By Jeb Wright
Drumming icon Carmine Appice is back with four new releases, all on his own new record label titled Rocker Records. Okay, the label is only kinda-sorta new as Carmine used it in the ‘80s with his metal band King Kobra, but the music is all new and utilizing modern day technology to get it to the masses.
There are four releases, discussed in detail below, two live albums from Cactus, one with Carmine and Pat Travers and one from Tim Bogart and Carmine with some of their famous friends. All four releases are only available as digital downloads.
In the interview that follows, Carmine opens up and tells how Rocker Records came to be and the story behind these four releases. The drummer also talks about his new super group Legacy X, with Joe Lynn Turner, Jeff Watson and Tony Franklin, and his upcoming Rod Stewart Experience shows.
Jeb: Drumming icon, songwriter, and author…now record company owner!
Carmine: Well, I did that in the ‘80s, as well. I had King Kobra III on Rocker Records in the ‘80s but it fell apart because of the distributing label. I thought we’d revamp the name and shake it up again.
Jeb: These are all digital releases.
Carmine: It is digital now, some of the products that come out later next year will be CDs and maybe some vinyl depending who it is and how much money we have. We got some seed money from eOne and we got these four releases ready to go. We just wanted to give this a try and to do our best and to see how far we can take this. We engineered everything, mastered it, put the artwork together and we set up the LLC and it took some time and money to get started. We really hope we can keep releasing product. If people don’t buy it then we won’t be able to do any more.
Jeb: This all came up with a conversation and you just took it from there.
Carmine: The guy that was involved in negotiating my book deal with VH1—I just found out today that VH1 has stopped doing books. I am one chapter away from finishing the book and now we are back to having to get a book deal. I have a hit writer on it and he did a great job on it with me, and I think it will be easy to do that. I’m not going to talk much about the book, now. Everyone has been like, “I can’t wait to read this.” I would tell them, “It will be out next fall” and now I don’t know when it will be out.
We were talking about the book and my partner Mike Cusanelli said, “If you’ve got some material in your private collection that you’d like to get released, then I could probably set up a little label for you to be distributed by eOne and you could release some of those cool things. What things do you have?” I told him I had a few things and that I would have to look. After I looked, I saw that Cactus Live in Japan was only released in Japan and that they were only going to release five hundred records and then we had the rights for the rest of the world. I thought it would be easier for me to release it than it would to go get another record deal.
We had Cactus Live in New York City, which was the first gig we did in 2006 with the revamped line up with Jimmy Kunes singing, Tim Bogart on bass, Jim McCarty on guitars and me. We did a DVD and this is the soundtrack. We released that. Some people may have the video but they may want the CD as well.
Jeb: I am always wishing more DVDs were available on CD as you can’t take a DVD and put it in the car stereo.
Jeb: The one I am excited about is the Travers/Appice Live in Europe.
Carmine: Someone sent me that a couple of years ago. I remember listening to it and it was awesome. When I was looking around the shelves in my CD area, I found it and I sent it to Pat and he loved it. I thought we could add a bonus track to it and we had another live thing.
Jeb: You also have Bogart & Appice and Friends.
Carmine: That is pretty much Vanilla Fudge back in the early 2000’s. This stuff was going to be for a future Vanilla Fudge album. When we put the original band back together, then these songs became obsolete and they couldn’t be released as Vanilla Fudge. They have been sitting on my computer since 2004. We decided to just call it Bogart & Appice and Friends.
Jeb: I am a huge fan of Pat Travers. Is Tony Franklin on that?
Carmine: He is. T.M. Stevens did the first two weeks of the tour and then Tony did the last two weeks. This was, I believe, the first night Tony was with the band. I love playing with Tony.
Jeb: Where did it come from?
Carmine: It was sent to me from a fan that got my address from my drum book. I was in LA at my office and they gave me my mail and it was in the mail. I played it in my car and it really sounded good. I think we cut a bass solo and maybe something else that we had to take off it, but most of the concert is there. We added a studio track that we were rehearsing in Randy Pratt’s studio before the tour. We never really finished it. I put this friend of mine on it, who is a keyboard player named Alessandro Del Vecchio. I told him what I wanted and he made it really cool. We did a few edits to make it flow better and it sounds great. I love it.
Jeb: Will there be any more Travers/Appice shows?
Carmine: I think we were a great match and so did Pat. The problem is that Pat goes out on his own and he makes a certain amount of money. When we go out together we make a little more money, but not double. By the time we end up splitting it up then he makes less money than when he goes out solo. Because of that, we didn’t go out and do more. He needs to make a certain amount of money per tour…it’s all financial stuff. We love playing music with each other.
Jeb: I love the version of “Boom Boom,” and you do “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.”
Carmine: I know. It’s unbelievable. I used the rock arrangement for “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” that I have used for years. It is a great rock arrangement for a great song.
