Hey Fartheads! Welcome to Part 2 of my interview with Vinny Appice of Kill Devil Hill. In this 2nd half Vinny and I continue to discuss such topics as the current drama surrounding the Black Sabbath reunion, his early days as a kid inspired by his big brother to play drums, and the risky payoff of touring as Heaven and Hell. Vinny was an amazing person to talk to and I’m so glad that I get to share this with you all. Enjoy the rest of my interview with the amazing Vinny Appice.
I keep getting asked by folks about what’s going on with the current Black Sabbath drama with Bill Ward not doing the reunion and all. What’s your take on it all?
I haven’t been contacted or anything so I’m not involved to be honest. I am in touch with them though, especially with Tony regarding his health and all. It was kind of funny to see this big deal about Sabbath coming back and then suddenly Bill’s not doing it. Then I read all these posts online saying, “Well if Bill’s not doing it Vinny should be next in line” and then other are saying shit like, “Fuck Vinny! He shouldn’t be up there. It should be Bill!” Then I read that Tommy (Clufetos) from Ozzy’s band is thrown in the mix and then they’re like, “Fuck Tommy. Vinny should be up there!” [laughs] It’s like the gossiping housewives of Jersey Shore or something [laughs].
He sounds really great. He’s still doing his treatments and he’s feeling good and working on the album. He sounds great and he’s in great spirits. That’s as far as I know. It seems like he’s moving along which is great.
Obviously it’s not fair to say that you weren’t a part of Sabbath’s history but with them calling it a “Black Sabbath reunion”, do you think it’s proper for them to carry on without Bill Ward and still call it a Sabbath reunion?
Well, I think that the first choice should honestly be Bill Ward. If Black Sabbath is going to do a reunion, Bill should be there. Back in 1998 they did a reunion tour but Bill couldn’t do it because of some medical problems so I did like 4 or 5 weeks with them in Europe with Ozzy singing. They didn’t call it a reunion tour though. They just went out as Black Sabbath. Then they toured the states and they were billing it as a reunion tour. Bill was actually playing on that tour but I was on tour with them in case Bill had a problem. He didn’t have any issues on that tour so I went the whole tour without playing which was the weirdest tour I ever did.
Being on tour and not being able to play sounds horrible. It’s kind of like being in a brothel and not being able to touch anything.
[laughs] Exactly. It was ridiculous. Then I felt like I was getting out of shape from not playing. Yeah, I think Bill should be doing this tour. It’s a reunion thing. At this point, it’ll probably be the last Sabbath tour and I think the fans, well I don’t think, I know that the fans honestly want to see the real band. I would like to see it to. They play unbelievably together.
I really hate to see this turn into such a soap opera. I feel like it kind of tarnishes any kind of reputable legacy that Sabbath could have left behind.
Yeah, exactly. I guess the whole problem with this thing was money. It’s a shame to see that. I don’t know what the hell’s going to happen. If they end up doing it with another drummer it’ll be the 2nd best thing since the fans still obviously want to hear those classic songs.
I want to talk about Heaven and Hell a bit. You, Ronnie, Tony and Geezer reunited, shaved off the Sabbath moniker, and chose to do only Dio era Sabbath achieving much success. Do you look back in that now and feel like you fulfilled something and maybe even closed on a good chapter after Ronnie’s passing?
Um, yeah. Tony, Ronnie and Geezer said in the beginning that the band was going to be called Heaven and Hell. It made sense because Tony and Geezer were doing Black Sabbath appearances with Ozzy on the Ozzfest tour for years. Coming out as Black Sabbath with me and Ronnie in it would’ve just been confusing to people. We weren’t going to do any of the older songs because we had plenty of new songs from the Heaven and Hell album on. It wasn’t a legal thing at all because Tony owned the name Black Sabbath. It was a risky move. There were times where we’d play and the arena wasn’t as full as it should’ve been and a lot of times we heard, “if you call it Black Sabbath, the promoters would be more excited” but all in all, the gigs were pretty packed. It was a gamble but it seemed to work and it was pretty cool to see the band reinvent themselves with a different name and still become successful with it. We went around the world with it.
