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Black Sabbath - Vinny Appice (2007) Print
Written by Patrick Douglas   
Tuesday, 27 February 2007

ImageComparing the Ronnie James Dio era of Black Sabbath with the Ozzy Osbourne era is like comparing red wine with white wine. They’re different variations of essentially the same product. Called Heaven and Hell in 2007, drummer Vinny Appice spoke with TCS about the reunion tour and a possible studio album Tuesday, February 27, 2007 from his home in Los Angeles.


Hi, is this Patrick?

Yes it is.

Hi Patrick, this is Vinny Appice calling.

What’s up, Vinny? Where are you at today?

I’m in L.A. … Los Angeles.

Do you live out there?

Yeah, I’ve been out here for quite a while.

I’m just south of Calgary where you guys will be playing in a few weeks.

Cool. Must be cold up there, huh?

Oh yeah. Snowing today.

We were supposed to get rain. It’s been raining on and off, which is unusual for here.

How excited and thrilled are you to be hitting the road again with these guys?

I can’t stand it, man, I’d rather stay home and watch TV (laughs). Na, I’m jazzed. This is part of my history. It’s part of my family. When this came about, I was really excited about it and I thought it’d be really great to play together again. We just started rehearsing and sure enough, that’s what’s happening. The band sounds fantastic and it was really tight from the beginning. From the first rehearsal. From the first song we played, we just locked in right away. I’m real excited about this. It’s fantastic. It seems like the buzz on the Internet’s going crazy and ticket sales are going great. Everything’s moving along, so we’re all excited actually.

Was that first rehearsal like the whole “riding a bike” thing where you guys just sat down and cranked it out with no problem?

Yeah. I went over in November to play on three new tracks for this upcoming CD release, the “Best of Black Sabbath: The Dio Years.” We didn’t really play together. I played to a click track to existing track and layed the drums down, so we didn’t really play together. It wasn’t like the first time we played together, but the first rehearsal here was and that was last week. As soon as we started playing, we just locked right in. It all come back real quick. Then it’s just a matter of tightening up the loose ends and putting some endings on some of the songs. When you play together with a band for a lot of years, then it breaks up and then you’re away from each other, then you play again, you usually don’t forget how it feels. Usually it comes back really quick.

You mentioned the buzz on the Internet earlier. How different is that for musicians these days where it’s like a 24-hour-a-day, non-stop news outlet that anybody can get to and anybody can talk about it? It gives you exposure and you haven’t even played a gig yet or gone on tour.

It’s pretty amazing with the Internet. It’s such an instant communication device. It actually makes the world smaller. You can already see and hear what people in Europe are saying about it and how they feel about the band getting back together. People are talking about what sort of songs they wanna hear and all these different things and we’re sitting at home, rehearsing, come home and get a good feel, finger on the pulse of what’s going on with the buzz. Totally amazing. Really amazing. Just like when you’re on the road, people come to a show, you take a picture or something with them and the next thing you know it’s on MySpace the next day. It’s so instant, it’s amazing. It’s great. I love it. This is actually the first time, I’m e-mailing Tony and Geezer (laughs). Last time we were together, there wasn’t much of an Internet, you know. (laughs).

What was it like for you when the four of you decided to put this thing together again? How were you approached to do the whole reunion?

The way this came about was they decided to release a “Dio Years” Sabbath, “Best Of” CD and the record company decided that it would be great if we had a couple of new songs on there, so Ronnie contacted Tony and then they got together and they started writing and they wrote three songs. Since Bill (Ward) was already involved with Tony and Geezer from the Ozzy stuff, they started, you know, ‘let’s do a tour to support this.’ So, Bill was already involved and that was the plan and then they worked together for a little bit and Bill decided that he wasn’t gonna be involved in it and I got a call in November from Ronnie’s manager Wendy Dio and she said, ‘Bill’s not gonna be involved, would you like to do it?’ and I said ‘yeah, that’d be great.’ So the next thing I know, I’m on a plane the next day, flying over to England and hooking up with Tony … well everybody. Going to the studio and seeing everybody, it’s just like a big family reunion. It’s really cool. We’ve always had good times together so it wasn’t like anybody’s, between me and the guys, were really fighting with anyone or really arguing or anything like that. It was really cool. Really cool time.

Was there any part of you that was upset when they decided to get it all going again and decided to go with Bill on drums?

