An Interview with Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge, Cactus & King Kobra

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Very few drummers have impacted rock and heavy metal music in the way Carmine Appice has. Carmine is a rare case of a drummer that has transcended genres, and generations, and in the process, has influenced droves of musicians who came after him.

Starting out in the late-60s with Vanilla Fudge, Appice was a trendsetter and over time, he set the standard for what a heavy metal drummer could be and should be through his monstrous fills, technical prowess, and innovation in both the studio and live settings.

As the 1970s wore on, Appice continued to break ground with the legendary blues-rock outfit Cactus and toured the United States, and Europe with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, and Black Sabbath before joining Rod Stewart’s band, and co-writing the mega-hit, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” as well as appearing on numerous studio albums such as Paul Stanley’s 1978 solo album, Paul Stanley.

As the 1980s dawned, Carmine dipped his toe into the heavy metal scene, and after working with Vinnie Vincent, and a brief stint as a member of Ozzy Osbourne’s band, Carmine formed King Kobra, followed by Blue Murder, fully cementing his legacy as a drummer who would perpetually set the trend on his own terms.

In this career-spanning interview, Carmine and I touch on his early origins with Vanilla Fudge, and Cactus, his enduring influence on the likes of John Bonham, Nicko McBrain, and his brother, Vinny Appice, his prowess as a songwriter, his new album with Fernando Perdomo, Energy Overload, working with Tommy Thayer, and Slash on the Guitar Zeus boxset, and what’s next for him in 2022.

Andrew:
Carmine, thank you for taking the time. How are you holding up?

Carmine:
Good! How are you doing, dude? The last two days were good. Me and Nicko McBrain went down on Friday night to go see Jason Boham’s Led Zeppelin thing. It was good, much better than I thought I was going to be. Jason played excellently. Originally, I wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to stack up to his father, but he blew me away and was awesome.

Andrew:
Jason’s a great drummer. After the Zeppelin reunion, I think it was in 2007, a lot of people said that he played as well as his dad, which is hard to believe. It seems as if he picked up where his dad left off.

Carmine:
I’m probably one of the only people that knew John Bonham before he was famous. John was really great player, and like all of us, he took from other people. He took from Joe Morello, he took from Gene Krupa, and he took some stuff from me, but, you know, every time I say that people think I’m out of my mind because he’s John Bonham. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Well, you’ve moved through psychedelic rock, into classic rock, heavy metal, and even glam metal, so, your influence is felt throughout. And as far as Rock goes, in the mid-60s, you had Ringo Starr, Dennis Wilson, all these timekeepers, and people will talk about Ron Bushy, and Bill Ward, but for me, you’re the first heavy metal, double bass drum, triplets drummer, and you see all these guys after you that were trying to play like you. As far as heavy metal, and hard rock, it starts with you.

Carmine:
So, when I did that triplet, people were blown away, “Where did you…wow…how did you do that? How do you develop it?” John Bonham said he got his triplets from one of the songs that I did, which was from one of Vanilla Fudge’s first records. I did it, you know, just quickly, like smooth as butter, and then he just repeated it. Now, he took what I did, and did it his own way, and came up with a triplet — his own triplet, which was amazing.

Andrew:
If John Bonham were alive today, he probably would be the first one to say, “I was influenced by Carmine Appice.”

Carmine:
Well, funny enough, Nicko and I went to see Jason the other day. Again, he blew my mind because he was really good. You know, Nicko is a friend and I was a bit of an influence on Nicko according to Nicko, anyway. So, we had a good time and anytime Jason did a triplet with the double bass or two pedals, Nicko would go, “Oh, there’s a Carmine fill.” [Laughs]. And he started counting them. So, then we went backstage, and we’re talking and Jason said, “Oh, the worst thing that could have happened is just before going on stage, I see you and Nicko.” [Laughs]. Then Jason said, “I bet every time I did a Carmine lick, you’re probably counting them.” And I said, “No, I wasn’t counting, but Nicko was.” [Laughs]. But I’ve got a new respect for him, but you know, he’s not his father. His father was a trendsetter. He’s just copying the stuff his father did, but I have a new respect for Jason after seeing him play. I said to him, “Your father would be proud.”

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
When you think back to Vanilla Fudge, you were so innovative. You all were doing things before any other bands ever dreamt to. You brought things back from the UK over to the US way before all the other Psychedelic bands over here caught on to what you guys were doing.

Carmine:
No one had done what we had done. We were the first to have a number five album without having a smash single. We were on The Ed Sullivan Show without having a smash single. We had a smash album instead. We set the standard for album-oriented Rock music.

Andrew:
On the subject of Vanilla Fudge, I know you guys just wrapped up a tour recently. You closed it out with Robby Krieger of The Doors. How was it getting back on the road?

Carmine:
Oh, it was awesome, man. I’m ready to go again. First-quarter we’ve got a bunch of Cactus gigs. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to play with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and with my brother [Vinny Appice] doing the Drum Wars thing. So, that’s been keeping me busy.

Andrew:
You’ve got plenty on your plate. Of course, earlier this year, Cactus came out with Tightrope, which rocked.

Carmine:
I think Tightrope is one of the best ones we’ve ever done. It sort of didn’t do anything because of COVID. We couldn’t get out on the road to promote it. And they’re just releasing now, the very first Cactus gig we ever did, where we play with Jimi Hendrix, at a festival in Philadelphia, in 1970, and they’re releasing that shortly. So, we’re trying to finish the second video for Tightrope, and get that out, and do a bunch of dates, because like I said, it is an awesome record.

