Carmine Appice is on my top ten list of all-time amazing drummers. I didn’t know him by name until he filled in for Tommy Aldrich with Ozzy Osbourne for a short-lived stint after Blizzard of Ozz came out. I have fond memories of working my way back through Appice’s catalog of material with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Jeff Beck, and Rod Stewart. In the mid-1990s, Appice released a series of songs over two albums that were never commercially available in North America under the moniker of Guitar Zeus. The material on these albums ranks with some of his most beautiful work, and are revered amongst many of Appice’s musical contemporaries. Every modern drummer you know has checked out Appice’s tutorials, and legions around the globe have cribbed off his groundbreaking groove and wild, masterful showmanship. Is he a visionary? Carmine Appice was John Bonham before Bonham was Bonham. So, when someone like Carmine names a two-album series Guitar Zeus, you’d better believe it can level mountains.
Like Zeus, Appice rules over a jaw-dropping pantheon of guitar heroes. Guitar Zeus is an album of mythical proportions that, once you check the credits, borders on incendiary. Alongside Queen’s Brian May, the record features Slash, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Mick Mars; the lineup of guitar’s heaviest hitters is mind-blowing. Go to Spotify or Apple Music now and search for Guitar Zeus. What you will find is a 33-song compilation of all of the tracks from the two albums plus five new never heard before tracks. One of the best new tracks is “Nobody Knew,” featuring Brian May. Appice and his core band, featuring Tony Franklin (The Firm) on bass and Kelly Keeling (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) on vocals, have the basic ideas down with May in mind, and that’s obvious. May is, as usual, on fire here, effortlessly finding his groove and making this expertly-crafted track sound like the result of three guys who’ve been in a band together for a decade.
There are albums and CDs of Guitar Zeus available on Carmine’s webpage, or they can be purchased on MerchNow.Com. Guitar Zeus shirts are also pending, and Carmine is mulling over ways to expand the project yet again, as he ruminates about a book and more music in the latter parts of this interview. We talked a few weeks ago over Skype for just under an hour. The majority of this conversation is transcribed here. The audio file is here on SoundCloud for anyone interesting in hearing Carmine’s unedited answers from the man himself.
From the Guitar Zeus album, watch the music video for “Nobody Knew,” featuring Brian May:
How are you doing Carmine?
Carmine Appice: “I’ve been busy, I’ve been doing interviews. Today is what I call my radio day. I have a radio program. I call ten stations every week. Sort of like a reality show of my life. So I’m doing all that and getting ready to do a speaking gig tomorrow in the small theater here in Connecticut where I am. And so it’s just a little busy.”
Do you do a lot of that? Speaking gigs?
Appice: “Well, I’m just starting to get it going. It’s my first one in a couple of years. I’d like to do more of it. But it’s hard to get started. I have friends of mine going to do it and making big money. But fortunately, when they did it, they had like somebody at a clinic saw them doing a clinic and then said, ‘Hey, I’d like you to speak at one of my events.’ And then they did that, and then somebody else saw them there. And then they started building a career out of it. It’s not that easy. It wasn’t that easy for me.”
I’d think that with your history, you have a book, and you’ve got a good speaking voice. It should be a no brainer that you’d be able to do that.
Appice: “I know. But you need agents to do that. You send things out to agents. It’s like any other thing. Try and get a new band going today, you know? It’s really difficult to do. It’s a lot of fun. My girlfriend, who is a radio talk show host, she’s doing it with me. She’s she does the moderation kind of thing. So I don’t have to have any notes. She leads me into a story, and then I tell the story. Basically, you go through my history from 1966 until the recent history, and what I’m doing now. And basically go through The Beatles, Hendrix and Zeppelin, and the three guitar players; Page, Clapton, and Beck. The association with all these people. And what I’m doing with Vanilla Fudge and Rod Stewart. So it’s pretty cool.”
I feel like I was born about 15 years too late. I missed most of that good shit.
Appice: “Oh, really? Yeah. When were you born? How old are you?”
I’m 52. I was born in ‘67.
Appice: “Oh wow, that’s when we started.”
