Carmine Appice doing more than just ' ... Hangin' On'

Carmine Appice - 2014
Legendary drummer talks new label, reflects on days with Rod Stewart, Vanilla Fudge, Jeff Beck and others
By Peter Lindblad

Carmine Appice has a lot of irons in the fire, and that's just how he likes it.

Along with his involvement in the recent revivals of some of his classic former bands like Vanilla Fudge, Cactus and King Kobra, to name a few, Appice has started a new record label called Rocker Records – established to release a variety of Appice related records, and possibly those of other artists – and is penning an autobiography.

Long acknowledged as one of hard rock and heavy metal's most creative and influential drummers, Appice has manned the kit for an incredible array of artists and groups, including Rod Stewart, even managing to assist in writing two of Stewart's biggest hits, "Young Turks" and "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy." As part of Vanilla Fudge in the late 1960s, he helped usher in the psychedelic-rock era with his ungodly heavy playing on the band's smash-hit cover of "You Keep Me Hangin' On."

Appice would go on to start Cactus with Fudge bassist Tim Bogert after plans for a supergroup with Jeff Beck on guitar and Rod Stewart on vocals fell apart. Known as the "American Led Zeppelin," although their commercial success was limited, Cactus – which also included guitar player Jim McCarty and singer Rusty Day – was a powerhouse live act and they left their mark, inspiring bands like AC/DC and Van Halen with a particularly combustible brand of boogie-rock. But Cactus didn't last, and neither did another powerhouse supergroup partnership with Bogert, Beck & Appice, but he later landed with Stewart and was quickly swept up in the jet-setting circus that surrounded the singer.

It's been a wild ride for Appice, who recently talked with us about those halcyon days with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus and Rod Stewart, as well as his experiences with Jeff Beck, and everything he has going on these days.

What prompted you to want to start this new label venture? 
CA: Actually, I started working with this guy, Mike Cusanelli, who was involved in … he was involved in World Sound, which is another label and management company. And with that management company, we put a book deal together for myself, for my life story. And the deal is with VH1 books. That’s the same company that did Nikki Sixx and Ace Frehley, and all that stuff. As we were negotiating the deal, we had our house in Fairfield, Conn., and he lives in Fairfield, Conn., too, so his partner said, “Hey, you’ve got to get introduced to Mike, who lives out there and you guys can get together and work on the book,” and blah, blah, blah. So I did that. So Mike, being a records kind of guy, says, “You know, if you have product laying around, you should probably start a record label that would be able to get out your product, and then sell other people’s product – friends of yours that have product that maybe want to release it,” and blah, blah, blah. So, I said, “Really, that’s interesting.” So then he had a talk with the head of eONE, which is our distributor, and he was totally into the idea. So, I thought, “Okay. Let’s give it a try.”

And these first releases are stuff that I’ve had basically in the can, with really nothing to do. They’re from my personal collection. So he says, “Well, let’s get it out to the fans.” 

Cactus - Live in the U.S.A.
Tell me about each of these releases, starting with Cactus Live in the U.S.A.
CA: Okay. We had a DVD years ago – 2006 – that came out on MVD. Somebody in Europe took the soundtrack off the DVD and released it, unbeknownst to us. So, when we found it, we said, “Huh.” And it was selling well, so we worked out a deal with the guy and he paid us royalties, and when I listened to it, “I said, ‘Wow, this sounds really good.’” Now, that has Tim Bogert on it. So you’ve got Cactus with Tim Bogert – the original lineup, except the singer, Rusty Day, who’s been dead since the ‘80s. So I thought that one would be a cool one to release, because it has Tim on it. It was never released in America, so that was that one. And then we went to Japan last year in December, and our deal over there was to record two nights for the deal, and the one night, the second night, we would record also video, which will come out next year. So this Live in Japan is the first night. It’s not complete. It’s a single disc amount – that means like 10 or 11 songs. But it was the first night we played in Tokyo, and it was great. It was a kick-ass show. I mean, we’d never been to Japan before, and the crowd was great. It was sold-out. And Jim McCarty was on fire (laughs), and the band just sounded great. Now this live one has Pete Bremy on it, who’s been our bass player for about two and a half years now, since Tim retired. And he also plays with Vanilla Fudge, which we’re working on some live things with Vanilla Fudge that’ll come out next year, too. So, that’s how those two happened. 

