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Cutting In Line: An Exclusive Interview With VINNY APPICE Of LAST IN LINE

By Krishta Abruzzini, Pacific Northwest Writer
Monday, April 1, 2019 @ 12:11 AM

"The later albums like Sacred Heart and Dream Evil started becoming soft, with keyboards in there...The balls were lost. Holy Diver has a lot of balls."

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Live Photos By Larry Petro/Petrofyed Photography

Formed in 2011, Ronnie James Dio’s original bandmates that co-wrote and played on some of DIO’s most notorious albums, Holy Diver, Last in Line and Sacred Heart forged together the band LAST IN LINE. Vinny Appice, Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell, along with vocalist Andrew Freeman, got together with what was originally a fun session that led into their acclaimed debut album Heavy Crown, with tour support and a #1 spot on Billboard’s Heat-Seekers Chart. January of 2016, Jimmy Bain tragically died before seeing the album released, and left the band unsure of how to proceed. Knowing Bain would wish for them to move forward, they brought on bassist Phil Soussan (ex-Ozzy Osbourne), and along with Producer Jeff Pilson (FOREIGNER, ex-DOKKEN), they went back in the studio to create LAST IN LINE II, available now.

Vinny gives a very candid interview including his years with Ronnie James Dio, BLACK SABBATH and LAST IN LINE.

KNAC.COM: Okay, set the record straight. How to pronounce your name. Appeace, Appeache, App-uh-cee?

APPICE: Ha! I knew you were going to ask that. It’s App-uh-cee.

KNAC.COM: Aha! I’ve heard several different pronunciations, but mostly “Appeace”.

APPICE: That’s [my brother] Carmine.

KNAC.COM: What? Now I’m confused.

APPICE: Carmine says “Appeace”, I say “App-uh-cee”, and we have an older brother, who doesn’t play in the music business, he calls himself “A-peach”, which is more the Italian pronunciation.

KNAC.COM: Why all the different pronunciations for you guys?

APPICE: Well, Carmine used to say “App-uh-cee”, and when he played with Rod Stewart, Rod announced it “A-peace”. So he decided to change it to “A-peace”. That was when I was just getting started. I was playing with Rick Derringer at the time. I didn’t like “A-Peace”. It sounded like a piece of pizza, you know? I didn’t like it. I just stuck with what my father said, “App-uh-cee”. I stayed with that, and ever since then, we’ve been asked this question for over forty-something years. [laughs]

KNAC.COM: Well, now we know. Starting from the beginning, being Italian, they’re known for having pretty loud households. How much louder can an Italian household get with having not one, but two brothers playing drums?

APPICE: Haha! That’s a good question. The only saving grace is that Carmine is eleven years older than I am. Luckily, he was kind of getting out of the house when I was getting going. But he did have drums in the house, so when he left for the night, I would be banging on them. He’d come back and he’d be playing with his band. So there was a racket going on. He left and went on the road, and I had some drums to start with. So my parents had to put up with both of us, but they loved it.

KNAC.COM: So, you got your big start from none other than John Lennon, with your band BMOF? Pretty amazing! Being young, did you realize the bigness of having John Lennon pay attention to you?

APPICE: That kind of fell in my lap. I was playing in a band in Brooklyn, it was a nine-piece band full of horn players, and we got managed by the Record Plant Studios in New York, and Jimmy Iovine was producing us. He was a good friend. He brought us into Record Plant, that’s how we got our management deal, we rehearsed there all the time, and then he asked us to come down to this studio downstairs one day, because they needed hand claps. We went down to the studio and we saw John Lennon, and we go, “Oh my god!” I was like sixteen, so I was really, really young. We did hand claps on the song "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night". That’s me and my band on that. And then we got to hang out with him. He used to come up to the room and hang out with us. We had a pool room up there. We used to play pool, smoke some joints with him, and it was really cool. We were freaking out, but we never asked him for his autograph, which I can kick myself now that I didn’t, but we made him feel comfortable. He wasn’t up there taking pictures, or signing autographs. He was just him. That’s probably why he’d hang out a lot. Then he asked us to do a number of projects. We did a recording with a singer he was producing. Then we did two videos and then we did his live show, and that turned out to be his last live performance. I couldn’t believe it. I played it, just unbelievable.

