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 with two prestigious Diamond Awards. Def Leppard with Joe Elliott [vocals], Phil Collen [guitar], Rick Savage [bass], Vivian Campbell [guitar], and Rick Allen [drums]continue to be one of the most influential forces in rock music today, and their music has become the soundtrack to our lives!
Most people may not be aware that Rick Allen is also a leader in the philanthropic world with his 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. Together they are providing a rich legacy of music and humanitarian work.
Rick is also an accomplished painter! His 2012 debut collection, Electric Hand, Rhythm, and Change, featured 300 pieces that quickly sold out during its initial offering to the public. 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. Now in 2021, Rick is back with a stunning and exquisite collection called Wings of Hope 2021. To celebrate his collection, Rick will be appearing in Florida at Wentworth Galleries in Boca Raton, Hollywood, and Fort Lauderdale from May 20 – 22. A preview of his collection can be seen here.
Contributor Robert Cavuoto had the immense pleasure of interviewing Rick about how he used his downtime from touring to create this amazing new collection, the work and passion that goes into making each piece, and some of the stories behind his pieces in the Legend Series! Remember that for more interviews and other daily content, make sure to follow Sonic Perspectives on Facebook, Flipboard and Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified about new content we publish on a daily basis.
With Def Leppard taking the last year off from touring because of the pandemic, how have you devoted your time to the artwork in your new collection?
I did my last in-person show in March of last year, and then I got back home right as everything was shutting down. To be honest, I got a little depressed, but then my wife, Lauren, came up with the idea of putting on a virtual benefit concert. I enjoyed that as it gave me focus and purpose again. More recently, I did my first virtual art show here at home. I got a small production company with three or four cameras and someone to handle all the Zoom questions. It was really quite successful. So over the last year, I really have just been producing art. I didn’t necessarily know what I was going to do with it. Now I’ll be showing all this work I have been creating during the lockdown, so I’m really excited about it.
The word “Hope” is in the title of your collection, Wings of Hope 2021. It has special meaning to the world, now more than ever with the vaccine. Tell me about the importance of using it in the title of your new collection?
You hit the nail on the head. It’s about the idea that people need hope at this moment. My wife and I were very fortunate to have been vaccinated, which adds a layer of protection. I’m still very cautious by wearing a mask along with social distancing. My daughter is back in school with in-person learning as well. Even though we are being cautious, there is an optimism and hope. We are starting to see things moving in the right direction. I hope people realize that the longer this virus stays in the population, the longer it will take to get rid of it. So I strongly urge people to continue to wear a mask, or if they doubt the whole thing, I have a few doctor friends on the front lines who are infectious disease doctors. I can assure you it is very real from what they have told me; what they have experienced is nothing less than horrific. There is hope, but we still have to proceed with caution moving forward.
Thankfully, my family has been vaccinated, as we want to get back to normal as quickly as possible.
The same goes for playing concerts with Def Leppard. I’m excited to get back out and play concerts, but if the promoters don’t think it is the right thing to do by weighing out the pros and cons, then that decision has to come from them.
I have always enjoyed your artwork, particularly the mixed media pieces; how do you approach creating them? Do you suddenly get an idea and start executing, or is it something more methodical where you have to sketch out, design, and think about it?
It happens in so many different ways. It can start with choosing a photograph that I sketch. There has to be something about the subject matter that really appeals to me, and I hope it also appeals to other people, whether it be Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain, Eddie Van Halen, or these other wonderful legends I have created. When it comes to the mixed media pieces, they can also start with a sketch, a photograph, or a series of photographs that I meld together in Photoshop. Then it allows me to advance them with paint. So there are many didn’t approaches I take in creating these pieces.
You started to share your art with the world in 2012; how long prior to that were you creating and painting before deciding to share it with the public?
That’s a good question. I loved painting as a kid. It was full-on paint just everywhere [laughing]. I loved the whole concept. I discovered photography when my grandfather bought me my first camera. Then I discovered playing music which was when I was around nine or ten years old. Fast forward, and my ten-year-old daughter and I started painting together when she was young. I recognized she would go to the same place in the moment as I did when I was playing music. I started to paint with her and got back into it again. I was reluctant to show people the work that I was doing for fear of rejection or being another rock star trying to be an artist, but my wife encouraged me to show it to people. One of the first pieces that gave me a boost and inspired me to keep going was the Legends piece I did of Steve Clark. I sent a photograph of it to my Mom, who still keeps in touch with Steve‘s Mom, Beryl. Beryl was very complimentary and shed a tear as my Mom tells the story. That gave me the confidence to keep going because the response was so positive it made me want to continue.
That being said, artwork is created in different ways and for different purposes based on your frame of mind. Do you do find yourself creating something adequate one day, then suddenly creating something very special the next?
I think that happens all the time in whatever we do with the ebb and flow of creativity. Sometimes it’s just about experimenting with something I have never done before. Sometimes it works out or beginners’ luck, but if it really is not going well, you can always paint over it [laughing]!
One of the pieces that caught my eye was the mixed media piece of Neil Peart. Can you tell me about the history behind it and were the two of you friends?
