Def Leppard’s Rick Allen On Re-Learning How To Play Drums

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Def Leppard has managed to deliver his rocking performance alongside Rick Allen since 1978. They have managed to give solid performances but after a tragic car accident, Rick lost his arm in the early days of the band.

Even after losing one arm, Rick didn’t give up. The band had to pause and wait for his recovery and when Rick Allen finally came out, he developed a different signature style of playing drums.

In his recent interview, he shared that it was not about relearning the instrument because he had already adopted the technique to play the stick and had the knowledge of the drum.

“No, I mean, acoustic drums were the thing that inspired me to play in the first place,” he replied when the interviewer mentioned his specific drum kit. “And, you know, after my accident, coming back into Def Leppard, it was easier for me to compete with loud guitars and all the different drum sounds I had to deal with just using the electronic drums.”

Rick continues; “But in reality, I didn’t have to relearn how to play with one arm. There was a realization that the information was in my head, and then I experienced a little bit, my left hand coming out in my right hand, my left leg out of my right leg. It was almost like an ancient response.”

December 31, 1984, will always be remembered as a tragic day for him. Rick Allen and his girlfriend were outside Sheffield driving A57. Then suddenly they misjudged the curve and the car charged through a stonewall and even flipped several times.

Allen didn’t had fastened his seatbelt, so he got ejected from his A57. “I think my arm was left in the car,” he told to BBC. But someone nearby the place packed his detached arm in Ice in hopes that it would get reattached.

In the hospital, they tried to reattach the arm but due to the infections, the doctors had to detach the arm again, and his right shoulder was broken badly at the same time.

Allen then had to take a pause and after a long pause, he finally returned to the stage in August 1986. He said; “Getting back to a place where I could re-join the band had been a very tough process.” 

“At first even walking was a trial, but I locked myself away in a room at my parents’ house in Dronfield and just played and played. There were times when I thought I just couldn’t do it and wanted to curl up into a ball and give up. But I persevered.” 

Allen then started to practice with his one arm in his specially designed electric kit. Jeff Rich was also other alongside Allen who acted as a stand-in for him and played alongside him in several rehearsals and gigs.

Unfortunately Rich missed the flight for one gig, so Allen had to show that he still had the sparks to his bandmates. Onwards, he started to play as their only drummer and made a comeback at the Monsters of Rock festival in 1986.

Allen has also explained that another thing that helps him to play the drum is by listening to the loops. “For 75 percent of the show, I use what I call a base kit, which is everything straight – no loops, nothing.”

“It’s just as I would play with one arm and two feet. And then for the occasional song that I think needs to be carried by some kind of percussive element, I’ll use some of the triggering devices that I was telling you about. It makes for a very musical approach to using percussion.”

Because of their disability of Allen, he has made a special kit for him, it can create beat phrases and he can play them on repeat (so the band continues to play the song on repeat).

Allen has explained that he uses the triggering devices because it allows repeating short phrases as he likes. He has stated that using the triggering device makes you feel more lively than a sequencer.

He creates the drum loop and listens to it and adds elements according to the song.

“It’s annoying to me to see a band where it’s all canned, either on a hard-disk recorder or this or the other thing. “It kind of ruins the vibe. It’s too much of the studio following you.”

“I’d rather use the studio for what it is and then take the elements I want from the studio but be able to sue them in the way that I want to use them, not the way they want to use me.”

Allen has revealed his darker side of him, but he also hopes to help the people who are suffering in the same way as him. Let’s take a look at what he said on ABC News in 2012; “I didn’t know what my life would be like after that terrible day. It was the darkest time in my life…”

“My desire is to encourage a support system for warriors, de-stigmatise PTSD, share their stories and offers alternative ways to pave the road to resiliency and health.” 

We can see how strong a passion he has for drums and will always be there. He replaced the traditional part and added different parts to make it a half-acoustic and half-electronic hybrid drum. He pushes his limit and wrote his name in the history of rocks as one of the greatest.

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