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Carmine Appice Interview: The Legendary Drummer Keeps ‘Rock’ Hangin’ On

Brooklyn native Carmine Appice has attained one of the most illustrious rock resumes in music history. The accomplished drummer, singer, and songwriter continues to tour as a key member with classic rock legends Vanilla Fudge and Cactus. Appice will also be touring in 2014 with The Rod Experience, a historical tribute to Rod Stewart and his band featuring original members Phil Chen, Jimmy Crespo, and Danny Johnson. The band also features Rick St. James and Alan St. John. Carmine Appice joined Rod Stewart’s band in 1977 and co-wrote the mega hit “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Young Turks.”

Before John Bonham and Ian Paice …there was Carmine Appice.
Before John Bonham and Ian Paice …there was Carmine Appice.
www.carmineappice.com
Carmine Appice has attained one of the most illustrious rock resumes in music history.
www.carmineappice.com

Appice is also a member of the new supergroup Legacy X which features Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple) on lead vocals, Jeff Watson (Night Ranger) on guitar and Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder) on bass. A debut album is planned for release sometime in the spring this year.

Before John Bonham and Ian Paice …there was Carmine Appice. Since the mid 60’s, Carmine Appice has been respected as one of the greatest rock drummers in the world, and it’s not to ask what legendary musicians has Appice collaborated with over the years … it’s more like, what legendary musicians hasn’t Appice collaborated with over the years. The list would definitely be minuscule.

In 1972, Appice joined forces with guitar legend Jeff Beck (The Yardbirds) and Tim Bogert (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus) to form the internationally renowned Beck, Bogert & Appice.

In 1975, Appice joined KGB featuring Mike Bloomfield (Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Electric Flag) and Ric Grech (Family, Blind Faith, Traffic).

In 1983, he toured with Ozzy Osbourne to promote the Bark at the Moon release. After his stint with Ozzy, Appice formed the hard rock group King Kobra.

In 1988, Appice became a member of Blue Murder. The group featured various group members including John Sykes (Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake) and Tony Franklin (Roy Harper, The Firm).

Appice has also collaborated with the likes of … Pink Floyd, Ted Nugent, Pat Travers, Stanley Clarke and Michael Schenker … to name just a few.

Carmine’s younger brother is drummer Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, Rick Derringer). The brothers occasionally tour together billed as Drum Wars -The World’s Premiere Rock Drum Show!

Carmine Appice recently launched a new record label called Rocker Records. The labels first four digital offerings included two releases from Cactus, Live in Japan and Live in the USA, Bogert/Appice & Friends, and TNA featuring Appice with guitar hero Pat Travers live in Europe. Visit Rocker Records at www.rocker-records.com

Carmine also has an exciting new book project, his autobiography entitled Stick It! -Encounters with Rock Legends that should be released sometime this year.

I had the great pleasure of chatting with Carmine Appice recently about Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, The Rod Experience, Legacy X, Rocker Records, the new book, playing with Pink Floyd, and the inception of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.”

Here’s my interview with legendary drummer, singer, songwriter, and music pioneer … CARMINE APPICE.

Ray Shasho: Hello Carmine, how’s it going man?

Carmine Appice: “Hi Ray! It’s cold up here around the New York area but besides that it’s going pretty good.”

Ray Shasho: You know most of my family was from Bensonhurst.

Carmine Appice: “Oh really… that’s not too far from where I grew up.”

Ray Shasho: We’ve all seen the music industry deteriorate over the last twenty years or so. And just when I was about to give up all hope … legendary musician Carmine Appice creates his own record label?

Carmine Appice: “It’s a funny time to start a label …what people have been telling me. I know where the business is, we’re not out to sell millions of records, we’re just out to put out some cool product.”

Ray Shasho: Will the new label (Rocker Records) be actively searching for new talent to sign?

Carmine Appice: “A little of both. We’ve got these four releases including two releases from Cactus Live in Japan and Live in the USA, then there’s Bogert/Appice & Friends, TNA featuring Pat Travers live in Europe, and then the next batch is going to be a new Cactus record, Vanilla Fudge Live at B.B. Kings, a Cactus Live DVD from Japan, a group called The Lizards with the harmonica player from Cactus… and his band includes Bobby Rondinelli and they have Glen Hughes and Frank Marino as guests. Then my brother has a band with Carlos Cavazo and different members like Jimmy Bain of Dio … so we’re going to release that I think. Then also we have this new guitar player that is going on tour and opening up for Michael Schenker. So it depends … if we’re going to do new artists they have to be on the road, otherwise you can never sell anything.”

