Inside Crystal Viper's 'Possession' with Marta Gabriel

Polish power metal act unleashes new concept album
By Peter Lindblad

Crystal Viper has just released its album 'Possession'
Marta Gabriel doesn't want to spoil anything, so she's been careful not to give too much away when talking about the story of Julia.

Suffice it to say, she goes through a lot one night, and the latest album from Poland's Crystal Viper wraps her spellbinding tale in darkly epic, thundering metal that thrashes with rage one moment and glows with heavy, melodic incandescence the next.

A concept album in the tradition of Mercyful Fate's Melissa, Possession is the cinematic sixth studio album – they've put out a brace of singles, along with a compilation album and a live LP, as well – from this pulverizing power metal militia. Formed in 2003, Crystal Viper is led by the multi-talented Gabriel, who wrote all the music and lyrics for Possession. Bart Gabriel (Burning Starr, Sacred Steel) produced the record, which included 50 screams submitted by Crystal Viper fans in the final mix.

All the trappings of traditional metal, from its blindingly fast tempos to its beguiling passages of shape-shifting melody, are found on Possession, as it bears a resemblance to the work of Ronnie James Dio and Judas Priest, but it undoubtedly gets its black atmospheres from influences like Bathory and King Diamond's old musical haunt. And Michal Oracz, famed for his design work with Polish board games and role-playing games, did the cover art.

It's an ambitious package, with vocal contributions from Jag Panzer's Harry Conklin and Desaster's Sataniac, especially considering all the fashion design – she has a clothing line called Thunderball Clothing – and studio session work Gabriel does outside of Crystal Viper. Gabriel talked in depth recently about Crystal Viper's new record and all the other irons she has in the fire in this e-mail interview. 

Crystal Viper - Possession 2014
This is a concept record with a story that revolves around a young girl named Julia, and it's an incredibly cinematic tale. Tell us about Julia and how you developed her character.
Marta Gabriel: I wouldn't say I developed Julia's character in some special way, as the story basically tells what happened "around" Julia, during one night, on Friday [the] 13th. But I can tell you Julia is reincarnation of the witch named Sarah, and you could meet Sarah on our previous album Crimen Excepta...

Is this the most ambitious record Crystal Viper has ever made?
MG: I don't know, [it's] hard to say. We never plan anything. When we have enough good new songs, we do an album, that's all. We never think, "We should do this, or we should do this." We love writing, playing, and recording heavy metal. We prefer to act, not talk.

"Evil" is a topic that comes up a lot on the record, and there seems to be this inner struggle in Julia between innocence and succumbing to darkness or becoming possessed. How much do you relate to the character of Julia and what she's going through?
MG: Struggle between innocence and being possessed? Not really. Our story has a pretty unexpected twist. Let me keep the secret: if I would tell you what Possession is about, then it would be like telling people how the movie they are going to watch will end. But I can tell you another thing: if you will carefully analyze the front cover artwork of our new album, and you will listen to the album and read the lyrics, you will find out that almost every single song is represented on this picture.

What makes these themes of possession and evil such interesting subjects for you to write about and how did the story take shape?
MG: It's hard to answer this question, as the album, well, it's not really about "possession." At least not kind of the "possession" everyone expect. It's not [a] typical ghost / exorcism story. It has an unexpected twist and goes into themes and subjects no one would expect from a band like us.

In making this record, it seems that you wanted it to be darker, sort of blending traditional melodic metal with classical music, the thrash influences of a Metallica and the blacker epics of somebody like Mercyful Fate or Bathory. Was it the story that drove you to do that or did you simply like the idea of experimenting with all those different elements?
MG: Both yes and no. First of all, all members of Crystal Viper are die hard metal fans. All of us collect records, we go out to see other bands, we travel to see bands on festivals and so on. And everyone in Crystal Viper has different personal favorites, different tastes. All these tastes and personal influences melted together make what Crystal Viper is all about. So I can say that yeah, we are a heavy metal band, but I could list many, many thrash, black, and even death metal acts as our favorite acts, or influences. But you are right, Mercyful and Bathory are right there, between bands we all love.

"Why Can't You Listen?" is one of my favorites, along with "Voices in My Head" and "Mark of the Horned One." They're all really heavy, but you incorporate a lot of diverse influences and interesting changes in mood and texture. When writing songs, especially with this record, how do you balance that desire to be aggressive with fleshing out melodies and wanting songs to take on different characteristics?
MG: It's all about the story that I'm going to say in a song. Possession is a concept album. It's one big story told in all songs, one after another. So at the beginning I had to sketch the story, and then I was writing songs to build atmosphere around them. It was like painting a picture with sounds. You know, you can't do for example a fast and funny-sounding song about let's say killing or something epic. It would make no sense, unless you want to say the story from, I don't know, some maniac's perspective. Writing concept albums is maybe a bit harder than writing normal albums, but it's great fun for me. It's like doing a movie without pictures, without vision. You need to make sure the sounds, the melodies, and atmosphere of the songs go side by side with the story. I'm a great fan of movies, especially classic horrors, so this is the real reason of doing concept albums.

You wanted your fans to be involved in this record. How did you come with the idea to have them send in their screams and bring them into the recording?
MG: We love our fans. The truth is if there would be no fans, there would be no music at all, no heavy metal and no Crystal Viper. I'm not sure who exactly come out with this idea. It came out on one of our band meetings. We thought it would be something cool to do something special, something unique – you know, everyone can buy a CD or a t-shirt, but how often can you find your name in the album booklet, and say, "Hey, it's me!" when you listen to some song? I think it's really cool.

How would compare the playing on this record to that of past Crystal Viper records? Would you say the band as a whole is progressing as musicians?
MG: All musicians learn their whole life. If you are a musician, and you come to a point when you start to think you already know everything, it means you should start doing something else and quit playing. So with this in mind, I'm sure everyone's playing on each next Crystal Viper album is a little better.

Inviting vocalists Harry Conklin of Jag Panzer and Sataniac of Desaster certainly adds fascinating contrast to "Fight Evil With Evil" and "Julia Is Possessed." What made you pick those two singers in particular to appear on the record, and as for your own vocal treatments, was there anything different about Possession that made it challenging?
MG: Yes, we have Harry Conklin from Jag Panzer and Satan's Host, and Sataniac of Desaster on our album. We always try to invite members of other bands to be special guests on our album; it's already kind of tradition for us. We invite people we respect and like. This time it was Harry and Sataniac from Desaster. They are great guys, talented musicians, and it was great pleasure and honor to work with them. So everyone, if you don't know Desaster or Harry's bands – Jag Panzer, Satan's Host and Titan Force, check them out. They are f**kin' awesome and metal to the bone. Challenging? I don't know, for sure there were easier and harder parts to sing. Maybe most challenging was to put right emotions into singing, as with a concept album you actually tell the story.

You are also an in-demand session player. Has working on others' records influenced what you wanted to do with Crystal Viper?
MG: I wouldn't say so. I mean I love working with other bands and with other musicians, as I learn all the time. I'm like a sponge, I absorb everything. But I wouldn't say working with other bands had influence on what I do with Crystal Viper. We rather have an own path to follow.

You've recorded with power metal acts like Sabaton and Majesty, as well as Witch Cross. What was the most memorable thing about those experiences?
MG: Every single opportunity of working with other bands and artists is absolutely wonderful and memorable. I couldn't list only one. It's great when bands invite me to sing or to play with them. It shows the unity of the metal bands.

