Catching Up With Carmine Appice
Catching Up With Carmine Appice
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from King Kobra but along with Paul Shortino on vocals the rest of the band is back with their self-titled debut on Frontiers Records.
I recently caught up with Carmine Appice to talk about what inspired their return.
Q & A by: Roger Scales
What events led you to reunite King Kobra to record a brand new album?
Basically what happened was that David Michael-Phillips (Dave Henzerling) was coming to LA for work so he asked me if I was around and we met for dinner. While at dinner he told me Pat Regan, who mixed a lot of my Guitar Zeus Records and a few of other projects I’ve been involved with, was in town and was busy mixing and producing the new Keel record and wanted us to go down and say hello. So we went down and said hello and hung with some of the Keel guys. Dave used to play with them at one point so everybody is really friendly and open so Pat speaks up and suggests that Frontiers just inked Keel to record this new album why don’t you and David consider working together again and reunite King Kobra. As luck would have it Paul Shortino was also involved with this new Keel album helping Pat produce and record Ron’s lead vocals and also contributing harmonies on some tracks as well. So Dave and I started to kick around the idea of getting the original band back together and maybe we can get Paul to be our new singer? I already knew that Marcie (formerly Mark) Free would not be interested in returning because it doesn’t fit her style any longer. So I asked Paul if he would be interested in the project and he said yes he would. I then called Johnny (Rod) who has been talking about getting King Kobra back together for a few years now and I knew he’d be in. Next was Mick and he was game so the band was back!! I then went to my current manager Alan Parsons and asked him if he thought he could secure a deal for King Kobra to record a new album. He did try a few labels before finally striking a deal with Frontiers. It made a lot of sense because Frontiers seems to be gathering quite a bit of talent of late and we seemed like an obvious choice. Then we started to get to work.
Was there a specific pattern King Kobra followed when you were in the studio this time around? Did one band member write the majority of the lyrics while others worked on the arrangements of the music or was it different for each track?
The way that this album came together was a lot different than what we did back in the day. This entire album was done via the internet. In December of 2009 I was in Las Vegas completing a string of gigs and Paul Shortino (who lives and operates his own studio in Vegas) invited me down to start to record some of the new music. David flew in from Arizona and met up with us that weekend. We then started to listen to each other’s tapes and started to get some ideas about where this was going to go. Included in this listening session were some old leftover King Kobra tapes from 1984 that included some tracks that were never used on the old records. 4 of the songs from this new album (“Midnight Woman”, “You Make It Easy”, ‘Top of the World” and “Screamin for More”) came from old ideas included in these old recording sessions. We always thought these tracks were really strong King Kobra songs but they just never used. David went back to Phoenix and I went back to LA and then about a month later I was back in Vegas with Paul and David had sent over via email a bunch of song ideas. The writing for this album was Paul, David and I. After we listened to David’s stuff between the 3 of us we pieced together the lyrics, the music and the songs started to take shape. We would put the songs in an email and send them back to Dave who would put the song down properly (using a click track) send it back to us. Then Paul would put down a rough vocal on it and then I took that into the studio and did all the drums analog. Pretty good sized studio called “Hit Tracks” in North Vegas. After we got the drums we would go back to Paul’s studio send them back to Dave and he put what became the finished guitar parts on it. Johnny Rod then arrived in Vegas and did all of his bass parts in one day!! He has since moved to Las Vegas. Then Paul finished his vocals and Dave and Mick re -recorded some of the guitar leads and decided (between the two of them) which ones to use. We then sent the album to Michael Voss (who currently resides in Germany) to mix it. The first song he mixed was “Monsters and Heroes” which is not on the new album but was recorded as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio (more on this later). We sort of based the mix we got back from this first song as a test to see if we would use him for the entire project..which we did.
Had any of you ever worked with Paul Shortino prior to the recording of this new King Kobra album?
I had. One of the reasons I knew Paul would be a good fit for this project was because I knew how versatile a vocalist he was. I had done a Rock For Xmas tour with Paul a few years back and we ended up hanging out quite a bit on the bus and I was amazed at some of the tunes Paul would come up with. From The Temptations to AC/DC he can sing almost any style. I actually roomed with him on this tour because the planning of it was so poor guys had to bunk together. Back in the 80’s Paul was managed by Wendy Dio and because my brother Vinny was around her so much I would frequently run into Paul on different occasions. We had appeared on a few tribute albums together but were never in the studio for this length of time on a project to this extent. I wanted a named vocalist for this King Kobra album and not an unknown. In the end not only was Paul a great singer and songwriter but he also a great ProTools engineer. I really don’t think we could have done the album without him. Dave also brought a lot to the table with his engineering background. Dave did all the artwork for the new album. As a matter of fact Dave is going to be editing our first video off the album for the track “Live Forever” and also for our second video for “Turn up The Good Times”.
