War is Declared – Vinny Appice

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It’s called DRUM WARS and this spring Vinny and Carmine are on the road bringing this unique show to the fans. Vinny Appice called into the Decibel Geek to talk about his illustrious career and tells us what to expect for those coming out to a show…

Decibel Geek: Ok then, why don’t you take us back to the very beginning . Seeing as Carmine was 11 years older than you, can we assume that he was responsible for introducing you to the drums?

Vinny: Yeah because when I grew up there was always drums in the house. Not only were there drums in the house but there were also bands in the house. Carmine used to rehearse with the bands at our place and I was 8 or 9 years old and I would watch them rehearse in the front room, we had this enclosed porch that they would rehearse in and I would sit and watch them.

It was always great entertainment as a little kid and that was a big influence to me, I was like yeah I want to be in a band and Carmine plays the drums, I want to play the drums. Those were the early days so yeah he was a big influence.

Decibel Geek: Now was he there to help you out or were you just the “annoying little brother”?

Vinny: Well I was probably more the annoying little brother but I would hop up on the drums and he showed me a few things here and there but a lot of times when he’d leave I would hit the cymbals real hard and I think I broke one of his cymbals one time so he got mad. I remember one time he told me “I’m leaving and I don’t want you playing the drums, I don’t want you breaking anything so don’t play them!” So he left but I didn’t know he was hiding (laughing) so 5 minutes later I was on his drums wacking the shit out of them and he came running in. “I told you not to play my drums!” that sort of thing.

Decibel Geek: So you have had quite an incredible career drumming with some legendary artists and it started real early on. At sixteen you are playing with John Lennon! How does that happen?

Vinny: Well we were, lets see at 16 I had a band with 4 horn players, a 9 piece band called BOMF (funny name) and the guitar player in our band knew Jimmy Ivine who produced at the Record Plant Studios in New York. So he heard our band and Jimmy wanted to produce our demos, so we went in and laid down a bunch of demos and they got played for the owner of the Record Plant, Roy Secala.

Roy liked the band and signed us to a management deal which included giving us this big room on the top of the Record Plant to rehearse in whenever we wanted. This was pretty incredible seeing as this was Manhattan and we had this free room, it was awesome. So one night we are rehearsing and they needed some hand claps, John Lennon and Elton John were in the studio recording “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” and they called up to our room and asked if we could come down and assist. Because back then there were no computers and stuff so you often just grabbed whoever was in the hallway when you needed things like that. So the nine of us went down and did hand claps and we saw John Lennon in the control room and we were like “Wow this is amazing” and then we went back up to rehearse, we didn’t get to meet him.

Then John found out who we were, he had asked “who the hell were those guys?” and Jimmy told him that he was producing us and we were kind of the “house band” so then John started coming in and hanging out with us. He would come in and watch us play, smoked a couple of joints with him it was cool as shit. Played pool with him then he asked us to play a gig with him and did a couple videos so we wounded up working with him to a limited degree but it was still amazing.

Now the live gig we did with him was a show called “A Salute to Sir Lew Grade” which was on ABC, you can find it on the internet and we are the band that’s backing him. So we did that and we’re on a couple of his videos that he did at the record plant.

Decibel Geek: Fast forward a bit, 1980 you join Black Sabbath, how did that all come about? Now did you know Ronnie previous to this?

Vinny: No I didn’t know Ronnie previously to that, nor did I really follow Rainbow that much. I had heard some of their songs and thought Ronnie was a great singer but I wasn’t really a Rainbow fan. So before Sabbath called, I actually got a call from Sharon Osbourne saying Ozzy was putting a band together and they were interested in me playing for Ozzy. I don’t know where they got my number or what they heard and I was pretty young and they wanted to fly me to England. So I had heard that Ozzy was kind of crazy, so I asked my brother Carmine and told him I have this offer from Ozzy because he had been around and he said “yeah, he’s pretty crazy” (laughing) so I turned it down which I guess in of itself was crazy.

Then a couple months later Sabbath calls, I don’t know where they got my number and they were in LA. Bill Ward had just left the band and they were supposed to play Denver and Bill didn’t turn up at the gig or something happened and they couldn’t play anyways. So they went back to LA to look for a drummer, my name came up, they called me and I came down that night and met the tour manager and Tony Iommi. Tony had an album I did with a band I was in called Axis and Tony liked it, thought I played well and we hit it off. I was then invited to come play with the band the next day at SIR studios in Hollywood. So there I met the rest of the guys and it was like “ok your in”. So know I had to learn all these songs and that’s what we did.

