Vinny Appice Interview

April 17, 2012

Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda

Longtime Dio, Black Sabbath, and Heaven & Hell drummer Vinny Appice has joined forces with singer Dewey Brigg, guitarist Mark Zavon, and bassist Rex Brown (formerly of Down and Pantera) in a new band called Kill Devil Hill. The band will release their self-titled debut album on May 22nd and will then embark on a mini North American tour with Adrenaline Mob later that month — but first they plan on playing some select headlining shows to warm up for their shows with Adrenaline Mob. Vinny took some time to speak with Sleaze Roxx about his new project, his drumming style, the highly underrated WWIII and what would happen if Black Sabbath come calling.

Sleaze Roxx: You have a new band called Kill Devil Hill, when did the band begin to take shape?

Vinny Appice: It happened when we wrapped up the last Heaven & Hell tour, I think that was around the fall of 2009. I always wanted to have my own band. I have tried getting different projects going in the past and they never panned out — they’d always get interrupted or something happened. After the 2009 Heaven & Hell tour I had to have shoulder surgery, but before that I had recorded a number of drum tracks. Just a few days after having completed these great sounding drum tracks I got a call from my surgeon’s office saying that they could get me in the following Monday. I said “okay, let’s do it.” I was in a sling afterward and I couldn’t play, so I started listening back to the drum tracks and I thought I’d get Jimmy Bain to come up with something to play over them. I remembered that guitarist Mark Zavon lived nearby and I loved his playing so I called him up and I really liked what he came up with. The next thing we needed to do was to look for a singer. I heard a CD that had Dewey Bragg singing on it and I said, “That’s the guy that we need.” What I liked about Dewey was that he sang these weird harmonies — he didn’t sound 80’s and he had a great voice. He was just what I was looking for.

We continued working with Jimmy Bain but things didn’t work out. We brought in several bass players but they didn’t fit. In the meantime we continued jamming and writing songs — Mark and I wrote a lot of lyrics and melody lines. I heard that Rex Brown was getting ready to leave Down. I’d known Rex for a while so I sent him some of the music, he listened to it, and really liked it a lot. He came in, laid down his bass over it, and really filled it up. So I guess the answer is that Kill Devil Hill evolved on its own.

Sleaze Roxx: The album ‘Kill Devil Hill’ was originally slated for release in April but it was pushed back to May 22nd. What was the reasoning behind that? Did you go back and record additional material?

Vinny Appice: What happened was that we had a problem with the name. There was another band with the name and we had to clear that up. We didn’t want to proceed with something like that becoming a major pain in the ass later on. So we had a slight delay while we were working out the name thing — the next release date was May 22nd. It worked out great for us because we switched management to ESL Music Group, who also manages Adrenaline Mob, who we’ll be going out with in May. We have ten shows lined up with them and then we’ll do some more dates later this summer.

Sleaze Roxx: I’m looking forward to seeing dates in the Northwest with Adrenaline Mob. I was listening to an interview with Adrenaline Mob guitarist Mike Orlando who said, “We’ll be doing some dates with another band that you could consider a super group.” When I heard that the only bands out there at the moment that fit the billing and have albums coming out were Kill Devil Hill or Hellyeah. It turns out its Kill Devil Hill and it’s a win-win for the fans.

Vinny Appice: I think so too. In today’s economy people want more value for their money — even the big tours are putting three to four bands together for more value for your money. Teaming up with Adrenaline Mob is better for both bands because we’ll do better together because of all the names that have been associated with our previous bands. We’ll play first, though it is a co-headlining tour, then Adrenaline Mob will do their set and at the end we’ll jam. I think we’d like to do “Mob Rules” and a couple other cover tunes — it’ll be a great time.

Sleaze Roxx: Kill Devil Hill will be playing a solo date in Portland on April 26th with local support. You’ll be breaking material in from the ‘Kill Devil Hill’ album obviously — is there a chance that you’ll be performing material from the previous bands you guys have been a part of in the past.