Andrew:
Also, another really cool project you’ve got going on is Energy Overload, with Fernando Perdomo.
How did that come together?

Carmine:
Well, as you see, I have the studio here. My brother, Vinny, is a computer geek. He’s had a studio in his house for a while. When I moved here to Florida, I converted this guest house into my own studio. I got the room mics in here, and the computers are over there. You know, anytime I record in here and want to finish the mix, I send it to my buddy, Stevie, who is an engineer, and he bounces it to analog, and back so it sounds analog. So, when I first thought of doing this, I had done a Pink Floyd tribute, and then I knew I had to do a Vanilla Fudge song too, but I wasn’t ready. Then, I got a call from a guy named “Fernando Perdomo,” who wants to play with me. He said, “Do you want to do a track or two tracks? Would you be willing to do that?” And I’m thinking to myself, “Well, I don’t usually do that when I don’t know people. But you know what? I need practice in my new studio.” So, I talked to him. He sounded like a very knowledgeable guy. He was in this movie on Netflix called Echo In The Canyon. And I said, “Well, look, let’s try something. I’ve got some songs that I wrote as instrumentals on my iPad. Why don’t I send you one? And you do your thing? Send it back to me, and send me the stems. I’ll play the drums and see how it goes.” So, we did that.

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
I was listening to the album earlier today, and I have to say – it’s very good. It’s a monster of an album. Can you dig deeper into the record for me?

Carmine:
Well, the first song we did is called “Thunder.” So, I sent it back to him, I had my purple sparkle leopard print Slingerland kit, and I played that on the song, and it came out great. So, I said, “Let me send you another one.” I had a track called “Funky Jackson,” I called it that because when I wrote it on my iPad, it sounded like a Michael Jackson track with the drum machine. So, I sent it to him, and he sent it back, and he put some melody on it. I said, “Wow. Sounds good!” I put my drums on…I kept the original drums from the iPad, but I distorted them, made them small, and made them sound like an effect. It turned into a really cool piece of music.

Andrew:
Definitely. It’s incredible how you can make an album via iPad and email now. Music-making for the modern age.

Carmine:
Yeah! Then he sent me a song, which was like a Latin-based song, and I did this really fast “Parchman Farm,” Cactus type groove, with accents, and drum fills. Then I said, “Let’s see if you could put some guitars to this.” He did, and it came out awesome, we call that song “Little Havana.” So, then we just kept recording, and I said, “You know what? I got some drum tracks that I have on my computer. Why don’t I send you a drum track? Let’s see if you can write something to the drum track.” And then he did. He wrote this thing called “Rocket To The Sun,” which was great. I said, “I have other drum tracks.” So, I sent him all together five drum tracks, and he put music to them. One of the funkiest things is called “Pure Ecstasy.” It’s so badass. And when he’d send me something that’s like straight-ahead Rock, and heavy, I still say, “Look, let’s make it interesting.” So, we kept doing that, and then we had eighteen instrumental tracks.

Andrew:
I think it’s a true testament to both of you as artists and your creative process.

Carmine:
I have a show called Hangin’ & Bangin’ that Vinny and I do live every Thursday night, and we had Suzi Quatro on it. So, the next day, Susie was emailing me asking me to play on her solo record coming out. I said, “Yeah, I’ll do that.” She asks if I’ve got anything that I’ve played on recently that she can check out. So, I sent her “Flower Child,” from the new record. She heard it, and she goes, “Is that who I think it is on guitar?” I said, “Who do you think it is?” Suzi goes, “I think it’s Jeff Beck.” I said, “No, it’s not Jeff. It’s Fernando Perdomo. He plays like Jeff, he makes the guitar talk to you.” And Suzi, said, “Wow, he’s awesome.” Anyway, we had eighteen songs, and I said, “You know what? I want to release these things,” and Fernando said, “So, let’s release them. How can we do that?” I said, “I’ll call my buddies over Cleopatra Records. Brian, the owner, I’ve known him since he started it back in the day.” I called him and said, “Look, I’ve got this instrumental album. I’d like you to hear it. I think we can make some noise with it.” So, he said, “Okay, I’ll listen to it. Let’s do it.” So, we put a deal together, and the guy that manages Cactus, I asked him, “Can you watch over this and manage it?” He’s also a PR guy. So, so we did it.

Now, we’re getting great reviews everywhere. I kept the PR guy on an extra month because we’re releasing the video, and I just wanted to keep it going because I’m really proud of it. And this is the first album I’ve ever personally engineered. It’s studio engineered by Carmine Appice with Fernando Perdomo. After all these years, that made me laugh. [Laughs].

Andrew:
You’re a man of many hats who can now add “engineer” to your long list of accomplishments.

Carmine:
All the production stuff is great. And now, we’re working on a new King Kobra record. We’ve got like ten songs. We got Carlos Cavazos. We’ve got Paul Shortino. We’re summoning up this great material. I’ve got this killer, big fat Carmine-Led Zeppelin kind of drum sound with the bass drum. It’s almost like King Kobra meets Led Zeppelin. It’s really cool. We got Johnny Rod on bass too. It’s like a little supergroup.

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
I was going to touch on King Kobra. How far along are the sessions?

