Vinny Appice, having got an early introduction to drumming from his big brother Carmine Appice [ex-OZZY OSBOURNE, CACTUS, VANILLA FUDGE], first rose to fame in 1976 in DERRINGER, alongside Rick Derringer, Kenny Aaronson and Danny Johnson. Together they toured and released two studio albums (DERRINGER in 1976 and SWEET EVIL in 1977) and, to cap things off, a live record (LIVE in 1977). Now, after thirty years, the classic lineup of the band (that was only ever together for less than two years to begin with) has been resurrected for some very special appearances around the world. In the interim, like the other members of DERRINGER, Vinny Appice has gone on to achieve even bigger success in various forms. In 1978 he released an album (IT’S A CIRCUS WORLD) with AXIS, before facing the formidable task of filling Bill Ward’s boots, in BLACK SABBATH, for the remainder of the HEAVEN AND HELL tour. He then went on to record the now legendary MOB RULES album with them, as well as the double live record, LIVE EVIL. After Ronnie James Dio’s first reign at the helm of BLACK SABBATH came to an end, Vinny chose to accompany him in forming a brand new band, DIO. Together they went on to record multiple gold (SACRET HEART in 1985) and platinum (HOLY DIVER in 1983 and LAST IN LINE in 1984) selling albums. Finally in 1992 Vinny and Ronnie rejoined BLACK SABBATH for the DEHUMANIZER record and ensuing tour. After the Costa Mesa debacle, Vinny joined Ronnie for another couple of DIO records, before, in the late ’90s, jumping ship again to fill in for ailing Bill Ward on BLACK SABBATH’s "Reunion" tour. More recently Vinny has, among other things, put out an excellent record (FROZEN SUMMER) with his band, 3 LEGGED DOGG, featuring Jimmy Bain (ex-RAINBOW, ex-DIO), Carlos Cavazo (ex-QUIET RIOT), Chas West (ex-BONHAM) and Brian Young. All of this, of course, before once again being called to duty with HEAVEN & HELL to record three new songs for the BLACK SABBATH compilation album (THE DIO YEARS) and a subsequent tour. Now, with a phenomenal tour and a gold selling live release ("LIVE FROM RADIO MUSIC CITY HALL in 2007) to show for it, it’s almost time for another studio album.
We caught up with Vinny after he had just finished a killer show with DERRINGER at the prestigious Sweden Rock Festival (which last year he played with HEAVEN & HELL). Rock ‘n’ Roll!
INTERVIEW BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ AND JARNO HUOVILA
PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ AND ARCHIVES
The original lineup of DERRINGER disbanded in 1977 after only 18 months. Don’t you find it kind of curious to be playing together again in front of a massive audience in the year 2008, and in Sweden of all places?
I know… the band was only together for that long and it makes you wonder like "If we were together for a little longer, we could have built it up and been more successful at it.” Yeah, it had a short lifespan and then we only played US and Canada and we never played in Europe at all.
Where did the idea of reuniting DERRINGER, after all these years, come from? Was it something that you guys had been planning to put together at some point all along?
No it wasn’t planned. You know, how it started… last year they asked us to play the Sweden Rock Festival and I hadn’t talked to Rick [Derringer] in years and Danny and Kenny I hadn’t seen in years [either]. So last year Sweden Rock offered us a gig here and we thought "Oh, that’s weird!" because we had never played Europe [before]. And then that got us talking, but then we couldn’t do it because I was on tour with HEAVEN & HELL. So then we decided "Well, let’s do it. We’ll do it next year." and the schedules were met and we were able to do it. So we got together and rehearsed for the first time and everything and it went great.
I believe you actually did some other shows prior to this appearance at Sweden Rock, like in New York for example, isn’t that right?
Yeah, we rehearsed in Florida, that’s where Rick lives. Then the first gig was in… Where the HELL was it? Somewhere on the east coast and we did like five shows. Then we wound up at the BB King’s club in New York and that was great, ton of people. And it just really gelled, even when we rehearsed. The same thing with HEAVEN & HELL, we hadn’t played together in a long time and in the first five minutes it was like fucking "locked-in". But [with DERRINGER] this was more intense because it’s thirty-two years since we played together.
