Intervju med Carmine Appice i King Kobra!
King Kobra är tillbaka och för andra gången får jag tillfälle att snacka med Carmine Appice. Jag ringde upp honom i Paul Shortinos hem i Las Vegas och fick en trevlig pratstund om bl a kommande plattan, åren med Rod Stewart, turnerandet med Ozzy och varför King Kobra aldrig riktigt lyfte från marken på 80-talet
Carmine: Niclas, how are you? That´s my son´s name!Cool! I´m good. How are you Carmine?
Carmine: I´m good. Sweden huh?
Carmine: I´ve heard it´s cold!
Yeah it is! Shitty weather!
Carmine: I´m in Vegas, at Paul Shortino´s house. It´s beautiful here.
I actually interviewed you and Pat Travers backstage seven years ago at a place called Fasching in Stockholm.
Carmine: Right, right!
What made you put the band together again?
Carmine: Well, it was just something that was really just an accident, you know. What we did was, David Michael Philips actually came to LA one day and we were just having a cup of coffee and we went to see my buddy Pat Regan who was mixing the Keel album and he was doing it for Frontiers Records and Paul Shortino was on that album producing Ron Keel´s stuff, so basically we were just listening and Pat said “Hey, you guys should maybe get King Kobra back together and a do a record for Frontiers?” and I said “That´s an interesting idea!”. I was working with this manager Alan and he said “Yeah, I think I can put together a deal!”, so started negotiating that and while he was doing that, I was talking to the rest of the guys in the band about doing it and everybody agreed to doing it. Before, I talked to Marcie Free about doing it and the word to me was that se didn´t want to do it. I said that if I was gonna do it, I´d like to play some live shows and we were hassling over releasing a video too. I have this video from Acapulco (1986) and she didn´t want it released and it was a bit of a hassle, so we didn´t release it. There was a bit of a bad flavor left in the atmosphere. But I said “If we do this release would you wanna do some gigs?” and she said “No, I don´t want to do any gigs! I don´t want to be like a freak show!”, so I said “Ok, that´s fine!”. I had in my head that we need to get a new singer, so while we were there talking to Pat, he said that Paul Shortino was doing some stuff for the Keel album and I said to David “You know, Paul is a great singer! I don´t know if you know him?” and he said “Well, I don´t really know him.” And I said “Well, I´ve known him for a very long time and he´s a great singer. I did a project with him when we were on the bus for 14 hours and we did nothing but sing all kinds of songs like from The Beatles to The Temptations and Paul was able to sing anything. We should probably call Paul and we need someone with a name I would think, to replace the original.”. So I called Paul and he was totally into it and now we had the singer and the band and Alan was working on the record deal and he finally got the record deal together and it was all put together.
This new album, it´s quite heavy in its places. Did you produce it yourselves?
Carmine: Yeah, me, Paul and David basically produced it. Michael Voss mixed it and he´s doing the new Michael Schenker album and he´s done Paul Shortino´s album and Gary Barden´s album and it´s all like a family. Paul sang the backgrounds on Michael Schenker´s dvd that Michael Voss mixed and he produced and mixed Paul Shortino´s album and he also did Gary Barden´s album and while I was on tour this summer Gary was telling me, and played me the album, how great Michael Voss was and then Paul said that Michael wanted a shot at mixing the King Kobra record and I was on the road with Michael Schenker and he was doing Schenker´s album too, so it´s like a family. (laughs) This guy is coming up everywhere, so he must be good. We gave him a song called “Monsters and heroes”and I´d like to send it to you. It´s not on the album and what it is is it´s a tribute to Ronnie James Dioand it´s a really, really great song and all the money that´s being made from it goes to Ronnie´s cancer fund, so I´m just trying to promote it. Classic Rock Magazine are gonna put it on their website, so if you can do anything like that, it would be great.
Carmine: So we gave him that song to mix first to see how it goes and he sent back a tremendous mix and I said “Wow, this guy´s really good!” and then we worked out a deal and gave him the whole album to mix and he did a tremendous job.
