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Vanilla Fudge Forges On: Carmine Appice Tells All

By David Lee Wilson, Contributor
Thursday, July 25, 2002 @ 10:47 AM

Drummer Extrordinaire Appice O

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Vanilla Fudge is a glorious example of how getting back to the basics of rock and roll will always win out over any amount of financial, technological or public relations consideration. Here is a group who’s history includes tours with the biggest names in hard rock, an appearance on Ed Sullivan, several “hit” songs and enough breakups, reformations and other drama to keep music historians busy writing about it for a decade. To this day, Vanilla Fudge retains every ounce of the desire to kick out the jams that they did thirty years ago and that is nothing less than magic.

These days Vanilla Fudge is comprised of the original trio of Vince Martell (guitars), Carmine Appice (drums) and Tim Bogart (bass) along with new addition organist Bill Pascali. This is a group who have individually and collectively paid more rock & roll dues than a dozen of their contemporaries and it shows in every note that they play. To see “the Fudge” rock and roll over a stage at full boil is a near religious experience. It is like they just invented the stuff that they turn out each night and are still pulling and stretching just to see how far it can all be taken. Meanwhile, each audience member sits stunned and amazed at what they hear and see, until compelled by the music to rise and throw up a fist or a yell in approval, still more magic.

There is more to Vanilla Fudge in 2002 than just the live shows. There is a new CD in the offing; their first in 18 years. Provisionally titled The Return,, this new release will feature modernized versions of the group’s best known songs as well as several newer cuts -- most impressively a completely incendiary version of *NSYNC’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart.” The new disc shows that Vanilla Fudge is the same as it ever was, progressive, powerful and able to pack more soul into a song than a hundred of today’s pretenders.

Just before using their patented blend of progressive rock and soul to positively destroy an audience in Detroit, (no mean feat, ask any band that has tried), Carmine Appice was kind enough to explain why it is that even on their worst day Vanilla Fudge could make any group that dare follow them feel like they’ve been kicked in the balls.

KNAC.COM: Can I assume that you are happy to be out with Vanilla Fudge in 2002? (laughs)
CARMINE: Oh yeah! I love playing so any time that you can get me out on the road I am happy.

KNAC.COM: Well, I know that it is good to see the band, I mean the original run for the band ended when I was about two! (laughs)
CARMINE: A lot of people will say to me, “Aren’t you sick of it yet?” It is weird, everyone your age is sick of it already and I am just not. (laughs) It is a new experience playing with this guy. (Motions to bassist, T.M. Stevens, who was standing in for Tim Bogart for the summer.)

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I bet. It was certainly interesting to hear that he was stepping in for Tim Bogart while he is ill.
CARMINE: Yeah, it is fun. While Tim is out sick T.M. is here rockin.’ It is unfortunate and we are hoping that Tim will be back in August. T.M. plays with a lot of energy and I play with a lot of energy so it is a bit of a new vibe to us, a little funkier.

KNAC.COM: I would imagine the dynamic between drummer and bassist would have to click in order for it to work, and from what I saw at the sound check, it is clicking! (laughs)
CARMINE: Yeah and that is why we asked T.M. to come out for the whole tour. We have known each other for years, but we never really played together -- and we went and did a session in Japan where we played together and we really played great, really locked in quick so when the whole thing happened with Tim, it was either cancel the gigs or find someone else. It was like when we went to Korea and I said, “Look we are going to Korea to play a really big festival and I have to bring someone that they would really know.” For a couple of gigs we used a guy who plays in Vinnie’s band, who was a totally unknown kind of guy, but he knew all of the songs, but then I said, “I can’t go and do a 120,000 seat festival and have an unknown dude do it, you know?” So, I asked T.M. if he wanted to do it and he said, “Sure, sounds like fun.”
T.M. STEVENS: I didn’t say that, I said, “HELL YEAH!” (laughs)
CARMINE: Actually, he did! (laughs)
T.M.: Carmine is so nasty, I just had to come out here and experience this with him. (laughs)
CARMINE: So, we rehearsed for a couple of days and went to Korea and we rocked, really heavy, too. (laughs) We needed to know if Tim was going to be able to do this tour, and if he wasn’t, we wanted T.M. to do it and here he is. We recorded with him too, as a special guest, so he will be on the record.

