Let's face it; Brooklyn, New York born drummer Carmine Appice (and elder brother to ex-Black Sabbath, Dio and Last In Line skinsman Vinny Appice) is a bona fide legend within the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal genres. Fueled by tenures within Blue Murder, King Kobra and Ozzy Osbourne, among others, Appice would soon find himself amid the dizzying heights of international acclaim. Among the most intriguing of these 'projects' is gr- oundbreaking Classic Rock icons Vanilla Fudge. Unleashing their full-length debut in 1967, their psychedelia-fueled cover of The Supremes staple “You Keep Me Hangin' On”, would prove instrumental in the formation of the Heavy Metal genre. Recently, Appice, always a man of many words and interesting stories, was kind enough to speak with us regarding, among other things, the release of the mighty Guitar Zeus 25th Anniversary box set.
Todd: How did Vanilla Fudge become involved with Golden Robot Records? With the label having already signed the groups Filter, Jefferson Starship and King's X, signing Vanilla Fudge appears to be a logical decision.
Carmine: “Our Manager named Tom Vitorino. He works with Golden Robot, he works with Robbie Krieger and The Cult and a bunch of different bands, and he came up with a deal to do an album called The Supreme Fudge, right? It was an album deal. And unfortunately with the COVID, we never got to do the album because nobody had studios. ...And then he came up with another deal, which was for our Led Zeppelin Fudge album (the “Ramble On' single), so they bought that as well. They released, I believe, two singles from that with a video while they were waiting for us to do this Vanilla Fudge Supremes. ...We were going to do five Supremes songs, a couple other R&B songs and then two or three originals. We got into the writing and arranging stages and we figured out some other songs to do, then we went in the studio and we started recording in December of '19. So we recorded this track, “Stop In The Name of Love”, with a bass player that we use on stage, and then I said 'Well, why don't we try and get Tim on this'. I knew Tim was really ill. I said 'I don't know how long Tim's going to be around. It would be great to have Tim on it, too'. So I talked to Tim. I still have the recording of Tim calling back and accepting the fact that he'd play on this record. He was asking me to send him the track without the bass, which we did. Tim lived in LA, and I asked Tim if he'd be willing to play on it in January. He said, 'Definitely', so we had the track recorded in New Jersey and then we went to California. I took the track with me, and we went to a studio owned by Gov't Mule's bass player, where Tim recorded before. So we got Tim on it, then we realized that the drums were screwed up because there was too much leakage, so I had to go in. ...I said 'I'll have to redo the drums'. This was in January. Going back, I had a little gig with my brother that finished February 10th, and then I figured I'd go in the studio and re-do the drums and fix them where we recorded the track originally. And then COVID hit and ended that idea, so we've been dealing with COVID all this time. We got Tim on the track. So when we moved to Florida in June of last year, my brother Vinny built me a computer set-up to record with, It's like a studio in my house. Vinny had a studio and he built the same studio he had. He's a real computer guy. ...After that, I finally got some old bass drums that I used to have sent to me, and I started getting a killer drum sound. I said 'Okay, now I'm ready to tackle that Vanilla Fudge track'. So then I re-did all the drums in my studio and was now playing with Tim and the band with a click track and it was good. Then I put some tambourines on it and we did some other background vocals, so it took a while to get all that going. Then we sent it to my guy that was going to Mix it, but I had to wait for him to become available. Meanwhile, the Manager turned the album deal into a single deal with the option that if the single does well, we'll continue to do another album with that concept. Unfortunately, it won't have Tim on it, but then (bassist) Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Talas) called up and said 'If you want to do anything with the Fudge, I'll gladly help and replace Tim for you'. That was really cool. So we did this album and I had to get Billy Sheehan involved because Tim Bogert is Billy Sheehan's main influence. ...So that's really how it all happened.”
Todd : There are very few people I can imagine replacing Tim and Billy Sheehan is most certainly one of them. Logistically speaking, would Vanilla Fudge touring with special guests be a realistic 'game-plan' for this group?
