An Interview with
The Drummer of 'Last In Line' & 'Drum Wars'
and formerly of Black Sabbath & Dio that took place on
Saturday, September 19th, 2015.
Interviewed By Glenn Milligan.
Glenn: Hi it’s Glenn from Metalliville, how are you doing Vinny?
Vinny: Hey, how are you doing?
Glenn: I’m good man! How did you get involved with the ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp?
Vinny: Well I heard about ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp’ and I thought it was a great idea. It was a great thing that they were doing and very interesting. I had my fiancé contact David Fishof on my behalf and told David I’d be interested in doing some of these camps and that I thought the idea was fantastic and it would be great to do some. Eventually, David contacted me and we set up the first camp in Los Angeles – one with Steven Tyler. I went in and basically told my friends that I was a counsellor - Rudy Sarzo, Lita Ford, Mark Hudson and Phil Soussan. We’re all friends so it was really cool. I did the first one and learned from everybody what we needed to do. From there I’ve been asked to do 10 or 15 more over the years.
Glenn: What do you really look forward about ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp?
Vinny: Well everybody has a great time as we’re all inside a fan and just seeing the band and everybody in the band have a good time and rocking out and looking forward to performing. It’s like you’re grooming kids and you are getting them really excited about it and they get to be Rock Stars for four days. They don’t have to go to work, they don’t think about it. We keep ‘em so busy during the day that all they really think about is the song arrangements within the song, tuning up and just playing all day. It’s great to see the expressions when they get to do this.
Glenn: I mean, for the kids to be able to play with their idols that they’ve got albums of and listened to over the years, it must be phenomenal for them and blow their minds completely?
Vinny: Yeah and they’re freaking out that they’re in the room with some of the councillors. They’re like, “Wow – I’ve listened to you on all the records and now I’m in a room with you working with you”. We teach them a lot of things of how we go about rehearsing, learning songs and having to do it quickly because there’s a time limit of so much rehearsal and then there’s a gig. So they learn a lot from us and just to see their expression and take it all it. They’re excited and it all builds up to the day of the gig and then they go and play with some of the headliners that appear at each camp. It’s just really cool to see all that. It’s definitely exciting.
Glenn: No doubt you must enjoy the fantasy camp as much as the kids do that are taking part in it all?
Vinny: Yeah I totally enjoy it and you know what? We meet a lot of cool people and become friends with a lot of the campers. We’re in touch now as friends and we see each other here and there. You are making a friendship and that’s pretty cool too. So besides all the business end of it with what we are supposed to do musically, we are making friendships at the same time. It’s great to help people and show them what we do because they are never going to learn that on their own sometimes.
Glenn: Would you say you’ve got to have certain skills and qualities as a person in order to be a counsellor or a judge in such a situation like that? I am guessing that not everyone can do that – you’ve got to have a certain thing about you to be able to do that with people.
Vinny: Yeah, you’re right. There have been counsellors that came in and they were gone in a day because they weren’t comfortable in dealing with people or being people to lead the band. You have to kind of have that personality where first of all you enjoy teaching and being in control of the situation and being able to get it together with these people that you’ve just met. So you kind of have to be more of an outgoing person and people person to make this work. I’ve done clinics over the years and I’ve done teaching so I’ve been around a lot of different environments of music.
Some of the counsellors that didn’t work out, they only might have been in bands and they just know, “Like I’m in this one band and I rehearse and I record and go on the tour and that’s it”. I’ve done a lot of things and teaching in seminars and different areas of music that enable me more to relate to people and talk to people better and deal with the situation of pulling the band together and making it good. So yeah, you definitely have to be cut out for it and it’s a lot of work. We start at 10am and sometimes we leave at 10pm.
Glenn: Wow! It’s a long day!
Vinny: In that time we are getting the band together, we’re rehearsing and we’ll have a couple of breaks in-between and sometimes I’ll do a masterclass and somebody else will do a masterclass so it’s just non-stop. Then go and rehearse again with the band. Then if you have problems with the band, one guy can’t get it, you have to work with him and keep playing – like a weak link in the band. So it’s a lot of work.
Glenn: What certain songs or certain highlights from the Fantasy Camps you have done in the past can you recall when you have thought, ‘God that was such a good gig, that was a good day that. I’m so glad I was part of that’?
Vinny: Well a lot of the songs are just depending on who is there like if Paul Stanley guests we learn a lot of Kiss songs. You draw more Kiss fans and you try pick songs that everyone knows. ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ is almost like a theme song – so that one we play together. Songs change and some of them are get repeated – songs that people know like AC/DC songs or maybe a Led Zeppelin song that everyone seems to know, so it’s easier to work on that song. This is with the bands.
With the counsellors we try and pick… depending on who is the musical director we pick an interesting song. Last time I did the ‘Metal Camp’ so I picked all cool metal songs – AC/DC, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. Then at the end there were like three or four of us drumming – Joe Vitale, Artimus (Pyle) from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Brian Tichy. So we did ‘Moby Dick’ by Zeppelin and we were all on stage together and we traded off four bar solos around. We kept going around and we went into this other rhythm. It was a good thing. It was really cool.