Tell us about your clothing line, Thunderball Clothing. What are the designs like and what was it that made you want to get into fashion?
MG: When I started to play on stage with my band, I couldn't find clothes I like in stores, so I started to make clothes for myself, and later for my bandmates. From time to time my friends were asking me if I could create something for them, and later, from one word to another, strangers started to ask me about custom clothes, as they've seen something cool that I've made for others. As there were more and more requests, I decided to open my own company, and create a clothing line, Thunderball Clothing. I think I found another amazing way in my life, as designing and making clothes is [the] next opportunity to make an art, which of course is inspired by music.

As a woman in metal, do you think the genre is becoming less of a man's world and that female artists are gaining more power?
MG: I will tell you like this: if someone doesn't like or doesn't accept female fronted acts, then well, it's not really my problem. Everyone has personal taste. I personally like a lot of female fronted acts, or even all female bands, like for example Rock Goddess, Warlock, Acid, Blacklace or Chastain, or even several of these modern female-fronted acts, such as Nightwish or Within Temptation. If I like someone's music I don't think if it's male or female singing or playing. I'm not really paying attention if there are more or less female artists. I do my own thing.

You decided to cover the Riot classic "Thundersteel." What made you decide to remake that song and what approach did you want to take toward doing it?
MG: We always wanted to record cover version of "Thundersteel,"as it's one of the greatest heavy metal songs ever written. We were just waiting for the right moment. And recording it as the bonus track for [the] new album was a perfect match, because when you will see all lyrics from the new album – with "Prophet Of The End" being the last song – and you know [the] lyrics of "Thundersteel," you will find out that "Thundersteel" can be taken as the song about something that got revealed in "Prophet Of The End." We are actually in touch with Riot members, and they were between first persons who heard it – they like it very much, so it's a big honor! One trivia here: when we were recording this cover, we tried to mix both versions, the original demo version which was recorded by Narita (Mark's other band he had in 1985) and [the] version that everyone knows from the Riot album.

Where does Crystal Viper, and, in particular, Marta Gabriel, go from here?
MG: I won't surprise you here: writing, composing, and recording lot of music – not only for Crystal Viper, as I have million other projects in mind as well! And yeah, doing next clothes for Thunderball Clothing!

Thoughts on the Grammys, Pete Seeger and Motley Crue

A look at a tumultuous week in music
By Peter Lindblad

Pete Seeger died this week at 94
Pete Seeger died, Motley Crue submitted their retirement papers and the Grammys spit on hard rock and heavy metal once again, incurring the wrath of Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor. It's been a hell of a week in music. 

And let me just start off by saying that I really hemmed and hawed about writing this, mostly because to do so would give the Grammys credence they don't deserve. I didn't watch it. I haven't watched since probably high school, and I don't plan on watching them in the near future. They have so little to do with music I enjoy that I'm just not interested in them in any way, shape or form.

But then, Seeger passed away, and not long after, Motley Crue finally said what they've been hinting at for a long time, that they'd decided to call it a day. Finding a way to connect all three huge news stories seemed like a good way to kill an afternoon.

So, the world mourns the death of the banjo-playing Seeger, who could someday qualify for sainthood. A folk singer and political activist who stood up for the working man, he was willing to go to prison rather than kowtow to the tyrannical witch hunt of Sen. Joe McCarthy and his House Committee on Un-American Activities. Into his nineties, Seeger railed against injustice at every turn, was a man of principles and sang simple, unadorned songs of rare, rustic beauty, always with an eye toward a better future for the country he loved and its people, especially the downtrodden. 

Motley Crue officially retires
And then there's Motley Crue, who never really cared about the downtrodden as they were partying past sun up and sleeping with anything with a pulse. Terrors of the Sunset Strip in their salad days, these glam-metal hellions lived the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" ethos to the fullest extent possible, and almost didn't actually live to tell about it. They've shouted at the devil, extolled the virtues of their favorite strip clubs and indulged in just about every vice known to man. And their music is loud, rebellious, dirty and played with a street-fighting swagger that, from the very beginning, tapped into suburban teenage longing for danger and excitement. 

It didn't hurt sales that they surrounded themselves with scantily clad women in videos and onstage, set off a scary amount of pyrotechnics in concert and rode fast motorcycles and cars. Boys on the cusp of manhood tend to go in for that sort of thing.

The wreckage resulting from their misdeeds being common knowledge, Motley Crue wanted to put on a show. Seeger aimed to change the world. Both never wanted to be told what to do, and when institutions and authorities tried, they balked at attempts to shut them up. Musicians and artists, at least the good ones, are like that. 

Not surprisingly, critics have differing opinions about the bodies of work left they've accumulated. Not that Vince Neil cared one jot about what they had to say about Crue's music. Rightly, after the announcement was made that Crue was going to dissolve their long-lasting partnership after one last tour, Neil declared that Crue is, and always was, a "fan band," that they didn't make music for critics or to garner awards. Of course, every band the critics hate has to say that. 

Still, there's more than just a kernel of truth in that statement. Crue's fashion sense was something out of the movie "The Warriors" or Adam Ant's nightmares, but their songwriting, especially those bad-boy ballads, certainly had an audience, and a big one at that. In that way, Crue was a band of the people, and the salt-of-the-earth Seeger was nothing if not a man of the people, critics be damned.

As for the Grammys, there are some people they just don't care for. And Sunday night's telecast of the awards proved that they would rather not have anything to do with hard rock and heavy metal. Sure, Black Sabbath won the award for "Best Metal Performance," and it's hard to gripe about the nominees in that category, but wouldn't it have been nice to see Sabbath perform or even simply just accept their award? The point's been made by many that Metallica and Lang Lang doing "One" was an inspired pairing, even if it didn't come off all that well, and as others have also remarked, Metallica didn't put out any new music this year. 

So, what were they doing there? Did somebody with some pull say, "Hey, Metallica … that's a band I've heard of. Let's get them on." Isn't that why Foo Fighters are always the default setting when the Grammys want somebody to represent hard rock, but they also want a band that's sort of non-threatening and that everybody kind of likes? 

And then there are the "in memoriam" snubs of Slayer's Jeff Hanneman and Iron Maiden's Clive Burr. In Hanneman's case, the oversight is unforgivable, considering Slayer's five Grammy nominations and wins in 2007 and 2008, and Hanneman's songwriting contributions to Slayer. Burr is also more than deserving of recognition as well. Jesus, he was in Iron Maiden for God's sake. Both bands have racked up millions in record sales, and really, that's all the Grammys care about, isn't it? Just to be fair here, I heard they also forgot about The Dyvinyls' Chrissy Amphlett, which makes you wonder, who didn't they leave out?

Trent Reznor had a few choice words
for Grammy organizers
Anyway, seeing as how they cut to an ad and rolled credits while Trent Reznor and members of the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age performed the finale, Reznor, in no uncertain terms, let them have it in an angry tweet, as is customary these days. Grammy Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich apologized … sort of, noting that the show was going long and they did manage to run all but 1:20 of it. Okay, but what about all the other stuff you didn't do?

Eddie Trunk gives the Grammys a bit of pass when arguing who's more disrespectful of hard rock and heavy metal, the Grammys or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It's not that the people behind the Grammys are doddering old fools who don't know any better. I just simply don't believe that. After being the butt of so many jokes about Jethro Tull getting the heavy metal Grammy Metallica should have won, they had to have learned from that mistake. 

If it is ignorance on their part, it's willful ignorance. They don't want to present the award for "Heavy Metal Performance" during the actual telecast because they never wanted to include such a category in the first place. The circumstantial evidence of that is overwhelming.

At the end of the day, it's pointless to get all worked up about the Grammys. I realize that. Most right-thinking people do, too. Style has always trumped substance with that show, and in all likelihood, it always will, and who needs an awards show for music anyway? On the other hand, why not speak out about it? Why not try to get them to change their ways? What's that saying about all evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing? 

