Legendary drummer brothers Carmine and Vinny Appice have just released a new studio album, Sinister. Aside from their live album Drum Wars – Live (2014), this is essentially their debut collaborative record together. Carmine’s career traces back to the sixties, as he worked with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, and more while Vinny has worked with acts such as Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, Dio, and more. Additionally, their album features a handful of guest musicians including Bumblefoot, Erik Turner, Paul Shortino, Chas West, Joel Hoekstra, Johnny Rod and Mike Sweda, to name a few.
We were lucky to speak to these icons, and they remain humble and genuine behind the kit as well as in person. There’s a lot to learn from these guys which could range from Vinny’s love for Orbit’s Bubblemint chewing gum to Carmine’s natural psychedelic persona.
How did Sinister happen and what brought this project together?
Carmine: Well, we’ve been doing drum wars, shows for a few years and, we hit upon a manager that was gonna start booking some shows and he said, “You know, it’d be cool if you guys did a record together.” We had done a live record together that came out really well. And, and he said, “We can do a pledge music campaign, and then we can get a record deal.” He managed Anvil, he did the same thing with them. So we said sure.
Basically, we did the pledge music campaign. We raised the amount that we needed to start a record, and then we gave him a demo and he got a record deal, so as we’re recording we actually ended up with a record deal and a pledge campaign, so that enabled us to really start working and go on recording. We got a budget then. That’s really pretty much how it happened.
Vinny: We had the time to do it. We started at the beginning of the year. With both of us were always out of town and, at the same time and, or not at the same time. So this was like, “Hey, why don’t we start thinking about this? We got the time to do it.” So it was perfect timing between our careers, which is crazy.
Very cool. Based on, your extensive career, I noticed, Vinny has more of an edgier style, and Carmine you have more of a psychedelic groove…..
Carmine: (laughs).I am psychedelic, in my head.
Vinny: Mine’s like?
Edgier and heavier.
Vinny: Yeah, heavier.
Carmine: And Vinny used to say, uh, uh, “No ballads.” I play ballads.
Vinny: My website used to say, “No love songs, no ballads, no unplugged shit.” And Carmine used to say –
Carmine: No gigs (laughs).
Vinny: No work.
Vinny: No, I love playing heavy music. Even when I was a kid, I used to put the vinyl on the slow speed. You screwed up. Get really heavy and, “Listen to that. Great.” So, luckily I was able to do that. Carmine played differently.
Carmine: Yeah, I mean, I I played, sort of, had noticed it, start this heavy rock way of playing drums but, you know, I’ve often, gathered off into jazz, rock and other elements of playing. My influences growing up were more jazz-oriented.
Vinny, when he grew up, was somewhat, some jazz, like Buddy Rich and Cooper, but he had influences like John Bonham and, and his brother and Ian Pace and blah, blah, blah, you know, so it was a little different. There was 10 years difference and a generation of music there.
Vinny: Buddy Rich is the greatest all time.
Carmine: Yeah. Buddy Rich is by far the greatest jazz drummer.
Vinny: Buddy Rich.
Carmine: Mostly any drummer, you know, if they’re playing any technical, they knew who Buddy Rich is.
With your two different styles, how did it work with recording the album?
Vinny: Well it worked well because you could distinguish who’s playing. It’s so tight when we play together.
Carmine: Like you don’t know who’s playing (laughs).
Vinny: You don’t know who’s playing, then sometimes we’ll play it by ourselves, and, you know, is that me? Or is that … Then you’ll hear a fill. “Oh, that’s Carmine, okay, then I’m coming up next.” So, some of it’s similar and some of it’s not when you hear the fills and it sounded a little bit different.