Glenn: It sounds it.
Vinny: Yeah it was really cool and all the people in the audience freaked out. We try and keep it interesting that way too. I’m the Musical Director for the up and coming camp with Ginger Baker and David Crosby. So I’m deciding what we are going to play and getting that together too. It’s a fun thing.
Glenn: Is Ginger Baker pretty cool?
Vinny: Yeah. It’s cool for us too because we are there for four days doing this camp and we are really not thinking about anything but music. It puts your life on hold. That’s why people come. They get to put their life on hold for four days and just go, “Okay, music – learn the songs, tune up, practise, warm-up – everything’s music. It’s like escaping for four days.
Glenn: Nice! That sounds really, really cool! How did you get around to putting the line-up together for ‘Last In Line’ because that must have taken a while to put together what with everyone’s schedules?
Vinny: Well I’ve always been in touch with Jim(my) Bain over the years – not a lot but here and there. Then Viv(ian) Campbell called up one day, a couple of years ago and said, “Hey, you know, would you be up for a jam with me, you and Jimmy Bain?”. I said, “Sure, that would be great”. I hadn’t seen Viv in a while. So we got together – just the three of us and we played a lot of the old songs. We jammed on a lot of the old ‘Holy Diver’ stuff and whatever we could remember. We played these songs and we had a ball. It was funny playing the songs together in that line-up. It just came back – it was almost tight.
Viv was trying to remember the solos and it was really cool. We had a great time. So then we said, “Let’s do it again next week”. We did it again the next week and I called Andy Freeman. He’s a friend of mine and we played together a long time ago. We did a tour with George Lynch and I thought, ‘Oh he sings really well’, So I said, “Why don’t you come down, we are jamming you know some Dio stuff?”. So he came down and started singing some of the stuff and he just blew everybody away. He just belted it out. Viv loved him. We said, “Wow – this is cool! Maybe we should try to do some gigs”. So that was the next plan of action.
Steve Strange who was a good friend of Vivs… everybody wanted him to handle it and he took care of getting it together with us. He wound up booking some gigs. We did a couple of gigs in California just as a warm-up and we went over to Europe and did five shows and one festival. Then we went to Japan and it just went over great. People were just going crazy. It was an amazing reaction and response. We thought, ‘Wow! Man! - People really want to hear this’. The fact we’d really got a band together. So we decided we’d do more.
Then we got offered a record deal on Frontiers and we’ve just finished that album about six months ago. It’s in the process of setting a release date. It all sounds great. It sounds like the old Dio stuff. A little modern mix to it here and there and Andy singing his heart out on it. We’re not trying to sound like Ronnie but he sings the way Ronnie sang from his heart and soul and the band sounds great. That’s going to come out and then we are going to start next year and do some dates.
Glenn: That’s cool. The really, really good thing about it that you’ve got Jimmy working again. He’s back behind his bass and he’s enjoying it and you are keeping him on an even keel so to speak.
Vinny: Yeah! It’s great because we are all good friends and we love Jimmy and it’s so great to hang out with Viv again. He’s such a cool guy. We have a good time. We rehearsed, we wrote songs together for the album and everything came quick. Everything came easy. There were no egos involved. Even Viv… I go, “Viv, why don’t you play this chord or something like this”, and he goes. “Okay, what do you think?”. He’ll call me something and everybody’s open for idea. I love the band. We all love playing together and we have such a great time. So we can’t wait to crank this up next year and we’ll go out and do it. Then it’s just great playing these songs thinking, ‘Man, we wrote these songs thirty something years ago and these people are still going crazy’. They are freaking out and it’s an amazing feeling.
Glenn: I love the fact they are such damn good songs. They are timeless songs aren’t You can’t knock some of those songs. They are amazing.
Vinny: Yeah. When we made those albums, we didn’t think of anything other than, ‘Okay, we’ve got to write an album’. We had a great time writing the first album ‘Holy Diver’ and we never thought, ‘This is going to become part of rock history and going to last for over 30 years.’ We just had a good time and that album came out and it was like, ‘Man, those songs are great, the performances are great’. It was a great band and we had the greatest singer in the World so you can’t lose.
Glenn: Exactly. If you thought too much about things at the time while things were happening then they wouldn’t happen naturally. You would have been so stressed out of how to make them good that it could fall apart. It could go one way or the other. So just doing it natural just worked for it all and there’s the proof in the pudding 30 years later.
Vinny: Yeah. Exactly!
Glenn: So how was it for ‘Last In Lines’ album?
Vinny: Well we didn’t think, ‘Oh no, what are gonna do? Write songs which should sound modern?’. We just played and we put things together. It just became like you said, naturally – a natural sequence and the songs started to build. Then Andy came down and sang and wrote the melodies and lyrics. Then we had Jeff Pilson, who’s a great friend from Dokken. He produced it. He’s amazing. He’s great with vocals, embellishments and just overall producing. We were a great team together. There was no stress involved. It was just, “Let’s just write”. We don’t have to sound like a new band. We’re not a new band. We just want to hear what we did – again. That’s what we did.