All right, maybe that doesn't exactly apply here, but then again, perhaps it's long past time for the Grammys to get it right. With the state the music industry is in right now, it can't afford to shun a rather large segment of consumers. Pete Seeger wouldn't do it on principle, and Motley Crue wouldn't do it because it just doesn't make sense from a business perspective. 

CD Review: Red Dragon Cartel – Red Dragon Cartel

CD Review: Red Dragon Cartel – Red Dragon Cartel
Frontiers Records
Red Dragon Cartel - S/T 2014
All Access Rating: B+

The reports from the front lines were troubling. Red DragonCartel, it seemed, had stumbled out of the gate. By most accounts, their first show together at the Whisky-A-Go-Go in West Hollywood was a train wreck, with the blame laid squarely on a singer who probably needed more rehearsal time and more rest leading up to the show and less booze the night of it.

This was supposed to be Jake E. Lee’s glorious return to rock ‘n’ roll after a 20-year absence, and all anybody could talk about was how off tune newcomer D. J. Smith was. Some good came out it, though, as Smith and the rest of the band made a renewed commitment to tightening up their performances, and since then, there haven’t been many complaints. Red Dragon Cartel seems to have righted the ship.

From the sound of their searing self-titled debut record, they knew all along what direction they wanted to go. Updating the ripping and tearing guitar work he did with Ozzy Osbourne and Badlands with slick, hurricane-force modern production, Lee has built up a potent arsenal of riffs and torrid solos in his time away that David Koresh would admire, as Red Dragon Cartel roars through 10 songs of slightly darkened, expansive post-grunge hard rock that eats dynamite for breakfast. The slashing riffs of “Deceiver,” an adrenaline rush of an opener that kicks down the door with all the subtlety of a SWAT team, give fair notice that Lee is back with a vengeance, and the snarling "Wasted" finds Lee's mushrooming guitar barking like angry dobermans who've just caught a whiff of fear, while the heavy, swaggering "Shout It Out" has an infectious, swirling nu-metal vortex of a chorus.

"Slave" is a buzzing hive of frenzied riffing, while the sludgy "War Machine" dances and stomps around a witches' cauldron stirred by Tony Iommi and the original Black Sabbath. Filter's kaleidoscopic "Take a Picture" comes to mind when the rougher cinematic ballad "Fall From the Sky" washes in, carrying with it a flood of melody, but it's the soulful "Redeem Me" that brings Red Dragon Cartel back to a more organic and earthy sense of self.

Guests like Robin Zander of Cheap Trick and ex-Iron Maiden singer Paul Di'Anno, plus former Pantera and current Kill Devil Hill bassist Rex Brown, are there for window dressing, and they only flesh out a diverse set of tracks that allows Lee's scorching fretwork to burn. Making up for lost time, Lee serves up an array of tricks that won't break new ground, but they will thrill anybody with an appreciation for six-string agility and melodic power. And in Smith, Lee has unearthed a forceful vocalist whose singing is brawny and masculine.

Chock full of big, roundhouse hooks, Red Dragon Cartel is on rare occasions clunky and derivative, but on it Lee, lured out of retirement by sod-busting bassist Ronnie Mancuso, unloads in such gripping fashion two decades of artistic frustration on anybody who will listen. Still, few may notice those slight blemishes, and everyone should lend Red Dragon Cartel an ear.
– Peter Lindblad

CD/DVD Review: Ted Nugent – Ultralive Ballisticrock

CD/DVD Review: Ted Nugent – Ultralive Ballisticrock
Frontiers Records
All Access Rating: A- 

Ted Nugent - Ultralive Ballisticrock 2013
Ted Nugent makes some people … well, uncomfortable. More than that, actually, Nugent, so willing to fan the flames of controversy every chance he gets, inspires outright hatred from the Left and utter devotion from the Right, and there's hardly any middle ground to walk. Whether for or against him, it's hard deny the Nugent's messianic passion, be it for hunting, the Constitution or hot-blooded American rock 'n' roll and R&B. 

A believer in the "no guts, no glory" ethos, Nugent goes for the throat on "Ultralive Ballisticrock," which is about as good a description as any for this thrilling double CD/DVD lightning bolt from Frontiers Records. The "balls to the wall" energy of this recording is off the charts. Words like "soul" and "spirit" are invoked in what amounts to a fiery sermon on the need for getting back to what is primal, what is unspoiled and what is real about screaming guitars, propulsive bass and blasting-cap drums coming together to create a life-affirming racket. This is communion for Ted, and everybody can eat of his body or drink of his blood, or they can leave well enough alone. 

Invoking the image of Christ is not without precedent when it comes to Nugent. Who can forget that iconic image of Ted in nothing but a loin cloth and all that frizzy hair spilling out all over the place. It certainly comes to mind when watching or listening to this recording Nugent performing in 2011 alongside Derek St. Holmes on rhythm guitar/vocals, Greg Smith of Rainbow fame on bass and Mick Brown (Dokken) on drums at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Cussing up a storm, they launch into bubbling proto-metal boils "Free For All," "Wango Tango," "Just What the Doctor Ordered" and "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" on the first disc like a pack of wild dogs, with mangy, tenacious riffs chomping at the bit and Nugent, perfectly at ease in the spotlight, tearing off savage, biting solos that attack like hungry predators and are as sharp as knives used to field dress a deer. There is no letting up on Disc 2, where the sonic powder keg that is "Motorcity Madhouse" simply explodes, sending chords and notes everywhere like emptied shell casings. Snarling and pacing back and forth, Nugent and crew turn "Cat Scratch Fever" into a caged animal that is too dangerous to ever be released, while the slithering grooves of "Stranglehold," that great, almost hypnotic riff sounding more vicious than ever, coil around simmering rhythms like smoke.

Want to know the origins of stoner metal? It all starts here, and when these versions climax, they do so with volume and emotion. Let's not forget that Nugent absolutely worships the MC5, and those all-consuming, fiery stage shows they used to kick out in hard-scrabble Detroit left an impression on a burgeoning young talent who saw a bit of himself in them. What storming rhythmic section support he has, too, with Brown's full-on percussive hammering and Smith's bass providing thunder and relentless momentum.

The sound is magnificent, cooking both the fat and lean sinew of Nugent's performance into a tasty dish, and it is vividly filmed with multiple cameras that seem to stalk and gravitate toward each member of the band at just that right moment when they are ready for their close-ups. Nugent isn't getting older. He's becoming more intensely driven, and that's a good thing for rock 'n' roll.
– Peter Lindblad

DVD Review: George Thorogood & the Destroyers – Live at Montreux 2013

DVD Review: George Thorogood & the Destroyers – Live at Montreux 2013
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: B

George Thorogood & The Destroyers -
Live at Montreux 2013
Before every gig, George Thorogood listens for that "buzz," that growing murmur of excitement that runs through a crowd before a hotly anticipated show. When it goes away, "George is gone," says Thorogood, talking in the third person in a brief, but endearing, interview shoved into a new concert release from the blues-rock delinquent that documents his first-ever performance at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival on CD, Blu-ray and DVD.

What a strange thing it is to see Thorogood & the Destroyers playing such nasty, low-down favorites as "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" and "Move It On Over" in such a stylish and pristinely modern venue. A dingy, ramshackle juke joint with a tiny stage that smells of piss, smoky BBQ and stale beer would seem more appropriate. Good old George, trying to be as PG as possible, considering there were kids in the room, seems right at home, though, smiling and joking with the crowd about what's in the cup he's drinking from and playfully proclaiming a youngster to be the "future of rock 'n' roll." 