Jeb: Who are the friends on the Friends albums?
Carmine: You’ve got T.M. Stevens on “Star Spangled Banner.” Also on there is Vinnie Martell from Vanilla Fudge. Brian Auger is playing on the second version of “Falling.” Teddy Rondinelli is on guitar and Bill Pascalli is singing on the songs, other than “Eternity,” which I sing that song.
Jeb: Nice to hear you sing.
Carmine: I did sing some five or six songs on the T&A record with Pat. I enjoy singing, but it is hard to sing and play drums, especially the way I play drums. My voice is too sweet. My drums are vicious sounding. I have some polyps on my vocal cords now, so when I sing and talk I have bit more of a growl and I kind of like it. Now, with that, there are some parts I can’t hit the notes anymore because they are too high; it ends up being too high and it sounds like someone who can’t sing at all. When I sing the lower stuff, it has this growl and I sort of like it.
This really would have been a Vanilla Fudge album if we had not put the original band back tougher. We never finished enough songs to get a full blown record deal so they have just been sitting in my computer rotting on my hardrive. I always thought they were really good. The version of “Bye Bye Love” is awesome. It is so different and it is exactly what Vanilla Fudge used to do, which is change the entire song.
Jeb: You also have a new band with some big names.
Carmine: The band is Legacy X with Joe Lynn Turner, Jeff Watson, Tony Franklin and myself. Frontiers Records is going to give a big push on that. There will be a bunch of gigs with that. I have some Vanilla Fudge gigs coming up as well. I also have a Rod Stewart tribute thing that I have been working on for over three years. All of these things that I’ve been working on are all coming into fruition at the same time. Now I have to juggle gigs. We just got a Cactus gig in Brazil that I can’t do because I am booked with a Rod tribute show. I am thinking of getting Bobby Rondinelli to sit in for me. It is more about the music than it is about me. Bobby did it for me when I was sick in June. I had a bad sinus infection and I had a fever and there was no way I could play this gig and Bobby did it and it was fine. I think we can do the same thing here and he’d appreciate the gig. He’s one of my students. He sort of looks like me too. He’s my other brother. Joe Franco is another student of mine. I’ve had a bunch of students that have actually done well.
Jeb: You said Rocker Records could release some limited edition vinyl?
Carmine: We are planning some releases for that. We have a new Cactus EP that is going to come out in the first quarter of 2014. We have Vanilla Fudge Live in New York at BB Kings and we are thinking of releasing that on vinyl and on CD. We have The Lizards, which is Randy Pratt’s band with Bobby on drums and Frankie Marino. We are talking to a new guitar player who is going on tour with Michael Schenker in America and we may release his stuff. We have a live album in Japan where we had recorded video one night and audio one night. We are going to release that and the band was really on fire. Maybe we will do the video with a regular DVD package and maybe we will do the audio on download. I just thought of that this very second because of how you told me you like hearing the audio for a DVD.
Jeb: I want to talk Legacy X. This is three quarters of Mother’s Army.
Carmine: It is, but the material is totally different. Tony Franklin makes it a whole different animal. Now it is more like Blue Murder. It is heavy like Blue Murder with great melodies from Joe. This kid that is producing for Frontiers is Alessandro Del Vecchio, a keyboard player and he is a great singer. I used him on the road in Italy in 2010 and he was my singer and keyboard player. It is like Blue Murder and Deep Purple meets Rainbow and all of that kind of thing.
Jeb: Joe Lynn Turner has an amazing voice. He can still belt it out.
Carmine: No kidding. There has been a good buzz going on about this band on the Internet. I was late for this interview because I was on a conference call with everyone about that band. I will probably see Joe tomorrow when I go in the studio. Tony and Jeff are in California, so when we need a band meeting we have to do these conference calls. We have a lot of shit to go over. Joe just got back from Europe, and we needed to talk about logos and booking agents, and we were going over the contracts and looking at any dings we have to fix.
Jeb: Is this a project or a band?
Carmine: This is a band and we are all planning on going out to do shows and we want to make this big. Frontiers Records has said they are putting all of their guns behind it.
Jeb: In Europe and Japan this will do great. The USA is a tough place for bands like this.
Carmine: It is. Unless you get something on the radio that works, you can’t get heard. We would like to play some big festivals here. Maybe they will team us up with somebody. The booking agency we are with is everywhere in the world but here; Europe, Asia, South America, Central America and Russia; everywhere but here.
Jeb: You have such a diverse career and you are so versatile.
Carmine: Versatile came from the fact that I was a studied drummer. In high school I played football games and jazz band. In my teens I played all kinds of gigs from rock gigs to jazz gigs to society gigs and stuff like that. When I got into Vanilla Fudge, that was my first band that made it, we emulated an orchestra. I had that experience from my past. When we started Cactus, is just an all-out rock band. I got my versatility back then.
