by Eric Althoff
Vinny Appice and brother Carmine Appice have both played drums for some of rock’s greats: Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, Rod Stewart. The Appice Brothers are now touring together—they will play at Pearl Street Warehouse Jan. 30—but Vinny insists it won’t be percussion and nothing more.
“It’s not a drum show; it’s a rock show,” Vinny said of the act he and Carmine have put together, saying their backup ensemble “really kicks ass.” “We do about 12, 13 songs and” share stories about their rock histories in between. “It’s very cool and very exciting.”
The Appice brothers grew up in New York, and both learned drums in their young years. Carmine is older by 11 years, and because bands typically only use one drummer, they each went off on separate careers behind the titans of rock.
It wasn’t until Vinny and Carmine started working on “drum clinics” in recent years that they even entertained the notion of working together.
“It evolved into a band so we can play all the songs from both our histories,” Vinny said. “Then we can book it easier than drum clinics.”
Their show will feature the brothers alternating behind the kit and playing together on respective songs from their work in rock. They will also share humorous stories and even poke fun at one another—including one skit about the “correct” pronunciation of their surname.
“I say ‘ah-puh-see’; he says ‘a-peace.’ I to the audience how this came about, but you really can’t hear anything because starts playing a tune,” Vinny said of the sketch that’s part of their show. He keeps moving his lips as if dictating how to properly say the family name as Carmine and the band drown out the lecture.
Vinny said that because he and Carmine have worked together for so long, in addition to being siblings, they are able to “wirelessly” communicate during their headlining show. Vinny will alternate with Carmine on drum fills and take turns in the spotlight even during the same song.
“We’ve been doing this professionally for a long time. I’ve been to his shows he’s been to my shows,” Vinny said of their relationship. “We actually have a lot of fun with this . The band’s great everybody’s on time.
“The only thing is Carmine takes too long on the soundcheck. I’m quick,” he added with a chuckle.
In the 1970s, Vinny was playing with a band that rehearsed and recorded at the Record Plant in New York. A chance meeting at that famous studio with John Lennon led to the former Beatle inviting Vinny’s band to perform the hand clapping on “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.” Lennon also invited the band into his social circle, an experience Vinny describes as surreal.
“We’d hang out, smoke a couple joints, play pool with him,” Vinny said, adding that in those pre-smartphone days, no one in his band pestered Lennon for photos or autographs. “I believe he just thought we’re all musicians here.”
Vinny’s mother even cooked a homemade lasagna for Vinny’s new friend, delivered in an old Italian pan.
“Then about a month later, my brother is playing with Rod Stewart at Madison Square Garden, and John’s backstage,” Vinny recalls. “My mother sees John Lennon and…she goes, ‘Oh, do you have my pan?’”
“We never got it back. We think Yoko has it.”
Vinny lives in Los Angeles while Carmine splits his time between their native New York and a second home in Florida. The brothers meet up in Lakewood, New Jersey, to rehearse their show. They used to travel there as a family when Vinny and Carmine were kids—when the local population was significantly less.
“My parents had a little bungalow there. We’d take a trip out of Brooklyn with all the bricks and concrete and go to Lakewood, which at that time a few other bungalows and lots of trees,” Vinny said. “Now it’s almost all built up. I almost don’t want to see it now. I have such great memories of riding my bike down to the lake.”
Time has had its way with that Jersey Shore community, as it has with Vinny’s former bandmate Ozzy Osbourne, who recently announced a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Vinny says he awoke to the news Monday at his California home.
“It’s a stab when you hear people getting sick and passing away Neil Peart,” he said. “We’re getting older, I guess. That’s why every day you wake up, especially musicians, you go play and play in front of people. It’s a blessing.”
Vinny relates a previous trip to the D.C. region when he was in Dio and the band’s limo driver took them on a nighttime cruise of the monuments. Such is the life of the professional musician, Vinny said: seeing a gig city mostly through the windows of airplanes and taxis.
“I’d love to go to the Air & Space Museum, you know how it is,” he said. “We come in, we play and then we leave. You never get to see anything.”
In addition to the ensemble he shares with his brother, Vinny has another band with Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard called Last in Line. Vinny describes his life both on- and offstage as “fantastic” and is thrilled to be sharing the stage with his brother Carmine at the end of the month at Pearl Street Warehouse.
Meanwhile, he will keep imparting wisdom to the next generation of percussionists.
“What I always tell young drummers when they ask for advice is ‘Girls like drummers the best in the band. Don’t forget that,’” he said with a laugh.
The Appice Brothers will be performing in D.C. at Pearl Street Warehouse on January 30th.