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Carmine Appice Opines On Other Great Drummers, Including John Bonham, Ginger Baker

Carmine Appice is not a household name in the pop-rock business. But his drumming with Vanilla Fudge and Beck, Bogert & Appice, among others, has influenced many of the serious 1960s and 1970s sticks-men, including Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Appice has a new album out called, “Energy Overload,” with his current group, The Appice Perdomo Project. We thought now would be a good time to catch up with the iconic drummer, 74. Following are edited excerpts from Part 1 in our interview series.

Jim Clash: Let’s start with some drummers that inspired you when you started out.

Carmine Appice: When I first started playing drums, rock music was very basic, elementary. The only music with drums that inspired me was, “Wipe Out,” Sandy Nelson’s “Let There Be Drums” and “Teen Beat,” and Cozy Cole’s “Topsy II” – what I would call drum singles. There were no great rock drummers yet. The really great drummers then were more jazz: Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Max Roach, Joe Morello. So those are the guys I followed.

Clash: Fair enough. Who were some rock guys later, in the sixties, that you respected? Clive Bunker, from early Jethro Tull, John Bonham from Led Zeppelin?

Appice: We did a gig in Chicago with Jethro Tull as the opening act, Led Zeppelin in the middle and Vanilla Fudge topping the bill. We were all Ludwig guys. When Clive was on, me and Bonzo [John Bonham] were standing on the side throwing spitballs at him. When Bonzo went on, me and Clive threw spitballs at him. And, of course, when I went on, they threw spitballs at me. We gave all the equipment back to Ludwig, broken [laughs]. 

Clash: Speaking of Bonzo, I’ve seen press lately where you said he was influenced by you. True?

Appice: Well, he told me he was. When I say it now, it looks like I’m egoing-out. But you have to understand, when John Bonham did his first gig in America, they opened for us. Nobody had ever heard of John. I told him I loved his bass drum in, “Good Times Bad Times.” He told me that he had gotten that from me. I said, “I don’t do that.” He said, “Yes, you do,” and pointed it out on a Vanilla Fudge record. I did, “bop, didda-bop, didda-bop, didda-bop.” He took that, and did it repetitively. 

Then he asked if I could help get him a Ludwig endorsement, because I was one of the top Ludwig guys then. I had their big, oversized drums. I called Ludwig and told them I thought this guy was going to be big. That’s an understatement five decades later [laughs]. So they gave him the same drum set as mine: double-bass, maple, oversized drums, a gong, everything. We would do alternate billings [with Led Zeppelin]. Some days, they would go up first, others we would go up first. At the end of that tour, Robert [Plant] and Jimmy [Page] said, “It’s too busy with that double-bass drum. We’re going to take it away.” So when John went back to one bass drum, the Led Zeppelin drum set was born. That’s the way it happened. But there was a time I couldn’t say it, because everybody would think I was crazy. Nobody influenced John Bonham. He just came out of the blue, the sky, right?

There’s a book by Chris Welch of “Melody Maker” called, “The Thunder Of Drums,” where Bonzo was interviewed many times. It said that when he came back from the first tour he did with me, he was all-gaga about hanging out. I was in a big group at the time, and I was doing new things in the business. He and Cozy Powell used to tell stories together, asking what Carmine was like. When I read that, I laughed, because I got to know Bonzo and Cozy quite well. So when the book was written, people’s attitudes started changing. After that, I was able to tell the stories and not be thought of as an egomaniac.

Some people even bashed me when I played, “Black Dog.” I didn’t do it like any other drummer. I’d play a little bit, get the audience riled up. I did a couple of things that John did, but I didn’t try to play it like him. Still, some idiots put me down, saying I made a career of talking about John Bonham. I don’t think I made a career of it. People like yourself keep asking [laughs]. If you didn’t mention him in this interview, I’d be fine with it. But when somebody asks, I tell the truth. It’s kind of weird talking about John now. He was my friend. He came to a clinic of mine at Sam Ash Music, and they still have the beer bottle he drank out of [laughs].

Clash: Other than Bonzo, name some other drummers of your generation you admire.

Appice: Well, there’s Ginger Baker [Cream], Keith Moon [The Who], Mitch Mitchell [Jimi Hendrix Experience]. That was the first level of rock icons. I’m the only one still alive. In the 1990s, Alan White [Yes], Ginger and I did a drum clinic together. Ginger was a handful. Alan needed to get him a bag of pot to calm him down laughs]. Alan went on first, with Yes songs that had time signatures, and I was teaching time signatures from my book. Ginger went on just to bust our balls. He did a solo and said that was in four, meaning four-four time. Then he did another solo and said that was also in four. He did a third, saying it again was in four. We went out to dinner that night, and had a good time. That might have been one of the last times I saw Ginger. He went to Africa and all this crazy stuff. Before that, though, we did a lot of gigs together, and were on the same [record] label.

(Editor’s Note: In the coming parts of this interview series with Carmine Appice, we discuss his new album, “Energy Overload,” what he wants his epitaph to be, The Who’s late drummer Keith Moon, newer musical acts that he likes today, Vanilla Fudge’s big hit, “You Keep Me Hanging On,” The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, anecdotes from his memoir, “Sticks: My Life Of Sex, Drugs And Rock And Roll,” Jeff Beck, and more. Stay tuned to the Forbes Lifestyle channel.)

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