Interview with CARMINE APPICE
Carmine Appice is a drumming institution. Wether pioneering progressive rock with VANILLA FUDGE, laying down the disco groove for - and co-writing hits with - Rod Stewart, or cutting metal with Ozzy Osbourne, the man is always at the forefront of modern music. But he's still an enigma, though never averse to lift the veil. And that's what we set to do with this conversation.
- There are many fans guessing how to pronounce correctly your name. The only source they rely on is Ronnie Dio calling out Vinnie's name something like "Ap-pee-see" (sorry!). What is right?
Well A-pi-see was right but since 1976 when I was with Rod I have been A-piece...
- How did it come that from one family came out two great drummers? And who of you initiated drumming?
Well there were 7 drummers on my father's side of the family. I was number 2. My cousin Joey was the first, he inspired me to play. When I was young - say 11-12 years old I used to go to his house and try to play his drums. It was lots of fun. It wasn't until I was 13 that I started playing. Vinny was drummer #5 of the family drummers.
- Some words on your relations with Vinnie. Which of his works you rate the best?
We have a great relationship, we have done 'clinics' together, a video called 'Drum wars', we talk drums and products together. I would go see him play, he would come and see me play. I rate his works on the First DIO Album GREAT. I also like "The Mob Rules" and "Dehumanizer" with SABBATH. Sometimes I would go on stage and take Vinny's place in SABBATH or DIO for an encore.
- I guess you have Italian ancestors - if so, did it influence your love to music?
Yes I am Italian. I think the love for music came from my mother (RIP) - she loved music, she was always singing around the house and my older brother Frank had a singing group in the 50's, he taught me how to sing harmony. And because of my cousin Joey and his drums - all this created a musical environment for me.
- Everyone's crazy about John Bonham. Were you friends? And what about Cozy Powell?
Yes I was good friends with Bonzo and Cozy - both of them were big fans of VANILLA FUDGE. When Zeppelin came to the U.S. the first time they opened up for VANILLA FUDGE. I helped John get his LUDWIG drums endorsement. John told me that I was one of his drumming Idols. That was great to hear because he was a great drummer. Cozy I met when he was with Jeff Beck. Me and Tim Bogert were supposed to play with Jeff but after his car accident he could not work for 9 months to a year - so, we started CACTUS and later Jeff started Jeff Beck Group with Cozy. When I met Cozy he said he and Bonzo use to listen to me with the Fudge and I was his drum idol - that was nice. I was friend with both of them for a long time...
- Have you composed many songs? - drummers rarely are composers. Is "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" the greatest of them?
Yes, "Sexy" was the most successful song. After that was "Young Turks" with Rod. He was great about songwriting when I played with him, he let us keep all our credit. To this day "Sexy" is Rod's biggest single. But I have written songs with all my bands and other artists, my bands from Vanilla Fudge to my current project "Guitar Zeus". I co-wrote all songs on "Guitar Zeus".
- How often you choose to be a singer?
I chose not to be a singer more often. I like to sing but my drums are too powerful for my voice so I like to always have a great singer with me - like now I use Kelly Keeling for my projects. He is great. I did a tour and live CD for Japan with Tim Bogert called Char, Bogert and Appice (CBA). Char is the Jeff Beck of Japan, so we did some BBA songs which me and Tim split the vocals and it went well, it was interesting to be singing again in front of big crowds.
- What time is more interesting to live and play in - 60s, 70s, 80s or 90?
I would say 60's and 70's - because it wasn't a business yet and we recorded what we wanted and always toured and had great times.
- What was your 1st professional band?
It was called THE VIDELLS and I played everything from weddings to jazz gig to rock dances - all through my teenage years.
- Did you join THE PIGEONS before they turned the name to VANILLA FUDGE or after?
Yes before. We were called THE PIGEONS for 6 months then changed the name.
- How can you explain that, almost instant, success of VANILLA? How did you feel - headlining the Fillmore East or playing London clubs with the BEATLES and STONES guys in the audience?
We were at the right place at the right time. The feeling of that success was mind blowing, it happened really fast. We couldn't believe it when we played in London with all those heavy people in the audience. But we were really into our music and the band. We lived it!!!
- Did you meet THE BEATLES offstage? And what were their thoughts on your covers of their songs?