Since this DERRINGER reunion seems to be doing and going so well, are there any plans in place to do more shows or perhaps go even further with it in the future?
Yeah, we’ll probably do some more [shows] at the end of the year because now with the HEAVEN & HELL thing starting up [again] I won’t have much time to do it and Rick’s a little busy, so we’ll probably do some more dates in October/November. And then, you know, that’ll probably be it. I don’t think we want to do an album and stuff and push it. This is fun doing what we’re doing.
Vinny, Danny Johnson, Rick Derringer and Kenny Aaronson in Swedenrock backstage
BLACK SABBATH = HEAVEN & HELL
Alright, since you brought it up… in August you’ll be once more hitting the road with HEAVEN & HELL, alongside JUDAS PRIEST, MOTÖRHEAD and TESTAMENT?
Right, that’s going to be awesome.
That being the case, has the band given any thought to the set list for this tour, like are you going to be playing stuff that you didn’t on the previous tour?
Oh yeah, we’re playing different songs, but we’re not playing SABBATH songs. We’re going to play some different songs from HEAVEN AND HELL.
Really, you’re going to shuffle around the set list for this upcoming tour?
Oh yeah, we’ve got to. We played a whole year of those songs; we can’t go out and play the same set.
That’s certainly good to hear, there’s so much good stuff to choose from. Can you give any clues as to what songs might get played?
Maybe we’ll play "Turn up the Night", "TV Crimes", "Time Machine"… we’ve got a lot of songs we haven’t played, so we’ll be probably switching them that way, but we’re not going to play PARANOID and all that stuff.
Thank goodness for that! At the beginning of the last tour you were playing for about two hours, but as the tour progressed you dropped a couple of songs cutting the set down somewhat. What was the reason for that?
Yeah, we started with a long set and then we just cut it because at a couple of shows we had to play less time and then we pulled the songs out and everybody went "Let’s just play that.". But then that got longer because we started jamming, so what went from… we played for two hours, down to an hour and forty-five minutes, then it went back up to almost two hours, because on "Heaven and Hell" we started jamming shit, which was good because we were enjoying it so much. We just started jamming and improvising, so that’s a good thing.
Alright, it’s now 2008 and there’s a new studio album in the works by the lineup of BLACK SABBATH that recorded MOB RULES and DEHUMANIZER. Let wind up a little, to early 2007. How did it all get started?
The HEAVEN & HELL thing, it was supposed to be just the tour, but after we played together it got better and better and better musically. Everybody was having fun, so it was like "How about doing an album?"
So no promises were given at that point, but don’t you think everybody was secretly hoping that if all goes well, it would lead to this, a new studio record?
Yeah, it was supposed to be just the tour and then it just turned into "Let’s do a record.” And the thing is you can’t do the record next year, we just did the whole thing [tour], the momentum’s here, "Let’s do it now!”
When the idea of HEAVEN & HELL was first conceived, it was in fact Bill Ward that was supposed to be manning the drum stool. What were your thoughts upon first hearing this news?
I heard they got back together, Tony, Ronnie, Geezer and Bill, and I thought "Well, that’s fucked up! I played on more stuff with Ronnie than Bill has.", but, you know, "OK.". But I had a feeling that that’s not going to happen, [and] I’m going to wind up playing with them. Sure enough, it didn’t work out with that lineup and then I got the phone call "Hey, you wanna play in the band?” I said "Yeah. I should have played with it in the beginning.” you know. So I went over and played and it just worked out. And Bill, even Bill, I sat down with Bill, I love Bill, Bill’s a fucking great guy, one of my idols and he even said, you know, if that happened he was suggesting he play his songs, [and] I play my songs because Bill’s not one that had to play other people’s songs. I always played Bill’s parts, Bill’s not gonna play my parts, he’s not… he was always Bill. [laughs] So he was saying have two drummers, you know, but that would have been nuts.
Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi and Vinny durin DEHUMANIZER
Were there any other obstacles to overcome in reuniting the band, like in regards to rebuilding relationships, with Ronnie for example?
After me leaving to play with OZZY? [laughs] Ahh… it was cool, but then yeah, we finally got the chance to sit down in the same car together, and we’re riding forever, to talk about everything. So, it’s just water under the bridge now. I just look ahead, things happen, that’s the way it is. But right now with everybody, it’s really sweet, really smooth.