Ray Shasho: Carmine, you still continue to tour with both Vanilla Fudge and Cactus?

Carmine Appice: “Yes and I’m also doing a couple of new things …“The Rod Experience” which is going to be a historical show about Rod Stewart and the band from 1976 to 82. And then as a new band with Joe Lynn Turner, Tony Franklin, and Jeff Watson from Night Ranger called Legacy X. That’s on Frontier Records and they actually put it together. It’s like a supergroup for them and supposedly put a lot of money behind it. Joe and I actually started putting it together and originally it was going to be Rudy Sarzo or Pat Travers and we had Bruce Kulick from Kiss in there for a minute. But we were all looking for a little more commitment which was hard for me to give too. I have a Vanilla Fudge summer tour that may be happening and I just turned down a Cactus gig to go to Brazil because I have Rod Stewart show dates at the same time. It’s going to be a little juggling of itinerary. I’m thinking maybe I’ll get someone to fill in for me in Cactus for the Brazil date so they can still go. We still have the original guitar player and the singer and bass player have been with us for years.”

Ray Shasho: Carmine, you really got a lot going on these days.

Carmine Appice: “It’s funny because all these things I’ve been working on for a couple of years or so are all coming into play. Like the Joe Lynn Turner band we’ve been working on a year ago last summer. I’ve been working on the Rod Stewart show for about three years.”

Ray Shasho: “The Rod Experience” actually has some of the original band members from The Rod Stewart Group?

Carmine Appice: “That’s right; I’ve got every member from the group except the keyboard player and the singer. They all played with Rod. Phil Chen the bass player played with Rod when I played with Rod. Phil was on all the big hits that we did together. Danny Johnson played with Rod in 1980-81 and Jimmy Crespo not only played with Aerosmith but also played with Rod from 1993-96. So we all have our Rod Stewart stories and it’s going to be much like a historical trip. They’ll also be a video screen with tidbits of information. People will be able to watch the screen and listen to the music and see the show that was just like the show we did back then. It’s a party atmosphere, kicking out soccer balls and just having a good time.”

Ray Shasho: How extensive will “The Rod Experience” tour be … are you taking it worldwide?

Carmine Appice: “We’ll probably go worldwide because Jimmy Crespo’s wife works at The Venetian Hotel and they have properties over in Malaysia, Singapore …and all that and are already showing interest for us to bring it over there.”

Ray Shasho: Also in 2014 … you mentioned that Vanilla Fudge may be hitting the road?

Carmine Appice: “Yes, we have a European tour so far in March and may have a two week tour or so in August. I may do a few dates with Cactus, last year we did a lot of shows. We’ll lay back a little with Cactus and do a little more Vanilla Fudge. We didn’t do enough Vanilla Fudge last year. I’ll also be concentrating on Joe Lynn Turner’s Legacy X and “The Rod Experience.””

Ray Shasho: Carmine, you also have a book coming out sometime in 2014?

Carmine Appice: “I do, we’re about three quarters of the way through with that. That’s going to be called Stick It! -Encounters with Rock Legends. I got the writer who wrote Nikki Sixx’s book The Heroin Diaries and it’s on VH1 books. It’s been a fun ride and that’s why the book is going to be interesting. It’s not about one guy talking about one band. It’s also all the bands that opened up for Vanilla Fudge .Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper … all these guys opened up for us. Then going on to Cactus and our first gig with Hendrix, and our second gig was with The Who. Then playing with Jeff Beck and doing the Beck, Bogert & Appice thing. Groups like Tower of Power and Foghat opened up for us. Then there are all the stories that go along with it … sex-crazed and hotel-wrecking things that we did. Then with Mike Bloomfield and KGB… what a crazy guy he was. Then seven years of Rod Stewart and Ozzy. During Rod Stewart we ran into all of Hollywood elite … Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Tony Curtis, and all those types of people we used to hang out with. So it goes all over the place … then Ted Nugent and King Cobra, on tour with Kiss, and meeting my idol Buddy Rich.”