All the guys in the band, have you all stayed in touch over the years? I remember you mentioned that Johnny Rod had been in jail back and forth.
Carmine: Yeah that´s right and he´s still as crazy as ever. He was in jail and he was married to a doctor and there were drug problems. Johnny´s a bad boy. Crazy as ever still, ok! But we found him. I had a number on him and I called him and he called me back. He would call me every six months anyway, to see what was going on. He´s an Italian boy, you know, as much as I hate to say it. (laughs) Mick I knew how to get a hold of, because when I did that King Kobra album in 2000, I had put Mick on there and David I always knew how to get a hold of, so it wasn´t that difficult really to find everybody.
What was it like sitting down and writing songs together again? Was it easy or hard?
Carmine: It was very easy, because what we did first of all, was that me and David brought out tapes that we had from 1984 and 1985. We had songs that we never put on the first album, like “Top of the world”, “You make it easy”, “Midnight woman”, and “Screaming for more”. These were songs that we actually started writing in the 80´s and Frontiers made it really specific to me that they didn´t want an album like “Hollywood trash”, which was a more modern sounding album, they wanted and 80´s classic King Kobra sound. I talked to David and Paul and said “Maybe we should bring out some of these tapes that we have?”. The first meeting was me, Paul and David and we came to Vegas to Paul´s studio and we had these tapes and went over the songs and decided on which songs we were gonna go for and then David said that he had some ideas and Paul and I had some ideas. And believe it or not, but we did this whole album over the Internet. How about that! Everyone lives in a different town. Johnny lives in St Louis, I´m in LA, Mitch is in Fresno, Paul´s in Vegas and David´s in Phoenix so it´s really hard to say “Ok, let´s get together and jam!” and the budgets for today´s recording isn´t that much, so we would eat up the entire budget just on travel. We decided that David would come to Vegas and it would be like a middle ground from LA to Phoenix. We would put the songs together and then e-mail them to each other and put everything together. That´s how we did it. I came out to Paul´s house a couple of times. He´s got a great house and his wife Carmen is great and I have my own little room and the studio is right across the hallway, so we get up and walk into the studio and then we put all these things together. We would send David some ideas and he would then put those ideas down on a Pro Tool session with a click and send it to us and then me and Paul would write a lot of lyrics and melodies and put all that together, then we´d send it back to David and then he might change something. Sometimes David would send us a guitar and a drum machine and we would cut and paste it the song together the way we heard it rather than the way he played it to us. ”Monsters and heroes” was like that. Then when he sent me all the tracks, we went into a studio here, an analog studio, so we did the drums analog and then bounce them into Pro Tools and after we did that we sent them back to David and he would put rhythm guitars on and Johnny Rod moved to Vegas so we put the bass on in the same analog studio and that´s why it sounds so good. Then we sent that to Mick and he did his parts and sent it to Paul and Paul did all the vocals and I came back out here and we did background vocals and everything at Paul´s house. Finished it up with percussion and everything and then sent it all to Michael Voss who mixed it. Unbelievable! But it doesn´t sound like that. It sounds like we´re all in the same room.
Do you have any memory of why those songs were left off the album back ten?
Carmine: Yeah, we were working with Spencer Proffer and he didn´t think they were good enough, but I disagreed with him. I thought they were very good songs and now they come to life on this album and everyone´s agreeing with me.
Cool! Back when the band was first put together, the idea of the rest of the band being blonde and you having black hair, was that you?
