Born in Brooklyn, New York in the mid forties Italian/American Carmine Appice grew up listening to stick wielding jazz legends like Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and Max Roach picking up on both their remarkable timekeeping skills and flair for showmanship incorporating stick tosses and twirls, power fills, and double bass drum bombs in his powerhouse drum attacks. Probably best known for his work with Jeff Beck and Vanilla Fudge we asked our man on the east coast Howard Smith to fire a bunch of questions off, beginning with just why it was necessary to fill up the stage with such a bloody great big kit?
Carmine Appice: “It was all about getting the drums heard over the amps, the drums were the only acoustic instrument in Vanilla Fudge. I bought my first big bass drum in a pawn shop for $5.00 and we took it to the UK and Europe, I also did the Ed Sullivan Show with it and it left a big impression. Then I got a Ludwig endorsement in 1968 and ordered the whole kit oversized with two big bass drums and it was this kit that John Bonham saw and wanted so I helped him get a duplicate, including the gong. Take away one bass drum you have the Led Zeppelin kit.”
Total Music: Production whizz Shadow Morton took the helm on Vanilla Fudge’s first album, how much of a part did he play in the bands success?
Carmine Appice: “Well he picked ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ as the song to record.. We already had the arrangement, but he gave it a great sound. He made sure the album sounded like us and he added the freaky ‘Illusions Of My Childhood’ pieces that went throughout side two of the record [basically] he was in control of the recordings. We did know about arranging but we knew nothing about recording.”
Total Music: In 1967 Vanilla Fudge started their first World Wide tour on the back of the success of ‘You keep Me Hanging On’. What are your memories of the London scene at that time?
Carmine Appice: “Wow was the word, I mean going to the Speakeasy, being treated like rock royalty, hanging with all the great rock stars of the day [like] The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, The Yardbirds, all these guys, what can I say. When we played it was one of the most talked about nights at the Speakeasy, and it was also filmed and ended up in a movie called Popcorn, it was magic.”
Where do you think it all went wrong for the Fudge?
Carmine Appice: “We listened [too much] to (Atlantic boss) Ahmet Ertegun and Shadow when doing our second album The Beat Goes On. I think that album ruined our career, but we didn’t know the record business, we left it all up to Shadow and Atlantic Records."
Were you were an admirer of Jeff Beck before Beck Bogart & Appice was formed, and what was it about his playing that made him stand out?
Carmine Appice: “He was different, he played with soul and had all these strange techniques, he would utilize the whole guitar for sounds and he was always looking for new directions. That trio was really off the wall.”
On paper, BBA had it all, what were the circumstances that led to the demise of the group?
Carmine Appice: “In the end Tim Bogart played too much like a lead guitarist and Jeff just started to miss the bass player. But Jeff was no angel either, we were in the middle of a sold out tour in the US and we woke up in Atlanta to find that Jeff had left the hotel and just gone home. That's when it all started going downhill.”
Total Music: Supergroups were very fashionable back in the 70’s, do you think that KGB fulfilled its potential?
Carmine Appice: “No, not at all, mostly because of Mike Bloomfield, he couldn't sleep in LA! So he wasn’t involved in the songs and we had to fly up to San Francisco to record him, then when the record came out he did an interview with the LA times and put down all the band members. But big management had put it together from a business standpoint, not a musical standpoint, then Rick Gretch began to have drug problems so I went off and joined Rod Stewart.”
Total Music: You had a highly successful seven year stint with Rod Stewart, did you leave because he edged away from rock into lighter material??
Carmine Appice: “Yes, pretty much, Rod was starting to go in a different direction, lots of keyboards and more ballads and I was asked by Ted Nugent to join his band and thought I'd be able to do much more playing with Ted, so I moved again, I also had a solo album coming out at the time and needed time to promote it.”
Total Music: Tell us about your latest project SLAMM?
Carmine Appice: “I was looking for something different to do and had pretty much played with all the musicians I wanted to play with so I though a theatrical drum show would be fun and different. It’s like Stomp on steroids. I started auditioning new young players and came up with the musical direction. We use trash cans, oil drums, drum sets, buckets, ironing boards and it’s being groomed for off-Broadway or Vegas showroom kind of show. It’s very creative and has lots of energy.”
When Two Worlds Collide a Vanilla Fudge DVD performance from 2004 is available now on ABC. You can find more about SLAMM at www.slammusa.com and catch up with Carmine’s latest projects at www.carmineappice.com