So I was in until Bill came back because they were expecting him to come back into the band. It didn’t work out that way, Bill never came back and as the tour wound on we got better and tighter and before long it was time to do an album. So we had already recorded a song on tour for the Heavy Metal movie called “Mob Rules” which was a separate recording than the one that ended up on our album. So at the end of the tour they said we are doing a new album and I was there and got to do it. I think it turned out pretty well.

Decibel Geek: From my perspective, I was just discovering heavy metal when in 1983 around the time that Holy Diver was coming out. I clearly remember seeing the videos for “Die Young” and “Mob Rules” and that was it, that was SABBATH for me. I do not deny the legend of the Ozzy era but those two albums with Dio were incredible. So it’s quite funny that you mentioned getting the call to join OZZY and yet a few years later Carmine is behind the kit for the Ozzman?

Vinny: Yeah that’s funny after he talked me out of working with him, he goes and joins his band 3 or 4 years later. (laughing)

Decibel Geek: After Sabbath kind of fell apart you made the decision to stick with Ronnie?

Vinny: Well yeah at the end there it wasn’t
working out with Tony, Geezer and Ronnie and Ronnie was deciding to leave and he asked me. He said “I am going to leave the band, do you want to stay together and do something or do you want to stay with them?” They wanted me to stay but I thought it would probably be easier to stay with Ronnie because he lived right close to each other and it would be exciting to start a new band with Ronnie. He was such a good singer and we got along really well, we had become really close friends and had a lot in common so I made the choice to stay with Ronnie rather than constantly flying to England so that was the way to go for me. I mean I love Tony and Geezer but I had to make the choice that was right for me at the time.

So that’s what we did, we got together and a lot of the early stuff was just Ronnie and I. Ronnie played bass, I played the drums and we just kind of fiddled around with “Holy Diver” and other riffs that Ronnie had on the bass. We recorded them on little cassette recorders and then we auditioned guitar players until we finally found Jimmy Bain who hooked us up with Vivian Campbell.

Decibel Geek: Yeah those first three Dio albums are just incredible stuff.

Vinny: Yeah those albums kill man, actually we are going to be doing some dates with that too. We have the original Dio band going out with a singer named Andy Freeman who sings his ass off and we are going to be doing some shows in August, some festivals and stuff in Europe. It sounds great, so good to play those songs again.

Decibel Geek: Again being a teenager in the 80’s I remember watching the Hear N Aid Video and thinking just how incredible it would have been to be there for that recording. What was that like to be a part of?

Vinny: Yeah that was cool, I am not sure if the initial idea came from Ronnie? I also remember Jimmy and Vivian tossing and idea around too but Ronnie put it all together, Ronnie and Wendy. that was right after Michael Jackson did the “We are the World” thing and we thought this would be a good thing to do for the heavy metal community. So Ronnie got it together and the song was written with the DIO band basically and then when we went to record we had two drummers set up, myself and Frankie Banelli from Quiet Riot and we recorded the double drum track playing at the same time and that was fun.

From there we arranged schedules for everyone to come down like Neil Schon and George Lynch. All the guitar players came down for a couple hours and did their solos and then did the same thing with the vocalists. Geoff Tate, Rob Halford, Vince Neil and all those that sang on it and then the big day when we had everyone come in and do the big chorus. So the whole thing was funny as shit, you can imagine with all those guys how crazy it was with everyone there. It was a good time, a really great vibe and it was a good cause.

Decibel Geek: Now I got to see you guys for the first time here in Toronto at the CNE Stadium on the Sacred Heart Tour, a concert that I still talk about to this day. What was your favorite DIO tour and why?

Vinny: Well probably the Holy Diver tour was my favorite. When we started out it was a new beginning for and we started out on the tour, actually the first date was up in Antioch California and it was we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know how many people were going to be there, if anybody you know? So we worked out all the rehearsals and we went up to this place called the Concert Barn, it was a big giant barn and come show time there was like 3000 people stuffed into this place and it was a great feeling. I remember the ending of the songs running a little long, we weren’t proven yet so the endings would run a little long but other than that it was a great show.

From there we opened up for Aerosmith which was a number of shows, which was supposed to be a number of shows but after doing a couple Ronnie decided he didn’t want to do that anymore and we started headlining theatres with Queensryche. Then Holy Diver came out and started doing really well on the charts so we quickly upgraded to arenas because the album was kicking ass. So that was exciting to see it grow like that and it was a lot of fun on that tour.

Decibel Geek: Then in 1993 Sabbath reconvened to record “Dehumanizer” for a short lived reunion that resulted in an amazing album and a tour that at the end unravelled with Rob Halford stepping in for Dio. What was your thoughts on those last dates?