Bandana wrapped around his head, soaking up all that perspiration, Thorogood expresses how grateful he is to be playing at the vaunted festival, and for the most part, he and his band repay the organizers' faith in him with a solid, if not unforgettably rowdy, run through a slew of Thorogood's contributions to the '70s and '80s classic-rock canon. The boozy, snaky crawl of "I Drink Alone," the malicious stutter of a growling "Bad to the Bone" and the simmering boil of their pounding version of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" are deliciously fatty cuts of rocking blues, while a swaggering "Move It On Over" swims in Thorogood's ravenous and dirty slide guitar.

As expected from Thorogood, there are heaping helpings of it found everywhere on "Live at Montreux 2013," and the always rebellious Thorogood shakes some action with real energy in "Night Time" and a raucous "Rock Party," all of which sets the stage for the good and sweaty treatment they give to red-hot closer "Madison Blues," as well as their rough handling of Johnny Cash's rollicking "Cocaine Blues."

More of that rawness and vigor would be welcome on the vibrant "Live at Montreux 2013," professionally shot to focus on Thorogood's devilish charisma and the way his guitar snarls and noisily saws through timber with a roar that sometimes muted. The rest of his band gets its due camera time, as well, but it's Thorogood everybody wants to see and the filmmakers realize this. Perhaps its the ham-handed lighting, which floods Thorogood and the band at times in deep hues of blue and red, or the completely unnecessary backing images of flames and skulls, among other rock 'n' roll cliches, that make it seem as if they're missing some of that gruffness and edgy attitude that's made them barroom bards of hard living from their 1977 self-titled debut onward.

After all, what would Elmore James and Hound Dog Taylor think of such a glitzy stage show? Still, it's a joyous occasion for Thorogood and friends, and they do perform with wonderfully bad intentions, their playing, as always, fairly sharp and often quite lively. Thorogood still knows how to coax sinful, whisky-flavored sound from those six strings, all the while paying respectful homage to the John Lee Hookers and other blues men that inspired him. The buzz hasn't disappeared, although it is a little more faint than it used to be.
– Peter Lindblad

Guitar master Ethan Brosh unleashes 'Live the Dream'

Ethan Brosh 2014
Prepare to be amazed! Live the Dream, the upcoming all-instrumental album from guitar wunderkind Ethan Brosh, is due out March 4 on drumming legend Carmine Appice’s new label, Rocker Records LLC, and Brosh’s dazzling chops and limitless imagination as a player and composer will undoubtedly delight metal aficionados and fill them with awe.

An honest-to-goodness guitar hero, Brosh, who grew up in Israel, is a daring six-string acrobat who plays with fire and precision, never sacrificing technical proficiency for flashy showmanship – although his dynamic, fleet-fingered solos, furious riffs and complex acoustic figures are wildly entertaining. Having added to his already bulging bag of tricks, the Berklee College of Music graduate, now an instructor at the school, soars to new heights on Live the Dream, pushing the envelope with supernatural guitar wizardry and drawing up stunningly inventive musical designs that are wondrous to behold.

“Rocker Records and Carmine Appice are excited to be working with one of metal’s up-and-coming young stars,” said the label’s Michael Cusanelli.

They are not alone in their admiration. Mixed by Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth) and mastered by Bob Ludwig (Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Iron Maiden), Live the Dream – with cover art painted by Joe Petagno – is progressive and intellectual in its construction, showcasing refined melodic sensibilities and a maturing instinct for developing intricate and diverse harmonies. Live the Dream, an album Brosh began promoting last spring while touring in support of Yngwie Malmsteen, finds Brosh quickly evolving as a songwriter, even going so far as to effectively experiment with flamenco, trading off nylon string and full-on electric guitar parts in a completely unique and beguiling fashion while also employing the formidable talents of Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson in a way nobody would expect.

Brosh used to be in the band Angels of Babylon with Ellefson, who appears on two Live the Dream tracks. Together again, they go nuclear on the track “Rude Awakening.”

“The intent here was to create a heavy, in-your-face kind of tune with a real mean groove to it!” said Brosh, joined by bassist Alex Pierce and drummer Tyler LeVander on Live the Dream. “I figured this tune could use the help of the greatest thrash metal bassist Dave Ellefson! I still can’t get over how huge Ellefson’s bass intro sounds after the incredible mix of Max Norman!”

Brosh is just as enthused about the title track. “I feel this tune defines a lot of my guitar playing at this point in time,” he said. “It’s an epic tune that combines some hard rock riffs that have lots of drive to them. I believe the beginning is a perfect introduction to this record and its dream concept!”

A product of an enjoyable creative process, “Space Invaders” is mind-blowing as well. “Since this is a guitar instrumental record after all, I figured I’d have some fun with writing a tune that has a fast riff and lots of guitar harmonies, etc., etc. … I’m really proud of the way it came out because I feel the melodies came out strong in the end,” said Brosh. “To me, that’s really important. People seem to respond really well to this one when we play it live. Maybe it’s because it has too many nooooooootes!”

It’s a good bet they’ll embrace “Clean Slate,” too.

“The tune started as a guitar only idea,” said Brosh. “It developed through time. When I sit at the edge of the stage and play this tune, it is an intimate moment between the audience and me, regardless of the crowd size. Once the band joins in with a big bang, it really hits the listener hard! I think we managed to capture that vibe very well on the record, too. I have a feeling this will be a tune that stands out for people!”

Below is the track listing for Live the Dream:

Track listing:
1. Live the Dream
2. Forbidden Pleasure
3. Bottomless Pit
4. Knock on Wood
5. Space Invaders
6. Suspicious Exchange
7. Rude Awakening
8. Dawn of an Old Era
9. Clean Slate
10. Silver Lining
11. Up the Stairway
12. When Picks Fly
13. Crying Moon

For more information on Ethan Brosh, visit -

Nashville Pussy – Up the Dosage

Nashville Pussy  Up the Dosage
Label: Steamhammer/SPV
All Access Rating: A-

Nashville Pussy - Up the Dosage 2014
"The South's Too Fat to Rise Again" may be the greatest song title in history. And "Hooray for Cocaine, Hooray for Tennessee" isn't too shabby either. Yes, Nashville Pussy is at it again, offending the humorless and churning out morally repugnant, 190-proof Southern rock grain alcohol spiked with so much sleazy punk attitude that it could cause blindness, if ingested in mass quantities. 

That's a small price to pay for energetic, shit-kicking rock 'n' roll this ballsy. The black sheep of this white trash family, guitarist/vocalist Blaine Cartwright, says of Up the Dosage that, "This is our Back in Black!" And he isn't just whistling "Dixie." Taking a cue from AC/DC, they aim for simplicity on the rowdy Up the Dosage, packing it to the brim with solid, hot-wired riffing and degenerate songwriting born with a swagger. Political correctness be damned, this souped-up Nashville Pussy are as funny and raunchy as ever, as Cartwright details a sordid, booze-impaired tryst with a high-spirited pregnant women who's "meaner than shit, hotter than Hell" in the Rolling Stones-y, Let It Bleed-era "Before the Drugs Wear Off," featuring a tasty boogie-woogie style piano that channels the spirit of Ian Stewart. 

Then there's the hilarious ode to masturbation that is the high-octane, rip-roaring "Rub it to Death," its turbo-charged, muscular guitars threatening to tearing themselves away from the bones of such mean, cocksure hooks, just like those found in the pulse-pounding "Spent" and an accelerated, utterly infectious "The South's Too Fat to Rise Again." This is Nashville Pussy, the fast version, and like Motorhead, they play rock 'n' roll – unrepentant, dirty and with a taste for drugs and everything tawdry.