That is good to hear. Can you tell us what stage the new HEAVEN & HELL studio album is at right now?
Right now we have six songs… about six songs written. They’re just demos and they sound fucking awesome! Heavy, great… sounds like really cool SABBATH!
These six new songs that you’ve got at this point, how would you compare them to the three new tracks ("The Devil Cried", "Shadow of the Wind" and "Ear in the Wall") that were recorded for the BLACK SABBATH ("THE DIO YEARS") compilation that brought about this whole reunion in the first place?
Well, the [new stuff on the] compilation was just written by Tony [Iommi] and Ronnie [James Dio]… and it was done quickly, the first time they got together. We now have a whole tour of playing together behind us, so now we got together and Tony and Ronnie wrote a lot of stuff and then there’s a lot of stuff with Geezer. Then we got together… we haven’t played together, they write it on the computer and then I put drums on it. So, it’s a lot more relaxed since we’ve played together so long, it’s a lot tighter and a lot more focused.
That sounds very promising. So, this time around all of the members are participating in the writing process?
Yeah… it seems to work best if Tony and Ronnie sit there and start the things and then… sometimes [together] with Geezer too or sometimes Geezer will come in and put his thing in there [later], you know. But mainly the two or three of them [write the material]. And then we’ll get together in a room when we’ve got a couple more songs and play them and then we’ll go in the studio and record them.
Vinny, Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi in 2007
The late ’90s, in the wake of the grunge phenomenon, were a quite a difficult time for classic rock and metal music in general. What kind of memories do you have from your last days with DIO back in those days?
It was difficult, because it was like a "down" time, we weren’t as big as we were, you know. We had Tracy G playing guitar, [and the] fans didn’t like him. We liked him, but the fans didn’t like him. So I was "What’s going on?” it was just a turmoil time, you know. You go through that, it goes up and down, up and down, you know. But I always had a good time, I loved playing with Ronnie, I always absolutely loved playing with Ronnie.
In hindsight, how do you now like the 1993 STRANGE HIGHWAYS and the 1996 ANGRY MACHINES albums?
I like ANGRY MACHINES better because it has more energy, because on the STRANGE HIGHWAYS my approach was to play more open for myself, more open two-fours, but that got boring. People want to hear me play, they want to hear some licks and shit, and that’s the way I like to play, so ANGRY MACHINES was better.
Wow, you’re probably one of the few people on the planet that think so. How about the live album "INFERNO – LAST IN LIVE" that came out in 1998?
You know, I hadn’t listened to that and then I was at a friend’s house and we were playing poker and it was playing in the background. I was like jamming and going "That’s pretty good…” I swear to God, "Who is that?" and he was like "It’s YOU!", "It IS? I haven’t heard that.” We did a couple of different parts in jams and in the drum solo we had bits written and I was blown away [listening to it], "That’s pretty good!” I didn’t know because I don’t listen to that stuff.
Now that you’re once again on friendly terms with Ronnie, has he asked you to perhaps work with him in his solo band?
Ah, no. He’s got his band, he’s really happy with his band with Simon [Wright] playing drums and Rudy [Sarzo on bass], he’s really happy with them, so that’s going to stay like that. It makes HEAVEN & HELL more special. He wanted to keep that [DIO] going; he didn’t want to throw that in the background while all this is going on. So it’s cool, we rehearse, [then] I’m going to go out and do some summer things.
Agreed, it’s cool that he’s touring with DIO, since he’s the only one keeping the RAINBOW stuff alive as well.
Yeah, so he’s out doing that.
Vivian Campbell, Vinny,Ronnie James Dio, Claude Schneill and Jimmy Bain around 1986
3 LEGGED DOGG & OTHER RECENT VENTURES
What is the status of your other recent endeavor, 3 LEGGED DOGG, the band that you had going with Jimmy Bain, Carlos Cavazo, Chas West and Brian Young?
Well, it kind of fell apart. We put the album [FROZEN SUMMER] out, [but] we didn’t have management. We didn’t have a real record company and stuff. I thought it was a good album, a really good album, [and] people that heard it loved it. We just, you know, couldn’t get the time to get a manager and really put it together. So we may do something with it, maybe do another CD.
