Carmine AppiceInterview by Sean Mitchell // October 02 2008
I went to Wal-Mart to buy the T-shirts. I bought the Tshirts (and we’re always filming this stuff), so I say, “Yeah I got the T-shirts. Let me take them out.” We’re gonna paint little bow ties and buttons on it. I open them up and take them out, and I had bought five boys T-shirts! I hold them up and say, “Oh my god, Spinal Tap!”
Carmine Appice doesn't mince words, capish? At sixty-one-years young, Carmine (last name pronounced A-PEE-CHE ... now you know) has no need to. He has done it all, seen it all, and lived to tell the tale. But unlike many players of his stature, who are content to sit on their laurels, Carmine shows no signs of slowing down. Quite the contrary. Between his group SLAMM!!, his tour dates and his work with Little Kids Rock, it would seem Father Time has blessed the living legend with a ton of ideas and a lot of moxy. Far be it for me to say who is a drum God, but Carmine is without a doubt in a class all his own. An ODG if you will: the Original Drum God.
How does it feel to be looked upon by your peers as a living legend?
I don’t know, man, you know. I’ve been doing this all my life. I mean, I’m sixty-one years old, and for forty of those years I’ve been doing this. This is sort of what I’m used to. I’m sort of living this rock star life. I’ve had all the stuff: I’ve had the five wives, I’ve had the houses and the fifteen cars, I’ve been all around the world, and I’ve gone places and got recognized. This is my life. I am very used to it.
What is Little Kids Rock?
That is a program which really is close to my heart. The program goes to areas that are bad areas. I got this one school that I favor in The Bronx. You go up there and it’s like right across the street from a junk yard, and you got all the gang writing everywhere. What Little Kids Rock does is it keeps the kids after school and teaches them how to play. I jam with them. I teach them how to write a song and stuff like that. It’s really inspiring. When they have events to raise money I go down and I jam with the kids live. One of their events raised $20,000. It’s a really great thing for these kids.
Tell me about SLAMM!!
SLAMM!! is great for me ‘cause I’ve been playing with Vanilla Fudge and Cactus, but, y’know, these guys are all my age and they’re whiney old men. They really are. So, my girlfriend, who’s a talk show host in New York City, asked, “If you had a chance to do something, what would you want to do?” I said, “I wanna probably do the drum show.” In 1983 I did a drum battle tour which I had a drumoff as an opening act, and then I had a drum show with four drummers. We did glow-in-the-dark stuff and drum solos, and we packed everywhere we went. So she said we should do that. Then, I started thinking about what I wanted to do. I said, “Yeah, I’d like to take the urban thing and mix it with a rap thing and come up with sort of a rockurban show, a little different than Blue Man Group, a little different than Stomp. Have five drummers and a guitar player so we could actually play some of my hits.”
It must be surreal for you, now, years later, Led Zeppelin performing again with Jason (and having known John so well). How do you wrap your head around the fact that Bonham Sr. was influenced by your playing?
Now he’s become such an icon. Hard to believe he was ever a nobody. But when I met him he was a nobody; he was as known as you are. He used to tell me how he loved all my stuff with the Fudge, and he’d listen to the records and copy stuff from me. He copied a bass drum thing from me, and I said, “Dude, I never did that.” And, he said, “Yeah, you did.” Then he told me exactly where I did it on one song. I did it once, just some spontaneous thing. I did it between the hand and the feet, and he took that and developed what he had. It always blew me away because I loved what he did, and I thought it was his.
You got Bonham his endorsement with Ludwig. How did that come about?
They were on tour with us and they opened up for Vanilla Fudge. They were nobody; John Bonham was as known as you are. He saw my big Ludwig kit, and said, “Man, I would love to have a kit like that.” I said “Well, y’know, I’ll call Ludwig and tell ‘em, and we’ll send them an album.” We had the same attorney and so I got Ludwig into it and the attorney finished the deal. John ordered the same exact kit as mine: add the gong, add the 12x15 small tom, and two 26x14 bass drums. I had a 22-inch bass drum on its side as a big tom, and he just got a couple 16x18’s. We toured again in ’69, six months later, and they had gotten so big that we were equal bill now. So that means that one day we would open up for them and the next day they would open up for us. But he had a double bass drum kit the exact same as my kit on the tour with him. So they put his kit up, he’d play. They’d take his kit down, put my kit up (same kit), and then I’d play. So the audience must have said, “Why did they take that kit down?” But anyway, after that tour Robert and Jimmy didn’t want him to play double bass ‘cause it was too busy, so they took one bass drum away. And guess what? That became the Led Zeppelin drum kit.
To say the least, you are a drummer who thinks way outside the box. I once read that you ran an effect pedal through your snare mic. What is it, and how does it work?
I still use it. Now I’ve developed it even more with Morley and I’m trying to actually put it on the market. It’s a snare drum wah wah, is what it is. I’ve been using it since 1973. It’s an amazing effect and people don’t know what it is. I actually operate it. I actually hit the snare and I’d “wah wah” as I hit it. It’s a really good effect. You incorporate a lost art form in drumming: showmanship. How important is it to include just the right amount of showmanship in a performance? Y’know, I’m a real believer in being a good showman and a good technician and putting on a show no matter what you’re doing. One of my latest things in the last few years is when I went to Japan and did a disappearing drum solo where I ended up in the audience. When I describe showmanship, y’know, I think how important it is to really put on a show for the crowd, otherwise you end up being the drummer in the back, instead of being part of the show.
Have you had any Spinal Tap moments?
Millions of Spinal Tap moments, millions of ‘em. When Spinal Tap came out, I was living Spinal Tap with King Kobra. That thing was so real. I had one a couple months ago actually with my SLAMM!! group. We were doing this bit where we come out dressed in suit jackets and we had some T-shirts with bow ties put on ‘em. We’d come out playing ironing boards like cellos, like an orchestra. So I went to Wal-Mart to buy the T-shirts. I bought the Tshirts (and we’re always filming this stuff), so I say, “Yeah I got the T-shirts, let me take them out.” We’re gonna paint little bow ties and buttons on it. I open them up and take them out, and I had bought five boys T-shirts! I hold them up and say, “Oh my god. Spinal Tap!” It was like the small Stonehenge coming down. (laughing)
Visit Carmine online: http://www.carmineappice.com
About the Author
Sean has 15 years experience behind the kit, studying under greats like Mitch Dorge and participating in master classes with Dom Famularo and Zoro. It was these life-changing exchanges that prompted the Canadian-born drummer to create a global drumming community, The Black Page, that was easily accessible to drummers of all backgrounds and levels of expertise. In addition to his work with BP, Sean is one-half of the world soul group The Mitchells.
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