By David E. Gehlke
Legendary drummer Carmine Appice says he only spoke the truth when he spilled the dirt on guitarist Mick Mars's departure from MÖTLEY CRÜE. In doing so, he generated some nice free press ahead of his new instrumental rock album with Cuban guitarist Fernando Perdomo, "Running Up That Hill", a title that was chosen on purpose to hopefully get its author, the enigmatic and reclusive Kate Bush, to take notice. Whether that will work remains to be seen since Bush rarely gives press, but the album is another testament to Appice's enduring versatility in a career that has seen him play with Rod Stewart and Ozzy Osbourne, to bands such as CACTUS, VANILLA FUDGE, KING KOBRA and BLUE MURDER, among others.
The 76-year-old Appice is committed to staying busy and healthy, a matter of pride for him when many of his peers have started to fall off the cliff. Father time always wins, but when Appice caught up with BLABBERMOUTH.NET, he didn't sound ready to slow down.
Blabbermouth: You've done some spoken-word appearances recently. Do you prefer them to writing a book?
Carmine: "I do. I did drum clinics for many years. It's the same kind of thing — instead of teaching, I'm telling stories. When I was doing the clinics, I told stories anyway. The only difference is that I don't have to teach drums. For these, I don't teach drums, but I tell stories that I have the audience pick. For clinics, I used to say, 'I can teach you stuff you don't want to know, so let me know what you want me to teach you.' They'd let me know, so I did the same with the stories. I put 20 stories on the screen that coincide with the intro and say, 'Here are the stories. Pick out some stories.' Every night is different. I play drums and get them singing with me, get them clapping hands, then do a proper solo. Then we do a meet-and-greet and it makes for an entertaining night."
Blabbermouth: Do you think you're a natural storyteller?
Carmine: "It's easy for me. I did the clinics for so many years. When I did the first clinic, it was a struggle. The more I did, the easier it became. The clinics made stuff easy. A lot of the guys are afraid, even though they are great players. They can't talk in front of an audience. I crack jokes. One of my idols, Joe Morello, played with Dave Brubeck and did the song 'Take Five'. He was a clinician I often worked with when I was with Ludwig Drums. He used to tell me, 'Teach 'em good, make them laugh and play well.' The play well I do. The cracking jokes I do. The teaching is the stories."
Blabbermouth: What was your experience playing with Fernando, who has played with Eric Clapton and Beck? Was it a challenge with a guitarist like him?
Carmine: "Not really. I'm the same thing: I can play anything. I can play jazz, rock, Latin and reggae, unlike some heavy rock drummers who just play that. I was a studied drummer. I learned through different books, which is the foundation for my playing. Working with Fernando was easy. I was setting up the studio in my new house and thought playing with somebody to learn how to work the studio would be a good idea. That's what I did. He called me and we talked, saying, 'Let me send you something I wrote on my iPad.' He sent my song back and I thought it was good! Then he sent me one of his songs, then I added something at the end, like a fast boogie. I said, 'See what you can do with that.' He put some music down and opened things up. I can send him music, but he can also write his own music and send it to me. Or I can write the drum track. There are a few different ways to write."
Blabbermouth: Do you prefer this way of writing now?
Carmine: "I find it easier now sending the tracks back and forth. There's no time limit. Usually, you have a guy in the room, three or four hours booked and you got to get something done. [Laughs] It's at our leisure when you do it this way. The first album was done at our leisure. Once we had 12 tracks, I said, 'Wow. Let me take it to Cleopatra [Records] to do this.' They released the first album. The only problem with that was we didn't get a lot of promotion. We got some great reviews — like eight-out-of-ten, nine-out-of-ten, four-out-of-five, proving we had something going. We didn't get a lot of press, though. My goal for this album is to get a Grammy nomination in the Rock / Instrumental category. It's a small area and I never did it before. Jeff Beck got a lot of Grammys in that area. There's not a lot of guys who do this. It's not rock or jazz fusion—it's rock instrumental. It's a different thing. It's almost like progressive rock with no vocals."
Blabbermouth: You covered Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill". Are you a fan of hers?
Carmine: "I never heard that song before 'Stranger Things'. I kept hearing it on 'Stranger Things'. We did an ad for Cleopatra in Billboard. When they gave me the magazine, I looked at the charts and saw her at number five. I thought, 'Wow!' This thing came because of the TV show. I thought Fernando and I should do it and make it a different version. It reminds me of what VANILLA FUDGE did with 'Keep Me Hangin' On'. I don't know about radio or getting on the charts, but it may bring attention to the album. It came out so good and we did the video. The video was like 'Stranger Things'. We said, 'Maybe we should call the album that for some controversy. Maybe she'll see it and give us some press.' But I never heard of her before, to tell you the truth. It's a very unusual verse and chorus kind of song that kept moving. Before you know it, you're in the chorus, but you didn't know that was the chorus."