Carmine:
I’m gonna hopefully do drums on that today or tomorrow. You’ve got to understand, when you’re a drummer, you go into a session, in my case, my tech gets the drums, they set them up, and mic them up. He gets the basic sound and I go in and play. I get the sound. By the time we’re done, three or four hours have gone by. And then it’s like, “Okay, let’s record the song.” Now, I walk into the guest house, turn the computers on, make sure everything’s levels are good, put on the track, and I’m playing. Even if I record something today, in five days, I can come back. If I don’t like something, I could punch in, it’s gonna sound exactly the same. The drums have not moved. The microphones have not moved. It’s so much fun. It’s a different world. The only drag about it is I’ve got to figure out how to properly punch in digitally. I’m not that good yet at engineering where I can mock up the spot where I want to punch in. Because once I’ve learned to mock-up the spot where it automatically punches in itself, it’s a breeze. It’s golden.

With punching in, I’ve been doing that since 1982. I really like it because I used to say to myself, “Why is it you go do an album, you’re in there, you’re doing it, the whole band is playing to get the drum track, and sometimes after take number fifteen, you’ve lost the feel?” So, I was working in the studio in the early 80s with a guy from Pasaha Records, on the Rockers, and Vanilla Fudge Mystery records, where we created this really big drum sound that they ended up also putting on the Quiet Riot record [Metal Health]. I said, “Look, dude, I want to punch in the drums. I want to be able to punch in as I play the tracks we want. If I make a mistake, or if I don’t like something, I want to be able to punch in and fix it. Can we do that?” So, we started experimenting, and I figured out the method of doing it with him. I started doing it in 1982 recording the Vanilla Fudge album, Mystery, by doing punch-ins, and then recording the Derringer/Appice record, doing it the same way. From then on, I mostly did it that way. I did do the King Kobra stuff the old way because, in the mid-80s, we were a band, and we were well well-rehearsed, and the tracks didn’t go more than two takes.? If it started going more than two takes, I would have just said, “You know what? Let’s punch in.” Even in the two takes, I left the drums up. And if I didn’t like something after the time went on, I can go in and fix it.

Andrew:
You’re always innovating.

Carmine:
I just did it out of necessity…playing hard and heavy. I didn’t sit down and go, “I’m gonna start something new. I’m gonna play drums really hard, and really heavy. Good idea.” I didn’t do that. [Laughs]. At the time, I couldn’t be heard. The PA systems sucked. Tim Bogart had a Dual Showman Amplifier with two cabinets. I had a 22″ bass drum that I found in a pawn shop. It was an old Ludwig 1920s bass drum, and I got it for five bucks. Boy, I put the red sparkle on it to match my kit, and that thing was loud as shit. It was so loud that I noticed, I said, “Wow, that thing is loud.” And I wanted to hit it hard…I was playing hard because I couldn’t be heard. When I hit it hard, it was really loud and sounded great. So, when we started making it, I recorded with the 22″ bass drum. I did “Keep Me Hangin’ On” in one take, and it changed my life. And then when I got a Ludwig endorsement, I said, “Well, I got the big bass drum. I’m gonna get two big bass drums, and then, I’m going to get a bigger tom.” I said, “I’m going to get a marching tenor drum for a tom,” which is a 12″ x 15″ x 18″ floor tom. Then I said, “I’m going to get a 22″ bass drum and put it upside down as a floor tom.” That was my big drum and I had a 6.5″ concert snare drum. So, everything was oversized. Ludwig call me up and said, “Are you sure about the sizes?” [Laughs]. And when you got the drums, you got big, heavy Paiste symbols as part of the endorsement. I got a 22″ heavy crash, and a 18″ medium crash cymbal. I got another 20″ medium crash, and 15″ high-hats. I did everything big.

Then, I realized when I got the drums, not only were they big, but you had to really hit them hard to get the sound out. Then I started hitting harder and started putting more body movement into it. So, before you know it, I came up with this Heavy Rock drum down that can be heard on our fourth album, on the live record, and on songs like “Shotgun,” and “Some Velvet Morning.” The end of “Shotgun” was kind of like the end of Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll,” except we did it first. I came up with this whole thing. And still, we didn’t have a great PA system, and we didn’t have monitors. When we toured with Jimi Hendrix in 1968, I had my own Dual Showman Amplifier. I had a little show mixer with five inputs, and I had five short mics on the drums. And then, Mitch Mitchell said, “Carmine, do you mind if I use your drum mics?” I said, “Yeah Mitch, you could use them.” So, we put them on Mitch’s drums because there were no amps, and he played light. Jimi [Hendrix] always had three Marshall stacks, so Mitch was always lost because he played light. Guys like Mitch, Ginger Baker, and Keith Moon were innovative guys, but they played light. And then there was me – the animal. But I was technical. I had studied. I knew what I was doing, and I’m playing double bass and killing it. I just saw some footage that’s coming out with Cactus, Live at the Isle of Wight…my triplets were really up here. You can see that my arms were high up here. My whole body was pushing. I think as time went on, we got better PA systems, and I didn’t have to do that. You had to play loud. Still, Vinny, my brother, plays louder than I do. You know, because he wanted to be louder than me.

Andrew:
Yes, he’s a heavy hitter, too. Who’s better, Carmine? You, or Vinny?

Carmine:
I say me. I’m the original. That’s a good answer, Right? [Laughs].

Image credit: Drumwars.com/All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
A good answer for sure. You guys are different. I mean, everybody says they hear a lot of Bonham in Vinny’s playing, but I say I hear a lot of Carmine in Vinny because Carmine influenced Bonham. But he’s a great drummer, too. You guys are both amazing.

