Interview with Vinny Appice, 50 years, John Lennon, Dio and more

Vinny Appice on 50 years behind the kit, playing pool with John Lennon, and still not knowing the lyrics to his Dio masterpiece, ‘Holy Diver’.
https://twitter.com/godpsmusic?lang=en

Interview by Mark Lacey

 

“I think I bring the Vivian Campbell from Dio out of him because when we play live, we jam a lot. They just have to keep on their toes when we play together because I’m going to change it, and that keeps the energy and the creativity going. Viv’s really enjoying playing. He’s got a big smile on his face every night. I think it just went back to us playing together back in 1982-83”.

For almost 50 years, Vinny Appice has been the back bone to some of the greatest hard rock and metal bands to have graced the scene. From a chance teenage opportunity to record and perform with John Lennon his career has seen him go on to play in Dio, Black Sabbath, Heaven & Hell, Rick Derringer’s band and record many, many sessions. His latest recording ‘Jericho’ with Last in Line, marks a new milestone in his illustrious career.

 
MGM: Over the last couple of weeks, you’ve been out promoting the new album. I think you’ve done maybe three or four shows so far. How have they gone?

Vinny: They were pretty much sold out. We played four new songs from the record and it went over great. The record just came out, so we got a chance to change the set around, which was great, because we’ve been doing the same set for a while. People really dug the new songs and I wish we could do more, but Vivian’s off with Def Leppard. We’re going to go out again in September and do a whole bunch of shows.

MGM: Given your scheduling challenges, and how busy you all are with other sessions and projects, has Last in Line become more of a studio band than a touring entity?

Vinny: No, this is a live band. We have fun live. We have fun on the road, on stage, off stage. We just can’t go completely full time with this because of the scheduling problems. We all have other things we could do, and make that happen rather than just sit around waiting for rescheduled dates and stuff. But it’s definitely a live band. We all wish we could do it full time.

MGM: The new album ‘Jericho’ has been out for a few weeks now. This is the first full studio album you’ve done together since the second album ‘II’ in 2019. What do you think defines the ‘Last in Line’ sound?

Vinny: We all have our signature styles, especially Vivian and myself and Phil. And Andrew sings the way he sings. He can belt it out with the best of them. I mean, it’s just incredible singing on this. Viv and I, since we were from the original Dio, there’s also that feel in there as well, lurking around. We play well together. It’s like playing with Tony Iommi. We really lock in together and it really works. And we’ve done so many gigs in the past six years, we’ve become a real band.

MGM: Since you mentioned Tony Iommi; he’s been on the UK news channels this week because the Birmingham Ballet have just announced they’re going to do a production dancing to Black Sabbath’s music.

Vinny: (Laughing): I’m sorry to laugh, but it’s just so opposite. That’s funny. That should be good. It’s just two opposite spectrums there; rolling them together.

MGM: This is Last in Line’s first album together since the Pandemic. Did that impact the way it was written or recorded?

Vinny: Well, not really, because when we write, we write together in a room; nobody brings a song in. That was the same way with all the bands; Sabbath, Dio, Holy Diver, the whole thing. There was never a “Hey, I got a song”. We go in a room and we all put our input in and come up with things, come up with riffs and feels, and grooves, and we work from there, which is good, because then you get everybody’s personality on the record. But we didn’t change. We just had to wait when that stupid pandemic thing was happening and we got together in the room and we started writing. We did a week here, then a month later, we did another week or two and we did it like that, sporadically. And recording. We did the same thing. We’re all in a room together, and we actually play the songs.

 
MGM: That’s not the trend anymore, is it? So many musicians rely on swapping digital files over the internet, so your traditional approach with Last in Line is quite refreshing to hear.

Vinny: I do the other way too, because I do a lot of sessions here in my studio. I don’t cut and paste drum parts, but I’ll play some of the song and listen to it. I like it, or I’ll fix something so I go bit by bit, until I really get it to what I hear in my head. I enjoy doing that. It’s fun. But with Last in Line, we go into the room and capture the personalities here. But I also play on things where I’ve never even met the people.

MGM: Speaking of which, MGM recently caught up with Joel Hoekstra on his UK acoustic tour, and I see you’re playing on his new album ‘Crash of Life’ which releases in June. Joel mentioned that you’ve played on all of his ‘13’ projects, and a lot of that is done remotely.

Vinny: The hard part with that is he sends me stuff, like a song with just guitar. There are no vocals, there’s no bass. I’m sitting there trying to imagine what it’s going to be and play it accordingly. And surprisingly, it comes out really well. And Tony Franklin played bass; we’re good mates, Tony and I. We’ve done all three of Joel’s albums, so we’re used to each other and the way we play. But the hard part for me is that I’m just hearing guitar riffs, not hearing what the vocals doing. I’m not hearing textures that change the song.