No. I just think Tony, Bill and Geezer were together, so that was kind of the unit. Then, Ronnie got involved and I guess, ‘ok, we’ll try it with Bill and see what happens.’ It just didn’t work the way they wanted it to. I guess Bill didn’t want to do it. I don’t know exactly what happened, but the next thing I know, Bill’s not involved. It’s funny because I’m actually on more albums of that era than Bill. Bill did “Heaven and Hell” and I did “Mob Rules” and “Dehuminizer” and “Live Evil” and that’s what the CD has on it anyways, so I’m from all those albums, so I’m actually on more songs. So, it almost made more sense for me to be in the band than Bill doing it, but I don’t know the exact reason why, but Bill bowed out. I love Bill, he’s a great guy. He’s one of my hero drummers as a kid. It’s always me and Bill (laughs). Me and Bill should start a band (laughs).

Is there a legal reason why you guys are touring under the moniker of Heaven and Hell? On the Sabbath web site, it says ‘current lineup for Black Sabbath’ and it lists you guys.

I don’t know why they’re actually having to do that, but I would think that maybe there’s some legal problem. I don’t know the details of why they don’t wanna use the name. It might be that. It might be that we just didn’t want to confuse it with all the Black Sabbath that was just happening before with Ozzy and calling it Black Sabbath again with another lineup and this and that. This Heaven and Hell name kind of sums up the lineup a lot better. It’s a child of Black Sabbath and you know which one it is with this lineup. At this point, everybody knows who it is anyway. They could’ve called it anything and it would’ve been the same response. I’m thinking a lot of people like the idea that it’s called Heaven and Hell. It gives it a new kind of freshness to this lineup.

Yeah. It makes sense. I was thinking about the time I saw Van Halen a few years ago with Sammy Hagar and they should’ve just called that lineup 5150 or something as opposed to Van Halen because it’s a different era.

Right.

You guys are similar to Van Halen in the fact that you’re broken up into two variations. It’s not necessarily better or worse, it’s just two eras. You’ve got Roth and Sammy with Van Halen and you’ve got Ronnie and Ozzy with Sabbath. In your case, is this something where both sides mutually respect each others accomplishments and let the other do their thing?

Yeah, everybody’s pretty open minded with the fact that there’s really the two versions of Sabbath. One with Ozzy and one with Ronnie and Tony and Geezer, they’ve been doing this a long time, but yet, they still wanna rehearse. Wanna get it right and ensure it’s the best we can do for the fans. They’re not lazy or anything. They just want this to be the best. Everybody respects … they respect what Ronnie did, Ronnie respects all their past career and they respect what I do. Everybody does their own thing. There’s never anything where people are telling each other what to play. It’s not like ‘well don’t play that there.’ Everybody just lets everybody do their thing and that’s what’s magic about this lineup and makes it sound … it’s got some personality to it, you know. It’s pretty wide open.

ImageTaking Down and Megadeth with you guys makes this the tour to see early in 2007. How did you guys go about selecting which bands you wanted to take on the road with you?

You know, the band doesn’t select who’s going out. It’s all done by management. There were other bands that were mentioned and then what happens is, when you start trying to negotiate with other bands, maybe the price is too high. Maybe they want too much money. Things like that. That’s what’s involved in putting this together. It’s all done on the management side. Unless they said someone totally ridiculous is opening for the show, I don’t think the band gets involved very much with who’s opening because it’s more of a business decision.

When you saw those two bands going out with you guys, were you like ‘fuck yeah, right on?’

Doesn’t matter to me. I like Down. I’ve heard some of there stuff. They’re a cool band. Megadeth. I don’t know. I haven’t really followed Megadeth, so I don’t really know who’s in the band or what they’ve been up to lately. I remember them from years back. We actually played with them years ago. They’re a great band. To us, we just wanna make it a good show and it looks like with the three of us, it’s gonna be a great show. There’s gonna be a lot of metal flying around that night (laughs).

Are there preliminary plans to take this particular tour with these three bands into the U.S.? Or will it be a completely different lineup of bands?