Vinny: Well it was decided that we were going to play Ozzy’s retirement shows and we would go on before Ozzy and Ronnie had a real problem with that so he said “alright well I will do the last show in San Francisco and I am not doing those gigs”.  So it was worked out where we could get Rob Halford. We contacted Rob and we were in Arizona on a day off so we booked this local rehearsal space and went in and they freaked out because in walks Black Sabbath followed by Rob Halford (laughing). So Rob had a lot on his plate learning all these songs in such a short amount of time.

Came show day and Rob was able to pull it off. He had one of those teleprompters feeding him the words and at one point the teleprompter broke down but he also had them on the stage so at one point he was down on one knee so he could see them (laughing) but he kicked ass and it was a great show.

Decibel Geek: Then in 2006, Heaven and Hell and I finally get to see my favorite Sabbath lineup. First in Hamilton ON with Alice Cooper and Queensyche and then again on the Maters of Metal tour in Toronto with Judas Priest, Motorhead and Testament. What was

Vinny: That was a great tour, it was such a great package four heavy bands like that. We had fun because we knew everyone and Motorhead provided hours of entertainment as they were always up to something (laughing). It was great too we were always watching each others sets, it’s a shame we didn’t get together and jam though. The crowds were unbelievable, such energy it was a great time.

Decibel Geek: So Kill Devill Hill, when we spoke last time you gave us the story but can we have a status update on this great band, new album in the owrks?

Vinny: Yeah new album coming out, actually going in to do some recording today and the album is being produced by Jeff Pilson. Love that guy, so he’s working with us. He’s got an amazing studio and we have been recording some killer new music. We are really excited about this next record and then we are just getting the business end handled so we can get out on some bigger tours. We have regular updates at https://www.killdevilhillmusic.com/ and the album should be out in the fall.

Decibel Geek: So my partner in crime at the Decibel Geek Podcast asked me to ask you, “what’s the deal with Devil dogs?”

Vinny: (laughing) Devil dogs are the cupcake of the DEVIL! (laughing) They are like a little snack cake. I am from New York and when I was a kid they were available and you can’t find them anywhere else. They are kind of dry and it looks like a hot dog with creme in the middle and cake on both sides and I grew up on these things. Then when I moved to LA you couldn’t get them there. So every time I was back in New York I would always pick some up.

Anyways they are made by Hostess and they just went out of business. Everyone is freaking out saying “no more twinkies!” and I am like “no more devil dogs!” (laughing). So Eddie Trunk and I were talking about it during an interview I did with him. When we played New York with Heaven and Hell, my friends and family were all coming out and insisting they bring me something so I told them to bring Devil Dogs. By the end of the night I had like twelve boxes of them so I am like “Jesus, I am going to weigh 400 pounds” and I started sharing them with the crew, the band and saw Tony Iommi in the dressing room. I said “Tony, do you want to try one of these?, I grew up on them they are called Devil Dogs” and he was like “YEAH YEAH” so I got him a glass of milk because you need milk with them and he ate it and loved it. So I started cracking up, here is the prince of darkness on guitar eating DEVIL DOGS and drinking milk but I guess its better than a Twinkie! (laughing)

Decibel Geek: On the topic of Tony, have you heard from him? How is he doing?

Vinny: The last I heard from Tony he was doing good, he was feeling good and taking care of himself. They are finishing up the new album and he was doing good. We are all happy about that and I can’t wait for them to go out because I want to see them.

Decibel Geek: Drum Wars?, whose started this ball rolling and tell us what it’s all about?

Vinny: Well Drum Wars started with some drum clinics that Carmine and I did a while back for different drum and cymbal companies back in the 90’s. Due to our busy schedules we only did about 6 of these clinics and we said we need to do something again. Well a couple years ago we just put together more of a show, a rock show kind of thing because we wanted to play clubs and theaters. we open up with Mob Rules with both of us on the drums and then we wrote a drum wars piece which is just the two of us playing a duet and then we do a couple of Dio songs with just me playing. We have a band, its not just me playing so we have a good band and we play Dio songs and Carmine plays some of his stuff Vanilla Fudge and Rod Stewart.

So we play like 10 or so songs and jam out on some Ozzy tunes and then there is a big drum battle at the end. There’s some comedy in there too, Carmine never knows what I am going to do, I am always goofing off and shit and I always win the battle. (laughing)

Decibel Geek: Well that was my next question, who’s winning the war so far?

Vinny: I win all the time, he’s getting old I kick his ass. (laughing)

Decibel Geek: Well it’s been a pleasure and an honor speaking with you and I can’t wait til May 11th to witness the Drum Wars live.

Vinny: Well it’s been great talking to you too and thanks for having me on, this was awesome man!

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