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| 29 June 2021 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Rick Allen became the drummer for Def Leppard at age 15.  As one of the world’s best-selling music artists, Def Leppard have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, two albums with RIAA diamond certification (10 million albums sold) and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019. At the height of worldwide fame in 1984, he had a car accident that changed his life. Rick lost an arm, but turned personal tragedy into spiritual transformation and continued his musical career. While he was already a hero to millions of young people, he soon added millions of new admirers. Since then Rick has been reaching out and giving support to others all over the globe by sharing his personal experiences and his love of drumming. Over the past 13 years Rick has reached out to teenage cancer patients, children with special needs, at risk youth in crisis, families of domestic violence and veterans who have served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was awarded the Humanitarian Award by Maria Shriver’s Best Buddies of CA in 2002 and in 2012, was also awarded the prestigious Wounded Warrior Project’s Carry It Forward Award. Rick continues his work helping wounded warriors through Project Resiliency’s Warrior Resiliency Program sponsored by his charity foundation the Raven Drum Foundation. An integral part of Rick’s creative life went public in 2012. After years of personal photographic work, Allen ventured into the fine art world with a blockbuster debut collection of abstract artwork built from rhythm.  Allen has become a pioneer in the new medium, utilizing drumsticks and rhythm to dictate abstract visuals on canvas. That debut collection, in 2012 featured 300 pieces, quickly sold-out in its initial offering to the public and boasted a sold out exhibition.  A second collection, released in 2013, and titled “Rock-On-Canvas” met with a similar exceptional reception and helped to forge a relationship with America’s leading fine art retailer Wentworth Galleries.  The Artist is pleased to present this new Collection: “Wings of Hope 2021” in May 2021.” We get Rick to discuss new art, motivation, his foundation, and much more…

Toddstar: Rick, thank you so much for taking time out. We really appreciate it, especially to discuss your artwork, and I want to touch on your foundation a little bit.

Rick: Oh, cool.

Toddstar: Well, let’s jump right into your artwork. You got a couple of dates coming up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the first half of July on the 10th and the 11th. Unfortunately, nothing in or near Detroit, but hopefully people will still get out there. You’re debuting a new series, Wings of Hope 2021. What can you tell us about Wings of Hope 2021? What was your inspiration? Where did you draw from to get that put together, Rick?

Rick: Well, this year has been really weird for everybody. My first in-person art shows I did recently in Southern Florida, and they were great. They were really successful, and you could tell people really wanted to get out there, and it was cool for me to get in amongst the people. Like I said, I haven’t done this since March of last year. They were the last in-person pod shows I did in DC area. So it’s been a while. I just think people need that ray of sunshine, they need that sense of hope that we’ll be able to look back on this and go, “Wow,” you know? There wasn’t any sort of deep, hidden meaning behind Wings of Hope, it was more that. It was just really basic and people need something to look forward to. They need a broader horizon, you know?

Toddstar: Absolutely. That said, as you said, this has just been the weirdest year for everybody. How much did the time off for you guys, because you had a big outing last year slated, how much did that allow you to kind of venture off into this other artistic avenue that you have found in yourself, to just build on your artistry as a whole?

Rick: It’s really interesting you say that, because when everything shut down in March, we were right in the middle of moving. We got to our new place and everything just shut down and we were literally paralyzed. We couldn’t really do anything. I had no real infrastructure to really work. We started to hear about a lot of suffering in our own industry. Crews that were suffering from depression, and it was more mental health issues, so my wife came up with this idea to put together Big Love Benefit Concerts, which was a virtual concert. So I called a few people up that I knew, Tommy Shaw, Matt Sorum. Matt Sorum got in touch with Myles Kennedy, and it grew from there. Billy Idol. And all these people willingly said yes, because they were experiencing hardships; not hardship themselves, necessarily, because everybody’s safety net was bigger. Some people’s safety nets are bigger than others, but they could see, in their own crews, the need for this. We hooked up with an organization called Sweet Relief, and we ended up doing this virtual concert, and we raised a fair amount of money for industry professionals. The thing that really did it for us was when we started to hear of suicides within our circles. That was the last straw. That was like, “We have to do something.” It was good in many ways, because it allowed us to focus and not get caught up in the depression of what we’re actually going through. So, that was really cool. Then the other thing that came out of it was that, instead of doing the artwork a couple of days a week, what I started to do was just do a little bit every single day. I found it so therapeutic, because I was able to be in the moment and stay positive. It actually became a really good friend, being able to get stuck into the artwork. That was the silver lining. I know it hasn’t been like that for everybody, but for us, we tried to make a good use of that time, and it worked out really well for us.

Toddstar: It sounds like it. There’s a weird play on words when I was structuring different things to discuss with you, and one is the fact that you use abstract visuals. When you first kicked this off, almost 10 years ago, you were using, for lack of better terminology, a rhythm method of creating artwork. How much has your artwork and your process evolved since you were putting those first pieces and those first shows together back in 2012?