Vinny Appice: It’s unlikely that we’ll do that on our solo dates. The original material has gone over great — we’re concentrating on that on these solo dates, although we’ve thought about doing it. Who knows what can happen during next week’s rehearsals — we could sneak one or two in there… we’ll see. Unfortunately, the album won’t be released when we play in Portland but when the album comes out the people will be familiar with the music.

Sleaze Roxx: Guitarists have a signature sound — you can tell it’s Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads or George Lynch when you hear a riff. With drummers it’s difficult to have a signature sound, but when we hear you play we know that it’s Vinny Appice. How did you arrive at your sound?

Vinny Appice: The drums might vary a little bit depending on the different engineers and producers, but I think you know that it’s me by the ‘attack’ or ‘attitude’. I play drum licks in the middle of a verse or something — it’s just the way I play. That’s one of the hardest things about playing any instrument, is developing your own style that’s recognizable with the listeners — you can’t practice that. I remember as a kid I used to ask myself, ‘when am I gonna get that thing’, that mojo or whatever you call it? I thought about it as a kid, which is weird. There are guys that play a lifetime and they don’t get it — you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart from the rest.

At one point I started to develop a sound and recognizable licks. I tuned the drums a little different — my snare drums are very loose. If you start playing a set and you never change anything then you never develop your own personality. My hits are all rim shots — so you’ll hear a full whack on the snare. I like to play hard and loud, and combined with accents it makes up my sound.

Sleaze Roxx: I didn’t get into heavy music until around ’84 or so but when I heard your work with Dio it was disappointing when I heard other drummers. I was the guy asking, “Why can’t all drummers sound like that?!”

Vinny Appice Sleaze Roxx InterviewVinny Appice: (breaks out in laughter) Right! What I play on the drums is what I feel. It’s like if I were to narrate the song and give it attitude. I throw in some licks, those aren’t happy licks — some are pissed, some are angry and some are fire.

Sleaze Roxx: I have to ask you about a band that was a favorite of mine that you were a part of, WWIII which featured bassist Jimmy Bain (Dio, Rainbow), guitarist Tracy G (Dio), singer Mandy Lion and you on drums. Why didn’t that band work out? I thought the band and that album were great.

Vinny Appice: I agree with you. The ‘WWIII’ album kicked ass and sounded sonically great, that band had their won signature sound to it. If you listen back to that album, Mandy Lion was doing screams like that before anyone was doing that kind of stuff. It was a great band and we had a great look — the problem was that were managed by Don Arden who we didn’t see eye to eye with and it made it very difficult for the band to continue after that.

The problem with management could have been changed, but that was just one of the problems. Tracy and Jimmy didn’t see eye to eye, then I got a call from Black Sabbath who were working on the ‘Dehumanizer’ album — the band just fell apart after that. If we had different management, or a different label behind us… we were on Hollywood Records who was owned by Disney. We did a mini-tour of the Midwest and people were fucking scared (laughs)! They’d see Mandy on stage with a fan blowing hair everywhere and his voice scared people (laughs)! WWIII is a good example of a good band and a good product that didn’t do anything because we didn’t have the right people involved.

Sleaze Roxx: Last question, Black Sabbath will be playing their only North American show without Bill Ward in Chicago at Lollapalooza this summer. If Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler approached you about sitting in for that date would you do it?

Vinny Appice: (pause) I would love to do the gig if asked. It’s kind of hard not to do something with Black Sabbath at this point because it is coming up on some of the last things that they’ll probably do — ever. Black Sabbath is part of rock ‘n’ roll history and its part of my family. If they wanted me for a gig I’d love to do it, but right now I’m concentrating on Kill Devil Hill. If I stepped in for the gig it would have to not interfere with Kill Devil Hill or it would have to benefit it. My idea is to have my own band and rely on my band and not other people.