Can we go back just a little bit? That Cactus Live in the U.S.A., what show was that from?
CA: Actually, that was the first show that we had done since we broke up in the ‘70s. So that’s one thing cool about it. It was the warm-up show for the Swedish Rock Festival that we did, which was the next show we did after that a couple of days later in Sweden, which was [in front of] like 10,000 people. So it was interesting how we progressed. But anyway, like I said, someone in Europe took the soundtrack off the DVD, and they sold it and it was selling well. They were selling so many of them on the road, we didn’t know where they came from. And then we figured it out – on the road in Europe that is, where we’d never sold many, maybe one or two imports – but it was never released, so we thought because it was the first show, because it had Tim on it, we thought it would be a cool thing to release to people who were Cactus fans. 

What year was it and where was the show at?
CA: That was 2006 and B.B. King’s in New York. We didn’t want to just say B.B. King’s, so we just said Live in the USA. Because we had other things out with Fuel Records that were live in California that were coupled as a double album with the re-release of Cactus 5. So, you know, we’re just trying to keep some product flowing out. We’re working on a new album, also, which should be out in the first quarter of [2014]. It’ll be more like an EP to start. It’ll be about six songs, and then we have six more songs in the can that are not finished yet. When we get those six done, maybe we’ll re-release the whole thing as one album. But we figure with the way the business is now, it doesn’t really matter if it’s an album or six songs. It’s downloadable, and then most people download them now anyway. So we’re working on that, and then the other two releases, one is Travers-Appice, which is Pat Travers and myself, live from the 2004 tour we did. That was the first night Tony Franklin played with us. We had Sam Stevens playing with us for two weeks before that, and then Tony joined us, and we did another two weeks. Somebody sent me that CD, a live gig. I don’t even know where it came from, but when I got it in the mail in my office in L.A., I played it in the car and I said, “Wow! This sounds great.” And so it sounded great, and I had it in my computer, and I would listen to it on my iTunes as enjoyment, and it really was good. And then we put the label together, and Mike said, “Well, what product do you have that you think we could release?” And I said, “You know, this one might be cool.” I had it in my collection. I mean, it sounds live. It kicks ass. You can hear everything. And so we mastered it and put it on the release schedule. 

Travers & Appice 2013
I was going to ask you your thoughts on playing with Pat Travers. How do you guys mesh?
CA: It was great. We did that first album, which was called It Takes a lot of Balls, which we’re going to do something with that. I don’t know if it’s going to be on Rocker or some other label, if we find a partner that has some other record deal going with some different things. But anyway, when we did that first album, it sounded awesome. I mean, God, it was the best album I’d done in years. And then we went out on the road in Europe, and we did 30 shows in Europe, and they went great. We did another DVD with that, with a company called Escapee. They went out of business. When we released the live album from DVD, they were already going out of business. And then they released the DVD and the live album, and nothing really happened with it. We got the rights back, and the DVD was released by Fuel, and we just had a great time. And then Cleopatra [Records] asked us to do an album of covers, which we did, and that was great, too. I think Pat is a tremendous talent. I love him as a person, and we had gone into a studio on Long Island, my friend Randy’s studio, Electric Randy-Land, it’s called, where we recorded Cactus 5 and some Vanilla Fudge stuff. And we went in there as TMC, and then we put together this song that we never really finished. So I finished it recently with a keyboard player named Alejandro Delvachio, from Italy, a really great keyboard player friend of mine. And he put some keyboard melodies on it, so we put that on as a bonus track. So there’s one studio track on Travers-Appice Live. So, it’s a nice package for the people who were into Pat and I playing together. 

And the last one is Bogert, Appice & Friends, and what that really was was stuff that we’d recorded to release as a version of Vanilla Fudge back in the early 2000s, when Mark Stein and Vinnie Martell weren’t in the band. Now that we have the original members of the band together, except for Timmy, you know, we couldn’t really release it as Vanilla Fudge, ‘cause Mark Stein wasn’t playing on it. And most of the arrangement ideas and everything are suggestions I did. And the picking of the songs, and all that … I mean, I think there’s one original on there, and then there’s a version of the “Star Spangled Banner,” which is awesome. And Brian Auger plays on this track, but it’s recorded really well. We mastered it, and it’s an EP, and it really sounds good. I’m really happy with it. The arrangements are awesome. That’s why the arrangements will sound very Vanilla Fudge-y.   

Bogert & Appice and Friends - 2013
And this is a studio album.
CA: It’s a studio album. So we did “Falling” and “Bye Bye Love,” and “Star-Spangled Banner,” and two original numbers, and then we have “Falling” again with Brian Auger playing organ, which is really, really cool. He plays the hell out of it. So, it’s really interesting. We call it Bogert, Appice & Friends, because that’s what it is – me and Tim and different people.