Guitar Zeus “This Time Around” feat. Yngwie Malmsteen & Dug Pinnick:
Right? And I missed you playing with Ozzy by about a month and a half.
Appice: “Yeah. Well you know, that was a good fun show. Until Sharon ruined it.”
Appice: “She’s good at doing that. She ruins a lot of people’s lives with Ozzy.”
She manages him well, though. I’ve got to give her that. But she’s a personality.
Appice: “Yeah, she did a good job with him. But, you know, at the beginning of it? It wasn’t Ozzy; it was the band, The Blizzard of Ozz. It was a band of alumni, you know, with Randy Rhoads. And that was supposed to be a four-way split band. But she changed it to the Ozzy Osbourne album. And that’s why Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake sued her in recent years. And unfortunately, they didn’t win. I don’t know why. Maybe they didn’t have any paperwork, but maybe they just thought she was friends, and she wasn’t going to screw anybody.”
I saw Ozzy speak once in Toronto. He was doing promo for Scream.
Appice: “Ozzy spoke?!?” (chuckles)
Yeah, he spoke. He was being interviewed, and he was doing really well. And then Sharon came out and sat beside him, and he shut down. It was like he couldn’t answer anything. He had to look at her, and she had to prompt him as to what to say. It was weird.
Appice: “Yeah, that’s what happens. He’s very introverted when she’s around.”
Guitar Zeus “Mothers Space” feat. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal:
It was strange. Anyway, so are we calling Guitar Zeus a new project? This has been around for a little while, right?
Appice: “Well, it’s a new project in America and Canada. It has not been released properly and in the U.S. and Canada ever since it came out in ’95 around the rest of the world. Like in Japan and Europe, the first album and second album did great worldwide. It actually spawned Guitar Zeus Japan and Guitar Zeus Korea as well because it did so well in those territories. In Europe, it did really great. It went into royalties with the label, which was Koch. We had royalties for publishing, royalties for the artists. But when I went to release it locally, I couldn’t get anyone to release it here. Because everything was about the grunge. Even though this sounds a bit grungy, you know? I couldn’t get a deal in the ’90s. So finally, in 2005, I released it with a European label in America called Escapi. And they went out of business as soon as that thing came out. So it never got any push, it just was released. So then 2009, I did it with another label that’s just put it out as a double album called Conquering Heroes, and they never did any push on it. So nobody knew it was out.
So finally, I got all the rights back for it a couple of years ago. And I said, you know, maybe I’ll get just a catalog deal for somebody to put it out. If somebody wants to buy it, they can buy it. And then the guy I’m working with from a company called Primary Wave said, ’look, if you’re going to put this out, don’t sell it or give it to any company with the digital rights, because that’s where all the money is going to be. And that’s where all the promotion is going to be on digital. Because CDs are slowing down, and iTunes is going to stop downloading. And so you should own the digital rights and just give away the CD rights.’ So I said ok, but no label wanted to take it without the digital rights because they knew that as well. I had a small label called Rocker Records that I was releasing different things just for catalog purposes. We had a distributor. So I kept my rights, as well as a King Kobra, live. I kept the rights to that digitally. And I released both of those on my label. And physically, I released the Guitar Zeus on my label. So we made up CDs, and we made up albums, and we started promoting it through the company.
We released it at the end of January, and ’Nobody Knew’ is the third video we released with Brian May in it. And I’ve actually made a bunch of money from digital and from the CD and album sales. We’re almost sold out of all the albums that we made; about 500 LPs. And they’re almost gone. We sold those on MerchNow and my website. And I sold some at gigs. I have to redo CDs now. I’m almost out of CDs. And now we’re starting up some Guitar Zeus T-shirts. So we can package together package a CD or an album with a shirt on MerchNow.Com. All the money I made from it I’m putting back into it; to make up product and to promote it. Especially with the video that I got Brian May to do. That video is starting to do ok.”
The irony that you’re making money, and you’ve circumvented a label? That’s not lost on me.
Appice: “Yeah. I made a lot of money on this thing in the ‘90s with the deals I made. It was a lot of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars we made on this. I mean, I spent a hundred grand on each record to make it. Because I did analog, and I had proper engineers. I paid everybody well, and it came out great. I think it’s some of the best stuff I’ve done in my career. Songwriting, drumming, production. It all came out of my head, the idea.”
