By Kelley Simms
Drummer CARMINE APPICE’s resumé reads like an A-list of legendary music performers. He’s played with everyone from VANILLA FUDGE to ROD STEWART to TED NUGENT to OZZY OSBOURNE and many others. The journeyman drummer has been pounding the skins for over four decades, and at age 67, Carmine is still one of the most prolific and most influential drummers performing today.
Among his many accolades, Carmine started the big drum kit trend, wrote the definitive drum book, partied with famous movie stars (and groupies), received a letter from Fred Astaire, wrote a few number one hits and became friends with his idol Buddy Rich. All these life-endearing stories will be included in his highly-anticipated soon-to-be published autobiographical memoirs. This scribe reads a ton of music bio/autobiographies and the anticipation for Carmine’s life story couldn’t be greater. The book is being co-written by Ian Gittins, who wrote The Heroin Diaries with Nikki Sixx. For now, the book is being titled Stick it! Encounters with Rock Legends and is tentatively scheduled for a 2014 fall release.
“If you read the Ace Frehley and Peter Criss books; their childhoods were very similar to mine. I grew up in Brooklyn and so did Peter, and we had belonged to gangs. A lot of my friends went on to be Mafia leaders and are now spending their lifetime in jail for murder. Which I could have been there too, but music saved me from that. My Brooklyn days aren’t boring! When I joined up with Rod, I was there seven years, that story alone could have been a book. While I was with Rod, I was hanging out with all these movie stars. The story goes all over the place and focuses on a lot of different people and a lot of different eras.
“If I didn’t know my story and I would read this book, I think I would like it. There’s a lot of really cool stories. It touches on a lot of different things. I gave Fred Astaire my rock book because Gregory Peck told me he wanted to play rock drums. If this book does well, I’m already planning on the next one, which will be vignettes of stories that didn’t make it into this book. When you write a book, you can’t have all the details in the book or it gets to be too long.”
There will also be some juicy bits in the book that places the reader smack dab in the middle of the rock ’n’ roll debauchery. The most notorious of all groupie tales, the infamous ‘Mudshark incident,’ which involved sexual acts on a young groupie with a shark, which was caught from the window of the then-called Edgewater Inn in Seattle while LED ZEPPELIN opened up for Vanilla Fudge. Carmine witnessed it all.
“The woman that was the patron of all that was a groupie that I found and she ended up hanging around with us for three days in Seattle. It’s a legendary story that’s been on VH1, MTV, Rolling Stone and in various books. I tried to make this the most truthful and honest version of it. Robert Plant denies it, but he wasn’t really that involved in it. We started out in John Paul Joneses room and then ended up in my room. The woman came to my room with John’s robe on. It’s a funny story. It’s disgusting, but funny. She was loving it, the girl, and we were all laughing our butts off. It was actually filmed by Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge, vocals/keyboards) with an 8mm camera. We tried developing it years later but there was nothing on it, it was too old.”
As long as Carmine has been playing, people have been mispronouncing his name. The proper pronunciation of Carmine’s last name has been an ongoing debate ever since he started out in the music biz and this is something that I always wanted to clear up.
“The true Italian pronunciation is actually ‘A-peech-aye,’ the way my father and his father pronounced it,” Carmine said. “My stage name basically is pronounced ‘A-peesh.’ I worked from 1967 all the way up to 1976 when I joined Rod Stewart. Everybody would say my name differently, and they still do it. It was ‘App-a-see,’ it was ‘A-peesh,’ it was ‘A-pice,’ ‘A-peech-e,’ all kinds of names. So when I went with Rod, he said we have to decide one way to say my name since there were so many mispronunciations. So I said, most people call me ‘A-piece,’ so lets just go with that. At the time, a metronome company did an ad that said, ‘Everybody wants a piece of Appice,’ so that made sense. Then my brother Vinny came out with SABBATH and started confusing everyone by saying his name was ‘App-a-see.’ So now he’s Vinny ‘App-a-see’ and I’m Carmine ‘A-piece.’ That’s why we did the Drum Wars, to battle for the name!” Carmine said with laughter.
Carmine’s newest endeavor, is the formation of his record label, Rocker Records. The label has released four digital-only records in 2013: Travers & Appice-Live in Europe (plus a bonus studio song), Bogert/Appice & Friends and two concert recordings from his post-Vanilla Fudge group Cactus: Live in Japan and Live in the USA. All four releases capture the live energy with quality production values, and Carmine promises there are more goodies in the pipeline. The best of these first four live releases is the Travers & Appice concert. Interesting enough, it was sent to Carmine by a fan who recorded it at the gig.
“It’s an approved bootleg by me, Pat and Tony (Franklin, bass),” Carmine said. “It was sent to me a couple of years ago and had it in my CDs. I played it for a little while and put it in my computer and when we came upon this deal I remembered that CD. I sent it to Pat and he loved it. So we had a bonus track (“Funkified”) that we recorded in the studio with TM Stevens (STEVE VAI, TWIN DRAGONS) that we never released, so we fixed that up. I always loved that track.”
They say a drummer’s first kit is like their first girlfriend — you never forget her. Carmine reflects on his first kit.
“My first good kit was a Gretsch red sparkle kit: 22” bass drum, 13” x 9” wood snare, with one cymbal and one tom. I ended up building on to that. My first hi-hat was a Premiere. That was actually the drum kit I did (Vanilla Fudge’s) ‘You Keep My Hanging On’ with, except I changed the snare drum to a Rogers chrome snare. Then I bought the big bass drum (26” x 15”) at a pawn shop for $5 and recovered it myself with the red sparkle and that’s the bass drum I used on the Ed Sullivan Show that you can see on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSYU7Gh2Ojo). That was the first big bass drum in rock that started the big drum craze. Then my next kit was my Ludwig maple kit with two 26” bass drums. I figured ‘the bigger the better.’ I also had a 22” bass drum turned on its side as a big tom, and I also had a gong. That drum set started the whole fad on big drums. That’s the same drum kit that I got for John Bonham.”
Another one of Carmine’s list of accomplishments might not be as well known. Carmine played on one of the best and heaviest songs (‘Dogs Of War’) on PINK FLOYD’s 1987 comeback album, Momentary Lapse of Reason. Which led me to ask, ’What happened to Nick?’
“Bob Ezrin was a producer friend of mine, who produced ALICE COOPER and KISS,” Carmine concludes. “Paul Stanley gave me the hook-up because I played on Paul’s solo album. During the Rod days, me and Paul were pretty close. We used to go to concerts together in those days when nobody knew who he was because he used to wear the make up. I got a message one day on my answering machine that was from Bob Ezrin that said he had a band he was producing that was just screaming for Carmine Appice drum fills. So I gave him a call and he said it was Pink Floyd. So I asked what happened to Nick (Mason)? Because we knew those guys. Vanilla Fudge did Pink Floyd dates in England in 1967 before they were big. We knew (David) Gilmour, we knew all of them. He said Nick had been racing his cars and his calluses are soft and besides they wanted some new blood. So I went in and did it and it was amazing. It came out fantastic. These details will all be in the book; what the session was like, what I did and what drums I used, who was there, etc.”
His book just can’t come out soon enough.
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