Vinny Appice is one of the greatest drummers of my generation. With a distinct and powerful style of drumming, Vinny has been the backbone of such legendary acts as John Lennon, Rick Derringer, Black Sabbath, Dio, and Heaven and Hell. For over 30 years, Vinny has been bringing the thunder and this time around, he’s doing it in his very own band Kill Devil Hill. As a long time fan, it was a great pleasure to get to talk to Vinny on the phone from his home in LA. Our 30 minute interview turned into an hour long conversation full of insightful and often hilarious stories.

Vinny was a very humble and fun person to talk to. This is without a doubt my favorite interview to date. This interview is so full of awesomeness that it couldn’t even be contained in just one part. In part one of our interview, Vinny shared some fun stories from his Dio days, we talked about getting his wish with Kill Devil Hill, the fact that he’s never heard the Black Sabbath album Live At Hammersmith. Settle in for this one and enjoy hearing the stories of Vinny Appice.

Hey Vinny. This is Don from The Great Southern Brainfart. How are ya today?

I’m good man. I love the name of your site. I know a lot of brainfarts so that’s cool. [laughs]

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Thanks so much for taking the time out to talk with me today.  I’ve been a fan of your playing since I was 10 years old and listening to Dio and it’s an honor to get to speak with you.

Thank you so much Don. That’s awesome. I really appreciate that and it’s nice to hear.

First off, congrats to you on Kill Devil Hill. You’ve got to be really psyched about this band. What an awesome band you’ve put together.

Thank you. My whole career, even as a little kid growing up, I wanted to be in a rock band. I wanted to be in my own band but my career didn’t really pan out that way. I’m not complaining [laughs]. I’ve always ended up playing with people who were already established and became part of those bands. It was always a dream to try and have my own band. I did it a couple of times and it either wasn’t working out or because something else came up that made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. This is a really special thing to me. It’s a really great band and we love each other and it’s a real band. I love the music we’re playing and this is my little baby. I’m really stoked about it.

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I can totally hear the excitement in the music. I feel like you kind of came close with the WWIII project but KDH to me just sounds like you nailed it.

It’s interesting that you mentioned WWIII. WWIII was a killer band and a killer album but I went into that just as a player. Jimmy (Bain) was involved with that and they had another drummer before me. First I did the album and then I did the tour with them. Everything was written already so there wasn’t any of my influence in there except for the playing.

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This wasn’t the case with Kill Devil Hill though. How did KDH actually come to be?

Yeah. With KDH, this baby was started from scratch. The way it started is that I came off the Heaven and Hell tour and I had to have shoulder surgery. Right before the surgery I went over to my friend Jeff Pilson’s house who plays with Foreigner and Dokken. He’s a great engineer and he has a great studio so I recorded 13 drum tracks at different speeds and different feels and that’s what kicked this off. I had those drum tracks and when I finished, the next day the hospital said that they could get in Monday instead of having to wait a month so I went in and I came out. You’re supposed to be in a sling for six weeks and I couldn’t play drums or anything. I had these tracks so I started listening to them so I invited Jimmy Bain over and he played bass on some of the rhythms and I started getting ideas. I heard about this guitarist named Mark Zavon. He played with WWIII. He came down and started working on stuff with me and we jelled really well. As for singers, I had been getting a lot of Dio impersonators. I wasn’t looking for that because I wanted to move on to something different. Mark turned me on to a CD that Dewey sang on a song which was “Hangman” and as soon as I heard it I said, “That’s the guy.” We continued writing songs and when it didn’t work out with Jimmy we started looking for another bassist. I heard Rex (Brown; ex-Pantera/Down bassist) was looking for something so I called him. I know him from when Pantera toured with Black Sabbath in Europe. I always loved the way he played. He has a bad ass bass sound so I sent him the songs and he loved them. We got together and we just continued writing. We didn’t try to sound like Sabbath or anybody really. That’s just what I came out. I like it heavy so we made sure we kept it heavy.

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I love that you didn’t try and make this a “supergroup” of sorts using all well known players.

Thanks. Yeah, this is a real band. It’s not like we said, “Ok, Rex will be good. If we can only get a ‘star’ guitar player like Tom Morello or something.” It’s not an “all star” band with me and Rex and other known people to get big money. Kill Devil Hill is a real band that I want to last. We all want this band to last. We want to go on an adventure together.