Glenn: All I’ve heard so far is the snippet that’s on the facebook page of ‘Last In Line’. I thought, ‘Wow – if that’s anything to go by, this album’s going to be something special’.
Vinny: It really is something special. We were all really surprised. It was kind of like when ‘Holy Diver’. We just went in, did what we were supposed to do and then realised at the end that, ‘Wow – this is pretty good!’ and the same thing with this record. It came out. Each song is identifiable by some cool hooks and there’s some great hooks on the vocals. Each song has a vibe about it and mainly a hook. The performance are there. It’s a really special album. We really put our hearts into it. We can’t wait for it to come out. The rest of the album sounds like that. Some of the later songs we wrote are even better.
Glenn: Which songs can you talk about right now with regard to titles and influences?
Vinny: There’s a song called ‘The Sickness’. It’s kind of like an epic kind of song. It starts off with this weird intro. Some of this stuff, I’d walk into the rehearsal and Viv was playing something on the guitar quickly, testing his amp and I always have a recorder. I’ve done this in Dio and I’ve done it in Black Sabbath. I was always in charge of recording stuff which most or 80% of that stuff made it onto the album. That’s how cool it was!
So I walk in and he’s playing something and I said, “What’s that?”, “Oh nothing, I don’t know – I’m just playing”. I said, “Cool – let’s record it”. So then we recorded little things like that. But Viv played a lot of stuff. You’d just go out of the room and you’d come back in and you’d go, “Dude – that’s cool man! Let’s record it”. So we recorded it. So then we start playing to some of these things so we have all different parts. Then we start putting all these parts together.
That song became this really big intro. It almost sounds like a movie soundtrack and then it goes into a fast tempo which is the verses and then after the verses the chorus is back to half-time. It goes back and forth and back and forth. At the end it sounds like a little Beatle part in there. It’s like an epic song – it’s really cool. It’s called ‘The Sickness’. The other songs – there’s a couple of fast ones on there that are smokin’ like ‘Stand Up And Shout’ kind of songs. Another favourite of all of us is a song called ‘Starmaker’. The cool thing about these songs is that they take you on a little journey.
It’ll start off with something and go to the verses, go here, go pre-chorus maybe in the chorus. Sometimes there’s hangs. Sometimes there’s stops. We let it breath and then it continues and it really builds to the end and there’s some good endings on it. I can describe a lot of the songs as mini-journeys. It’s a good thing. It’s what you want to do when you get some good songs. It takes you away. I don’t get into what the lyrics mean. For some reason, I’m not a lyric guy. I leave that to everybody else and I don’t get into the story of the lyrics. I’m totally into the music – the rhythms and the music – the tempos and the timings and the spaces and the hangs – all mechanical – things like that.
Glenn: It all happened naturally! I guess you did a bit of working and planning things around and rearranging and such like but the sounds of it, it all happened really as it was recorded down so to speak.
Vinny: Yeah. Well you know, when you’re making music and you are recording and writing songs, a lot of playing some of the stuff that you naturally just play is the best stuff. That’s why I’m always recording stuff. Sometimes you go, “Okay we want to write a song like this song”, and we start playing. In the later Dio years that’s what happened. We started writing very regimented. It was, “We want to do the song with this kind of feel”, and we’d play and try to put it together. It came out good but it wasn’t a feel – a natural feel sort of a jam. We could jam for 10 minutes and you’d hear one part in a jam, a minute maybe that just clicks. All of a sudden it becomes magical. We’d go, “This is cool”. That’s what we’ve got to capture in the song and take that little piece of magic and use that as the blueprint.
Glenn: I guess the vibe of a song can get messed up if you try and think, ‘Right it’s got to sound like this, this, this and this, we’ve got all these predecessor songs that are so big and we need to get it to sound as good as that’. Therefore, it makes you try too hard and you naturally don’t need to because those songs were written naturally anyway.
Vinny: That’s right. Some of them like ‘Rainbow In The Dark’, we just started jamming. Viv had the chords from another song and he started playing it, then I jumped in and Jimmy, and I recorded it. Then just for about a minute, Ronnie got up and sang a little bit and then we stopped. Then we went off to other stuff. We didn’t go back and listen to it or go back and work on it. But later on, you come home, you relax a little bit and you listen to it and you go, “Holy Sh*t! – what’s that?’, and it’s the beginning of ‘Rainbow In The Dark’. ‘This is cool. Let’s work on this’. All because it was played naturally.
Even mistakes – there’s one album particularly with Sabbath called ‘Dehumanizer’ – the ‘Time Machine’ song, that’s on there that was in ‘Waynes World’. We had a verse/chorus, verse/chorus written. So we played it and I recorded it. We’re playing it – rehearsing and then Tony dropped out on the guitar because there were no other parts to go to (we laugh). We only had those two parts and Geezer and I kept playing (sings the riff and drum rhythm) and then we stop. Then we didn’t think anything about it, then we went on to something else.
