Carmine Appice is a legendary drummer and has an impeccable career that has lasted over forty five years. He’s been apart of the highly influential Vanilla Fudge, toured with Ozzy Osbourne, just released an incredible King Kobra record, and has influenced and inspired many drummers in rock history. I spoke with Carmine to learn more about him, his music tastes, and his massive impact as an iconic musician.
Alex Obert: First of all, a bold statement in your career, what does it mean to you to be one of John Bonham’s favorite drummers?
Carmine Appice: It’s nice. But it’s not like I strive on it or anything. It’s nice that the timing worked out the way it did. He came out two to two and a half years after I did. He listed me as one of his idols. I helped him and took him under my wing. It went beyond that, actually, because we were friends. Back in those days, we were all friends, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon, John Bonham, we all knew each other. The drummers today, they’re all big, giant fans of John Bonham. I wasn’t a fan, I was more of a friend.
Alex Obert: How did you bond with Led Zeppelin when they opened for Vanilla Fudge?
Carmine Appice: We were the headlining band and they were a new band. They were unknown, John Bonham and Robert Plant were totally unknown. John Paul Jones was unknown in this country. He was known in Europe. But Jimmy Page was in The Yardbirds, we played gigs with him, we had the same lawyer. That’s how Led Zeppelin ended up having the same lawyer as us. It’s been more of being friends than peers.
Alex Obert: Speaking of Vanilla Fudge, how was it playing B.B. King’s this past January?
Carmine Appice: It was alright. It wasn’t as filled as it usually was, but there was a week and a half, two weeks of advertising. It was their idea, they called us out of the blue and said, “Look, we think New York is gonna be jam packed on that weekend. Could you guys play for us on the thirtieth?” I was in L.A. and I had to come in earlier to New York than I was gonna come. So we did it and thought it was good. There’s enough people to warrant a good gig. The owner said he was very happy with the turnout. So I know it wasn’t like a normal gig, it would have normally been sold out, but we didn’t have a lot of time. They wanted to have somebody good with a name that people recognize playing that night. So they see the marquee, you get some people in there. He was happy, so we were happy. The fans gave us a great reception as usual.
Alex Obert: What is it that you enjoy about New York City?
Carmine Appice: Well, we’re from New York. Vanilla Fudge is from New York, we’ve always done well here. Actually, done well here with all my bands. Cactus does well here too. My brother did well here. It’s just hometown stuff.
Alex Obert: What do you do in New York City aside from playing gigs?
Carmine Appice: Well my girlfriend and I also have a house in Connecticut, so we usually stay during the week in the city and go up to Connecticut on the weekend. We went to go see Motown the Broadway play the other day. We go to the movies, I go to the Iridium, I’ve seen a bunch of my drummer friends there in the last five weeks. We run a show called The Gong Show Live, which is a version of the TV show that was famous. We run that once a month at The Cutting Room. My girlfriend is a radio talk show host who works on all different stations like ABC, WOR, and Fox News. We’re in tune with the city.
Alex Obert: What are your experiences with Madison Square Garden?
Carmine Appice: I’ve seen a lot of people play there and I’ve played there myself many times. I’ve played there with Rod Stewart and Ozzy on separate occasions. I played the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Show in 1988 with Vanilla Fudge. I played there with Cactus, The Faces were performing that night as well. I’ve seen Black Crowes there. I saw the Cream reunion show there. Been there many, many, many times.
Alex Obert: You mentioned Ozzy, how was it set up that you were the drummer for his 1983 tour? Also, what was it like?
Carmine Appice: It was a great band. Jake E. Lee, me, Bob Daisley, and Don Airey. Ozzy was probably the weakest link in the band! (laughs) Ozzy at the time was not as together as he is now. This was before he was on that TV show, when he went psycho on that TV show. That’s pretty much what he was like on stage. During the day, he was actually okay. By the time evening came, he would be a bit out of it from drinking and stuff, he’d forget lyrics, that kind of stuff. But he’s a nice guy. His wife actually said my name was too big and got Tommy Aldridge back. I replaced Tommy Aldridge who did the album, Bark at the Moon. I was also an associate producer or something like that. With the production credit, I was also gonna receive financial rewards when we hit gold and platinum and all that stuff. But in the end, she scammed me. I ended up having to go to court. It wasn’t a nice ending! (laughs)
Alex Obert: Also on that tour, do you have any memories with Motley Crue?
Carmine Appice: Like when Led Zeppelin opened for Vanilla Fudge, I took Tommy under my wing. At the time, I was writing articles for Circus Magazine, my section was called “Drum Beat”. I used to take a band that had a new single or a single that was happenin’ and would write out the drum parts. Tommy Lee was one of the first ones I did that with. He recognized the fact that I was the first guy to write about him individually, period. Everything was always about the band and I was the first guy to write about him. So I took him under the wing and there were certain things that he did that he stole from John Bonham that John Bonham took from me. I told him, “Where’d you get that?” He said, “I got it from John Bonham.” I said, “Well, directly, you got it from me cause John got it from me.” And he didn’t believe me. So when we got back from the tour, I took him over to my house. He was living in an apartment, I had a pretty big four thousand square foot house with saunas and gyms, big garages and everything. He came into the house and was like, “Dude, I’ve gotta get a pad like this one day!”