KNAC.COM: (To T.M.) Should Tim not be able to come back, are you available to stay with Vanilla Fudge?
T.M.: If I have the schedule, I will put my parachute on or something! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: As you say, this is an enjoyable endeavor and I would guess that you really could manage financially without it or at least make better money doing something else?
CARMINE: Well, you always need to do it because, you need to do it. (laughs) Financially, yeah we could all probably go somewhere and live and never have to work again but hey, why? You know, I have a good size pension plan and I always say, “I am never going to use it because I am never going to retire!”

KNAC.COM: Retirement is for old people? (laughs)
CARMINE: Uh huh. That is for people who don’t like what they do and music, drums, when I am producing, whatever it is, everything that I am doing in the entertainment field is like a hobby and it has been my hobby all of my life, it is a great hobby. I have been fortunate that I have made a living working at what I love to do; a lot of people don’t do that.

KNAC.COM: This phase of your career with Vanilla Fudge actually reactivated a couple of years ago, right?
CARMINE: Yeah, in 1999 there was a gig in Japan which we did and it was Tim, me, Vince and Bill -- that is when Bill got involved with us because Mark Stein really didn’t want to be in the business any more. We did a few gigs in ’99 to see how it would go and then we spent a little time organizing the legal end of everything, the being able to go out and use the name and all of that stuff and then we started doing some gigs last year really. It was interesting because we did it just before 9-11, we went out at the end of August and the beginning of September and our last gig was on the 6th and we had went down to the Towers because a couple of our road guys had never been to New York to see them. Anyway, we liked doing that and we did some dates during the winter and we did Jay Leno’s “Love Ride” and that was interesting. We would do that *NSYNC song, (laughs) [and] we would tell all of the bikers, “We are going to do a song by *NSYNC,” and they would all start booing and throwing shit, but it reminded me of the old days, though, because in the old days before, “You Keep Me Hanging On” was a hit we would tell people, “We are going to do this song by The Supremes,” and nobody wanted to hear about it because it was a dance song.

KNAC.COM: They threw shit at you back then, too?
CARMINE: Oh yeah, it was the same kind of reaction but then after we played it, they loved it because it was heavy.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I was going to start off this whole interview by saying that you must have some super-sized balls to be coming into Detroit and wanting to play an *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys number, but having heard the versions you do of those songs on the new disc, I think you get a pass on this one! (laughs)
CARMINE: Yeah, well we are not going to do a Backstreet Boys song tonight, but we will do an *NSYNC song, and I see it as being funny. Just watch the reaction to the song at the beginning and then at the end, it is like night and day. Once we play it, it is like, “Holy shit, it sounds like Vanilla Fudge!” (laughs) It is so funny, and I had someone say to me, “I didn’t know that *NSYNC took one of your songs and made it a hit?” That was pretty funny.

KNAC.COM: I guess that would be the ultimate testament to what you did with the song?
CARMINE: Yeah, we made it sound so much like us, and actually *NSYNC liked it. I went to school with one of the dude’s Father, Joey Fatone, Sr. So, I gave the drummer for the band the CD and said, “Play it for the guys and see what they think,” and he did and he said that they all thought that it was really cool. No one has ever done that with their music. Next we are working on that Alicia Keys song, “Falling,” and we are making that totally wild. It is fun doing that and I mean, Vanilla Fudge was known for that but some of the guys, like Vince, he wants to write new songs and says, “Why do we have to keep doing everybody else’s songs?” Basically, that is how we made it in the first place.

KNAC.COM: It is your forte?
“It is ridiculous, the Ozzfest, the TV show… and you know, I lived with Ozzy for months and months, but now when I talk with Ozzy, I can’t understand a word that he is saying -- nobody can. Everyone is making fun of him…”
CARMINE: Yeah, it is our forte and you know when I go to people and say, “We are going to do this Alicia Keys song,” people’s eyes light up and they are thinking, “Really? I wonder what they are going to do with it.” It creates a question mark, a mystique or whatever and it was the same thing with the *NSYNC song. Well, you have heard the album, right?

CARMINE: So, when you heard the *NSYNC song what did you think?

KNAC.COM: Well, when I first saw that you were going to do it I thought, “Oh God, not this,” but then when I heard it, it basically became the track that I kept repeating, so I guess that means I liked it! (laughs) I just don’t want to be known as an *NSYNC fan for Christ’s sake! (laughs) They do have some very well written songs, though.
CARMINE: Yeah, it is a great song. I remember hearing it on the radio and saying to myself, “What a great song.” A lot of people won’t even give it the chance, you know? “Oh it is *NSYNC? Naw.” But they really have some good songs.

