By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
During his extraordinary 48 year career, legendary drummer/percussionist, Carmine Appice, has collaborated with an impressive group of A-list rock royalty. This includes the likes of Rod Stewart, Ozzy, Ted Nugent, Jeff Beck, and Michael Schenker, to name a few. Carmine’s unique, hard-hitting drumming style has also influenced thousands of drummers over the years. Even Led Zeppelin’s late drummer, John Bonham, credits Carmine’s work in Vanilla Fudge on being a major influence on his own style.
Now, at 67 years old, Carmine shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. He currently still tours and performs many shows during the year with Vanilla Fudge and his “Drum Wars” project, featuring his younger brother and classic rock drummer, Vinny Appice.
During the next few weeks, the Appice brothers are touring with Drum Wars, and hitting the east coast of the USA. In addition to the Appice brothers, the Drum Wars band also includes Buffalo, NY award-winning vocalist, Jim Crean. A Buffalo, NY area show is scheduled for Monday, April 28th, at the Cove in Depew, NY, and promises to be a great night of hard rock and heavy metal. This show will feature music from many of the bands that the Appice brothers have played in over the years.
What follows is an exclusive RMS interview with the amazing, rock music drumming pioneer, Carmine Appice.
RockMusicStar: Carmine, your “Drum Wars” show, featuring your brother -Vinny, Buffalo, NY award winning vocalist -Jim Crean, and yourself will be performing in the Buffalo, NY area on April 28th. I’m really looking forward to this; from what I’ve watched on Youtube, it looks like it’s going to be a really cool event.
Carmine Appice: Yes, it’s going to be great! Those shows are a lot of fun. It’s very unique, as well. Most people have never seen anything quite like this.
RMS: Right. I think that it’s a great concept. Is it an actual battle, and is there a declared winner at the end?
CA: No, there’s no winner. In the old days, they used to call these “drum battles.” Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich used to do them at different places all around the country. But, instead of calling it a “drum battle,” I thought, “Drums Wars” was a better and more descriptive title of what we are doing. Rock music is much more aggressive than the jazz thing that they did. We do all heavy metal and hard rock music, and it’s pretty cool.
RMS: Have you thought about releasing a CD or DVD with this project?
CA: We do have a DVD that we did in 1995, and we updated that a few years ago. We converted it from VHS to DVD, and added some more footage and interviews. So, we will have a DVD for sale at the merch booth. We also have some songs to record for, maybe, an EP. We should have one out by the end of this year.
RMS: With both you and your brother having such a vast catalog of songs, how difficult was it to come up with a set list?
CA: Well, with “Drum Wars,” it was kind of an experimental thing. We have done a lot of these shows now. We have done 20 shows in Europe; last year, we did five shows in Canada. We did three shows in upstate New York. We did the M3 festival, and we did a bunch of gigs all along the country. So, through trial and error, we built the show up. We now have an intro tape and a backdrop. So, it looks good. The songs on the set list came about from playing. For example, we used to do the song, “Evil” by Cactus. But, we soon realized that most of the audiences coming our shows were real, heavy metal audiences. So, we decided to start performing “Bark at the Moon” instead.
RMS: For the upcoming “Drum Wars” dates, you have a vocalist from Buffalo, NY –Jim Crean. Why did you decide to have Jim take on the lead singer responsibilities?
CA: When we play out, we usually have local musicians that we choose. Or, the promoter grabs us the guitar player, bass player, and singer from the opening band to perform classic songs with us. Well, when we played in the WNY area last year, Jim was the singer for us on that date, and he did a really good job! He expressed interested in doing more gigs with us. He basically said, “Wherever you have a gig, let me know, and I’ll be there.” I said, “Great.” Now, instead of having different singers every show, we now have someone who is really good and knows the show. It’s awesome. He’s a good singer, a nice guy, and a great organizer.
RMS: You also start to build band chemistry by having the same musicians.
CA: Well, yeah. In California, we have a certain bunch of guys we use. In New York, we have a certain bunch of guys that we use. Now we can use Jim, because we always had difficulty finding a singer, anyways. It makes it so much easier. Three people know the whole show now, instead of just two. The singer is an important part of the show; not just with singing, but with communicating with the audience, as well. Jim does a great job and really knows what he is doing.
RMS: Yes, he is great. Now, you have shown no signs of slowing down, whatsoever. When most musicians your age are playing just a handful of gigs a year, or even retiring, you are out touring all the time, and in several different bands. Not only are you touring with “Drum Wars,” but, you just did a tour of Europe with Vanilla Fudge.
CA: Yeah, right now I’m in Florida ,and tonight I’m doing a clinic down here. The next three days, I have a shows with Vanilla Fudge. Then, I’m going to take a couple days off with my wife here, in Florida, and hang out. But, that’s what I love to do; I love to play. I’m enjoying life because I’m still playing. And, as long as I can still play, I’m going to continue to do it.
RMS: That’s great that you still have that passion.
CA: Oh, yeah. Big time!
RMS: Your style of drumming is very physically demanding. Have you had to make any adjustments to your playing?
CA: I think because of my age, maybe some of my speed is a little slower. But there are other things that I have sped up, that I never did before; some technical things. I had two rotator cuff surgeries because I had my cymbals high up, and I would pound them up in the air. Vinny, my brother, had the same surgery. So, I brought all the cymbals down. It doesn’t looks as cool, but it’s better for my health. I’ll probably bring them back up in another year, when my right shoulder heals up.