Carmine: That was me, yeah! I came up with that idea when I was on tour with Ozzy. Mötley Crüewas opening up for us and they had three guys with black hair and Vince Neil had blonde hair and I thought “That´s a cool concept!” and I said “You know what, if I ever do a heavy rock group of this era, I was thinking about doing it all blondes which would be vivid and me being the black haired one!”. So after I got fired from Ozzy (laughs) which I did… when Sharon´s departing words were, “Your name is too big! You need to start your own band!”, I took her advice. I started King Kobra and I had this whole concept of finding really good looking guys that the chicks would like and play really great, sing really great, because a lot of those bands in the mid 80´s couldn´t play. They sucked!Thye just had a good image, but they could not play! I´ve always come from a playing aspect first. If you can play and then you have a great image, that´s it! For me it was like finding good looking guys, younger guys, break them in the business and make sure that they´re great players and I think that I found that with everybody in King Kobra. Mark Free was a great singer, Johnny Rod was a great bass player and great performer and the same with Mick and David. David was a great songwriter and had songwriting abilities in his own right. The “Home street home” thing we did, which was the first rock/rap song that was ever done, was penned a lot by Mick and I wanted to put that on the second album because I wanted to attach both worlds, the rap world and the rock world. Unfortuneately Capitol Records failed us on many levels and because of them it didn´t go, but right after that they came up with Aersomith/Run DMC track and they went “Oh, the first time you ever mix rock and rap!” and I said “No, we had a six months jump on you there!”. But anyway, having that band together… it was a great band and that´s why getting the actual band members together was a good idea because we play really well together and with David back in the picture, he was the key writer. Between the two of us, we put the King Kobra sound down. My drums and his guitars and structures of chords and stuff created the sound on “Ready to strike” and “Breakin´out” and you can hear it on “King Kobra III” like in “Redline” and “Mean street machine”. That was me and David.
Who came up with the Kobra sign? I remember a buddy of mine bought the first album and we saw the video for “Hunger” and then we went around and did the Kobra sing all the time.
Carmine: (laughs) I came up with that! It was all my thing! These guys were brand new and they didn´t know what they were doing. All the creative stuff, the blonde hair and the whole thing came from me and this was around the time that Dio started doing the Dio sign and I said “Well, that´s a cool idea. Maybe we should have a Kobra sign?”. I came up with that and we used to get all the audience doing that at the gigs, which was great. Then again, Capitol failed. If we would´ve become a really huge band, that thing would probably have gone further. Like the Dio sign now is the president of the rock signs. They do it in rap, they do it everywhere. Like Rod Stewart started that haircut and the raspy voice or Jeff Beck with the haircut. Ronnie Dio started that sign and it´s gone all the way, so that´s why. We tried to do a Kobra sign to rival what Ronnie was doing.
You went out with KISS. Was that your first major tour?
Carmine: Well, I would say yes. First major long tour. We had done some other gigs, like with Ted Nugent for a couple of weeks and odd gigs with Queensryche and Iron Maiden, but not on a tour basis. We did do a tour with Autograph. But that was our first major tour and our only major tour and it was awesome! They actually gave us that tour because Gene and Paul were friends of mine and our manager, Alan, used to work for Aucoin management, so they did us a favor. They put us on the tour and actually paid us. I think they paid us 2 or 3000 dollars a night, which they didn´t have to do but they were friends and did that for us and it was an awesome tour. It was a wild tour because instead of renting a bus I went out and bought a mobile home, a RV, because a bus is like 25000 dollars a month and it´s crazy! So instead of using the tour support for that, we would use it to try and promote the band and with buying a motor home, you put ten grand down and you have a 300 dollar a month payment, so we did that instead and after a couple of years of using it, it started breaking down a lot and it used to break down a lot on this KISS tour. Every time we would end up making it to the next gig, KISS and their crew would cheer us “Ah, you guys made it!”, because a lot of times the motor home broke down and we ended up being on the side of the road and we had this truck too, so some of us would jump in the truck and we´d get there and the other ones would have to get a rented van and wait for them to deliver it and you´d get there just in time to go on. It was crazy! But it was a great tour and we had a lot of fun with KISS and they had a lot of fun with us.
I just found a clip on YouTube of an in store appearance you guys did in 86 in McAllen, Texas. Was that on the KISS tour?
Carmine: Eeeehhh, it probably was. It was either the KISS tour or the gigs we did with Ted Nugent. (I later found out that it wasn´t on the KISS tour since King Kobra played their final gig with KISS on April 8 and the in store appearance is listed as April 22. Editor´s note)
Did you do a lot of stuff like that, back in those days?