Carmine: “He's a good guy, so when he called up and said that, I said 'You know what? Thank you so much. I Let me think about when we could do that.' But I also said 'But you know what? I want to do a tribute to Tim, a gig, and have the money go to a charity.' So I mentioned it to our manager, and he said he'd done that with late (keyboardist) Ray (Manzarek) from The Doors. ...When Ray passed away from cancer, they did a few gigs and they gave money to a cancer charity. He said 'I know how to do that'. I wanted to ask people like (guitarist) Joe Bonamassa because we have a show called Hangin' And Bangin' with my brother that's on every Thursday nigh-t night. We've got a Podcast out on Apple and all that and it's also on my official website. We've done sixty-eight episodes. The latest episode we did was with (guitarist) John 5 and Eddie (Ojeda) from Twisted Sister. ...We've got hundreds of thousands of people watching the episodes, so I said 'Maybe we'll get Joe Bonamassa, because when we did a tribute to Tim on the show, we had Joe Bonamassa, (guitarist) Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule) and all these other great players. So then I said 'Maybe we can do a tribute to Tim and also do Vanilla Fudge, Cactus and BBA (Bogert, Beck, Appice) songs, which probably influenced all of these people anyway. I'll try and get a whole bunch of musicians to do this somewhere like L.A., Nashville or New York or maybe all three places and do a really massive tribute to Tim and have any funds go to a cancer fund in Tim's name.' That idea started like a week and a half ago, so I don't know where it's going to go, but when Billy asked me, he said 'I'd love to replace Tim for anything you do with the Fudge', so I was thinking 'Well, if we do continue with the album deal, we'll get Billy involved in that. We'll have the current bass player play a couple tracks and then let Billy play. Tim will be on it, and then we'll get Billy on it and the regular bass player'. Or ma- ybe we'll just get other bass players, like Jorgen Carlsson from Gov’t Mule and (bassist) Tony Franklin (ex-Blue Murder, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Quiet Riot) and all the others Tim's influenced. ...You know what I'm saying?”
Todd: It seems as if you've been releasing new material on an almost monthly basis. Seriously, where do you find the time and energy to tackle even a fraction of all of your projects? I don't think I would keep up that pace.
Carmine: “Because of COVID, I had plenty of time because we weren't doing any gigs. I'm Producing a singer named Lisa Gee for Deko Entertainment. ...We did it in my studio. I did the drums and worked with her over the phone and came up with a great song. Now, we're working on three other songs. I'm actually working on a new King Kobra record as well. But it will have many different guitar players. I got (guitarist) Carlos Cavazo from Quiet Riot and (guitarist) Rowan Robertson from Dio along with (bassist) Johnny Rod (ex-W.A.S.P.) and (voc-alist) Paul Shortino. Me, Johnny Rod and Paul had been the basis for King Kobra since 2010. We released the Live At Sweden Rock Festival (2021) on Deko as well. We're writing songs, but I haven't done drums yet. This week, I have to do a track with Lisa Gee and I've got one or two tracks for King Kobra. But everything else I've done, like this album I released (as the Appice Perdomo Project) on Cleopatra Records called Energy Overload (2021). It's an instrumental album with (multi-instrumentalist) Fernando Perdomo. He played the guitars, bass and keyboards. He's a monster guitar player, so the stuff is really good. It's like Progressive Rock with a little touch of Jazz. It's a really cool album and I hope everyone that hears it tells me they love it because we haven't heard an instrumental album like this in a long time. I started it last year in September, but I really didn't know how to work it, so when this project came up, I started working with Fernando and we did eighteen new tracks.”
Todd: What's the status of the Guitar Zeus project? I understand the 25th Anniversary edition was well received.
Carmine: “The 25th Anniversary box set came out on Deko Entertainment in December. It has four LPs, three CDs and some tracks on there with no vocal. There's also tracks there with the vocals, but no lead guitars. And there's also new tracks. We put (Kiss guitarist) Tommy Thayer on a new track and we put (ex-Dream Theater keyboardist) Derek Sherinian on another. ...And I'm also Managing and Producing this new band called Kodiak. They sound just like Van Halen. I'm trying to get their record deal sorted out, so I put (Kodiak guitarist) Chris Biggiani on there because he's a monster player who sounds like Eddie (Van Halen). He's on three new tracks, plus, we have a couple of other ones with (Sons Of Apollo guitarist) Bumblefoot and (Europe guitarist) John Norum. ...It's available as a bundle with a T-shirt, an autographed picture of my new image because I got rid of the black and purple hair and a medallion with my face and logo in it. And we worked all that stuff out during COVID. Everything that you have seen coming out from me was all worked out during the COVID lock down.”
Todd: Why did you stop coloring your hair? It's unbelievable how much traffic the new photo got on Facebook.
Carmine: “I got sick of it. Every four weeks, I'd have to go to the hairdresser. It was literally a four to five hour operation. ...In my case, I've got silver hair growing in, so I had to do the roots first and then we had to keep the dye going. They make your hair blonde so you can put the purple on the blonde and then you do the black. So you got the black roots, the bleach to get ready for the purple, and then the purple, and then the haircut and the wash. All together, it was like five hours every four weeks. And if you don't do it, and the roots start growing into the gray, the silver grows in on the black and it looks really sloppy and horrible. So I said 'You know, I'm tired of this stuff. I see a lot of my friends, my age and even younger, that have let the hair grow out and what's really weird, of all the things I've ever put on Facebook, I got thirty-seven hundred comments. I was like 'I'm tired of dying my hair. This is my new hair color. It's natural. It's silver and black'. ...I never ever had thirty-seven hundred comments for anything. Not for Tim dying, not for Eddie Van Halen dying and not for my friend Eddie Money dying. It's unbelievable. And that really just shows you where all of this Facebook crap is at now.”