Carmine:
Yeah, he’s straightforward. Vinny is more like, Buddy Rich. And there’s all the fast stuff he does. I’m more like Gene Krupa. I was into exotic stuff, spinning sticks, and entertaining.

Andrew:
It’s two different styles, with some overlap. It really works when you play together. You guys have similar yet different styles, and you’re obviously an influence on him. You’re eleven years older, so, the eras are a bit different. Vinny is more 1980s, second-wave metal, with the old-school influences, and you’re more that first wave of metal and hard rock from the 60s, and 70s, which you’ve translated over to the modern era incredibly well.

Carmine:
Vinny used to watch my band rehearse when he was five years old in the living room, and then when I made it with Vanilla Fudge, he was like, “My brother this, Carmine that.” He had a music room in the house, he would sit in between the speakers, and you turn the lights down. We had a room in the cellar, with posters, mostly Vanilla Fudge, and Led Zeppelin, and he would watch me practice, and when I went on the road, I left a drum set home, and that’s how he started playing.

Andrew:
I saw an interview with Vinny, where he talks about you coming off tour, and you came home, and you found your brother playing and your mother was yelling “He’s driving me crazy just like you did.” [Laughs].

Carmine:
That’s true. [Laughs]. I actually put that in in the song. I wrote the song “Brothers In Drums,” and in it, I put that in there and told the whole story about how I started playing. And then, I left the drumset home and Vinny started playing my mother said, “He’s driving me crazy, like you.” We’re brothers in drums, you know, it’s a really nice touch for an album. But yeah, I mean, I came home, I’d pull up right in front of the fire hydrant, I come in and Vinny was like, nine years old, and he starts playing and was playing pretty good. My mother says, “He’s in here all day long. He comes home from school, and that’s all he does. He just sits and plays. What do you think?” I said, “He’s talented. If he got this far by himself, we should send him to my teacher.” So, we did. We sent him for lessons, and by the time he was twelve, he was a freaking monster. And then he went from there.

You know, luckily, we lived in New York. He got in a band that was being managed by the Record Plant. He met John Lennon and played the last John Lennon show, and Rick Derringer discovered him there. You know, when Rick Derringer called the house, he said, “Hi, Mrs. Appice. This is Rick Derringer. I’d like to talk to Vinny.” My mother says, “Oh, no, you want to talk to Carmine?” And Rick says, “No, no, I want to talk to Vinny. She’s arguing with him, and Rick says again, “I want to talk to Vinny, Carmine’s younger brother, who plays the drums.” My mother was so flabbergasted that Rick wanted Vinny. She couldn’t believe that Rick Derringer was calling for Vinny. And that just started him off. [Laughs].

Andrew:
You mentioned earlier that you’re also a songwriter. Everybody knows Carmine the drummer, but a lot of people don’t realize that you are an accomplished songwriter as well. I know you’re very proud of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” which you wrote with Rod Stewart. I wanted to touch on that a little bit.

Carmine:
Well, Rod said to the band, “I want to sound like “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones. So, I went home, I had a keyboard at home, I had a drum machine, and I put the keyboard on. I came up with some cool changes and everything. I went to my buddy, Duane Hitchings’s, who is also co-writer on that, and said, “Rod wants to sound like, like The Stones. I got these chords and everything. What do you think?” We put it all together with keyboards, bass, and the drum machine, and it was heavy. So, we gave it to Rod, and he loved it, and the next thing I know, we’re recording it. We have three guitars, bass, drums, and Duane playing synthesizer, and it sounded massive with the big, ambient drum sound that I’m known for. It sounded badass. And then Rod says, “I want to change the arrangement a little bit.” We change the arrangement, and it still sounded badass, you know? But then Tom Dowd, the producer, said, “Okay, now let me go to work on it. I’m gonna make it a smash record now.” He put an orchestra on it, he put female singers on it, he put a second percussionist on, and more keyboards. It was ridiculous, everybody was on this thing. So, it’s now instead of a 24-track, it’s now a 48-track, which made everything shrink. When we heard the finished mix, we all said, “Yeah, really? What? What happened to that big fat Rock sound we had?” But you can’t argue with the fact that it went to number one in like thirteen countries.

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
No, you can’t. I wanted to touch on a couple of the lesser talked about projects that you’ve been a part of. In ’78, you appeared on Paul Stanley‘s solo record. As a kid, “Take Me Away (Together As One)” was my introduction to your drumming. I remember listening to that, and I was like, “Whoa, who’s playing?” It was those classic “Carmine fills.” You were a monster there.

Carmine:
Funny thing about that. I did some clinics after that came out. I had just flown in from Thailand, and I went right to the studio. Me and Paul were friends. I was being managed by Acoin Management, who managed KISS. Paul was a big Rod Stewart fan, and I played The Forum with Rod, the guys in KISS came to watch us play. Next thing you know, they had that song “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” just like “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” Anyway, I flew in and I played on more than one track, but I’m not credited. And you know, I did the song and I played the fills, and I play by feel, whatever comes out is spur of the moment. That’s why I have trouble doing videos because I never know what I did. So, I’ve got to study what the fuck I did to try and get it. [Laughs]. And usually, I don’t get it because I feel different when I’m playing it, you know?

