Carmine Appice: Rock’s Most Influential Drummer Tells All
Carmine Appice, the most influential drummer in rock and roll history, recently released his autobiography: Stick It! My Life of Sex, Drums, and Rock ‘N’ Roll. I met Carmine at his book signing here in Philadelphia and shortly afterward I interviewed him. We touched on everything from how Sharon Osbourne fired him from Ozzy’s band to the revelation that there are a handful of tracks from Paul Stanley’s 1978 solo album featuring Carmine’s drumming that’ve yet to see the light of day. Check out the interview below and pick up a copy of Carmine’s autobiography, which is available now.
Tell me about your time working with Ozzy Osbourne and how Sharon fired you from the band.
It’s one of those things where I joined the band to be in the band. The Europe tour went well. When we came to America I told Ozzy, Sharon and the rest of the band that I do master classes before the arena gigs. I did these master classes every day, and Sharon didn’t like it because I was getting a lot of press for doing it. Eventually, there was a big story about the tour in a newspaper in Cincinnati where the reporter asked me “what’s the most impressive part of the show?” and I told him it was my drum solo. I also told the reporter that the drum solo wasn’t my idea, it was Ozzy and Sharon’s. They suggested having the drums come down on a track to the front of the stage, with all the pyro. When I got back from my master class that day in Cincinnati, this article was pasted all over the backstage area. I assumed it was someone playing a prank on me. Then my roadie came up to me and said that on all of the t-shirts I was selling, my head was cut off.
That night, when I went to do the drum solo, none of my effects worked. When I got off stage I asked someone, “Would Sharon sabotage her own show to make me look bad?” And I was told, “Oh, definitely.” Then she brought Tommy Aldridge out to watch a couple of the shows, and then the day after our concert in Houston she canned me. I ended up having to go get an attorney and fight for my rights. We had an out-of-court settlement. It was terrible. It was really bad. There was no reason for it. She didn’t like the fact that I was getting a lot of press.
What was it like working with Rod Stewart?
It was good. He’s a funny guy, and the greatest rock frontman that ever lived.
You guys wrote some great songs together, including “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Young Turks.”
Yeah, we did. And we also did some album cuts. But those two are my big ones with him. Rod was fair. If you wrote a song, you got a publisher’s share and a writer’s share.
You were in Rod’s band for multiple albums. Why did you stop working with him?
It was mostly a jealousy issue with Rod’s guitar player. He used to do coke with Rod and drink with Rod. Little by little, he got in Rod’s ear. He was very jealous of my position. Rod was the big name and my name was the second big name, and he didn’t like that. When you get in that drug and alcohol-induced state of mind you start listening to people, and Rod listened to him. I was canned right before the tour. We came to a settlement because it wasn’t really fair. I worked six months on the album with the tour in mind, before Rod made this rash, stupid decision. In the forward to my book Rod says he fired me but “god knows why.” I know why – because he was drugged out with the other guy.
It all worked out in the end and we became friends again. We even worked together again on the “People Get Ready” track with Jeff Beck.
That’s one of my favorite tracks by Rod Stewart, “People Get Ready.” Rod’s voice, Jeff’s guitar – it doesn’t get much better than that. I didn’t realize you played drums on that song. Clearly, you and Rod are on good terms today.
Yup. I went to his wedding with Rachel Hunter. I also went to his birthday party last year, and that’s when I asked him if he’d write the forward to my book.
Speaking of Jeff Beck, what was it like working with him?
Unlike Rod, Jeff wasn’t dependable. I remember being in the middle of 10 sold out gigs – we were at the venue and the manager came over to me and said, “The show’s not going to happen.” I said, “Why?” and he replied, “Jeff decided to go home.” He just got on a fuckin’ plane and went home. Why did he go home? Because he had a fight with his girlfriend. I mean, come on dude. We had all of these people – myself, the band, the road crew – depending on Jeff and he put us all out of work. It left a bad taste in my mouth and it’s what started the eventual break-up of our band: Beck, Bogert & Appice.
How did you wind up meeting and working with Paul Stanley of KISS?
I met Paul and the guys when I was in a band opening up for KISS. Paul may not admit it now but he told me that when Gene and him went to see an Alice Cooper show with my band Cactus, that’s when they got the idea for KISS. They were looking to create a band with the aggression of Cactus and the theatricality of Alice Cooper, which is what inspired KISS. Paul told me that in 1976. Today, I don’t think he’d admit it.
