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Expect More Heaven and Hell! Exclusive Interview With Drummer Vinny Appice

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Friday, February 23, 2007 @ 9:53 AM

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For over twenty-five years, Vinny Appice has been known as one of the most respected and sought after drummers. He has performed with such legendary bands as Dio and Black Sabbath. Continuing to make his mark Rock and Roll history, the Brooklyn born drummer has been recruited to be a member of one the most talked about bands of 2007, Heaven And Hell.

It has been over twenty five years, since Appice has shared the stage with his former Black Sabbath band mates, but that is all about to change, as Heaven And Hell featuring Ronnie James, Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Appice get ready to embark on one of the most anticipated tours of the decade. Heaven And Hell kick off their Tour on March 11 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The new release, Black Sabbath - The Dio Years is slated for an April 3rd release on Rhino Records.

Vinny checked in from the Heaven And Hell rehearsal, to discuss exclusive details about the upcoming Heaven And Hell Tour, how Heaven And Hell was born, what it was like to walk into the studio and see his former Black Sabbath band mates again for the first time in over twenty five years, and why the upcoming Heaven And Hell Tour is going to be the hottest concert ticket of the season.

KNAC.COM: Vinny, thank you so much fro taking time out of your busy schedule to discuss the upcoming Heaven And Hell tour. First of all, how did the idea of Heaven And Hell come about? Did you get a phone call from Ronnie?

APPICE: I got a call from Ronnie's manager, Wendy Dio that was in November. I heard about this project right after the summer. I heard Bill Ward was involved, and they were doing the Dio years kind of thing. So I thought that was interesting that Bill is doing it, because I actually played on more stuff with Ronnie in Sabbath than Bill. So I said, we will see what happens. So Wendy called me in November, and Wendy said, "Bill is not going to be involved in it, do you want to do it?" I said, ”Sure." I flew to England the next day and went to play on three new songs that are included on the new Black Sabbath - Dio Years album. So that was like a big reunion when I went there. Obviously, we hadn't seen each other in a while. It was really cool.

KNAC.COM: What was it like when you first walked into the studio and saw Ronnie, Tony, and Geezer again? It must have been really exciting.

APPICE: Well, when I walked in I could hear Ronnie doing the vocals, and that brought back memories, and I said,"Yeah I remember that." (Laughter) Ronnie finished, he came out and we hugged each other. We started talking and Tony and Geezer came in and did the same thing. It was a just like big family reunion. I have known these guys for over twenty-five years.

KNAC.COM: So you went to England to lay down the three new drum tracks for the upcoming Heaven And Hell release. Tell me a little bit about the three new songs. How do they hey differ from early Sabbath?

APPICE: Obviously, from the early stuff, they are a little bit more polished. There is more production quality on them. The songs themselves contain very heavy riffs. There are two songs that are on the slow side, so they a bit more Sabbathy. It sounds like a cross between "Heaven And Hell", and "Dehumanizer". Ronnie is singing his ass off and Tony and Geezer are playing asses off. It is really cool, I am really excited.

KNAC.COM: When is the new Heaven And Hell album slated to be released?

APPICE: It is the first week of April. I believe it is April 3rd. Then we go on tour, we start in Canada on March 11th.

KNAC.COM: Vinny, Let's talk about the upcoming Heaven And Hell Tour. Now there is only one U.S. date so far. The band will perform in New York at Radio City Music Hall on March 30th. Why did you choose Radio City Music Hall and New York City for the Heaven And Hell U.S. debut?

APPICE: Well actually we just decided to book a one-day U.S. date so we could say the whole tour is sold out. (Laughter) I am only kidding.

KNAC.COM: OK. Actually the Radio City Music Hall show sold out in 45 minutes. How exciting was that?

APPICE: Yes, it did sell out in 45 minutes. I don't know who picked that venue. I guess they are having rock concerts there. Super Nova just played there. I was just there in December; I went to see one of the Christmas shows. It is so nice inside, and I kept looking around going, "Wow we are going to play here." It is really amazing that they are having rock concerts in that nice place. So they are having concerts there, and that was the one that was chosen. Then we are going to come back in April for a month and do more States, and than a month later to do more U.S. dates.

KNAC.COM: So hopefully Heaven And Hell will be playing all the major U.S. cities from coast to coast soon.

APPICE: Yes, probably in two different sections, in two different tours.

KNAC.COM: Actually, you will be going to Europe with Heaven And Hell too. Will the band be just performing at just Festivals on the European tour?

APPICE: A lot of the shows in Europe will be festivals. We will be over there for about five weeks, so all the shows will not be festivals. I imagine we will be doing our own shows too, combining big venues with festivals. It is really exciting, we are even slated to play India and then go to Russia, which I never been. We are also playing Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South America. So we are going to cover, most of the world on this tour. It is a world tour.

KNAC.COM: So it sounds like you are going to remain on the road with Heaven And Hell throughout 2007. Is that correct?

APPICE: Right, it is supposed to go until December.

KNAC.COM: Let's talk about the upcoming release. Who chose the songs that will appear on Black Sabbath - The Dio Years?

