Rick Allen is no stranger to going on the road — but usually with his drums, rather than his artwork.
This month the Def Leppard co-founder launches a North American art tour with “Rick Allen: Drums For Peace,” an exhibit that benefits military veterans via Project Resiliency, at the Wentworth Gallery in Atlanta. Allen himself will make a special Veterans Day appearance at the exhibit on Nov. 11, signing and talking about the mixed media collection that includes his paintings on drum heads, toy buses, clothing and other objects.
“I got into painting as a kid, before I got into music,” Allen tells Billboard. “I’m not trained but it’s something that I really enjoy doing simply because it takes me to the same place I go when I play music, sort of the mindless place where you’re just in the moment and there are no rules — almost a meditative state. It’s just sort of the pursuit of that even flow, that zone.”
Allen’s connection to veterans’ causes, meanwhile, dates back a dozen years. Having lost his left arm in a New Year’s Eve 1984 car crash, Allen feels a connection to those returning from duty with debilitating injuries. He and his wife Lauren Monroe established their own charity, the Raven Drum Foundation, and began using it to provide assistance to the troops, receiving A Humanitarian Award from Maria Shriver’s Best Buddies Foundation along the way.
“I knew after my accident that something was different about me — good and bad,” Allen says. “I never really realized what I was dealing with until I started getting involved with the military community.” His first visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center was “traumatic” for Allen, “but I was also seeing a lot of potential and a lot of healing. After my visit…I got back to my hotel and called my wife and said, ‘You know, we’ve got all this suffering going on right in front of us, and I’d love to be able to help,’ and we refocused Raven Drum Foundation to work with our wounded warriors.”
The encounters also got Allen to recognize some buried Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from losing his arm, and he began attending retreats with injured veterans and also attending Wounded Warriors gatherings around the country.
“We’re all traumatized in some shape or form, whether that be car accidents or abusive relationships or alcoholic backgrounds or combat — or all these different ways that a person can be traumatized,” Allen notes. “It really gave me an opportunity to find out, through the Warriors, how I could manage my own situation, and that’s on ongoing thing. I have people I can call if I’m having sort of a crappy day — or a crappy week for that matter. There are people that I can call that I know are gonna give it to me straight and they’re going to talk me down off the ledge, as it were.”
Allen also has exhibitions booked for New York and Washington, D.C. for 2018, with more to be scheduled to coincide with Def Leppard performances. The group, meanwhile, is “in recovery mode” after touring to celebrate the Hysteria album’s 30th anniversary this year.
“Everybody’s just at home, enjoying family,” Allen reports. “It’s just that sort of, ‘Let’s just enjoy life for a little bit at the moment,’ at home. And then we’ll be coming back out again early in the summer, and more of the same, I guess.” And there may even be some new music to go with, if all goes well.
“There’s always new songs on the go,” Allen says. “Early next year we’ll all get together, probably at Joe [Elliott, frontman]’s studio, and then see what we’ve got and listen to everything, all the ideas that people have and try to piece a record together.”