We never meet The Beatles at that time. When me and Tim were recording with Cactus at Electric Lady studios we met George Harrison and he told us the Beatles loved what we did with their songs, Paul really loved our version of "Eleanor Rigby". I later found out from Paul himself that they loved our version. I was playing in London with Rod when I met Paul and he said they were all blown away by the Fudge's stuff. That surely felt good.
- What are your memories on tours with Zappa, Hendrix, CREAM and LED ZEPPELIN?
We all use to tour together on different shows. I knew Hendrix before he made it big - he was Jimi James. We played some really small empty clubs together. After we both made it big we meet at The Speakeasy in London where we played with the Fudge and became friends again. We did a full tour with Hendrix in the fall of '68 when "Hangin' On" was a big hit in the States. People told us and in reviews that we had stolen the show from Jimi many nights. We always wondered who will blow us off - and it was LED ZEPPELIN. Our shows with them were always lots of fun. We all became real good friends. We sometimes would switch rhythm sections in the middle of "How Many More Times" and Zep would come up on our set and jam on "Shotgun" with us. It was really Fun. We did some shows with Zappa but not a lot. But I did tell Frank about the Mudshark story and we were friends for year casual. I did speak to him 2-3 weeks before he died. Big lost to the world. We did only a few gigs with Cream. We did not become real close with them at that time. I got to know Ginger and Jack within the last 15 years.
- What happened in fact that gave birth to a story of you, ZEPPELIN, a girl and a fish?
We were playing the Seattle Pop Festival with The Fudge, Zep, The Doors and more... I met a groupie girl who was very sexually active. The next day, on the day off we were watching TV in Robert's room with me, Robert, Tim Bogert, Robert's wife and this girl. At the hotel, which was on the water you, can fish out the window and catch fish. So, the door bell rings and in comes Bonham, Richard Cole (ZEP's tour manager) and Bruce (our VANILLA FUDGE roadie) and Mark Stein (VANILLA FUDGE keyboards). Bonham had a mudshark in which they did all these nasty things to this girl. BUT SHE LOVED IT!
- What did you perform jamming with Janis Joplin and Edgar Winter?
It was Johnny Winter, not Edgar. We played another festival in Miami, we jammed a blues that sounded great - me, Tim, Janis and Johnny. During the solo Janis came and gave me a big mouthful of what she was drinking - it was Southern Comfort, liquor. I almost fell off the drum stool. It was pretty wild...
- How would you define a kind of music played by VANILLA - progressive rock, Rhythm'n'Blues or?..
We called it psychedelic symphonic rock.
- What style you feel more comfortable to play - blues, jazz, hard'n'heavy?
Hard'n'heavy because I have been doing that more than Jazz or blues. I find blues too boring. I like heavy progressive stuff like "Guitar Zeus". You can go to my site and listen to some "Guitar Zeus" stuff. It is cool stuff with cool time signatures and really good songs.
- Do you feel after all these years you should be primarily associated with VANILLA?
No. People know me from all different parts of my career.
- Wasn't it funny for you to hear early DEEP PURPLE which were heavily influenced by FUDGE?
Yes, it was funny. They were the first band to make it that was influenced by VANILLA FUDGE. Many came after them...
- I read two opposite opinions. One is that Jeff Beck broke up VANILLA and the second one is that it was you and Bogert who split THE JEFF BECK GROUP. What is your opinion?
Well, after the Jeff Beck "Truth" and "Beck-Ola" albums came out me and Tim wanted to be hard rock progressive. So, we were in touch with Jeff who was unhappy with his band. Jeff played on the VF coke commercial, after we did that we (me and Tim ) wanted to play with him and he wanted to play with us. Us and Jeff admired each other's album works. We wanted a guitarist like him, and he wanted a kick ass rhythm section like us. Rod was going to be the singer but he backed out.
- Many musicians complained on how hard is working with Jeff Beck. Drumming with him so many times you seem not to share this thought, do you?
We were an equal band trio. We had a lot to do (me and Tim) with the songwriting and we had our own identities so... Yes, it was hard working with Jeff on a personal basis, he was very insecure and was never satisfied. We did our second album three times in the studio and one time live at the Rainbow in London. There is a bootleg out of all this now.
- Is it true that in the beginning it was not BECK, BOGERT, APPICE but THE JEFF BECK GROUP with you and Bogert in the line up?
Yes. We didn't want a big hype on promotion so we moved into the BBA name slowly. As Jeff Beck Group featuring Jeff, Tim and me. Then became BBA.