What are some of the things you want to do for fans that might be different from other labels?
CA: Well, I don’t know if it’s different from other labels. I want to give better deals to downloads than other labels do. And just to be able to release the products worldwide digitally with eOne, because they’re pretty strong all around the world. And to be able to, in some cases, release stuff like we do with this Vanilla Fudge live thing. We’re going to release some of it on vinyl – do some of that collectible stuff. I don’t think we’re trying to do anything that’s different than anybody else that does this kind of thing, but there are labels that won’t release stuff like this … ‘cause really everything’s been done. What can we do that hasn’t been done? I mean, it’s all been done. It’s going the other way now. I mean, really, as far as the record business, even with these downloads. You sell 67,000 units now of downloads and hard copies, you end up No. 3 on Billboard – 67,000 copies of something wouldn’t even get you like in the Top 100. So, really the record business is going the wrong way. Now, it’s all about live shows, really. I mean, Paul McCartney comes out with a new album. Have you heard any tracks from it on the radio? I haven’t heard any of them. There’s an example right there how backwards we’re going. It used to be when Paul McCartney came out with a song it was everywhere. You couldn’t turn on a radio or a television without hearing it. So, anyway, we’re just trying to have some fun and do some creative music, and maybe this band that can’t get a record deal we could release it digitally around the world and get something out.

Do you anticipate having a web site and online store where fans can go directly to buy recordings and merchandise? 
CA: I’m not sure about that actually, ‘cause as I said a lot of the stuff is not going to be physical. It’s going to be a lot of digital stuff. So maybe we’ll have a digital online store, but there are enough of those already. We have a web site now –, which will keep news of what’s coming out and what’s available and all that, and maybe some links to things and you can buy it from iTunes or something. We may do that, but we’re too new. We’re really taking it as it comes. We don’t really know if that’s going to happen, but that is a good idea. And it’s not very hard to set up either. If we have something to have physical CD releases and vinyl stuff, yeah, sure we could put them on our web site, but then you have to have a fulfillment kind of thing. And if you don’t get enough orders, you’re paying people for nothing. I’m not trying to dig myself into a hole, either. I did that in 1988. I had Rocker Records back then, distributed by a small label with King Kobra. We sold 20,000 CDs, for which I was supposed to get like $40,000, and I got nothing because of all the other stuff they had you could sell, and the distributor, instead of giving them their money, they gave them returns. So I got myself into a big hole there. I took some equity off my house to buy some promotion people, and it was on MTV, and it sold. We were selling. Then, of course with the other labels … if I was distributing it, my record by myself and distributing it, we could have made money. There would have been no returns to give. I learned my lesson on that. So we’re just trying to take it easy and little by little, build it and get things going.   

What is your vision for the label? Ultimately, what would you like to accomplish with it?
CA: Well, I mean I’d like to get a bunch of the records out, Mike’s business, I’m creative, A&R type. 

Basically, we got a start. We got advance money to pay for the people to master the stuff and do the artwork, and do this to give everybody a little bit of an advance and to get it out on the market and do a bunch of interviews and do press for November and December. And then in January we’ll get a little more money to cover for some of the releases that’ll come out in the first quarter, and then hopefully, we’ll sell enough where it keeps giving us enough money to keep it. 

Mike had me go and meet with them (eOne), and I was very comfortable with the guy who runs it. He’s actually a fan of mine and a drummer. So I’m comfortable with him, and we felt comfortable doing it. It took a while. We met with him last December, and now it’s 11 months later. It took all that time to get it together. So we’ll see what happens. 