Then later on that night I listened to it and I went, “This is cool!’ All of a sudden we come out of a chorus and there’s just bass and drums. I played it for them. I said, “This is good, litsten to this – it’s really cool.” Then we go into guitar solos because it takes it away from the rest of the song. It doesn’t sound like the verse and the chorus. It sounds like something else so we put it in there. It’s on the album. Mistakes like that, a lot of times that I’ll record, I’ll play something stupid and go, “Oh man! That sucked, that was a mistake!’, but I leave it in. Sometimes I play it not the way I wanted to and it’s kind of like a mistake. I listen back and I go, “Hey that’s really cool,” and I’ll leave it in.
Glenn: I suppose it’s the old cliché isn’t it? We’ll use take one because that was the best take – the natural take yeah?
Vinny: Yeah. I do a lot of recording in my house here and someone will send me a song. I’ll go, “Okay” and I’ll listen to it and I’ll play it down the first time just to have drums on it, then maybe punch in a couple of parts and go “Okay”. Then I’ll replay it again the next day and listen to it and go, “Damn, that really feels good”. It’s a little sloppier but sometimes you capture that vibe and that feel that works rather than you start thinking about it, like you said before, and you start thinking about it and playing it too perfectly and you lose the personality of it a little bit. Parts are perfect but that vibe is missing. Sometimes it works like that.
Glenn: What is the title of the brand new album? Is it going to be a self-titled one or are you going to have a separate title for it?
Vinny: There’s a couple of working titles. I think it might be called ‘Heavy Crown’.
Glenn: That’s an interesting title.
Vinny: It’s one of the songs on the album.
Glenn: Right. I guess it would be weird to have a self-titled album as in ‘Last In Line’ By Last In Line. It’d be like, You what?
Vinny: There’s one song on there. We were jamming and I came up with an idea. We just stole a part from one of ‘The Last In Line’ songs. It was in ‘The Last In Line’ verse. “This would be really cool, let’s just take the verse from ‘The Last In Line’ just for like 10-15 seconds and put it in the song”, and we did. It works awesome. You probably wouldn’t even know but you’d probably go, “It sounds like something but I can’t think what it is”.
Glenn: You are going to get Dio fans going, “Where have I heard that before? Oh I realise what that is”, you know?
Vinny: Somebody might go, “It sounds like Dio, but I don’t know why?”, because there’s a couple of different notes and some of the chords are changed. It works and it’s reminiscing of the signature of what we used to do – it’s really cool.
Glenn: Talking of Black Sabbath, I actually saw you live when you played Sheffield Arena – that was on 7th November, 2007 and I was lucky enough to be in the pit and shot some pictures. It was a phenomenal gig and I’ve still got the photopass. Do you remember much about that gig itself in Sheffield or was it just one of those gigs and a blur?
Vinny: To tell you the truth no. (We laugh)
Glenn: I knew you’d say that.
Vinny: If something happened, like we did something at the gig that was like…. Hmmm. We were just having a great time playing. We really enjoyed the whole tour.
Glenn: Would you say there were any parts of that tour that stand out to you or just the entire tour?
Vinny: Well it was excellent. As the tour went on, we just got better and better and better as a band. Then we did one more tour after that in 2009. It started out just doing songs from the ‘Dio Years’ album for the label with Tony and Ronnie writing song songs and then it turned out that I got in the band – it wasn’t working out with Bill Ward. They called me, I got in and started finishing up the album. Then it was, “Hey you wanna do some gigs?”, so everything was one step at a time. “Hey you wanna do another album?”.
So by 2009, we’d done ‘The Devil You Know’ album and we were just really tight playing well together. Everybody’s playing so good together. So it was just fun. Musically, we were having a ball. Tony’s solo, like in ‘Heaven & Hell’! ‘Heaven And Hell’ was not much longer than the song on the album. By the time the tour went on, Tony had a solo in there and we started working up different things that came naturally live. Then we said, “Hey, that was good, let’s do that each night”. We’d slide it in for like 20 minutes at the end of something crazy because we were having a good time.
Vinny: The whole thing stood out and Ronnie would sing his ass off!
Glenn: That’s brilliant! It’s a good tribute to Ronnie and the big legacy. You managed to all go out before the inevitable happened. Bless him.
Vinny: Well I tell you this. When I joined Black Sabbath in 1980, the first song I played with Ronnie was ‘Neon Nights’.
Vinny: The last song I played with Ronnie thirty-something years later, 2009 in New Jersey, Altantic City – ‘Neon Nights’.
Glenn: That’s incredible!
Glenn: The chances of that?
Vinny: The first song I played with him and the last song I played with him.
Vinny: And I never played with him again. It took us on a long journey. (We both laugh)
Glenn: It’s pretty amazing when you look back at things like that isn’t it? Incredible!