- Whose idea it was to record Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" on the BECK, BOGERT, APPICE album?
This song was written for Jeff in exchange for Jeff playing on Stevie's album. Our lyrics are a little different than Stevie's version. He was not supposed to release his version until our version was released but he did - so our version, which was going to be the original version, looked like a cover version. The riff was Jeff's riff I think...
- Why initially live BBA album was released only in Japan?
It was a special deal put together by CBS Japan. BBA was VERY, VERY big in Japan, the first band to sell out The Budokan - so they wanted a special recording. BBA is still very big there, we could maybe play the Tokyo Dome - 50,000 people if we ever played there. Sony and BBA are talking about releasing 'BBA live in Japan' worldwide now. I hope it comes out!!!
- Was anything recorded for the second album?
As I said before we recorded it 3 times and live but Jeff never liked them so we all had to approve releases and he did not approve.
- What did Beck mean by saying that the band lacked discipline?
Because it was an all out jam band. And Tim wasn't a regular bass player, he played lead bass. So when a solo would come Tim would jam along with the solo but as another soloist so the bottom groove would fall out. At first Jeff loved that but it got old quick...
- Who's your favourite bass player to make a rhythm section with?
I guess Tony Franklin. Ever since BLUE MURDER he has been my favorite. Fretless bass is great!
- Favourite guitarist?
Guitarist... John Sykes and Jeff Beck.
- As I know you played on Beck's "Blow By Blow". Why your parts were edited out? Did you take offence for it?
Yes, I was involved in the beginning. I was rehearsing with Jeff, Phil Chen, Max, writing songs etc. It was going to be a Beck's solo album or a Beck/Appice album, after BBA. So when it became a Beck's solo album I needed to get a featuring credit on the album to complete my deal with Epic. I needed billing. But Jeff's management didn't agree, so my attorney and manager said that I shouldn't be on an album as a sideman when I was on BBA as an equal name. I was mad because I turned Jeff onto this Jazz/Rock direction with Billy Cobham, Mahavisnu Orchestra, Stanley Clark etc. We were on a new direction - and working with George Martin was great. So, they replaced me and the drummer on the album played or tried to duplicate what I had done. I was on 5 tracks.
- For you - CACTUS was a substitute for failed effort to work with Beck? Was it your boogie dream come true?
Cactus rocked the world. Even today bands like Billy Sheehan's MR. BIG, KING'S X, VAN HALEN even KID ROCK quote CACTUS as their influences. It was a cool band, we played some great gigs, we never really captured CACTUS on record the way it should have been. Our first gig was with Hendrix.
- It seems Rod Stewart was not the great VANILLA FUDGE fan accusing it of splitting the Beck's band. So how did it come that you started playing with him? Why did you part so successful collaboration?
Well, Rod was a big VANILLA FUDGE fan as you can see, we did "You Keep Me Hangin' On" with him. I never heard him say anything bad about the Beck group split and blame VANILLA FUDGE. When I left Rod was not a Rocker anymore, he was going into keyboard based rock and many ballads. Drumming parts were getting too simple and did not rock. Still he doesn't rock'n'roll as he used to!!!
- May 21 is still the "Carmine Appice Day" in LA?
Not really, that was just that one day!!!
- How do you remember late Tommy Bolin?
Tommy opened up for CACTUS in one of his bands. I always thought he was a great guitarist. I helped him get into DEEP PURPLE and we were always friends. He loved drinking and taking drugs - too bad he was great!!!
- What do you mean by "I helped him get into DEEP PURPLE"?
I knew Tommy and I knew he was a great player. The guys in DEEP PURPLE asked me about him, what I thought of Tommy. I told them he was a great player and a nice guy - next thing I know he was in PURPLE...
- Did Ritchie Blackmore ever asked you to play with him?
Yes, he asked me to join RAINBOW as the original drummer. I couldn't do it, at the time I had a group with Mike Bloomfield called KGB and I was signed to MCA Records and they wouldn't let me out of my contract. So, I couldn't do it. So he then asked Cozy. I used to have a joke with Cozy about him being my professional replacement - first with Jeff Beck and then with Ritchie Blackmore.
- Was KING KOBRA your first experience in heavy metal? Why did you decide to change the style?
