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July 12, 2016

Foolish Behaviour since 76 - Carmine Appice interview

John Fisher met Carmine on his visit to the UK to promote his new book 'Stick It' - My Life of Sex Drums and Rock n'Roll

posted by Thomas Stadelmann

Carmine Appice and SMILER go back a very long way, right back to when Carmine joined Rod's band in 1976. Carmine was always an accessible superstar. I remember meeting him once in Peter Stringfellow's Millionaire Club in Manchester, when the band called in after a gig in 1978. And also at drum clinics that Carmine did in the UK the same year. In fact, the team of the day [when we were still The Rod Squad] went back stage to to say hello to Carmine - John Gray had spoken to him at the London clinic and Carmine remembered him as "you're the guy from London". They walked in and he was changing his leggings - Ethel Burton apologised and covered her eyes! Carmine was not phased!
As we were setting the interview up, I told Carmine's partner Leslie Gold the story - "That wasn't the only time Carmine was caught with his trousers down" was her reply.

A drummer himself, and the guy who runs The Kenney Jones fan club, John Fisher, was the perfect choice to meet up with Carmine on his flying visit to the UK to promote his new book 'Stick It' My Life of Sex Drums and Rock n'Roll. So along with SMILER photographer Yve Paige, they met up with Carmine in London for this exclusive SMILER interview.
- Mike Walton

SMILER: Thank you for allowing SMILER the pleasure of your company

CARMINE: No problem

The first concert that I ever went to as a 13 year old was December 24th Christmas Eve 1976, The Rod Stewart group

At Olympia

Yes! The band is a new band, been together for about 8 months

Actually 76' right? So not even that, I joined around August of 76', When I went to Rod's house to see the band. There was John Jarvis, Gary Grainger, Billy Peek, Jim Cregan, and Phil Chen. There was no sax yet; Phil Kenzie joined after me.

Ok so you're playing Olympia, playing to thousands of people, you're live on the radio and you're live on television no pressure?

I didn't realise we were live on the radio. It's funny when you play those kind of big events in your life, like we just played Sweden Rock with Vanilla Fudge and King Cobra and it was filmed live for the radio; you don't think about it, you just play the show and make sure you do the best you can all the time. I didn't even think about the fact that we were live on the TV until I saw it and said wow, we sound pretty good!

In the early days, you used to go to Joey's, your cousins house, to play drums. Your Mum and Dad could see you were interested and bought you a kit. You and your brother played at home...

No, my brother was too young. I was 11 he wasn't born then, he was born one year later. He was about 9 when he started playing, I was already out of the house playing with Vanilla Fudge, but I had left a drum set at home. If I hadn't left that drum set, I don't know what Vinny's career would have been. When I went home one time, I was all dressed up in my Carnaby Street red velvet jacket, flowered shirt and scarf and velvet pants, and I was driving my Pantera or my XKE or my big Mark 9 Jag - the neighbourhood always knew when I was there. Vinny was outside, he saw the car and came in and he was 9 years old; he pulled me to the room where I had left my drums and starts playing. I said wow! My mother asked what does he sound like? I said he sounds good, we should take him for lessons where I went, start him young. I asked her: does he play all the time? She said, he drives me crazy, just like you did! So we sent him for lessons. He could watch me on TV or see me on magazines or listen to the records, and he was like fired up; I wanna do this!

You used to listen to Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and Max Roach - all single bass drummers, yet you're a double bass drummer?

Yeah well I started out single. I played about 7 years on one bass drum, the whole first three Vanilla Fudge albums, and then when I got my Ludwig endorsement, I always wanted two bass drums - but the fact that I sang, made it difficult. And I never could afford another bass drum, or the boom stand that I need to sing with. But when Vanilla Fudge started making it, I ordered the double bass from Ludwig and then got the boom stand, because we were making money. Otherwise I would just sing with the mic right next to me. Then I became a double bass drum player. I just interpreted the stuff I used to do with the high hat and just switched the bass drum instead, that's how I came up with a lot of my double bass drum stuff.

