Carmine Appice Q&A: Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, Jeff Beck and Instrumental LP ‘Energy Overload’

Frank MastropoloCategories:I'm Still Standing

Rock Cellar Magazine

Drummer Carmine Appice burst on the rock scene in 1967 when Vanilla Fudge, with singer-keyboardist Mark Stein, guitarist Vince Martell and bassist Tim Bogert, had a Top 10 hit with “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” The psychedelic rock remake of the Supremes’ hit was the band’s first single.

Appice has barely slowed down since then. He has been a member of power rock bands Cactus, Beck, Bogert & Appice (with Jeff Beck), King Kobra and Blue Murder. Appice has performed with rock heavyweights Rod Stewart, Paul Stanley, Pink Floyd and Ozzy Osbourne, with whom he toured in 1983 but was fired after a dispute with Sharon Osbourne. As a member of Stewart’s backing band, Appice co-wrote the monster hits “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Young Turks.” 

Appice continues to perform with Vanilla Fudge. He conducts drum clinics and is the author of the best-selling drum instruction book The Realistic Rock Drum Method. First published in 1972, it has been revised and republished as The Ultimate Realistic Rock Drum Method. Appice has recently released two major projects: 

Guitar Zeus 25th Anniversary Box Set (click here to pick up from our Rock Cellar Store) is a collection of four LPs, three CDs and a photo and interview booklet. Its 35 tracks feature Slash, Brian May, Ted Nugent, Yngwie Malmsteen, Neal Schon, Richie Sambora, Zakk Wylde and many other guitar gods.

Sept. 24, 2021 marked the release of Energy Overload by the Appice Perdomo Project (APP), an instrumental album that pairs the drummer with multi-instrumentalist and guitarist Fernando Perdomo. The first single from the album is “Rocket to the Sun.” 

Click here to pick up Energy Overload on CD from our Rock Cellar Store

Fernando’s that kind of player where he’s a bit like Jeff Beck where he makes the guitar talk to you,” Appice told us. “It’s not just soloing or melody. It really talks to you.”

We began our interview with Vanilla Fudge’s latest release, “Stop in the Name of Love.” The track was recorded shortly before Bogert died in January 2021.

Rock Cellar: “Stop in the Name of Love” was your last song with Tim. How was that song recorded?

Carmine Appice: This was going to be part of an album that was going to be called Supreme Fudge on Golden Robot Records. When COVID hit, it stopped the album idea but we had recorded one track, which was “Stop in the Name of Love.” I asked Tim if he would play on a track or two on the album and he said “definitely.”

It was January of 2020. He had stage IV cancer, he wasn’t doing well. But he came out, he even had his freakin’ pajamas on, he bought a four-string Fender bass because he knew that I loved the way he played four-string.

He didn’t want to bring his six-string, which was too heavy for him anyway. We put him on. We had recorded the track around December of 2019. We went into a studio in New Jersey and Mark had the idea for the arrangement. We rehearsed a few times at our current bass player Pete Bremy’s house, he has a little rehearsal setup for us. We put the arrangement together in the studio, recorded it with the idea that Tim was going to put the bass on.

Pete put a rough bass on it just so we had some bass. I arranged for Tim to go to my buddy Jorgen Carlsson’s studio, the bass player of Gov’t Mule, he had a little studio. I arranged for Tim to go over there, his wife took him. 

Then COVID hit, and that was the end of that idea. That was the end of the idea of the album because we weren’t able to get together. We had the track so we talked to the manager and said, “Why don’t we make a single out of it?” We did a video for it and at the end of the video we said we did it as a tribute to Tim. 

Rock Cellar: How did you come to write “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” with Rod Stewart? You’ve said that it was originally more of a rock track.

Carmine Appice: It was. Rod said, “I want a song like ‘Missing You,’ like the Stones.” He’d always do that. With ‘Young Turks’ he wanted a more New Wave-kind of song. So I went back, I had a keyboard and a drum machine at my house. I came up with some cool chords for the verse and the chorus. And then I went to my buddy Duane Hitchings’ house. He had a proper 8-track TX studio and keyboards and drum machines. He put out demos that sounded good. I said, “I need help with this, I want it to sound really good for Rod.”

So he put it together in the studio, he came up with a little bit for the bridge and we presented it to Rod and he loved it, it sounded good. So we recorded it. And the first version of it was very heavy, three-guitar heavy, bass drums, Duane played keyboard. The version was great and then [producer] Tom Dowd started changing everything. He put a second 24-track up and then he had an orchestra playing and it just got out of hand, 48 tracks, so the original track shrunk. We had two or three keyboards, it was crazy. When it came out we couldn’t argue with it, it went to No. 1 in every country.

I was producing a Japanese female singer and I took the original version, the arrangement that we had, and we wrote a whole new song to it and put it on her album. Earl Slick, Alphonso Johnson, Duane Hitchings and me was the band. It was really a heavy rock track with four-quarter notes on the bass drum, which make it danceable. It wasn’t really disco, it was heavy rock.

Rock Cellar: You do an instrumental reggae version of “Sexy” on the new album with Fernando Perdomo. What inspired it?

Carmine Appice: I used to play every Tuesday in the Valley in LA at a jazz club. They had all these great musicians playing there, playing their own versions of stuff. We did all jazz-rock versions of my hits that I was involved with. We would do “Hangin’ On” and in the middle go into a straight-ahead jazz solo. “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” was a jazz-rock reggae with a female singer singing it.