Cartwright's wife, guitarist Ruyter Suys, goes for the throat on Up the Dosage, her solos sounding like a hail of gunfire. That's her singing on the hit-and-run blast of gutsy psycho-billy known as "Taking it Easy," and she is a commanding presence. It helps to have sound that is richer and more vibrant than past efforts, and for that, sound engineer Brian Pulito is to be commended. Ultimately, though, it's Nashville Pussy's mix of metallic crunch and ZZ Top's bluesy nastiness, so prevalent on the title track and mid-tempo drawls "Till the Meat Falls Off the Bone" and "White and Loud," that makes Up the Dosage such a tasty meal, even if the cook probably spit in the food.
– Peter Lindblad

It’s only rock and roll, but Backstage Auctions likes it

By Susan Sliwicki ~ Goldmine Magazine

Jacques and Kelli van Gool of Backstage Auctions
Although we’ve never met Jacques van Gool’s mom, we suspect that she’s pretty cool. When the future rock and roll auction house owner opened his birthday gift in 1973, he found the turntable he’d been hoping for — but no records to play on it. So, his mom walked with him to a nearby record shop. “I’m standing there with my mother, and I’m looking in the window, and the first album that caught my eye was Black Sabbath,” van Gool recalls. “So we went in and bought Black Sabbath’s second album.”

Of course, it didn’t take long for his parents to tell him to turn his record player down. “Pretty much the same day,” he admits. “I remember my mother coming home one day with a fairly big box, and she said, ‘Here, please use this.’”

Inside was a set of huge, funky headphones.

“With the headphones, I could literally crank it up to the point that by the time I was done playing the record, my ears would literally ring,” he recalled.

Admittedly, that move may not have been the best thing for van Gool’s hearing. But it built his appreciation for the music and the artists who produced it, particularly heavy metal. So in all, it makes sense that he eventually chose to open an auction house that specializes in selling music and related memorabilia. van Gool and his wife, Kelli, operate Backstage Auctions, which marks its 10th anniversary this year. Kelli van Gool shared her perspectives on the music collecting industry with Goldmine.

GOLDMINE: What’s the history of Backstage Auctions? What prompted you to start the business, what led to your choice to pursue the niche of consigning large items directly from artists and industry professionals, vs. simply offering collectibles at large?

BACKSTAGE AUCTIONS: It’s was really Jacques’ passion for music and his personal hobby of collecting music memorabilia that was the driving force behind the idea. Having nearly three decades of collecting, trading and brokering memorabilia, he recognized that significant changes were occurring in the collectors market when eBay started to become a widely popular platform for selling memorabilia in the late ’90s and early 2000. Suddenly people from all over the world had access to buying and selling memorabilia through the Internet, which was awesome. However, with the good also came the bad, and the market was flooded with fakes and forgeries, and at the time, there really wasn’t a good (system of) checks and balances in place to weed out the non-authentic pieces.

We started conceptually thinking about it in early 2000 and after doing quite a bit of research, talking to friends who were big time collectors and a whole host of musician friends, we finally took the idea from concept to reality in 2003. Our business model was simple; we would work exclusively with musicians and industry professionals directly, which in turn gave collectors access to authentic pieces of music memorabilia without questioning the provenance or authenticity of any piece we would offer up for auction or for sale. For collectors, it offers a unique opportunity to purchase items that have a direct link back to the artist, and for our clients, it provides them with a professional and highly reputable selling platform to empty out their storage facilities filled with music history. Our goal when we started was stimulate and revitalize the collectors market, restore buyers’ confidence and put some much-needed integrity back into the collectibles market. Fast-forward 10 years later, and I believe that we accomplished those goals and continue to keep the thrill and excitement in collecting rock and roll memorabilia alive. After all, nothing beats owning an authentic piece of music history.

GM: Before you launched Backstage Auctions, what were your careers?
BA: Well, we both had nearly 20 years of corporate business experience before launching Backstage Auctions, and interestingly, we both started our careers in human resources. I progressed through my career in more of a strategic human resources role, with a focus in development and communications, and Jacques’ skills were focused more on the merger and acquisition side of things. Our previous careers did prove to be very beneficial when you peel down our experience and apply it to core business functions.

GM: What do you find is the hardest or most challenging part of your business? And what is your favorite part?
BA: Like with any business, developing business and securing collections is always a challenge. Our clients have very demanding schedules, especially the ones who are actively touring and recording. It’s getting the stars to align at the precise moment when we get a “yes,” and getting a “yes” can sometimes takes months on end, even years.  Probably for both me and Jacques, our favorite part is when the collections actually get delivered to our studio. It’s quite a thrill to open of a box that contains original recordings, handwritten lyrics that are decades old, or even stage-worn attire and concert-used gear. It’s history, and it’s not only our client’s history, but it’s a part of our personal history, because we grew up listening to these artists.

We also get a tremendous satisfaction when our clients actively participate in promoting their auctions. Ted Nugent played a very active role in his auction, as did Herbie Herbert, Page Hamilton, Kip Winger, Scott Ian and Charlie Benante. Social media is a very powerful tool, especially when an artist has a tremendous following. It’s a lot of fun following the interaction between the artists and their fans when the auction is live. The fans and collectors eat it up, which always have a direct impact on the auction results.

Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian adds a personal touch to one of the guitars he consigned to Backstage Auctions. The auction house, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary, focuses on acquiring lots directly from artists and music-industry insiders to ensure buyers are getting high-quality items with a direct link to artists. Photo courtesy Backstage Auctions.

GM: What’s the significance of the Backstage Auctions red star logo?
BA: Well the cliché answer would be that it represents being a star … you know, a “rock star,” and that certainly applies. We have changed our logo a bit over the years, but the constant that has never changed is the recognizable red star. Setting the business answer aside, it also has a personal meaning for Jacques and me, dating back to when we first met. So there is a little bit of us in our logo, which I personally think is cool.

GM: What are a couple of memorable experiences you’ve had through they years with Backstage Auctions? (i.e interesting consignments, fun stories about nervous consignors, etc.?)
BA: Oh, gosh, there are so many amazing stories and experiences. We are really fortunate to have worked with so many artists, producers and managers that each one has a great story I could tell. Every client is different when it comes to how involved he or she would like to be during the auction. Some track their own items and watch their personal VIP auction dashboard on the last day, while others call for updates. But a favorite story of mine is one of our clients was so excited about all the bidding on the last day, that he eventually had to leave his house and go to the movies — which, by the way, he later confessed that he didn’t even remember which movie he saw, because he was too nervous and preoccupied with the auction.

We have had so many different type of rock an roll rarities pass through our studio it’s hard to name just a few that are memorable or interesting – because they all are in their own way. But I can say that when you open a box and pick up a collection of original Jimi Hendrix acetates, KISS original recordings, amazing Led Zeppelin memorabilia or a even a concert used guitar – it’s hard to not feel humbled, nervous and excited all at the same time.

In the early days, admittedly we were probably a lot more nervous than our clients when we would go live with our auctions. We had the opportunity to work with the legendary Eddie Kramer (yes, this was truly an OMG moment). His collection was the very first “online” auction and in retrospect we were probably not as mentally prepared as we could have been because we simply underestimated the market response. Don’t get me wrong we knew it was going to “huge”, what we didn’t anticipate was it being “ginormous”. The lesson learned from that auction was we always need to be prepared for the absolutely “best” case scenario moment – you know the one that usually begins with, “I can’t even imagine – but what if….”.

