The one-armed drummer out of Def Leppard has just offered to make me a cup of tea. He's making himself one anyway, but still. I've interviewed some top celebrities in my time - Keith Chegwin, Phil 'The Power' Taylor, the man who did the engine sounds for MotoGP 2006. All stars in their own right, but none of them belongs to an internationally famous rock band that has sold 65 million records over the course of its 30-year career. Unlike Rick Allen. And unlike Rick Allen, none of them has ever offered to make me a cup of tea.
Allen is in London to promote Def Leppard's new album, Songs from the Sparkle Lounge. The first single, Nine Lives, was initially available exclusively as a download for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. It's the first time a band has chosen to release a single via a videogame, and Allen's here to talk about that too. Read on to find out why he thinks Guitar Hero is great, even though he's never played it, what he reckons of GTA IV, and why that tea won't have any caffeine in it.
Eurogamer: Why did you decide to release Nine Lives via Guitar Hero first?
Rick Allen: I don't think it's ever been done before, but as the record companies continue to die - and it'll only be a matter of years before they're gone - the bands that are able to self-promote are the bands that are going to survive. That's the game these days; the goalposts keep moving. You have to make up your own rules for how you want to promote yourself.
Eurogamer: How did the deal come about? Did Activision approach you?
Rick Allen: Yeah. I guess a lot of people that work with the company are fans, which helps.
You know, I remember as a kid picking up a tennis racket and air-guitaring for a long time. I actually ended up playing drums because my brother was bigger than me, and he'd steal the tennis racket. But Guitar Hero just takes it to a whole new level; it's like high-tech air guitar.
Eurogamer: So you've been playing it?
Rick Allen: I refuse to, because my life is way too busy. I've seen people hopelessly addicted to this game to the point where entire weekends just disappear. I can't even go there, I'm serious.
Eurogamer: Have you seen the new rival to Guitar Hero, Rock Band?
Rick Allen: Yeah, it's pretty cool.
Eurogamer: Aren't you tempted to have a go on the drum kit?
Rick Allen: No. My life is so busy, all I need is another distraction. Knowing me I'll discover these videogames and become hopelessly addicted to all of them.
Eurogamer: Are any other members of Def Leppard into games?
Rick Allen: I think Joe [Elliott, lead singer] plays a couple of videogames, but I don't think anybody's a really big gamer. The game for us is the game of making music, and how that fits in with life. You know, the amount of computing power we've got in cellphones these days is just insane. I can entertain myself for hours just using an iPhone. [Allen pulls out his iPhone and boots up an application. A cowbell is displayed on-screen. He taps it and the relevant sound rings out.] For instance I've got my own cowbell, which is great. Whenever I need more cowbell, it's there. Then we've got Etch-A-Sketch, look...
Eurogamer: So is this about as close as you get to gaming?
Rick Allen: Yeah. It's fine for now, because there's always going to be distractions. That's the nature of man, to come up with new distractions. What the distractions do is take me away from myself. I think it's important to experience yourself. There's always room for recreation, there's always room for distraction, but right now I'm just so busy with so many other projects. I have a not-for-profit foundation, documentaries, soundtracks, Def Leppard of course...
Eurogamer: Are you saying you haven't even had time to play GTA IV?
Rick Allen: I've seen it, and it looks entertaining, but it looks a bit violent to me. Videogames today are becoming like you're in your own movie. It's so interactive and the graphics are fantastic. I can see the appeal.
I don't think Def Leppard would be associated with something that's incredibly violent. We've never really been into things for shock value's sake.
Eurogamer: You're not up for biting the heads off bats?
Rick Allen: No, no, we'll leave that to certain other individuals.
Eurogamer: How about something milder? Giving a hamster a light slap, perhaps?
Rick Allen: Haha, no, not at all. We're actually quite boring.
Eurogamer: More Sudoku than Grand Theft Auto?
Rick Allen: Yeah. More traditional.