So, I’m doing a clinic tour. Paul’s album is big, and everybody’s talking about that song, “This is the best song on the album.” And I listened to it a few times, and so, I get the first clinic questions, “What are the drum fills you played at the end of the Paul Stanley record,” and of course, I can’t remember. [Laughs]. I don’t remember what I played. Okay, next clinic, next day. Any questions? Same freakin’ question. Same answer. So, then the third clinic – the same question. So, finally, on the fourth clinic, I said to the store owner, “You got a copy of Paul Stanley’s solo album here?” He says, “No, but there’s a record store three doors down.” I said, “Great. Here’s some money. Can you send somebody go down, and get me a cassette?” So, he comes back with a cassette, and I had a cassette player, and I played it. I listened to the fills. I knew what I did. Every clinic asked me what those fills were. [Laughs].

Andrew:
That song was my introduction to the triplet when I first started playing drums. I loved KISS, but when I listened to that record, it was something entirely different. You know, listening to Peter Criss, he didn’t do triplets
, so it opened up a new world for me.

Carmine:
Peter was okay. I mean, back then, they were all okay. What made them was the stage show and outfits. Now everybody’s gotten better. Now they have Eric Singer and Eric is a monster. Even Peter played better as the years went on. But you know who’s great? Tommy Thayer. Tommy is on my new Guitar Zeus release, and he’s in the new video too.

Andrew:
Tommy Thayer is great. He’s one of the truly underrated guitar players of the last forty years.
Now, I want to touch on the Rockers record. I know Vinnie Vincent helped write “Drum City Rocker.” He was a talented guy and a good songwriter, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Vinnie plays guitar on the record, I think it’s Danny Johnson. But I know Vinnie toured with you for the record, so, how did you get hooked up with Vinnie Vincent?

Carmine:
I don’t really remember how I got hooked up with him. He was hanging around LA. I wanted to do a band called Carmine & The Rockers. And I wanted it to be modern sounding with a little touch of New Wave. Vinnie was in LA and living in LA with his wife. And he had twins, you know, now I heard now the wife killed herself, and the twins don’t talk to him. So anyway, we played together I said, “Wow, this guy’s a great guitar player.” Then he played some songs for me and I said, “Wow, this guy’s great.” Then he recommended a bass player named Cyril that I named “Zero.” And then somehow, we got this guy named Eddie. We called him “Eddie Spaghetti,” and he was a singer and a rhythm guitar player. And he was a really great singer. Vinnie was a good singer, but this guy was a great singer. So, we started putting all this stuff together, and then we did a bunch of demos and were looking for record deals. We wrote a song called “Magic” that Vinnie basically wrote most of, and we had some other songs that were like Beatles songs. When we did all the songs together, and we had a deal that we would write the songs together. Even if Vinnie came in with a song, we would all pitch in with the arrangement, and we split the writing, you know, this way, if the song hits, Vinnie doesn’t drive a Lamborghini, and Carmine drives a Volkswagen. [Laughs].

So, everything was cool. We went out, and we did gigs. We went up to play with Jefferson Starship. We played up and down the West Coast. We played The Whiskey for two nights, sold out, basically on the strength of me because nobody knew Vinnie Vincent or the other guys. And then everybody comes down — Eddie Money came down, the Van Halen guys came down, Robin Williams came down. It was like the cool place to be, at my gig, at The Whiskey. I got pictures of all the guys, it’s awesome. And then, we were just about to get a deal going with RSO records, which is Robert Stigwood Organization, and then Vinnie said, “I don’t want to go, I’m not doing that deal with the writing. I want all my writing.” I said, “Dude, you fucking signed a piece of paper. You signed a letter saying we’re going to do this.” So, he said, “No. I’m not doing it.” He didn’t do it. That was the end of it. I have all these recordings, and when I was talking to him a couple of years ago, when I thought I was gonna do a gig with him, I told him, “Vinnie, look, I’ve got the recordings, we should release them. It’s some really good stuff.” Then, Vinnie says, “No, I don’t want to release it. If you do, I’m going to sue you.” I said, “I just got back talking to you, now you’re suing already?” [Laughs].

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
I don’t you know. He’s been handed multiple golden opportunities, even his own solo career…the guy is undeniably talented. I don’t understand it. Rightfully, he should be considered up there with the greats but it wasn’t to be.

Carmine:
Nobody likes him. I mean, he’s a horrible person. It’s funny, we used to put a little eye makeup on, you know, underneath, just to make your eyes look better, but he would go in and he would take freakin’ forever. We’d say, “Vinnie! Hey, Vinnie girl. Let’s go! We got to go on stage.” You know, he put the eye shadow on thick. I wasn’t surprised when he came out after being away for so long, and he looked very feminine, like a woman.

Andrew:
He embraced the full-blown glam look for sure.

Carmine:
Oh, he’s way beyond. I mean, back in the day…with the glamor…that solo band…Vinnie Vincent Invasion — he played like crap. He was trying to be Yngwie Malmsteen, and he wasn’t Yngwie. The guitar was so freakin’ loud in the mix, it dwarfed anything else going on, and it’s a shame because he had a good band. But it didn’t matter who Vinnie was playing with because he was in control. That record was the worst crap, and I know that guy’s playing as I played with him for a freakin’ year. We did a lot of stuff together and he’s a great guitarist. And then when Paul [Stanley], and Gene [Simmons] called me and said, “What about this guy Vinnie Cusano, what do you think?” I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what, dude, he’s talented as shit. Great guitar player. Great songwriter. But he’s trouble,” and it was. I said, “If you want to put him in the band [KISS], I think you’re gonna get trouble.” They put them into the band, and we all know what happened.

Andrew:
So now, fast forward to 2018, when you, Tony Franklin, and Vinnie were supposed to get together for some shows. Take me through what happened there.