I feel like Heaven and Hell definitely went out on top. You guys were killing it out there live.
Oh yeah. Towards the end of the last Heaven and Hell tour, we were smoking. We were jamming away and Tony’s “Heaven and Hell” solo got to be 20 minutes long because we were jamming so much. Everybody was just musically happy. There was another album in the works and if Ronnie was still here we would’ve done another one. The interesting thing with Ronnie was that when I went down and first played with Black Sabbath in 1980 in LA, I went down and met Ronnie and Tony the night before and then met Geezer and Geoff Nichols the next day. The first song we played was “Neon Knights” and on the last show we played with Ronnie that was the last song we played.
That is so amazing. It’s like full circle.
Yeah. It was a full circle. It was a journey with Ronnie from there to the end. We completed that whole journey of 30 something years with “Neon Knights.” It was really weird. I mean, what are the chances of ending with the same song that you started with? That was one of his favorite songs.
Well, my brother Carmine is 11 years older than me so he had a band rehearsing in the house. They’d set all their equipment up in the front room of the house. I would be sitting there watching them and looking at all the gear. It was fucking exciting. To me that was better than going to school and learning about Abraham Lincoln or something [laughs]. That totally influenced me. I started banging on the drums and eventually Carmine showed me a few things and as I got more serious, he told my parents to send me for drum lessons at 10 years old. I went to the same guy that Carmine went to. My mother would take me on two buses to the lessons every Saturday. I knew in those early years when I was 8 or 9 years old that I wanted to do this. I didn’t even think about anything else. When you’re a kid, you don’t think about “what am I going to do to survive?” or “I need something to fall back on.” I didn’t think anything like that. I just thought about drums, I practiced hard, and I studied my lessons. I learned a lot and kept my ears opened up to learn.
Speaking of Carmine, there’s been this long, ongoing debate on how to actually say your last name. So what is the right way?
Oh man, I haven’t heard that before [laughs]. Well, my father says Appice (A-puh-see). Carmine used to say it that way too. If you listen to a Vanilla Fudge (Carmine’s early band) called Near The Beginning, a live album, he does a drum solo and Tim Bogen introduces him “Carmine A-puh-see on the drums.” When he started working with Rod Stewart, Rod used to call him “Carmine Appice (Uh-piece)” so he changed it to that [laughs]. That’s around when I first started getting together with Derringer and I didn’t like that. I thought it sounded like “A piece of pizza” or something [laughs]. So I said fuck that and I went by “A-puh-see” and it’s been going on and on. That’s why we do this thing called Drum Wars. We did a video in the 90’s and now we’re planning on doing some live dates where we’ll be battling for the correct pronunciation of the name [laughs].
Vinny, you were young when you first joined Sabbath. Did it blow your fucking mind that you were playing with Black Sabbath or was it just a good gig for you?
Ok, here’s another secret. I worked with John Lennon, Rick Derringer, Black Sabbath and Dio. All the people I ever played with I was never a big fan of except for John Lennon. I knew who all these people were and I respected them as musicians so I was very professional when I went into these gigs. Even with John Lennon I didn’t go, “Holy shit! He’s in the same room with me.” I just went in and said, “Ok, what do we need to do?” [laughs] I had complete respect and admiration for Sabbath but I never went into it as a fan. Honestly, that was probably better because it was more of a level playing field. When I joined Sabbath, I had never bought a Sabbath record. I had heard them over at a friend’s house in Brooklyn. He played me the first Black Sabbath album and I went, “Wow, that’s some scary shit.” I actually didn’t like the drums on the album to be honest. Bill’s a different drummer than I am. I liked big sound and more groove like John Bonham. Bill’s playing was a different kind of playing. When I joined the band we only had four days of rehearsal before playing in Hawaii at a 30,000 seat venue so there was no time to think about it [laughs]. Back when I joined the band they were all happy so we’d rehearse for an hour and then go to the pub for two hours and them come back and play a little bit. At that time I was the only “other” drummer that Tony and Geezer had played with.
