Interview and Live Photos by Robert Cavuoto
Last in Line is back with their second CD simply entitled II. It was released on February 22nd via Frontiers Music SLR and takes fans on part two of the band’s journey. It’s a continuation of their straight-up rock approach from Heavy Crown with a slightly darker, heavier, and more ominous vibe. It has all the ingredients that one can hope for in a rock record, memorable guitar riffs, pounding drums, melodic bass playing, and soaring vocals. Combine that with the legacy of Ronnie James Dio and how can it not be a success.
In late 2017, the band gathered again in LA to start the recording of their second album. Having gelled as a band during the touring for Heavy Crown, the songwriting is now fully realized, personal and the band’s sound is now immediately recognizable as Last in Line. The band consists of Vivian Campbell [guitar], Vinny Appice [bass], Andrew Freeman [vocals] and Phil Soussan [bass].
I had the pleasure of speaking with Vinny to talk about the new release, if he is surprised about the band’s success, and how the band is continuously inspiring each other to make spectacular music!
Robert Cavuoto: I really feel Last in Line is a band that fans like me can really get behind as you are releasing outstanding music, touring, and have Dio’s history behind you. It’s not a one-off super group or project band that rotates the members every tour or CD. Are you surprised by the success of the band and the fan’s response?
Vinny Appice: I was initially surprised in the beginning when we put the band together. We were thinking to just have some fun by playing a gig or two with all the classic Dio material. We did it, and the fans went crazy! It was an eye-opening experience that people loved it! That was the easy part. We then got the record deal we had to start writing our own stuff. We knew we could write good music and Heavy Crown solidified that for us as we got a tremendous response. Now it’s really cool as we are able to play our songs along with the Dio material. We are our own band. We are not into changing members, that’s a project band. We try to keep it as a real of a band, and we even do a four-way split!
Robert Cavuoto: Both Last in Line CDs hammers home the point that you and Vivian are the originators of Dio’s sound from the 80’s with his guitar playing and your drumming. Do you think this new CD showcases that to the fans?
Vinny Appice: I have played these songs with other musicians and bands, and it’s very different from when I play them with Vivian. When we play together its half of Dio’s sound! Viv has a unique sound with the way he plays guitar and his solos. I have a unique drum style which is different than the norm. When we get together, it creates Dio’s sound. With any great band, it’s the members who create the sound. It’s not really a good idea when you start changing members out. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Robert Cavuoto: The song “Last in Line” was the centerpiece and anchor of that Dio album, is there a song on the two Last in Line CDs which you consider to be the centerpiece?
Vinny Appice: On Heavy Crown, I would say the main song would be “Devil in Me” and “Starmaker” as a close second. For this new CD, I would say “Landslide.” It’s an epic song and great to play. All the songs are different and have a lot of depth, but you really need to listen to the CD to get the full impact of it. We worked hard on making them, and they should take the listener on a journey.
Robert Cavuoto: I have a lot of favorite songs on the CD, my current favorite is “Electrified” I think because of the riff and powerful drumming. It also reminds me of “I Speed at Night.” What can you tell me about its creation?
Vinny Appice: That was a little of my idea to have a song around a big open chord hang with vocals in between. It seemed to really work.
Robert Cavuoto: This CD is a little darker musically and lyrically do you think that was the case?
Vinny Appice: Lyrically it’s a little darker. The first CD was a little rawer. Phil is a different bass player than Jimmy. He is more melodic while Jimmy held down the foundation and the bass wasn’t as busy. We were able to do crazier things on this CD.
Robert Cavuoto: Now that you have re-familiarized yourselves as a band from touring and the first CD, did writing and recording this CD come a little easier or faster?
Vinny Appice: Yeah, it was way easier. We didn’t know how it was going to work writing with Phil, but it soon became apparent that it was easy as heck. We have known him for a long time, and when we got to the studio, we enjoyed playing altogether. It was easy to go into the studio to try different ideas, and everybody is up for it. Nobody in this band ever says the word “Cant.” I come up with crazy ideas and nobody ever says, “You can’t do that.” Why not, its music let try it! It was very easy to go into the studio and write together. We did it over different weekends due to everybody’s schedules. Everything flowed naturally and organic when coming up ideas and then working them into songs.
Robert Cavuoto: I spoke with Andrew about a month ago and we talked about the title of this CD. He mentioned it was your idea to name it II in the spirit of Zeppelin II and Van Halen II. Can you tell me about the significance of that decision?
Vinny Appice: We titled the first CD after a song and didn’t want to do the same thing again. I have always loved Zeppelin II; I wasn’t a great follower of Van Halen at that time. Zeppelin II just sounded like the next part or chapter of the band. Based on that we thought; we all agreed on the title. We were going to call it Last in Line Vinny’s Album, but they really didn’t like it! [Laughing].
Robert Cavuoto: I’ve seen the band twice and one of the things that impressed me was that you all look like you were having a good time performing together. You also seem to be the comedic ringleader bringing the guys over to the drummer riser and making them laugh.
Vinny Appice: We really enjoy being on stage together. I like to play some crazy ass stuff in these songs. I’m known for adding bars and fills that start halfway through the bar. Viv is always laughing because he has to play to it and he loves it. It really keeps everyone on their toes. Then he plays some crazy stuff that I have to keep up with. When Andy is going for it above all this, it kicks you in the ass. When Ronnie went for it, I was like “Wow,” and it inspired me to play better or try something spectacular. We inspire each other on stage. I like to have fun nowadays on stage. In the days of Dio, I was overshadowed more with Ronnie and then playing with Sabbath. I never spoke to the audience, and now it’s become part of the show. Even when I play with my brother Carmine, I come to the front of the stage and talk. It’s something I never did before; I’m coming out of my shell. I see the world differently than most people; I see things as funny or things that piss me off especially when I’m driving [laughing]. The audience sees us having fun, and they get more involved in the show. We always try to keep it fresh with lots of energy.
Robert Cavuoto: What songs from the new CD are you playing live?
Vinny Appice: The songs we are playing live now are, “Landslide,” “Blackout the Sun,” and “Year of the Gun.”
Robert Cavuoto: Will there ever be a point where you feel the Dio songs are not needed in the set list?
Vinny Appice: We will always have to play the Dio classics. That is where we come from and built everything on. We will always do “Holy Diver,” Rainbow in the Dark,” and “We Rock.” They mean a lot to us and we really enjoy playing them together. It’s challenging to play them as they still aren’t easy songs to play. They’ve also stood the test of time.