Are there any labels in the past you’ve worked with in the past, or industry people who you’ve admired for the way they’ve done business that you can model yourself after?
CA: Not really … well, I could name one: Len Fico from Fuel. He’s a good guy, and I had all this product laying around – King Kobra, I had a solo album that was never released, I had Cactus live stuff, I had Vanilla Fudge live stuff, all this crazy stuff. All totaled, it was like 13 albums, pieces of product. And he actually did a deal with me for it. He gave me an advance. I paid everybody involved advances, and then, within a year and a half, he had sold everything, and we were in the black instead of in the red with him. And he does a good job. As a matter of fact, we just relicensed a Vanilla Fudge product we had with him a few months ago. I really like him. He’s an honest guy; he’s not a rip-off. You can get him on the phone, and then he’d have like all these CDs, and all these stores have closed, there’s nowhere to sell these CDs, and he’d just take them, and nobody was buying them, and he’d sell them at your gigs. Nice guy, you know, and he gave me hundreds of CDs, and we’re still selling them at gigs. When I do my clinics, I’ve got all these different kinds of CDs to sell – Derringer & Appice, my first and second solo albums, it’s a double thing, and a double package King Kobra album. I can’t remember all of them (laughs). Actually, he did a Carmine classics DVD, which had a little bit of everything on it. Every six months I get royalty checks from him, and it’s good – all the publishing, you know. I would say if there was any indie label to model after, it would be his, because he’s an honest guy and he pays everybody. Versus, you know, I got deals with labels in Europe, including that label that released that product they weren’t supposed to release. They weren’t supposed to release that. And I made a deal with an English label that supposedly licensed it to him, but he tells me he didn’t do it. But if he didn’t do it, why is he paying you? Stuff like that, rip-off people, and then when I crossed him, the guy in England, I had him pay me the money, and he did the same deal that Len Fico did with Fuel at the same time. And he has not anywhere near recouped. And he’s got all of Europe. He’s got Europe and Japan. Len’s just got the U.S. Not even Canada. My label, we’ve got Canada, too. And we’ve got Japan. We’re working on Japan. And Europe is hard because all these labels are rip-offs. So now, that guy there that did that deal for that soundtrack, he paid me the royalties that were due, but then since then, the royalties for January to June were supposed to be paid by August and I’ve got to chase him down. This guy wanted to be our distributor for Rocker Records in Europe. How the hell are you going to do this? You can’t even pay the royalties on time. We’ve got another guy who is a promoter, and he’s a bit better, but still, the guy loses track on when he’s supposed to pay your royalties. I mean, with Len, I just call him when I know the royalties are due. I say, “How are we doing?” And he goes, “Well, they’ll be ready next week, and I’ll send it out to you.” I mean, in September, when the royalties were due at the end of August, on Sept. 10, I called him, and I said, “Are you going to that event?” And he said, “Look, I’m going to that event. I’ll just bring you the check.” And he handed me the check, and I take that and I pay everybody who is due royalties. And the European guys, it’s the same with Japan. They never pay the royalties on time. I had a deal with a big company, Virgin Pacific. This is Virgin, you know? Virgin-Pacific, it’s all one company. I never got a royalty statement … We’re going to try not to that (laughs).   

How did you come to join Vanilla Fudge and what do you remember most about those early years?
CA: Well, we were all just playing gigs around New York at the time, and I was in a soul, R&B kind of band. We had horns and stuff, and one day, these guys came into a club where we were playing and said they heard about me, that I could sing. I could sing lead and harmonies. And that I had a great right foot and that I was technically a pretty good drummer. And they had this thing going on with this manager in Long Island, and they were going to try to make it in the record business and all that. I actually didn’t know whether to take them seriously or not, because I was doing good. I was making $200 a weekend, not having a day job at the time. It was ’66 or ’67. I had a brand new car. It was my second new car. I was only 19 years old, and I didn’t know if I wanted to make a change, but then they told me what they were doing, and I went out and played with them and they were all f—king great. And I said, “Okay, let’s do it.” And nine months later, we had a record on the charts. That scene … we used to call them “production numbers,” slowing the songs down, putting what we’d call “hurting” lyrics and drama into the songs. The Vagrants were doing it, and they were drawing big crowds, but they could never get a record happening. We got in, and luckily, “Keep Me Hangin’ On” was the one. It just broke out all over the place, and it took the album to No. 4, and it only went to like No. 70 on the charts. We had a Top 10 record without having a Top 10 single. 

[Talking about the second Vanilla Fudge album] Ahmet Ertugen and Shadow Morton, it was their baby. We were new kids. We had a good f--king album. We didn’t know the business. They’re telling us we’re going to be the biggest thing since the f--king Beatles. What did we know? We didn’t even know what it was going to sound like until we were done. When we heard it, I said, “Holy sh-t, this is weird.” It’s a f--king strange album. And they’re going, “Yeah, you can take it on the road and have film in the background, and make it like a whole weird, cool light show and film.” Yeah, right. It came out and went up the charts and down the charts. And then we had to rush in and do another album, and then we had another song that went on the Top 20, and then they re-released “… Hangin’ On” and the other album went up into the Top 10. Before you knew it, we had three albums on the charts. The Beat Goes On was like No. 90, but the other two were in the top 20. One was in the top 10, the other was in the top 15, and the single was No. 4. But had we not done an album like that, and done an album like we had done before, it would have probably went platinum, like Queen and Hendrix and all the other people out there, because we were at the top of our game on that first album. And momentum got f--ked up by the second album. It took the third album to try and build it [back] up, and it didn’t quite do it … we didn’t have the big hit single off that one. Luckily, “… Hangin’ On” was one big single that could take the other one into the top 20, but that’s it. And “Shotgun” I guess was top 20, but it probably would have been bigger had we not released that album. 

