HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: September 2014. We had the great honour to talk with a legendary drummer: Carmine Appice. He is best known as a member of Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Beck, Bogert & Appice and Rod Stewart’s backing band. He has also played with Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd, Pat Travers, Michael Schenker, Ted Nugent, Blue Murder, Rick Derringer, Paul Stanley, Marty Friedman, Sly Stone and many others. Read below the very interesting things he told us:
Cleopatra Records is releasing rare live and studio recordings by Cactus, Bogert & Appice and Travers & Appice. Are you happy with the release of this stuff?
Yes, I am. I mean, considering what they are, the object was to get out what were lying around and were not really released. The Bogert & Appice stuff was basically stuff that I had lying around and we had recorded it in the early 2000s and never released. And we decided to put a label together to get out a lot of stuff that I had and that my friends had, that we never released. So, basically what we did was: the Bogert & Appice one (ed: “Friends”) was an EP which had 7 songs laying around and the Cactus lives: “Live in Japan” and “Live in the USA”. We recorded “Live in Japan” in Japan and we decided to actually do it and release it. And “Live in the USA” was something that another company in Europe released and they didn’t have license to do it. So, we decided that we release that also. As far as I am happy, I’m pretty happy with that all, but you know, there are not like big budget items. We didn’t spend $100.000, but I’m very happy with the playing, the sound is really good and the performances are awesome.
You just finished a summer tour with Vanilla Fudge. What are you future plans?
Next week, we are going to finish a new Vanilla Fudge album, called “The Spirit of ‘67” and we did all those songs from 1967. My brother Vinny (ed: Black Sabbath –drums) and I, we played a show in New York City, called “Drum Wars”. We are going to release “Drum Wars” live CD also. We don’t have any “Drum Wars” product out there and it was a really cool show that we recorded and we decided to get the tapes and work on it. The sound is really good, we have mixed everything and we are releasing that. Then, the next thing I do is I have a show called “The Rod Experience”, which is basically three members of the Rod Stewart group. We did the 1979 “Blondes Have More Fun” tour and we play pretty much all the songs that we did in 1979. We have a guy who looks and sounds like Rod. So, it’s a kind of historical tribute show featuring an all star group and members of the Rod Steward group. I’m going to take that to China in November and that’s fun. I believe we are coming to Greece with the Metal All Stars tour. I am gonna featuring in this tour along with Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society), Joey Belladona (Anthrax) and Gus G. (Ozzy Osbourne). I believe this December we will come to Greece. I don’t have the dates in front of me, that should be fun. I have a lot of cool stuff to do until the rest of the year.
How important was the cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (The Supremes) to the career of Vanilla Fudge?
I think that was historical. That was very important. I don’t think we would have done it without having that song as a hit.
Did you feel a bit nervous the first time you played with Vanilla Fudge on The Ed Sullivan Show?
Yeah, I was very nervous because you had 50 million people watching you live. We were nervous until we had to go to the show.
Do you think Cactus should have been more popular?
Yes, I do. I thought it was gonna be a lot more popular than it was. Unfortunately, for whatever reason it didn’t happen that way. A lot of people feel that way too. A lot of musicians that loved Cactus like Richard Fortus (ed: guitarist) who plays with Gun N’ Roses now. He was very surprised that Cactus didn’t become a very huge band. He’s a ‘70s fan. We did pretty good. There were a lot of areas where we had 5.000 people. But that band wasn’t huge everywhere.
Was Jeff Beck an easy-going person to work with?
Wasn’t easy (laughs), to say the least. Talented, great musician, legendary. That’s why the three of us got together (ed: Beck, Bogert & Appice) because we all were legendary on our own instruments. We all liked each other because we were in great bands. But Jeff, has always been a kind of guy who wasn’t satisfied. He kept moving away from things and doing crazy things. He really hurt a lot of Beck, Bogert & Appice fans.
Was it an interesting experience for you to work with George Martin (The Beatles producer) during the early stages of Jeff Beck’s “Blow by Blow” album?
Wow, it was awesome working with him. I was really disappointed that I’m not on that record. I recorded these songs and I was very excited to do that because I turned Jeff Beck onto that kind of music. When we were in BBA (Beck, Bogert & Appice) we used to listen to Mahavishnu Orchestra and Chick Corea and all that stuff and basically for me that was the music of the day in 1972. I used to play these records all the time and Jeff Beck would ask: “What is this?” and I would tell him: “Oh, I love this! I love this!” When BBA broke up I went to England simply to work with Jeff and develop that kind of music with him. But it ended up as a Jeff Beck solo album and they screwed me up, you know.
That’s why I’m asking you, because you are not on the album.
I wanted a featuring credit on the album. I had a contract with Epic and in BBA I was as an equal member. Jeff’s management wanted me to be on the album as a sideman and I couldn’t do this. On the album there is my performance, my songwriting and I got screwed up for all of it. I should have sued Jeff but I decided not to do that. They wanted to have only Jeff’s name on it. In the long run, it really didn’t matter because we never did anything more anyway and in our age now, it doesn’t really matter.
Do you remember your meeting with George Harrison at Electric Lady Studios when Cactus were recording there?