APPICE: I don't know who was involved. I would imagine it was between the band and the record company. Then they decide that it would be nice to include a couple of new songs and that is how this whole thing started. It sparked the idea.

KNAC.COM: Do you think there will be maybe a full album of all new original Heaven And Hell material, is in the cards?

APPICE: Well, you never know. It hasn't been said that is what we are going to do, but is hasn't not been said either. So you never know. We will see what happens toward the end of the tour. The good thing is this band, this combination and line-up works pretty fast. We are able to do things without wasting a lot of time. So it can be done in a fair amount of time. We will have to wait and see what happens at that point.

KNAC.COM: Well you are all such professionals and have worked so well together in the past, it is going to be amazing.

APPICE: Yes, it going to be good. We just rehearsed for the first time (this week). Even on the first song, it sounded so tight. When you played together with a band and you have been with them for a long time, even when you separate for a long time, and you get back together there is just that missing link that links you all together and it becomes a band again. When you play, it becomes tight. It is just the endings that weren't tight right now. (Laughter)

KNAC.COM: How does if feel to be playing the old songs again? It must feel good.

APPICE: Oh yeah, because those songs are so classic, and so heavy. It is really cool to play those songs. When Ronnie came down and he started singing. I was like, "Wow." They haven't been played in a long time.

KNAC.COM: I think the Sabbath songs have such a legacy, and it is amazing younger fans will get to see the band for the first time. It has been over twenty-five years since, the birth of the band. It really goes to show, that fans want to hear the old stuff again, and what old is becoming new again.

APPICE: Yes, and it shows that people want to hear this stuff again. Even with all of the new stuff that comes out. There is still the old stuff that people grew up on. They are turning the younger generation to it, in which the younger generation thinks it is different than the current stuff. They go listen to this, it is probably sounding different to what they are use to hearing. It is unbelievable this has lasted so many years. I don't think anybody could have predicted that.

KNAC.COM: How long will the band be in rehearsal?

APPICE: We will probably rehearse for about two more weeks. We have some more weeks booked. We have got to do production rehearsal, including the stage show and lights.

KNAC.COM: Will it be an elaborate stage show?

APPICE: From what I was told, it is going to be a nice stage set, with a lot of lights, some effects here and there. I don't know if there will be any pyro involved, but it will be show. It is not going to be us up there with just a bunch of amps.

KNAC.COM: That is awesome. Now, Megadeth and Down are tapped to open for Heaven And Hell on the upcoming tour.

APPICE: Right, so far they are on this first leg of the tour. I don't know what is going on for the second leg of the tour.

KNAC.COM: How did the name Heaven And Hell come into fruition? Why not just use Black Sabbath?

APPICE: I don't know if we couldn't use the name Black Sabbath, but I think everybody wanted to distinguish it separate from all of the stuff that they did with Ozzy, when it was called Black Sabbath. Rather to go out as Black Sabbath and causing confusion again, they decided to call it Heaven And Hell, which kind of sums up this line-up. Especially with Ronnie on vocals, so it was called that. Everybody knows who it is, and what it is. So the name didn't matter that much. The tickets are selling really quick, and the entire buzz on the Internet. It has gotten an amazing response. It extinguishes more of it's own identity, doing it this way.

KNAC.COM: I think you are correct. I like the name. What can the fans expect to hear on the upcoming tour?

APPICE: We have been rehearsing. Yesterday, we played seventeen songs, which is a lot. It is not going to be seventeen songs, but it is going to be a very long set. It will probably be longer than the usual one hour and twenty minute set. I think they want to play a lot of the stuff. It depends on how we put it all together. It is going to be all the classic songs, that we haven't played live really much. Plus a couple of the new ones, it is going to be a great set list.

KNAC.COM: It is going to be exciting. How has Bill Ward influenced you as a drummer?

APPICE: I listened to Bill growing up. I use to listen to early Black Sabbath. I am impressed by Bill's playing. I always liked how he approached playing those songs. He had a different style that a lot of the drummers. Then I got to meet him, and then I got to work with him. Bill is just a really cool guy. I an honored to be his friend. I always admired his playing too.

KNAC.COM: In 1999, you got to perform with Ozzy on the Black Sabbath tour. How did that go? Any highlights from that era that you would like to share?

APPICE: Yes, that was another thing where Bill couldn't play. So they asked me to play. I went over to Europe. We did about five or six weeks together with Ozzy singing. That was pretty amazing. Because really no one has really played with that line-up except Bill. I am the only other guy that played with Black Sabbath. I know Mike Bolin might have played a couple of songs, but it was pretty amazing, that was part of rock history.

KNAC.COM: Talking about rock history, most people don't know you actually had the opportunity to perform with John Lennon. Tell me about that experience.

APPICE: I met John Lennon in a studio in New York called The Record Plant. We use to rehearse there, because our manager owned the place. One day, John’s producer to come down and asked us to do hand claps on "Whatever Gets You Through The Night". That is how we met John. Then John asked, "Who is that band?" They said, "They rehearse upstairs," John worked in that studio all the time. So we rehearsed there every night. He used to come walking in with Yoko, and sit down and watch us play. The he hung out, then he asked us to do a couple of videos with him. We did a lot of stuff with him; we use to hang out with him a lot.