Vinny: Yeah, you go ‘Wow’. It’s weird and I picked the song when I first went down. I heard it on the radio. I didn’t really know the song. He went, “Well what do you want to play?”, I went, “Neon Nights, I guess?”. I didn’t listen to anything because they called me up on the cuff. Not like they called me a week before and asked me, “Do you wanna come down and play with Sabbath, audition whatever and learn some songs?”. So I just heard it on the radio. It was uptempo, I didn’t know any of the parts. I said, “How about ‘Neon Nights’?”. Then we played it, Ronnie sang. Then we used to open with that song, we used to put it in different places and at the end last tour, it wound up being the last encore… and yeah! From the beginning to the end we played it.
Glenn: I guess when you realised it, that must have blown your mind a bit?
Vinny: Yeah, it was like, ‘Wow – this is nuts!’. I could say if the song always opened the set or if it always closed the set but it didn’t – we moved the songs around. A lot of the time we played the same songs but they were in a different order and ‘Neon Nights’ was usually always in the beginning, especially in the early years. But this tour it would up being at the end. It was like ‘Wow!’ It’s like somebody wanted it like that on purpose.
Glenn: Yeah. That’s awesome though. That really is something. Going back to ‘Last In Line’ again, why did you decide to sign to Frontiers Records? Is it because they are one of the only ones signing this type of music right now?
Vinny: That’s what it is. Yeah. They are signing a lot different bands. Actually I played on a couple of other Frontier Projects that are coming out. One’s called ‘Resurrection Kings’ with Craig Goldy, the other Dio Guitar player and I play on Joel Hoekstras album – he’s playing with Whitesnake now. He has an album that just came out (Dying To Live) and I’m on that. They seem to be the only label that are signing rock bands. They are not looking for new bands. I don’t think they really sign so much new stuff as so much retro stuff.
We probably could have got a deal with some other company – some of the major companies, but a lot of those companies, they want half of everything. Deals are not what they used to be and a lot of those companies are looking for new bands. So we wound up with Frontiers. They made an offer. They seemed to be really excited about it and fans of the band so it seemed like the right place to be. So far it’s been great. That’s what the record company business is like. Who knows what is going on? It’s just a big mess.
Glenn: Yeah. It was your Bro, Carmine that actually told me about Frontiers signing the Rock and Metal bands.
Vinny: Yeah he has that band called ‘Rated X’.
Glenn: How was the Joel Hoekstra album for you?
Vinny: It was cool. That was Tony Franklin on Bass. The difference with all these albums is that we didn’t really play in the same room. People send me the tracks and I’ve got really, really good at fitting the drums on to existing tracks and you can’t really tell. I listen, I pick up all the parts. In my studio here, I got the control of this of doing whatever I want and I really get into the guts of these songs. I’m able to really get it to where it sounds like we played together. So Joel’s thing was played. I did that in a different studio because I didn’t have this place yet. It came out great.
I put the drums down and then they wound up playing everything to the drums. There’s some great playing. There’s some really good songs on there. Joel did some killer solos – great guitar work and then you’ve got Tony Franklin on bass who’s amazing, then Jeff Scott Solo on vocals and Rusell Allen on vocals too. It’s a good rock record. It just came out and it’s getting good reviews. ‘The Last In Line’ is something different because we sat in a room and wrote it together, played it together and recorded it together. Not many bands do that.
Glenn: Yeah it’s all flown in on e-mail and stuff isn’t it? It’s weird. It must have been so strange for you to do that for the first time when you’ve been used to all being in the same place at the same time. It must be so strange and artificial almost?
Vinny: Yeah, you know at first back then, we used to rehearse/write, go in an record the songs, play them a number of times, get warmed up – you had to play the whole song you know?
Vinny: “Yeah okay, that was good, how about one more?”, “Okay, let’s do it”, and we played it again and we played it again. Then listen to the best take and use it. Sometimes we’d punch in a couple of things but you can’t do what you do now. “Oh right, let’s fix the whole chorus”, just punch in the chorus. Back then on tape it was really hard to do then.
Glenn: Just a bit!
Vinny: Then when Pro-tools started happening, it was like, ‘Here we are man, this is something totally different’. I didn’t like the sound of the drums on the digital but now it’s gotten really, really good. And Jeff Pilson, we record up at his studio. He really knows how to (record them). You hear the drums breathing. Even in my studio too, the drums sound cracking, like I’m hitting them hard the way I hit ‘em. I actually didn’t like the punch in before. I’d go, “That’s cheating!”, but now I like being able to punch in and fixing the part the way I want it. The way I hear it and creating a part. It gives you some more control. So I’m actually enjoying it off of these circumstances where people send files of songs and you’ve got to plan them. But it’s always cooler to be in the room and rehearse, play as a band and then go and record. I will always say that’s a better way to go.
Glenn: I know Tony’s out with Kenny Wayne Shepherd at the moment and Joel’s with Whitesnake but if schedules worked out it would be great for you guys to do a few gigs or a mini-tour or something some time…
Vinny: Yeah. The Last In Line will start in January – we are on the Def Leppard Rock Cruise that starts in Florida. We are starting with that and then we are going to put together dates at the end of February into March.