Carmine: Yeah, we did a lot of stuff! You know what else was going on at that time, the movie Spinal Tap. I didn´t like the movie because I was living it. I was living it with King Kobra. In my career I was playing arenas and big theaters from 67 up until Ozzy´s days and then right after that I started the King Kobra stuff and I´m in a mobile home driving around with these young guys and we´re hitting these clubs and these small theatres and you can´t find the stage and it was totally Spinal Tap. It was driving me crazy and I couldn´t even look at this movie. Paul was in that movie and he played Duke Fame.
Carmine: And now we´re saying that Duke Fame is singing with King Kobra. (laughs)
Duke Fame who played the Enormo dome!
Carmine: Yeah, exactly! In those days it was hard for me to deal with it.
Like you mentioned, you toured with Autograph. Are two of those guys dead?
Carmine: They might be, I don´t know. I didn´t hear about that.
I just recently read that. I believe Steve Isham is dead though.
Carmine: I just saw Steve, the lead singer, at a department store in the Valley. He´s working with Spencer Proffer which is funny. Proffer does music for movies.
Cool! How did you get the “Never say die” song in the “Iron eagle” movie?
Carmine: That was my friend Duane Hitchings who was with me on “Do ya think I´m sexy”and “Young turks” and I got him into writing with Rod Stewart. He did “Infatuation” and together we wrote songs for Alice Cooper. He was well into his song writing thing and his partner Jake Hooker was also a manager and he managed Edgar Winter and Jake Hooker co wrote “I love rock and roll”, so Duane and Jake wrote this song for “Iron eagle” and Duane was involved in the production of the second King Kobra album. I brought him in as a co producer, because Spencer Proffer didn´t have time to do it and I was like “Ok, I´ll do it with Duane!”, so we brought Duane in and he brought in the opportunity to do this “Iron eagle” song and that was great because we did the song and then we went and did the video with Lou Gosset Jr and we became friends with Lou Gosset and we spent three or four days on the set and we had this thing going where they made it look like we cut our hair off and we really didn´t. We cut our hair a little shorter so we could put it up so it would look like it was cut off and after looking at that video and everything and Mark Free becomes a woman. (laughs) They used him as the weak link and the wimp and in his life he wanted to be a woman. It was nuts! So when I listen to music and lyrics he wrote, everything has changed for me. But when he left the band, he left because he wanted to sing what I call wimpier music. King Kobra with this new album is heavy rock and that was what we were all about and he was all about that and then he started changing into where he wanted to be more like Survivor, you know, and that wasn´t really what we wanted and that´s why he left.
The second album “Thrill of a lifetime” was a bit more commercial.
Carmine: Yeah, because that´s what Capitol Records said to us, “Look, we don´t know how to sell these albums, these heavy rock albums as good as we can sell singles, so we need a load of singles and we want you to give us one side of the album with singles and the other side you can do what you want to do. We need the singles in order to do anything with this or we´re not gonna give you the budget for the second album! We´re not gonna do it unless you do this!” so I said “Well, we have to do it then!”. We tried to put together some cool kind of songs that were lighter, which was what Mark Free loved. I can´t even remember the songs that we did, but that´s what happened and that´s why. The record company didn´t know how to sell us and in the end they still didn´t know how to sell us. I know why, because the A&R guy that we had was originally the radio guy. Ray Tusken was an amazing radio guy and he was the one that broke every act that Capitol had in those days. Then they promoted him to A&R so they had nobody running the radio. They didn´t know how to sell the rock. After our second album came out and they did nothing about it, even with the KISS tour they couldn´t do nothing, they put him back on radio and he started working with Poison and Poison used to open up for us. Poison took our whole image. If you look at Poison on the first album, they were very similar to King Kobra and next thing you know Ray Tusken broke them open and as far as I´m concerned they weren´t that great of a band. (laughs) Being honest, they had a good image and a good show, but as far as music, c´mon1 Rikki Rocket couldn´t even play in those days. CC was the best thing in the band. Bret Michaels was not a great singer and the bass player was almost invisible, but they had a cool image and they broke them. Ray went back to doing what he does best. We were quite pissed off at that, I gotta tell you. (laughs) I mean, there were a lot of bands that came out in the mid 80´s or late 80´s and they were horrible! It was all about the video they could make, but most of them couldn´t play! They had drummers that couldn´t play and guys that were just posers, so when we came out with Blue Murder in 89 and we were doing 70´s kind o stuff and people were digging it, but that´s another story.
