Interview By Robert Cavuoto
Vinny Appice is most notably known for playing drums in Black Sabbath and more recently with Heaven & Hell. But he was also in Dio and played on a majority of albums including their first three. Together with Ronnie James Dio, Vivian Campbell, and Jimmy Bain they co-wrote some of the rock’s most definitive metal albums – Holy Diver, Last In Line, and Sacred Heart. Albums that not only created Dio’s sound but help forged a genre of music known as heavy metal!
After a long year hiatus from Dio, a casual and fun reunion jam in a Los Angeles rehearsal room in 2011 turned into a fully-fledged recording project that has taken on a life of its own. The band Last In Line takes its name from the Dio’s second album released in 1984. Chemistry intact, the band called in Andrew Freeman to handle the vocals and in 2016 released their first CD; Heavy Crown.
The end result is a hard rock CD driven by heavy riffs and melodic vocals from the opener of “Devil” to the closer on “The Sickness.” Heavy Crown was released shortly after bassist Jimmy Bain’s passing.
I caught up with Vinny to talk about their new US tour, the passing of his friend and bandmate Jimmy Bain as well as the status of the band’s sophomore CD.
Robert Cavuoto: What is it about the chemistry between the band members that brings the spirit of Ronnie James Dio to life?
Vinny Appice: It’s the way we play when we are together, we are a band. It wasn’t something where Ronnie directed everything and told everybody what to play. There were four guys in the room and we all brought in our own personalities to the band. That’s the sound we created when Ronnie added his signature voice. When we play together it’s that natural personality of Vivian and I that maintain the Dio sound. He is the guitarist in the band and nobody played like him back in the day; he is an amazing guitarist with a unique sound. We recently toured Europe in November and December and planning to do the US in March with about eight shows. We all get along great, that’s the fun part as we get along to get on stage and off.
Robert Cavuoto: I know it must have been a tough decision to continue without Jimmy Bain on bass, what was the driving factor to forge ahead?
Vinny Appice: At the time we were all shocked by his passing. We didn’t know what to do and just felt awful about it. We had some dates planned which we had to cancel. Then we took some time off to regroup and talk. Vivian and I were up for continuing as that’s what Jimmy would have wanted us to do. He was all about the music and the fans. Luckily we decided to continue as the fans were loving Heavy Crown as it came out after Jimmy passed. We never really had a chance to tour for it and it would have been a shame to not do it. So we started auditioning bassists.
Robert Cavuoto: What does Phil Soussan bring with his playing and chemistry?
Vinny Appice: Phil was from the same mindset and musically era as us; playing with Ozzy Osbourne and Billy Idol. Phil is also from Europe with that European sound as Jimmy was from Scotland. Phil and Jimmy were close and he actually stayed at Jimmy’s house for few months. I’ve played with Phil on many other projects in the past as we have known each other for so long. So we are both used to each other’s style and it seemed like a good fit. The funny thing is from a distance he resembles Jimmy on stage with the black curly hair. It sometimes freaks people out.
Robert Cavuoto: I’ve always been in awe of your drum kit; will you have to scale things back on this club tour of the US?
Vinny Appice: I don’t need to have the full kit with me for these shows. I’ll be scaling it down. For our European tour, I took one rack of toms and two floor toms same thing I’m using while we are rehearsing and writing for our next CD. That’s what I have in my house. We’re not doing arenas, so I don’t need anything on the scale. I like playing on the little kits and destroying them.
Robert Cavuoto: Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, and Dio were all arena bands with videos screens, spectacle lighting, and pyro. Last in Line is straight out rock n’ roll playing the clubs – tell me about what it’s like going from one setting to the other?
Vinny Appice: The music business has changed; my career has brought me to many different projects and bands so it wasn’t like I played with one band in arenas. Arenas are fantastic and touring at the level is the best which is totally a different thing than playing clubs. Clubs are more challenging as you never know what the lighting or monitors will be like. You just have to deal with it. The travel, environment and dress rooms are different. It all comes down to that 90 minutes you are on stage and that the best part of it in the world; it doesn’t matter where it happens in the clubs, arenas, or festivals. On stage, it’s all the same thing.