Rick: It really changed drastically. There were certain techniques that I started to learn, and one of them was taking imagery that I really loved and then really dumbing it down into almost a posterized version, and then the ability to create grayscale after I’d sketched it onto canvas. It’s a really cool technique, especially for the Legend Series, because when you see the Legend Series up close, they don’t really make very much sense, it’s geometric shapes, but then when you stand back, your mind fills in the blanks. That’s the part of the process that I love. That was one technique that I really, really perfected. If you’ve seen some of the Legend Series… My first one was Steve Clark many years ago, and…

Toddstar: It’s a beautiful piece.

Rick: Yeah, and it was cool because I sent a picture of it to my mum, and she stays in touch with Beryl, with Steve’s mom, and Beryl was very complimentary. She was like, “Rick really caught Steve’s essence.” That was the thing that really spurred me on to do more. Then I was like, “Who else influenced me?” Steve was a massive influence on me. He really got me into Led Zeppelin. I was like, “Okay, this is great.” Then I went into Hendrix, Lennon, just all these incredible artists that inspired me when I was growing up. I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now in terms of playing with Def Leppard. I probably wouldn’t have become a musician, had it not been for all these incredible people that I painted over the years.

Toddstar: You mentioned the Legend Series, and you got three new pieces, one being the most recent Legend that we lost, was Eddie Van Halen. How hard is it for you to, I don’t want to say separate yourself because you can’t separate yourself, but when you’re doing the piece to pull back and look at it, not only as an artist, but also as a fan of the artist you’re painting, but also a fan of the medium of which you’re producing?

Rick: No, I know. It’s an interesting process. What I’ve found is that I get three quarters of the way through the project, and I know so much more about the person that I’m painting. To the point where I don’t want to let the piece go. I want it hanging on my wall. It’s typical, I do all these really cool pieces and I don’t have one single piece hanging on any of my walls.

Toddstar: No kidding?

Rick: No, it’s kind of frustrating. Yeah, so you go through that… Where you have to say goodbye to the piece, and you just really fall in love with these. You really want to keep them, but obviously the gallery wouldn’t like that very much. It’s an interesting process.

Toddstar: How different is it for you to get into a mindset to do something like this, as opposed to figuring out a drum piece or laying down a track? Is there a totally different mindset you jump into for this medium versus your music?

Rick: Well, the preparation time is the thing… That’s all the heady stuff, but once you feel well-practiced or well-rehearsed, then it’s time for the reward, and that is getting into the zone and just being in that place of being in the moment. You’re not thinking about what’s for dinner, or what you could have said or done better. You’re just in the moment. For both things, for music and for the artwork, I find that part of it really, really therapeutic. Not too many people know, but I suffer with PTSD. Not combat trauma, but nevertheless, extreme trauma, you know? What I’ve found is that that place, that zone, is so healing. I’ve found that in music, and now I find it in art. It’s kind of self-serving, in a way. It’s not necessarily all focused on one thing, the financial reward or whatever else. Or just the joy of looking at the thing and going, “Wow, that’s pretty cool.” It’s actually quite therapeutic.

Toddstar: You mentioned the financial reward, and I’d like to shift over to Project Resiliency, your foundation, for a minute, only because it’s important to me as a veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for veterans, especially veterans more recently that are suffering from, like you said, PTSD. Your project and your foundation that you and Lauren have really just driven to help that. At what point did you decide, “You know what? I’m getting something out of this,” as far as the release? The money, the financial reward, is really more better, sure. At what point did you make that decision, because, let’s be honest, there are a lot of musicians that they just can’t get enough money, but you’re flipping the coin on that and saying, “Nope, I don’t need this, let’s… Here, let’s help those who need it.”

Rick: That a really good point. In 2006, I visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the DC area, and it was really disturbing. I saw a lot of suffering, and… But I also sought a lot of hope. I remember holding myself together and getting through it. Then I got back to the hotel, and then I just broke down. I called my wife and I’m like, “We have to refocus on our veterans. There’s so much stuff going on out there.” That’s when we started Project Resiliency. All these people that I meet, all these warriors that I meet, they all think they know me simply because of what I do for a living. So, I’m kind of at an advantage. The cool thing is that a lot of them, they really look up to me. Over the years, I’ve realized that that’s become a two way street. Everybody’s got something special in their toolboxes, and I’ve realized that, being around the warriors, I learn a lot about myself also, because I did see a lot of similarities. I saw certain triggers that would set me off. It was kind of a perfect match, because of the fact that I experienced similar situations in all their forms. It’s the least I can do really. What we’ve started doing, or what we’ve been doing for quite a while, is a portion of all the artwork that I sell, portions of those pieces go to veterans’ programs. It’s very rewarding, and as I say, it’s the least I can do. It’s one of those things that… Again, it’s almost from selfish reasons because it helps me. It helps me help them, and it’s this two way street. I’m just really blessed to be able to be in a position to do that.