Ray Shasho: You played on A Momentary Lapse of Reason one of my favorite Pink Floyd albums. What was it like playing with Pink Floyd?

Carmine Appice: “It was fun! When I got the call from Bob Ezrin my first question was where’s Nick? He said Nick has been racing his Ferrari’s and his calluses are soft and quite honestly they wanted some new blood in there to give it a little bit of energy. So I said okay. When I went in they had the song on the four track, I played all day and kept playing the song and filled up two twenty four track machines of tape, thirty minutes each. So I probably had about two hours worth of performance. Then Bob edited it all together somehow.”

“When I called him to ask how it sounded he said in one word …“Daring!” Then when I called him back in a week or so I asked him again how it sounded and he said “Fabulous!” When I finally heard it, I was up in Canada doing a heavy metal movie called Black Roses in 1988, and I had to go downstairs into a record shop. I heard the Pink Floyd album when it came out and I bought a cassette. So I listened to it there alone in my room on my walkman and I was blown away. Then I got a gold and platinum record.”

Ray Shasho: Were you in the studio at the same time with David Gilmour?

Carmine Appice: “Oh yea, David was there, Richard Wright, Tony Levin was there and I did see Nick Mason. The weird thing about it was when I saw Pink Floyd touring for that album, I watched Nick basically playing my parts.”

Ray Shasho: How many tracks did Nick Mason play on A Momentary Lapse of Reason?

Carmine Appice: “I don’t think he played any. It was me and Jim Keltner. I only did “The Dog’s of War” and I think Keltner did the rest.”

Ray Shasho: It’s funny I used to play “The Dog’s of War” track for my daughter when she was little and she loved it. It scared the crap out of her but she still loved it.

(All Laughing)

Carmine Appice: “I know it is a little scary, when the drums came in, they came in like King Kong … and that’s what Bob wanted, the big monster drumming.”

Ray Shasho: Vanilla Fudge was such a huge influence on so many legendary rock groups. I remember Ritchie Blackmore saying that basically Deep Purple was Vanilla Fudge.

Carmine Appice: “It’s cool… we took them on tour back in those days too. So that was interesting also. We took them on tour, they did songs that tried to be like us and we all just became good friends. We played Radio City Music Hall with them a few years ago and that was awesome. It was great having our original band playing with those guys again.”

“But you’re right …Vanilla Fudge influenced so many bands and it’s amazing how we’re not even a peep mentioned in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They don’t even have our song in the playlist for hall of fame kind of songs. All these musicians … Clapton, Pete Townshend, Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant … they all remembered where they were when they first heard, “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” It made such an impression on everybody. George Harrison used to carry around the album to parties. I personally confirmed that with Paul McCartney.”

Ray Shasho: There are so many legendary rock bands from the 70’s that are having more success overseas these days … especially in Japan.

Carmine Appice: “Japan has their own domestic artists that are huge. It used to be that Japan didn’t have any domestic artists until the mid 90’s. All of a sudden they started getting their own artists. So all the American and UK artists who used to go there and play the Budokan are now playing smaller venues. But their artists are playing stadiums. There’s a group over there called B’z and they can play three stadium nights in every major city in Japan. We’re talking 150,000 people. It’s a singer and a guitar player. I went to see them in Japan as a guest, they’re friends of mine, and I think it was the night before or night after I saw Kiss over there. Kiss was playing at the stadium too. The B’z production was bigger than the Kiss production. It was ridiculous…it was so big. Over there they don’t travel around in big semis, they travel around in these sixteen to twenty foot trucks … so they must have had about a hundred trucks going from city to city … it was crazy. But there just huge over there.”

“There’s this guy Char who is the Jeff Beck of Japan. He was a big name. Me and Tim Bogert went over there and normally did like three thousand people. We played the Budokan with Char and did about twelve thousand people in Tokyo because of the combination. Beck, Bogert & Appice were really big in Japan. We had an offer to do one gig over there for a million dollars but Jeff was doing other stuff with Clapton and couldn’t do it.”

Ray Shasho: Carmine, in Vanilla Fudge, whose idea was it to cover The Supremes “You Keep Me Hangin’ On?