Carmine:
Well, I saw how he came out, and that he was gonna do some gigs. And then I got a call from the promoter guy, Derek, saying, “You know, Vinnie wants to play. Can you connect with him?” And I said, “I don’t hold grudges, sure.” I heard that his wife had died, and I knew the guy, I mean, he screwed me, but you know, my career went on, I did great, I don’t care, you know? So, I talked to Derek and I said, “Yeah, I’d like to say ‘hi,’ and see how it goes.” So, Vinnie called me, and he was telling me all this great stuff, “Man, I just want to thank you, I was trying to put my own band together, I needed drums, and Alan Miller, (my old manager) let me have one of your drum sets for like a month, and I never got to thank you.” I said, “Wow, dude, I didn’t even know I let you borrow them. I’m just finding this out now, but I would have let you anyway.” [Laughs].

So, we talked, and he says, “I want to do this gig, and Derek is going to put this together, I’d love for you to play on it.” I said, “Yeah, let’s do it, man.” I mean, with all the crap that went down, when we did play together back in the day, we played our ass off together. And we had a great conversation. And he said, “Well, who would you get on bass? I don’t know who to get on bass.” I say, “Oh, man, you’ve got to get Tony Franklin. Tony Franklin’s the shit. He played fretless bass with Blue Murder and The Firm with Jimmy Page. He’s a monster, you know?” So, he said, “Well, let me listen to those.” So, Vinnie goes and listens to some Blue Murder, and calls me back, and said, “Yeah, let’s get Tony Franklin!” And then he had that guy, Robert Fleischman who was going to sing. And then Robert bowed out. So, he said, “Do you know anybody else?” I said, “Well, I got this guy that sings on Drum Wars with me, and my brother, who can cut it, Jim Crean.” So, he said, “Okay.” He basically trusted my judgment on that one. So, I gave him Tony Franklin and Jim Crean.

So, we got that together. And then, you know, he started giving us songs to learn, and all that. And then it started going sour, and I get a call from Derek, He said, “He fucked me. He canceled the gig.” Now, Derek gave me and Tony deposits. He didn’t give Jim a deposit yet, because Jim was just coming on board. He gave the two of us deposits. I said, “Well, look, I’ll call Tony. We’ll give you our deposits back,” he said, “That’s nothing. I gave Vinnie a lot of money as a deposit, and he’s not giving it back to me. He gave me a bunch of posters that he signed. He said, ‘sell these and you’ll make the money back.'” So, the guy got fucked out of thousands of dollars. Then I heard he was doing something in Nashville, charging something like $2,500 for everyone to come in, you know? And we did a gig there. I mean, my brother, we did a signing thing for a podcast convention. And we did a speaking gig and a masterclass at that same venue, and there Vinnie was, he had a few people, like five, or eight people, who paid that kind of money to see him, I said, “Can he even play?” I ended up hearing that he “played” some solos to a couple of tracks, signed some stuff and that’s it…for $2500.

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
So, that’s what went down. Ultimately, he should have been in the conversation with the greats. He had the talent. He was that good. He was a good songwriter and a great guitar player. Unfortunately, the ego will do you in, no matter who you are.

Carmine:
Exactly. I’m gonna be writing a book. There’s a new Led Zeppelin book out now, and the guy that wrote it is going to write my next book with me. It’s going to be called Guitar Zeus, The Book. He said, “Make a list of all the guitarists you’ve worked with.” I made a list and I really impressed myself. Vinnie is in there too. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Moving through the 80s now, I know your brother, Vinny, was offered the Ozzy Osborne gig at one point, and eventually, Tommy Aldridge recorded the drums for Bark At The Moon, but you ended up on tour for that record. How did you end up working with Ozzy?

Carmine:
They called me. I was promoting the Derringer/Appice album, and I got a call from my manager that Sharon Osborne wants to talk with me. So, I call Sharon, and she says, “I want you to join Ozzy’s band. Can you come to London? We’d like you to play with the band, and see how it goes.” So, I said, “OK,” and I went to London to play with Ozzy, and it sounded good. I knew Bob Daisley, I knew Jake E. Lee, and I knew Don Airey. So, we played and it was great, and I said, “Yeah, let’s do it,” and we worked out a deal. As part of the deal, I was gonna be doing master classes in America before the gigs. I’d have my own merch. All in the contract. All legal.

Now, before we did anything, I went to New York with Ozzy and Sharon, who left Ozzy in my care. As part of the contract, I was now the associate producer for Bark At The Moon. The drums had already been recorded by Tommy, but I came in to help get the sound together. I took care of Ozzy every day. I took him to the studio, and we’d walk to the studio, and he’d be walking around with diamond rings, I said, “Dude, take the fucking diamond rings off. You’re in New York. Don’t be a fucking idiot, you’re gonna get mugged. Take them all off, and put them in your pocket.” [Laughs]. You know, ’cause at the time, New York wasn’t a very safe place, in 1982. And so, we got into the studio and we did vocals with Ozzy two or three words at a time. I think it was at The Power Station. I think we came up with the idea to remake Tommy’s drums by hooking them to a PA and then hooking them up through the room mics to make the sound bigger and more ambient like I would have done it, and I worked on the vocals with Ozzy. So, my deal was associate producer, and I was supposed to get a bonus every time the record hit a sales goal.