MGM: It must be quite difficult to get the energy right when you’re not in the same room together?

Vinny: Yeah, well, I listen to it really loud in here; I’m Mr Loud. I make sure it’s kicking ass. That’s not a problem. And then if I kick ass, then that inspires the others. Tony will do the bass and he’ll catch some of these crazy fills that I’ll do, so it works good. And then Joel can put another guitar above that.

MGM: How has the process of writing albums together with Vivian changed over the time you’ve known him? You both started out together in Dio, but the Def Leppard music has a whole different vibe and energy. That must take some adaptation for you both.

Vinny: When he’s playing with me, I think I bring the Vivian Campbell from Dio out of him because when we play live, we jam a lot too. I like to take the bands on journeys. I’ll play something and then go to a crazy part or put some hits in it. I mean, they just have to keep on their toes when we play together because I’m going to change it. And that keeps the energy and the creativity going. When we started this, Viv fell right into it. Def Leppard is a different band, and Viv’s really enjoying playing. He’s got a big smile on his face every night. He never knows what happened, and it’s fulfilling. I think it just went back to us playing together back in 1982-83.

MGM: You mentioned that writing took place by getting together for a few weeks at a time. When did that process start for this album?

Vinny: I think we started getting together about midway last year, and then at the beginning of this year we recorded the remainder of the album. We recorded in two different places. One of them was Steakhouse Studios in North Hollywood, or Studio City, which was Steve Lukather’s studio. And then the rest of the stuff was done in Vegas at Desert Moon Productions; they got a nice studio there. Danny Koker is the owner. He’s the star of that TV show ‘Counting Cars’. He’s also a really great singer. So, we did the rest of it there, and it worked out really good.

MGM: ‘Ghost Town’ is your one of your first singles from this album, and displays a great bass guitar and drums groove. ‘Dark Days’ is also pretty solid. And then you go a bit more indulgent on ‘House Party at the End of the World’. You’ve already aired that one at your live shows too.

Vinny: Yeah, we opened with that song. That song was something Viv came up with, and when we first played it, it was really slow and sounded very eighties. While we were messing with it, Andy said, why don’t we try it really fast? Like a ‘We Rock’ kind of thing. And we did that, and it sounded way better, and really came alive. With the intro, we ripped ourselves off with ‘We Rock’. I didn’t like that song before. Now it’s like one of my favourites. And it’s fun to open with it, too, because it kicks ass.

MGM: What’s the song Hurricane Orlagh about?

Vinny: No idea. You know what; I don’t listen to lyrics. I don’t hear the lyrics unless I sit there and go, OK; lyrics! I couldn’t even tell you what ‘Holy Diver’ is about. And that’s 40 years old. I’m not the lyric guy. I do what I do. I’m the foundation guy. And the parts and the chords and changes and tempos; all that stuff. When we play live, I could hear if somebody’s out. My hearing is really shitty because I’ve been playing drums for so long with all these loud bands, but I can hear the slightest bit of out of tune. I could hear the wrong notes, if somebody hits a wrong note. I hear everything like that. But yet I have to put the closed caption on my TV. But the lyrics is just something I don’t listen to. When I listen to a song, if it’s not our song; I wonder where they’re going to go next; what chord change, that kind of stuff. I hear the Beatles lyrics because how could you not hear them? That’s about it.

 MGM: That’s a good link, Vinny, as some people might not know that you had a John Lennon connection in your early career. Tell us about that.

Vinny: I was going to high school; I was 16 years old, and Jimmy Iovine was a good friend of the guitar player in our band. He got us signed to Record Plant Studios Management. They gave us a room up at the studio in New York City to rehearse for free whenever we wanted, which was incredible, and that’s where John (Lennon) worked. Jimmy worked with John, and they called us one night, and we did hand claps on ‘Whatever gets you through the night’. Can you think about the timing? What if we didn’t rehearse that night? But we were there and he said, we need handclaps, can you guys come down? We went down. It was a nine-piece band; had four horn players, singer, a keyboard. Great band. We were tight; we didn’t mess around. And we did handclaps. We met Lennon and then he started coming up and hanging out with us. We played pool with him and we did three videos with him and a couple of other projects. He even re-wrote the lyrics for us for one of our songs. And then the last thing we did, was he was doing a live show at the New York Hilton, broadcast all over the world, and he asked us to do it with him. We played three songs. ‘Imagine’, ‘Slipping and sliding’ and ‘Stand by me’. We did this major TV show, and then the next day, I’m in high school in the classroom, sitting there going, this doesn’t make sense. Last night I was hanging out with John Lennon. Now I’m in here watching this teacher with baggy pants on, trying to teach me something. So, I quit high school.

