New York sunshine for the fourth of July weekend gives Carmine Appice a head start for relaxation as he takes a well deserved break from his latest tour of Drum Wars. “I’m just taking it easy and doing some interviews for King Kobra and the new album King Kobra II, that’s really about all I’m going to do this week”, states Appice, “then I’m off to Canada next week with Cactus”.
Carmine and his brother Vinny have just completed a tour with their Drum Wars which all started as a sibling rivalry with a jest. “My brother Vinny and I did a clinic tour together in 1988 and we had such a good time going it that we were always looking for an opportunity to do it again. In the mid 90’s, everyone was confusing our names and we thought it would be fun to do a video to battle out the decision of our name. So we titled the video DRUM WARS and whoever won the battle would win the name. It was set up like an old wrestling match, and we ‘fought’ each other with drums. However, my older brother gets into the video via phone call and he settles the entire war with a call via satellite. He says ‘you’re both wrong! It’s not “Appisee” or “Apeace” it’s “Ahpeachy” (Italian)…and that was the end of it,” he says with a chuckle. “It was all just a goof, but when the video came out, we did some promotions gigs around California. We had so much fun that we talked about doing more together. It took a while because I was busy with my SLAMM show and Vinny was busy with DIO and Sabbath.” Ronnie James Dio passed away in May 2010 which left Vinny with not much to do at the time so the brothers began putting ideas together. “In 2011 we started doing Drum War gigs and little by little we began getting more and more. What really put the icing on the cake was last year in October when we went to Europe and did twenty shows. That’s when you really pull it all out and you learn what works and what doesn’t.” Appice and Appice are to return to Drum Wars later this year with the first date of a new tour being September 12 in NC, at Elon University in North Carolina. “We are talking about going a little further south with the tour then bringing it back up north towards the Midwest and then across Canada and down the West coast to LA.”
A career that spans rock years of rock history, Carmine Appice was an original member of Vanilla Fudge, a 60’s classic psychedelic rock band that brought the peace, love and good vibes of the decade. Playing with greats as Rod Stewart, Jeff Beck and Ozzy Osbourne, Appice has been credited as one of the most accomplished men in rock. Being labeled as a drumming institution, he explains his belief as why, “Ha, I believe that’s the first I’ve heard that one. I am definitely proud and blessed to have had a career that has lasted that long and is still going. The fact is, at my age that I love going out of the road and I really enjoy it. I laugh and say actually get played for traveling. The playing is free. That’s the easy part. It’s the planes, trains, busses and no sleep that’s the work. I came into the business at a time when everything was brand new. There were no drum heroes in rock when we started. I consider myself, Mitch Mitchell (Hendrix), Ginger Baker (Cream) and Keith Moon (The Who), we were the four guys that set the precedence on what rock drumming was. I then took it a step further by actually writing a book about how to play rock that was very successful. I also pioneered different things that were going on at the time. No one was playing the big drums; they all were playing double bass drums, so I pioneered the BIG drum size. Most guys were playing the 22” bass drums, but the bass drum size that I brought into the business in my drum sets were 26” drums. That ended up being the same size that John Bonham was using, all because he got his drum sets from me. Once I set that in motion with pioneering big drums, wooden drums and lots of different things, John Bonham picked it up and took it to the next level, but I was the one credited for the beginning of it all. I was the first drummer to write a book, the first drummer to host clinics. It seemed it was always a guitarist or bassist that would what I was doing, but I was the first drummer.”
Imagine trying to choose a memory from a career spanning rock decades. Vanilla Fudge not only appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show twice, they also had Led Zeppelin as an opening act. “Back in those days there was just great gigs and massive festivals”, states Appice. Cactus performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 in front of 500,000 and again at the Atlanta International Pop Festival to an audience of 250,000. “There are so many great things that and so many amazing gigs. Beck, Bogert and Appice were the first band to sell out the Budakon in Japan. We are actually releasing a 40th anniversary of BBA Live in Japan, remastered on BLUE RAY and it was first to just be re-released in Europe, but I suggested for it to be released world- wide since it was never released for the entire world. That in itself was an amazing accomplishment, going to Japan and selling out to 10,000 people in 1973. Each band had something different that occurred. Being with Rod Stewart; playing in the band and co-writing the songs; playing on the records; I’m just happy I was able to do all that and have such a great career, I mean I love it!” exclaims Appice.
King Kobra was founded in 1984 when an amazing idea ran through Appice’s mind. “When I was out with Ozzy, Motley Crue was our opening act. I noticed that they were all dark haired with a blonde lead singer. I thought to myself, if I ever did another band, I would do the opposite of them. I would have all blonde and I would be guy with the dark hair. You have to remember, this was the 80’s. It was all about MTV. It was all about image and a good song that made a good video. To begin, I was fired from Ozzy, Sharon fired me”, he says with a bit of humor in his voice. “She said I needed to start my own band because my name was too big. In a way that was good, but then it was bad because she fired me. However, I took her advice and started my own band.”