Carmine: Certain trademark fills that he does, and certain trademark fills that I do, and some of the trademark fills we both do are similar, so when we do those fills it’s very hard to distinguish. Even now there’s one track that Vinny played the intro and I played the verse and then Vinny played the next part. So when I listened to it I said, “Is that me or Vinny?” ‘Cause we have the same feel. In playing, you know, like when you play in a group you can get the same feel, and that’s why when we play together, in some song. We like a song called “Killing Floor” we’re playing together and we mix on the right and the left side. And when we lock in together with the groove it’s a huge backbeat, and then I’ll do a fill and he’ll do a fill, but you can almost tell by the fills who’s playing, ’cause he likes a lot of single roll fast stuff, where I like some of that, but, I’m mostly double bass drum, he’s single bass, I’m double, so it makes it a bit of a different concept.
I wanted to know, while you guys were recording Sinister, did you run into any arguments?
Carmine: No really. Not that I remember any.
Vinny: If there’s any discrepancies, you know, we’ll just…
Vinny: … talk about it, yeah. And, usually I’m right all the time, so… that makes it a lot easier.
Carmine: I remember one. There was the song called, “Suddenly,” the one I was just talking about where I play and he plays, it goes into a middle section. I recorded, I said, “You know, this would be nice to change it from a dotted eighth shuffle kind of feel to an eighth note feel. So I played it like that, and then everything’s, “What’d you do? It sounds like crap!”
Vinny: I hated it.
Carmine: I said, “I’ll redo it and do it the other way.”
Vinny: Then that same song, he recorded his parts, like, he plays here and then there’s a whole where I plan and he plays and all … So he played it. Then I had the luxury of doing it in my own house, ’cause I have little studio. So I did it but I really went for it, up fills and count stuff and I sent it to him. He goes, “Well I didn’t know you were gonna go for it.” So we pushed each other, which was good.
You both push your creative boundaries.
Vinny: Yes. Pushed it a little bit, yeah. It’s good to do.
You both influence each other instead of killing each other.
Vinny: Yeah, we’re getting along.
That’s really nice.
Carmine: When we got the demo from the guitar player, he did it with a drum machine, and we both said, “Aw, that’s a cool drum groove on it, so let’s play it like that.” So that’s how I played it. Then he gets it and he’s, like, all over the place, and I said, “Well I didn’t really hear him play it that way.” So, I’m gonna redo it-
Vinny: He denied it, and…
Carmine: (laughs) Then he puts some stuff that … So the outcome was it came out great, which was cool.
How was it collaborating with so many musicians for this album?
Carmine: We know a lot of people, have friends, and they liked when we played it. They liked the way Vinny played.
Vinny: A lot of people were excited and, like, “Wow, you guys are doing an album? I wanna play on it,” and we said, “Go and give us some ideas or a song you have that we would like,” and that’s what happened, and then nobody really came up with songs. They came up with riffs … and couple changes and then put them together, we put them together. … we made it happen.
Carmine: We had to mold the songs so it would fit towards what we’re trying to do.
How was it working with say, Erik Turner?
Vinny: He’s a neighbor of mine.
Vinny: When I lived down on Temecula, which is not Hollywood. I moved there and I met Erik. Erik was great. He’s a great friend. He comes over and jams at my house and stuff. So, I said, “Why don’t you play on the album?” He goes, “I would love to.” So he played on the “Sabbath Mash,” and we split the solos. This was an original solo by Mayuko.
Carmine: The Okai sisters.
Vinny: Guitar players. We played with them. We didn’t wanna take her off the solo because it was a really good solo, so we put them together. She did half, then Eric ripped into the other half.
Carmine: One of the Okai sisters, Mayuko played the classical piano solo in “Paranoid,” and we did that. Did you hear the record?
Yes I did. I enjoyed the “Sabbath Mash.”
Carmine: So, in the Sabbath Mash when the classical piano solo comes in. She was in the studio just messing around, and we’re just like, “Wow. I heard you play piano-
Vinny: It was amazing.