I’m curious if there was any specific inspiration for the track “Live Forever”, which I feel is the best song on the new record.
Well thank you. Paul can be a great storyteller. This one was his vision of a guy who is in love with his girl and who is leaving town and just wants to show his love and inspiration and basically wants to “Live Forever” because he’s so happy. Paul is good at that. We had a cover song that we did for this record but Frontiers wouldn’t allow it. The music had changed so much you wouldn’t have recognized it from the original. That changed music from that cover tune ended up on this record as well in a different track as well.
Getting back to “Monsters and Heroes” Carmine how did that track come about and why was it not used on the final album cut?
The song is available on my website www.carmineappice.net and iTunes and wherever you can download music. I wrote the chorus. Originally the track was homage to the Universal Monsters from our youth from say 8-12 years old. Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman Creature From The Black Lagoon etc. Then it also ties in with the heroes from our teen years: rock stars, auto racers, athletes, whatever you had for posters on your wall. That was the vibe of the song. We started to add rock heroes of our own in the bridge, a tribute to folks who died young. Paul called me up and wanted to add Ronnie (James Dio) to the bridge of the song. Then he called the next day and wanted to rewrite the entire track as a dedication to Ronnie and I said go for it! So he did and the lyrics really reflect the legacy that Ronnie left with us. I still get chills when I hear the finished song. After I heard the completed track I had decided that we should have all of the proceeds from that song go directly to the Ronnie James Dio Cancer Research Fund.
Frontiers has gone above and beyond in hosting a plethora of talent on their roster featuring some of rock’s top acts, King Kobra among them. Being a seasoned veteran of the music business as long as you have and also given the current state of the music business are you at all surprised that Serafino has managed to assemble as much talent as he has up to this point?
I’m amazed actually. I wonder sometimes how the company shows a profit. Almost all of my contemporaries from the 80’s are all at home with Frontiers now. Journey, Whitesnake, really top acts that sold millions of records. I think it’s great that they are doing it. Now they have EMI over here to help in distribution which is another good business decision. Our main goal in King Kobra in 2011 when we decided to record this album was to have fun doing it. Now we have a goal that if this record sells enough we will go back to work and create another album. Then maybe we could go out the road and make some money. I would really enjoy playing these new songs live with this band.
Are there any specific touring plans for King Kobra in 2011?
Not at this time. It’s just too expensive to go out right now being added 2nd or 3rd on a bill. We have had some offers but nothing to where we would commit to any extensive dates. Even when we were at our most popular Capitol Records never gave us the type of support we really needed back in the 80’s to survive. We needed that support to get to record our 3rd and 4th albums and let the music catch up with the hype. We certainly had a lot of press and hype then and now because of the players in this band and the talent level. Unfortunately we never got that level. Our biggest gigs were two sold nights at the Country Club. Where does King Kobra fit into that touring cycle now 2011? We have had summer festival offers but it just isn’t economically feasible right now. We are looking at an offer we have for a gig in Norway in August so maybe we can work out a few other shows during that period as well. But then we have to get everyone together to rehearse for 4-5 days in one city even before we played out first show. It’s possible, so who knows. I made a promise to Frontiers that whenever and wherever I end up on the road in any of my projects I will do what I can to promote King Kobra. On May 9 I’m going to be on the VH1 Classics Rock Nights with Eddie Web Radio Show. It’s synidicated in 40 different stations so that should hopefully assist in getting that King Kobra name out there. Also I’m going to be on That Metal Show with Eddie Trunk which will air May 7 and we talked about King Kobra. I also have several drum clinics coming up in South America and some others with my brother Vinny. I also have a new book/audio package coming out May 1st on Realistic Drum Fills: Replacements so I will be out promoting that as well.
I’m a huge KISS fan and I would be amiss if I didn’t ask you what it was like playing on “Take Me Away (Together As One)” on Paul Stanley’s solo album in 1978?
I had just come in from Japan when I got to the studio to work with Paul and I was so jet lagged that I don’t even remember recording that song. I recorded 5 different tracks and wasn’t sure which one(s) would actually make the final cut. Hey I was only on one song but fans always ask me about that one at almost every clinic I have ever done. Eddie Trunk told me that was the first time he ever saw my name on an album and started to follow my career because of it! Paul even helped me get a management deal with Bill Aucoin. Bill managed me for a couple of years and really put my name on the map. I still keep in touch with Paul and we meet up whenever our schedules allow it. I never got my Platinum album for my work on that one..it’s my only session that I did that went Platinum where I don’t have the award for it. That reminds me I need to get Paul on the line right now.. wanna say hello?