Vinny Appice from Heaven and Hell
Written by Simon Lukic
Transcribed by Mike ‘Fucking Hostile’ Holmes
All Live Pics By Lord of the Wasteland
What more can one say about the reunion of Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Vinnie Appice that hasn’t already been said? How about magical, awe inspiring and exceptional? Whatever the adjective, it’s safe to say that it has been a welcomed return – one that is worthy of much praise. I was fortunate enough to speak to drum legend Vinny Appice during their Australian tour this year and here is the conversation.
So, how has the Australian tour been going for the band so far?
So far it’s been going fantastic and the response has been great. We haven’t been down here with this lineup in like 20 something years. I think it’s been like 26 years since the last time we were down here, so the response has been incredible. The fans whether we meet them on the street or in the hotels, are just amazing. It’s really good to be back here.
Weren’t you here with Dio for the SACRED HEART tour?
Yeah, I think it was the SACRED HEART tour. ’86 was probably the last time I was here.
I was there for last nights show (Melbourne, 10 August 2007) and I loved it. What’s it been like for you to be out on the road again with this formation of Sabbath?
Well, this is like coming back home again, you know. When they called and wanted to do this I was like, ‘that’s fucking great, fantastic’, and within 5 minutes of playing in the room together it was like it never ended. For me it’s been really great, it’s really exciting and the band is playing so well together. It’s really inspiring, you know?
As a member of the audience it’s been equally inspiring, but is this tour a little bit more special because it’s focusing on only what many have called ‘The Dio Years’?
Yeah, what makes it special is that this is the first time this lineup has gone out and not had to play any of the old songs. During all of the other tours we’ve always played ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid’ and all of those classics. So this time and because the band’s been around long enough and the album’s have been around long enough – there are enough songs to just go out and play as this lineup with all of the Dio stuff. It’s pretty cool to be able to bring it up to that level.
Is it refreshing to not have to play ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid’?
With all due respect to the songs…
Yeah, I like playing those songs too, they’re fun songs. They’re classic and heavy, so it’s fun to play them. It’s just nice to…well, the demand really holds its own on this other (Dio era) material. It’s kind of like two separate bands really and it’s pretty amazing that a band can tour without playing any of the old stuff and be successful. It’s still accepted.
Do you consider the tour a celebration more than a trip back time?
Yeah, absolutely. We all feel that the band musically is playing better now than we have ever played together. We are a little more mature now and things are more in the pocket and it’s not so out of control. We feel that it’s come together so well and the band is really, really tight. Musically we are all excited about it.
One of the highlights of the show for me was your very creative drum solo. What went into constructing it?
Thank you, I didn’t want to just do a drum solo, you know. That’s the time that all of the women go to the bathroom…
They wanted me to do a drum solo, so I thought about just making the drum solo fun by utilizing all of the aerial drums I had – which are all of the drums high up in the air. We tried different things and it just eventually developed into me playing through a sequencer, with sounds and all the noises and stuff and I would play these giant drums against that. I also started tilting them, moving them and throwing them around, so it’s very visual. It’s simple and people can grab onto it. Everybody’s loved it so far and it’s not just a regular, boring drum solo. I’ve tried to keep it melodic and keep it interesting. It took a while to develop and get right, so now it seems to work well. Even the girls are saying to me that they like the drum solo which is amazing. (Laughs)
The way that you use those aerial ‘toms’ throughout the set is very entertaining. It really does make a strong visual aspect.
Yeah, people don’t know what to think and they believe that the drums are going to fall over and they’re like, ‘ooh, I know they’re going to fall’. I do it a little bit more each time and then there are a couple songs where I don’t do it and then I’ll do it in the drum solo. Yeah, it’s more of a visual thing.
This is not a new concept for you?
No, I’ve always had those ‘toms’. I had them with Dio and Sabbath. With Dio started throwing them down towards the end of the show. I never really started pulling them over and doing fills on them while playing a song. Now I’ve just gotten more aggressive about it, trying to pull them down and do fills like they were just regular tom-toms.
Moving onto Ronnie’s performance. It was the first time that I’ve ever had the chance to see and hear him perform live and I must say that it was breathtaking. How does he do it?