APPICE “Monsters and Heroes” Lyric Video:
Is any of this material new or is this just a straight compilation of stuff that was done back in the day?
Appice: “There’s some new tracks. There is one track that we did with Bumblefoot that was never finished back in the day. So we did finish that. We had to put some more guitars on it. My mixer, Stevie D, he put some guitars on the Bumblefoot track ‘Mothers Space.’ That was the first video. And we did lyric videos with it. And then we did the second video, which is with Doug Pinnick and Yngwie Malmsteen, and that did ok. But then when I got to the third video, I wanted it to be the Brian May song. And I said, ’you know what? I’m going to play some drums on it.’ Put some drum footage in the lyric video. Now, I asked Tony Franklin if he would film a track of him playing the bass. He did. And I said, you know what I’m going to ask Brian if he’d do the guitar. So he said he would do it. And then he didn’t have time, he was on tour. So we had gone to one of his gigs. My editor and I, and filmed him off his big screen with Queen. So we have put that in there when the guitar solo came along. Have you seen the video?”
I have actually, yeah.
Appice: “So the guitar solo is very psychedelic. So we put him in this, and I sent it to Brian to see what he thought. And he said he says, ‘I love the idea. I love the concept. I love this song.’ Obviously, because he played on it. ’But I don’t like my part because I’m not playing the song. It doesn’t look right with me not playing the song. I really want to play the song.’ So I said, ’Well, what can we do? He said, ’give me a week or two. Let me put it together, and I’ll film my part, and I’ll send it to you.’ I said, ’that’s awesome, dude.’ So he did it while he was on the road, he filmed himself. He sent me five videos of different takes; a rhythm part and lead parts. And when we took it, we put it together. And the concept of the cartoony looking stuff; we wanted to do that. So I did that with this group that I’m producing and managing called Kodiak. And I think maybe heard of them through the Hip Video connection. So we used that same concept of ’live with the cartoon’ thing in that video for the first time.
So I tell the same editor, ’You know what? Let’s use the same concept.’ We’re filming this stuff on iPhones. It’s not high def, like you’d film a real video, you know? I think if we can ’effect’ it, make it look cool, and make it psychedelic, we’re good. And then I couldn’t get my singer Kelly Keeling. He couldn’t get somebody to film him singing the song. I just wanted him in front of a mike singing the song, you know? So I got another friend of mine to sing the song. I said to my editor, ’let’s just use his lips. So it looks like the lips are singing it, but the lyrics are coming out of his lips.’ And make that same effect also. So when he started doing it, he started sending it to me. I said, well, ’let’s try this. Let’s do that.’ And then, in the end, it came out great. And I sent it to Brian. He loved it. I had interviews with Brian from the early 2000s he did with a radio friend of mine talking about the song. So we use some of that in the press release. And Brian gave us a one-liner, which I can’t remember what he said. It was something like, ’This piece of music is a gem.’ Or ’It’s stellar,’ or something like that. Which is very, Doctor Brian May. (chuckles)
So now we put it out, and we hired Hip Video to promote it. And I’ve got ads coming out on the Internet again through Primary Wave, and we’re still selling it on MerchNow. And now we’re making up t-shirts. Hip Video wanted t-shirts for promotion. So we’re making up some t-shirts. I’m going to make some more and offer them as a package on MerchNowDotCom, where you can buy the LP, the CD, and the shirt, or the shirt and vinyl, or the shirt and CD. So we’re marketing it, and people are hearing about it. And people are loving it. You know, people love the album, and they love the songs, the production, the playing. And, you know what really blows my mind? Everyone’s saying it sounds like a ‘now’ album. As if it sounds today.”
Here it is; the entirety of Guitar Zeus ready for streaming:
So when you recorded these songs, you recorded them old-school? You did them in the studio? These people all came around?