That would be nice, since as you said it was a really good band and a great record. Didn’t you actually do a video for a song from that album?
Yeah, we did one song, a low budget video. When I saw it the drums were out of sync, I’m playing here it should be going there and I go "What the fuck is this? Take that out, it’s awful!", so they fixed it. Pretty low budget, but it was a good band.
Agreed. The band had bit of an all-star lineup with you, Carlos Cavazo and Jimmy Bain in it. How did you guy come to work together in the first place?
Well, we did a thing called HOLLYWOOD ALLSTARS, we did a benefit in L.A. about five years ago for GREAT WHITE "the fire victims". And my friend, Gregor, he plays drums, he says "You wanna come down and play? I’ve got Jeff Pilson from DOKKEN and all these different people coming down.", I said OK. So we did it and it went over really well [and then] we got some other clubs in L.A. say "Hey, why don’t you guys play here?". We started playing, we had different guitar players. It was me, Jimmy Bain… actually it was me, Jeff Pilson and Gregor and different guitar players. So eventually I saw Carlos at a club and said "What are you doing man? Would you be interested in playing in this band?" and he said "Yeah.". So he came down, we jammed and then he started playing in the HOLLYWOOD ALLSTARS and then that evolved into "Well, let’s start writing some original shit.". Then it was just me playing drums, with HOLLYWOOD ALLSTAR it was actually two drummers, since Gregor started it. So that evolved into 3 LEGGED DOGG and then we found another guitar player, Brian Young, who played with DAVID LEE ROTH for a little bit, and he’s a good writer, different sound, kind of more bluesy shit. So it all gelled and we wrote those songs.
Speaking of Jimmy Bain, now that you’re busy with HEAVEN & HELL and other stuff, what is he up to these days, have you any idea?
Jimmy was playing in 3 LEGGED DOGG and the ALLSTARS thing, he’s cool. [Right now] he’s not really doing anything, which is too bad because he’s a talented guy. I love playing with him, I and he are like locked-in when we play together.
In addition to everything else you’ve got yet another "all stars" project going on at the moment as well, BIG NOIZE. Can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, BIG NOIZE. That’s… we’ll the HOLLYWOOD ALLSTARS is good, but we needed to kick it up a couple of notches, so I know Joe [Lynn Turner] and saw him at the NAMM show and go "Dude, would you be interested in doing this? It’d be fun, we’ll have a good time, play all the fucking songs, you know." and he’s "Yeah, yeah, yeah!". So we put it together, we had someone backing it up and did a DVD, but that didn’t work out. So then we just got a friend who’s an agent and he booked some gigs and we went out and played, and we had fucking FUN, you know, everybody’s crazy. It was like the old days, everybody’s partying and shit and people loved it, they loved hearing those songs with Joe singing. We did DEEP PURPLE songs, RAINBOW, DIO, SABBATH, QUIET RIOT, Phil Soussan [who's] on bass played with OZZY so we put a couple of OZZY songs [in the set] and these people loved it, the band was really good. So we do that for fun, we’ll do some more of that too.
That sounds great. Joe has actually said that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of perhaps doing a record at some point in the future…?
Yeah, maybe we’ll do an album, write some more shit. That’s cool because all this stuff keeps you in shape playing. It’s not like waiting for HEAVEN & HELL to start up and [then] I haven’t played in six months. Fuck it, I’ve been going out, multitask! [laughs]
Hollywood Allstarz promopicture
FLESH + BLOOD / WORLD WAR III
Whatever happened with the band FLESH & BLOOD that you had going with Jeff Pilson, before the WORLD WAR III thing, in the late ’80s?
Yeah, we were together and we wrote songs and then we were getting deals… it just fell apart. Jeff wanted to be a lead singer and he’s got a great voice and stuff and we had a different bass player. It was a kind of strange situation, but it was a good thing, but it just fell apart.
Did that project take place right after you had left DIO or had it already begun earlier?
I think it was after. I think I left DIO and then that was the thing. Yeah, I went into FLESH & BLOOD, which then lead to WORLD WAR III. Jimmy Bain was playing in WORLD WAR III and he said "Look, you wanna hear this stuff?" and I heard it and thought "That’s fucking cool.". So he asked me to play on the album, so I just play on the album. Then we did a little tour, we became a band for the tour.