You guys decided to remake so many songs in your own image. What was it about "You Keep Me Hanging On" that made you want to record that one?
CA: The lyrics, the lyrics. Yeah, if you listen to the lyrics, we used to call those lyrics “hurtin’ lyrics.” If you’re an adult or in love when you had a girl or a wife, and you were in that situation, you would be singing it (in a high, feminine voice), “Set me free why don’t you, babe” – like a happy song. So we just slowed it down, with all the songs – “Eleanor Rigby,” “People Get Ready” – we tried to fit the mood of the song with the lyrics, and musically feed that into the song and create a whole new environment for the song. “People Get Ready” was sort of a gospel-y message, so we did it like a church, with the organ and the vocals. “Eleanor Rigby” was a spooky, at the church graveyard [kind of song], so we did it sort of like a horror movie. “Season of the Witch” – same thing, you know, for “Bang, Bang.” We just slowed it down and added the introduction to “The King and I” – that psychedelic, trippy stuff, because it was sort of like a trippy song. “Take Me for a Little While” we rearranged a little bit, but it’s more of a straight-ahead thing. For “She’s Not There,” we just rearranged that and slowed it down, again with the same kind of drama.  

You touched in this before, but what was different about Vanilla Fudge with regard to other groups of that era, besides the fact that you did covers?
CA: Well, No. 1, “ … Hangin’ On” had such a powerful … you know, The Rascals were big at the time, and we sort of blew them away with what they were doing to the extreme. And it’s just like Led Zeppelin took everybody else who influenced them, from Hendrix to Vanilla Fudge to the Cream and everybody else, and took what they were doing – especially The Jeff Beck Group – to the extreme. And that’s why they were so big, but “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” it was such a shock, because nobody really did covers in those days. If they did, they were doing them the same way as the original. But the way we did it, we shocked so many people. I remember reading things that Eric Clapton and George Harrison and Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck and all these people knew exactly where they were the first time they heard that, because it left such an impression on them. And why? Because it was a white group playing really heavy, but soulful – so heavy soul wasn’t really in yet. White, blue-eyed soul was cool. That was what The Rascals did and the Righteous Brothers did, but nobody did it heavy – with big amps and the big drums, the powerful drum sounds. And because we cut actually … “ … Hangin’ On” was cut in mono, I don’t know if you knew that or not. It was a mono track, and the drums were one of the loudest things. In the way I played and the tuning, it created a really heavy drum sound, which was the model that Led Zeppelin used for Led Zeppelin, with John Bonham, that really heavy drum sound. And really, “ … Hangin’ On” is the only track that had that sound on that album, but it created such a landmark drum sound that it was sort of copied. And it was the same with the bass. You had Tim (Bogert) playing like (Motown bassist) James Jamerson, but playing through five Dual Showman amplifiers. And live, we were crazy. You look at the “Ed Sullivan Show,” you look at the way we played – the drama, the excitement, just what we did – it was pretty long. Nobody was doing that. We all sang with four-part harmony and it was great, and Mark Stein was a tremendous f--king soul singer – a great singer, a really great singer. That vocal on “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” is awesome. “Take Me for a Little While” … awesome. “Eleanor Rigby” … awesome. He was definitely the best singer in the band. I always thought I sang okay. People think I’m better than I think I am, but I sang lead throughout my career. I sang doo-wop things in Brooklyn and so did Mark. So between him and me, we taught Vinnie and Tim the vibratos and we all worked together on the vocals a lot. I remember it was ’68 or ’69, when Billboard magazine had their awards it used to be just one page in the Billboard magazine, and The Beatles were No. 1 vocals and Vanilla Fudge was No. 2. I said, “Wow!” If we had that now, we’d be on nationwide television getting an award.             

When you and Tim decided to go off to start Cactus, what was going on with Vanilla Fudge that made it seem like that was coming to an end?
CA: Well, it started changing. Like in ’69, basically, things started changing. You had the Jeff Beck Group starting to get big, Led Zeppelin was starting to get big, and then there were all these other bands coming out, like Deep Purple, who copied Vanilla Fudge and then they started getting heavier. Like we had a song called “Good Good Lovin'” which was really the blueprint for Deep Purple – a really heavy, bottom-y organ, heavy guitar, heavy bass … you know, it was a heavy sound. It was a song called “Good Good Lovin'.” You listen to that song, you go, “Wow! This sounds like Deep Purple.” And that was done before Deep Purple started getting heavier.