KNAC.COM: You would think that rock radio would be into it because it is a classic band doing a contemporary number.
CARMINE: That is what we are going to do. We are releasing the record in September on a real release, and we are going to go after classic-rock radio on that song, just to start. Then college radio and rock radio, it is like, you guys still have some great radio stations here. I put on WRIF, I didn’t even know what it was at first, but man they had everything on there, new Aerosmith and Soundgarden and Nugent and Def Leppard and Creed… and it was just great. LA doesn’t have any music any more. Classic rock or KROQ, and then you are done. There is no way to get any new airplay in LA, and that is sad.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, WRIF is kind of like the watermark station for the country, really, because of the pretty open format. It is like, 16 to 60 and then beyond that, so no need to flip around for variety. Doug Podell is the guy there; you should call him about this record in fact.
CARMINE: Yeah. I think that the DJ’s would like nothing better than to say, “Yeah, here is the new *NSYNC song, guys!” (laughs) It would fuck ‘em all up! Then the thing starts and they would go, “What the hell is this?” I have edited versions of the song already, I have the *NSYNC song edited down to three minutes and fifty seconds, and the other one down to about four, but still, Vanilla Fudge songs are pretty long! (laughs) You have to be objective about it because the full song is like eight minutes long! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: When you say “The real album,” does that mean this one I am holding is an advance or something?
CARMINE: That is the record that you got now, except that we are changing a song, we are taking one song off and putting “Do You Think I’m Sexy?” on there, and then we are changing the title to The Return and we are going to add more artwork. This one we have, basically, just been selling at our gigs and we have not been pushing it in interviews or to radio or to be reviewed, but if we are coming into a town and we are doing a gig at a radio station, we will do a song or two off of it, just to play something, but we are not really pushing it and there is still a good buzz going on around it. There is a good buzz going on around the band in general, we are getting more gigs and better gigs now than last year. Everyone is saying, “Oh, Vanilla Fudge is back,” and we are playing good-sized venues with a good package but the touring scene is really weird right now.

KNAC.COM: I saw that you had Marcie (formerly Mark, vocalist of King Kobra) Free on the guest list for tonight, what is the status of King Kobra?
CARMINE: She did call me and say that she might come and I said I would put her on the list, but I don’t know if she really will come. We did an album for a European label last year and she didn’t want to do it, so I had Kelly Keeling do the vocals. Mick Sweda did it as well, and Johnny Rod was supposed to do it but he was so fucking out of it he didn’t make it. He was on probation and he couldn’t leave the state, and I sent him a plane ticket and everything, but he said he never got it. He probably got it and sold it for some drugs or something, I don’t know. But anyway, the label was pretty useless and we did a modern day sounding King Kobra, not an eighties thing, because if King Kobra [were] still together, it wouldn’t have sounded like and eighties band. The band was always current, so it would have been more in the direction of Creed or something. The label that did it, this MTM label, wanted a more eighties record and I told ‘em from the beginning that it wasn’t going to be an eighties record, so when they got it they weren’t very happy with it because they got a newer sounding record and basically they didn’t do anything with it.

KNAC.COM: Wow, I didn’t even know that a record had been out, only that there were plans for a record.
CARMINE: No, nobody knew that it was out and I am glad because they also screwed up the mastering. They mastered it and re-mastered it and fucked it all up, and it was sad.

KNAC.COM: What about Cactus, anything ever likely to happen with that band?
CARMINE: Yeah! We have been recording some new Cactus stuff for a concept that we have. What we are going to try and do is do a new Cactus record, we have four or five songs already, but since Rusty is dead, we are trying to get people who are Cactus fans -- who are singers -- to come in and sing, and so far a couple of people have said that they would do it. Lemmy from Motorhead and Doug from King’s X said that they would do it, and I am trying to get Michael Anthony to sing a track because all the guys in Van Halen were big Cactus fans. I approached David Lee Roth about it, but you never know with him. I know he is a big Cactus fan because a few years ago he asked me to put a band together with him and he was going to do some Cactus songs and he said, “I figured I might as well call you and get the original instead of trying to get someone to try and learn how to play Cactus.” Eddie [Van Halen], I talked to him last week and told him that we were going out and doing a Vanilla Fudge tour and he said, “Why don’t you do a Cactus tour? Cactus was rockin! Cactus ruled!” And then I said, “Why don’t you give me a song for Cactus? (laughs) People keep saying, “When are you going to do something with Cactus?” so we decided that we would try and do this. We recorded the stuff and then this tour came up and so when this all levels out, probably toward the winter, we will probably work on getting the actual singers together for the tracks that we have and then actually go get the record deal and there are a few labels that are interested in doing a Cactus tribute album sort of thing with new songs. Kid Rock is supposed to be a fan, and Jim Mcarty [guitarist for Cactus] knows him, so that would be cool. We would have Kid Rock, Lemmy and Doug; that would be a good start.