Going back to the early days again around 1966, you had a day job earning around $45 a week, but you were getting $120 playing pubs and clubs at the weekend. And around the time of meeting Tim Bogart you turned professional

Well it was actually a bit before that I became professional. I was playing with a guy named Dean Parish in a band that we had. He is a Northern Soul guy here in England, he had a big hit with 'I'm On My Way'. You know my parents told me to go to school to become something like an electrician; so I tried that for a year but the second year was all the same, wiring systems, bell wires - you know - door bells, all the different ways of wiring them up. The next year was the same thing, but now instead of door bells it was lights. I said you - know what: I gotta do a whole year of freakin' lights now? The same shit? I'm going to the other high school and major in music and it's a good thing I did, because I learned how to play chords on the keyboard, which in turn is how I wrote the 'Da Ya Think I'm Sexy' chords. I learned how to play and then transferred to bass and guitar. I was always singing in street acapella groups. So when I got out of high school, I didn't have a trade, so I went to work as a stock boy in some linen place. They had mats for tables and linen of all different colours and we just grabbed them and made orders up. But I would play on Sunday and Wednesday - after a couple of weeks, I got fired and I then got an easier job in a financial company: I used to take stacks of cancelled cheques to different banks all over Manhattan. It was now springtime, so I would go to the park and hangout, watch the chicks walk by and talk up some women - you know - when I'd go back they would say what took you so long... I didn't last very long at that job either. I said to my parents, I am working 45 hours a week and getting up at 5 o' clock in the morning traveling for 45 minutes, working all day. I am gone 12 hours, at the end of the week, I get 45 dollars; now should I do that or should I work the weekend and make 150 dollars? My Mom and Dad realised this was the better thing to do. When I was 17 after working through my teens, I had saved up enough to put a down payment on a brand new car. I got a loan and payed the car off myself so I was a proud dude. I would go back to school in a brand new car but there were other guys in school who had Corvettes, but their father had bought it for them - I bought my car!

Vanilla Fudge once had a support band called Led Zeppelin. Did you ever think at the time they would be as big as they became?

Who?...[Laughs] We thought they would be big, but at the time we blew a lot of people off the stage. We blew the Who off the stage here in London. And not according to us, according to the reviews, we blew Hendrix off stage, we blew Cream off the stage, we blew everyone we played with off stage, but we were thinking who is going to blow us off? ...Led Zeppelin! When they started doing that, we were shocked - those guys were unbelievable! It took them a while, it wasn't on the first tour, it was on the second tour. That's when they released the first album, they were incredible.

I have recently been listening to Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and can hear influences of Vanilla Fudge. And listening to Vanilla Fudge, I can hear influences of Iron Butterfly - so who did influence you?

Well, Vanilla Fudge was around before Iron Butterfly. They were 68, we were 67. Our influences came from R & B groups like the Rascals. And the fact that all around long Island there was a fad going on by the Vagrants It was called production numbers; they were slowed down versions of songs. They used to do 'Satisfaction', but slow it down, make it more powerful and dramatic. The only difference was Vanilla Fudge listened to the lyrics of the song and made music to go with the lyrics. So for instance, 'You Keep Me Hangin On' is about a love gone bad. As we all know, it's not happy; so we took those lyrics and put them into a realm of music surrounding it. It was more dramatic, what we call hurting lyrics from the heart, and we brought the music and the lyrics as one. 'Eleanor Rigby' was a swing quartet with Paul McCartney, doing an amazing job singing. But we brought it into a cemetery with an eerie setting that matched the words. 'People Get Ready' is more of a gospel song and 'Ticket To Ride' is another hurting song that was too fast - slowing it down puts emotion in the lyrics, and that's what we did.

Vanilla Fudge had finished in 1970, Rod is at a loose end...

Yeah, that first Rod Stewart album did nothing, and he did all covers.

You were both asked to form a band with Jeff Beck?