But a lot of these guitar bands were coming out – The Who were getting big at that time as an album band and a concert band, not just a singles band. So me and Tim, we were kind of fed up with the organ and everything slow, and no real energy. So we started doing things like “Need Love with Vanilla Fudge,” which was more rock-y. If you look at YouTube, it has hundreds of thousands of hits on it now, but you could almost hear some Led Zeppelin in there, at the beginning of Zeppelin, the way we played. But it was starting to change in music. So we had heard that Jeff Beck loved me and Timmy’s work on “Shotgun” and wanted to start a band with us. In fact, John Bonham told us that. So we had a talk with Jeff, and he wanted to definitely do it, and he talked about having Rod Stewart as the singer, before Rod went solo. That was the plan. It was going to be me, Rod, Jeff and Tim, and in those days, you didn’t just do a side project, because everything was one project at a time. And at the time, Blind Faith had just come out.

Super groups were sort of cool, and Mountain – Leslie and Corky were getting together with Jack Bruce. So this was going to be our super group. So when we were supposed to meet with Jeff at the end of ’69 with his manager, Jeff got in this car accident. And that was the end of it, but we had already broken up Vanilla Fudge, so we had to go with plan B and plan B was Cactus, and we put it together with Jim McCarty and Rusty Day. But it never quite did what we wanted it to do. We did okay. We toured around the world. We did all the biggest festivals, played in front of hundreds of thousands of people, hit the charts and went Top 30, but we never got as big as Vanilla Fudge did. 

Hugely influential though.
CA: It was an influential band, just like Vanilla Fudge was. And why neither one of them are ever even mentioned in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’ll never know, especially Vanilla Fudge. We took out everybody with us, opening up for us. Frank Zappa opened up for us. I mean, Cactus had Bruce Springsteen open up for us. You know what I mean? It’s just crazy. And then they worry that Alice Cooper didn’t get in. Okay, they’re right. Alice Cooper should be in there. Certainly the freaking rap artists shouldn’t be in there. If they throw those kinds of acts in there, they should call it the Music Hall of Fame, not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But then Jeff Beck is in there twice. I mean, The Yardbirds are in there. Why are The Yardbirds in there and Vanilla Fudge isn’t in there? The Yardbirds were never that big here. Is it because they spawned the three guitar players? Vanilla Fudge spawned me and Timmy (laughs). 

When Jeff had his accident and Rod decided to join the Faces, was that a long, prolonged thing, or did you realize it was over right when Jeff had his accident?
CA: Yeah, I mean because Jeff was going to be 18 months recuperating. He had a concussion and all that shit, so we put Cactus together and we went out and started doing our gigs. In ’70, we played a lot of cool gigs. We played with The Who, we played with Hendrix, we did a lot of festivals. We did the Atlanta Pop Festival, we did Strawberry Fields, we did Isle of Wight, we did festivals in Germany, we played over here – we got big in a lot of areas. New York, we played four shows at the Fillmore. It was packed. Memphis, we did shows at 2,500-seaters, and it was packed. And we'd go out with Ten Years After. So we have a two-, two-and-a-half-year stint of playing and doing Cactus, and everybody loved us. And then we got thrown off tours because we were too good.

So our singer before he left, he really knew how to get an audience in the palm of his hand, and the band, we had a really high-energy band, and a lot of bands couldn’t follow us because we had so much good stuff going on. And then Jeff Beck came back with his Jeff Beck Group, but he soon got sick of that. And that year, because he didn’t do it for like a year and a half after we had Cactus, he got sick of it quick and in the summer of ’72, I think it was – we were doing ’70 and ’71 and ’72 with Cactus – he asked us to come on the road with him and replace Cozy (Powell) and the bass player (Clive Chaman) and he got a new singer, and this will be a start. We always had management stuff, so we discussed that this would be the start of the thing, and we’d probably call it Beck, Bogert & Appice. But we didn’t want to make it a big hype. We wanted to gradually build into it. So that’s what we did, and then, before Rod joined the Faces, he bowed out of the thing, even before Jeff was going to come over. He didn’t want to work with Jeff because he had some financial problems, which I’ve had many times in my career with Jeff as well (laughs). I’m writing my book now for VH1, so all these stories are in detail.    