We have worked with so many amazing people over the years, and quite a few of our clients have become great friends post auction activities. But I must say that for me personally Eddie Kramer is still “one” of my favorite clients, but really everyone we have worked with has been awesome.

GM: How much has changed in the business (both collecting-wise and auction-wise) since you held your first auction? What are the trends you’ve seen?
BA: Ten years seems like a long time, and it is, but there are things that simply don’t change, like the passion for collecting. That said, we do see the primary collectors group for classic rock memorabilia starting to shrink a bit, but that makes sense to us, because of the age of that group. What has been growing in popularity and is definitely a force to be reckoned with is heavy metal memorabilia. This year we will be hosting our fourth heavy-metal focused auction, and every year it gets bigger and bigger. It’s the natural progression of collecting, markets and emerging interests that drive the mayhem behind metal memorabilia collecting. Let’s be honest here. When Scott Ian of Anthrax has one of his guitars prominently featured in the annual “Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles” guide book, you know heavy-metal memorabilia is a real player in the world of music memorabilia collecting. And we love it!

Herbie Herbert's 1974  personal agenda from the Journey days.

GM: What’s it like to work with your spouse? Do you think that being married makes it easier or harder to work together, and why?
BA: Well, for us, it’s easy. But we do have separate offices in our studio. Rarely do we have to actually work together side by side. Jacques mainly focuses on client service and manages the production side of things. My focus is more keeping all the balls in the air. Sure, we have our moments but there is definitely more of an upside than a downside.

GM: Have your collecting habits changed as a result of running an auction house? If so, how? (It’s got to be hard to work with all that cool stuff and not want to take at least a few goodies home with you!)
BA: It’s interesting that you ask that, because one would easily assume that we (actually, Jacques) would still be actively collecting, but he doesn’t so much anymore. From time to time, he will purchase something, but usually because it has a personal history attached to it. As so many collectors do, they reach their summit, and Jacques reached his and was OK with it.

GM: If you could go back and do one thing differently in regards to your business, what would you choose to change, and why?
BA: Oh, there are probably things that we could have done different, but we like to look at those as teachable moments. One thing that we learned early was this is a fluid business, and over-managing the process doesn’t necessarily deliver the results you were hoping for. In 2005, we were out in San Francisco, packing up a warehouse filled with decades of memorabilia belonging to Herbie Herbert, who was the man behind Journey’s success. He gave us a piece of advice that he learned early on from his mentor Bill Graham, which was, “When you have a yes, you stop selling.” For us, that translated into when you have a “yes,” keep it simple, go with the flow and try to not over- manage the artists — they have enough of that already.

GM: In 10 years’ time, you have built Backstage Auctions from the ground up. Would you ever consider selling now that you are established and reputable music memorabilia auction house?
BA: That’s a very good question. We have organically grown and built Backstage Auctions in such a way that if the right buyer (individual or company) came along and expressed interest, it would definitely be an easy business transaction — especially since Jacques and I are the sole owners. That said, it would probably be emotionally difficult to hand the keys over to someone else, but at the same time it could be equally exciting. But for now, we are rockin’ in the here and now and having fun … one auction at a time.


Album Review: Cactus – Live in the U.S.A./Live in Japan

Album review: Cactus – Live in the U.S.A./Live in Japan
Rocker Records LLC
All Access Rating: A-

Cactus - Live in Japan 2013
Around for only a short while in the early '70s, Cactus never quite lived up to the expectations that come with being called the "American Led Zeppelin." Still, they left their mark with a greasy. blues-infused mix of hard-hitting proto-metal and full-throttle boogie-rock that served as an archetype for the likes of AC/DC, Aerosmith, the Black Crowes, Montrose and Van Halen to follow.

Always a scintillating live act that attracted big crowds during their 1969-1972 run, despite the lack of a hit album or a smash single, Cactus was one of those bands that everybody figured called it quits too soon. And maybe they're right, considering the searing rock 'n' roll heat coming off two live releases – available separately as digital downloads from drummer Carmine Appice's new label, Rocker Records LLC – from a reunited Cactus that, sadly, did not include deceased singer Rusty Day.

Cactus - Live in the U.S.A. 2013
Revived in the mid-2000s, Cactus played B.B. King's in New York in 2006 – captured on Live in the U.S.A. – as a warm-up for their triumphant appearance at the Sweden Rock Festival. It being the first time Jim McCarty, Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert – with a new lead vocalist in tow – had performed as Cactus since 1972, Live in the U.S.A. documents their return in gloriously ragged fashion. 

It's a rough-and-tumble recording, lending a sense of closeness to a sweltering atmosphere that seems as hot and sticky as any down-South juke joint – one guy can even be heard yelling out, "I can die now." Cactus does not disappoint him. This is raw stuff, with some of the nastiest guitar licks McCarty has ever produced, as Cactus, propelled by the rhythmic rumblings of Bogert's bass and Appice's drums, struts like Mountain through "Muscle & Soul" and "Evil" with a rugged bluesy drawl that's also evident in the huffing and puffing they do in the harmonica-laced "Brother Bill." They kick out the jams with "Let Me Swim," this version sweating bullets and exploding like Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll." Expressed with the confident swagger of men who realize they have nothing left to prove to anybody, their gnarled, slowed-down readings of "Long Tall Sally" and "Rock and Roll Children" are tantalizing, allowing them to mop their brows before diving headlong into the frenzied, blustery boogie of Mose Allison's "Parchman Farms," where Cactus lets it all hang out.

Bogert had retired by the time Cactus played Japan in 2012. Pete Bremy, his replacement, fills in admirably on a Live in Japan set that has a cleaner, more professional sound, but is no less combustible. "Swim" is just as feverish here, and throughout the performance, Appice's drums are punishing, McCarty's guitars are blazing and Bogert thunders away on the bass. A little bluesier, as Cactus indulges in classy renderings of "Alaska" and Willie Dixon's "You Can't Judge a Book (By Looking at the Cover)," Live in Japan finds Cactus exploring stoner-metal moods and sounds on a particularly hazy "Electric Blue" and then gnawing on the bones of a simmering pot called "One Way or Another" that threatens to boil over but never does.

Two rollicking concerts, captured at different points in the Cactus reunification, Live in the U.S.A. and Live in Japan see this reinvigorated band, which once arose out of the ashes of Vanilla Fudge, scratching and crawling its way toward fully realizing what they set out to do. The journey isn't over.
– Peter Lindblad

Original Black Sabbath catalog available digitally

Black Sabbath's '70s catalog is
now available through iTunes
Black Sabbath is finally going digital.

For the first time, the full catalog from the original lineup is now available digitally in the United States, having been remastered specifically for iTunes. The increased audio fidelity is supposed to replicate more closely what the artists, recording engineers and producers had in mind when making the records.

"It's about f--king time the first eight Black Sabbath albums were made available on iTunes in the U.S., said Ozzy Osbourne.

Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi added, "Great news, been a long time trying to explain to fans why the music wasn't available."

Available exclusively on the iTunes Store worldwide (, The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1978 can be purchased in one newly created downloadable bundle. Fans can also choose to download the eight legendary studio albums, two classic compilations, or simply purchase each song individually.

Black Sabbath: The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1978 features the band's collected studio work for Warner Bros. Records from the 1970s. Among the offerings are the band's groundbreaking self-titled debut from 1970, 1970's Paranoid, 1971's Master of Reality, 1972's Vol. 4, 1973's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, 1975's Sabotage, 1976's Technical Ecstasy, and 1978's Never Say Die!.

Compilations We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'N' Roll (1976) and 2006's Greatest Hits 1970-1978 are also available. 