KNAC.COM: Wow. Because of that experience, and in your personal life when fans come up to you perhaps for an autograph, are you obliging, or is it an irritation for you?

APPICE: No. I’m cool with people coming up. No problem. I learned that from Ronnie James Dio, when I first played for SABBATH. We played an arena somewhere, and we hang out for a while, have some fun, then we got in the limo to leave, and as we drive up the driveway to leave toward the gate to go to the hotel and there’s a whole bunch of fans there. And it’s cold out. And Ronnie goes, “Stop the car!” So we stopped the car and he gets out and he goes and signs everything. Takes pictures. I did the same. I followed him. I wasn’t that known back then, but I thought that was really cool. When we did the Holy Diver tour in England, it was January, and it was really cold. People used to wait outside the gig for a good hour or so to get an autograph. When Ronnie found out they were hanging out, we started bringing these people back into the venue. There were probably 50-75 people. We brought them in so they’re weren’t cold. They waited in the theater, and when we were ready, we came down and signed everything. That’s in the days before paid meet & greets, you know? It wasn’t such a business back then. More natural, you know?

KNAC.COM: Ronnie always made people feel like they were very special. It was a great way to bring the fans in even closer.

APPICE: Yeah, and the fans will never forget stuff like that. They love you and they’ll support you. Without the fans, we don’t have a job.

KNAC.COM: Exactly. So in 1980, you get a call for the Heaven & Hell Tour to replace Bill Ward. How did that come about?

APPICE: What’s interesting about that, is about a month before, I got a call from Sharon Osbourne, and she was telling me Ozzy was putting a band together, and we heard about you, blah, blah, blah, and we’d like to fly you to England to go hang out with Ozzy. Now, back then I was probably nineteen years old, I’d never been out of the country except for Canada. So I was like, ‘Wow, where’s England? Oh my god.’ So I asked my brother Carmine, I said, “Listen, I got this offer from Ozzy. Is he crazy?” I had heard crazy things about him. And he said, “Oh yeah, he’s pretty nuts.” He kind of talked me out of it. So they called back and I didn’t do it. I said I was busy. That was the first Ozzy band, so who knows, I would have been possibly in that. About a month or two later, I get a call from SABBATH, I was in Chicago, and someone told me that someone from BLACK SABBATH called. I was like, “Really?” So I called back and it was the tour manager and they were in LA, and I lived in LA, so I went down to meet Tony Iommi at the hotel, and we got along great. He had an album that I did called Axis, it was a three-piece band I had after Derringer, and he liked it. So he invited me down to rehearse with them the next day. That’s when I went down and I met Ronnie, Geezer, and Jeff Nichols, the keyboard player. From there, we had four days of rehearsal. That was it.

KNAC.COM: I understand that you wrote down cheat notes in a notebook for your first show in Hawaii, which you later threw out to the audience at the encore. Did that book ever re-materialize, or have you heard who the fan was that caught it?

APPICE: No. That’s a good question. We didn’t have much time to rehearse, so I made a cheat sheet in a notebook with each song written with some notes, I read music, but it’s not sight reading. It started raining and the book got all screwed up and it was useless, so I played the rest of the show without it. We winged it together. At the end of the show, I went out to the front and threw it out to somebody. I think I signed it. It never resurfaced.

KNAC.COM: Wow. I wonder who has that in their possession?

APPICE: I’ll tell you what, we were just at a LAST IN LINE show a couple weeks ago up in Sacramento, and this guy comes up and he goes, “Hey, I got something for you.” He hands me a backstage pass. Laminate, from when I toured with Rick Derringer on the AEROSMITH tour. It says AEROSMITH on there and there’s a picture of me, really young. Apparently, I must have lost this pass in 1976. I said, “Where did you get this?” I hadn’t seen this thing in 42-years! And he said, “Well, it was on the internet.” His brother bought it. Spent a lot of money for it. Kept it for years. He passed away and gave it to his brother, who came to this show and he gave me this pass. I was like, “Holy mackerel!” What a journey, you know? In 43-years I haven’t seen the pass. I didn’t even know I lost it. Never thought about it.