Appice: “Yep. I did them in the studio analog. Everything was done analog. The only thing different was Pat Regan mixed the second album on a system called Radar, which almost sounds analog, but it had the capabilities of doing what ProTools can, where we can move things around and edit and all that stuff. So we did the second album like that. Both those albums together sounded very similar, you know. It was old school, and my basis was Blue Murder, Soundgarden, and the Beatles. That was the basis, the kind of sound I was looking for. You know, I wanted the freedom of Blue Murder, the playing and the jamming of Blue Murder with that deep, heavy rock sound like Soundgarden. We even had our own tuning on a lot of the songs that Kelly Keeling came up with.
And Kelly wrote most of the lyrics. Some songs I wrote the melody and chord changes and added parts to what he was doing. And I would work with Kelly every day in a hotel room where we had a four-track, and we’d work from 12 pm to 8 pm every day and write the songs and put them together. And then then I would leave and leave him to demo them, and then come back the next day and listen. Then we might edit and fix stuff up. And that’s how we came up with the album.”
Appice: “And the whole idea was a joke, really. Back in the day in 1992, I was put the band together with Bob Daisley, Jeff Watson from Night Ranger, and Joe Lynn Turner. We were coming up with a name for it, and one of the names we threw around was Zeus. Because we all liked the God Zeus. And Jeff Watson was just coming out of Night Ranger, and he got a record deal just by coming out of Night Ranger. I said, ’man, I did a solo album in ’82. I’ve been trying to get another one.’ This is ten years later. And I’m still trying to get it recognized. ’Maybe I should play the guitar, maybe I should do a guitar album, and I’ll get a deal. You know, I’ll call it Guitar Gods; no, I’ll call it Guitar Zeus.’ And I said that to the guys as a goof. And then when I went to bed that night (when your mind churns at night, and you are thinking about stuff), I said, ’you know, that’s a good idea. Maybe I should do that, so I can get some people to commit to it.”
So then I found myself looking for a manager that could get a record deal together. It took me two years and finally found this guy, Warren Wyatt, who managed Doug Aldrich at the time. And Doug wasn’t really known yet. And I was going to Japan with Tony Franklin, Kelly Keeling, and I needed a guitar player. And I asked Doug, and he couldn’t do it. But I had a good talk with Doug’s manager. It was in Japan. I know this guy had ins in Japan, and he said, ’I can get this deal in Japan. No problem.’ But in the interim, I ran into Ted Nugent and Brian May at some gigs. And I did a clinic with Brian May in Rochester. I asked Brian if he would play on it. He said he would. Ted said he would. The Kings X guys, I asked them. I figured, if I get the deal, I can get these four guys in there, it’s going to draw other people in. And it did. And that’s how we did. I put them on first.
To answer the question from before; Some people I recorded all the tracks in L.A. in the analog studio. And then I sent the tracks to Brian. I sent a cassette to see which ones he wanted. He wanted to do ’Nobody Knew.’ I made a safety copy of the 24 track and sent it to Brian. He did that in England on the 24 track. Ted Nugent, I actually went to Detroit, and I did it in Detroit. With Yngwie, I went to Florida. I got him, and I played on his album as a switch off. And then some guys like Steve Morse; I sent him the tape, the 24 track. The Kings X guys; I went to Texas and got those guys. The rest of the guys. Some of them, like Paul Gilbert, I think, had an ADAT system in his house. So he did his on his system. Slash did the studio. Mick Mars did the studio. Edgar Winter did the studio in L.A. Yngwie wanted to be on the track with Doug Pinnick. I paired them off. Mick Mars wanted to be on the track with Edgar Winter. So I paired them off. That was a weird combination.”
Check out the Guitar Zeus artwork:
I love that track though. It’s awesome.
Appice: “It’s a great track. And before you knew it, I had this killer album that. I had Jennifer Batten on there; she’d just came out of playing with Jeff Beck. I had Leslie West. And then, when I did the second album, I got Steven Seagal through Richie Sambora. And then I got John McEnroe. I ran into him somewhere and told him what I was doing. He said, ’oh, man, I’m a guitar player. I’d love to play on it.’ So I put him on the track called ’Stash.’ The first album did great. Then Warren got a second album out on Polydor in Japan. That was an even bigger budget. We spent another hundred grand on it. And then when we did Guitar Zeus Japan, I cut some new tracks that were never on one and two.