KNAC.COM: What was it like growing up in Brooklyn? As a musician, did you find it was kind of like a melting pot for all musicians?

APPICE: There was always a lot of music around. When I grew up, there were a lot of people that I met that played. We use to hang out. It was very musical. There were a lot of musicians there. It was came out that was a way out getting out of the daily routine playing music. Just like Birmingham, England, there is a lot of music there too. There was Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Deep Purple. It was kind of similar.

KNAC.COM: What are you most proud of in your musical accomplishments?

APPICE: One of the highlights when I played with Black Sabbath was when we played Madison Square Garden, because we headlined that. I played there with Rick Derringer, when we opened for Aerosmith, but we were the opening band. A couple of years later, I was back there with Black Sabbath headlining. That was pretty amazing. It is quite a difference, when you are headlining a show. It was completely sold out. That was a big thing for me. There are so many big highlights with albums and stuff. Playing so many Festivals for the first time with 50,000 people was also a highlight.

KNAC.COM: This has been such a busy year for you. You also have a new project called Three Legged Dogg, which includes Carlos Cavazo. Is this a continuation from the Hollywood Allstars?

APPICE: Actually it is, it started with this band Hollywood Allstars. That was a thing we put together just for fun. With that band, we just played stuff from our histories. We have a lot of fun doing it. We decided, why don't we just put something together original. So we started writing some songs with Carlos. The we found another guitar player Brian Young. We put it all together and started recording. I got a little studio down in my house here. We started doing the demos down here. It sounded really good. We put it together, we had a couple of deals on major labels, but we couldn't negotiate what we wanted, so we wound up putting it out on the Internet on Perris Records.Com. The album is called, ”Frozen Summer". Three Legged Dogg features Chas West from Bonham on vocals, Jimmy Bain, Carlos Cavazo from Quiet Riot on guitar, Brian Young, who played with David Lee Roth and myself. The album just came out a couple of months ago. It is doing really good. The reviews have been great. We just did a video that will come out probably within a month. That will be on you tube and where ever else we can get it on.

KNAC.COM: Will you try and squeeze in a few shows with Three Legged Dogg?

APPICE: What we are going to do is try and out some dates, when we have time off with the Heaven And Hell Tour. Because we will break for a couple of weeks, so we will try and book a couple of gigs here and there. Then we will have to wait until the tour is over, and maybe next year book a full tour of Three Legged Dogg. It is a cool band.

KNAC.COM: Would you say Three Legged Dogg is kind of like your 80's oriented band?

APPICE: Well Jimmy, Carlos, and me were in bands in the 80's. Chas is kind of 90's. But it doesn’t sound like that at all. A lot of people are surprised. It has got the old style roots, but it sounds more modern like Audioslave and Velvet Revolver with some of the old classic stuff.

KNAC.COM: Do you listen to the music on the radio today? Do you like any of the current bands?

APPICE: I listen to a lot of stuff. I listen the new stuff, just to see what is going on. I like Audioslave. I listen to a little Zeppelin, and old Hendrix. But I don't listen that much, because we play so much, your ears tend to get blown out. Something when you are not playing, you appreciate the silence.

KNAC.COM: What do you enjoy most about being on the road?

APPICE: I just enjoy playing to people, especially on this Heaven And Hell Tour. This is going to be so big, it is just going to be a pleasure touring all of these different parts of the world. I really enjoy meeting the fans, and seeing their reaction to the music. I like traveling and stuff, so I am a road warrior. I just like the whole thing.

KNAC.COM: It is great too that you are doing some drum clinics on the upcoming tour. What do you enjoy most about teaching?

APPICE: I just like seeing people at the clinic and you play something that seems so complicated, then you just slow it way down and explain what you are doing. The people go, "Oh wow that is what it is?" That is the cool thing to see people learn something, from what you are teaching. I like to teach, I use to give lessons. I like to see people enjoying me explaining some of the riffs I play, and eating it all up.

KNAC.COM: Vinny, is their anything else that you would like to say about the upcoming Heaven And Hell Tour?

APPICE: Just c'mon down. It might the last time that you see this band with this line-up. All of this is part of rock history. I think it is something to see.

KNAC.COM: How is your brother Carmine doing? It must have been an interesting household growing up with two drummers in the family?

APPICE: Yeah, it was pretty crazy. He is like ten years older than I am. He kind of grew up in a different generation. He was already out of the house, when I started playing. Otherwise I would have been crazy with both of us playing at the same time. He kind of paved the way for me. We kind of grew up in different generations. We get along real well, and hang out together. We are going to try and put some drum stuff together too. Not schedule this year, but we will put it on hold for a little bit.

KNAC.COM: Vinny, it has been an honor talking with you. I hope to get to see Heaven And Hell perform in Boston soon. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to discuss Heaven And Hell for all of the fans at KNAC.COM.

APPICE: Thank you. The tour is going to be awesome, be part of rock and roll history, so everyone c'mon out.

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