KNAC.COM: Well, maybe that book will turn up similarly sometime!

APPICE: Yeah! That’s why that book may reappear. Someone out there has that book.

KNAC.COM: A couple of years after the tour, both you and Ronnie left SABBATH to form DIO. Tell me about those early years.

APPICE: Well, we did the Heaven & Hell Tour, then we did our first album, Mob Rules, which did well and established me in the band that we can work in the recording studio too. We did Live Evil and things weren’t going well with the tour guys. So, Ronnie came to me and said, “Look, I’m going to leave the band and put a band together.” He had a record deal in place already so it was easy. So, there was a choice to be made, stay or go with Ronnie. I thought it would be a cool thing to go with Ronnie. We got along great, we’re both Italian from New York, we both live in LA, and a new record would be exciting with such a great singer as Ronnie. So that’s what I chose. We started jamming, just him and I in the studio, he would play bass. We had a number of different guitar players come down. One of them was Jake E. Lee. We played with these guys, but nothing was really hitting. So Ronnie said he wanted to go to England and look for a guitar player, one with a more English, European flavor to the band, rather than just an American band. All the bands he played with were all part American, part British, all a European flavor. So we went to England. We actually shared a room together. [Laughing] He’d be up all night reading books and I’d be yelling, “I can’t sleep with the light on, Goddammit, blaaah!” He’d finish a book in a night. It was just incredible. We’d go to different clubs. We’d get the newspaper to see who was playing. Sometimes we’d walk in and there was a Reggae band playing. We’d look at each other and say, “I don’t think that’s the guy!” The guy had dreadlocks and stuff. And then finally, we did make the call to Jimmy Bain, but he wasn’t due back for a few days, which is why we went to all these different clubs. When he did get back, he said Vivian Campbell. We called Viv, he was in Ireland. He flew over. And we jammed in London, and it was magic. We said, we got him! About a month later they came over [to the states] and we started writing and recording at Sound City. Dave Grohl movie, everyone knows Sound City now. We were there back then.

KNAC.COM: Thank you Dave Grohl! That album would have been Holy Diver! Legendary. So, I met you in 2006 on the opening night of HEAVEN & HELL in Canada. What a special time. I loved Ronnie. He was class, and charisma and just genuine. How was that tour for you? Reuniting, getting back to doing SABBATH?

APPICE: That was fantastic. We were playing really well together, and everyone was getting along, so it looked like we had a good future for a while. That was before we did the album together. Everything was great. It was a good time. It looked like it was going to be around for a while. We were looking forward to doing another tour. That band only lasted two-years, two-and-a-half years at most every run we had.

KNAC.COM: I understand there were some issues playing with Ronnie in DIO as far as control goes, where the money was being disbursed and ultimately the firing of Vivian because he spoke up on such matters, which you were against?

APPICE: Oh yeah. Of course. When you have a good thing going, why mess with it? You’ve got a band that’s just on fire, and you’ve got two albums that just kicked ass and sales were good, we were playing arenas, I wouldn’t mess with that, you know? The problem was we were promised a lot more of shares and things. We were selling out arenas and selling millions of records, and yet it was always like, “Well, we don’t have the money,” and that kind of stuff. It wasn’t really Ronnie so much, because we didn’t go face to face on it, but that’s what happened. We were promised things, ‘Oh, the next album’...and it never happened. So Vivian spoke up, we all spoke up with Viv, but he was the first to initiate it, and nothing ever happened.

KNAC.COM: So you guys let Vivian be the fall guy! [laughing]

APPICE: Yeah. Viv was unhappy. I mean, I used to write everything down with what we were promised and then look, nothing happened. It got in Ronnie’s ear, not from the band, but [that we should] get rid of Viv now. He said he was going to get rid of Viv and get some younger...and I was like ‘Wha?’ Are you crazy? Stupid. Once he got rid of Viv, he got Craig Goldy, who was a great guitar player, a great friend of mine, but the group’s ingredients changed. The success started going down a little bit. It’s not Craig’s fault, it’s just things changed.