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Kill Devil Hill is a little bit of everything mixed together but it’s got such a fresh feel to it.

Yeah, you don’t want to keep playing the same old stuff. I don’t want to come out with songs that sound like 80’s stuff. I just had a vision to just have a cool, heavy band with a little bit of a modern edge to it. This combination seems to hit it right. We’re not doing all of the screaming and yelling that a lot of the new bands are doing. Everybody else is doing that [laughs].

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I agree. I love hearing a good, solid, and real vocalist. I grew up listening to great singers. I didn’t grow up listening to screaming kids or singers using auto tune. I don’t want to hear that shit.

[laughs] You grew up listening to melody and so did I. That’s the stuff I like. Melody strikes different moods in people. Dewey screams when he wants to but he’s a bad ass singer. He looks the part too. He’s not trying to look cool or anything. That’s what the guy looks like every day when he wakes up. That’s the same with everybody else in this band.

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I want to talk about your playing on the KDH album. The playing on this album is like nothing I’ve ever heard you do before. You have such a signature sound to it but there’s some groove and swing in there that I’ve never heard from Vinny Appice.

There are two things that were involved in that. One thing was that the last Heaven and Hell album The Devil You Know was written with a friggin’ drum machine. It was all of us in a room with a drum machine. It was stupid. I wanted to go into a rehearsal place and jam and work the shit up loud. That’s the way we did Mob Rules and Dehumanizer but instead, it wound up with us working in Ronnie’s studio with a drum machine. When we recorded The Devil You Know, the band wanted it really simple on the drums so I didn’t play a lot on that album. When the album came out, I got all this feedback like, “Vinny didn’t play shit on the drums” and “The drums are really boring” and shit like that [laughs]. I was like, “Ok, but you guys don’t know the whole story.” That was in my head so I decided that I was going to play my ass off on this record.

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I really loved The Devil You Know and I had no idea the level of restraint you were working with.

Well, with Sabbath, it was more that the playing had to be under that Sabbath umbrella. We couldn’t do too much crazy shit. Even having too much melody would be too nice for Sabbath. There are three different egos that are running the band and the way The Devil You Know was written, it wasn’t inspiring for me to play drum machine parts. You can’t hang or swing on a drum machine. It’s hard to work that way. If we would’ve been in a room rehearsing the music would’ve been a lot more aggressive and a lot more Sabbathy than what came out.

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So I’m guessing that this way of doing things was way different from the way you guys did things back in the day.

Oh yeah. Back then we would just go in every night at 7:00 and just hang out at the rehearsal place. We would get stoned, drink some beers and just go fucking crazy [laughs]. That’s the way Holy Diver (first Dio album) was made.

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I bet you have some awesome stories from those days. Can you share one with me?

Oh yeah. There’s one story about the Holy Diver album which is interesting. There’s a song called “Invisible.” In that song there are two riffs. We had one of the riffs one night and we just jammed on it. We loved it so we recorded it on an old Tascam 4 track recorder. The next night we went back to the studio and smoked a little pot, got crazy and we were like, “Let’s hear what we did last night.” The engineer put the tape in the wrong way so the riff played backwards [laughs]. We started listening to it and we thought it actually sounded pretty cool. We learned the riff backwards and that’s the other riff in “Invisible” [laughs]. Ronnie also wanted a magic sounding effect to start off “Invisible” but we didn’t know how to make a cool sound. We didn’t have computers back then but a friend of ours, who was also the pot dealer, was there and we asked him if he had a tire. He got the spare tire from his truck; we miked up the tire and then let the air out of it [laughs]. That’s what the sound effect before “Invisible” is [laughs]. That’s the kind of stuff that made good music. Ronnie never said, “Can’t”. He never said, “You can’t from this chord to that chord.” Nobody ever said “can’t.” We would just jam and record it and everything was a go. That’s what made a great album and that’s the same thing with KDH. Just throw your best, craziest idea into it and see if it works.

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I’m really excited to see Kill Devil Hill. What can I expect from a KDH live show? I’m assuming you’re doing only KDH material correct?

Yeah, we’re going to be doing the KDH material for now. We might work up a song or two from our previous past. We did a tour last summer but nobody knew the songs but this band just slammed it. It’s just really heavy ass shit when we play live. I still have that fire in me. Rex is on 11, Mark is just loving it all and Dewey’s fucking cranking it so the band is the really powerful live. Even though the people didn’t know the songs but the third song people were there with us and by the end they were going fucking crazy.

