By Mark Schierholz
Carmine Appice is a drumming icon; He was influenced early on by the work of jazz drummers Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa. Appice first came to prominence as the drummer with the late 1960s psychedelic band Vanilla Fudge. He had already made a name for himself by the time some of the biggest rock bands were just starting out.
Appice is best known for his associations with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, the power trio Beck, Bogert & Appice, Rod Stewart, and King Kobra.
Along with being the drummer of Vanilla Fudge, Appice contributed background harmonies with bassist Tim Bogert. After five albums, the pair left Vanilla Fudge to form the blues rock quartet Cactus. Appice and Bogert then left Cactus to join Jeff Beck in the power trio Beck, Bogert & Appice. Later, Appice joined Rod Stewart's backing band in 1977, co-writing songs such as "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" and "Young Turks".
He also spent time with Blue Murder, which featured John Sykes of Thin Lizzy, and Tony Franklin from The Firm.
Carmine was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2014.
Recently, there was reformation of King Kobra with Johnny Rod, Mick Sweda, and David Henzerling, while Paul Shortino replaced Mark Free on vocals. This lineup released an album titled King Kobra in April 2011 receiving critical acclaim. A new King Kobra album was released in 2013, titled King Kobra II featuring the song "Have a Good Time."
He has written several books, one is a best-selling drum instruction book The Realistic Rock Drum Method that was first published in 1972, and has since been revised and republished as The Ultimate Realistic Rock Drum Method. His latest book, an autobiography is titled Stick it!
Mark: You grew up in gangs in Brooklyn, what was that like?
Carmine: Yes, we were part of gangs back then, which was part of growing up in Brooklyn. In that point of life, it’s almost like you did that to survive too, because if you didn’t, people would take advantage of you. We did have gangs, and I did run around with them.
I got away from them by playing drums; it’s one of the things that kept it from getting any worse. I had friends that stayed in gangs; they ended up murdering people, and getting into more gangs, like real gangsters....so, kind of saved my ass.
Mark: How did playing drums come about with you?
Carmine: My cousin played drums; he had a drum set at his house. I would go over there, we were an Italian family, we would have different parties and stuff, I’d get up and play on the drums, and then I would go home and beat on pots and pans. Eventually my parents got the message and bought me a toy kit, then somewhat of a real kit.
I started playing more and more, did some gigs. My parents saw I was serious about it, so they got me a real set. A guy on our block worked at the Gretsch drum factory, and he got us a deal on a drum set.
Mark: So, you have a good kit, and you started playing with some guys… what was your first gig?
Carmine: Probably the Alan Freed rock and roll show, at the Purple Chops. It was a gig in the Bronx, it was a dance. I made $7, it was funny. We loaded up my dad’s Plymouth with the big fins, to go to that gig.
Mark: Did you play with those guys for a while?
Carmine: On and off, I started playing with other guys, and eventually it led into different bands. I was playing and playing in lots of different things when I was a teenager.
Mark: When you were old enough to drive, you bought your own car… that car had a name…
Carmine: Yes, “Silver Cup” because it was silver and fast, I had fun building it and racing it.
Mark: In 1967 Atlantic Records signed your band The Pigeons, but wanted you to change the name, and the band name “Vanilla Fudge” came up… where did that come from?
Carmine: We were looking for a new name, and a girl named Dee Dee gave it to us. She thought we were white soul… we thought that was pretty cool, so we stuck to it.
Mark: When the band became popular, how was your first plane ride that you took?
Carmine: Yeah, we flew to the west coast… we had a manager who liked to play games. When the plane took off, he banged the back of my seat, really hard, you know, scared the hell out of me. I was probably 19 ½, never traveled before, so that was pretty crazy.
Mark: You bought something pretty cool from a pawn shop one time, what was it?
Carmine: I bought a 1924 Ludwig snare drum, a Black Beauty, and bought a 26” bass drum, pretty cheap actually, we recovered the bass drum to match my red sparkle Gretsch kit. That became the biggest bass drum in rock, kinda started the big bass drum rock thing.
Mark: You played a gig at a place called The Whisky a Go-Go… who was your support for that show?
Carmine: Alice Cooper, I thought it was kinda weird, ha ha.
Mark: You played the Ed Sullivan Show?
Carmine: Yes, 2 times, it was pretty amazing. When we found out 50 million people were watching, a little bit scary… but, once we were up on stage, it was alright. Once you start playing, you can tune that out.
Mark: How about your first gig with Led Zeppelin?
Carmine: Well, that was an interesting gig, because we ended up paying for it, you know, we ended up actually paying for them to open for us, and we never expected to pay for them to play, I mean, we were sold out already, with us and Spirit.
Mark: Right… your manager Ron Terry took 750.00 out of your pay from an upcoming sold out gig and got Zep their first North American show in ‘68… and the rest is history. You played a show in Canada that got pretty crazy as well?
Carmine: Yeah, it was Montreal; the stage was a bit far away from the people as there were concrete stairs leading up to the stage. So, Tim said to the audience, “Why don’t you move closer?”
Next thing you know, there were people pushing past the security and all over the stage, it was crazy, there was no way to play… Mark Stein was stranded on top of his organ. We had to go back stage and regroup.
Mark: Who have been your idols over the years?
Carmine: Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Joe Morello… they were probably my major idols.
Mark: What’s been your favorite drum kit you’ve played?
Carmine: Oh, I don’t know that I have a favorite. All my sets sound good, maybe my Blonde Ludwig that I played with Rod Stewart was a really great drum set… Slingerland drums sounded good, I have 2 sets now.
Mark: What’s your favorite car?
Carmine: I had a lot that were my favorites… I have a favorite now, it’s a Maserati. When I wrote the book, I didn’t have the Maserati, just got it two months ago, it’s fast and amazingly made.
Mark: Did you have drum techs from the very beginning of your career?
Carmine: That’s a weird question; I’ve never had anyone ask that before. But, yes, I’ve had drum techs since Vanilla Fudge. First guy we had lasted a few months, then we got another one, it just changed all the time.
Mark: Did you have a warmup routine before a show?
Carmine: Not really, even now, I just do a little stick clicking, but that’s it… just go out and play.
Mark: Are you currently working on any new music yourself?
Carmine: Yes! We are working on Vanilla Fudge Live in Sweden rock festival for the anniversary, and working on a King Cobra live, from the same place; it’s going to come out next year also. My brother Vinny and I are going to be working on a record shortly; we are doing Pledge Music campaign, which gives you the financing to go in and record a record.
Mark: What hobbies do you currently have?
Carmine: Well, cars, I’m into cars… and real estate. I traded my Rolls Royce for a piece of property in Memphis, and I still have that property. That and 14 other ones.
Mark: Looking back, would you change anything you did in your career?
Carmine: Yeah, I wouldn’t do the second Vanilla Fudge Album, it ruined our career. I blame Vanilla Fudge not being successful on that.
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