An Interview with Carmine Appice of Cactus, Vanilla Fudge & King Kobra

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You Keep Us Hangin' On!” Spotlight on Vanilla Fudge's Carmine Appice | by  Spotlight Central | Spotlight Central | Medium

Carmine Appice is one of the greatest drummers ever to pick up a pair of sticks. His hard-hitting, powerful style, coupled with his incredible showmanship, has led him down a path that has seen him become a member of multiple legendary Rock bands.

You probably know Carmine from his work as a member of Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, King Kobra, or Blue Murder. Or maybe his freelance work with Paul Stanley or Rod Stewart is more your thing? Regardless, you can expect the music he is a part of to hit you and hit you hard. Carmine has been nothing short of transcendent in his career as a musician, and he’s far from done.

Today, I’ve got Carmine Appice with me for a chat. We discuss Cactus’ new record, Tightrope, his early days as drummer, some of his work with Vanilla Fudge and he answers if he would ever work with Vinnie Vincent again. If you would like to learn more about Carmine, check out his website here. If you would like to learn more about Cactus, or grab their new record, head here. Cheers.

Andrew:
Carmine, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s been a weird year. What have you been doing to pass the time?

Carmine:
Actually, I’ve been very busy. I’ve been getting all of my drum book catalogs released in 2021. So, we had to update each book and do 3 min video ads for Amazon and the internet. I moved to Florida. I turned our new guest house into a studio. I’ve been recording a new instrumental album that will be coming out shortly called Energy Overload, with myself and a great artist named Fernando Perdomo. I also have been putting together a 25th anniversary Guitar Zeus box set….and, of course, Cactus.
 
Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. How did you get into music? What was the gateway?

Carmine:
My cousin played drums, and through him, I got turned on to drums. After showing interest, my parents bought me a cheap used drum set. Then after a while, when I showed I loved playing, they bought a real drum set from our neighbor, who lived on our block in Brooklyn, where I grew up. He worked at the Gretsch drum company. I got my drum set that eventually ended up on Vanilla Fudge’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” I played all kinds of gigs throughout my teens, took drum lessons, and little by little got into playing drums for a living.

Andrew:
As an artist and drummer, who were some of your earliest and more important influences? 

Carmine:
My influences mainly were Jazz guys. Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich was the first album I ever bought. Then, Joe Morello, Max Roach, Motown, and R&B. All together, these influences molded my style.

Cactus – Tightrope (CD) Pre-Order – Cleopatra Records Store

Andrew:
Let’s talk about Cactus’ new album, Tightrope. This is the band’s first record since 2016’s Black Dawn. Tell us about the recording of this record. How much of a factor did COVID play into the sessions? Was it an entirely different experience?

Carmine:
We recorded the album and wrote the songs the same way we always did. We jam together in the studio, then put together songs from the jam. We have always done this. Some songs start off from the guitar riffs and then are made into songs with Jimmy Kunes writing lyrics and melodies to the jams and the riffs. So, this was all done before COVID. The tracks were all finished before COVID. We did mix during COVID. This is a process we would do anyway. Paul Warren, who co-produced with me, because he lives in Nashville, the engineer was in NYC, I was in Florida. So, it was mixed by the internet. We were used to doing it this way though.

Andrew:
You’ve said that you feel that Tightrope is one of the best records Cactus has ever done. What is it about this record that really sets it apart? How would you compare this record to some of your earlier works
, such as Cactus and One Way…or Another?

Carmine:
I feel the level of songwriting is better now. I also think that the production from all sides and sounds of the record is better. This is just my opinion. Also, I feel that Paul Warren plays like a young [Jim] McCarty, as he comes from Detroit. He plays like McCarty but with a lot more energy. It’s probably because he is younger. He’s a great singer as well. So, that’s why I feel that way.
 
Andrew:
How about songwriting? How did these tracks come together? Cactus is known for its driving, heavy sound and this album delivers that in spades. That said, what’s changed in terms of songwriting and album creation since the early days?

Carmine:
What’s changed? Experienced songwriters and players. Cactus’ music is kickass Hard Rock. This band’s members are, as I said, experienced in this kind of music, from sounds, songwriting, production; it all adds up to a tremendous new Cactus album. With a new band recording, we capture the energy of the new player’s Paul and James Caputo on bass.

CACTUS ROCKS

Andrew:
Your new record also has some exciting features, including a guest appearance from Cactus’ original guitarist, Jim McCarty. How did that come to be? Any chance we see Jim make further appearances with the band in the future or on tour?

Carmine:
The Black Dawn record was almost shelved when it came out. The label was having trouble. Not many people knew about it. I always loved the song “Headed For A Fall.” Anyway, we decided to put that [song] on this [record], with Jim. Then we had another track that myself and Jim had put together, and for some reason [Jimmy] Kunes never wrote the lyrics. So for fun, I asked my friend Phil Naro, who I’ve worked with before, I asked him to mess around with it. In the end, I loved what he did, and Jim McCarty loved it too. So, we put it on the CD.

As for playing live with Jim, he doesn’t travel anymore, which is why Paul joined. That said, if we play the Detroit area, he would come up to jam, as he’s done before when we played Detroit with this band.