Blabbermouth: You've made a lot of headlines of late with your comments about the Mick Mars situation. But do you feel like a protector of the "old" way of doing things? Meaning, live music without technology?
Carmine: "I don't know if I'm a 'protector,' but I don't own Spotify because, as far as I'm concerned, they rip people off. Musicians get screwed by them. There was a new song I heard yesterday by accident. I was looking for something on Instagram and I came across a singer named Royale Lynn. She's a country singer, but she added country to heavy metal. Instead of listening, I bought it and paid a dollar and 29 cents, so she'll get a royalty. I think people need to return to doing that kind of stuff. That's the only thing musicians have to make any money today. You don't make money on publishing or songwriting. And you don't make money from people buying it because everyone is paying ten bucks a month for Spotify, and they have everyone's songs. I don't know why the labels keep giving to them. People say it's like the radio, but the radio, you never know what you will hear. Spotify, you program what you want to hear. It's terrible. I'm not a protector. I'm doing what I'm doing."
Blabbermouth: Did you anticipate your comments on the Mick and MÖTLEY situation blowing up?
Carmine: "I didn't expect it. I was talking to somebody like I'm talking to you and they asked why Mick left. I just said what Mick told me. I didn't expect anything, but then it got out of hand. Then Nikki [Sixx] called me a "washed-up drummer." I'm far from that! I used to know Nikki. We were good friends. We lived around the corner from each other when they were doing their first or second album. We used to go to a '50s café and have breakfast. We had a song with KING KOBRA called 'Raise Your Hands To Rock'. He loved the name. He took that name and wrote another song and gave me the credit on the album. They used my bass drums on the album. We were friends. For him to say stuff about me — I didn't say anything that people didn't know. Now I thank him for giving me a lot of press."
Blabbermouth: Is maintaining friends in the music business hard after so long? Is that the underlying thing here?
Carmine: "Sometimes. This was weird. I talk about it during the storytelling gigs because I actually got a cease-and-desist letter from the attorneys. I can't talk about it, but everyone agrees with what I said about Mick. Mick made it clear I was fine. Everything I said, he said. I wasn't lying about it. It was a weird thing. I never expected anything like that."
Blabbermouth: How did you take the whole "washed up" thing?
Carmine: "I'm not playing arenas and I'm not worth a hundred million dollars, but I've had a great career. I didn't title my book 'The Heroin Diaries'. Somebody pointed out to me that his book was based on being on heroin. I knew him then; I always liked Nikki. I never had a problem with him until this stupid thing. Tommy Lee, the same thing. I like Tommy. I used to hang out with Tommy when he was married to Heather [Locklear] and then to Pam [Anderson]. I used to go to his house and watch Gene Krupa videos about stick twirling and showmanship. I loved it. I don't think Tommy said anything about it. I loved when he was doing electronic stuff in METHODS OF MAYHEM. I went to a show and got to hang out with him. He was pioneering stuff. He's not an amazing technical drummer, but he kicks ass and rocks.
"I was amazed to see videos of the 'taped' [MÖTLEY CRÜE] stuff. I didn't know anything about it. It was crazy. Mick was telling me the stuff because he was on the road. We were talking like two friends. I've known Mick since we took them on tour in 1984 when I was headlining with OZZY. I always do that. The opening bands, I go and talk to them. LED ZEPPELIN, when they opened up for the FUDGE, I hung out with Bonzo [John Bonham] and John Paul [Jones]. I hung out with MÖTLEY CRÜE; I hung out with KING's X when they were on the BLUE MURDER tour and they were opening. I liked that. I liked seeing the guys who were opening and were the future."
Blabbermouth: Physically, how do you feel?
Carmine: "Physically, I'm okay. I hurt my back two weeks ago when I was in New York. We were going to L.A. to do the APPICE / PERDOMO thing and I slipped on the bottom stair and hurt my back. I had to cancel that part of the trip, but we played in New York, which was great. I'm playing with VANILLA FUDGE and doing some gigs with my brother [Vinny]. I'm doing a lot of different things: CACTUS, VANILLA FUDGE, APPICE BROTHERS, Fernando and storytelling — a lot of different things that satisfy a lot of areas of my career. I'm really happy and I can do it at my age. I always play drums, which is a great exercise. I try to work out. I eat well. I never did drugs. I wasn't a druggie. I never smoked cigarettes. I smoked a little pot in my day, but that was it. Because of that, it helped get me where I am now, where I can still do it at my age. I don't look like I'm dead, unlike a lot of guys my age who don't look good."