Now, I was good buddies with Ozzy. I knew Ozzy since his first tour of America with Black Sabbath when they played with Cactus. Anyway, we did the European tour which went great. We came to America, I was gonna do the masterclasses and would give money to UNICEF. So, I was getting a lot of press, and Sharon didn’t like it. At the end of six or eight weeks, she calls me into her office and she said, “Your name is too big. You need to start your own band. So, starting Monday, Tommy Aldridge is joining the band. You’re fired.” I said, “Yeah? I got a signed contract,” and Sharon says, “OK, I’ll see you in court,” I said, “OK then.” She wouldn’t even pay to fly my drums back to L.A. I had to fly them back from Europe myself.

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
Wow…tough customer. Shortly, thereafter, a lot of people don’t realize that you played the drums on “Dogs Of War” by Pink Floyd. How did that go down? Because they had a pretty good drummer themselves in Nick Mason.

Carmine:
Yeah, well, that’s another weird one. I came into my house at the time, I had one of those answering machines with the tape, and there was a message from Bob Ezrin, who was producing Floyd’s record [A Momentary Lapse Of Reason], which I didn’t know at the time, he said, “I’ve got a track that’s screaming for Carmine drum fills.” So, I call Bob, and I said, “What’s going on? What’s the track? Who’s the band?” He goes, “Pink Floyd,” I said, “Wait, where’s Nick? Why isn’t he playing on the track?” Bob goes, “Nick will be there, but he has been racing his Ferrari’s, and his calluses are too soft. Jim Keltner is playing on the record too, but this track screaming for your fills, and we want some new blood. We’d love it if you came down.”

So, I got my tech, the same guy that was on the Ozzy tour. I called him up, and I said, “I need to get my drums to A&M Studios. I’m going to do a session with Pink Floyd.” So, we spent the whole day there. David Gilmore was there, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright was there. It was great. And then, when it was over, I said to Bob, “When can I hear what I did? I’d like to hear what it sounds like.” He said, “Yeah, okay. Just call me in a couple of weeks.” So, I call him a couple of weeks later, “How’s it going?” He goes, “Oh, one word — amazing.”“Okay, when can I hear the finished product?”“Call me in another week or so.” Another week goes by, I call him back, and he says, “One word — tremendous.”“When can I hear the finished product?”“I’m still working on it. Give me another call in a couple of weeks.” So, in the next couple of weeks, I didn’t call him and then I was up in Canada doing this movie called Black Roses. Anyway, I heard the Pink Floyd record was out. So, I bought a cassette, and I listened to it for the first time alone in my hotel room – I was blown away. I said, “Wow, number one song on this Pink Floyd album. I know it’s going to go gold and platinum, and everything.” So, that’s how it went down. Now I have another gold and platinum record for the studio wall here. [Laughs].

Andrew:
I wanted to touch on Blue Murder. That debut record is one of the most underrated Hard Rock albums of the era. It was an interesting time, it was a very saturated time, but retrospectively, I think most people who understand the genre know that’s a special record. Take me through the formation of Blue Murder.

Carmine:
First of all, I loved John Sykes in Whitesnake. In 1987, when they were doing the big Whitesnake album, he asked me to play drums on it. I couldn’t do it because I was signed to Capitol Records with King Kobra. Now, in those days, when you signed to a label, you can’t just jump ship and go to another label because you’re signed to this label. So, I said to them, “I have my own snake to deal with in King Kobra, why don’t you call Aynsley Dunbar?” So, they did. And that thing sold 27 million records and I loved it. Now, I loved John Sykes’s playing and I realized he did a lot of songwriting too, and I loved Tony Franklin with The Firm. I just loved his playing. Then I heard there’s a new band called “Blue Murder” with Ray Gillen, and Cozy Powell. I said, “Fucking Cozy gets all these cool gigs,” because back in the day, I was asked to join Rainbow too, but I couldn’t do it for the same reason – I was signed to MCA Records. So, they got Cozy.

Andrew:
Yeah, but the Appice brothers got the jump on Cozy in the end when you did join Blue Murder, and then Vinny took his spot in Sabbath in the early 90s. [Laughs].

Carmine:
Right! So, I heard about Blue Murder, and I was like, “I would fucking love to play in that band.” So, I had my eye on it. Then I heard Ray had left. Then I heard Cozy left too. I said, “Cozy left. How do I find these guys? I want to go play with these guys.” As luck would have it, my brother, Vinny, was going to London with Dio, to play four nights at the Odeon. I said “I’m going to go. I’m gonna go hang out with Vinny, and Dio, and somebody is going to know how to get a hold of Sykes, and Franklin.” Sure enough, I get a hold of their manager, who gave me Sykes’s number. So, I called him. I told him I was in London and would like to come up and play with them, and he said, “Great. Here’s the address, and directions.” I remember I had only one cassette with me, which was Permanent Vacation by Aerosmith. It was a three-hour drive there, and a three-hour drive back. I wore that tape out. [Laughs].

Anyway, I got there at four in the morning and Tony Franklin met me in the hotel that we’re gonna stay at. Around then, he was a bit of a drinker, and a druggie, and we went in, and he broke into the bar of the hotel, and we had some drinks. The next morning, we went to John Sykes’s house and Cozy’s drums were still there. We smoked the big hash joint, and then we played, and we had a freaking ball, man. We played for hours, and we took a break. So, they loved my style, and my fills, and they noticed it was very different than how Cozy would do it. So, John says, “Hey, look – me and Tony love your playing. If you want to be in, your in.” So, then we did the album, and Tony Martin was supposed to be the singer. And then on the day, we were all leaving to go to Vancouver and meet with the producer, Bob Rock, I had bought all kinds of Ludwig Drums, and had them flown up there, and then, at the last minute, Tony said he’s not doing it. So, we call Bob Rock, “So what do we do?” He says, “Come anyway, we’ll figure the singing out later.” Now, John had done the demos that got the deal. He had sung on the demos. So, after we did all the tracks and we took a break, we started auditioning singers, and couldn’t find anybody.