Glenn: That’s cool!
Vinny: We were on hold because of Def Leppard and they are out so much. Usually they are not out this much but they put out a new record. They are still touring this year and then they are gonna tour some of next year too.
Glenn: Yeah I’m looking forward to seeing them in December at Sheffield Arena. It should be a good gig. I also interviewed Bill Ward earlier this year as well which was really cool.
Vinny: We did a Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp about six month ago with Bill Ward and it was really cool. Bill came down and he played with all the different campers and we hung out a little bit and it was really special for everybody that was there.
Glenn: I bet it was.
Vinny: Yeah, really cool.
Glenn: It’s a milestone for Rock & Heavy Metal to have you two playing together as well as such isn’t it. It’s like ‘Wow – check this out!’
Vinny: Yeah Man!
Glenn: Even the big boys, the big names like yourself will look at this and say, “Jesus, is this really happening?” But it did! That’s awesome Bro!
Vinny: Yeah. It was really cool.
Glenn: Yeah. I’ve recently been in touch with a guy called Steph Honde and he was saying you’d just done a track for his new project called ‘Hollywood Monsters’. How did that come about?
Vinny: I met Stephen somewhere in L.A. He approached me and said, “Hey, I’m writing some stuff, check it out, do you want to play on it?” So I listened to the stuff, I really liked it so we put drums on it and we put it together and it came out really, really good. We were gonna do some dates with it and actually right now I’ve just finished five songs for him and the stuff is even better. I think he’s a really talented writer and guitar player and he sings. He’s got a really good style about him and I think he’s developed it even more on these new songs that he wrote.
I think it’s a better group of songs so far and this album’s gonna be amazing. He’s one of the few guys who sounds like himself. He’s got a style about him. He writes and goes to different chords than you would normally hear. I really enjoy the stuff he is writing now. I’m just putting the drums together on it and the songs are kickin’ ass! I don’t know when he’s gonna get this thing out- probably next year some time but it’s gonna be great. Then maybe we can do some dates together in between everything else.
Glenn: That’d be great.
Glenn: Can you imagine either Last In Line or with Joel or anyone else, do some UK dates, maybe some small club dates or something? It would be great to see you play Sheffield?
Vinny: Well we played in London. We did one show in London – that was it, with ‘Last In Line’. Hopefully next year when we go out, the plan is to come to Europe so maybe in March. We’ll see what Steve (Strange) comes up with. I think Steve mentioned of doing some UK dates.
Glenn: That’s awesome.
Vinny: Instead of just one.
Glenn: You must have been asked this so many times, but I understand that in your original band, when you first got together playing, you just happened to be around The Record Plant, New York – John Lennon’s there. How was that meeting John Lennon and how did it come to playing along with John?
Vinny: Well it was pretty amazing. Absolutely amazing. I was like 16 years old and we were managed by The Record Plant Studios in New York City. We had a room in New York City upstairs in the Record Plant to rehearse. All the time – it was out room. So spent every night, rehearsed, hung out, smoked pot – that was just a real good time. Jimmy Iovine was our Producer and he would produce. He’d go downstairs after we wrote some songs, he’d record us.
We were trying to get a deal with all that and in the interim one night Jimmy asked us, “Hey can you guys come downstairs and do handclaps on this song?” Back then they used real handclaps – not like a computer. We went down and it was nine piece band – a rock band. We go down there and go in the studio and there’s John. He was in the other room. Wow Man! So then you hear him on the PA, “Hello boys..” talking away.. “Oh man, this is so cool. It wound up that we did handclaps on a song called ‘Whatever Gets You Through The Night’.
Vinny: That’s me and my band on that song. Then we finished and then we went upstairs. John must have asked about us, and said, “Who’s that?” and Jimmy probably told him about us when we were up stairs. A couple of days later, we’re rehearsing and he comes walking in checking us out. Sits on the step in the entrance there. That’s like, you’re playing and John Lennon walks in your rehearsal room! (We laugh) That’s when your muscles tighten up and freeze. ‘Oh my god!’. So eventually he started coming up a lot. There was a pool room up there and we were hanging out with him playing pool, smoked pot with him and all this stuff. Then he eventually asked us to do this live gig with him. The gig was for a tribute to Sir Lew Grade who was a big English Entertainment Mogul and John didn’t like him.
So this thing was filmed at the New York Hilton Hotel. It was a big black tie affair and it was on the Wide World Special on TV and broadcast live. I don’t know if it was live or rebroadcasred around the World. But it was a pretty amazing show. John wanted to go on with Jumpsuits – black jumpsuits – shiny jumpsuits that we wore and he wore a red one. He also didn’t like this guy, Sir Lew Grade and he wanted to show everybody that he was two-faced. He wanted us.. we were going to make masks of our face and put it on the back of our head. So we were bald with two faces with black jumpsuits on. This was nuts!
