LA WEEKLY: Def Leppard’s One-Armed Drummer Rick Allen Makes Art Out of Music

“I threw my drum kit down the steps outside. All the drums landed in a heap on the driveway and I said, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ I was almost 15 and that was it. I was giving up my career,” says Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen, rolling his eyes at the bratty 15-year-old-version of himself.

“Almost simultaneously,” he adds, “there was an article in the newspaper that said, ‘Leppard Loses Skins’ and it talked about Def Leppard, a local group that had lost their drummer, so I called up, got an audition and I got the job.”

The 48-year-old, one-armed British drummer, who has lived in California for 21 years, is relaxed and seated at a table on the patio of a busy Santa Monica cafe. He’s wearing a long-sleeved black T-shirt, jeans, earrings and a brown beaded necklace. Though it is lunchtime, Allen hasn’t ordered anything to eat or drink. Instead, he has brought a Thermos filled with distilled water and Himalayan sea salts. “Excuse me if I seem a little spacey,” he says, explaining that he’s on the second day of a three-week dietary cleanse.

Allen also has brought a clear plastic drum stick, one of two types used to create the images for his upcoming fine art debut, “Electric Hand: Rhythm + Change,” a limited collection of abstract images created from computerized tracking of Allen’s drum strokes, on display on his website

Having been approached by Los Angeles art collective SceneFour to be part of its project The Art of Drums (previous drummers have been Matt Sorum, Stephen Perkins and Frankie Waddy), Allen sat in a dark room playing drums with sticks that either contained LED lights or had LEDs attached to their tips, while a Fuji X100 camera took long exposures of the light trails created by Allen’s strokes. Depending upon the intensity of the hits, the color gradient ranges from black (lowest intensity) to color to white (highest intensity).