The Carmine Appice Interview (2024)

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By Ralph Greco, Jr.

We certainly can attribute iconic rock star status to drummer Carmine Appice. He’s a founding member of both Vanilla Fudge and Cactus. He was also part of one of the best power trios in rock — Beck, Bogert & Appice. He spent the mid to late 70s as drummer and songwriter with Rod Stewart for a score of hits (including “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Young Turks”). From there, he went onto work with everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Pink Floyd. In more recent years, he’s become an author, producer, and inductee in the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.

For 2024, Appice has delivered a new Cactus record called Temple Of Blues – Influences & Friends, a collection of blues standards, covers, and classic Cactus cuts. The album features a star-studded roster of guest stars, including guitarists Joe Bonamassa, Ted Nugent, Pat Travers, Warren Hayes, Vernon Reid, Steve Stevens, Johnny A (The Yardbirds), Ty Tabor (King’s X) and bassists Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big), Dug Pinnick (King’s X)  Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder), Phil Soussan (Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne), Kenny Aaronson (ex- Joan Jet and The Yardbirds), as well as members of  Government Mule, Vixen, Rainbow, Zebra, and Whitesnake. In the following exchange, we touched on the album, as well as other aspects of Appice’s colorful career.

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Let’s start off with how Temple Of Blues – Influences & Friends came together? 

Basically, I have been friends with the owner of the label releasing this new album forever. He has a few Cactus records that do well on the label, and he came to me and said, ‘I wanna do a Cactus record with people who are influenced by Cactus.’ I said, sure I could do that. So, he gave me a budget and I started to think…how am I gonna do this?

Did you start by making phone calls?

Actually, I started with the drums, believe it or not. Beginning with the first song, “Parchment Farm,” I was just playing and humming the song for myself to a click. It’s in the same tempo from when we did it years ago, 247 beats per minute. Pretty fast, you know?

Oh yeah, that’s definitely a blistering track! 

Yeah, I thought, I don’t have to have to make this better. So, I put it down and then I would sing the song. And I would do that pretty much for every song after that. Then I’d get the singer of Cactus, Jim Stapley, and he put down a guitar, a vocal, and harmonica where needed, and then we had basic demos.

Then you rounded up the friends?

Yeah. I called Ted Nugent, and I said, “Hey, I’d love you to play on this?” And right away he said, “Yeah, man, I’m in,” So I said, “What song you wanna play?” And he told me he wanted to play on “One Way Or Another.”

Billy Sheehan, he said anything I wanted him to do would be great, just to be on a tribute to Cactus was enough for him. And he said he wanted to play on “Parchment Farm,” and I said I also wanted him to take the bass solo on “Oleo.” And I just started putting it all together.

Was there anybody you called who surprised you with their love of Cactus?

I called Steve Stevens, he’s a friend of mine. I was very surprised though how much he was into Cactus. Sure, everybody I called knows me, but I am never sure how much they’ll be into something like this. But Steve said that he grew up in New York and loved us, right? So, I thought well, here’s a friend and an influence — influences and friends — and that’s how the concept evolved.

The only one that was really crazy was Joe Bonamassa, but not so much that we got him but how it went down. I was on his podcast, and he admitted thatParchment Farm” blew his brains out. I said, “No kidding, well, we’re redoing it on a Cactus influences album and I’d love for you to play on it.” So I got him to commit during his podcast.

After playing as long as you have, with as many amazing players as you have, here and across your past, can you say there is one through line to how you have approached this for all these years and all the different projects you’ve been involved with? 

Well, it’s all it’s hard rock, right? Whatever I play I tend to put my Carmine sound to it. I just play what I want. From “Hot Legs,” with its boundaries of being funky, you know, to all of it, that’s where I came from, listening to all different things, from R&B, mostly R&B, and rock. I came up singing too, you know. So, it all gets in there.

And how has your approach to recording changed over time? Or has it not at all? Like say, how you put this new record together. 

I have a studio at the house I live in now, in Florida. I have a guest house that I made for a combination studio and gym. My drums are always set up there. I never move them out. When I do gigs, I have another kit. Most of my kits are set up when I do gigs, but the kit I have at the house, the way the mikes are set, all of that I never move now. I finally have it all based on the way I always wanted it, and I record right there.

Keeping a consistency of the way things sound, right?

Yes, this way if I record something today, a month from now, and if I don’t like something, I can go in and fix it. I never had that before and when I moved here, I set that up in August of 2020. My brother Vinny is a computer tech, so he built my recording system, showed me how to use it. For me, it’s the best.