So, me and Tony talk to each other, “Let’s just talk to John, and let him sing.” So, we persuaded John to sing. We went back up there, and we did the vocals, finished it, and it came out sounding great. And then it came out. And we had all the pieces together. But management wasn’t doing anything, and we fired them. And then we got a manager when it was too late. And the record label wasn’t going to push the album, but we had spent $150,000 grand on the “Jelly Roll” video, we wanted to see it on MTV, and we wanted to hear it on the radio. So, we kept busting their balls until they did it. But it was the wrong plan. So, John thinks that David Coverdale had something to do with it because when John left Whitesnake, they parted as enemies. He thought Coverdale snuffed it out with Geffen because Whitesnake had just sold 27 million records, and he had more control. So, I left, and Tony left, and John tried to do a second Blue Murder album [Nothin’ But Trouble], and it didn’t sound like Blue Murder. So, John calls me and Tony back, and we did the second album, I got paid as a session guy. I think I played on eleven of the twelve tracks, or something like that. And then that came out and did nothing because Grunge came in.

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
There is a big groundswell these days for those types of Rock bands. You, Tony, and John are all still kicking…is there any chance we see a Blue Murder reunion?

Carmine:
We were going to do one, two, or three years ago. We started to rehearse, but then and John said he wanted to do the tour, but he wanted it to be more of a John Sykes playing Blue Murder tour. So, we left it at “You go out and do that. When you’re done with that, and you get that off your chest, then let’s do Blue Murder.” And so, he did, and then COVID hit.

Andrew:
So, it could still happen?

Carmine:
I don’t know. If we do, I won’t go to Europe anymore because I had some medical problems. When I did the tour in 2018 with my brother, I almost died on that tour, and they had to airlift me back to America. And the problem can still happen at any time, so, I’m not doing anything out of America anymore. So, if we do it, it’ll be a Blue Murder tour of America…with me anyway.

Andrew:
So, you’re working on a new King Kobra record, the first since 2013. You’ve got the Cactus record out this year. You’ve got Hangin’ & Bangin’ – what else?

Carmine:
The Guitar Zeus box set. The box set is awesome. It has every track that we ever recorded, including five tracks that were not released. Three of them we finished recently. I got Tommy Thayer on a track, “Mystified.” I got Ron “Bumblefoot” Blumenthal on another track. You know, I had another weird thing with that, I went to a Steve Vai Christmas party one time, and I didn’t get Steve on the album…bad timing. And Steve said, “Come into my office, I want to show you something. When I go on the road, I take all the Guitar Zeus CDs.” I said, “Wow, man. I’m sorry, I didn’t get you on.” He said, “The next one.” Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet. I mean, I should have called him for one of these on the box, but I didn’t think about it until somebody reminded me of that story.

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Andrew:
You’ll have to do another one then.

Carmine:
Yeah, I know, but nobody buys records anymore. You can’t make any money. You know, I paid big money for everybody on the album. I didn’t pay crap. I paid thousands of dollars to everyone who did a song. Some people didn’t want anything…Brian May…Richie Sambora, you know, guys that really didn’t need the money, they didn’t want it. I got Slash on…I was surprised he took the money, but it’s okay. I mean, I plan on paying everybody. I took the change at the end of it for myself. I made good money off it. And it was a great project. One of the best things I’ve done in my career.

Andrew:
Aside from that, what’s next on your docket, Carmine?

Carmine:
I’m producing this chick named Lucy G. She’s a really good Rock singer. And apparently, my manager said he’s got Cactus gigs on for the first quarter of next year. Then, I wrote three Christian songs because when I almost died, I was praying to the Lord to save me. I got into this amazing church down here. So, I wrote these Christian songs. I’m using the singer from the church, and it’s amazing. And I’ve been talking to my manager about getting these Christian songs out, under my name, and I’m going to feature the people in the church, who I’ve become really close with at the church. When I joined the church there, they had electric drums, and I said, “Dude, get rid of those. Let me get you some real drums.” So, I got him a beautiful drum kit. And now the drummer is so good that we’re going to write a Christian Rock instructional book on how to play Christian Rock. It’s a bit different. It’s more tribal than playing regular Rock.

Lastly, right now, I’m signed to Modern Drummer magazine. And next year is the 50th anniversary of my book, The Realistic Rock Drum Method. It’s gonna be on the cover of Modern Drummer. They’re doing a legends book with me as well, which is going to cover my whole career. So, that’s going to be coming out next year. It’s the 50th anniversary of my book and the 54th anniversary of my being in the business. You know, we’ve got a big year ahead in 2022.

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Interested in learning more about the deep catalog of Carmine Appice? Check out the links below:

All images courtesy of John Lappan PR

Be sure to check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vwmusicrocks.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Inspired by the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Lester Bangs, and Eddie Trunk, coupled with an immense passion for music, and a disposition for writing, freelance journalist Andrew Daly moved to found VWMusic in 2019. Over time, VWMusic has grown into a bustling music outlet harboring a staff who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles, interviews, and more. In addition to running VWMusic, Andrew is also an accomplished freelance journalist, currently writing for Copper Magazine, as well as a drummer, and lover of all things guitar.
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