By ANDREW McKAYSMITH
THERE’S sibling rivalry. There’re high achievers. Then there’s Vinny and Carmine Appice.
Vinny, 59, and Carmine, 70, have each spent the majority of their lifetimes at the top of the field they each chose – drumming. There’s only been one drawback to decades of stratospheric rock stardom: most bands only have one drummer, so the opportunities to play together have been scarce for the Brooklyn-born brothers.
One such opportunity is approaching.
Vinny, on the end of the phone line with Hot Metal, is the first drummer to replace Bill Ward in Black Sabbath, playing on the now legendary Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules albums. He went on to co-found the band behind Ronnie James Dio and now tours and records under the moniker Last in Line, which started as a reunion of fellow founding members of the Dio band.
“There’s 11 years difference between us, he had drums in the house so I’d get excited about that and the band would rehearse; great entertainment for a young kid,” Vinny says when I ask about the brothers’ childhoods.
“When he became successful in Vanilla Fudge we went to a lot of shows and our parents were very supportive. That got me going, I wanted to do the same thing. I didn’t really grow up at the same time as him as he was already out of the house.
“By the time Carmine was playing with Rod Stewart, I’d done a couple of things before that. One of my first things I did was I played with John Lennon. Carmine used to have Jeff Beck around for dinner to my mother’s house in Brooklyn. I was meeting all these great people but I was cool about it, wasn’t star-struck by it. (When I started working) it was like ‘Ok what are we trying to do, we are working together?’
“Right around the time Carmine was playing with Rod Stewart I joined Black Sabbath and was playing arenas. By the time he joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band I was playing with Dio. We were playing arenas and we would leave messages for each other on the wall (of the venues) we were playing ‘Hey Carmine you better kick arse tonight’ and we communicated that way”
I asked if there was a particular highlight.
“The Lennon thing just kind of happened. I was 16 years old and after rehearsal (with Lennon) I used to go to high school the next day. Joining Sabbath, that was a gold and platinum record (referring to Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules), playing arenas being the headlining act. They were all exciting. “
Vinny raises an interesting point about working with Dio, something many fans may not realise.
“With Dio we started and had some built in success – that was a band under his name but we (Ronnie James Dio, Vivian Campbell, Jimmy Bain and Vinny) wrote all the songs although we didn’t get credited on certain songs, like “We Rock”. If you listen to “We Rock”, you’d think wow Ronnie is a hell of a guitar player to write that song! That’s the way it was, we are sharing the credit on some and not others which was cool on the first album but it should have opened up a little more. Everybody put their ideas into the songs, we all wrote them together.”
Digging deep into his catalogue I asked Vinny for his take on the 1992 “comeback” album for the Dio-fronted Black Sabbath, Dehumaizer.
“That record, they (Black Sabbath) were working with drummer, Cozy Powell (Rainbow, Whitesnake, Brian May). It wasn’t working out, Ronnie wasn’t getting along with him and it was taking forever and then he couldn’t play at all (due to an injury). They said ‘let’s call Vinny’, so they called me and I flew in and we (continued below)
started rehearsing in England, which was the first album we did entirely in England. We rented a house and rehearsed and it was a cool set up, there was nothing to distract us. We looked for a producer and tried a couple that didn’t work out, somebody bought in Reinhold Mack and he seemed really cool. I love the sound of that record, it’s heavy, it’s mean, the drums are nice and loud. Mack used a bunch of different mic’s in the room and when it came to mixing they kept the drums nice and loud so there’s a lot of punch on that album. And the songs we wrote, some songs were finished but a lot of them were just riffs, again (similar to Dio’s band) we worked at it playing and jamming, throwing ideas around and came up with the rest of the parts missing and we did the album. It was cool. “
Speaking about the legendary shows with (then) former Judas Priest front man Rob Halford fronting the band during the touring cycle for Dehumanizer, Appice says:“What happened was for the last couple of shows on the Dehumanizer tour: they wanted us to play with Ozzy, two shows in California. Tony had agreed to do them but Ronnie didn’t. Ronnie didn’t want to play with Ozzy so it was like ‘what do we do?’ They decided to call Rob Halford. So we had a day off in Arizona, that’s where Rob lives. We went to some rehearsal place with Rob, I don’t know how long it was, four or five hours and Rob had to learn everything! He wound up doing the two shows with us and they went incredibly well. There was talk about possibly continuing with Rob.
“The funny thing was, in this little rehearsal place in Arizona… in comes Rob Halford, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and I’m trailing along. Everybody’s looking like ‘Holy Shit!’ That’s rock heaven right there! It would have been great if it had worked out as Rob’s a great singer, a great person and a great friend”
One of those precious opportunities for the brothers to perform together is coming up in February for the Drum Wars Tour of Australia.
“There’s two things going on,” Vinnie explains, “One of them is the show that we put on with the band- we’ll play old songs that are part of the history of Carmine and I. You’ll hear some Sabbath, some Dio and Carmine’s stuff will include Blue Murder. We put a bunch of song’s together, about 11 songs in the set- it’s a great rock show, there’s some drum duets in there and other crazy stuff. There’s also a clinic, where we focus on the drums and the teaching. ”
Such clinics are a part of a dramatically different musical landscape to the climate when then Appice brothers were leaving grafitti messages for each other on dressingroom walls.
“The whole record industry has changed, it’s more complicated now with the internet,” Vinny observes. “Before there was a structure, now it’s like there aren’t record companies and for bands it’s hard to make money unless you are doing merch and all that stuff. It’s easier when you have a name. Avenged Sevenfold have built up their fan base, so it’s easier for them to go out and play. The good thing is that you can have more control over your music, you can record at home almost. The business has just changed and I haven’t figured this out either, h haha. I’m glad I did it when I did it. I’ve established myself as a known musician and I don’t have to do that in this day and age with so many bands and competition. Everybody’s on the internet, its overload almost.
Vinny expressed a desire to tour Australia more often after I mentioned the absence of a Brisbane Drum Wars show.
“We’d love to play down there more often, visit more territories.
“Last in Line have just come back from Europe so hopefully we can come and play down there too, it’d be awesome.”
Catch Vinny and carmine Appice for their Australian tour dates at the following venues in 2017
Thursday, February 16: The Factory Theatre, Sydney – DRUM CLINIC
Friday, February 17: The Factory Theatre, Sydney – FULL SHOW
Saturday, February 18: Max Watts, Melbourne FULL SHOW
Sunday, February 19: Croxton Park, Melbourne – DRUM CLINIC (afternoon)