Where the Magic Is
Def Leppard's Rick Allen talks about his latest project with Krishna Das and the healing power of the drum.
Rick Allen is best known as the drummer for the popular hard rock band Def Leppard. After a 1984 car accident severed Allen's left arm, the future looked bleak for the British quintet. But Allen returned after only a few months, helping the band produce some of the biggest hits of its career, including “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Hysteria,” and ”Two Steps Behind.” Currently on tour with Def Leppard, Allen also plays on Krishna Das’ new album of chant, “All One.” Allen finds spirituality in many places—Hindu mantras, the Lord’s Prayer, and Shamanism, to name a few. He recently spoke to Beliefnet about his spiritual transformation after his accident and the “magical” experience of playing with Krishna Das.
Can you tell me a bit about your spirituality?
My experiences—and if I talk about [them] in certain circles I would probably get locked up—have been very extreme. One experience in particular, I was actually floating above the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
During your accident?
Around the accident. I can’t pinpoint exactly when because I think we seldom visit that part of ourselves, but when we do, it’s probably the most powerful part of ourselves there is. It’s beyond words because you’re just in survival mode. All your other senses have just been shut down, because they’re useless at that point. I felt as though I went to a place where I was on hold, and I was weighing out the pros and cons of staying or going. It wasn’t a painful experience or anything like that. It was actually the most clear thing that I can perceive. It was a group decision made by the universal consciousness.
Why do you think you decided to stay?
Because I hadn’t finished doing what [I was meant to do]. I hadn’t even scratched the surface. I was 21 years old and on the outside, [had] everything going for me--lots of money, women, and whatever I wanted. But it really wasn’t enough. My accident really brought all those flashcards of clarity and truth together that have happened throughout my life. I thought that was the illusion, a hallucination of some sort, but then when I went through the experience of my accident I realized that all those mystical happenings I’d experienced during my lifetime all of a sudden made sense.
So you were spiritually transformed after the accident?
Absolutely. Without a doubt. But there was an integration period that was very difficult.
And what were you going through then?
The integration was really one of trying to grow into my new body and trying to get my head around the very subtle expressions of myself that I visited throughout this ordeal.
[After the accident] I went to live in Amsterdam and threw myself into drugs and alcohol and thought I was doing great. I didn’t have to deal with life, I didn’t have to deal with my family, I didn’t have to deal with anybody. I had enough money, I was fine. I went to some really dark places in myself. I’d walk around the streets smoking heroin--I didn’t care at that point. It wasn’t until five years ago, when I met my wife, that a lot of things started to make sense.
At the time she was working at the Boulder College of Massage teaching an energy medicine course. I attended some of her classes and they did some hands-on healing work with me. It was really profound. And all of a sudden I started to realize all the things that I had gone through, that I had experienced, there was actually scientific evidence to support.
How did your participation in the Krishna Das album come about? What made you want to do it?
I think it chose me. I didn’t choose it. It started a long time ago. As a kid I always had a copy of the Bhagavad Gita next to my bed and [although I] never really read it, I tried to get into it a little bit. We had a really comprehensive array of books at home and this one just happened to end up with me.
When I was in the hospital it was very difficult trying to be a vegetarian—I’d just kind of take the meat off the plate [and had] overcooked vegetables. So when “Mutt” Lange, our producer, [who has] got a strong Hindu belief, visited me in the hospital he said, “Rick, I want to send these people up from London [for you].” So [a Hare Krishna couple] showed up, and they came in every single day and made food for me. That ward smelled like an Indian restaurant. It was brilliant! The hospital said I’d be there for six months. Three and a half weeks later I’m leaving the hospital. I wanted to throw myself back in the band.
I started asking [the Krishna couple] about the preparation of the food, and they [told me] about the intention that they put into the food and the cleanliness, etc.
What do you mean by “intention”? Is it a sort of healing energy?
Exactly. Isn’t that cool?
Yeah, that is.
I do that these days. If I’m making a cup of tea for somebody--if it’s Joe [Elliott, singer for Def Leppard] and he’s got a sore throat, I put my hand around [the cup] and say a little prayer. The worst thing that can happen is it works.
I do that too sometimes. It’s sort of putting your love into it.
Yeah. Thich Nhat Hahn always talks about that—mindfulness. It’s great. Just with everything you do you [say], “I can make a difference there.”
The sound that feeds my soul...
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