Since you worked with Rod Stewart, the song “Do ya think I´m sexy”, do you still get a lot of royalties from that one?
Carmine: Oh yeah! It was a huge song! Definitely the biggest song of his career.
Did you know when you wrote it, that it could be something?
Carmine: No. When we wrote it… Rod was the kind of guy who would keep his eye on the charts. “The Rolling Stones are number one this week with Missing you! I want a song like Missing you!”, so that´s what “Do ya think I´m sexy” was supposed to be and it was when we first recorded it. It was done with three guitars, bass and drums and keyboard and it sounded really rock. It had huge big drum sounds on it and then Tom Dowd, the producer, kept adding to it. He put a 42 piece orchestra on it, he put David Foster on it, Tom Scott on it and Linda Lewis singing high harmony version of the string line and then Duane Hitchings was on it. Before you know it, we had two 24 tracks full of music! 48 tracks of music and that´s why when we they mixed it, the drum sound is thin and small and there was so much stuff on it that it started sounding like a disco record, but I guess that´s what he was going for, because in 78, that´s what was big. And you know what, I can´t complain. It went to number one in every free country in the world.
When was the last time you saw Rod?
Carmine: I saw him a year ago when Jeff Beck was playing in LA and Rod came and sang “People get ready”, which I was involved in the making of also, which I never got credit for and that´s another story. (laughs) With Rod… when you´re in his camp and you´re playing with him and everything´s cool and he´s a nice guy and great to work with, but when you´re out of the camp, you´re out of the camp! When I heard he had cancer I gave him a call “Hey dude, I´m so sorry!” and he never called back. Then when I saw him that day I said “Hey Rod, I called you a bunch of times!”. He used to call back when he had his other assistant, a guy named Malcolm that I used to know and he passed away. Then he had his secretary Amanda and she was fine. She would give him messages and sometimes if I called she´d get him on the phone, but since she´s gone he´s got his nephew there and he doesn´t really know me. So I said “Rod, I called you a few times! Did you get my message?” and he goes “No!”. “Well, are you around tomorrow?” and he said “Yeah!”, “Well, I´ll give you a call!”. And I wanted to give him a version of “Do ya think I´m sexy” that I did with Pat Travers where it was done heavy. I wanted to show him that because he keeps saying it´s a disco song and it´s all about the arrangements. I wanted to show him how you can rockify this song and sometimes he does it twice in shows so why not do it differently the second time. I called him the next day and of course he didn´t answer and I never heard from him. But what are you gonna do? But when I saw him he came over and gave me a hug. It´s just a different level of… he´s on a different level of superstardom. He plays these 20000 seat places and sell them out. When I was with him we did six nights at these places.
You mentioned earlier the Ozzy/Mötley tour. What do you remember from that, since it´s quite infamous these days, especially with Mötley Crüe going bananas on that tour? Did you take part in all the shenanigans that went on?
Carmine: I was on it only for the first six or eight weeks of it, but the thing that I do remember is that they started this thing which was called “The no fun tour”, because Sharon wouldn´t let anybody backstage.
Yeah, I know!