I don’t really know. He amazes me each night when I hear him sing and it just blows me away. We have been in this business for a long time and he’s older now – we are all older now but he is just fucking kicking ass. He’s doing things that he used to do 20 years ago, even things like coming up onto the drum rise and jumping off. It’s some crazy stuff he does. The energy level is just incredible and he’s better than he ever was.
Does he ever have an off night?
He never has an off night and he never warms up either. If you were backstage right before the show – you wouldn’t hear him as you would hear other singers trying to warm up and sing to scales. He doesn’t do any of that. He just hangs out and you don’t hear anything from his room. We go on stage and he just belts it out.
Amazing, so how long do you have to go until the entire tour winds down?
Well, we have a couple more shows here, then we do one in New Zealand and then we go back for a little break. Then we go to Mexico, then the U.S. for 6 weeks and then another little break before we go to Japan. I think its going to last until February. But there are breaks in between to keep everyone sane.
What will happen then?
I don’t know. There hasn’t been a decision made about whether we’re going to do a record or if we are going to do nothing. When we set this up, everybody was committed to do the tour and then when it ends we would see what happens. If everybody is thinking on the same wavelength and we want to put another record together then we will do that, if not, that will be the end. But we will have to wait and see.
Would you like it to continue?
Oh yeah, it’s a great band. It would be cool to do one last record and put a punctuation mark on the band. (ed. note: It was announced at the end of October 2007, that HEAVEN AND HELL were in discussions with various record labels about recording a brand new studio album in 2008!)
That’s does seems to happen with this lineup where you make a start, break apart, come back together and part again. It would be a shame for it to happen for a third time.
The nice thing is after doing such a long tour, the band gets pretty tight, musically and aggressively. So when you do an album at this point, you really are a band. It’s not like you’re doing the album first, or you really haven’t been on the road or really played out in a while – that’s a little ‘wimpier’. This time we have this whole major tour behind us and if we go and do a record, it would just kick ass. So, we will just have to wait and see what happens at the end.
You’ve got the LIVE FROM RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL DVD in the shops. Now that was put together at the beginning of the tour I believe?
We did that in March, we recorded it at New York City in the Radio City Music Hall venue. It’s a beautiful place and at that point we were about 11 or 12 shows into the tour. When we watch some of the clips now we realize how much tighter it’s become now. I haven’t counted the shows but it’s close to 100 now and it just tightens up.
It’s like anything of course, you would have preferred to have had it recorded towards the end of the tour when you were tighter as a band, but logistics get in the way in the end.
Yeah, that’s what always happens. But it came out great, we watched it and we were blown away. The lights and everything looked great. It sounds good and the performances are there too. It’s just that we play a little differently now.
Hypothetically speaking, if nothing pans out with the Black Sabbath, would you ever rejoin Ronnie in Dio?
Well, Ronnie and I have been separated for a while, so now we are back together and getting along great. It’s just like old times. It would be fun to play together again but I don’t know whether that’s going to happen. He’s got his own band and Simon (Wright) has been with him a long time on drums.
So, what do you remember about the Dio days?
Oh, that was exciting. It was a new band when we first came out and the band was totally on fire. Then the album HOLY DIVER came out and the band started doing great, we were just kicking ass everywhere. It was exciting because it was new and it was something we were building. We weren’t relying on the name and legend of ‘Black Sabbath’
And there was some classic material there as well.
Yeah, that became kind of a rock, classic album. It was pretty amazing.
Before I let you go I’d like to ask you about the time when Rob Halford sang with the band if you don’t mind? I understand the circumstances at the time, but what was it like to play with him as a part of Sabbath?
Well, we only had one rehearsal with Rob and we ran through the songs quickly. There was a lot of pressure on Rob to handle the songs and to sing with a band that had been together for a while. It was a little nerve racking for everybody. The other thing we did was that we played different songs. As you know we were on tour with DEHUMANIZER and playing all of our stuff with Ronnie. Then all of a sudden we wound up with Rob and ended up not playing a lot of the Dio era Black Sabbath stuff and learned new songs. I had never even played some of those songs live and we weren’t really confident when we went on to play that night. In the end Rob ended up doing a great job and everybody loved it, it was pretty fantastic and something really special.
It definitely would have been one of those once in a lifetime occurrences.
Yeah, it was cool playing with Rob Halford but there was a lot of pressure.