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Vinny, you’ve played everywhere from stadiums to clubs all over the world. Is there one particular kind of venue that you favor?

Well, the arena shows were always fun and they were cool but playing clubs where the crowd is right there and in your face is a cool thing. First of all, you better be good because they are right there and five feet away from you. That actually makes me play better. When the audience is so far away you can’t feel the vibe of them as much as when people are right there with you. Right now we’re going to do this tour with Adrenaline Mob. It’s supposed to be a co-headlining tour but Mike Portnoy has got his huge drum set so we’re going on first [laughs]. My drums will actually be set up in front of Mike’s so in some of these places there’s not going to be much room for Dewey to run around and sing but we don’t care. Fuck it. We’re going to just blow the doors of these places [laughs].

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Fuck it man. Do it old school and put Dewey on the floor in the crowd and let him run the show.

[laughs] I’d rather be on the floor of the stage that on those drum risers and shit. Some of those 5, 6, and even 8 foot drum risers I’ve been on. Shit, I love being down there with the band [laughs].

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I just watched the Dio Sacred Heart Live DVD and you were way the fuck up there with the dragon like a mile up in the sky.

[laughs] That’s the problem with those kinds of things. It just becomes a show. From the audience view it’s awesome but as far as communicating within the band it’s hard. I mean, it’s a good show but I didn’t like being up there. I’d rather be down there with the band and jamming. At least on the last Heaven and Hell tours the riser wasn’t too bad. There were steps and Ronnie would come up with me so that was cool. When it’s over the top I’m just like, “Aw shit. I hate this.” [laughs]

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It almost kind of takes away from the music in a sense. It becomes more about the visual spectacle than about jamming on the songs and connecting with each other.

Exactly. With KDH we’re right there with each other and we can really jam on the songs together. That’s a cool thing to do. It’s really hard to do that when everyone is so far away from each other.

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Let’s talk about the Black Sabbath Live Evil album. Everyone bitches about how crappy the production was. I thought it was a great album but Sabbath a few years back released Live at Hammersmith with a much better and cleaner production. Did you feel a sense of redemption for the Live Evil album?

I never heard it.

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Are you serious?

[laughs] Yup. I’ve never heard it that album. I know they released it and I don’t even have one.

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I should get you a copy of it.

[laughs] That would be nice. I know they were limited to like a few thousand copies or something. It’s unbelievable I tell ya. That’s the problem with Sabbath and Heaven and Hell. They would put stuff out and I would be like, “Hey, when did that come out?” Where’s my payment for it? [laughs] But yeah, I never heard that record and there’s a lot of stuff I see out there that I’ll see and I say, “What the hell is this?”

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Live at Hammersmith is a great record man. It sounds absolutely amazing and it’s an awesome performance.

Yeah, that was recorded early on in the 80’s. We used to do four night stands at the Hammersmith Odeon. A lot of times we would play after Christmas on like the 28th, 29th, 30th, and New Years Eve. Every night would be sold out and it was just crazy. It was a really cool time.

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How was that for ya? I hope you dug the hell out of Part 1. In Part 2, Vinny and I discuss his early beginnings and how he got started playing drums in the first place. We also talk about the long running dispute on just how to properly say his last name and his thoughts on the recent drama surrounding the Black Sabbath reunion.

READ PART II HERE

About The Author

The Brainfart

Don (aka. The Brainfart) has been a heavy metal fan since hearing it for the first time in 1983. Don is also repsonsible for all of the typos, shitty grammar, and kick ass content on this site. Don likes cheap beer, whiskey, Coca Cola Icees, going to shows, and hanging with his kick ass wife, two cats (Drusilla & Coltrane) and dog (Cassie). He originally wanted to name his dog Shandi but his wife said, "No fucking way."

anthony says:

I did not like the last Heaven & Hell album at all, everything was slow and sluggish, I hated the drums to because they were totally boring. If it had Scott Travis double bass drumming perhaps it would of livened things up. Iommi lost his bassy tone years ago it lost the bass, I like his style much more in the Days of Master of Reality to Sabotage.
I thought the album sucked. Just my 2 cents.