Carmine: She said, “This is what we teach,” because every time we’d go to rehearse, I’d go, “Well, we have the schedule of students that go … ” I’m thinking to myself, that many guitar students, that many bass students? Ends up they both play classical piano, and they’re teaching classical piano, so they’re messing around. I said, “Wow, that be great. Could put that in ‘Paranoid’ Then we could put cellos on it.” And it made it a whole different thing. It was awesome.
When I heard “Sabbath Mash,” it sounded like you guys had a lot of fun experimenting to the piece.
Vinny: Did you hear the, “I am Iron Man?”
Vinny: That’s me with the time stretch, so it’s slow, and then the guy who makes that had these evil effects, so, that happened.
Carmine: Yeah. It was pretty good and to mix the album, I said, no sound or mix, like on three of the songs the drums are straight down the middle. But on the ones we play together, I’m on the right, Vinny’s on the left, and that’s a new sort of idea to mix drums that way today, and even though it was done years ago with the jazz guys when they did drum records they’d do that. So when we got the guy to mix it, we wanted me on the right and Vinny on the left, so you could actually hear the stereo, the drum fills went back and forth.
Vinny: You ever listen to an album that you had to interview and you hated it? Like going, “Oh, God, I gotta listen to this again?”
You have to think, there’s always a fan for every artist.
I actually listened to this album quite a few times already.
Vinny: Oh yeah?
Yeah, I have it on my phone.
Vinny: Oh, cool.
Carmine: Nice! Half the album is us playing together, and half the album is playing alone. And the ones we play alone, the drums are down the middle, but we use the same idea. When we play live, sometimes we play together, most of it, and then Vinny plays alone and I play alone.
Carmine: That was the idea that we took the record as well.
It’s an enjoyable album. It’s fun, didn’t feel too depressing and there were parts that reminded me of the 80s. I’m not comparing but, for some reason the first artist I thought about was W.A.S.P.
Carmine: Johnny Rod’s (ex- W.A.S.P) on “Monsters and Heroes.” We do have a video for that. He’s gonna do a video of playing the bass on it, and we got Bumblefoot, and all of these different people sending videos playing a song, even if they didn’t play on it. Because while we’re doing a video with everybody in it, including pictures of Ronnie (Dio) and we’re recording it twice in Vegas.
Paul Shortino’s gonna come in and sing it. And then different people from the album are gonna be in Vegas. They’re gonna be involved in that as well, and then we’re going onto a big stage. Him and Paul, and we’re gonna shoot it at the Vinyl at the Hard Rock. A big stage with the screens behind us and everything. It’s gonna be like the album, with a lot of people in it.
It’s still a tribute to Ronnie, all the people that loved Ronnie. It’s the only one on the record that we wrote the lyrics, “Sing a song singer You’re the man on the mountain
Who rocked the world With his songs.” It’s all about Ronnie, “Monsters and heroes visions & Dragons and Rainbows in the Dark.“
Vinny: That’s why the lyrics-
Carmine: Paul Shortino wrote the lyrics. Listen to the song and read the lyrics.They’re really great lyrics. It’s the song that actually got us the record deal.
Speaking of record deals, the music industry has changed a lot over the years, and I’m sure you guys have seen a thousand changes in your career, has it ever affected the way that you perform and write music?
Carmine: I don’t think it’s affected us the way we perform and write music. It affects us on the sales of the record and promoting the record.
Carmine: There’s no radio anymore. Now, in Europe it’s not too bad because they never had radio. They have lots of magazines. Over here, we have no magazines and no radio. It’s a different way to promote it, through the internet, we haven’t been used to that up until recently. And the other thing is people don’t buy as many stuff anymore ’cause they got the stupid Spotify thing that doesn’t pay the artist anything. We get killed on the writing, you get killed on the artist royalty, and that’s why all the bands are out playing more than ever now because nobody’s making money on records no more.
Vinny: I get a statement from, I think on Spotify or, what’s the other one called? And this thing must be this long, full of songs. Dio songs. And I was paid $1.49.