With a major merchandising and record deal already secured, Appice knew that he had a strong image with the group he had chosen. This was not only a group of good looking guys; they were amazing on their instruments. “There were so many good looking bands out in the 80’s but they sucked! They just could not play. I figured if I can get a group that can play well, the guys in the audience would like that and of course the girls would like the looks! I hand-picked everybody and though I replaced a couple at the beginning, it all worked out.” The original King Kroba line up was Dave Henzerlin (a/k/a David Michael –Phillips), Mick Sweda, Carmine Appice and Mark Free and Johnny Rod. “The band was awesome, take Johnny Rod was an amazing bass player. He had a great look and was just a crazy guy, still crazy to this day. Dave and Mick were two great guitar players and Mark was a great vocalist. Mark and Johnny left after two albums, and although we had a hit video with Iron Eagle on MTV, we just didn’t have that hit single Capitol Records was looking for. Rod left to join Wasp and Mark left because he wanted to sing more of a ‘wimpy’ kind of rock and that wasn’t what we were about. There was a lot that went through King Kobra that created other successes, for example, Johnny Rod went out to do Blue Murder and then the Bullet Boys…it all came out of King Kobra. However I was more upset that we as King Kobra were not more successful. It was a Hollywood studio grooming the band to be what I wanted it to be image wise, we had it all. Management, the label, budgets for clothes, and when the album came out we expected it to sell a two or three hundred thousand if not go gold, but it didn’t. Our producer had just produced Quiet Riot which had sold 5 million records in America, so we expected near the same. Capitol Records just dropped the frickin’ ball, they didn’t know what to do. So much was left undone by the label.”
The reformation of current day King Kobra was brought about over friends having dinner in Los Angeles. Henzerlin became a computer engineer after the band broke apart and happened to be in town and phoned Appice to join him. Pat Regan was also in LA mixing a record for Keel for Frontier Records and joined them that night. “We were talking about different ventures when Pat steps up and says hey man! You guys should do King Kobra! Frontier Records would sign you in a minute! I say you know, that’s not a bad idea. So David and I discussed it and the first question was ‘who would we get to sing’. I quickly answered it wouldn’t be Mark/Marcie Free as we were having an issue with Marcie about some DVD’s we were wanting to put a live cd for the KK fans. Everyone agreed to it but Marci. So again, he asked, well who would it be? I thought back to a bus ride from Salt Lake City to Vegas with Paul Shortino, who I was doing a few gigs with. On that ride, we were singing Beatles, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, all kind of Motown. Paul would sing the lead and sound amazing on everything he sang. I told him I had no clue he could sing so good. He’s a F***in’ amazing singer! We chuckled a bit and he said thanks. The last night in Vegas, we exchanged info and decided to keep in touch. I gave him a call and asked him if he would like to join King Kobra and do an album with us. Not even thinking twice, he said definitely, he’d always loved KK and the fact that all the guys were all awesome musicians and we had some fantastic songs. I got in touch with Johnny, Mick and everyone was in. A manager friend of ours put a deal together for us with Frontier Records and we did our first record in record time. It came out great and I think it’s better than the records we put out in the 80’s, and the second that is just coming out tops that one!”
The new album King Kobra II was released just days after this interview. Appice spoke highly and proudly about the music and the making of King Kobra II. “This time around we took more care to make the albums. We like the direction of the music and creating the music. It’s not a financial reason that we are doing these albums. We are mostly doing it for a creative stand point and the fans. When we started the album, we said we had to make it better than the last. This album is from scratch. It’s all from songs we wrote over the last year. We checked the tempos for each song to be different. We wanted the lyrics to reflect some really good stories. We took a lot more time in recording, arrangements and a lot more time in the lyrical content. We didn’t worry about restrictions, like Deep River is 7 ½ minutes long and another is over 8 minutes. We love the music, we love playing the music. We took extra care in making this album and it shows. Like The Ballad of Johnny Rod, it’s all fun sharing our stories.”
While the world lives in a computer age, making an album was much easier and couldn’t be done without the internet. “This album was done completely via the internet. Everyone lives in different cities and it would have been very difficult and expensive to fly everyone in to do the recordings. The drums were recorded in Vegas; we would send tracks back and forth and each would add their own touch to the track. It was just amazing what we accomplished and then we sent it to Europe to be mixed. This is a mixture of 70’s and 80’s hard rock music. We took the elements of the 80’s and mixed in the 70’s jamming and bluesy elements to give it a different sound. Hell on Wheels is like a bit like Cactus; Have a Good Time reminds you a bit of Hot Legs. It’s a mixture of everything I’ve done. We did the same thing with our video; it was recorded live at Vamp’d in front of a live audience, with several others included in the video. Danny Kroker (Counting Cars), Carrot Top, Vinnie Paul, Gordy Brown, Zakk Wylde introduces the video and Ace Frehley ends it. It’s a really great video about having a good time.”
Appice explained the aspects about the possibility of fans seeing King Kobra live, “I don’t know. It would depend on finances. There is just no budget and no one wants to lose money on the endeavors. We were offered a few deals in Europe but that didn’t even cover flight. I laughed because they wanted to give us hotel rooms with 3 guys to a room! I haven’t done 3 guys to a room since 1967!” he laughs. “If not, we will just keep making records and feeding them to the fans. Maybe one day we’ll sell enough that we could do a few shows. I know it would be a great show with Paul. I’ve done shows with Paul in Europe and he’s a great front man. I wish I had him in the 80’s. As for me, I’m a guy that has spent his entire life playing the drums. I want to make sure the drums are noticed and bring them out front. I mentored myself after Gene Krupa, who did that as well. I’m a guy that loves to write music and play music and loves to entertain and create…..that’s me. I go to all extremes to play.”
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