How do you view that WORLD WAR III record in retrospect, after all these years?
Oh, I like that album, I think it kicks ass. It was very dark and heavy, he [Mandy Lion] was doing all that screaming shit before a lot of people were doing it. I like that album, a lot of people hear it and it’s like a cult album. It was one of my favorite albums.
You actually reunited briefly with WORLD WAR III not that long ago?
Oh, that was… we played for somebody’s… our agents birthday party. We hadn’t played together in ten years, didn’t rehearse and went on and played a couple of songs and it was great, it kicked ass! I like playing with those guys, it’s fucking heavy great good shit. But Mandy [Lion] put it out as "Oh, we might do something.", but nobody talked about it. I can’t be in any more bands, I’m in like three of four bands already, too many bands. [laughs]
Vinny with Heaven and Hell in Helsinki 2007
Another, kind of weird, one off album that you appeared on (featuring also Jeff Pilson, Carlos Cavazo and Carl Sentance) is the POWER PROJECT "Dinosaurs" album. What’s the story behind that one?
Yeah, it’s very ’80s, we didn’t write the stuff. He [Andy Menario] contacted me and there was not a lot going on at the time, he emailed me and said "Hey, you wanna play on these things?". I said "Well, what do they sound like?". I kind of knew these guys from POWER ZONE [records] from before, so he sent them in and I though "It’s okay, it’s kind of ’80s.". So he asked if I could get some people to play on it, so I asked Jeff and Carlos and they said "Allright.". We actually rearranged some of the stuff because it was very dated sounding and we did it in two days, all ten songs, double the guitars, put solos on, in two days. So that was just a kind of project.
It certainly had some interesting people on it, like Carl Sentance on vocals…
He actually used to sing in the GEEZER BUTLER BAND back in the ’80s…
Oh yeah? We liked some of the stuff, but we though some of it was a little old sounding, ’80s shit, you know?
You’ve also done a bunch of session work for Lana Lane, Mark Boals and Erik Norlander for example, haven’t you?
Well, I know Lana and Erik Norlander, they’ve been good friends. So I went down and did some other work with Erik on a couple things.
Not only that, but you’ve actually toured a little bit with Lana Lane too, isn’t that right?
Yeah, we did a show in Japan and couple in L.A. And then they had their thing and I actually liked that album (PROJECT SHANGRI-LA), I think it’s cool. It’s a little lighter that I’m used to, but I like that album and I like them and when she asked me to play on it I said OK. What was the other one… oh, Mark Boals, I met Mark through them and he asked me to play on his [album, "EDGE OF THE WORLD]. I like him, Mark’s a good singer, a good fucking singer.
Vinny with Derringer in swedenrock 2008
DIFFERENT RHYTHM SECTIONS
Alright, before we wrap things up, could you, as a drummer, describe the differences in playing with different bass players, like for example Kenny [Aaronson], Jimmy [Bain]…
…Geezer? [laughs] They’re all different too. Jimmy just kind of lays it down, he doesn’t do a lot of riffs, [and] lets me play all over the place. Geezer, I’ve got to listen to Geezer, groove with him, and then I try to catch what he plays, you know. He’s a busier because he has a lot more riffs he plays. And when he plays a riff, I’ll groove. Kenny’s more "funky", you know, and plays a lot busier, so I try to hold it down a little bit more with that too.
How about with Jeff Pilson then?
Jeff Pilson, he’s great. Jeff listens a lot and he follows me a lot, I’ll do something and he’s right there. He comes over and plays next to me, Geezer never really looks at me, only at ends. That’s the way he always plays, he’s in his space and he’s fucking wailing the way he’s playing, but he never does the bass player drummer thing, you know, it’s so typical anyway. And Kenny doesn’t look that much either, he looks a little bit. Jimmy, he’s in another world, you know, he just plays and we lock in. But Jeff’s there like looking, I play something and he’s there, very aware of what’s happening.
Thank you for the interview, Vinny!
Thank you guys, I’ll see you next time!
FOR MORE INFO GO TO: WWW.VINNYAPPICE.COM or WWW.HEAVENANDHELLLIVE.COM
MORE PICTURES FROM DERRINGER SHOW IN SWEDENROCK !!