Vinny Appice is one of rock’s most respected drummers. Most notably working with Dio and Black Sabbath, along with a host of others, the New Yorker’s signature hard hitting, no nonsense sound can be heard on such classic albums as ‘Mob Rules’, ‘Dehumanizer’, and of course, ‘Holy Diver’. Now back with the remaining original members of the Dio band in Last in Line, Vinny has come full circle on a career that began four decades ago. We sat down with for a chat with the drummer at Ramblin’ Man Fair, for a look back at his career. Falling off the edge of the world; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Vinny, how are you today?
I’m good. We just finished playing, and I feel great. It was the first show of the tour, and it was new equipment. The monitors were a little lacking, and there wasn’t a lot of power on stage, but we had fun. Even on the side of the place, all the way round on the sides, everybody was focused; everybody was watching the stage, which was pretty good for a big festival.
You’re one of only two people left from the original Dio band; is it more of an honour to carry the name now?
Yeah, absolutely. Ronnie and I started the band a long time ago; it was just me and him when we started, and then eventually we got Jimmy [Bain, late bass player], who recommended Viv [guitarist Vivian Campbell] fly in, and that’s how we became the band. But yeah, it’s amazing to see something grow into such a legendary part of music and history. I mean, when we started, Ronnie and I would go into a rehearsal place in L.A., and we were just jamming. He would play bass, and he had ‘Holy Diver’ -just the riff, that’s all we had. I added to it, but I didn’t take any credit for it, my input on the song. So that’s all we had, and we went from that, to everything that happened; legendary albums, to years later, to this.
Is it a big thing for you to carry that legacy now in Last In Line?
We don’t even think about this stuff. You know how this band started? Viv got up and jammed with Steel Panther at a gig, and they played ‘Rainbow In The Dark’, and he went; “I haven’t played that in thirty years”, and he liked it. Then he called me the week after and said; “Do you want to jam?”, then we got Jimmy, and we jammed. So it was just a fun thing. We didn’t have any plans, and then it built into getting Andy [singer Andrew Freeman] in the band, and then getting some dates. Then we got a record deal and did a good record. This is part of our history.
You lasted a little longer in Dio after Viv and Jimmy had left; did you miss the original band when you were playing with those other line ups?
Well, yeah. It didn’t have the respect that it had when it was the original band. The original band was magic. Playing with those guys; it’s the same way that this band is magic. We play together and you can feel it. With all these other people in the band, at one point I left because it became all these young guys in the band; Teddy Cook [bass player], and Rowan Robertson [guitarist], all these people, and I’m like; “This is not Dio”.
That was the ‘Lock Up The Wolves’ line up.
Yeah. I played on all the demos, we wrote the songs together, and then that’s when I left. So, that got weird. It wasn’t the same. There was no magic there.
Did you ever imagine that that original band would ever get back together again?
No, I never thought we would do it again. There was never any bad blood between Ronnie and I. Mainly, all that shit was business stuff. Wendy kind of didn’t come through with what she said she’d come through with at the end. It wasn’t treated right, and as far as, you look at the albums, and you know; Ronnie wrote ‘We Rock’? Ronnie can’t play that on guitar. Just go figure that out – that’s what happened.
What is your opinion of the Dio hologram?
I saw it [the story] the other day, and I went; “How’s that?!” It says ‘Dio is back!’; I’m not in the band, Viv’s not in the band, Ronnie is not here… I dunno. I haven’t seen the first one, and I dunno, It depends. It’s not really my thing. If the fans like it, love it, I’m for it. If they think it’s a terrible thing, then it might be a little over the top.
Going back to when you first started working with Ronnie, and what was it like hooking up with him, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler for Black Sabbath’s ‘Mob Rules’?
Well, I joined in the middle of the ‘Heaven And Hell’ tour. I’d heard of Ronnie, but I wasn’t a Rainbow fan, so I wasn’t a big Ronnie fan. I wasn’t a big Sabbath fan, so I didn’t go into it like; “Oh my god, I’m playing with these guys!” I went down and played with them, and we started rehearsing, and playing, and it was more of like, a job for me, because I had to learn all the songs, I had to emulate Bill Ward’s style, so I didn’t even have time to sit around. And then we were playing arenas, and I just took it as; we’re working together. But then later on, it was like; It’s Iommi and Butler - it’s a big deal, you know?
