James Dio Tribute Video
May 13, 2020
Legendary drummers and brothers Carmine and Vinny Appice plan to release a new video to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the passing of the late, great Ronnie James Dio, who passed on May 16, 2010 from cancer.
The lyrics, written by Paul Shortino, are about Ronnie’s life and music and are a great musical tribute to him.
The video will be released on Sunday, May 16, 2020 on YouTube and on the internet.
We had the chance to talk to Carmine about this tribute to Dio, his career and his future plans.
Greg Drugan: Hey Carmine, how are you holding up with everything that’s going on?
Carmine Appice: I’m doing ok, keeping busy between our homes in New York and Connecticut.
GD: So you and your brother are doing a video to commemorate Ronnie James Dio. How did this project come about?
CA: My brother and I were talking, and he said that it was coming up on the 10th anniversary of Ronnie’s death, so why don’t we do a song from our album and do it live. The song we picked was called “Monsters and Heroes” from our album. The song lyrics are all about Ronnie James Dio. It really tells Ronnie’s story. Just last week, Vinny said that on the 16th it will be ten years since his passing. That’s a pretty big number and he knew Wendy Dio was going to do something, so he said “Why don’t we send it to Wendy and dedicate the video and MP3 to Ronnie and celebrate him." Right now, we are editing the video, we already edited the music. It started out just to do something on the internet while everyone is on lock down and keep the spirit of the Appice Brothers Drum Wars alive. Then it became, let’s really put it out there and let’s celebrate Ronnie.
GD: I can’t believe it’s been ten years already.
CA: I remember that very day when we went to Ronnie’s funeral. Our manager had the contract for the King Kobra record that we released in 2011. He was at the funeral too, and he was like, by the way, here’s the contract. I remember putting it in my car and then walking into the church.
GD: Who else is involved with this project?
CA: It’s the band that we use on the road. The guitar player is Artie Dillon, he’s on the record. It started off with Vinny, he got the original tracks and he played to a click track and sent that to Artie who put guitars on it. He sent it to me and I put my drums on it, then I sent it to our bass player James Caputo, who also plays in Cactus now. Then Jim Crean, our singer, put his vocal on it. Luckily, everyone had places in their house to do this. I was the only one who didn’t have a proper studio. I had a great drum sound coming in from my iPhone, so I did the video and the audio together and sent it to Artie. He took the audio off the iPhone and was able to put a little echo and EQ on it to make it sound better and put it back on the track. These are the guys who played live with us.
GD: It’s amazing what we can do with technology today to be able to piece everything together.
CA: It’s unbelievable! Last night, Vinny and I did a Zoom interview with somebody and it was great!
GD: Did you ever get to play with Ronnie besides the Hear ’N Aid thing?
CA: Yeah, I jammed with him on a few gigs. I went and saw them with Black Sabbath and I came up and played “Rainbow In The Dark” with them on stage. I also think I played “Paranoid” with them. It was kinda funny because they went out for the encore and Geezer and Tony started the song. Then they looked to the left and saw Vinny at the soundboard and then looked back on the drums and it was me! That was fun.
I was asked to join Rainbow at one time but I couldn’t. I met him back when he was Elf and they opened up for Deep Purple. I knew Ronnie before Vinny got with him. When he was with Sabbath, I saw him out at the Rainbow and would hang out. Then when Vinny joined him, we got really close because he didn’t have family out there. He had Wendy Dio, but when they broke up, he got really close to us. He used to come to our house for Thanksgiving, Christmas and family dinners and stuff. He got to know my whole family. He was almost like another brother.
GD: Do you have a good Ronnie story that you’d like to share?
CA: I’ve been married a few times. My manager told me that we were going to go out and celebrate that I was getting married so we are going to a strip bar. So I walk in this strip bar, and the first person I see is Ronnie. I said, “Wow, what are you doing here?” because we were like forty-five minutes from Hollywood. He didn’t give it away, he said, “Well, my friend works here.” So we walk in together and we get through the door and everyone says “Surprise!” All my friends were there. It was pretty wild. He was the first guy I saw at my own bachelor party.
GD: Looking back on your career, what made you want to be a drummer?