Carmine: So they had this limp penis as the mascot and they would draw this everywhere and they would write “No fun tour 1983” because Sharon wouldn´t let any groupies backstage. I used to go hang out with them. I used to like Tommy and I´ve got some funny stories about Tommy. He would do this thing where he would twirl his stick and then he hit the cymbal and grab it with his arm and I said “Hey dude, where did you get that from?” and he said “I got it from John Bonham!” and I told him he got it from me. “ I did it first in 1968 with Vanilla Fudge and the John got it from me and passed it on to you!” and he didn´t believe me So I said “When we go back to LA, I´ll show you some videos!”. So I showed him some videos of Vanilla Fudge on the Ed Sullivan show, before Led Zeppelin was even out, of me doing that stuff on TV for 50 million people and the a year later doing it with my big drums, the same drums that I got John Bonham where the end of “Shotgun” was very similar to “Rock and roll”, so when he heard that he said “When did you do this? That´s just like Rock and roll!” and I said “Yeah, I did that five years before Rock and roll came out!”. And he was like “Dude, I can´t believe it!”. We became good friends on that tour. It was rough for Ozzy, because they were going for the throat, they were ready to kill and ready to blow Ozzy off the stage every night and they did it a bunch of times. I would be doing press every day and master classes and I get on stage and I´m fired up to go and I say “Ozzy, let´s go man! Mötley Crüe just kicked ass and we´re gotta kick their ass!” and Ozzy would go “Oh, I´m bloody knackered!” and I was like “What do you mean you´re knackered? C´mon man, let´s get some energy going!” and I was trying to fire him up. I don´t know if it was from drinking or his wife working him too hard doing press all day, I don´t know. But I gotta say that the band we had was an awesome band. Bob Daisley and jake E Lee and myself, we were killing!
Yeah, killer stuff! Back to King Kobra. Any tour plans or festivals?
Carmine: We´re talking about it now and Adam, the manager, is talking to people and trying to see what we can get going, but you know, King Kobra was never big. We were bigger in the press than we were in actual sales, because of my manager Alan who knew how to manipulate press to make it look bigger than it was and that´s what he did with KISS and then the album sales caught up with the image. We never had that luxury because the label flaked out on us, so we had a big image and a lot of press and people knew us, but there wasn´t a lot of record sales. What´s happening now, to do a comeback, the numbers for King Kobra to come out and do a festival is really not enough to even warrant the plane flights, you know. The plan is to… we´re talking now about doing a bunch of shows in some major cities and it´s not gonna be any money making ventures, but more promotion.
Is Rocklahoma on for this year?
Carmine: I guess it is. I haven´t heard anything about us doing that, but as I said, the manager´s working on stuff. He´s original plan was to get the record out, get some good reviews and get the buzz out then try and book some of the festivals versus trying to book them when there´s no buzz going on. we´re gonna do a video this week for probably “Turn up the party” and “Live forever”. Then we´ll see where it goes. Hopefully we can sell enough records and do enough to warrant another record.
I just found out today that Black N´Blue are releasing their new record on Frontiers as well.
Carmine: Unbelievable! Frontiers has become the 80´s staple. Every band that was ever out in the 80´s is now on Frontiers and all these bands were on different labels. These guys have taken on everybody. I´ve got friends of mine that think Frontiers is mafia money. (laughs) They sign everybody, but they sell like 5 or 6000 of every record worldwide and how do they make their money back?
But they did good with the latest Journey album, I believe. I think they sold nearly a million copies of it.
Carmine: Oh, I didn´t know that! Well, they´ll probably do ok with the Whitesnake record.
You guys should play Sweden Rock!
Carmine: Yeah, we should play that. I would think for sure that they would want King Kobra, but their offer was ridiculous. They couldn´t even pay for the flights and Frontiers don´t do tour support. I think we were offered like 3 grand, so it just doesn´t pay. I thought for sure because with Cactus they offered us a good amount of money. But all those festivals are offering the same amount of money and we can´t do that, unless someone wants to lose money and I don´t want me to lose money. I lost 150 grand on the last run in the 80´s and I´m done with that. This is all for fun now. I´m not saying we have to make a lot of money, but we need to make something because there´s nobody there to take the deficit.
I understand. Thanks a lot Carmine and good luck with everything!
Carmine: Thank you and if you need anything let me know!
Här hittar ni Monsters and heroes