I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Allen and Lauren Monroe for the release of their album, The Freedom Sessions. The disc marks Lauren's debut, as well as Rick's long awaited return to acoustic drums. I also got to chat with Rick (the drummer for Def Leppard since the age of 15) about the making of Hysteria and his work with famed producer, Robert John "Mutt" Lange. When asked if he took any tricks from Mutt to help with Lauren's CD, he revealed that Lange's biggest gift to him was "the art of listening." Def Leppard's Hysteria is a major feat on many levels - and not only for Allen's courageous return to the drums after a life-altering accident. It's amazing to note that the lushly layered, multi-platinum release was created long before the audio manipulations afforded by the Pro Tools recording platform! Audiophiles and gear neophytes alike can recognize that as a huge accomplishment. Allen says, "I believe Pro Tools was created for Mutt!"
Lauren met Rick when he became a client of hers via his interest in the healing arts. Monroe is a noted practitioner in the field of energy healing, with a vast breadth of cross-cultural experience. It was Lauren who finally helped Rick remove most of the remaining trauma from his body - energy that had been trapped in his cellular memory since his vehicular calamity in 1984. The infamous car accident was born out a moment of anger, though he's ultimately grateful for the experience now. It irrevocably changed his life, but he says it's something that has brought him many gifts, including Lauren. Rick's battle turned into triumph and has lead him to a lifetime of listening to his heart. The couple is as generous as they are genuine. They're active in charity work, including the Raven Drum Foundation, which they co-founded. They also support the Wounded Warrior Project. Both organizations focus on empowering veterans and people experiencing crisis through the healing power of playing drums. You can read more about these amazing people - excerpts from our phone conversation appear below. Enjoy!
[Photo Credit: Courtesy of Anderson Group Public Relations]
Lauren: We don't take sacred time to spend with ourselves.
Jenna: I think the more technology comes into play, while it's convenient; it's also a way to lose ourselves. Just like with [vocal pitch correction with] Auto-Tune and not having to necessarily be a singer anymore, it's the same with Facebook and MySpace. You're in touch with people, but you're really just reading one sentence of their lives. You don't often know what's really going on. It takes away the connection.
Rick: That's very good. Really the drum circles [a form of therapy from The Raven Drum Foundation] themselves are a metaphor for community. It's a cross-section of community. It's fantastic to see people [experience their first drum circle]. At first they feel a little self-conscious. And then they realize there's a dominant rhythm. And we experience dominant rhythms in all aspects of our lives - whether it's when we're standing in front of an ocean, or standing in a forest or whatever. A drum circle is no different than that; it's a dominant rhythm. Everybody feels supported by that rhythm. It's an incredible moment when you start to see people become less self-conscious and really just play. The whole rhythm takes on a life of it's own and people get out of their heads and really into their hearts. I love it! You know who else is a really good source of tribal drumming? You wouldn't think it, but Larry Mullen, Jr. from U2. I love that kind of playing. If I could do that every day, that would be incredible.
J: Yeah! There's a reason U2 and Def Leppard are both huge. The music, the beat, can tap into your heart. I know we talked earlier about learning the vocabulary [of the healing arts] - people don't necessarily have that vocabulary in their day-to-day language, but I believe we have the genetics buried deep inside all of us. The ancient DNA code.
R: It's all in there! You really remember it - or part of you remembers it. Drumming is such an ancient art form. I think it's the beginning of communication, dance and ultimately ritual. A lot of things that exist today probably exist because of that need and desire to communicate.
J: Your favorite music always gets in there and reverberates, even if it's in the background, it definitely becomes a part of you. The live shows with Lauren are such a different environment than when you play with Def Leppard. Do you like the change?
R: I love the change! My first drum was a cookie tin. [laughter] I moved on to the tambourine. Then finally my parents, they were really kind and they put a drum kit on lay-away. So, acoustic drums have really always been my passion. It's great doing what I do with Def Leppard and the electronic drums. It's obviously another facet, another form, of what I do. But to get back to the real organic, acoustic drums is such a huge treat for me.
J: I think so! Lauren, you've got a beautiful voice. I think your band and what the two of you are doing - that's the epitome of "vibe." You can feel that coming through. I'm so excited for both of you.
L: Thanks Jenna, I'm really happy to hear that.
J: And I just have to say, Rick you're such an inspiration! What you've done, how you overcame your injuries and that you continue to play... I'm getting teary. I think it's so amazing.
R: Oh, that's sweet! The beautiful thing is that I'm still overcoming. That's life. You constantly face challenges. This whole project with Lauren has been a huge challenge for both of us, I'm sure. It's great when you can go into things, embark upon them with all this passion and actually make something good out of it. That's the one thing I'm really excited about - we've got something outside of Def Leppard. Not necessarily separate, but something outside of Def Leppard that can bring people so much joy.
[Photo: Courtesy of Anderson Group Public Relations. There's much more to our chat, available at the Tape Op Magazine website, via the Tape Op "Log" link! Rick, Lauren and I run over tons of other topics, including: playing in the round, The Jonas Brothers, Meg from The White Stripes and how my friend & I procured our Def Leppard Hysteria tickets when we were in high school (we used a cop!)]
"I mean, everyone was calling Knocked Up sexist, and I don't want to be ugly and unpopular. So yes, out of nowhere, after I read the script, auditioned for the part, filmed the entire movie and did all the promotion for the film...I decided to talk shit on Apatow and everything about the movie I was just in, as if I had no idea that's what the movie was about."
Awesome! Thanks, Jake. Click here to read the rest of the text from "I Am Such A Bitch" by Katherine Heigl. I'm going to miss your humor, Jake.
[Fake Book Cover art by Jake Kilroy]