Todd: Good, bad or otherwise, it's amazing how much of an impact Social Media has had on the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal genres. With that being said, does the clutter of our feeds make it hard to reach all your audiences?
Carmine: “It does. And it's got nothing to do the music. The other day, I put up a really beautiful post of me and my brother Vinny at a gig in Buffalo. It was my third gig since February 2020, ya know? It was a great stage. We had great lighting and a lot of people turned out. And I got twenty comments. Then I put up the thing about going to Tim's parents' cemetery and sprinkling Tim's ashes on there and me, Vinny, and Timmy from the Flood singing “People Get Ready”. It got two or three hundred comments and maybe thirty or forty thousand views. But the thing is, over one hundred thousand people viewed it. ...It's ridiculous and so weird. People are always going 'Oh, put this up'. ...'Put it up on your website. It will get a lot of reaction. Send it to iTunes' and I say 'You know what, dude? Any time I put up something on my Facebook that involves people buying something or anything, I get no reaction. Zero. I mean, I get something like ten comments. Sometimes, I get no comments at all and the views are terrible. I said 'But I put up the thing about my hair and they go crazy', so that's where my Facebook is at. ...So I don't know. I don't get this social media crap to tell you the truth. The biggest thing I get is when we do a show with (guitarist) John 5 or Twisted Sister. For those, I would get two or three thousand views overnight and then over a period of time, it might go up to seven, eight or even ten thousand views. But that's it. Anything else is a waste. I still put up stuff up for the hell of it, but it certainly doesn't sell any records.”
Todd: At this point in your career, do you still feel as if Vanilla Fudge is primarily responsible for the formation of the Heavy Metal genre? What separated the group--and thus yourself--from so many of your contemporaries?
Carmine: “I do because back in the days of (guitarist Jimi) Hendrix and Cream, “You Keep Me Hanging On” is really heavy. It's heavy in drums. It has this fat heavy drum sound with the bass and organ really prominent. It was a very thick sound and that's what was called 'heavy'. It wasn't Heavy Metal, but it was still called heavy because versus if you listen to Jimi Hendrix and Vanilla Fudge back to back, Jimi's drum sound wasn't as heavy as mine or what (late Cream drummer) Ginger Baker and (late The Who drummer) Keith Moon were doing. As far as I'm concerned, that was it. ...The very first round of iconic drummers was (The Rascals drummer) Dino (Danelli), Ginger, Keith, (Jimi Hendrix drummer) Mitch (Mitchell) and myself. Keith, and Ginger Baker. That's it. ...There wasn't anyone else out there at the time that was playing like that. We were always these innovators. But my drums had the heaviest drum sound out of all that. And together with Tim's great heavy bass sound and the organ and the guitar, it created this heavy sound. Even The Rascals never had a bass player, especially live and they were always sounding good. But they weren't as heavy as Vanilla Fudge. The fact that we all slowed things down made our stuff that much heavier sounding. And Mitch was always a Jazz drummer. Jimi had a Hard Rock and distorted Blues sound, but it wasn't really heavy heavy, ya know? You getting what I'm saying?”
Todd: In retrospect, many of those groups were not overtly focused on bringing their heaviness to the forefront.
Carmine: “And it was the same thing with The Who. They weren't going for heaviness and Keith Moon's drum sound was pretty, but it was also midrangey. Ginger Baker was the same, too. Plus, they were more like a Blues band. We weren't a Blues band. We were more like a Classical orchestra. We had all the bases covered. Tim had the bass, (organist) Mark Stein had the orchestral stuff with the organ and Vinny had all the strings covered with the guitar. ...And I had my heavy drum set. I had the twenty-six inch bass drum. I was the first one to have that big of a bass drum. That's where all of the heaviness was coming from. ...We toured with Black Sabbath and we were just as heavy as them. We had six stacks of Marshall (amplifiers), too. And I also played much harder than Bill Ward played. I always had bigger drums and we had a bigger, fatter, heavier sound on drums. Somewhere along the line, all of those bands would become known as Heavy Metal and then Sabbath became very famous.”
Rated X (2014)
Temple of Rock (2011)
Box Of Fudge (2010)
Live At The House Of Blues (2005)
It Takes A Lot Of Balls (2004)
Carmine Appice's Guitar Zeus Japan (1999)
Carmine Appice's Guitar Zeus 2: Channel Mind Radio (1997)
Carmine Appice's Guitar Zeus (1995)
Nothin' But Trouble (1993)
Blue Murder (1989)
King Kobra III (1988)
Thrill Of A lifetime (1986)
Ready To Strike (1985)
Foolish Behaviour (1980)
Blondes Have More Fun (1978)
Live In Japan (1973)
Beck, Bogert & Appice (1973)
'Ot 'N' Sweaty (1972)
One Way...Or Another (1971)
Rock & Roll (1969)
Near The Beginning (1969)
The Beat Goes On (1968)
Vanilla Fudge (1967)
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