So now those are on this compilation. I don’t really call it a compilation. I just call it Guitar Zeus, these project sessions. When it came together, and it was finished, I thought it was some of the best stuff I’ve ever done. But I never got it out over here, and I wanted to get it out where people can hear it. I mean, like, right now, I don’t care if I take all the money I make on it, put it back in there and just keep floating it. And getting people to hear it. Because for me, it’s about the album. It’s such a good album that I want people to hear it, and like it, and enjoy it.”
Are you motivated at all to tour this? Would you take this on the road and do any of these songs live?
Appice: “I did do it in ’95 at the NAMM show. I could. But, you know, if the album goes big enough where it sells enough product and is well-known enough where I can get enough money to take the band out to do it, I would love to do that. You know, today it’s so difficult. It is so expensive to get a band out on the road. I’d need to get 10,000 to 12,000 dollars a night to do this. I don’t know if we could warrant that right now. But I did do it at NAMM Show in like 1996 or ’97? Something like that. Where we had me and Tony Franklin and Kelly Keeling. I had Doug Aldridge, I had Paul Gilbert, and I had the guys from Kings X and John Norum. And it was a great show. The audience loved it. They were freaking every time we’d bring somebody else up. And it was great. It was really good.”
That John Norum track is one of my favorite ones on a compilation.
Appice: “Unbelievable, right? That’s a new one.”
It’s got some great sweeps on it.
Appice: “See, that’s a new one that wasn’t on any of the other ones. You know, it was supposed to be a bonus track maybe for Japan, but it was never on the ones that I released here in America. So that’s a new track. ’Couldn’t Be Better’ is a new track. ’Angels’ is a new track. The Bumblefoot track is a new track. And there’s one other track. Like the track with Dweezil Zappa? What a cool, crazy track that was.”
King Kobra “Turn Up The Good Times” is a must-hear:
Appice: “And the Zakk Wylde track with all the time signatures. It was just really a creative time to put this music together. And it was very progressive. It’s like progressive rock, you know?”
Now for you, Aside from all the playing and the talent of these guys, you must have memories that just pop into your head, like if you run down this list of collaborators and you see Slash, the first thing that’s going to pop into your head is probably a memory of when you first met him.
Appice: “Well, believe it or not, when the Guitar Center did those drum-off contests? I started those, and one of them I did, Slash and Steven Adler came to it, and Steve was in the contest. He didn’t win. And I remembered because I called him Steve Alder. Because they spelled it wrong. And when I met Slash later on when he got famous, he told me this story. And I said, you know, I remember that. I went down in the audience and was with Steven when he was in that contest. When nobody knew him. He was unknown. And, you know, we talked about that. We’ve done a bunch of stuff in jams together in L.A. I’m thinking of writing my next book, and calling it Guitar Zeus; The Book. Talk about all the guitar players I’ve played with in my life. Mike Bloomfield; Jake E. Lee; Jeff Watson; Brad Gillis; Jeff Beck; I jammed with Jimmy Page; I jammed with Jimi Hendrix. You know, plus all these guys on that on that Guitar Zeus album. I made a list of all the guitar players, and I was quite impressed, actually.”
That would be a book. I mean, that’s a pitch for a book right there. I think you should push that forward.
Appice: “Yeah. It’s definitely a book. I’ve got it in my brain. I haven’t started yet. I have a guy that’s doing a Led Zeppelin book now that said he would be interested in maybe writing it with me. And he’s also done a book about the Rolling Stones, I think? No, the Beatles, a huge Beatle book. It’s 700 pages, and it sold a million copies. And right now, he’s doing a Led Zeppelin book. So I mentioned this idea, and he said, ’let me get through this, and maybe we can talk about doing this Guitar Zeus book.’ Because he can go around and talk to all these different people about me also. So it’d be interesting.”
Here is a recent photo of Appice behind his drum kit:
Can you tell me a bit about what it’s like to be a musician in your 70s? Are you still a full-steam-ahead type of guy? Or are you like a rear-view-mirror type of guy?