Andrew:
I also wanted to touch on the band’s new lead singer and guitarist, Paul Warren. How did Paul end up in Cactus? What made him the perfect fit?

Carmine:
I have a show called The Rod Experience. It has musicians who’ve played with Rod [Stewart], playing a Rod Stewart circa 1979 kind of performance, with a Rod look alike and sound alike. Rick St. James played rod. So, being Paul played with Rod for 14 years, and I knew him from those days, and from back in LA, I asked him to join. When I heard him play and sing, I was blown away, because he can play anything and he sang great. McCarty decided to leave, and seeing that Paul played in a pretty similar style to Jim, I asked him to join. He was very excited about the idea. That was it. We then did some gigs in the USA, did a tour of Europe, etc. Honestly, the band sounded fresh and great. It keeps the power and image of Cactus while still paying respect to the past.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about your style as a drummer. Your one of the hardest-hitting and heaviest drummers in Rock and Metal history. With that being said, who most influenced your style as a drummer? How did you develop your signature sound, which in essence has come to define the many legendary bands and albums you’ve been a part of?
 

Carmine:
My style has evolved with the music, as well as the technical aspect of the music, as far as sound systems, etc. When I started with Vanilla Fudge, there were no sound systems or monitors on stage. There were just big Marshall amps. So, out of necessity, I had to play hard. I was a studied drummer and could play different styles, but I had to hit hard, with lots of technique, especially with Vanilla Fudge. Over time, I found a bigger bass drum, which was louder. When Ludwig drum company offered me an endorsement deal, I chose all oversized drums for volume. To play big drums, you had to hit hard but still have groove, dynamics, and technique. So, I pretty much developed the style and the added showmanship by stick twirling, and the next thing I know, I had come up with something that other drummers were emulating—all by necessity.  

Carmine Appice - DRUMMERWORLD

Andrew:
Aside from music, what else are you most passionate about and why? How do your other passions inform and inspire your music?

Carmine:
Honesty, my other passions do not inspire my music much. I’ve always loved cars. I was 17 when I bought my first car; it was a hot ride. From that moment on, I’ve been hooked on cars. My other passion is real estate. Neither one inspires music, but I do clear my head of the music when doing those things. When I come back to the music, I have fresh ears.
 
Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Tapes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music? What are a few albums that mean the most to you and why?

Carmine:
Well, I love the sound of vinyl. As we speak, I’m waiting for our new turntable to arrive. I love some of the classic albums. I do listen to Sirius XM Radio a lot. The Beatles Channel, Soul Town, Groove. I do like CDs. I also do some digital downloads with Paul McCartney songs, Aerosmith, etc. So, you can say I do it all…

Andrew:
Touring is a big part of any artist’s proverbial machine, but as we know, COVID has disallowed it. What do you miss most about being on the road?

Carmine:
That’s easy. I miss playing in front of an audience. I miss meeting the fans after the show, at the merch table. I miss doing drum clinics. I miss teaching new drummers. I miss it all.

You can buy Carmine Appice's Signature drum set that he played during Drum  Wars the Clinic #drum #drummers #legend #drumset #autog… | Carmine appice,  Drums, Carmine

Andrew:
Over the years, you’ve accomplished a lot in this business. You’ve been a member of Cactus, Vanilla Fudge, Beck, Bogart & Appice, Blue Murder, and King Kobra. You’ve worked with the likes of Paul Stanley, Michael Schenker, Rod Stewart, Marty Friedman, and Pink Floyd. All that said, what are some of your favorite moments in your career. 

Carmine:
Too many moments, but writing a song that went to #1 in 10 countries and watching it sell millions like “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” did, was for sure a highlight.

Andrew:
You aren’t often asked about Carmine and the Rockers, which is a project you worked on with Vinnie Vincent. Looking back, what are your thoughts on that? Any chance you would work with Vinnie again?


Carmine:
Sorry to say, it will never happen. Vinnie is a fantastic talent but not a good person to be in a project with. He creates havoc wherever he goes. I have tapes…finished mixes of great songs, but he made sure that I could never release them by hiring an attorney to send me a letter. Meanwhile, he had done nothing but create trouble. We were going to do one gig with him, myself and Tony Franklin….it was a nightmare. The promotor got screwed out of tons of money. So, as far as Vinnie Vincent is concerned, I’d say no…

Andrew:
What types of drums, cymbals, and hardware are you using these days?

Carmine:
These days I use DD drums/hardware, Sabian cymbals, Vic Firth sticks, Evans drumheads and DW pedals, and some hardware and Audix mics.
 
Andrew:
Last question. You’ve had a long career that has spanned over 50 years. You’ve been a member of some of the most influential Rock bands of all time. With all that being said, what are your thoughts on where the Rock scene stands today? What advice would you have for young musicians?

Carmine:
I think it is tough to make it now in the Rock scene, as there is no radio. The younger generation has somehow found a way to do it via the internet. I’m not tuned into that market. My advice is to learn your instrument and practice your craft. If you believe you have something going on, never give up your dream!! My dream was to make a living playing drums. You don’t have to be a Rock star to do that. I thank God that I surpassed what my dream was…amen !!

Legendary Drummer Carmine Appice On WPDH Friday

Interested in learning more about the work of Cactus? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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