RMS: After your surgery, how long did you have to wait to perform again?
CA: Each time was four months.
RMS: Wow, that must have been difficult.
CA: Yeah, tell me about it. I had to use only my business chops during that time. I did record deals, publishing deals, and those kind of things.
RMS: Some people may not know that you have your own record label now.
CA: Yes, it’s called “Rocker Records.” It’s distributed by E1, and my physical distributor is Cleopatra Records. The first four releases were digital through E1. They were: two Cactus live releases, one live in Japan, and one live in New York. A live record of me and Pat Travers in New York, and a new one with me, and Tim Bogert, and friends. I also have a new wiz kid guitarist that I signed named Ethan Brosh. He is going to be playing in “Drums Wars” in your neck of the woods. He is going to be playing “Bark at the Moon” with us. So, he is going to follow us around for a while. The tours that he wanted to go on last year didn’t work out, so now we can make up for that.
RMS: Just this last week, there was a live CD set that was released from Rod Stewart. A lot of the music on it was recorded when you were in his band from 1976-82. What are your memories in performing in the Rod Stewart band during that time period?
CA: I think that time period was the pinnacle of his career, and my career, as well. It was awesome! It was great playing with him. He was the greatest voice and greatest frontman in rock. I’m doing a tribute to those days in a new band I put together, called “The Rod Experience.” We have our first gig next month. If you go to theRodExperience.com you can see what I’m talking about. I have Danny Johnson, Phil Chen, and Jimmy Crespo, and myself in the band. The four of us all played in Rod’s band at one point or another. Me and Phil played together for five years. And then, Danny came in after Phil left for two years. Jimmy Crespo was with Rod for two and a half years. We are doing a show like we used to do back in the day. It’s a lot of energy. We are putting together lights and a video presentation behind it with all the historical things that have to do with Rod and the band. We even have a white stage, like we did with Rod. I really think that this could develop into a big show.
Rod doesn’t really do that stuff anymore and play like that anymore. He’s doing, like you said earlier, laying back and enjoying his life. He’s enjoying playing Frank Sinatra-style stuff, which is a lot easier than what he did back in the day. But, we are going to try to recreate what we did in the 70s, lots of energy and kick ass rock n’ roll. We wrote a lot of songs, performed them, and appeared in a lot of those videos with Rod. Now, we get to play them again, because, for the longest time, we didn’t play them. Song like, “Hot Legs” and, “Passion;” we never played after leaving the Rod Stewart band. “Passion” was one of my favorite songs.
RMS: Do you perform any of those songs in Drum Wars?
CA: We play, “Do You Think I’m Sexy,” but we play it heavy. It’s very cool.
RMS: Yeah, I can’t wait to hear that one. I know that you have been very busy with all of your projects, but have you ever thought about writing an autobiography? I’m sure that you would have some great stories to share.
CA: Funny that you would ask that because I just finished it. I had a deal with VH1 books, but unfortunately, when we finished it , VH1 went out of business. I had the same co-writer, Ian Gittins, that co-wrote the “Heroine Diaries” with Nikki Sixx. And, he did a great job; it’s a great book. We have just started soliciting to get a deal. But, it came out really awesome.
RMS: Does it pretty much cover your entire career?
CA: Yes, it does. The book is going to be called, “Sex, Drums and Rock & Roll.”
RMS: Are there going to be any people that will be pissed off at you after they read it?
CA: You never know. Sharon Osbourne probably will be. (Laughs)
RMS: Well, it was bullshit the way that she treated you when you played in the OZZY band in 1984. They should have been thankful to have a drummer like you in their band.
CA: Yeah, I know. That’s how I open the book up. But, they knew from the beginning that I do other things on the road like drum clinics. They knew all of that. I don’t think that she liked the fact that I was making money on her dime. I was out there doing classes in the afternoon, then getting on stage and playing with OZZY during the evening. I was getting press and publicity, and she didn’t like it. So, after a while, she fired me. She told me to start my own band because my name was too big. I said, “Ok, thanks.”
RMS: Complete bullshit.
CA: Yeah it was. But, we worked it out. But, I don’t want to give away the rest of the story, but it’s all in the book.
RMS: What was the state of mind of OZZY and the band members at that time? Was there a lot of drug use during that period, 1984?
CA: No, not really. Sharon was trying to keep it really clean. Our opening act was Mötley Crue, and they were a new band, and that was their first big tour. You had a young fresh band looking for groupies, and there were none backstage. Everything was clean backstage. All of that is also in the book.
RMS: Last question for you Carmine. Before you joined the OZZY band, you where in the Ted Nugent band in 1982. What was that experience like?
CA: It was great! I wanted to be in the band longer. I don’t really know why it didn’t go on. I was always busy doing other things, but it was fun playing with Ted. We had a great time. He saw me perform on the American Music Awards with Rod Stewart; we played the song, “Young Turks.” He told me that, when I was done playing wimpy rock, and “When you want to play a man’s rock, give me a call.” So, that’s what I did. We did an album and a tour, and it was great. I was really in my prime at that time. But again, get the book, and you can read all about it.
Special thanks to Jim Crean for setting up this interview. Also thank you to Dana Kaiser.