Yeah, the idea was after we did that one gig in 1969, ten years after the Jeff Beck Group and Vanilla Fudge, Jeff Beck had Led Zeppelin come up and jam with him. That was the night John Bonham took all his clothes off onstage, and my mother said why does he do that, I don't know why? It was also the night John Bonham told me that Jeff beck wanted to play with me and Tim. A seed was planted in our heads. In 1969 Blind Faith came out of the remanence of other bands to make a super group, so we had in our mind to get Jeff, Me, Rod, and Tim to make a super group. That didn't happen because Rod didn't want to work with Jeff. Rod still felt that Jeff had ripped him off, and he was mad at Jeff right up until I helped get them together in Australia years later. So we were going to do it without Rod using another singer. Jeff was going to come over with manager Peter Grant and our lawyers but two days before he got in a car wreck that put him 18 months behind, What we probably should have done was just stay with Vanilla Fudge. We had just turned down a tour of Japan that was big money, but we just said we don't want to be with Vanilla Fudge anymore. The band with Rod and Jeff was going to be called Cactus, so we put together another version of Cactus. There was another great guitar player, Jim McCarty. He was awesome so we got him, and we got the singer from the Amboy Dukes, which was Rusty Day. So we formed another sort of supergroup, just not as big, but you know Rod wasn't really big other than in the Jeff beck group at the time. That first Rod Stewart album really didn't do anything in America and probably didn't do anything here. I remember listening to 'Street Fighting Man' on there and I loved his voice. His voice was so great! When we first heard Rod's voice we said holy shit, listen to this guy singing, he's like the best white rock singer we ever heard! You know, nobody sounded like him. Even the in the Jeff Beck group the things they were doing , Led Zeppelin totally ripped them off. As Jeff used to tell me, Jimmy Page used to go on the road with them and ripped off the whole idea. Even the same song 'You Shook Me'. Come on it's the same fucking son. So that's what happened and finally when we got together with Jeff, he said: well maybe we should do it as a trio. But Rod told me not to do it - Rod said don't go with Jeff, it will only last an album or two and you will be done. You have a great group Cactus, you stay with them, you'll be better off staying with Cactus. But we didn't listen, we wanted to play with Jeff Beck. Then, when I joined Rod I admitted he was right!

I know it is in the book, but Rod and Jeff never worked together again until you helped get them together.

Yeah like I wrote in the book we were playing Australia 6 nights at a 6000 seater in Sydney, and one night at the stadium, and Jeff just did one night at the 6000 seater. Jeff was in the same hotel as us, so I went and knocked on his door and said you should come see us, this band's a killer. He said no I don't think Rod will want me there and I told him I would talk to Rod. Rod said he was fine with it, they were old enough to bury the hatchet you know, but it was pretty amazing the day what happened. We were in the dressing room playing the smaller place that Jeff just played. One of the roadies, Boiler, (who you guys know) said Carmine, Jeff's here, he's outside the dressing room. I said bring him in, Rod knows he's coming ..Jeff walks in the door. It was like time stood still for a minute! I thought what's whats gonna happen, are they gonna punch each other out? So I brought him to Rod, they looked at each other and said "Hi mate" and gave each other a hug, it was all cool.

1976 The Faces have split up, Rod says he has been getting a new band together, but only has one name, Kenney Jones on drums. At the last minute he takes his drum kit off the plane. How did you get the call?