Appice: “No, I’m full steam ahead. I’m still doing things. Tomorrow I’m doing a speaking gig. Sunday, I’m playing with the Buddy Rich Orchestra. And then I’ll do some charity things. And then we’re going out and doing four shows with Vanilla Fudge. We’re going back into the studio to do a new song with the Fudge. And actually, Tim Bogert is going to be on it too. So it will be four original members. So we’re still working on finishing a new Cactus album. Cactus next year, it’s their 50th anniversary. We’re working on that. I met with Eagle Rock the other day. We have some footage from Cactus Live 1971 at the Isle of Wight Festival. And we have a 1975 show live from a club in Long Island, New York that my manager owned.
We have multi-tracks of that. And then we have the new stuff. Plus, our harmonica player wrote a book about Cactus, and he’s talked to different people. So we’re talking about maybe releasing a 50th-anniversary package. Some of the new album stuff; the old live in ’71; and the video of that of Isle of Wight. Plus, Wounded Bird is going to put out all four of our Cactus albums on double CDs, remastered, and all that stuff. And then we have a new Beck, Bogert, and Appice live at the London Rainbow that I mixed last year with Jeff’s engineer. That’s been it’s in the works, we’re working on a record deal for that as well. So we’re still gung-ho, you know?
But I don’t do these major long tours anymore, like three months. That I don’t like doing. I like playing weekends, coming home and playing weekends. You know, I’m not going to Europe and Japan and all those long flights anymore. Because it’s different when you’re like the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin or the Rod Stewart Group. When you travel first class and everything? When you’re not flying first class in your own planes, and you’ve got to deal with airlines, it’s a real pain in the butt to go to England and go to Europe. I’d stop doing that last year. I had a medical condition last year in Europe that I almost died from. Have you read my book?”
You know, it’s been on my list. I just haven’t picked it up. And now that I have been on your website, I was thinking, “I’ll just buy an autographed copy, man. What the hell!”
Appice: “Do it. Because I’ve had these massive nosebleeds I’ve had over the last few years and I had to have an operation. And when I was in Europe with my brother (I’m still doing gigs with my brother too. I have gigs and my brother coming up too), I was over in Europe doing fourteen gigs. The last gig in the Canary Islands, I got a major nosebleed on stage. I had to get off stage, and I was worried about getting home. But I play all over America. Last year, I played with The Rascals; we did fourteen shows all over the place. Plus, I play with Vanilla Fudge. I play with my brother. So I must have done 60 shows last year. But that’s fine. You know, 360 days; 60 shows; not bad?”
That’s that’s good average.
Appice: “Yeah. So, you know, I’m looking at 30 Guitar Zeus LPs that I just autographed. I’m waiting for my label partner to come pick them up. I’m going to put them back on MerchNow, and then that’s the last of the LPs. When they sell all these, all the LPs are gone, and we’ll have to order some new ones.”
Vanilla Fudge performing “You Keep Me Hanging On” Live on Jimmy Fallon:
Let me ask you this; What do you think is the most accurate portrayal of being an active musician in a movie is so far? And what aspects of that movie did you like?
Appice: “I’d probably say the Queen movie. Even though some of the events were wrong.”
Yeah, it was out of sequence. Some of the songs were out of sequence too.
Appice: “But I’ve been to those Freddie parties. And I hung out with Queen, and I’ve known Brian and Roger, all those guys in those days. And those guys (in the movie) did a good job portraying them. The guy who looked like Brian portrayed him well. He had Brian’s ways about him on stage. And Fred, the guy that did him, did an awesome job.”
Rami Malek, yeah.
Appice: “I saw The Dirt one. I didn’t think that one was very good. I’m in that book as well, and I’ve read that book. We took them on tour with Ozzy on the very first tour. And a lot of that stuff happened. I didn’t think it was a very good portrayal of them. And the Elton John one I didn’t care for that much.”
Yeah. It seemed more like a musical. Like just snippets and vignettes.
