Rick Allen has been Def Leppard’s drummer for over 30 years, and is one of the most iconic and influential drummers of all time. After joining Def Leppard at the age of 15, Rick soared to new levels as Def Leppard began to take over the world with their ‘Pyromainia’ album. At the age of 21, Rick was in a tragic car accident which led to the loss of his arm, after three years out Rick returned to Def Leppard to record ‘Hysteria’, which sold over 20 million copies.
With the multi-platnum legends that is Def Leppard still going strong, Rick has taken some time out before heading on tour in a couple weeks with Poison and Lita Ford to create some extraodinary artwork which he has named ‘Electric Hand: Rhythm + Change.’
This week, HTF had the pleasure of speaking to Rick, and find out a little bit more about his artwork and how he got into it.
Rick has been using photography, movement and neon lights in his work which creates some spectacular pieces, and we wanted to know what and who inspired him to get into art, and what the process behind them was. To check out more about Rick’s artwork visit his official website here.
HTF: Hey Rick, thanks for taking time out to speak to us, how are you?
R: I’m great thank you!
HTF: So you’ve released some artwork this year, tell us a bit about your work and what you do:
R: Yes certainly, instead of using paint brushes I used light sticks and through long exposure photography we were able to capture the entire performance, bringing the hidden world into this world. And then when I reviewed them it was really profound that I reflected parts of myself that I’m really passionate about. It’s a very personal thing for me. The fact that I was able to express myself in a different way other than through music, y’know I was actually quite fearful about it at the beginning and I wasn’t quite sure how people would perceive it but people have really received it in a wonderful way so I’m really excited to be in this. And working with seeing four the company that approached me about this project has been a really nice experience so I’m really pleased with how it’s going.
HTF: What inspired you to take on doing your art?
R: I’ve always been interested in photography, but very few of my pictures ended up on the wall at home, so it was wonderful to be approached by somebody. My life’s pretty busy, we’re about to go on tour, so I have to leave all my other responsibilities and go into rock as it were, so it’s nice when someone can help bring together a project like this.
HTF: How did you come up with the idea of using movement, neon lights and photography in your work?
R: They approached me with this concept and the whole idea in the art and the drums and I saw some examples of it which were wonderful and very individual regarding what were the 80s in visual art. And then when I did it myself literally sitting in a dark room playing my drum kit, and then playing my performance and capturing that in one frame, the results were very profound because as I said they reflect parts of me that I’m very passionate about. Like in “Wild Horse spirit” the fact that wild horses have been slaughtered here and then is insane, and then ‘The Raven’ drum is about the amount of work that I’ve been doing with the drum, the raven is really dominant, it’s my life. But the whole idea of change is what Raven represents. All these different aspects, they all came out in the art, it was almost like a window into somebodies soul, and all the things that you love.
HTF: You say your art is a way of giving hope and to help people find themselves, is that how you feel when you create your work?
R: I think what I’ve been through as a human being, a lot of the suffering and a lot of the trauma that I’ve been through I think is the reason why it’s so important for me to express myself is to inspire others. Having survived a major trauma then and trust me I’m still a work in progress, I don’t have it all figured out, but through the art I’ve expressed and shared my life experience, even if it’s just to inspire one other person. I think it’s wonderful when you see other people that are that resilient, they are able to share their life experience and inspire others, and I think it’s very noble.
HTF: People often use music as a way of releasing emotion, others turn to art, as yours combines both do you think people will look at your work and discover something deeper than just a canvas on a wall?
R: I think so I think they’ve built a separate path to themselves and I think that’s the most wonderful thing about art, not only is it interchangeable in terms of one thing leads to another, but I think how people interpret that art is so individualistic and I love that whole concept. That it’s real and being able to look at something and abstract and make sense of it, y’know, your own life.
HTF: You had an exhibition in April, how did that go? What were people’s reactions to your work?
R: We actually only released it online because we felt as though we wanted as many people as we possibly could. We’re still talking about having some sort of presentation, y’know some sort of audio visual extravaganza, and incorporating some of the techniques we used to create visual performance.
HTF: Would you ever consider giving up music for art?
R: Oh no because I think one inspires the other, y’know I was quite fearful about doing this in the first place but it is really, really fantastic to me, people have been great in the way that they have. So that fear had dissolved when I realised that people really connect on another level in another way.
HTF: Obviously art is something a little bit different that you’ve decided to take on, is there anything else you would like to try?
R: (Laughs) I’d love to try downhill skiing but my manager would kill me!
HTF: How come?
R: These days it’s having the time to do it, I’ve got a lot of responsibilities y’know I’ve got my family and I’ve got my kids, it’s not just about music y’know. It’s quite refreshing when a company like this comes to me and they explain to me how they can bring this to me, so it’s great to be approached.
HTF: Has anyone been a specific inspiration to you in general?
R: My dad introduced me to Glenn Miller records when I was a kid; he introduced me Elton John and Queen, you name it I mean all this wonderful music has really inspired me and made me who I am today and how I play. But the art work to be honest I really love the abstract nature of Salvador Dali and I love a lot of Andy Warhol’s stuff as well so I’m really open to all sorts of stuff I love to see how everyone else does it, to express.
HTF: So your about to do the Rock of Ages tour, have you ever seen the musical?
R: I have!
HTF: What did you think of it?
R: I thought it was great! I thought it was a really wonderful way to celebrate the 80s, and I think the most wonderful thing about the movie is the movie captures that as well y’know I love the fact that it’s a celebration, we all know what was crap about the 80s but y’know but it’s great presented in this way and obviously the soundtrack of that music is every bodies lives at that time. It was a really great experience and I highly recommend that people go, it’s really well done.
HTF: You’re on tour until September, what are you most excited about? Where are you most excited to play?
R: Really I love playing everywhere and I know that’s sounds really clichÃƒ© but my focus is when I’m on tour and it just allows me to play as well as I can possibly play, and be the best I possibly can wherever I am, and that’s really my focus. Sure there’s a few gigs that stand out like places like Red Rock and Donington and you think “whoa that’s a lot of people” but generally I’m out there and I’m excited to do this for everybody, everybody that is a fan or whatever if they are at that concert then they deserve the best.
HTF: That’s a good way to think of it. One last question before you go, have you got any ideas for a new project? Any ideas floating around
R: I do but I’m not quite sure what that looks like right now, y’know it’s not even a week until the rest of the guys in the band arrive so I might have to put a lot of things on hold until I am at home. There will be more y’know now that I’ve done it once it will be a lot easier to go out there and do it again but I want to make sure it’s something I’m really proud of like I am with the art.
HTF: Well we wish you all the luck with the next project!
R: Thank you very much!
Interviewer: Louisa Smith