Oh, yes. Definitely. He walked in and said “Hi” to Eddie Kramer (ed: Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones engineer) who was working with us. The whole band was extremely happy because George Harrison came in. George Harrison asked Jim McCarty (ed: Cactus, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels –guitar): “Which is the name of the band?” and he said: “Hi, my name is Jim McCarty” and George said: “No, I asked the name of the band, Jim”. Yes, it was very nice that a member of The Beatles walked in and said “Hi” to our band. I had met three of The Beatles: I met George, I met Paul and I met… (ed: pause)
I never met Ringo.
Wow. Had you met John Lennon?!?!
I met John Lennon. My brother worked with him a little bit.
Did you enjoy the Vanilla Fudge tour with The Jimi Hendrix Experience?
Back in those days everybody knew each other. It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about business. In those days it was about music, we all wanted to have fun, we all were young, we were all in our 20s and we had a really good time. It was exciting. Everything was very new. The whole business model was new. Playing arenas was new. All that stuff was new at that time. We knew all of them. We had a great time and I got along with Jimi, I knew Jimi before he was Jimi Hendrix. I got along with Jimi well. I know that some nights we blew them up on stage. We had great press reviews.
Were you flattered when Jimi Hendrix used your amps? I’ve seen a great photo of Jimi with your and Mark Stein’s (Vanilla Fudge –keyboards, vocals) names written on the amps!!
He didn’t actually use the amps, but they were there on stage. But Mitch Mitchell (ed: Jimi Hendrix Experience –drums) used my amp. He used my drum monitors. We called them “drum amps”. Mitch Mitchell used mine. But that picture of Jimi Hendrix next to the amps with my name and Mark Stein’s name written on them, it’s a classic picture. It shows to everybody that we were there.
Can you tell us a few things about your friendship with John Bonham?
When we met John Bonham and Led Zeppelin nobody knew who they were. They were totally unknown. I was two years older than John and I was two years in the business. I had my endorsements together and everything and used brand new stuff. I was also the kind of guy who tried and helped younger guys a lot. So, we became friends and I helped him getting endorsement and we stayed friends until he died.
Did you play the song “How Many More Times” live with Led Zeppelin when Vanilla Fudge toured with them? I’ve read that during “How Many More Times” the rhythm section used to change.
I played “How Many More Times” only once. I played many times with Led Zeppelin. I can’t even count how many times it was. I don’t know. The first tour was 10-15 shows and the second summer tour was all summer. I don’t know. It could have been 30-40 shows.
How did it happen to record “Dogs of War” from Pink Floyd’s album, “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”?
Well, Bob Ezrin (ed: Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel producer) called me and told me that the band he was producing had a track that was screaming for Carmine drum fills. And I asked what it was and he said: “Pink Floyd”. I asked: “What happened to Nick Mason?” and he said: “He’s gonna be there but he’s racing cars, we have a lot of tracks and we need some new blood here”. That was it.
Why you played with Ozzy Osbourne for a so short period of time?
Because Sharon Osbourne (ed: Ozzy’s wife and manager) fired me. She said my name was too big. Because I was getting a lot of press in America, she didn’t like it and she fired me. I had to sue her because of the contract that I had. So, I needed to start my own band and I did. I started King Cobra.
Do you have any memories of your jam with Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter?
Oh, yeah. I will always remember that. I was shoved down a bottle of Southern Comfort booze right down my throat. I almost fell off my drum stool. She said: “Come on guys, kick my ass”. I knew her from Big Brother. From the days we played with Big Brother & the Holding Company in San Francisco. You know, obviously she was heavily on drugs and booze.
You knew everybody. Who is the most talented person you have ever seen?
I can’t say only one person. I mean, come on: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page. I just named a couple (laughs).
Is it true that Paul McCartney was a Vanilla Fudge fan?
I don’t know if he was but he told me that George Harrison was a huge fan and he used to carry our album around parties in London. He played it to everybody and he went to parties with a Vanilla Fudge album in his hand. I heard a rumour that Paul McCartney was too.
Would you like to do more things with Blue Murder and John Sykes (Thin Lizzy)?
Yes, I would love to but I don’t know if ever gonna happen but what I do right now is a mix for a band called RATED X. They are: Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow, Deep Purple), Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder –bass) and two guitar players, not big names but really tremendous players. It’s coming out in November, it’s called RATED X and it sounds like Blue Murder with Joe Lynn Turner singing.
What was the most important thing you learned during the period you played with Rod Stewart?
Writing the song “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” I never wrote such a successful song in my career. It went #1 in all countries and it is still doing well. Every song that we played, every album, sold 5 million and that’s why I have a tribute show because we never get to play those songs any more: songs we wrote, songs we promoted, songs that we recorded. There is Rod’s catalogue that we never get to play. Now, with our tribute show I get to play all the old songs that I played with Rod and it’s a lot of fun.
Did you get on well with Led Zeppelin’s manager, Peter Grant?
Oh yeah, no problem. I think he was fine. And our manager got along with him and that’s why we had to give permission to have Led Zeppelin on the road with us and he was fine with it.
What kind of music are you listening to at the moment?
I listen to all kinds of stuff. I’m listening to some crazy gospel music. I’m listening to rock music like Gov’t Mule and then Planet of the Abts. A lot of different kinds of music.
A huge “THANK YOU” to Carmine Appice for his time and to Billy James for his valuable help.
Official Carmine Appice website: www.carmineappice.net
Official Carmine Appice Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CarmineAppiceHimself