Appice: “Yeah. Like Elton John: The musical. It was too… gay. Not gay, Like a man is gay, but like in ’the gay white way.’ Like a cabaret review. It was too gay for me. Too many sparkles and lights, you know? The Queen one I thought was done really well. And you know, what I look for is different. I mean, Spinal Tap was a good funny one. That was a great one. Even though when I saw Spinal Tap, I was with King Kobra, and we were building King Kobra. And out on the road. I’d bought a motorhome and the trucks. I’d spent a lot of money that I got from my deals on the band. And we watched it on the motorhome, and I was LIVING it. And I didn’t like it when I saw it the first time because I was living the damn thing. Because I’d just come out of playing with Ozzy and Ted Nugent, you know? Arenas. Now we’re playing clubs and opening up for different bands in arenas. We’re trying to get into places, you know, getting lost and ending up in the boiler room. Oh yeah, I was living this, and I didn’t like it. But that was a good portrayal of it and a good goof on it as well.”
Another recent photo of Appice, taken this year:
Can you talk a little bit about being an educator? I don’t think every musician can teach and you have done quite well at teaching people your craft.
Appice: “So, yeah, I mean at one point in my life, my career education was as big as it was in my playing and recording career. When I start when I started off in Vanilla Fudge, they (management) tried to get me to do clinics. I wouldn’t do it because I was too much of a rock star. You know? I was a 20 years old, 21 years old. I was young, you know? And I was just enjoying, you know, what comes along with it all. When I did Cactus I went to a music store I think it was Sam Ash. Because I’ve studied drums, and I’ve learned how to read music, every once a while, I’d go into a music store and look at the books. So I was looking at the books and I saw this book that said; ’Learn to play rock drums.’ Now it’s 1971; I look like a hippie. I had a beard and long hair and tie-dyed T-shirts, jeans, bell-bottoms. Nothing flairy, and nothing flash. On the cover of this drum book was a guy who looked like Elvis Presley with his hair slicked back, like Elvis, smiling with ’Learn to play rock drums!’ on the cover. His arms were holding the sticks traditionally, which nobody did anymore. I said, ’You’ve got to be kidding me.’ When I looked at the material, it was terrible. So I said; ’You know what? I’m going to write a book.’ I’m going to base it after this other book, which was a classic book called The Chapin book. And it was written with three lines, which was very easy to understand a bass drum, snare drum and a high hat, or bass drum, snare drum and cymbal. So that’s basically what the basis is for time when playing rock. I wrote the book in 30 days while on the road with Cactus.
Instead of partying with the band and tearing up hotels, I would spend two hours writing the book. And THEN I’d go tear up the hotels. (laughs) So I wrote the book and I got my lawyer; the same lawyer that Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and Vanilla Fudge and all the big bands used. I gave him the book he got me a deal. And he said, ’You own the copyright.’ To tell you the truth, at that time, I didn’t even know what that meant. I was like 24-25 years old. I mean, I didn’t know what that meant, but I found that later when I was able to get different deals for the book over the years and the book started selling. And then in 1972, Ludwig Drums said, ’Hey, look, you’ve got a book out now. Why don’t you do clinics?’ Just like when you go out and do gigs, you sell records. You do clinics and you sell books. I said, ’Oh, ok.’ So I was a very first rock musician to ever do a drum clinic of any kind. And I did it at Sam Ash music store in Long Island at the bottom of a church. It was a little venue, and I had 800 people there. It was like a show. And then all my clinics and then on were like shows. I went and did clinic tours, I took roadies, I took equipment, I did disappearing drum solos on the tours. I taught. I made it real. I made the drum thing an event.
I was with Rod Stewart at the time. Rod said to me, ’If you are gonna do these clinics, make them an event.’ And that’s what we did. And then I started doing The drum-offs. I did a drum-off at Griffith Park and I had 10,000 people there. And all my clinics when I’d do a clinic tour, I’d do 500-600 people. In Paris, I did 1800 people. In Japan, I did 2000. Australia I did 2000 in two different cities. I was doing major numbers with the clinics and selling major amounts of books. I did the book in German. I did it in Japanese. And then I would do clinics. I did a thing, like now with those rock camps, the fantasy camps? Yep, I did. I used to do the Ludwig Symposium, which was the same thing. And then I did my own in Long Beach in 1981 I think it was, I did my own Carmine Appice Drum Symposium, which was a camp for a week in the Long Beach City College, a community college. And people came in. I had maybe 120 students came in. But they only paid, at the time in those days, a couple of hundred bucks. I had other drummers come in. I had companies come in, talk about their product. We played at night and did concerts.