You’ve got a really impressive catalog of recordings under your belt. If you could be remembered for any recorded piece, what would it be?
If it were for one song I would have to say “We Rock” by Dio. On that song, everybody was on fire. There is a lot of energy and a lot of heart on that song. The playing on that song came straight from the heart and soul. That song would sum it up.
Man, that song is exactly what you would hope a song called “We Rock” would sound like.
[laughs] Exactly. There are a lot of drum fills on that song. When I see people play that song, including people who are supposed to know the parts, they leave all the important drum fills out. I hear the drums played kind of generically and it just think, “Shit man, I worked hard on that stuff. Jesus. [laughs]
You worked with three different guitarists in Dio (Vivian Campbell, Craig Goldie, and Tracy G.). In your opinion, who was the best Dio guitarist?
Oh it was Campbell. He was the man. He was on fire. He played great, he had a great feel, and he had great rhythm. He was a really cool guy. Viv, Jimmy (Bain), Claude (Schnell) and I just jammed last month. Viv was in town and he wanted to play so we got a rehearsal place and went in and just played all these old Dio songs. It was really cool. We might even do some dates so we’ll see. We have this really cool singer named Andy who really loves Ronnie and it might be cool to just go out and do some shows. I hadn’t played with Viv since 1985 or ‘86 but yet it was tight as fuck. We could’ve gone out and played a show that night. That’s how tight it was even after all those years [laughs]. That’s something that might happen. I mean, we were the real guys. We were the band. Ronnie’s not here and it would be nice to play those songs they way they should be played in memory of Ronnie. I don’t know what we’d call it. Re-Dio? [laughs]
Oh that’s fucking hilarious. You should do it!
Oh man, I had a band once with Phil Mogg and Pete Way from UFO, Tracy G (ex Dio guitarist) and me and we called the band UFDO [laughs]. We recorded like four songs and then it all fell apart but it was really fun. Those guys were great. I invited Phil and Pete to stay at my house and it wound up being Pete coming with his wife and their two dogs. It was just crazy. Man, the shit that went on for that week [laughs].
Vinny, there are lots of young people out there with dreams of making it in the music world. Do you have any advice for those people?
The business is so crazy. It’s so hard to say, “Do this, do that, and you’ll make it.” There are a lot of tools out there. The internet is a great tool to get exposure but mainly for yourself you just have to play. Play hard, practice and believe in what you do. Give it all you got and if it doesn’t happen, at least you gave it all your best. Always kick ass and always play at 110% even if there’s 3 people in the audience.
Do you ever get tired of signing autographs for fans?
I love meeting the fans and I love meeting the people and listening to what they have to say. On our end, we’re just doing a job. We don’t always realize how that music or that album will touch people’s lives and then you go out on tour and I meet people like you saying things like, “Man, your music got me through some bad times” and what not and we don’t realize that when we’re doing it. We’re just doing what we do and it’s really cool to go out and hear how it touches the people. It’s a great thing and it’s pretty cool.
If Hollywood was to make a movie about your life, who would play you?
[laughs] Oh man. It would have to be somebody from the Soprannos or Goodfellows. Not Johnny Depp. He plays too many parts [laughs]. He seems to be able to play anybody. I think I’d have Joe Pesci play me but he’s too old now [laughs].
Vinny, thank you so much for talking to me. It’s been awesome getting to know you and the music you’ve made over the years is a huge part of the soundtrack of my life and did get me through some rough teen years.
Aw, thank you Don and there’s more to come [laughs].
Best of luck to you and the rest of the Kill Devil Hill boys. Hurry to Atlanta and the beers are on me!
That sounds great Don. Thanks a lot and it was great talking to you.
A huge ass thanks to Vinny Appice for taking an hour out of his day to talk with me and give me my absolutely favorite interview to date. Please do yourself a favor and head on over to http://www.killdevilhillmusic.com. Get the album when it comes out on May 22nd and be sure to catch them when they come to your town!