In 1977 or 1978 I was looking for a manager and I met with Paul out in LA. We hung out and he referred me to his manager, and I wound up playing on Paul’s solo album. Your drumming on “Take Me Away (Together As One)” on Paul’s solo album is amazing, especially at the end of the song. KISS fans still talk about how spectacular that song is. Did you also play drums on other songs that didn’t make it on to the final version of the album?
Yeah, I played on about seven tracks. But that’s the only one that made it on to Paul’s record.
That’s a shame that they didn’t make it on to the album, considering how awesome your drum work was on that one track.
Yeah, hopefully someday those tracks will be released.
Tell me about the time you shared a house with Prince.
I was getting divorced at the time and I needed a place to stay. A friend of mine owned a house and she was having some problems financially, so I bought into it with her. I gave her a loan and with that came a room. I never really stayed there much because I was on the road with Rod Stewart and I had a girlfriend as well. Between the two of those things, I never stayed there that much.
My friend was the co-manager of a management company and one of the artists that used to stay at the house, because he never liked to stay in hotels, was Prince. The first time I met him I remember him being a reserved little guy, and here I was this loud dude from Brooklyn saying, “Hey, Prince. What’s up? How’s it going?” He responded, “OK.” (laughs) He’d be playing music and I’d ask him, “Oh, is this a new track you’re working on?” And he replied, “Yup.” Everything was a one-word answer. He was a very introverted kind of guy.
After a while I got to know him and I drove him to Hollywood, to Studio City, in my Pantera – I think I scared him. (laughs) One time I walked in on him and Vanity in my bed. (laughs)
I also remember when he came back to the house after getting booed off the stage when he opened up for the Rolling Stones. He was really depressed. We were sitting around the table and I was telling him not to worry about it and that it would pass and eventually everything would work out. I told him that I got booed too when I was starting out and that it didn’t hurt my career. After a while, I got my shit together and moved out.
Later on, when he started to get real big, Prince invited me to a show at Universal Amphitheater. I couldn’t believe it was the same guy. He was wearing women’s underwear on stage. He had this mattress on stage that he was having sex with. It was crazy. I was thinking, “Is this the same guy?”
Over the years, drummer friends of mine would play with Prince and I’d tell them, “Tell Prince I said hello.” And they’d always come back to me later with, “Prince says hello.” We didn’t see each other much over the past 20 years, but any time we did he was always a nice guy. It’s a shame he’s gone.
You’re the most influential drummer in rock and roll history. How does it feel knowing you’ve had such a huge impact on so many important drummers?
It feels good knowing I had an impact on so many people, but what I did was out of necessity. When I started out there were no PA systems so I played real loud. I got bigger drums so the volume was louder and played liked an animal just to keep up with the Marshall amps the bands had – especially Vanilla Fudge, when we started.
I also wrote a book Realistic Rock, about drumming, and I later found out that lots of drummers from other bands found that book to be very useful. I was blown away when I heard that so many big-time drummers were inspired by the book.
One of the drummers you’ve influenced is my favorite drummer, Eric Singer of KISS. What are your thoughts on Eric?
Eric’s a good player. I like Eric. He’s got some good stick tricks. He’s also got a good groove and a pretty good technique. He was discovered at my drum-off by Lita Ford. It was in 1984, I believe. Eric’s a good guy. I’ve known him a long time.
Was there ever a time in your career when you had the opportunity to join a big band but didn’t for whatever reason?
Yes. There was Rainbow and that huge Whitesnake album I could have been on. But I couldn’t do either one because I was signed to a label at the time. It was kind of a drag. Back in those days, when you were signed to a label you couldn’t go off and do other projects. You had to stick with whatever you signed on for and commit to it. With Whitesnake, I told them to get Aynsley Dunbar. They did and the album wound up selling 27 million copies. I thought to myself, “Nice fuckin’ move.” (laughs)
What’s your proudest professional accomplishment?
I can’t narrow it down to one thing. Having a number one single was amazing, being on the Ed Sullivan show twice, playing the Forum six nights in a row in LA – there’s a lot of things. It’s like picking one flavor of ice cream that I like. I can’t do it. I like a bunch of flavors.
Is there anything left in your career that you’ve yet to achieve?
Play with Led Zeppelin, maybe. (laughs) But I did do that when we jammed with them on the road.
What made you decide to sit down and write your autobiography at this stage in your career?
Well, I started putting it together in 1982 so it wasn’t a rushed decision. I wanted to do it in the 80s but never got it together and the same thing in the 90s. But along the way I recorded stories on cassettes, which resulted in 125 pages, which was the foundation for the book. Then in the early 2000s my manager suggested that I write a book and I said that I already had a manuscript, and that started it going again.