Carmine: Should be thousands of dollars here, and now sometimes it’s three cents. As an artist, we get .003 cents every time somebody streams it, so it takes 300 streams to make a penny. And all those streams would’ve been record sales. Then the record company’s saying to me, “That’s the new radio.” It’s not the new radio, ’cause you could program whatever you want. When you turn the radio on, you don’t know what you’re going to hear. And you should make ASCAP, you know, if you wrote the song, you make record royalties from ASCAP. And here you get nothing. It’s horrible.
It just affects the business.
Vinny: If we were making big money on record sales, that gives you more money to go, “Hey, let’s do a better show.” Have killer lights and all that stuff, you have a bigger budget. So, that’s where it affects business,things like that.
Carmine: Spotify should’ve did the model of Netflix. Netflix, unless they paid for their own product. If Spotify starts sponsoring bands to make records for them, and they pay them for it, fine. But Netflix doesn’t play, you see something in a movie today, you’re not gonna see it on Netflix for two years. They should use that model. Release new album, let the album sell, and then put it on Spotify.
CDs are what? $10.00, it doesn’t cost much to buy an album.
Carmine: It’s nothing. It’s crazy.
I completely agree.
Carmine: … getting screwed really are the artists.
Carmine, you’ve worked with Rod Stewart in the past…
How was it recording the song “Do You Think I’m Sexy” from the album Blondes Have More Fun along with the the experience of Rod Stewart?
Carmine: It was amazing. I had written songs before with Vanilla Fudge and they’re on gold records. But with Rod Stewart, everything we did back in those days sold five, 10 million copies, even more than Dio (laughs). I’m only kidding. Rod came to us and the band, he said, “Look, I want a song like Miss You, like Missing You, like the Rolling Stones.” I was looking, I went home, played a little keyboard, bass, and guitar, and I put together a demo with that song, with the chord change and the middle part and the bridge. And a friend of mine had a studio. He’s a keyboard player. He made it sound better, and we presented it to Rod and he loved it.
But when we first recorded it, it was really just the three guitars, bass, and drums, and it sounded really heavy rock. But then the producer Tom Dowd brought in David Foster to play keyboard, and another … My friend Dwayne’s keyboard, and then they put a whole orchestra playing the string part, and people singing the string part. Before you know it, the big track shrunk. And instead of it being heavy rock it started becoming more disco-ish.
We all were going, “Okay, well he’s the producer. Oh, fine.” But, you know, we can’t complain because it went to number one in, like, every country in the world. And it made a fortune. It still makes money. It was just re-recorded again, Rod and Joe Jonas. They did it on the Video Music Awards, and it’s selling all over again. But the difference is it did three million Spotify downloads in two weeks, which is a lot. But you know how much that’s worth? About three or four grand.
That’s how the song happened, and the song is, you know, it just never dies. It’s been in movies and TV shows, and American Idol and this and that.
If both of you could look back on your career, is there any particular band or album that stands out the most that you’ve worked on?
Vinny: Holy Diver, when I made that, ’cause that was a brand new band with Ronnie, it was just me and Ronnie, so it was exciting to start from scratch and see what happens. That album was total fun to make. It was a great time in all our lives. And we made it just having a good time. And then it became a rock classic album. It influenced so many people, and it became so important, and you gotta be pretty proud of that. It’s still selling these days, and … Yeah, I would say that one.
Vinny: When I produced the Beatles White Album, Sgt. Pepper, yeah, that was a pretty good seller.
Carmine: (laughs). For me, it’s hard to pick because I had Vanilla Fudge album was classic The Cactus album was a classic album. They were all fun to make, the Rod Stewart record-
Vinny: Pick one.
The first one that comes to mind, anything.
Carmine: The Vanilla Fudge album was probably my greatest.
Vinny: … groundbreaking album.