And that was pretty much the arrangement we did.

I put it on my iPad so I could remember it. When we were doing the stuff with Fernando we were sending stems and songs and ideas back and forth. He’s Cuban too, he’s got that Latin thing down. I said, “Hey, why don’t we check this out? I did a reggae jazz-rock version of ‘Sexy.’ We can do it instrumentally if you like it.” I sent it to him and he loved it. And he sent me back the stems and I played to it. And I swear, the guitar was talking. Fernando’s that kind of player where he’s a bit like Jeff Beck where he makes the guitar talk to you, it’s not just soloing or melody. It really talks to you.

The song “Flower Child,” which is the next video and the next song we release from there, I have a show called Hangin’ & Bangin’ we do every Thursday night with my brother Vinny on YouTube and we had Suzy Quattro on. The next day she emailed me and said, “I’d love for you to play on my next album,” ’cause I’ve known her for years. I said, “Yeah, I’d love to.” She said, “Send me something you played on recently.” So I sent her a couple of tracks and “Flower Child” was one of them.

And she flipped out over that. She said, “Is that who I think it is on guitar?” I said, “Who do you think it is?” She goes, “I think it’s Jeff Beck.” I said, “No, it’s not Jeff Beck.” That confirmed my thoughts that he sounds and plays similar to Jeff. 

Rock Cellar: “Maybe I’m Amazed” is a surprising choice on the album. How did you decide on it? 

Carmine Appice: Fernando was working on that, he loved that song. I always loved that song too. We did it with Rod as well, he always loved that song. Fernando was working on an arrangement of that when I was giving him “Sexy.” I said, “Maybe we should do this one too. I’d like to play on that.” So he sent me the stems, I played on it, it came out great. 

And then after we did that he said, “I got this chick that sings with Pink Floyd, Durga McBroom. What do you think? Should we put some background harmonies?” I said, “Let’s make it gospel-sounding.”

That’s how we worked, we always came up with ideas back and forth with each other. We never had an argument about anything. When I heard it finished I said, “Wow, it sounds fantastic. I’m glad we did it.”

Rock Cellar: There’s a live Beck, Bogert & Appice album that may come out in 2022. Where does it stand?

Carmine Appice: I mixed it in January of 2018 and we gave it to Jeff’s lawyer-manager to get the deal because he wanted to do it. He still reps Jeff. And before Tim passed away we had him sign paperwork that enabled him to do the deal. We’re already signed up for the deal, so whatever the deal is we’re already in. It was the second album that never came out, that didn’t catch the vibe of the band, so we did it live. This thing has been around as a bootleg, but now it’s mixed properly and it sounds good.

Rock Cellar: Have you released the names of the tracks?

Carmine Appice: There’s “Jizz Whiz” and “Solid Lifter.” There’s “Name the Missing Word,” a Staple Singers track, “Livin’ Alone,” “Superstition.” Seven new songs and three of the old songs.

Rock Cellar: Your time with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne was pretty rocky. 

Carmine Appice: We were on the bus in Europe and we stopped at a service place and I see Ozzy and Sharon in the doorway. I’m in the bus with [guitarist] Bob Daisley and I see Ozzy haul off and hit Sharon in the face. I said, “Whoa! You don’t do that to women.” I was getting ready to get off the bus and intervene and Bob says, “Stay out of it. They do this all the time.”

I said, “Get out of here.” Then she hauls off and smacks him back in the face. I said, “Oh, I see what you mean.” I had never seen anything like that between a husband and wife, and they’re supposed to be in business together and in love and everything else.

Rock Cellar: Have you had a Spinal Tap moment onstage with any of your bands?

Carmine Appice: Many times. With Cactus, we did this outdoor gig and the stage was a flatbed truck. It was an outdoor festival with about 8,000 people there. We were the headliners. My drums were on the back of a dump truck. So I’m doing my solo and all of a sudden the truck starts dumping. The guys in the band did it. My drums are sliding down the dump truck. I got so pissed off. 

Rock Cellar: In your drum clinics, what’s the best takeaway that you give young drummers? 

Carmine Appice: That they have to practice and study with a teacher. You’ll get to where you want to go quicker being taught by a teacher, because when you learn on your own you don’t really know what to learn that’s going to help get you somewhere. Learn to read, have a teacher and practice. That’s pretty much it.

Rock Cellar: Let’s do a lightning round. Your favorite disc jockey from back in the day.

Carmine Appice: I have two. Murray the K and Scott Muni.  

Rock Cellar: If you hadn’t been with your bands, what band would you have been a good fit in?

Carmine Appice: Led Zeppelin.

Rock Cellar: An artist, living or dead, whom you would have liked to perform with.

Carmine Appice: James Brown.

Rock Cellar: What kind of music gives you a headache to listen to?

Carmine Appice: The old country music. Cowboy stuff. Like Buddy Rich used to say, he was allergic to country music. But the new country music is good, it’s more like rock. It’s rock with a twang.

Rock Cellar: Favorite guitarist.

Carmine Appice: Jeff Beck has gotta be the best. He was always the main one. Jeff wasn’t the easiest to work with. He was certainly one of the best as far as sounds and creativity. But you can’t go wrong with Brian May, Ted Nugent either, they’re all different. Everybody’ s different.

You talk about what’s the best flavor. There is no best flavor, they’re all good.

Frank Mastropolo is the author of What’s Your Rock IQ? 60s & 70s Trivia Quiz Book, Vol. 1 and Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever.

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