Cactus put out three studio albums in rather quick succession. What spurred all that creative activity?
CA: That’s what you had to do back then. Your record deals had two albums a year, and Vanilla Fudge did, too. You notice all the bands back then had a lot of product? That’s because all the record deals were two albums per year. 

So it was all the record companies with the lash saying, "Put something out?"
CA: Yeah, I mean the record companies owned, and they still own, the product. That doesn’t happen now. Or maybe it does, I don’t know. I haven’t had a major record deal like that in ages.

How did the short turnaround time affect the work and the band members?
CA: We were all doing that. We all did that. Before us, Rusty was with Ted Nugent. They were doing it. Before us, Jimmy was with Buddy Miles. They were doing it. It was just one of the things you knew you had to do. You’ve got a record deal, it clearly says, “Two albums.” Yeah, you might go over, and have two albums in 14 months, but it’s still not like it is now. Now, everybody is one album every two years, if that. But then again, now, there’s no record business like there used to be. 

What led to Jim McCarty and Rusty Day entering the band and then leaving Cactus? 
CA: Well, as far as entering goes, we had to look for somebody. We tried some unknown guys out there. It didn’t work. We always liked the way Jim McCarty played with Mitch Ryder and the Buddy Miles Express. So a friend of ours that lived in New York, he was signed to my management company, knew McCarty and said, “Let me call him.” And so he called him, and McCarty was interested. We flew him out, and we had a jam with him and it was great. And then McCarty recommended Rusty, because they’re both from Detroit. And then McCarty got fed up with Tim’s playing, because Tim’s a lead bass player, and he left the band. And then we got another guy in, Werner (Fritzschings), and then we brought Duane Hitchings in, who was the actual guy we got McCarty from. He played keyboards. And then we got an English singer, because Atlantic wanted Rusty out because they never liked his voice. And we were on tour with The Faces. They wanted somebody to sing like Rod, because Rod was the happening, “in” thing at the time. So we got an English singer who sang similar to Rod, and we did the “’Ot ‘N’ Sweaty” album, which did great, and that album was interesting because that album influenced AC/DC. AC/DC used to do that album in its entirety I was told.

Is that right?
CA: Just like Van Halen used to do Cactus songs and BBA songs. I have tapes of them doing that. I have tapes of them playing BBA and playing Cactus songs. It’s great. 

The Beck, Bogert and Appice partnership was a real whirlwind. In what ways was it exactly what you imagined it would be and in what ways was it nothing like you thought it would be? 
CA: It was totally what I expected in the music department, except when we did the album, we wanted the guitar louder, and Jeff made the bass and drums louder, because he loved the way we played at the time and he wanted us to be more featured. And we expected it where Jeff’s name was big, us coming along would make him bigger and we thought where we were big and Jeff was big, we would be really big. And when me and Tim were sounding big, it made for a stronger package. But we were averaging a 10-thousand set night, every night – a 10,000-seater. I mean, Jeff, when he joined BBA, he was doing maybe 4,000 people, if that. And Cactus was doing 4-5,000 people in different markets. It was very similar, but together, we were really f--king strong. We were strong, but then the same thing happened with Jeff that happened with McCarty. After awhile, Tim would overplay, and guitar players don’t like it, because they think it gets in the way of the guitar. But then with Jeff, it was even crazier, because he was like … you know, we did the second album twice, and we finally decided to record it live in London, and that was our last gig, and then he never lived up to the contract, and it was just a mess. 

Did that live album capture what you were all about?
CA: Well, it did, but we didn’t like it, because they left all the mistakes in there. We didn’t get a chance to fix anything. I mean, that was what we were about live mostly, and then the last album we did came out of the bootleggers, this f--king monstrous bootleg that sold around the world. It was so big that when me and Tim in 1999 went to Japan, we played a number off that bootleg album and the whole audience of 8,000 people knew it. When we mentioned the name of it, everybody f--king cheered. It got an amazing response. We released that album, and it would have brought mine and Tim’s name up to more of a household name, but then I went on to play with Rod, and my percentage of Rod, which was small, was the biggest financial (payout) monetarily (I had). It was bigger monetarily than a third of BBA (laughs).