We weren’t friends per se. Neil was rehearsing for the last tour that they did at the same rehearsal space that Def Leppard used. Phil when down early, and as it turns out, Neil used to go down a couple of weeks earlier to get his rig set up before the rest of the band arrived. Phil was there and saw Neil in the parking lot, and they got chatting. Neil asked Phil if he would like to see the kit. He walks in and sees this massive kit that is 360 all the way around him. Neil turns to Phil and points to that section of the kit, with the Simmons pads and electric drums, and says, “That’s dedicated to Rick Allen. Without Rick Allen, electric drums wouldn’t have happened.” To me, that was a massive, massive compliment! I met him a few times over the years. I knew from the stories I heard like that one; there was a mutual respect. He will be sadly missed. He was an incredible person, inspiration, and teacher!
What a great compliment to you! The other piece I really liked was the one of Eddie Van Halen. Did you paint that after his passing?
That was after he passed. In 1978, I was in my hometown Dronfield, just outside of Sheffield and my friend Mark calls me from down the street, a rotary dial of course [laughing]. He says I have to come over right away. He went on to say that he has this record that I have to listen to. I go over, and he proceeds to play the Van Halen album. I was utterly blown away as I never heard guitar playing like that, nor did I ever hear a band like them. They set the bar pretty high. A few years later, they happened to be coming through Sheffield opening for Black Sabbath, so I went to see the show. Black Sabbath were great, but Van Halen owned the show. They were so hungry at the time and so good. I could start to see the cracks appearing with Sabbath. It wasn’t how I remember some of their shows prior to that one. I moved to the states in 1991 and settled in Studio City, CA. My neighbor happens to be Steve Lukather of Toto. I come to find out he is huge friends with Eddie Van Halen. One night he invites me out for a get-together and wants to introduce me to Eddie. When I met him that night, I was very star-struck. I got to meet him in a very unassuming way, and you would never think he played the guitar the way he did by talking with him. I was so excited to meet someone I looked up to for so many years. When I heard of his passing, I was devastated as well as the entire industry. It felt like it was the right thing to do and paint him to pay homage to his greatness. I can tell he was loved by his family. I painted it for him, his family, and his millions of fans. That is the history of the Legend Series; it’s to pay homage to the people I looked up to and who made me want to play music.
How do you look to improve yourself as an artist?
It’s just like anything else; the more you do it, the better you get at it. Using certain techniques, certain brushes, certain paint all make a difference. I also get better at sketching with each one I do. It’s really because I keep doing it. I only hope that some good has come out of being at home during COVID. I was able to spend time with my family. We paint and play music together. With the painting, we are all improving, my wife and my youngest daughter. It’s because we are doing it regularly and help keep ourselves occupied. It’s almost a spiritual practice.
As you know, I’m a photographer, and from photographing Def Leppard, particularly at the beginning of my career in 2000, I learned so many things through trial and error, which helps make me a better photographer now. I look back at some of those photos I took with film cameras from 20 years ago, which I thought were amazing; now I realize how far I have come. It’s truly has been a growth and evolution process. Do you ever look back at any aspect of your career, whether it be with your artwork or music, and say to yourself, “Wow, I have come a long way on so many levels?”
I do, but there are those odd set of things like a photograph or a piece of music that, for whatever reason, you think to yourself that you got it right. Maybe it was a happy accident and seeing how there was a spark of inspiration in there. It’s times like that we realize why we are, where we are now.
Def Leppard toured with AC/DC when Bon Scott was alive. What was he like on and off stage?
He was very humble. He was a quiet guy that really kept to himself. One particular thing that stands out to me was on my 16th birthday, we were playing the Hammersmith Odeon in London, and we were opening for them. Bon came backstage to wish me a happy birthday and gave me a huge bowl of Smarties; in the US, they call them M&Ms. I thought that was the nicest thing, and he didn’t have to do that. This is AC/DC we are talking about, and Def Leppard we weren’t really anything to speak of at the time in 1979.
Are you already thinking or maybe working on your next collection of artwork?
What I realized during COVID is that it doesn’t really help to plan anything. All I need to do is keep producing art which makes me happy. I like to listen to people and get feedback about the things people like about what I do. As long as I keep producing, I can be ready for a show in a couple of weeks.
What is the best compliment that some can pay you as an artist?
Just how it makes them feel when they look at a photograph, hear a song, or look at a piece of art. It’s the way it evokes an emotional response. To me, that is probably the most important thing.
At what point during this pandemic did you unpack your bags, realizing that you’re not going anywhere?
[Laughing] They are still packed! I realized that half of the clothes I used to wear, I don’t wear because I’m here at home. It is only now that I need a few more things. I have some of the most beautiful clothes, and I haven’t used them in what feels like forever.
The Stadium Tour dates are booked and starting in mid-June. Is everything looking like it will happen? [Editor’s note, this question was asked prior to the announcement of the rescheduled 2022 dates]
I hope so, but having said that, I hope all of the promoters’ primary focus is on safety. If the decision for whatever reason doesn’t happen, it has to come from the promoters as it can’t necessarily come from us. Let’s hope it happens, and if the primary focuses is safety, and then I’ll think they will make the right decision