Carmine: The whole business was … Open, you know? It was groundbreaking The whole business was a virgin to all of this stuff that we were doing. And it was a lot of fun to make. Our stage show that we did live, on a record, which it was very easy to make. I was fortunate. I had a bunch of albums in my career that became classic albums. The ones with Rod on it, the Jeff Beck album became a classic, the Fudge album. Even the Blue Murder record, later on, became a classic.
My next question is about Dio’s hologram is about to go on a world tour, how do you guys feel about it?
Vinny: What I heard was the hologram wanted more money, so he’s not going.
Carmine: … the hologram wanted a drink before they go onstage.
Vinny: That would be good doing a hologram back in the dressing room like, “I’m not going on.” “No. I need more electric, and I want a drink.” You know what? I haven’t seen it. The good thing is it keeps the music alive and keeps it interesting. I would probably feel a little freaky when I see it. There’s Ronnie. So I’d have to see it. The only one I saw was the last one they did, but it was from somebody’s cellphone footage. You couldn’t really see it but the last one was done by a girl called Gabby Ray that Wendy manages. She did the moves with these sensors on. She did the moves, and then they put Ronnie’s face on her or something, and all I could see was that I looked at it and I went, “Ronnie didn’t have a nice ass like that.” ‘Cause I’ve seen Ronnie’s ass every night (laughs). And he’s really thin and his legs with it, and I looked at that. I just saw her too, Gabby. I told her that. I said, “That was you.” I said, “I don’t remember Ronnie having such a nice ass.” But she’s small, but Ronnie … So small her legs were a little bit bigger than Ronnie’s legs.But she’s a hot chick, but Ronnie was just so thin, I noticed that. And I’d have to see this again, you know. Check out his ass.
Carmine: But it, it’s interesting. If it does work, we’ll probably be seeing tours of Michael Jackson and Elvis, you know?
They just announced Frank Zappa.
Carmine: They’ll probably do a Beatles reunion. Technology’s gonna be pretty amazing, especially changing shows.
Vinny: Pretty soon we can stay home.
Carmine: In a way it’s good for us too because we have that Monsters and Heroes song which is also dedicated to Ron and they’re coming … Everything’s coming out at the same time. So all of a sudden it’s gonna be here like a Ronnie November.
Do you guys have any advice you’d like to say to aspiring young drummers?
Carmine: Yeah, get a great job.
Vinny: … Well … Get a real job. For drummers, you really wanna learn how to read some music, go to some lessons. That will help. And treat it as something special beyond time when you’re working with a band, you know. Be part of the band, don’t be late all the time and, focus on what you’re playing, your career. But mainly, musically go for lessons. It really helps.
Carmine: Realize that there’s other ways to make a living in music than being per se a rockstar, ’cause being a rockstar today, from what I understand you have to work 10 years of being on the road getting paid no money before anything happens, if it happens, where you can, you know, become, like Vinny said, if you read music and read it well, you could play on Broadway, you can play Broadway shows, you could play weddings, you can teach, you can teach in colleges, you can play on weekends, play at wedding bands. There’s a lot of different things you can do- … in making it, you know, a living in music. You could write books. But most people that want to start playing, they wanna be a rockstar, and it’s very difficult today.It’s not like when I made it I was 20 years old. I wasn’t on the road for 10 years. Working, sleeping on the floor and, you know, not getting paid and have to pay to play gigs. We actually got paid to play gigs even when we were coming up. Same with Vinny. You come up, you, you play a gig, you got money. Now you play a gig you, you have to pay somebody to get on their tour, and in order to play, where you gotta play in the club and you gotta go out and sell tickets. I mean, come on. Whatever happened to, you play and you get paid?
Vinny: You used to get a free bag on the airline. Now you gotta pay for the bag.
Vinny: And everything else.
Carmine: Basically, there’s a lot of different ways you can make a living in music. I mean, you can be in a cover band and go on cruises around the world and, and make, make a couple of grand a week, you know? 1000 a week, 1500 a week.