Then he proceeded to get blown away by the videos I showed him. I showed him Vanilla Fudge on The Ed Sullivan Show, both times. The first time was before Zeppelin even came out, you see me hanging on and doing the stick trick where I spin the stick and then I hit the cymbal and grab it with my arm. When John Bonham and I would tour together, he’d go, “Hey, look at this!” He would do my move and I would laugh on the side of the stage. He did it all the time and people like Tommy Lee stole it from John. So after I showed him the video, he became a believer! (laughs) It’s the same thing, Tommy Lee was green, he was new, he was happenin’, but he was still new and we became friends.
Alex Obert: Tying into Vanilla Fudge, how did you approach the covers that the band performed?
Carmine Appice: We try and match the music to the lyrics. If you listen to the lyrics, especially back then on the first album, you’ll see that You Keep Me Hangin’ On was a very dramatic kind of lyric. It’s not a happy lyric like the music portrayed in the original. So we took the music, slowed it down, made it more dramatic, gave the music and vocals more drama. It became what we call a hurtin’ song. And with Bang Bang, it was a song that needed to have a little more emotion put into it. People Get Ready is more like a gospel song, so we did like a churchy thing. It was a tale about a church and graveyards and stuff, it got very eerie, as we did with Season of the Witch. That was the idea, just match the music and the lyrics.
Alex Obert: Another one of your projects, how did you connect with Paul Stanley to play Take Me Away on his solo album?
Carmine Appice: He called me. We were friends. The very, very first time I met Paul, I was playing with Leslie West. We were opening for KISS on that very first arena tour. At the time, he had told me that the way KISS was born was that they saw Cactus and Alice Cooper play, I think it was at the Commack Arena in Long Island. He said, “If we had a band with the energy of Cactus and the theatrics of Alice Cooper, this would be some band!” That was way back in ’75. I don’t think they would say that anymore! (laughs) They’re too big now. They’re way bigger than Cactus. But anyway, we were friends and my manager that I had for a long time from ’78 till ’91, he used to work for Aucoin Management. This came through Paul, I needed a new manager and Paul recommended I go with Bill Aucoin, and I did. I ended up having Bill’s partner, Alan Miller, manage me for the rest of my career until ’91. And in that era came Paul’s solo album, so I was really attached to the whole KISS family at that point.
Alex Obert: Throughout your illustrious career, you have also drummed for King Kobra.
Carmine Appice: King Kobra came after I got fired from Ozzy. I was told, “Your name is too big, you need to start your own band.” And that’s what I did. It did okay. It wasn’t huge, but made a lot of money with deals and I put together the band the way it should be. I put money back into it. It started the careers of everybody in that band, even the road crew. The road crew went on to become big in their area. One guy went on to become a really big light guy in the whole country, doing all the big light shows for Brooks & Dunn and Reba McEntire and George Strait. His brother went on to become a stage manager for the same kind of acts. The other guys in the band went on to become BulletBoys, Johnny Rod went with W.A.S.P., so I started a bunch of careers there.
Alex Obert: With the band’s comeback within the past few years, what are your thoughts on the music video for Have A Good Time off of the 2013 album, King Kobra II?
Carmine Appice: I came up with the chorus idea to have a good time. There’s so much crap going on in the world. You’ve either gotta say, “Just have a good time and fuck all this shit.” or you’re gonna be so depressed about it everyday watching the news and stuff. We thought that that would be a great song to have a video, just showing people having a good time. Paul Shortino lives in Vegas, we did a lot of recording there, and there’s a lot of famous people in Vegas. Paul knew a lot of them. We would go see Carrot Top all the time. I saw him probably five times and hung out with him. We saw him so much and now at the end of his show, he has our names go by as a thank you on the screen. So we asked him to be in the video, I didn’t know he played drums. He even played at one point in the video. Vinnie Paul was in it. We just got all these different people and then we shot it at Count’s Vamp’d, a rock club that’s owned by Danny Koker from Counting Cars. He made a lot of money and built this rock club, he’s a good singer too. We had him sing on it, he just had the TV show coming out at the time. With the music video, we rehearsed the song, took photos, did everything in a weekend.
Alex Obert: In closing, I’d like to go over a few songs from other bands from the Vanilla Fudge era and get your opinion on them.
Carmine Appice: Okay.
Alex Obert: Time of the Season by The Zombies.
Carmine Appice: Great song. The Zombies were a great band, excellent. We liked them because they always have the organ and they always have cool drum parts, good melodies, good hooks. We covered She’s Not There by The Zombies.
Alex Obert: Paint It Black by Rolling Stones.
Carmine Appice: It’s a cool song. As a matter of fact, I did that song over as a drum instrumental on my solo album in 1981. I always liked the song, I thought it hard a dark side to it. A little different than most of the other Rolling Stones songs.
Alex Obert: Immigration Song by Led Zeppelin.
Carmine Appice: I love how it starts off with that drum groove and the bass groove. Robert’s vocals on there were pretty amazing. We actually did that song over with Vanilla Fudge in 2005.
Alex Obert: Crossroads by Cream.
Carmine Appice: I was never a Crossroads fan. People say to me, “Hey, you wanna jam? Let’s jam to Crossroads.” I refuse to do it.
Alex Obert: Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Carmine Appice: A cool song. They’re another group that opened up for us. I always liked them because I looked at them like the American Beatles. They have so many hits, so many cool hit songs. I thought they were awesome as a full band. And that song, great song. I wrote a song called Unfortunate Son. (laughs)