KNAC.COM: I read something about a tour you did years ago with Ozzy… well, let me ask it like this, I expect that you have read or at least heard that you were referenced in the Motley Crue book?

KNAC.COM: So the incident with Sharon Osbourne and her cutting your face out of all your shirts at the merchandise booth, that actually happened?
CARMINE: Oh yeah, it actually happened. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: I have spoken with a few of Ozzy’s former band members, in particular Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake, and they have had their problems with the Osbourne’s business practices. As an artist, how do you feel about what happened with the Osbourne group going in and re-recording parts of the first two solo discs in order to eliminate Daisley and Kerslake’s work?
CARMINE: I know, I know, it is terrible. When I first saw their show, [The Osbourne’s], I thought it was sad, too, because knowing Ozzy, it is just sad and everyone is just laughing at him being the way that he is. He is shaking and it is sad, but Sharon is brilliant, she is a brilliant person and she has turned everything negative about Ozzy into a positive, and she made his career an institution; he is like General Motors now. It is ridiculous, the Ozzfest, the TV show… and you know, I lived with Ozzy for months and months, but now when I talk with Ozzy I can’t understand a word that he is saying -- nobody can. Everyone is making fun of him… Rolling Stone and all of these magazines… and then there are the contests on the radio, “If you can understand what Ozzy is saying you can win this…” It is funny, but it is sad when you think about it because he is not putting on an act, that is the way that he is. He always wanted to be an actor and he is a really nice dude. Someone said to me, -- someone who knows Ozzy -- “I can’t believe what they are doing to Ozzy, doesn’t he care what he looks like?” and then he said, “Ozzy never cared about anything, you know that!” (laughs) “I guess you are right,” I said. He was always in his own oblivious world, and Sharon was always there to rescue him, no matter what happened, but some of the stuff she did, you know, she fired me off of a tour. I had a contract and she fired me and I ended up suing them, but Ozzy was still my friend. He said, “I know that you and my Mrs. have some disagreements…” but I didn’t have any disagreements, she just fired me and said that my name was just too big and that I should start my own band. Then this thing with Bob Daisley suing him and everything… it speaks for itself really.

KNAC.COM: For as much as you have been able to get a feel for this summer tour, how does it match up with the tours that you did in the Eighties, and then the ones the band did in the late sixties and early seventies?
CARMINE: We did a record in ’84 but we didn’t do a tour until ’87. This tour is similar to the first thing sort of because we are basically rearranging new songs of the day and surprising people with it. In ’87 we were writing more original stuff, and in ’84 we had the album out that Atlantic didn’t do anything with and we were doing some new songs from that. That was more like a tour, tour. We were on a bus with equipment on the truck and roadies and all, that whereas this is more like a fly-in thing. It is like every four or five days there is a gig and so it is like you can’t get your momentum going. Hopefully next year it will be more, but this year it will be about twenty-five dates this summer and that ain’t bad.

KNAC.COM: At this point in your career do you want to go out on a full-blown tour and play five nights a week?
CARMINE: Well, it is easier actually because you do your gig, you get in the bus and drive, you sleep, you know it is a routine, but like today, we had to leave Minneapolis and flights were delayed and then we get all the stuff into a rental van and we unload it and then we have to go through all of the damned security and all that hassle and then you fly, you get out and you have to go and get another rental truck. It is just much easier to come off a gig and load yourself in a bus and drive to the next city and get a hotel and sleep, wake up do the gig and then leave. You have your own schedule so it is much cooler.

(Special thanks to Tommy, the Vanilla Fudge tour manager, for his kind assistance with this interview.)

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