I’m always surprised by how quickly the end of the month arrives and I find the latest issue of Modern Drummer tucked neatly into my mail box. Like last month, October – graced by Jazz master Jeff “Tain” Watts on the cover – is another great issue where you will find my by-line on three fantastic articles! This month I talk with 311’s Chad Sexton, Vinny Appice of Heaven & Hell / Black Sabbath, and Robb Reiner of Anvil – a metal drumming legend who’s enjoyed such an amazing year with the runaway success of the must-see documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil! Out to subscribers this week, be sure to pick up your very own copy when it hits newsstands the first week of September!
Not many families can boast having two sons that are both rock music legends, but that’s the case with the Appice family. First inspired by seeing his older brother Carmine drum with classic ‘60s group The Vanilla Fudge, Vinny Appice picked up a pair of drum sticks himself at age eleven. Vinny recorded his first album with guitarist Rick Derringer while still a teenager, and he hasn’t slowed down since. Thirty years into his impressive career, Vinny is currently best known for providing the metal thunder with Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi in Black Sabbath and its offshoot, Heaven & Hell. Currently touring with Heaven & Hell on a must-see line up featuring Judas Priest, Motorhead and Testament, Vinny and the group will be entering the studio in early fall to record the first full-length album of original material by Heaven & in sixteen years.
Metal Edge: When you’re playing the classic Black Sabbath songs on tour, how do you approach playing Bill Ward’s drum parts?
Vinny Appice: The main parts are there, but I like to embellish them somewhat. I just hear things differently, and as I play these songs, parts develop on their own as to what I’m comfortable with and what I hear. Tony and Geezer have been playing those songs for so long with Bill – especially the old songs – that if I’m playing anything that’s a little too far to the left or right then they’ll mention it. I can tell by their faces and then they’ll just say (in British accent), ‘It doesn’t feel right.’ Then I know that I need to bring it back to more of the original stuff.
Metal Edge: Why do you prefer a single bass set up over a double kick?
Vinny Appice: Both Carmine and I started with a single bass. Then he moved over to double bass, so I thought I’d see if it was for me. It didn’t blow me away, so I just kept the single bass. I never used a double pedal either, so I’m known as “Mr. Single Bass.” The good thing is that with a double bass your foot can’t get lazy, so I’ve got a lot of power with one foot and it’s fairly fast from playing with one just bass drum.
Metal Edge: Have your needs or preferences changed much over the years as far as going up or down in the size of your kit?
Vinny Appice: What has changed is the fact that I used to use single-head toms – concert toms – when I started with Dio and Black Sabbath back in the ‘80s. A lot of the Dio stuff uses more concert toms. Now, by comparison I’m using all double heads, and I’ve gotten used to the roundness of the sound from those. The toms were also bigger: I used to use 12,13, 14, 16 and 18-inch instead of starting with a 10-inch, so I’ve scaled down a bit to smaller drums. That’s due in part to the vertical grain wood that DW came out with, because that grain lets you get a lot of bottom end out of a smaller drum. I also like to play quick – a lot of fast things – and smaller drums, especially toms, allow you to play faster than on larger sized drums.
Metal Edge: Have you experienced the need to incorporate more electronics into your kit?
Vinny Appice: No. I never used electronics live and I’ve never triggered anything. Drums have a nice, natural sound and if you know how to tune and play them you should be able to get a good sound. Why do you have to trigger them? Certain sound guys might force players to use triggers, but I never did it. I do have an electronic Roland V drum kit set up in my home studio they work really well here without making a racket. I ca go in and edit these things and tweak every little thing to make them sound as real as possible. They’re pretty good until you play a couple of fast things. Then you can hear that it’s just a little too even.
This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.