I got my drive from seeing how the business goes. You don’t sit around and wait for the phone to ring. If I sat around and waited for the phone to ring we would not be talking now. I have always had the knack to work hard. I wanted to write a drum book and it became a big drum book. I want to do the Guitar Zeus albums, and I kept pushing and I found the right combination of people to put the deals together. Guitar Zeus turned into a worldwide series of albums that were released. All in all, I sold a couple of hundred thousand records around the world. Japan alone did probably sixty or seventy thousand of all these different ones. Europe did around sixty thousand and then the rest of the world we sold them. Korea did thirty or forty thousand. By the time we were done, we sold a hundred and fifty thousand to two hundred thousand. I just went after stuff. If it popped into my head I would just do it.
I had the idea to do drum clinics like a tour. We did rock tours so why not drum tours? These things popped in my head and I was with people that could facilitate them. I got fired from Ozzy, so I put King Kobra together. It was not a giant band, but I got a great deal for it. King Kobra was the opposite of Motley Crue, hair wise. They had all guys with black hair so we all had blond hair. We created a cool image for that era, but everybody was a good player and that was the difference.
Jeb: Tell me about this Rod Stewart thing.
Carmine: The Rod Stewart Experience is basically a historical tribute—that’s the key. I was with Rod from 1976 to 1982. In those days he was the King of Pop. Michael Jackson was the King of Pop in the ‘80s, and Rod was in the ‘70s and into the early ‘80s. We did six nights at the Forum and five nights at the Garden and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” was number one everywhere in the world, and the album Blonds Have More Fun was number one in every country in the world. He built it up from his solo career. He put the band together.
We are going to be doing historical things in the vein of Pop Up Videos. We will play “Hot Legs” and in the background we will have trivia about the song on the screen. We will tell where the video was recorded or the album was recorded.
They just did a special on Rod in the BBC in London, and after that they played a concert of the band that we had at the time. We got in front of millions of people again. Here is a funny example: I was in Wal-mart in Allentown, PA recently doing a clinic and this woman comes over and goes, “Oh my God, you’re Rod Stewart’s drummer. This happened in August and I have not been with Rod since like 1981 or 1982. There has been a guy with Rod for the last 25 years…do you know his name?
Jeb: I have no idea.
Carmine: Exactly, that’s what I’m talking about. My association with Rod is still going. Phil Chen is in this band with me. We got Danny Johnson, who was with Rod. Jimmy Crespo played with Rod for three years in the ‘90s and he was in Aerosmith. We’ve got Alan St. John who played keyboard for Billy Squire for thirty years. My Rod guy is Rick St. James, had been doing Rod tributes very well for the last six years. When you talk about how do you keep going… this is another way you do that.
I ran into Rick a few years ago in Vegas at a convention, and I actually thought it was Rod. I was like, “What the hell is Rod doing here walking around?” I got closer and I saw it was not him, but man does he look like him. He lived in New York so I told him to give me his card. With all of this tribute stuff getting big, I thought it would be cool to do a tribute to Rod and that band. I started calling guys up from the band like Jimmy Cregan and Gary Grainger and Billy Peek…They didn’t get the fact that it was a show. They were like “Let’s just get a singer.” It’s not about that, it’s about the show. Billy is 72 years old and he doesn’t want to go out on the road. Gary said he would do it, but he had some health problems. Jim is doing his own version of it called Cregan and Company. In my opinion, it is silly because he is an older looking guy with gray hair and he has a triple chin. He’s surrounded by all of these young guys playing Rod songs. He still hangs out with Rod. Rod gave him a quote when Gary and him had a band…they took my idea and got another singer and a drummer and bass player and they called it Without Rod. With that, Jim got a quote from Rod saying, “If you can’t afford my ticket then go see these guys as they are just as good and a lot cheaper.’ That’s the kind of quote I want!
Jim is the Godfather for one of Rod’s kids so it was easy to get a quote from him. I don’t have any communication with Rod. I don’t have his cell phone where I can just give him a call. We are just going to get the thing going. I tried to communicate with him and his management to let them know we want to do this historical thing. I think he is the best front man that rock ever had. We want to make a historical tribute and get guys in the band that wrote and played those songs just to play those songs again, you know. We have our first gigs in mid-May. We’re going to a place outside of Dallas. We are going to be in a culture center for five one-hour shows. It will make the show really tight. We are working on that now. We are working up the video now and we have my light guy designing the lighting and all of that stuff. Once we get it going, then I am going to have to figure out how to make that and the Legacy X thing work side by side.
Jeb: You need to get all of these bands that you’re involved in and just do a Carmine Appice concert and you could play with them all.
Carmine: [laugher] I could do that, but I don’t want to work that hard.
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