing with lost limbs, Allen founded a charity to help veterans of war who are battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Allen performs on stage with his bandmates as well as in a one-man act as a solo for his art shows. Passion and life has motivated him to create beautiful works. Allen gathers much of his inspiration from wounded warriors. His Purple Heart colorful works series is the perfect illustration of how Allen is stimulated to create.
Speaking with Rick Allen, the drummer, artist, and caring individual, is truly inspiring.
Carol Ruth Weber: What first inspired you to start drumming?
Rick Allen: Around 10 years old I found a pair of drumsticks that were probably my fathers, and starting using cookie tins until I found furniture, and got into trouble with my mom [snickering]. My father influenced me with the love of his music collection, everything from Elton John to the Big Bands. My best friend got a guitar for Christmas and I went home to ask my parents for a drum kit. I was first told no, but then they said if I did odd jobs and work I could get one. I worked hard and while I was waiting to get my drums I took drum lessons with Kenny Slade who was playing with Joe Cocker.
CRW: How did you become involved with Def Leppard at the young age of 15?
RA: From the point that I got my drum kit I started playing with my friends and had a band. We were playing cover songs and from there every band I ended up playing with played cover songs, and I wanted more! So, at 14 I was going to get out of the business and my parents said there is an article in the Sheffield Star [local paper] saying “Leppard Losses Skins.”
They called the editor and got Joe’s information, and within a few days I went and met up with Steve and Joe in a local pub, standing in water in the bathroom we talked about all of the concerts that we had been to. From there we set a date for an audition and I auditioned with a couple of others. A few days later, around my 15th birthday, I was invited to join the band. My sixteenth birthday I opened for ACDC.
CRW: Did you feel like life ended when the reality of the accident set in?
RA: Yes and no! Initially it was like I don’t think I can do this anymore. At the time, I was going through many mystical experiences. Then the outpouring from my family, guys in the band, and literally people from all over the planet, gave me a new lease on life. I understood the meaning of how strong the human spirit is.
People wanted to know if I needed to learn how to play drums again. I said no because it was already in me. My body naturally compensated for the loss. It was an important factor in my recovery - realizing new talents. The thing that helped me the most was to stop comparing myself to what I had been, and to stop comparing myself to others, and that is when I found my uniqueness.
CRW: What drove you to find a way to continue with your art of drumming?
RA: Family, band mates and the incredible out pouring from all over the world, and some of the experiences that I was happening at the time.
CRW: What other everyday things did you have to relearn to do with just one arm?
RA: Shoelaces! Velcro and zippers are great. I love to cook so I had to rethink how to cook.
CRW: What led you to visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2006?
RA: I thought I was just a bigger asshole after the accident. I had no therapy after accident and just went back to work. Once I felt things starting to surface, such as rage, I would self-medicate and it became a vicious cycle. I realized in 2006 that Warriors spoke the same language as me.
In 2009 I met John Roberts, who went down in a helicopter in Somalia. At a concert, we met the Warriors and John asked me if I had dealt with my PTSD. That’s when I really started getting the help. Our Foundation has been going since 2001 working with others parts of the population, such as battered women, and kids with cancer. In 2006 I realized we had to change our focus for Raven Drum to start working with Veteran Groups, but that didn’t really kick in until meeting John.
We started having 5 to 7 day retreats to help them, but in reality it helped me. There is always someone worse off to reach down to.
CRW: When did you discover your love for creating fine art?
RA: Not until recently. When I was a kid, art was just what we did to be creative but I wouldn’t call it fine art. I started painting with my youngest daughter when she was four, a couple of years ago. I saw her go to a mindless place where she was just doing everything from the heart. I realized that all I had to do was stay in the moment and I would do things that people are going to love.
Art is a time for contemplation – is it good or am I just kidding myself. What I do at home in my art studio, I gather from inspiration on the road. I’ll plan it out on the road by marking it up with apps. I feel like some of what I do has a childlike quality.
My grandfather gave me a camera when I was seven or eight. Photography became my friend, especially after my accident because it was something else I could obsess over and express myself other than music. But everything led to the same road to creativity with a new thing to obsess over.
CRW: Where do you find inspiration to create your artworks?
RA: It comes from my heart and all of my life experiences, including my family and working with Wounded Warriors. From not being afraid to be vulnerable. All the same things that inspire the music - family, friends, traveling – such as New York and Big Sur.
I gathered huge inspiration being in Boston from some of the statues, really from everywhere. There are no rules - I will take a picture and then start manipulating, turning it into something that I can continue with.
CRW: How did you become a fashionista creating wearable art?
RA: I got over the fear of presenting something new to the world. My wife was like, you have to show your artwork and photographs. I had a fear of rejection but once I presented it I got a positive response. I could push it in any direction I want. I produce prototypes of a suggestion and then designers work with me to hone the finished productions.
Next I would love to get into lost wax castings.
The British Allen is happily married, with two daughters, living in California. Allen’s wife, Lauren Monroe, is also his partner in creating and paying forward. Inspired by meeting wounding servicemen and women, they founded the Raven Drum Foundation and Project Resiliency. The foundation has an important mission to support those globally in crisis.
“To serve, educate and empower veterans and people in crisis. To support, promote, and contribute to global healing, multicultural unification, and community leadership.”
Rick Allen’s life force is contagious in his drive to create and help others. As he continues to tour with Def Leppard, Allen is also busy traveling to showcase his artwork, with the backing of Wentworth Galleries. The amazing artist also makes sure to have time to spread his goodwill in support of #veterans.
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