The early days of rock ‘n’ roll introduced a new sound which many accredit to the jazz influences that permeated the music scene early on. This month, we had the good fortune of speaking with a legendary pioneer from this era who infuses both jazz and rock elements into his drumming.
Carmine Appice, one of the first drummers to truly influence and shape rock music, has an impressive resume. Notable accomplishments include his role as lead drummer in the 60’s psychedelic band, Vanilla Fudge, and his work with Cactus, Pink Floyd, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, Prince and many others.
With that said, sit back and enjoy getting the inside scoop directly from this iconic drummer in the 3rd edition of our #DrummerSeries.
Q. When did you first start to play the drums and who were your biggest influences?
A. I got a toy drum set when I was maybe 11 years old or younger. My family was full of drummers. There were 8 on my father’s side; cousins, sons, a bunch of them. Even my own son has talent as a drummer, but he just doesn’t have the passion.
My parents actually bought the set at the first Sam Ash store. I practiced, learned, and soon started playing shows with friends up the street. By 12, 13 years old I was playing my first gig and made $7.50. After that, I got a little more serious and started taking lessons.
Gene Krupa was really an innovator in the world of drumming, as well as Dino Danelli from The Rascals.
Q. What was the first song you remember playing?
A. On the Krupa and Rich album, I learned every note and tried to play every solo. I wanted to emulate what I thought they were doing. Eventually, I mastered the solos and songs and what they were doing technically. From there, I started seeing what other drummers were doing.
Q. What is the best way to learn songs?
A. Well, you have to have the talent and passion, and want to take lessons, and practice the songs. The passion comes into the practice. If there’s no passion, you won’t want to practice. It’s all about repetition. Take my son for example; He didn’t practice because he lacked the passion. He has the perfect wrist action and everything. If we were in the car, he would tap along to music on the radio but it didn’t go anywhere without the passion, so now he’s a radiologist.
For me, I was in there all the time. I wanted to be a drummer and make a living playing, almost like a drum teacher. Dick Bennett was actually my first inspiration to be a drummer.
Q. When did you feel like you were an accomplished drummer?
A. My proudest moment as a musician was when I was able to save $1,200 from playing different gigs at 14 years old. With that savings, I later bought a 1964 Chevy Super Sport with a hot rod engine. It was the cool car for kids back then.
After high school, I didn’t go to college. I had two different day-jobs, and also played on Wednesday and Sunday nights. I would go into work at one of my day jobs, and my boss would always hit me on the head when I looked tired. I was only making $45 a paycheck at those jobs but on the weekends, I would make between $140 – $150 playing gigs – weddings, parties, etc. One day I asked my father what he thought I should do about work. Should I keep working these jobs and still play the gigs on the weekends? He compared the pay and told me to keep playing and leave the day jobs. Well, I ended up getting fired from my second day job and played more weekend gigs at clubs, birthdays, rock shows, and sweet 16’s. It all worked out.
Q. What are your favorite tours you’ve been on?
A. Of course, Vanilla Fudge tours and tours with Rod Stewart. I played arenas and stadiums with him for seven years.
Q. What is your most essential packing item when leaving for a long tour?
A. A portable humidifier. If you’re a new musician going on tour, get a humidifier. It helps the voice and that’s important if you’re a singing drummer like me.
Q. Do you have any upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?
A. My Guitar Zeus album has been re-released, so that’s exciting. When I first released it in the 90’s, it was the first time a drummer had released a guitar album. This album has some of the best drumming I’ve ever done on an album, and features so many talented musicians like Tony Franklin, Brian May, Steve Morse, Slash and a ton of others. You can find it on www.guitarzeus.net, and it’s available on streaming platforms.
Want more Carmine Appice? Be sure to download what he claims to be his greatest work to date, Guitar Zeus, and follow him on Instagram at @carmineappice.