It was what these rock camps are like today. I did that in ’81, you know. So I was a bit ahead of my time in a few things. I was always experimenting. I was always looking for new things. I had an open-minded manager that I’d say, ’Hey, I want to do this drum off to promote my gigs at the whiskey.’ We did the first one. He put it together. We had a radio station involved. I had more people at the drum-off than I did at the Whisky, and I was sold out for two nights at the Whiskey. And that became a thing; The drum-off. And then The Guitar Centre stole it from me and they made it even bigger. I did a lot of crazy things that turned out. Guitar Zeus was another one, you know?”
Old-school goodness: Beck Bogert & Appice performing “Superstition” from 1973:
Can you talk a little bit about your approach to stepping into a drumming position in an established band? Do you just walk in? And say, “I’m going to do my thing.” Or do you try to pay homage to what’s been done before?
Appice: “Everything is different. Everyone is different. Luckily, every project that I stepped into, I played the way I play. The only one that was a little different was Rod. But even when I played in Rod, I didn’t audition for Rod. He asked me to go listen to the band to see if I liked it. Because I knew Rod; we’d toured with him with Cactus. We did 30-40 shows with Cactus with The Faces. I knew him before that in the Jeff Beck band as well. And so he knew what I played like. So he said, ’go see if you like the band. If you like it, I’ll be back in town in a couple of weeks for a couple of days. Then we can get together, and I’ll play with you if you like it.’ And that’s what happened. I joined the band. He said, ’I know you’ve got fans out there. Do a solo every night. And play as you played in Cactus.’ which I did, pretty much. You hear my drum fills all over ’Hot Legs.’ On ’Losing You,’ I do a full drum solo. Songs like ’You’re in My Heart’ I would play less, but I would sing the background harmonies with them because I was also a singer, you know?
And we did ’You Keep Me Hanging On’ with Rod because I was in the band. So I got to play the way I played with Vanilla Fudge. When I went to Ozzy, I just listened to what Tommy Aldridge did, and what they did on the records. And I just wrote a little chart and then I did it my way. But I still did it, you know? I really like that I never had to change my style a lot when I put something together. King Kobra, I played like me. In Blue Murder, I really played like me. In BBA, I played like me on ten, you know? I’ve been lucky like that for my whole career when I went to play with someone. When I got a call from Bob Ezrin, he said, ’I want you to play on this album that’s just screaming for Carmine drum fills.’ I said, ’Really? Who’s the band?’ He says, ’Pink Floyd.’ I said, ’What happened to Nick?’ I knew those guys; I toured with them with Fudge. He said, ’Ah, his calluses are soft. He’s been racing his Ferrari, and they wanted to get some new blood. This track is just screaming for your drum fills.’ So if you listen to the track, ’Dogs of War,’ I’m all over it. I mean, I’m drum-filling out like crazy on it. And that’s what he wanted. So even with Pink Floyd, I didn’t have to change my style. You know, when I played with Jeff Beck and Stanley Clarke, I didn’t change my style for that either.”
Rod Stewart’s classic song and video, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?“
At this point, I suggest we stop, and we are just wrapping up and chatting. But we got back onto Guitar Zeus again, and then discussing Generation Axe as a touring entity, and Carmine shares a story about a party at Steve Vai’s house:
Appice: Talking about Steve Vai, right? I went to a party at his house. You know, we’ve been friends, and I went to a Christmas party. I’m at the party, and he said, ’Hey, come here; I want to show you something.’ I say, ’What?’ He says, ’When I go on the road, I carry CDs. My CD case is like the charts.’ He says, ’So the first CD in the case is my number one CD. The second is number two, three, etc. I’ve got about 30 CDs I carry.’ So he opens up the case, and he says, ’Look at what’s number one.’ Do you know what was number one? Guitar Zeus.”
Appice: “I said, ’Wow, dude. You know, I wanted to get you on it, but I could never get the timing. If I do another one, I would love to have you on it.’ He goes, ’Count me in.’ But today you can’t do it, because you don’t have the budget.”