Drummer Carmine Appice Talks About Music, Muppets, and His Very Busy Life

The veteran musician's projects keep him on the road and playing, which suits him just fine.

By , Columnist
“We were on the road and somebody told me, ‘Hey I saw you on TV the other day.'" Carmine Appice begins what could be a classic rock and roll story.

"I said, 'Really?' I was in Australia. They said they saw me on The Muppet [Show]. ‘You look like Animal,’ they said. Then they showed me a video and I said, 'You know, you may be right.' Maybe they modeled Animal after me. He’s got that big drum set, the curly hair. So I went back to L.A. and told my manager I’d like to play drums along with Animal. So he calls up Jim Henson Productions and gives the idea to them and they said, ‘Okay, we’ll check it out.’ They check it out and say we’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is they liked the idea and were going to do it. The bad news they chose Buddy Rich.

“I was friends with Buddy at the time so I called him. I said, 'I heard you’re gonna do The Muppet Show.' He said, 'Yeah, how did you know?'

“I guess,” Appice says with great humility, “they wanted the best.”

It would hard to find a better drummer than Carmine Appice. He’s been working at his craft for over 40 years. Although best known as a member of Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and superstar power trio Beck, Bogert & Appice, he’s also played with the likes of Rod Stewart, Blue Murder, Pat Travers, Ted Nugent, and many others.

These days Appice is busier than ever. He recently lent his talents to the Sly Stone tribute CD I’m Back! Family & Friends, where he plays on the Sly classic "Stand!" How did he get involved in the project? “I work a lot with Cleopatra [Records]. Every couple of months I do a couple of tracks. I’ve done The Who, I did the [forthcoming] William Shatner thing. They seem to have a stable of rockers that will work with them and do these things. It’s fun for me. I get to try stuff that’s out of the ordinary for me.

“I’ve known Sly since the ‘60s," he continues. "I even tried to get a Beck, Bogart, Appice album produced by Sly. But it just wouldn’t happen. We all went up there. We had our instruments, we had our roadies, hotel. We did everything and then it ended up being one of these things where it was just a waste of time. Two weeks and nothing happened.”

The Sly tribute worked out better, although Appice had a different set of challenges to deal with at the time. “Unfortunately I just had shoulder surgery. I could only play with one hand. I actually did [the drumming] with one hand and then I overdubbed the high hat. I did the actual drums, bass drums, snare drums with one hand. It took like a couple of hours. The only thing I did use my two hands for [was] the drum roll at the beginning. It would be hard to do a drum roll with one hand unless you were Buddy Rich.”

“They gave me a couple of song choices. 'Stand!' and 'Everyday People.' I always liked the song 'Stand.' I liked the ending, you know? I really like the ending groove on it. I said, 'I’ll do "Stand" if that’s cool.' They said, 'Yeah, that’s fine.' So we did “Stand!” and it went great. It was easy to do. I actually had Sly’s voice singing in my ears. He wasn’t in the studio with me, just on the tape. They did a basic track with a basic drum machine or drummer, and then they actually gave out the track that way with Sly’s voice on it. So everybody was able to listen to Sly. I said, 'That’s very cool. I like that.'"

Appice is still involved with Cactus and Vanilla Fudge when they tour but he has new projects that are very much his own. Does he like mixing the new with the old? “I just like playing. Sometimes it’s playing with the old groups like Fudge or Cactus sometimes it’s new things like Pat Travers or [the Drum Wars show] with my brother Vinnie. We just did Providence, RI last night. The two of us together is a sight to see.”

“So we’ve been doing that and next weekend I play with Vanilla Fudge, two shows in Massachusetts. The weekend after that Vanilla Fudge goes to Poland. Last week I played with Cactus in Detroit. It’s a lot of fun to be able to play all kinds of different music.”

Besides performing, Appice also writes instructional books on drumming. His Ultimate Realistic Rock drumming book has sold over 400,000 copies and is considered the “rock drumming bible”. He’s even written a drum instruction book for kids called Realistic Rock For Kids.

Appice's love of teaching kids and adults how to play the drums is legendary. He holds drum clinics all over the worlds and enjoys giving his time and talents to a program called Little Kids Rock. “That’s great. I love doing that. You get to see these kids smiling. I’ve done a bunch of events where I’ve actually gone to schools. I’ve given them drum sets, taught them how to write songs. It’s really fulfilling to see these kids playing; they’re looking at you and smiling. They’re watching me play and I’m twirling the sticks. Little Kids Rock is really fulfilling. I enjoy doing it. At the end of one of the classes they gave me this big ride cymbal. It said ‘thank you’ and all the kids signed it. [There are] about 100 signatures on there.”

He’s also got a biography in the works and a reality TV show with his longtime girlfriend, Leslie Gold, "The Radio Chick." “She’s like the female Howard Stern. So it’s like the radio talk show host and the drummer dude. I went on her show, that’s how I met her. We’re working on a show, which is a combination of our lives. I live on the west coast and she lives in NY. We go back and forth. We’ve been going back and forth for almost nine years. We have a house in L.A. Now we’re renovating two apartments in NY. We’re making [the show] a combination of that along with the 'our lives' stuff."

Lately he’s been listening to a wide variety of music from Eleventh House and Alphonse Mouzone to Beyonce and the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack. He doesn’t download a lot of rock because the rock radio stations that play good music, “never tell you who it is.”  Basically he listens to whatever sounds good at the time. The soundtrack to Christina Aguilera’s Burlesque film impressed him so much he uses some of the big band, Gene Krupa-like drum parts in his Drum Wars show.

He thinks there are a lot of good players in the business today. “Fortunately my generation gave them videos and drum books, and really cool, crazy music. We gave this younger generation a lot of stuff to draw from. They sucked it up and they developed it to the next level. Neal Pert listened to stuff that I did. Dave Weckl went through my book. There’s a lot of these greats who actually go through my book, which makes me feel great.”

Finally, those aspiring to make a living drumming would do well to follow Appice’s sage advice:  “They should take lessons with a teacher. Learn how to read [music]. They should learn another instrument so they can write songs, and they should practice a lot. Especially the songwriting. If you get in a band that’s happening, you’ll be riding in the Volkswagen, and the bass player, guitarist, or whoever writes the songs will be riding in the Ferrari. You’ve got to get involved in songwriting.”

For more information on Carmine Appice visit his website.

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Mindy Peterman is a freelance writer whose focus is on television, movies and pop culture. She has written over one hundred articles for the award winning Blogcritics.org website and has conducted interviews with producer Peter Asher, psychic-medium John Edward, Greg Grunberg and Bob Guiney from Band…

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