Vinny: So that was the plan. To do that we’d meet at The Record Plant at 11AM tomorrow and we were going to get fitted for the jumpsuits. We go in the van with John and go and get fitted for jumpsuits.
Vinny: This went on and then we had to go and get the masks made and we went along with John and around the City and get all the stuff we needed for the show. We didn’t really rehearse with him or anything because we played to an existing soundtrack. So we wound up doing this show with him at the New York Hilton in 1975. I think it was in April. We played ‘Slippin’ And Slidin’, ‘Imagine’ and ‘Stand By Me’. Then the weirdest thing is like a year and a half ago I find out it’s in a magazine that came out and there’s a picture of us before we went on stage, my band and John in the middle, with my arms, or like one arm. The picture mentions John obviously and then mentions me because I played with Black Sabbath and people knew me more than the other names in the band. It was like, “Wow – this is so cool!”. Then I find out that this was his last live performance.
Vinny: Like who knew? This was in ’75 and I never knew that was his last performance until a couple of years ago.
Glenn: That’s incredible.
Vinny: Yeah. It was nuts. Then we did a couple of more videos too with him that are on some of his compilation DVD’s and I didn’t get his autograph!!
Glenn: At least you met the guy. That’s more than what a lot of people can say. You got to see him and hang out with him and everything else. It’s pretty amazing. I remember an old buddy of mine who passed away, he lived in Fort Myers Florida, a guy called Tag Graves and for a while he was working with Leon Russell. He was in the studio one day, hanging out with Leon and the band, next thing this guy walks in, looked like a monk or something, a big hood and that, a big brown thing down to his knees, takes the hood off and it’s George Harrison. So you can imagine can’t you? You’re thinking the same thing that he was thinking – that ‘Holy Sh*t Moment’.
Glenn: Absolutely incredible how things work out like that.
Vinny: Well when we did the ‘Mob Rules’ album, before we were on tour with the ‘Heaven & Hell’ album, Warner Brothers asked us to do a song for the movie ‘Heavy Metal’ and the band agreed. We had a couple of days off so we went to where John Lennon’s house is (Weybridge). It was a big mansion somewhere that’s owned by Ringo at that point and there’s a studio in there. So we go, “Alright, we’re gonna book that place, we’re gonna go in for a couple of days, write the song and record. So we run in there and it’s John Lennon’s house.
We check in and this is after his death and everybody got room keys and I got the room key, I go to the door and it says ‘John & Yoko’ on the door. I’m like ‘Wow!’ It’s freaky that I get this! I played with him and knew him somewhat. But it was right after he died so I didn’t want to stay in the room. I don’t know, I should have but I didn’t. So I got another room. But all in that house and then the closets with Beatle Gold and Platinum Records! Everybody including Tony, Geezer and Ronnie who are legends freaking out going, “Oh My God! Look at this Seargent Pepper album and other discs of The Beatles.
Glenn: It’s mindblowing for anyone isn’t it? It’s like ‘Wow!’ It’s those speechless moments – the expression the face just says it all…
Glenn: …with what’s going through your head. It’s like ‘Wow!’ What other words can you say? You can’t explain it.
Vinny: Right. Yes. You go ‘Wow!’. I love The Beatles and grew up on The Beatles…
Glenn: Same here.
Vinny: …then to wind up playing with John, next thing you know, I’m in his house. Amazing!
Glenn: Anyway, it would be wrong not to mention ‘Drum Wars’. How did that come about and how was it for you. I know you’ve just done the show at Whisky A Go-Go not long back as well.
Vinny: Well we started doing a couple of drum clinics together in the 90’s. It went over so well we said, “We got to play together at some point”. We were always busy, we never did it and then about four years ago we decided we had some time to do this. So we wound up putting something together. It was more geared towards clinics – drum clinics. We did a few of those and it was successful. A lot of people came down and we had a ball! Then we realised, “Hey we need to make it more of a rock show!”. So we started incorporating songs from our past with a band. It would make it more exciting. Now we’ve done so many gigs, it’s really an amazing show.
We have a band and we usually have some named players but they might change sporadically with who’s available. We go out and play about 10 songs within the show. We wrote a song called ‘Drum Wars’ – we play that and in between a couple of songs there’s some drum duets that are killer that we play together. It’s got a lot of comedy in it. We have a lot of laughs on stage and it’s all spontaneous. I’m nuts on stage especially in concert. You give me a mic, you know? Forget it!
Glenn: Hahaha – it’s gets crazy?
Vinny: So we developed a really good show. A really, really cool show. People that see it loved it. They’ve never seen anything like it. It’s not just a rock (show) – it’s power drummers on stage. We’re brothers, legends – whatever you want to call us and with a band and we’re playing all the stuff from our past. We’re playing Sabbath, Dio, Blue Murder, Ozzy and (Jeff) Beck stuff from Carmine. It really is just a high energy thing and we kick the sh*t out of each other. We just push each other to the limit that we’re almost to like we’re in pain after the show.