 
MGM: That decision to quit school, and play drums seems to have worked out well for you. But playing the drums is physical, and you’ve been doing this for the best part of 50 years. You must be knackered.

Vinny: No, you know what? I’m fine. Luckily, I didn’t get into drugs. I don’t really drink. I took care of myself all these years and I’ve always practised. I went for lessons when I started; same guy as my brother went to. And I do this thing every Tuesday at 4pm on Facebook. I practise beforehand, a day or two before. Having the drums in this house, I’m able to sit down and do whatever. I’m in great shape. I’m actually coming up with new things and keeping the stamina going and everything.

MGM: As well as those online clinics, you’re also doing the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. I guess they’re slightly different, but as someone who’s had such a successful music career, how important is it for you to inspire the next generation?

Vinny: Absolutely, and also, this is fun for me to do. I can do anything I want. I usually come on and play a couple of songs, and then I’ll talk a little bit, tell them what I did this week, what’s happening, what’s coming up, and I’ll teach a little bit, and then my girlfriend, we call Halala, she comes on and she reads me questions from people, because I can’t see the monitor; it’s too far away. The questions are good, like, how do you develop your foot speed? Do you play with your heel up, or heel down? All these technical questions. What was it like with Ronnie and Ozzy? So, it’s a lot of fun, and it keeps me in shape because I can’t go start the show and go, man, I haven’t played in a week. I can’t do that to the fans. I got to make sure I’m up and warmed up.

MGM: You’re off doing the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in a few weeks. So how did you get into that, and what do you enjoy about doing those?

Vinny: Well, I met David Fishof at some club here in LA probably 10-15 years ago. He was doing these things, so I approached him, and now I’ve done a million of them. I love doing them. They’re fantastic. What’s good about them is it’s something completely different than playing with the band and going on the road and recording an album. This is totally different. This is like you’re in charge of a band; the people that joined the camp, they’ll give me a band of four or five people, and I got to whip them into shape to play a couple of gigs. One of them is at the Whiskey in LA. And the other one’s at the Viper Room. And then they have guest stars. This one’s, John 5 from Motley Crue, Richard Fortus from Guns N Roses and Rikki Rockett from Poison. So, they get to play with each of these stars, and then they do the gigs, but we got to whip them into shape, so it’s a lot of fun. The first day is jam rooms. So, it’ll be like, OK, Vinny and Tony Franklin, you go in that room. People just wander in, and you go, what song do you know? I don’t know. Let’s jam. I used to do that in high school when I was learning, and if somebody’s parents went away for the weekend, we’d go down to have a jam in the basement. I haven’t done that since childhood days. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work, too.

https://www.rockcamp.com/fantasy-camp-beatles-stones-aerosmith.php

The people that come have the time of their life because when it starts on the Thursday, they don’t think about anything but learning the song. They’re not professionals, but some of them are really good, and some of them are beginners, and they don’t think about anything but tuning up and learning the song and practising and rehearsing. They love it, and it’s really cool to see them enjoying themselves like that. I love teaching anyway.

MGM: You’ve got some more US dates with Last in Line in September. You’ve not been to the UK since 2019, so will there be any UK shows on this tour?

Vinny: We’d love to. But right now, we only have September because Def Leppard is playing. After that, I guess we’ve got to wait until they run out of places to play, and then we can come over to Europe or Japan. We’ve been to Europe a couple of times, but not in a while. We would love to come back.

MGM: You mentioned that you’re looking at some other sessions in the future. What else is on your horizon?

Vinny: I’m just doing a couple of sessions here for some friends. They wrote some songs. I’m doing that. I have the Rock N Roll Fantasy camp. And then in July, I’m doing a show up near Portland, Oregon with my brother Carmine, and it’s like a music expo for four days. And we’re going up there and we’ll hang out and do some drum clinics and some teaching. And then we have our band coming in and we’ll play our show. Our show consists of music from my history, and music from Carmine’s. And then we do some stuff together. We kick the shit out of each other. It’s great. He’s eleven years older than I am, so now he’s finally owned up that I’m the better drummer!

 

Last in Line will be playing shows across the US in September:

September 8th:              Buffalo Rose, Golden, CO

September 15th:            Plymouth Motor Speedway, Plymouth, IN

September 21st:             Keswick Theatre, Glenside, PA

September 22nd:            Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ

For more information:

www.lastinlineofficial.com

To tune into Vinny’s weekly online clinic:

www.facebook.com/OfficialVinnyAppice

www.vinnyappice.com

 

 

 

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