Carmine Appice is one of the leading rock drummers of his generation and is recognized world wide for his power, dynamics, showmanship and technically adroit style. Initially emerging in 1967 as a member of Vanilla Fudge, Carmine gained wider fame throughout his career playing with Jeff Beck in the group Beck Bogert Appice, and playing with Rod Stewart, with Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent, Cactus, Blue Murder, King Kobra, Pink Floyd and others. He is a hit songwriter, co-writing some of Rod Stewart’s biggest hits such as “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Young Turks”. Drummer Magazine calls him the “creator of heavy rock drumming as we know it” and his influence has reached across generations of drummers including John Bonham and Tommy Lee. He has been inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame, The Heavy Rock Hall of Fame, The Hollywood Rockwalk of Fame and the Classic Drummer Hall of Fame. Besides his performing career, Carmine has made major contributions to the field of drum education. His seminal work ‘Realistic Rock’—the first serious instructional book on rock drumming has sold over 400,000 copies, is still in print today. He also wrote an autobiography called “Stick It”. Carmine’s career is exceptional if for no other reason than its longevity. Over the 50 plus years he has been in rock music, he has never been off the scene.
What is your background?
I grew up in Brooklyn in a working class Italian family. We were 6 people in a 1 bedroom apartment in Borough Park – 2 parents, and 4 kids. I joined the Vanilla Fudge in 1966 and by 1967 we had our first hit and were out touring the world. I was 20 when I “made it”, as we say in the business. In 1976 I moved from New York to Los Angeles and lived there for 30 years- which is where I came to play with Rod Stewart, Ozzy, and some of the other names people would know. I really liked the weather and the scene in California, and at that time there was a lot of opportunity for rock musicians. Eventually my entire family moved from NY to California- my two brothers, my sister and then, even my parents. I have two great kids (now adults) from a previous marriage who were born in California. I came back to NY in 2004 when I met Leslie and for a while I was bi-coastal. I’ve been lucky in that I had the opportunity to tour the world many times, play in front of huge audiences, create great music and do what I love.
What inspires you to create?
A new project. I’ll get a record deal and suddenly it’s time to come up with 10 or 12 new songs to fill the album. I usually immerse myself in the project for weeks until the job is done. Creativity in music doesn’t end with the writing, of course. I’ll get involved in the arranging and producing of the music as well. I like all aspects of the project. Good production can make or break a song.
Other times, I see a void in the market, or a void in my career and my creativity works to fill the void. Back in the day, there was not a single drum instructional book that taught drummers how to play, really play, rock music. Rock music was fairly new at the time and the drum books out there were written by guys who knew almost nothing about how to play it. I thought there should be a book that after someone went through it, they were actually prepared to play in a rock band. So I wrote it. That filled a void in the market and although I wrote it 40 years ago, it is an award winning book that still selling today. As an example of creating to fill a void in my career, I was frustrated one day several years ago that it had gotten harder to get a record deal. In the past I could get a record deal on my name alone, but later, as the rock music business became more saturated record labels would no longer give a drummer a deal. I said to myself “What the hell? Do I have to be a guitar player to get a deal? I should put together a bunch of the guitar players I know and call it “Carmine Appice’s Guitar Gods.” I slept on it and decided it was a good idea! I changed the name from Guitar Gods to Guitar Zeus and I was able get a deal for it. Then I made it. It’s an collection of original rock songs featuring a lot of my rock star friends who play guitar: Brian May from Queen, Richie Sambora, Ted Nugent, Slash, Zakk Wilde and about 20 others. It’s a compilation of some really great music showcasing great players.
How has your career influenced your passions (or vice versa)?
It’s always been passion for music and drumming that drove me. I had day jobs for a grand total of 3 weeks; first a stock boy for a week and half, and then a messenger for another week and half. Got fired each time. I would fall asleep on the job because I was out the night before playing in a band till 2AM.
I’m always looking for new things, new challenges, and new people to play with. There’s a lot more drumming in me that’s got to come out before I’m through.
What is something that you must do every day (by choice)?
I go to the gym. Heavy rock drumming is a physical job, and it requires 4 way independent coordination, but I still get on the treadmill or the bike everyday to keep my heart healthy.
What are some things that you would tell your younger self, if you had the opportunity to offer advice retrospectively?
To pick your romantic partners wisely. It took me an awful long time to get that right. Having the right person in your life makes your life easier, happier, peaceful and fun.
If you could be answering these questions from another location, anywhere in the world, where would that be?
Bora Bora. Leslie and I took a vacation there and it was stunning and like nowhere else in the world.
Who are some role models in your life?
Professionally I wanted to model myself after Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. Both were big band jazz drummers with phenomenal skills. Buddy is the best drummer of all time. There was no one, and still is no one who could touch him technically. He was the greatest drummer to ever draw a breath. On the kit he was ferocious. Gene Krupa was a brilliant showman. He was a good looking guy with amazing moves and physicality. He was fun and exciting to watch- and he got the girls. As a young drummer I thought if I could develop the chops of Buddy Rich, and have the showmanship of Gene Krupa, I’d really have it going on. That has been my model my entire career. Later in my life I got to meet Buddy Rich, and then we became friends. We even played together on the same stage. For me, that was a huge thrill and a highlight of my career.
From a personal standpoint, my father taught me a lot about hard work. He worked all the time to keep the family together. I definitely got my work ethic from him.
What are some common misconceptions about getting older that you’d like to change?
You’re never too old to rock. I prove that.
What is something you appreciate now that you hadn’t before?
The United States. I had a sudden and serious health problem in an airplane at 30,000 feet coming back from a tour. Long story short -The plane diverted to let me off on an island in the middle of the ocean and I had to be airlifted several times before I could get back to the U.S. to get the proper treatment. The hospital in the Azores couldn’t fix me. The ‘finest’ hospital in Paris couldn’t fix me either and was adamant on doing a surgery we knew for certain was not appropriate for my condition. No amount of arguing or medical evidence could change their mind. My wife flew to Paris, enlisted the state department’s help and actually had to fight to get me released from the Paris hospital and have me airlifted, yet again, back to the U.S. I was more medically compromised after my stay in the ‘finest’ Paris hospital than before I checked in. I arrived in the U.S as a sicker and more medically complicated case than I needed to be. The doctors in the hospital in NYC had a hard task, but they did the correct procedure and fixed me up, thank goodness. The medical care I got in the U.S. saved my life.
What’s a lesson you learned within the last year that you’d like to share?
There’s nothing like wisdom and experience. At 20, 21, 22 years old I developed my heavy sound through speed and strength and my physicality. Not all of it came from strength but a lot of it was largely an athletic undertaking. It’s 50 years later, I’m 72 now- and I am still able to produce the same heavy, complex drumming I am known for, and create the same energy (almost!) and excitement on stage. Today I do it differently in a way that’s easier on my body. I know how to hit the drum to produce the sound I want, or how to adapt my hand position to produce the speed I need, and get the same results. I think that’s a lesson that could be applied to a lot of occupations. You can still accomplish great things, if you figure out a way to do it differently.
What kinds of relationships are important to your work?
Musicians that are professional, talented, experienced and can work without egos.
What would you like to be doing exactly five years from today? Ten years?
What one idea would you like to share with the Silver Disobedience community?
Rock music keeps you young! Check out my Guitar Zeus album, I’m really proud of it. And come see me play- I’m out with Vanilla Fudge in 2019 and 2020, my first group. We have 3 of the 4 originals in the band and we can still kick your butt, musically speaking.
How can our readers follow you on social media?