It's strange how it happened. If I hadn't run into my friend Sandy Janeiro I would never have known Rod was looking for a drummer. Sandy had auditioned and didn't make it. Pete Buckland was in charge of the auditions, and I knew Pete from the Faces days and my days with Cactus. I had Sandy give me Pete's number. I was just getting out of a band called KGB that wasn't working..I phoned Pete and said '"Hey, fucking Rod's looking for a drummer and you don't call me?" He says you're always busy, "Well I'm not busy now, I'd love to play with Rod. Are you kidding me, he's my favourite singer." I guess the band members were helping Rod choose as Rod was in London. When Sandy auditioned, there was Jim Cregan, Billy Peak, John Jarvis, Phil Chen, Gary Grainger. I knew Phil and I knew Jim. Pete called me and said why don't you come up and see if you like the band? I thought well that's a switch, so I said alright and I drove up to Rod's house. I had a beautiful house, an old Spanish 1920's style house in LA, but when I drove up to Rod's gates I thought Holy shit,I didn't know he made this much money! Wow I was just blown away. I drove my Pantera up thinking it was a hot car, but up there was a Lamborghini and a Porsche, he has this he has that ..I said fuck me ..I've not heard the band, but I wanna play. They say success breeds success, and I knew this is where I wanted to be ..even if the band sucks I needed to be here. But I liked the Faces and I knew Rod was no idiot. He's gonna pick a good band, so I drove in His guest house was bigger than my house and it was gorgeous. I was blown away by the the band rehearsing in the garage. That's why all the cars were out, so I met everybody and we played . Pete asked me what I thought, I said yeah, the band sounds great , If Rod's cool I'm in, Rod came back and we played again with Rod singing, and Rod said if you're good with it you're in. He said i know you have fans so you can do a drum solo every night, we'll talk to Billy Gaff and work the deal out.

Wasn't there a story about Rod telling you to sit next to him in Japan?

I used to call Rod 'Howie' after Howard Hughes who checked into a hotel always in the top suite, he would never come down ..It was the same with Rod. When we tried to go to a movie with him we had to disguise him. It was useless, someone would recognise him then we had to leave,so he was Howie. When we went to Japan for the first time, we were playing Fukuoka for two nights. I said you know I'm a pretty big name here in Japan. Myself, BBA was the first band to sell out an arena, well the only band apart from the Beatles. I have always been in the top five drummers in music life, so when we played that show, Rod always used my solo to go and freshen up. Rod always said he knew he could trust me to get the audience involved. When he came back and said Carmine Appice on drums they were yelling so much. Rod said: "Wow, come up to my room after the show." I said what's up Howie, he said you really are big here. I couldn't even hear myself when I was announcing you! So he said when we go to Tokyo we are going to do a press conference. Make sure you're sitting next to me, I know you're going to get questions. I love Jim Cregan, but he was always jealous that I was second in command , in America and even here. I had a publicist in 78' named Tony Brainsby. Rod would do all the major press, the TV and things, but the local stuff I would do. Local papers all around the world. Jim was a little jealous of this and a couple of times I got really pissed off with him because he did some things to me that weren't nice. That's in the book. We are friends now though, that's what happens when you are in a band, We used to call Jim the fots ..F.O.T.S. it stood for Friend of the stars. Whoever was around us, whether it was Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Paul Mccartney, or Tony Curtis, Jim was always there in the air with a drink, including Rod. So we called him the Fots..all in fun, and Jim is the only one that has stayed steady friends with Rod. That's the way Jim is, but it was always funny.

Phil Chen is a great guy.

Yes, he is a great guy. He was always showing us karate things and he would say make sure you come at me with a knife. He would talk with a Jamaican/Chinese accent. I would always ask what are you saying?, say it again.. slower. We all got on great, we were a real band. As you see by the album covers, we all hung out together.

You have your own Rod band now?

I do, I have a band, 'The Rod Experience'. We have a guy that looks like Rod and sounds a lot like Rod. I got Danny Johnstone who played with Rod, and I had Phil in it. I had Paul Warren as well. Paul is an amazing player, and my idea was to create a show not a band. I wanted to use Gary, Jim, Phil, me, and Billy Peak because we did all those songs with Rod that we never got to play. They all wanted to get a singer and do it as a band, but I wanted to create a show with a white stage and a background historical video that only had stuff that the band knew, like where we filmed the Hot Legs video, what number it went to, the things that went on backstage. Things that only we would know, and create a whole environment of those days with Rod. I did 'The Rod Experience' in China, five shows in Dallas, and two shows this year. When we first started rehearsing I said I feel like I am back in the Rod band. I met our singer at a convention and thought he was Rod, but as I got close I realised it wasn't, but he looked just like Rod. This guy is the best!

Will you ever bring it to the UK?