The reunited original Sabbath lineup, minus Bill Ward of course, will soon return to North America on its latest tour, following runs through both North and South America, Australia, Asia and Europe. 
This latest round of North American tour dates starts March 31 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, and will take the doom-metal godfathers through 10 cities in Canada, including Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. The trek ends April 26 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, CA. 

These dates will be part of the band's final shows of their 2013-2014 world our in support of 13, their first studio album in 35 years.

CD Review: Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock – Bridge The Gap

Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock – Bridge The Gap
All Access Review: A-

Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock - Bridge
The Gap 2014
There's only room for one high priest in this Temple of Rock, and that's guitar god Michael Schenker. Although for Schenker's new album under that moniker, the near religious experience for guitar freaks that is Bridge The Gap, he's assembled a small group of trusted heavy metal clergymen to help conduct these rock 'n' roll rituals, including his old Scorpions' mates Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz.

Not since 1979's seminal Lovedrive album have these three appeared on a record together, so this is, indeed, a momentous occasion. That, in and of itself, however, wouldn't be enough to recommend Bridge The Gap if it wasn't simply a marvel of dramatic song structures and synergistic guitar worship.

And it's different from Schenker's first Temple of Rock outing in 2011. A jaw-dropping spectacle of wild, blazing solos and torrential riffing, made with a loose gathering of guest stars, that sprawling record suggested that Schenker was chomping at the bit to reclaim his position as one of rock's most awe-inspiring guitarists. Though not without its moments of orgasmic six-string explosions from Schenker, who blends finesse and fury in crunching riffs and leads that can be understated and stylish or aggressive and staggeringly brilliant, Bridge The Gap feels more like a group effort, as Schenker steps back a bit, assuming less of a leadership role and becoming part of a spirited rock 'n' roll cavalry that charges forward with swords brandished and a sense that they have nothing to lose through surprisingly strong song-oriented material and barely harnessed bombast.

Out on CD, a glossy deluxe edition with a bonus track in "Faith" that's sung by Don Dokken or as a 180-gram LP, Bridge The Gap sees this united front building up a strong head of steam on "Rock n Roll Symphony" and the frenzied "Temple of the Holy," the rhythmic might of Rarebell and Buchholz – their performances generating great momentum – coming to the fore as Schenker fires off salvo after salvo of imaginative, wide-ranging fretwork. Heavy, bludgeoning intros to "Where the Wild Winds Blow" and "Horizons" set the stage for blazing sonic uprisings that build into great epics, thanks to massive synth swells from the band's secret weapon, keyboardist/guitarist Wayne Findlay. Darkly melodic, all caught up in a thicket of hooks and trudging forth with weighty, crunching steps, "Black Moon Rising" and "Dance for the Piper" find common ground with Dio's best work. And with its bounding movements and whirling neo-classical energy, "To Live for the King" sounds like latter-day Rainbow on horseback, racing to the finish in a mad dash with pulses pounding.

It's no accident that Bridge The Gap is reminiscent of Ritchie Blackmore's former band, what with Doogie White writing the record's fantasy-based, romance-obsessed lyrics and singing with his usual masculine clarity. And like Rainbow, this Temple of Rock balances traditional metal power and melodic magic, dipping back into the past for inspiration while also managing to sound current and in the "now." Although scenes of Led Zeppelin in their prime drifting off in an opium den come to mind in the mysterious and intoxicating "Shine On," And while Bridge The Gap isn't the platform for unfettered shredding that the first Temple of Rock was, Schenker doesn't take the day off.

Amid the powerhouse riffing, beautiful plumes and soaring, well-articulated leads, there is interesting activity going on underneath the surface, as if Schenker is digging a complex series of underground passages. Take time to walk through them. Schenker has sublime surprises in store for those who do.
– Peter Lindblad

Carmine Appice doing more than just ' ... Hangin' On'

Carmine Appice - 2014
Legendary drummer talks new label, reflects on days with Rod Stewart, Vanilla Fudge, Jeff Beck and others
By Peter Lindblad

Carmine Appice has a lot of irons in the fire, and that's just how he likes it.

Along with his involvement in the recent revivals of some of his classic former bands like Vanilla Fudge, Cactus and King Kobra, to name a few, Appice has started a new record label called Rocker Records – established to release a variety of Appice related records, and possibly those of other artists – and is penning an autobiography.

Long acknowledged as one of hard rock and heavy metal's most creative and influential drummers, Appice has manned the kit for an incredible array of artists and groups, including Rod Stewart, even managing to assist in writing two of Stewart's biggest hits, "Young Turks" and "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy." As part of Vanilla Fudge in the late 1960s, he helped usher in the psychedelic-rock era with his ungodly heavy playing on the band's smash-hit cover of "You Keep Me Hangin' On."

Appice would go on to start Cactus with Fudge bassist Tim Bogert after plans for a supergroup with Jeff Beck on guitar and Rod Stewart on vocals fell apart. Known as the "American Led Zeppelin," although their commercial success was limited, Cactus – which also included guitar player Jim McCarty and singer Rusty Day – was a powerhouse live act and they left their mark, inspiring bands like AC/DC and Van Halen with a particularly combustible brand of boogie-rock. But Cactus didn't last, and neither did another powerhouse supergroup partnership with Bogert, Beck & Appice, but he later landed with Stewart and was quickly swept up in the jet-setting circus that surrounded the singer.

It's been a wild ride for Appice, who recently talked with us about those halcyon days with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus and Rod Stewart, as well as his experiences with Jeff Beck, and everything he has going on these days.

What prompted you to want to start this new label venture? 
CA: Actually, I started working with this guy, Mike Cusanelli, who was involved in … he was involved in World Sound, which is another label and management company. And with that management company, we put a book deal together for myself, for my life story. And the deal is with VH1 books. That’s the same company that did Nikki Sixx and Ace Frehley, and all that stuff. As we were negotiating the deal, we had our house in Fairfield, Conn., and he lives in Fairfield, Conn., too, so his partner said, “Hey, you’ve got to get introduced to Mike, who lives out there and you guys can get together and work on the book,” and blah, blah, blah. So I did that. So Mike, being a records kind of guy, says, “You know, if you have product laying around, you should probably start a record label that would be able to get out your product, and then sell other people’s product – friends of yours that have product that maybe want to release it,” and blah, blah, blah. So, I said, “Really, that’s interesting.” So then he had a talk with the head of eONE, which is our distributor, and he was totally into the idea. So, I thought, “Okay. Let’s give it a try.”

And these first releases are stuff that I’ve had basically in the can, with really nothing to do. They’re from my personal collection. So he says, “Well, let’s get it out to the fans.” 

Cactus - Live in the U.S.A.
Tell me about each of these releases, starting with Cactus Live in the U.S.A.
CA: Okay. We had a DVD years ago – 2006 – that came out on MVD. Somebody in Europe took the soundtrack off the DVD and released it, unbeknownst to us. So, when we found it, we said, “Huh.” And it was selling well, so we worked out a deal with the guy and he paid us royalties, and when I listened to it, “I said, ‘Wow, this sounds really good.’” Now, that has Tim Bogert on it. So you’ve got Cactus with Tim Bogert – the original lineup, except the singer, Rusty Day, who’s been dead since the ‘80s. So I thought that one would be a cool one to release, because it has Tim on it. It was never released in America, so that was that one. And then we went to Japan last year in December, and our deal over there was to record two nights for the deal, and the one night, the second night, we would record also video, which will come out next year. So this Live in Japan is the first night. It’s not complete. It’s a single disc amount – that means like 10 or 11 songs. But it was the first night we played in Tokyo, and it was great. It was a kick-ass show. I mean, we’d never been to Japan before, and the crowd was great. It was sold-out. And Jim McCarty was on fire (laughs), and the band just sounded great. Now this live one has Pete Bremy on it, who’s been our bass player for about two and a half years now, since Tim retired. And he also plays with Vanilla Fudge, which we’re working on some live things with Vanilla Fudge that’ll come out next year, too. So, that’s how those two happened. 

