Def Leppard’s Rick Allen lost his arm in a tragic accident while he drummed for the band. However, the group never sought a replacement for their drummer, who is still on the kit now. But fans have also wondered more about Allen’s style, mainly that he plays with headphones on.
Why does Def Leppard’s Rick Allen play with headphones on?
In an interview with the Modern Drummer, Allen explained why he wears the headphones when performing live with Def Leppard.
The answer is pretty simple: to listen into the loops.
Asked about this, he said: “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 Allen’s disability, he has a special kit made up for him which has ‘triggering devices’ which means he can create beat phrases, then play them on repeat so they continue to play along with the band.
As he has one arm, this means he has one limb fewer to play with, which can mean elements of the drums are missing from songs.
The triggering devices, he explains, allows for short phrases to be repeated as he likes, but in a way which feels more live than using a sequencer.
A sequencer is technology used by people such as Ed Sheeran, where a few bars of music are played, recorded, then repeated, but with the triggers Allen refers to, he does not have to stick to a particular metre and can be more free with his playing.
A drum loop is a short recording of multiple drum materials, so in Allen’s case, he is listening to a loop he as created as he adds to it percussively for some songs.
He added: “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.”