Well I can't get gigs that pay well enough because of all these other Rod shows. Some of them go out for $3000 dollars. I need $12000 dollars...I've got roadies, light and sound guys. We set up the white stage and video screen and its awesome. But there are loads of other Rod tributes out there, and I tried to get Rod to endorse me, but I could never reach him. I love playing it, we tell stories like this is how 'Do Ya think I'm Sexy' happened.

We go to see the Cregan shows

Yeah its boring ... and you guys are the ultimate Rod fans I did a survey with all the people one time when we got together with all the band in London, and I asked them if you were going to see a Rod Stewart tribute, would you rather see a guy that looks like Rod and the stage that looks like the Rod Stewart stage set or not? They all said yes we would, but the other guys just don't get the show concept. Anyway, take a look at for yourselves at Rod Experience and see how good it is You can see Jimmy Crespo playing as well.

Rod asked you to play in a British style which is a slightly loose feel not on the beat, was this an issue?

I had to learn to play behind the beat, like Kenney Jones did when he was drunk, The Faces always played that lazy behind the beat drunk loose kind of vibe. That's what Rod liked, so I had to learn to do that.

How did you write with Rod

Well songs like 'My Girl' and 'Blondes Have More Fun'... we all came up with together. A lot of songs like 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy' were written like...Rod would say I want a song like 'Miss You' by the Stones or like a funky sounding song like 'Young Turks', so we would go home and come back with a demo and he would play it. If he liked the song we would arrange it as a band, and he would listen to stuff and say I like that when you play it like that, or Carmine don't do a fill there. It was funny, he would come up and say don't be a dentist ...too many fillings

Your gong used to get stolen at some gigs

Yes, sometimes I used to do the bit after the drum solo when I would stand on my seat and Boiler would hit the gong from behind. Sometimes I would stand there and nothing would happen ..we had a lot of fun

Do you still have your sex police t shirt?

No, but I had some new ones made for the Rod Experience band. The only shirts I have are my pirate shirts that we wore on that first tour. I never kept anything except the red velvet jacket I wore on the Ed Sullivan show that I bought on Carnaby Street, and I have also have a Carnaby Street cape, that's it.

So you were inducted into the rock drummers hall of fame in 2014. What do you think is your biggest accomplishment to date?

I guess one would be the education part of my career writing the book. That helped a lot of drummers, and doing the clinics. Another was inventing the heavy rock drumming style. I didn't do it on purpose, but I am told that's what I created. I did it out of necessity getting the big drums because they were louder, bigger, and fatter.

Your drums as I see it are all really tight snare but your toms are really quite deep sounding?

They weren't really that deep, they just sounded big. It's a funny thing, it's like a base drum you feel that you want to tune it lower to get it bigger, but you tune it higher to get it bigger. I used paper. In the Rod band I learned a trick from the Rascals; using cut up paper to cut out any of the overtones that you don't like, but it doesn't muffle the base drum.

So you have a new book out with a lot of very raunchy stories in it. How do your children feel about reading it?

Well I won't let my daughter read it, and my girlfriend won't read it. My sister won't read it either. My sister in law started reading it and she said she had to stop. She reached the mud shark story and said I don't wanna know, so with family it's a bit more. You know for other people it's ok you're reading about a guy, but I don't want my daughter reading it. It's too crazy, but my son read it. Because he is a guy he can get it. Really, it's come from a man's perspective, women don't understand. When I wrote it I left a lot of that stuff in it for women that were closet sex addicts, .you know like Jackie Collins. All of her books have sex or 50 shades of Grey, a lot of women like that. I did ask Ian, my writer, if we should take some of it out, but he said if you want an honest book, leave it in.

Do you have a message for the readers of SMILER the Sir Rod Stewart magazine

Well Sir Rod Stewart congratulations! I sent Rod an email, and I would like to thank all you guys for keeping me in the loop and you should all go out and buy the book and read it. If all you guys buy the book I will have a hit book here. It's full of great stories that I know you will love about Fred Astaire, Gregory Peck, Elton John, and Tony Curtis.

Carmine Appice was interviewed on June 15th By John Fisher
Photos By Yve Paige
Special thanks to our good friend Leslie Gold

© 2019 SMILER Magazine

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