KNAC.COM: I know you were saying that you felt the band kind of went softer, it didn’t have that punch that it had when you had Viv.

APPICE: The music got too contrived. Because with Holy Diver and Last in Line, we went into rehearsal places and jammed. Recorded stuff. Decided which riffs worked and built it from there as a band. The later albums like Sacred Heart and Dream Evil started becoming soft, with keyboards in there, and Ronnie becoming the full producer and too bitsy, with ‘Oh, we can’t do that,’ you know. So it lost its spontaneity of what we had. The balls were lost. Holy Diver has a lot of balls.

KNAC.COM: Ronnie being the overtly honest soul he was, and sometimes not caring if it was offensive, once told me he hated that Vivian was wasting his time playing with DEF LEPPARD. I think he had wanted to play with him at some point again and said that he didn’t have artistic freedom playing with LEPPARD. I really wish the two of them would have mended fences fully before his passing.

APPICE: Yeah. I never heard Ronnie ever wanting to play with Viv again. You know, he’s a hot blooded Italian. You don’t like somebody, you don’t like them for a long time.

KNAC.COM: The kiss of death.

APPICE: Viv is an amazing player. When he got in DIO he was a shredding guitar player. I never heard him wanting to play with him again. You know DEF LEPPARD is a band that’s been on top all these years. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a different kind of band. It’s not a band that everybody’s going to shred in, but they write great songs, they have great success, it’s a great band.

KNAC.COM: I always took away from what Ronnie had told me that there was some regret.

APPICE: Well, like I said, you have success man, don’t mess with it. He was always in control of it. Hey, we’re making 20-million dollars this year, let’s everybody share in their hard work and do things the same. All the albums, jamming, putting them together, ideas that were used. Why change it? Change it when the times change. When you think you need to change. Not for no reason.

KNAC.COM: Yeah. Let’s talk about LAST IN LINE. Ronnie loved the DIO lineup with you, Vivian, and of course Jimmy Bain. I knew Jimmy pretty well also. What a blow to lose him. Especially when he was just getting himself cleaned up and finally kicking ass again. You guys have Phil Soussan right now, who’s another super cool guy.

APPICE: Yeah. Jimmy unfortunately passed right before the album was released. He didn’t get to see the album released. Jimmy was Jimmy. [laughing] He had a crazy life.

KNAC.COM: Ha! Yeah. I could tell you some stories for sure.

APPICE: Yeah, he definitely had a crazy life. When [he died], we were really saddened and shocked and we took some time off. We didn’t know what we were going to do. We just thought, you know, Jimmy would want us to continue. Let’s audition some bass players. Phil came down, and we knew him forever. He’s from the same mold, the same musical time and a dear friend. It just felt right. Phil’s great. We wrote this last album, II with Phil and it was just fantastic. The band is just a machine now. It turned out great. From far away, it looks like Jimmy playing.

KNAC.COM: (Laughing) Well, from very far away maybe? I can see that though.

APPICE: When Phil first got into the band, it was really eerie. Phil looks so much like Jimmy, with the dark, curly hair. From far away, you go, ‘wow!’.

KNAC.COM: So, the new album came out this year.

APPICE: Yeah, it came out in February. It’s called simply, LAST IN LINE II.

KNAC.COM: How did you choose Andrew Freeman?

APPICE: Andy came in when we started the band. We just did it as a fun jam. Viv called one day and said, “I just spoke to Jimmy, and we want to get together to play, just for fun.” We did the first one like that, and we had so much fun, that we did another one the week after. Andy was in town, so I said, “Let me call Andy and I’ll see if he can come down.” He knows DIO songs and he can sing with us. We didn’t have any vocalist. So Andy came down and he blew everybody away including myself. I went, ‘Holy shit, he’s got some pipes, man’. So that’s where it all started. We thought, why don’t we do some gigs? It’s just so cool. And we did. People went nuts when we played. It was like, alright, let’s do more.That’s how we got our first record deal, our first record, Heavy Crown, and now it’s a real band. This is not a project. This is a real band. We do everything together. When schedules are good, we can go out and play. Not like a one-album band, like a lot of bands.