I think heavy metal was what I always played. Hard and heavy music. BBA was heavy, Cactus was heavy, the FUDGE were heavy, now a new label - heavy metal. I guess Ted Nugent was heavy metal and Ozzy - so, I guess KING KOBRA was not my first metal experience.
- You spent half an year in Ozzy Osbourne's band. Did you record with him?
I did not record with him. I did the "Bark At The Moon" video.
- Your thoughts of Ozzy?
Well, Ozzy is Ozzy - great business machine behind him. A real nice guy...
- Interesting point: you played with Ozzy, Vinnie with Dio. Both singers are kind of enemies? Your comments. Did it influence your relations with brother?
No, Vinny made his own way, even more interesting. Vinny played with SABBATH reunion with Ozzy in '98 in Europe. Bill Ward had a heart attack and they called Vinny to play. So we both played with Ozzy...
- Did you really recorded with ACCEPT? Not too primitive for you?
Yes, I went to Germany and spent two days recording with them. It didn't work out - my style did not fit what they were doing.
- What was the reason of your playing on the PINK FLOYD's "A Momentary Lapse Of Reason"? Was Nick Mason not able to drum?
Well, at the time Nick was racing cars. He was at the session and Bob Ezrin called and said they wanted some fresh blood on the album and this track was screaming for some CARMINE drum fills. I asked Nick why he wasn't playing. He said his hands were not in shape because he has been racing.
- Where do you know Bob Ezrin from?
I knew Bob from the Alice Cooper days - we all use to record in the same studios and tour together.
He has so much soul. He sings like a black man, he is one of the best singers in rock.
- Did you get in BLUE MURDER at the time Glenn was still in?
To my knowledge Glenn was never in it, we just talk to him but it did not work out...
- Who invited you in the band - John Sykes or Tony Franklin? I suppose, you knew Tony before?
No, I knew John first. I heard that they were still trying to find a drummer. I went to England to do a 'double clinic' with my brother. DIO was playing Hammersmith Odeon so I jammed with DIO one night and someone told me how to call John. So, I called and went to jam with them. It was great and we had the band.
- I had a chance to talk to Dio. He's a great person and a brilliant who's at almost 60 sings as he did 25 years ago. I guess, you know him real close. Maybe you can tell some stories on him?
Well I do know Ronnie real well. I always supported him and Vinny. One day at the end of the last BLACK SABBATH tour Ronnie did with them I went to the gig and Ronnie asked me to come up and replace Vinny for the encore, "Paranoid". But he wasn't speaking to Geezer or Tony so when I went up to play everyone thought I was Vinny with a piece of tape as a Carmine Mustache (Vinny did that a few times for fun). It took Geezer and Tony a little while to see it was me and NOT Vinny. Then after the tour bus left town me and Ronnie stayed in his room and talked about days when he opened up for the VANILLA FUDGE and CACTUS...
- Some words on your clinics, if you will.
Well I like doing clinics. I was the first rock drummer to do clinics. I hold attendance records for clinics in Paris, Buenos Aires, New Zealand, Tokyo and more. I make my clinics entertaining and I make sure that you learn something when you come to my clinic.
- On 40th anniversary of Atlantic Records did you drum for Paul Rodgers? What do you think of him?
No, I played there with VANILLA FUDGE. He is another great original voice of rock. Rod loves his voice also...
- MOTHER'S ARMY - what was special about the project? Was it the project of your friend Bob Daisley? Some words on the man, please?
It was my idea but it never really worked well. I like Bob, he is a great writer, he wrote all of those great Ozzy songs from the first two Ozzy albums.
- "Guitar Zeus" - isn't it a strange title for the drummer's album? What the project is about?
It is my album with Tony Franklin on bass, Kelly Keeling on vocals and rhythm guitars like a regular band CD with guest guitarist like Brian May, Ted Nugent, Zakk Wylde playing just solos. It has great songs and vocal.
- How did you get so many greats to play on the album? Contracts? Friendship?
All from friendships, thank god.
- Which of the many side project you feel was more interesting for you?
Well, Guitar Zeus is my main project now. I will be touring and releasing "Guitar Zeus" CDs through the summer worldwide with some touring.
- What your "Power Rock" business is about?
It's an instructional video business. We have people like me, Vinny, Tony Franklin, Elliot Eastern, Slim Jim Phanton giving video instruction about their instruments. Very good videos. I directed most of them. Go to powerrock.com to check them out.
Photos courtesy of Carmine Appice
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