So, given all that, how have you seen your playing progress over the years? What’s changed, if anything, in how you approach playing the drums now?  

It’s all come from experience. I don’t have to raise my hands so high to get a heavy hard hit. I learned how to snap it like a karate chop to get the big sound. Also, I play with the thicker bottom of the stick — most people don’t do that, right? I show people, if you play with the regular tip, you get a sound, but you turn it around so it’s a much fatter sound. I noticed that when my good friend Nicko McBrain (drummer extraordinaire of Iron Maiden) had his mini stroke. You probably heard about this.

Yes, I did.

It was last January. He’s playing music everybody knows very well, Iron Maiden fans know every fill. So yeah, he’s like, “God, how do I get back to being able to do those fills the way I always do it?” And I just said, “Change it up.” Where I play to maybe a theater or club-sized audience, Iron Maiden’s crowds are huge and his fans expect to hear every fill. Nicko says, “That’s how I always played it, so I have to play it that way.”

I just don’t sit there and go through every fill, worry about playing the song like I did whenever. I’m not known for that. Certain drummers are like a Neal Peart and Nicko. But in my generation, it was Ginger Baker, me, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell. We didn’t play like that.

Playing to the feel of the moment. 

Yeah, but even with somebody like Nicko — and what I didn’t know — is that he can play funky as hell. I was involved in something we did with Pat Travers, and he played funky as hell. How would you know, right?

Yeah, that’s kind of a surprise, but then again, I have only ever heard him in Maiden. 

Yeah, I didn’t know either. So, I called Nicko and said, “Man, you are funky!” And he told me that before he got into all the Iron Maiden stuff, he played everything. He’s a good guy and does a great job. But who would have known from the stuff he is best known for.

Are there any plans to do anything on the road with Cactus supporting the new album? 

We’re doing three shows coming right up, and then we’ll come to the New York area at the end of June. I think we’re doing the Iridium one night, maybe two, then we’re going out to some other gigs like upstate New York and I think we have more somewhere.

So, basically, it’s shorter runs for you these days, no bigger, longer tours? 

Yeah, you can’t do big tours unless you’re a big group. And even then, I mean, I’m not gonna sit in the bus or van for 30 days.

We are kinda of circling around a question I often ask guys and gals who have been in the business for a while now. I mean, the business is completely different from when you first got in it. So, overall, what’s your feelings on how the music business is now? 

It sucks. Spotify streaming ruined everybody. There’s no money. When you record and maybe get an advance, that’s probably all you’re gonna see. We went to Sweden Rock and we made some money. People in Europe came out, so that was cool, but it’s too much to go out for two days, three days, right? Even if you go there for two weeks, it’s a grind. But the business itself, that business model today is terrible. The only way to make money is to go out on the road and sell some merch. And if you don’t have a good merch situation going, it’s hard to make any kind of money.

Not to mention the price of tickets. Just for a fan to come out — who has that kind of money these days? 

Exactly. I mean my friend is going to see Billy Joel. He’s paying $1000. Who is paying these prices? I looked at program of a show we played. It was Vanilla Fudge, Jimi Hendrix, Ted Nugent and the Asbury Dukes, and the ticket price was three dollars. Think about that!

You mentioned “Hot Legs” earlier. Are you in contact with Rod Stewart these days? 

Sure. In fact I have another show called The Rod Experience. It’s a show with a guy that looks exactly like Rod — sings like him, has all the rights movements…maybe even better probably better. And we do two segments. The first segment I call ‘the wimpy segment,’ you know those tunes like “Some Guys Have All The Luck,” and they do like five or six of those songs with another drummer. Then there’s an intermission and then I come out and talk to the audience, say some stupid shit, then I sit down and we rock through tunes like “Passion,” “You’re In My Heart,” those tunes that I never get to play anymore but was involved with. So now we got a lot of gigs coming up. The rest of this year, matter of fact. January next year, we’re playing with a 60-piece orchestra.

I know you lived in LA for years, but frankly always think of you as an East Coast, New York guy. You mentioned that you live in Florida now. Have you adjusted to what I am assuming has to be a slower pace down there? 

Yeah man, it’s slower. You’ll call up somebody to come over and get something done, they call you back and maybe get out to you. So I call a guy I know who was originally from New York, and he gets right on it, saying because he’s right on it? Generally, people always ask me, “Do you play golf? Are you happy?” I don’t know. They ask, “What’s your hobby?” I always say, “It’s playing the drums.”

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