Carmine Appice: “That was Mark and Timmy. We used to slow songs down and listen to the lyrics and try to emulate what the lyrics were dictating. That one was a hurtin’song; it had a lot of emotion in it. “People Get Ready” was like a Gospel thing. “Eleanor Rigby” was sort of eerie and churchlike …like a horror movie kind of thing. If you listen to “Hangin’ On” fast… by The Supremes, it sounds very happy, but the lyrics aren’t happy at all. If you lived through that situation, the lyrics are definitely not happy.”

Ray Shasho: I think that’s ingenious how the band did that.

Carmine Appice: “Because we weren’t writing songs, we were writing music. On the final episode of The Sopranos they used “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” It opened up with the organ and the buildup part and that music was ours. We wrote that, it wasn’t in the song. The only part of the song … when one of the heads of the family was getting killed … that’s when they used the bridge part and the singing. The other two parts was our music and we should’ve copywrote those interludes, so we would get paid as writers. So we didn’t get paid a dime for that. We got paid the performance royalty or the artist royalty as they say.”

“Same thing in the movie Zodiac, I went to see the movie with my girlfriend and we were sitting there watching it and there’s a scene where he’s killing someone in a taxi cab, I’m looking at it and the music comes on and I say… I know this music what is it? It was a Vanilla Fudge piece that we used as the introduction to the song “Bang Bang” on the first album. So again, we got paid for the artist royalty and they paid Sonny Bono for the writing. Not a quarter note of his melody or lyric was in that piece of music. It was our music. Now we title all our interludes and sort of gave them to our publishers and said … okay, if anybody uses this we want to get paid for it.”

Ray Shasho: Carmine, you co-wrote a tune that became a mega hit during the disco era. Talk about you and Rod’s hit … “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy.”

Carmine Appice: “Huge… still huge! Rod used to listen to the charts and say… “I want a song like that.” At the time he pointed to “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones. So I went back and had a keyboard in my house. I had this drum machine and this drum groove and put these chords to it and everything. Then I went to my buddy Duane Hitchings house and he had a regular studio. So we put it down and he played keyboard and made it sound better. Then we gave it to Rod. Originally when we cut it… it had three guitars, one keyboard, drums, and I think we had percussion. So it sounded very rock and roll. Then we found out that the producer wanted to make it more commercial, so he put strings on it. We had David Foster as the keyboard player on it … how about that?”

Ray Shasho: Are you playing drums on the original track?

Carmine Appice: “I’m playing drums on it; Phil Chen on bass, all the guitar players from Rod’s band … Gary Grainger, Jim Cregan, Billy Peek, and David Foster on keyboards. It originally sounded pretty rock and roll, but once they put a full orchestra on there and had another girl singing two octaves higher… then everything thinned out. So it ended up not being a heavy rock disco- type of thing like “Miss You” but ended up being more commercial. But you know what … it went to number one in every country around the world. And it still makes a fortune. When you add up all the percentages that different entities have, the song is probably making around three or four hundred thousand dollars a year. It’s unbelievable!”

Ray Shasho: You also co-wrote another huge Rod Stewart hit “Young Turks?”

Carmine Appice: “Young Turks” was the very first pop song to have a drum machine that sounded like drums. There’s an all behind drum machine and I put a Hi-hat and cymbals on it and programmed the drum machine. Me and Duane Hitchings put that track together in his studio. We used the same sound for that song in the title track Tonight I’m Yours. It has the same kind of sound.”

Ray Shasho: Carmine, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?

Carmine Appice: “I’d probably say Led Zeppelin. I always liked their music and style. John Bonham played very close to my style. I think I would be a good fit.”

Ray Shasho: Carmine, thank you for being on the call today but more importantly for all the incredible music you’ve given us and continue to bring.

Carmine Appice: “Thanks for diggin’ it … take care Ray.”

Carmine Appice official website

Rocker Records official website

‘The Rod Experience’ official website

Vanilla Fudge official website

Cactus official website

Carmine Appice on Facebook

Carmine Appice on Myspace

Carmine Appice on Twitter

Very special thanks to Chip Ruggieri of Chipster PR

Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at rockraymond.shasho@gmail.com

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