Right now, I’m not sure, ‘cause they’re working on booking America right after the New York shows. I’m not sure if they’re gonna use the same bands or not. When they go over to Europe, they’re doing all these festivals. We’re probably not going to be playing with them because there’s all sorts of bands on these festivals. We’ll have to wait and see. As far as America, I don’t know if we’re bringing them in or not, that depends. Again, that’s a business decision. They may be doing somebody else’s tour and can’t do it or things like that. We’ll have to wait and see.

You go way back with Ronnie. Tell me how you guys first got together as musicians and what is it about your styles of music that makes for a good combination?

Well, when Ronnie was together with Sabbath the first time, they recorded “Heaven and Hell” and they were touring, I don’t know, for a month or so and Bill didn’t do it. He wanted to leave the band. So a bunch of names came up for drummers and they came back to L.A. and my name was one of them because at that point I had a couple albums out with Rick Derringer and I had an album out with my own band called Axis. Tony actually heard that Axis album and he really liked my playing and he knew of Carmine. So my name was there. When they came back to L.A., I got a phone call saying ‘tour manager from Black Sabbath, call me back. I wanna ask you something.’ So, I called ‘em back and then I went down to meet him that night. They were at a hotel in Hollywood. Tony really liked the album. He was like ‘yeah, come on down tomorrow. Let’s play and see how it goes.’ Ok. So we went down and the first song we played was “Neon Nights” and I kind of heard it on the radio, so I knew it was a fast song. I didn’t know any of the parts. That’s the first song we played and then we played something else and they said ‘cool, wanna do it?’ History repeats itself back then. I said, ‘yeah, let’s do it.’ We only had like four rehearsals and then we went and played a big show in Hawaii. We were all nervous because we hadn’t played together. That was the first time Geezer and Tony had played with a different drummer. It’s always been Bill Ward. So, they were a little on edge too. But, it worked out great and I continued touring with them. I got to know everybody and got to know Ronnie really well and then when the end of that era ended, Ronnie was gonna put together his own album, I decided to stick with Ronnie and he put together the Dio stuff. Then we got to know each other really well. We’re both Italian. We’re both from New York. Even though we didn’t grow up together and there’s a little bit of an age difference, it’s kind of like brothers just from all the things we had in common. We both think alike and we were just telling the story last night that we played someplace years ago and it was so hot in the place, Ronnie’s going ‘oh, my god, it’s so hot’ and he looks back at me and I’m just driving and kicking ass. He’s going ‘if he’s not stopping, I’m not stopping.’ (laughs). That’s the way we think. We kick each other in the ass basically. That seems to work, musically.

We’ve got you and Ronnie together. Talk about how much fun you have when you guys get together with Tony and Geezer. Do you have fun together? Do you start cracking beers and joking around?

Oh yeah. Nobody really drinks. Not a heavy drinking band, that’s for sure. There’s a lot of coffee and tea going around (laughs). We have a ball. It’s hilarious. We’re playing the songs and you make a wrong chord change or I’m looking at the setlist and I’ve got the wrong song and we stop and just start cracking up. It’s pretty loose. We have a really good time. It’s pretty loose. It’s not like walking on egg shells where if you make a mistake, Tony’s gonna be pissed off or Ronnie’s gonna be pissed off. It’s pretty funny because the mistakes we make, we’re laughing. We’re cracking up and having a laugh about it. We’re just trying to get the endings right. That’s the hardest part about putting a set together. When we mess something up, we’re all laughing and stuff. It’s pretty loose. Really good time. You gotta have fun.

That’s the whole idea. I heard the new song, “The Devil Cried” and I think it’s pretty bad ass.

Thank you.

I’m wondering and everyone else is wondering if there are plans to record a new studio album or are we just taking it one step at a time?

We’re going to take it a step at a time because this tour’s supposed to go ‘till September so nothing’s been ruled out and nothing’s been said that we will. We’ll just have to wait and see how everybody feels and what they’re doing. See if we wanna do another record. There’s one thing about this band, it’s that we can do things pretty quickly. We’re so locked in and we’re so focused on what we do that we can write pretty quickly and record pretty quickly and make a great album. Nothing’s been said so far. We just have to wait and see.

Do you think the Dio era of Black Sabbath has been somewhat overlooked by rock historians when talking about Sabbath?