KNAC.COM: Are there any tracks on the new album that stand out for you?

APPICE: You know, they’re all really great tracks. The first one we released was called "Landslide", and that’s what we open the shows with and it really kicks ass live. (Video on KNAC.COM HERE) There’s a lot of great songs on it. The songs are really well written this time. The last one, we called Heavy Crown because we defined our sound by going out on the road so much.

KNAC.COM: I know you’re still friends with Craig Goldy, and I heard a rumor that RESURRECTION KINGS are getting back together?

APPICE: Now, that’s a project. Frontiers Music owns the band pretty much. If they want to do another record, which was supposed to be recorded in January, but what is it now, March? I haven’t received anything, as far as anything to play to, let’s put it that way.

KNAC.COM: I think there’s a misconception with Craig Goldy and the DIO DISCIPLES, in that they go out and memorialize Ronnie James Dio by being a tribute and only playing DIO songs, whereas LAST IN LINE is a bonafide band doing originals and putting out albums.

APPICE: Well, we were the band, you know? We were the band that wrote those songs with Ronnie, that made it big. The first two DIO albums really made the band big and successful. We wrote those songs. As much as some of those songs have Ronnie as writer on them, that’s a political thing. Every song on there was written by all four of us throwing ideas around. But there’s a political thing, whereas like, Ronnie’s going to get songs that are just solely his. That’s the music business. We were the guys that did it. We’re the original guys. Craig and the DIO DISCIPLES are pretty much a DIO show. Craig played with Ronnie, but after the fact. The first three albums were the big albums, then Craig played later on. Those albums weren’t the big albums. Like I said, the success went down. And some of the guys in DIO DISCIPLES never played with Ronnie. So, yeah, they’re a great tribute show. That’s a tribute band with Craig in it. Simon played with Ronnie, but again, that was later on. That’s a DIO show, we’re more of the band that started it all and we’ve turned it into our own band with two albums out with our own material. I always say, they know all the songs, but we know all the notes.

KNAC.COM: Tell me about the album you made with your brother titled Sinister? And will there be any more touring with him, as you did with Drum Wars?

APPICE: Yeah! We’re going to do some dates this summer. It’s a fun show. We have a band and we play music from both our histories. There’s probably about twelve to thirteen songs in the set. It’s a rock show, and there’s some crazy drums all around. It’s high energy. We really kick each other’s ass when we play. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a little different than a standard four-piece, five-piece band. The funny thing is, I always play better than Carmine every night. (Laughs)

KNAC.COM: Of course you do.

APPICE: I keep telling myself that anyway.

KNAC.COM: Listen, you just have to keep telling him, ‘Look, I’m younger than you’ and rub it in.

APPICE: Ha! Right? I’m louder and younger.

KNAC.COM: Is there anything that might surprise your fans about you musically?

APPICE: Well, I hate ballads. I pretty much hate acoustic guitar. I listen to a ballad and say, ‘I’m BORED with this, change it!’ I just like when it kicks ass and people can play. I don’t like the processed sounding music, which is out now. It sounds like they cut and pasted the verses together. It’s the same melody. I love Leave It To Beaver. I watch that every morning.

KNAC.COM: There you go!

APPICE: I met some of them at these autograph conventions, and that was a big deal to me. I also build computers and networking, and went to Microsoft school.

KNAC.COM: You’re a well rounded guy then.

APPICE: I don’t cook very well. I make good pancakes and sandwiches. (laughing)

KNAC.COM: But do you make good banana pancakes while listening to Jack Johnson? No wait, he does ballads. Haha.

APPICE: I can make banana pancakes. Yeah. All from scratch too.

KNAC.COM: So you’re not the cook in the family I assume.

APPICE: No. No. Only within this year I started making my own meatballs though. I have my mother’s recipe. I never made it because I always had someone make it for me. I was married for a while, my ex-wife made it, my mother made it. Now l learned how to do it and it’s easy. Really delicious. Might be something I do after I stop playing.

For more information on Vinny, visit: http://www.vinnyappice.com/
LAST IN LINE: https://www.lastinlineofficial.com/

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