What was your first recording session with the band like for ‘Mob Rules?
We were on tour in England, and Warner Bros. called up and said; “We want you guys to do this movie soundtrack [for the animated film ‘Heavy Metal’]”. We had two days off, and we went into John Lennon’s house- a big mansion that Ringo owned – and there was a studio in there, so we went in to record it. It really wasn’t all written, so we wrote it there, and then we laid it down. The cool thing was, it came out so great, I went; “This is cool!”. Bill was always supposed to be coming back into the band, so that sort of solidified it, and I thought; “This sounds fuckin’ awesome!” So after we had finished that all, that was it.
‘Dehumanizer’ is perhaps the most underrated album that you recorded with Black Sabbath; ‘TV Crimes’ for example, is a track that still goes under the radar.
You know what? It’s fuckin’ hard to sing. That song was brutal. We played that song at a sound check once; me, Tony and Geezer, and we were goofing. We were all cracking up because we all played the song at half the speed. But if you listen to that, me and Geezer are pretty damn tight on that song. It’s like, ridiculous.
What are your memories of making ‘Dehumanizer’?
We wrote that, we had a house, Ronnie and I, in Stratford Upon Avon, and Tony and Geezer would come over to the house and we would rehearse in the living room. Tony had a little amp, I had a little kit, and Ronnie sang through a guitar amp on a chair. Tony would come over with slippers on, sweat pants, jogging pants, and I said; “This should be the next stage set! We come out in a lounge, in a pyjama top!” But we wrote all the stuff there, and I recorded it over time, and we kept the good riffs, and we listened to it together; it was good.
You came into that project halfway through, because Cozy Powell was meant to be recording that album.
Yeah, it wasn’t going well with Cozy. It was taking forever, and then he got injured in a horse riding accident. Then they called me; I came in, and we just pulled it together.
It must have been nice to reunite the ‘Mob Rules’ line-up at that time.
Well, it just happened that way. Originally, Cozy was going to be in the band because he was working with Tony. Ronnie wasn’t getting along with Cozy, from what I heard, the same what happened later on with Heaven And Hell with Bill Ward in the band. Bill couldn’t cut the time that they needed, and they didn’t have that much time. It was taking too long to get the drum tracks and stuff.
Did you enjoy making ‘The Devil You Know’; the final album from that line-up?
It wasn’t amazing for me, because that was the only album that wasn’t written together. ‘Mob Rules’ and ‘Dehumanizer’ were written in a rehearsal room, recording stuff, listening to it, playing the full album. This album, it was already demoed at Tony’s studio. It had demo drums on it, a drum machine, and we were at Ronnie’s house just listening to the drum machine. With a drum machine, you can’t ‘hang’; “Okay, let’s do a ‘hang’ here”; it’s programmed, so it wasn’t that much fun for me.
How did the recording process work for you?
They’d send me tracks and I’d practice them, then I’d go in the studio and play them. But it just wasn’t the same. I don’t think it had the fire of ‘Mob Rules’ or ‘Dehumanizer’. I was angry; this was sacred.
Were you disappointed that you didn’t get the call to play on Black Sabbath's '13' album?
Yeah, a little bit. I understand why; it was political, and it was a different producer who knew this guy and this guy. But you know, it should be a real magic between the band, and I don’t think it was. When a new guy comes in that’s probably intimated playing with Tony and Geezer and fuckin’ Ozzy; it’s holding him back a little bit. That’s what it sounds like to me on the drums. It sounds like it just played what was needed. Sabbath with Bill Ward; the drums were part of the songs; the stuff I played with them, the fills were part of the songs, like Zeppelin. This sounds a little more generic. Great riffs and stuff, but me, Tony and Geezer played great together, so it would have been nice to do that album, because I’m not intimidated; we were family at one point, so I’d be going in; “Let’s make a great record”.
Finally, out of all the records that you’ve made, what one would you like to be remembered for?
Probably ‘Holy Diver’. It just became such a classic thing, and drummers everywhere mention it. If you listen to it, I’m playing over vocal lines, I’m playing over everything, but it doesn’t sound like that. I do things in weird places; I play fills in weird places. Like, if you listen to all these drummers, a lot of drummers play the same sequences; they’ll do a fill going into the next bit, whereas I’ll do a fill in the verse, in the second half of the bar, and I just hear it – I’m not doing it on purpose. It’s just the way I developed a style, I guess.
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