Robert Cavuoto: I love seeing artists like yourself perform in the clubs vs. the arena because I can be up close and feel like I’m part of the show.
Vinny Appice: You’re right. Fans are right up there. Some of these stages are small and the drums are feet away from the audience with the bass drum right in their face. I’m really kicking the shit out of that thing and they are right in front loving it [laughing]. I can feel the energy from the fans in the club as well because they’re so close. You can’t hide anything in the clubs like you can in arenas since the people are far away. When you are playing this close to the fans you have to deliver!
Robert Cavuoto: You mentioned that Last in Line is working on the second CD.
Vinny Appice: We just started and have had two sessions so far. We usually go in and jam and come up riffs then develop the things we like. On tour, Vivian likes warming up for hours before a show in the dressing room. I’ll walk in and start to record him on my phone, sometimes he doesn’t even know that I’m recording him playing riffs. We got a bunch of ideas from that as well. Those are things that come naturally and are sometimes better than trying to force a song. That’s the way we start, as we never have a full song and it was the same way when we were working with Ronnie for Dio and for Sabbath; we just jammed away.
Robert Cavuoto: Did you revisit the old Dio CDs to get a vibe and feel for what you were going for?
Vinny Appice: No, we never do that. Whatever we do comes out sounding like us. We never pre-plan anything. Only once, have we ever picked up a riff off the Last in Line album and used it on Heavy Crown.
Robert Cavuoto: What songs can fans expect to hear live?
Vinny Appice: We do about four songs from Heavy Crown and the rest from Holy Diver and a few off Last in Line. There are about 14 or 15 songs in the set.
Robert Cavuoto: Last in Line and Dio Disciples had some heated verbal exchanges in the past, what did you make of all of it including the lack of support from Wendy Dio?
Vinny Appice: Dio Disciples are great and know all the songs, but we know all the notes because we wrote them. Dio Disciples are a great tribute to Ronnie with two singers. They play a wider spread of songs from all the albums. I played with them a couple of times as I filled in for Simon Wright when he couldn’t do it. It’s a great show and band. We are not competition because they are doing a Dio show and we’re playing what we created. Now we have created an identity with the new CD. We are not a tribute or just relying on the old stuff. We’re building a new audience and fan base. Wendy takes care of the Dio Disciples and we have a manager so we didn’t follow up with her and I don’t think she would even be interested. I think they are working on a CD.
Robert Cavuoto: I often wonder a
bout your connection to Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler why you weren’t playing drums with Ozzy and Sabbath now?
Vinny Appice: I was never asked to join then but still in touch with Tony and Geezer. I think the decisions get made with management and there are three of them. I don’t know what they were thinking as they did the last CD with a different drummer. The problem could be that I did Heaven & Hell with Ronnie and if I was in the band, it would be like Heaven & Hell with Ozzy. Maybe Ozzy or someone in his camp didn’t like the idea? It would have been great, but that’s the music business. I love playing with them and know how to play with them as we have a great chemistry.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you have funny or memorable stories that you can share about Ronnie?
Vinny Appice: There were so many great stories and things that happened. There was this one time with Black Sabbath where we were playing in South America. The dressing room was large but on the first floor of this building with the tremendous window looking in. We had to put all of our luggage in that room and I told the guys that anyone can reach in from those windows and grab our luggage while we are on stage. I had just bought a new laptop with all this cool electronic stuff on it. Ronnie was like, “Yeah your right!” When we came off the stage, Ronnie came over to me and said, “You’re never going to believe what happened, someone broke into the dressing room through that window and took some luggage but not all of it.” I was like “What?” Turns out he told me that it was my luggage that was taken [laughing]. They are all cracking up. I’m like this is impossible that just mine was taken! Finally I found it all in the show stall as Ronnie put it there! [laughing]