CA: My cousin Joey played the drums and he had a drum set in his house. Being an Italian family, we always went to each other’s houses. Every time I went over there, I was like five, I would bang on the drums. Then when I got home, I would bang on pots and pans. My parents would buy me toy drum sets and I would break those. So finally, I must have been ten or eleven, they realized I wanted to play drums so they bought me a drum set for my birthday and Christmas. They combined it because my birthday is in December. They pulled that money together and spent fifty bucks and bought a drum set from the very first Sam Ash store. I had a cymbal, bass drum and a snare drum. No high-hat or tom tom’s. I played in my cellar in Brooklyn. We lived in a house with three families, my grandparents, my cousin and my family. My grandfather used to have a shoemaker shop and he had the shop in the cellar. There was an old table and I put my drums up on some cinder blocks and that was my stage. I would be down there practicing by myself and I would play along to the stereo that we had. Then my grandfather would be banging on the shoes and that would confuse me, because he would be banging at a different tempo. So I would say “Grandpa, bang at this tempo, one, two, three, four!” Then he would curse at me in Italian and go upstairs. (laughs) I got to the point where I played ok. Then somebody got me a gig playing with the guys up the block, there was an accordion, a trumpet and drums. Somebody got us a gig and I made $7.50 and I was twelve years old. My father put all the stuff in the trunk of his car and drove us to the Bronx. My older brother got a singing group and they made five dollars a piece.
Then I got a good drum set, the guy around the corner worked for Gretsch drum company and got us a really great buy on a real drum set. I had a bass drum, a tom tom, a snare drum and a real Zildjian cymbal. That was the kit that I had and I built on it and that was the kit I played “Keeps Me Hanging On.”
GD: Wow, that’s awesome! You have always been a teacher, writing and releasing drum method books. Why has that been important to you to teach others?
CA: Even back then! I was always giving lessons to cousins. We have seven drummers in the family. I gave lessons to my cousins then I would give lessons to others. My teacher would get five bucks and I would get two bucks, because I wasn’t that good yet. When I made it, Ludwig wanted me to do clinics, but I never did it. Then I wrote a book because I saw a book in a Sam Ash store that was a bunch of bologna! I wanted to write a book that somebody could go to (read it) then play with a band. I did that, and then I started doing clinics. Sam Ash said, now that you’ve got the books, you should do clinics because that’s how you sell the books. I sold 4,000 books the first year. My friend, Joe Morello told me that 4,000 books is big. I was like, really? I was used to selling 500,000 records. I started doing more clinics and I got up to selling 12,000 books a year. Right now, I’ve sold over 400,000 books.
I was the first rock musician to do a clinic. It was 1971 and I had the whole ball field to myself. There would be jazz guys out there doing stuff, but there weren’t any rock guys. Now it’s all rock guys!
GD: Why has that been important to you to teach others how to play?
CA: I never really thought about it. I wrote the book and if I wanted to sell the book, I figured I would help people play. In 1971, I had a drum studio in Long Island and I had sixty students a week. I had Bobby Rondinelli who became famous with Rainbow, Joe Franco who was in Twisted Sister and an original guy who was Beatlemania. These were some of my students and they have done well. I had three teachers teaching and we had a whole new method of teaching that was based off of my drum book. It was a rock method where most other people were teaching jazz methods, so I was really ahead of my time. A lot of the stuff that I was teaching has become staples in rock drumming. I was very proud of the fact that we were teaching people and they were doing well.
GD: You have worked with some amazing guitarists in your career, who was the one you felt a connection with the most?
CA: Well, guitarists are strange. When you are playing with them, you have a connection. When I was playing with Jeff Beck, I had a really great connection with him. Even after the band broke up, I hung out with him in England. I worked on that Blow By Blow record that he did. It was supposed to be a Beck record or an Appice/Beck record. It ended up being a Beck record and we couldn’t work out a deal with me with the managers and I got blown off the record. The record went up and sold like two million copies. I don’t have a phone number on him. We have a live record that we just mixed a couple of years ago and I’m hoping that it comes out. I last talked to Jeff two years ago, all the codes on the phone numbers have changed. I have his number but I don’t know how to dial it!
I had a great report with John Sykes but when the band breaks up, you lose touch. The only one’s I’m still in touch with are Pat Travers and Rick Derringer. They are really cool guys. I call Pat, he calls me. We did two albums together and a live record. Last year we did a tour with Rick and we were on the same bill. We hung out a lot. I just wrote a Christian song that I would like to record with Rick, once all of this is over. He said he would like to do it with me.
Of all the guys that I played with, the one guy I’m in touch with most besides Pat is Brian May. I email him, he emails me back. I went to see him in Florida last year when they played. It really varies on the guys but I guess the most is Pat and Rick
GD: Well, those are two good ones. In the ‘70s how did you end up working with Rod Stewart and being in his band?
CA: After Cactus, I had a band with Mike Bloomfield, another guitarist who died of an overdose. After he died, we made another album with a different lineup and I wasn’t really into it. Then I heard that Rod needed a drummer from a friend of mine, Sammy Ginero from New York. He auditioned for it and didn’t make it, so I said ‘Do you have the number?’ He gave me the number and the name. The name was Pete Buchland and I knew Pete because Cactus toured with Rod and The Faces for sixty shows. I knew Rod anyway from the Jeff Beck days. I called Pete up and said I hear Rod is looking for a drummer and what, you don’t call me? He said, “you are always busy.” So I said, “I’m not busy now, I would love to work with Rod.” Rod to me is one of the best frontmen and voices in rock, period! I knew the guys in the band and Rod said, “If you want the job, you got it. Just play like you did in Cactus. I know you have fans, so I’ll give you a solo every night.” That was that!
