Rick Allen: A Game of Substitution

SKF NOTE: Def Leppard drummer, Rick Allen, talks about re-learning how to play the drumset after losing his left-arm in a car accident.

DEF LEPPARD’S ONE-ARMED DRUMMER, RICK ALLEN, IS ALSO A PROLIFIC PAINTER
BY DAVID MINSKY
TUESDAY, JANUARY 12, 2016

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Rick Allen

What was/is the hardest part of learning how to play drums again following the accident?

In many ways, it was quite inexplicable, the experience that I went through. I realized that I could do things with my right hand that I could never do before. At a certain point — because I kept going, I kept doing it, I kept playing — the learning curve takes over. I guess now I’m in the learning curve stage of my experience, my recovery, my forward momentum, as it were.

You’re still in the learning-curve stage 30 years after the accident?

Absolutely. I can’t help but move forward. I don’t want to stand still. I find new ways of doing old things. I’ll discover something a year or two ago that I couldn’t do, and all of a sudden, I can do it. I still have the capacity to improve.

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Rick Allen Art Work

Are you able to mimic your old drumming style?

Yeah, I can mimic it really well. Where I can’t do things cleanly, let’s say, is consecutive beats on one particular drum. So then I’ll play a game of substitution. So I’ll play right hand, left foot, and then I’ll add kick drum. So what I do is I substitute one of the beats that I was going to play, or that I want to play on one drum, and I’ll substitute those beats with other drums so that I can play something that sounds very similar. It’s not exact, but it sounds very similar to what I would have played before.

What’s your drum setup like?

When I’m performing live, it’s more of a hybrid drum kit that is a combination of electronics and acoustics. All of the foot pedals that I use, everything that I used to play with my left arm, I now play with my left foot. I have a series of foot pedals on the floor that help me to do that. Then, when I’m in the studio, a lot of the times I like to play acoustic drums.

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