I don’t know. I haven’t really followed that. It might have been overlooked because they did so much with Ozzy recently. That was pretty big. It might have overlooked a little bit of the Ronnie years. Right now, everything’s become so classic. It’s been long enough now that all the Dio stuff with Sabbath, and with me, has become pretty much of a classic album and albums and stuff. I think they’re always gonna focus on the Ozzy years first because obviously that’s the way they started. This is kind of like the second Sabbath that all these people are talking about now. It might be because of the Ozzy thing.

I see you’re conducting drum clinics at every city of the Canadian tour. What’s involved in one of your clinics and how do people participate?

I’m gonna be doing about seven drum clinics. Some of them, a couple of them are in-store, so the in-store will obviously be a ‘come meet Vinnie’ thing and ask questions. The drum clinics, what I do is, I like to teach a lot. I wrote a couple of books and videos out over the years. I like to do the drum clinics. I like to play for everybody and I like to hear the questions they have on what I’m playing or what I did in my career or what do you do while you’re recording and how do you get the sound. All the cool questions. I like to demonstrate a lot of the techniques I used over the years and the way I approach things and the way my attitude is when I go into a band or into a session. You get an insight of how I approach it, which is cool because I think everybody should learn something when they go to clinics. I go to clinics and if a guy’s good, you come out of there and go ‘wow, that’s a really good idea he has there,’ or ‘that’s a good approach. He takes this and he twists it around and then he uses it three or four different ways.’ It gives people different insight on it. I like doing these clinics, so there’ll be a bunch of clinics posted on the Vinnie with an ‘ie’ on Myspace. I’m looking forward to that. They’re all throughout Canada, almost at every show, in every town.

ImageWhat was it about drums that initially piqued your interest?

My brother Carmine is a drummer and he’s eleven years older than I am, so when I was a kid, there were drums in the house, which was cool. Then, when I got a little older to understand what they really were, he was doing the Vanilla Fudge, and they were getting big. Their album came out and it was gold and Led Zeppelin and things. Then I used to go see the concerts. I was like nine years old and it was inspiring me to go, ‘wow, I wanna do this.’ So I started banging away and Carmine would show me a couple of things here and there and then he suggested to take me to drum lessons from the same guy that he went to, to see what he thinks. So, my parents took me there and he said ‘yeah, Vinny’s good. Continue.’ So I started going to lessons for three years. Learned how to read, learned out of all the traditional books. I took it very seriously. Carmine, he was known as one of the best rock drummers, so I took it very seriously. Practicing and doing my lesson each week and make sure that when I went back to the teacher, I knew the lesson, and moved on. That made me focus on never letting up, just always trying to play the best you can.

If you could share the stage with any bands past or present, which ones would you choose?

As a drummer?

Yeah. Drumming with these guys.

It’d be fun to play with Zeppelin. That’s the stuff I grew up listening to. It’d be fun playing with the Who. Those are all things I listen to because of the drum parts. Those weren’t ordinary drummers. They were Keith Moon and John Bonham. There were drum parts on those songs that were a big part of those songs. If you had Joe Schmo playing drums, those songs wouldn’t sound like that. That’s something to think about when you’re recording and making records and stuff. That’s what I kind of do. I wanna put a stamp on each song and make sure the drums are important and drummers that are listening can get inspired by some of the licks on the record. You’ve gotta put some licks on there.

I always tell people, if you ever wanna get your young teenager into playing music, bust out any of those Zeppelin DVDs and you can focus on any of those guys. They’re super human.

Absolutely. In rock, people don’t play like that anymore, it seems like. People play differently. A lot of it’s done on computer. There’s a lot of copy and paste. First verse or the second verse. Some of it’s got great energy, but some of it’s machine like. Whereas some of the old stuff, there’s some great licks and great chops and it’s played from the feel, from the heart. I think that’s important when you’re learning how to play, is to grab a little bit of that. You grab everything. That’s what it’s there for. You listen to everything and you grab what you need. The old Zeppelin stuff, The Who and Hendrix, those guys just basically went in the studio in the early days and pressed record and ran the songs down as a set list. There’s some great performances on there. I think that’s important to absorb that, if you’re trying to be a musician.

Exactly. Vinny, I appreciate the conversation and I look forward to hearing the other two new songs off the album.

Thank you. It should be out in April.

Awesome. Maybe run into you in Calgary.

I think I’m doing an in-store in Calgary, so maybe pop over.

Talk to you later.

Thank you Patrick. Stay warm (laughs)

Alright.

Bye. Bye.

 

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