So it’s really developed into quite a show right now. We released a CD earlier this year. We love doing the show. We just played Vegas and it was an amazing show and a couple of big name guys Carrot Top, the comedian and Andrew Dice Clay, they came down and they were floored. They were like, “Oh my god! We’ve not seen anything like this”. So they’re gonna try us to maybe get a show together for a week or to in Vegas. We’ve got other outlets where we are trying to get this thing going.Glenn: You’ll have to get Carmine’s fiancé to get you a few shows over here as well if you get time.
Vinny: Yeah that would be great. So now we call it ‘Drum Wars – An Evening with Vinny & Carmine’ bring the history and the music of the history because they didn’t know what it was for a very long time. ‘Drum Wars’ – they think it’s a drum clinic. To start to clarify, ‘This is not a drum night – this is a rock show’. It’s like something you’ve never seen before – it’s really cool. So we’re going to continue doing more of that too in the next year or so.
Glenn: Cool. Who do you look up to personally as drummers and certain drummers these days do you think, ‘Wow – what a great drummer that guy is’. Who would they be and why?
Vinny: I love Ray Luzier from Korn – he’s a great drummer. I don’t listen to that much new stuff because I’m working all the time and I’m putting my own stuff down where I’m at. I don’t have a lot of time and my ears are getting fried.
Glenn: Hahahaha – I think we’re all like that.
Vinny: There’s some guys out there – drummers like Thomas Lang. They’re amazing so it’s like drum science. You look at those guys and go, “Holy Sh*t!, how do you play like that?”. But it’s a different style. I still look at John Bonham and Mitch Mitchell and all this old stuff – Billy Cobham, Buddy Rich- he was my favourite. That’s what I grew up on. That stuff amazes me. All that was with feel and soul. Not mechanically insane with no feel. Some of those guys play so well but there’s no soul in it and there’s no sound. You hear a lot of guys play but you go, “I don’t know who that is”. You hear John Bonham’s sound – that’s John Bonham, you hear Keith Moon play the way he played – that’s Keith Moon. It’s harder to develop a personality and a sound than it is to keep practicing. It’s tune the drums like that way before everybody else does to make it sound like anything different. Drum personality is hard to come by.
Glenn: In your career, which moments would you say you are most proud of so far?
Vinny: Well some of them moments.. there’s been so many high moments. Obviously, the first gold record. Even before that I played with Rick Derringer. Even before that, John Lennon right? That’s a moment. With Rick Derringer, we made an album and we went out with Aerosmith on an arena tour and I was 18 years old. That stuck out and then the first gold record with Sabbath, platinum record with Sabbath, Dio – we were able to do it again – Platinum Gold Records, big arenas – so many things.
I’m from New York, so playing Madison Square Gardens – headlining it for the first time in Sabbath and then again with Dio. That was such a thrill. Then one of the things recently would be getting on the cover of ‘Modern Drummer’, thanks to my fiancé, she worked it all out. She put it all together and got people involved. They wouldn’t put me on the cover. I was barely in magazines for all these years and I see drummers that are opening for Sabbath on the cover!
Vinny: Like who’s on the cover and I’m in f*ck*ng ‘Black Sabbath’! I mean, I never had a cover, you know? What’s going on? Then eventually they changed people – leaders. Billy Armadello, he worked with my girl and all the company we’re with and they decided ‘Yeah, he deserved the cover!’. I got on the cover and I was really proud of that.
Glenn: These people who got on the cover, you’ve influence these people, so you should be on the cover shouldn’t you?
Vinny: Yeah, that’s the thing and if you look back, you can see some of those covers and some of the rock drummers that were on there and you go, “What’s he doing now?”
Vinny: They’re probably not playing anymore and you’ve never heard of them again. I always kept going and going and going and still going.
Vinny: I intend to keep going. I’m not done yet!
Glenn: I mean, for someone like you, it’s not about money all the time, it’s a case of like, it’s what you love and what you do and you enjoy doing that. It’s your passion.
Vinny: Oh yeah, yeah, it’s like, “Are you gonna retire?”, how can you retire when you’re used to playing every day? Gotta play! It’s in me. I eat music, I create music. I don’t wanna stop so.. Unless you really get sick of it, it doesn’t stop – you play!
Glenn: Totally. We’ve covered so much stuff. It’s been pretty incredible having a good chat with you.
Vinny: Yeah, it’s awesome man, thanks.
Glenn: We could talk for hours about stuff, easily until the cows come home.
Vinny: Yeah, we could talk forever. It’s a long career.
Glenn: Anyway, I’ll let you get off Brother and this has been an absolute joy.
Vinny: Alright Glenn, good talking to you and hopefully we’ll see you in the UK.
Glenn: That’d be great!
Glenn: Alright, you take care Vinny.
Vinny: Ok, thank you.
Glenn: See you later man, Bye.
Be sure to check out:
A big thank you to Valerie Ince for placing me in contact with Vinny Appice as well of course Vinny himself
for the excellent Interview and permission to use of many of his own photographs.