GD: You ended up writing one of the biggest Disco songs of the ‘70s with “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” for Rod. That was a big change for him, did you think it would be a hit when you wrote it and was he willing to do it from the start?
CA: No, no, no. The way it worked with Rod was that he would hear a song and he would say, “I want a song like this.” The song he wanted was “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones. I came back and I wrote the chords and melodies and put it down and it kinda sounded like a Rolling Stones song. When I brought it to Rod, he loved it, and I won! He wrote the lyrics and some melodies. He ended up unconsciously using a melody that he heard from going to South American soccer games. He got sued for it and he made a deal to give the guy a piece of our next single which wasn’t as big as “Sexy.” “Sexy” was the biggest song in Rod’s career, bigger than “Maggie May.” I was blown away!
GD: What was it like working with Ozzy on the Bark at the Moon tour?
CA: It was crazy with Ozzy. I was brought in as an associate producer to help make a drum sound better with Tommy Aldridge and finish the album, Bark At The Moon. They gave me associate producer credit for the first 500,000 albums. They had fees attached to that if it went gold or platinum. Before it went gold, she (Sharon Osbourne) fired me from the tour and I lost my associate producer credit. The album went on to sell ten million albums around the world. I would have made a fortune. I had to go to court and I got a settlement.
GD: So you were a co-producer on the album, but you didn’t play on the album but then you played on the tour.
CA: No, I was an associate producer. I worked on the drum sound and tempo changes and beats that weren’t happening. I think Tony Bongiovi was the producer. Then I flew out on an F-15 sonic jet from New York to London to do the “Bark At The Moon” video. So I played to Tommy Aldridge’s track which was kinda weird because I never did that before in my life. I was in that video, which was big, and then I went on tour. Then she fired me off the tour because my name was too big. I had in the contract that I had my own PR person and I sold my own merchandise. We went on tour in the States with a young Motley Crue and they were kicking ass. Every night, I did a master class. I did five a week and I made big money doing that and she didn’t like that. I was getting a lot of press for doing that because I was donating a lot of money to UNICEF for doing those classes. She didn’t like that and basically she canned me and said I should start my own band. So I started King Kobra and did that for a few years and then I did Blue Murder. Then grunge came in and we were all dinosaurs!
GD: In 1999, you got Vanilla Fudge back together and have been performing steadily ever since. What is it about that music that still brings out the fans?
CA: It’s classic! Vanilla Fudge influenced a lot of bands. We had Deep Purple, Ian Paice just came on my Facebook page and cited me and Vanilla Fudge as what innovated Deep Purple. Richie Blackmore said the same thing, and Yes said the same thing and Phil Collins. So many bands that were influenced by us that got big, I don’t understand why we’re not in the Rock Hall of Fame. But that’s another story. That song “You Keep Me Hanging On” was such an innovating, progressive rock kinda song. Everyone in the old days like Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton and Deep Purple would say they knew exactly where they were when they first heard that song. That’s an amazing thing to know! We heavily influenced so many big players and our audience loved it.
Our audience is getting older so unfortunately our audience is shrinking. But things like Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, they have Vanilla Fudge in it for the last six minutes. It’s giving us a new audience. We just got a new record deal right before the virus. We got a small advance, but we can’t start anything before this thing stops.
GD: Did you guys have any plans to tour before this virus came out?
CA: Oh yeah! We blew out eighteen shows in April and May. There were bigger shows being booked for the summer, we had a cruise that was cancelled. Same with Cactus, we had six gigs that were booked and now we’re trying to do them in the fall, but that may not happen. Everything’s been cancelled. Knock on wood, I’ve been getting a lot of royalties and different things so I’m actually doing ok.
GD: Carmine, I think that it’s really cool that you and your brother are paying tribute to Ronnie on the 10th Anniversary of his passing. I wish you luck with that and all of your future plans!
CA: It was so sad, seeing him in the hospital. He was so skinny, it didn’t even look like him. He was like a brother. I didn’t even think about this. Vinny said on the 16th that it was the 10th anniversary of his death. So we put a little video talk at the front and the back of the video and we dedicate it to Ronnie James Dio and it is a celebration of his life.
GD: Well, we hope to see you here in Cleveland when everything calms down. You know we love you here in Cleveland!
CA: We will be there! Either Vanilla Fudge, Cactus or Appice Brothers!
GD: Sounds good! Take care Carmine.
CA: Thanks, be well!
The new video for "Monsters and Heroes" which is dedicated to Ronnie James Dio on the 10th anniversary of his passing can be watched by clicking Here.