Toddstar: Well, those relationships are always a two-way street, so it works out perfectly, right?

Rick: Yeah. It’s cool.

Toddstar: It’s amazing as a music fan because I was a fan first. I have a day job. I’m not a journalist, I’m not a photographer, even though I like to hold myself out, but to me, to go to a concert and witness an artist who truly has a passion for what they do is enjoyable. Whenever I’ve been lucky enough to see a Def Leppard show, or to even be in that photo pit and photograph those first two, three songs, it’s always such a wave to watch you when you stand and raise a hand, and you have the hugest smile on your face. What is it about being behind a kit and being able to play that still spurs, not only that little kid in you that wanted to be a musician and a rock star, but also still motivates you to keep going day in and day out? Again, tours can be grueling, but you don’t see it on your face the minute you hit that kit.

Rick: It’s amnesia. You forget about all the hard work and the fact that it’s not very glamorous. You play these songs in a rehearsal room and it’s like, “Yeah, yeah. Here we go again,” kind of thing. They’re always challenging to play, the songs, but then when you take these songs and you put them in front of an audience that, say, experienced coming of age, or the first time they did this, or the first time they did that, and all these different stories that people have around the music, the songs take on a completely different personality. All of a sudden they come to life with everybody’s stories and that’s… It’s a huge shift, and I think that’s the reward. That’s the blessing. That’s why I keep doing this is because, every single night, every one of those songs take on a unique personality based on all the people that are in the room.

Toddstar: That makes sense. In parting, Rick, I tried to do my best due diligence before this interview, and I know that a lot of your artistic side, meaning the painting medium, spurned on after the birth of your daughter. Does your daughter still paint with you, Rick?

Rick: Yes, she does, and actually became really important during COVID, because we could do something as a family. My wife started getting into painting. When my youngest was born 10 years ago, that was the thing that reignited my passion for painting, because, as I suggested earlier, I saw that she went to the same place that I do when I play music. So I’m like, “Wow, that’s so cool.” Almost like painting without any thought, she would just throw herself headlong into it. There was no such thing as mistakes, she just… Almost like stream of consciousness, and I think that’s the thing that really grabbed me, was to see her painting and go, “Wow, I want some of that.” That was the beginning of it, and then my wife, she persuaded me to start showing some of this to other people. I think I was always a little bit afraid of the rejection, like, “Oh, another rock star trying to be an artist,” and she’s like, “No, these are really good. You should show them to people.” Once I did, and I got over that fear then it was… I was on track and just really motivated to do more of it.

Toddstar: Well, it’s crazy to hear that somebody who can rock arenas around the world, and has done for decades, is still afraid that some of his artistry would be rejected.

Rick: Well, first and foremost, I’m a human being. I’m not immune to all the totality of the human condition. I also have insecurities, but I try and use those, not insecurities, but vulnerabilities, as superpowers these days. If you go into something with a certain amount of vulnerability and you’re not afraid of rejection, I think that’s when you’re rewarded the most.

Toddstar: I couldn’t have said that better myself, Rick. You get, again, two showings at the Wentworth Gallery in Atlantic City on July 10th, and again Wentworth at Prussia Mall… King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, on the 11th. We hope everybody gets out there and we can’t wait to see what’s next from Rick Allen.

Rick: Right now, just getting ready for these two shows coming up. I’ve been doing a fair bit of work with my wife. Just practicing here at home, practicing music. I embarked upon a project with a good friend of mine who I’ve known for 30 years, DJ Ravi Drums. What we’ve been doing is electronic dance music and rock/pop mash-ups where he’ll DJ, and then the two of us will play the live drums over the top of it. Recently, we actually did a show together in Tampa. We’re hoping we can get some traction with this and go out and do some more. Hopefully get some festivals under our belt.

Toddstar: Awesome. Well, Rick, thank you so much for taking time out for us. We can’t wait to see some more great artistry in your painting. We look forward to more success with Project Resiliency, and obviously everything else you do with your day job, being a drummer in Def Leppard.

Rick: No, it’s cool, I really appreciate your service. That was nice of you to bring down to a more personal level. I really appreciate that.

Toddstar: Well, you’re doing the same thing, Rick, and I can’t thank you for that. So again, we look forward to seeing you out there at some point. Hopefully, we’ll get to say hello and thank each other in person when you hit Detroit.

Rick: Hopefully we can do that in the not-too-distant future.

Toddstar: Sounds great, Rick. Thank you so much for your time and we’ll talk to you soon.

Rick: Cool man. Thank you.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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