By: Robert Cavuoto
Rick Allen is most notably known around the globe for being the drummer in Def Leppard. His powerful and unique rhythmic voice has profoundly influenced the signature sound of Def Leppard in their rise to become one of the greatest rock bands in history, selling more than 100 million albums worldwide. Their music has been the sound tracking to our lives and as Rick put it, they plan to keep adding to that sound track every day.
Most people may not know that Rick is also a leader in the philanthropic world with wife and musician, Lauren Monroe. Together, the duo has founded the Raven Drum Foundation with a mission to serve, educate and empower veterans and people in crisis, with their rich legacy of music and humanitarian work.
Rick is now gearing up for another chapter in his career with his fine art debut, “Electric Hand: Rhythm + Change”. Music and art lovers can witness Rick’s rhythm translated into the medium of visual art. The collection will be released April 18, exclusively at RickAllenArt.com. The result is a collection of abstract imagery built directly from the artists’ rhythmic prowess. I had the honor to be one of the first people to speak with Rick about his artwork and gain insights into why it is so personal to him.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me a little about how you’re combining rhythm into visual art, as well as how you found SceneFour to help you express it?
Rick Allen: Actually, it was through one of our Raven drummers. She had mentioned that SceneFour was involved in this incredible process of turning rhythm into a visual. We’ve all heard rhythm, but we’ve never actually seen it. She told me about it and I got in touch with them. The day I was leaving to go out on tour we went into my studio and we went through this process of painting rhythms. It starts in a dark room with long exposure photography and using different types of lighted drum sticks
They are the paint brushes for the artwork. Basically, I would be sitting in this dark room playing different rhythms. When we started looking at the end result, we realized it was revealing hidden worlds. It was like looking into aspects of me that I knew existed, but I’d never actually seen before and the things that I’m passionate about. I’ve done a lot of work with saving the American wild horses and there’s one piece in particular that really alludes to that passion.
Robert: It must be interesting to see subconscious thoughts coming through you’re rhythm. That must be pretty intriguing and frightening to some degree.
Rick Allen: Yeah, it is, to see some of the realms that I’ve experienced throughout my journey on this planet, some of them have been nothing short of horrific. I’m all about seeing the truth and seeing what it is about people that make up the human experience. This to me was a beautiful way to really highlight that because these are hidden realms. These are worlds that nobody would normally get to see up until recently. It’s abstract, but it’s a beautiful way to really see what’s going on inside any given individual. Even some of the other artists that got involved, I can see the individuality within their pieces too.
Robert: With this artwork being very personal, what do you want the viewers to take away from it?
Rick Allen: I’d like people to find themselves in there somewhere and really to rediscover or discover parts of themselves that they didn’t know about or weren’t in the forefront of their minds: finding the courage to move into their passion, to move into their dream. We all need that kind of inspiration these days. It hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park the last few years in terms of what is going on out there in the world regarding finances and loss of jobs. There are a lot of things that are stacked against us. I’d really like for people to find parts of themselves that they’d like to pursue.
Robert: What’s the highest compliment that somebody could pay you regarding your artwork?
Rick Allen: I think the biggest compliment is to acknowledge parts of me that they didn’t know existed. There are a lot of things that I do that I can’t share with everybody out there. From the work that I do with the Wounded Warrior Project, a lot of it is behind closed doors. Just to pay a thought to some of the more difficult aspects of what I have to do. Seeing that in themselves and just being aware. We can all be heroes.
Robert: You must have put some very personal names to these pieces. How did you come up with the names?
Rick Allen: It was so obvious. I’d look to the pieces and immediately knew that it was a part of me. Things I was just so passionate about or what I was thinking about at that moment in time while I was playing a particular rhythm as well as the intention that was behind that rhythm. It just kind of hit me between the eyes. It wasn’t even a guessing game.
Robert: Is there a favorite one that you? I know that’s like picking a favorite child, but I’m curious.
Rick Allen: That sounds like Phil Collen talking; he always says that about his guitar.
It’s tricky, I particularly like Raven – Electric Bird, but having said that, my favorite always changes. I have different perceptions of different pieces on any given day. This is a wonderful thing to realize that we can quite literally be different people from one day to the next. I’m not the same person I was yesterday simply because of the experience that I’ve been through yesterday.
It’s interesting how the collection allows me to reflect and to push out and see aspects of myself that are new. It’s a very cathartic process and I’m sure you being a creative person, see how that happens in what you do.
Robert: How many different pieces of artwork have you created?
Rick Allen: We’re still working on numbers, but guessing about 300. There will be pieces that are very affordable and then there will be one-of-a-kind pieces that are obviously gonna be higher end. They’re obviously gonna be a lot more that are accessible to everybody.
Robert: Do you see yourself putting together a book of all of these pieces, so somebody could enjoy all of them?
Rick Allen: There are so many ideas flying around at the moment. Nobody’s mentioned a book yet, but these are all possibilities. I just want to share it with as many people as I possibly can because I feel as though it’s important when one of us, any one of us, steps up and expresses passion about what they do.
Robert: Do you think you could bring any of this stylized artwork to a live show, because Def Leppard is truly unique with those monster video screens behind the band.
Rick Allen: Aspects of it will obviously show up because of my experience of actually doing it, but we’re talking about putting together a collection of drummers and presenting it that way. It sort of mimics the collection itself. We will have to see.
Robert: One of the most incredible things I have always thought about Def Leppard was the friendship and the bond you guys had after your accident: that they were willing to continue to work with you as their drummer. How important is that friendship and was there ever a doubt in your mind that they would keep you in the band?
Rick Allen: I had my doubts about whether I could actually continue doing it. At that time I just wanted to curl up and crawl into a corner to die. I just felt horrible, just the worst thing you can ever imagine, the worst nightmare.
I had asked my brother to bring my stereo system into my room. I said, “Could you bring some of my old music?” the stuff I grew up listening to, so he brought all that into the hospital room. I had been practicing a little bit. I had this piece of foam at the bottom of my bed. I started to feel a little more confident over a period of a few days so I started to play these basic rhythms. When Steve Clark and Phil Collen showed up, it was just so cool because they made me realize our friendship.
The music and the time spent with the band was really irrelevant. At the end of the day it’s that question in your mind: why are we doing this? When you’ve exhausted every possibility, the common denominator is always gonna be friendship.
It was really important for me and to this day, that there’s always that bond. If for whatever reason we’re not playing music together anymore, I honestly think there will be some sort of contact or friendship that is firmly intact, that can never be broken.
Robert: I appreciate you sharing that with me. If you could relive any part of your career, what would it be?
Rick Allen: Again it kind of relates to my accident. I think the first time we played Donnington. I felt so vulnerable, the prospect of having to play that show. I’ve never felt so nervous in my life. I kind of felt like a bit of a freak show. How are people gonna react? How are people gonna respond? Are they gonna accept me? Are they gonna start throwing things? It was very uncertain. When Joe introduced me, he said before the show, “I just want to do a show. You’re our drummer. We’re just gonna do the show,” and you felt this sort of energy building in the crowd and Joe looked around at me and said, “I’ve got to say something.”
He introduced me. It was like taking a cork out of a bottle of champagne. The energy was overwhelming. The reception, the acceptance that I got; it looked like about 80,000 people out there and I looked over to the left and my parents standing there on the side of the stage and my brother and I look at all the guys in the band and I look out and there’s this huge crowd. Right there and then I felt that I had arrived and I had arrived to a new part of myself.
Robert: When your last note is played with Def Leppard, what do you want the band to be remembered for?
Rick Allen: Great song and friendship. The fact that we can hang in the same room together and like each other!