What are your memories of working with Rod and specifically the tracks "Young Turks" and "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy"?
CA: Well, the memories were great, just great. I mean, what can you say? I mean, Rod was God at the time. He just took off in his solo career – huge, bigger than The Faces. I mean, we did six nights at the Forum and five nights at the Garden, and five or six nights all over the world in 20,000-seat venues. And the private planes … you know, I never took a bus in my life until I played with Ozzy. We got wardrobe girls and masseuses with us, and we got paid good money. The audiences were just unbelievably responsive, to the point where they would sing all the songs. They would sing all the songs by themselves – “Maggie May” and all that kind of stuff. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my career. And writing a hit song that was so big, I’d never done that. I mean I wrote songs for the BBA record and songs I’d done completely myself which I shared writing on. I had songs on Vanilla Fudge albums that went gold and stuff, but I never had a song go No. 1 in 10 countries and stay at No. 1 for weeks at a time, a song that I’d written. It’s like, “Holy crap! This is unbelievable.”

As a matter of fact, we’re putting together – it’s getting finished now – it’s called the “Rod Experience.” It’s guys from the Rod Stewart band – different eras of the band from ’76 to ’82 and also like, another guy, Jimmy Crespo, that played with Rod for three years and also played with Aerosmith – and we’re doing the Rod show. I got a guy that looks just like Rod, and we’re doing a historical Rod tribute show. It’s sort of like what The Rascals are doing now, but a little different. They’re doing their history and how they missed 40 years of everything. We’re just going to talk about how “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” came about, how “Young Turks” came about, what it was like to be on the road with Rod – just little tidbits of stories. And they’ll be delivered by video camera onstage, and that kind of thing – just historical things that only we would know being in the band.

What was it like being on the road with Rod? 
CA: It was amazing. It was amazing. It was a lot of fun – a lot of fans all the time, big money. It was amazing. And there was this thing called the “Sex Police,” which was just crazy, where anyone who had a chick, the Sex Police would break into their room and stop whatever they had going on. And Rod would participate in that stuff. We would lock people in their rooms – crazy stuff, a lot of fun. It was a great band. We were the Rolling Stones, you know?

I wanted to touch on other bands your experiences with other bands, including Blue Murder and King Kobra. What are some of your favorite memories of being in those groups?
CA: Well, like Blue Murder was great, especially when we went to Japan, because the band was huge over there. We don’t know why. I guess it was because it was a superstar band. It was funny for me because they had Burn! magazine over there, it was a big magazine. They were saying that Blue Murder was the trio of the ‘90s, and they said they were just like classic trios. And they did Cream, Hendrix and BBA, right? So they did that, and I felt really good because I was in a new band of the ‘90s, and I was also in a classic band with BBA. And then we had 12,000 people at our shows in Japan, which was amazing. So that was great. Well, you know, King Kobra for me was my retaliation for getting fired from the Ozzy tour. Sharon (Osbourne) fired me and told me, “You need to find your own band.” So, I did. And it was really lucrative at the beginning. We all got some big deals on Capitol and big merch deal and all that, but then Capitol never really did their job. They never really got the hit single. So King Kobra became like a cult band.

Now that you have Cactus going again and Vanilla Fudge, what’s been most gratifying about reviving those projects and playing those songs again?
CA: It’s playing the songs again, and then seeing people’s reactions. Like we just went up to Bethel Woods, the site of Woodstock, with Vanilla Fudge a month ago, and we got an amazing reaction. And then, by the same token, Friday night we played Detroit in a small theater called The Magic Bag, a good rock venue. It was packed and the audience was amazing. We got a great response and so, just playing the songs again and playing them again for people that really appreciate it. The interesting thing for me is I’m getting to do everything. In the old days, you could either play with Cactus or Vanilla Fudge, or King Kobra. Now, I get to play with Cactus and Vanilla and King Kobra, my “Drum Wars” show with my brother Vinnie, and then this new Rod show. It’s interesting that there are some gigs on the horizon for King Kobra next year. And it’s funny. I get to play with all three bands in the same year. That’s pretty wild. It reminds me of the days of my idols, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. In the heyday, they were playing big theaters; then, as they slowly grew older, they played with different people. You’d see some of these quartets featuring Gene Krupa, and then he’d do an album with them, and several months later you’d see another album. So, I see that happening with my career, playing with different people and just having a good time. 

I never really made that connection, but because that’s what those guys did, so, naturally, you’d follow them. 

CA: Yeah, well, I’m following, not only lead guitar players … and back in those days Gerry Mulligan would play with Gene Krupa, or the Tommy Dorsey Quartet would play with Buddy Rich for a tour and an album. And then Buddy Rich would play with Frank Sinatra, you know what I mean? They’d jump around. They did all kinds of gigs. They’d play dinner clubs to theaters and some festivals, may open up some arena gigs.    

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