Can we go back just a little bit? That Cactus Live in the U.S.A., what show was that from?
CA: Actually, that was the first show that we had done since we broke up in the ‘70s. So that’s one thing cool about it. It was the warm-up show for the Swedish Rock Festival that we did, which was the next show we did after that a couple of days later in Sweden, which was [in front of] like 10,000 people. So it was interesting how we progressed. But anyway, like I said, someone in Europe took the soundtrack off the DVD, and they sold it and it was selling well. They were selling so many of them on the road, we didn’t know where they came from. And then we figured it out – on the road in Europe that is, where we’d never sold many, maybe one or two imports – but it was never released, so we thought because it was the first show, because it had Tim on it, we thought it would be a cool thing to release to people who were Cactus fans. 

What year was it and where was the show at?
CA: That was 2006 and B.B. King’s in New York. We didn’t want to just say B.B. King’s, so we just said Live in the USA. Because we had other things out with Fuel Records that were live in California that were coupled as a double album with the re-release of Cactus 5. So, you know, we’re just trying to keep some product flowing out. We’re working on a new album, also, which should be out in the first quarter of [2014]. It’ll be more like an EP to start. It’ll be about six songs, and then we have six more songs in the can that are not finished yet. When we get those six done, maybe we’ll re-release the whole thing as one album. But we figure with the way the business is now, it doesn’t really matter if it’s an album or six songs. It’s downloadable, and then most people download them now anyway. So we’re working on that, and then the other two releases, one is Travers-Appice, which is Pat Travers and myself, live from the 2004 tour we did. That was the first night Tony Franklin played with us. We had Sam Stevens playing with us for two weeks before that, and then Tony joined us, and we did another two weeks. Somebody sent me that CD, a live gig. I don’t even know where it came from, but when I got it in the mail in my office in L.A., I played it in the car and I said, “Wow! This sounds great.” And so it sounded great, and I had it in my computer, and I would listen to it on my iTunes as enjoyment, and it really was good. And then we put the label together, and Mike said, “Well, what product do you have that you think we could release?” And I said, “You know, this one might be cool.” I had it in my collection. I mean, it sounds live. It kicks ass. You can hear everything. And so we mastered it and put it on the release schedule. 

Travers & Appice 2013
I was going to ask you your thoughts on playing with Pat Travers. How do you guys mesh?
CA: It was great. We did that first album, which was called It Takes a lot of Balls, which we’re going to do something with that. I don’t know if it’s going to be on Rocker or some other label, if we find a partner that has some other record deal going with some different things. But anyway, when we did that first album, it sounded awesome. I mean, God, it was the best album I’d done in years. And then we went out on the road in Europe, and we did 30 shows in Europe, and they went great. We did another DVD with that, with a company called Escapee. They went out of business. When we released the live album from DVD, they were already going out of business. And then they released the DVD and the live album, and nothing really happened with it. We got the rights back, and the DVD was released by Fuel, and we just had a great time. And then Cleopatra [Records] asked us to do an album of covers, which we did, and that was great, too. I think Pat is a tremendous talent. I love him as a person, and we had gone into a studio on Long Island, my friend Randy’s studio, Electric Randy-Land, it’s called, where we recorded Cactus 5 and some Vanilla Fudge stuff. And we went in there as TMC, and then we put together this song that we never really finished. So I finished it recently with a keyboard player named Alejandro Delvachio, from Italy, a really great keyboard player friend of mine. And he put some keyboard melodies on it, so we put that on as a bonus track. So there’s one studio track on Travers-Appice Live. So, it’s a nice package for the people who were into Pat and I playing together. 

And the last one is Bogert, Appice & Friends, and what that really was was stuff that we’d recorded to release as a version of Vanilla Fudge back in the early 2000s, when Mark Stein and Vinnie Martell weren’t in the band. Now that we have the original members of the band together, except for Timmy, you know, we couldn’t really release it as Vanilla Fudge, ‘cause Mark Stein wasn’t playing on it. And most of the arrangement ideas and everything are suggestions I did. And the picking of the songs, and all that … I mean, I think there’s one original on there, and then there’s a version of the “Star Spangled Banner,” which is awesome. And Brian Auger plays on this track, but it’s recorded really well. We mastered it, and it’s an EP, and it really sounds good. I’m really happy with it. The arrangements are awesome. That’s why the arrangements will sound very Vanilla Fudge-y.   

Bogert & Appice and Friends - 2013
And this is a studio album.
CA: It’s a studio album. So we did “Falling” and “Bye Bye Love,” and “Star-Spangled Banner,” and two original numbers, and then we have “Falling” again with Brian Auger playing organ, which is really, really cool. He plays the hell out of it. So, it’s really interesting. We call it Bogert, Appice & Friends, because that’s what it is – me and Tim and different people.

What are some of the things you want to do for fans that might be different from other labels?
CA: Well, I don’t know if it’s different from other labels. I want to give better deals to downloads than other labels do. And just to be able to release the products worldwide digitally with eOne, because they’re pretty strong all around the world. And to be able to, in some cases, release stuff like we do with this Vanilla Fudge live thing. We’re going to release some of it on vinyl – do some of that collectible stuff. I don’t think we’re trying to do anything that’s different than anybody else that does this kind of thing, but there are labels that won’t release stuff like this … ‘cause really everything’s been done. What can we do that hasn’t been done? I mean, it’s all been done. It’s going the other way now. I mean, really, as far as the record business, even with these downloads. You sell 67,000 units now of downloads and hard copies, you end up No. 3 on Billboard – 67,000 copies of something wouldn’t even get you like in the Top 100. So, really the record business is going the wrong way. Now, it’s all about live shows, really. I mean, Paul McCartney comes out with a new album. Have you heard any tracks from it on the radio? I haven’t heard any of them. There’s an example right there how backwards we’re going. It used to be when Paul McCartney came out with a song it was everywhere. You couldn’t turn on a radio or a television without hearing it. So, anyway, we’re just trying to have some fun and do some creative music, and maybe this band that can’t get a record deal we could release it digitally around the world and get something out.

Do you anticipate having a web site and online store where fans can go directly to buy recordings and merchandise? 
CA: I’m not sure about that actually, ‘cause as I said a lot of the stuff is not going to be physical. It’s going to be a lot of digital stuff. So maybe we’ll have a digital online store, but there are enough of those already. We have a web site now –, which will keep news of what’s coming out and what’s available and all that, and maybe some links to things and you can buy it from iTunes or something. We may do that, but we’re too new. We’re really taking it as it comes. We don’t really know if that’s going to happen, but that is a good idea. And it’s not very hard to set up either. If we have something to have physical CD releases and vinyl stuff, yeah, sure we could put them on our web site, but then you have to have a fulfillment kind of thing. And if you don’t get enough orders, you’re paying people for nothing. I’m not trying to dig myself into a hole, either. I did that in 1988. I had Rocker Records back then, distributed by a small label with King Kobra. We sold 20,000 CDs, for which I was supposed to get like $40,000, and I got nothing because of all the other stuff they had you could sell, and the distributor, instead of giving them their money, they gave them returns. So I got myself into a big hole there. I took some equity off my house to buy some promotion people, and it was on MTV, and it sold. We were selling. Then, of course with the other labels … if I was distributing it, my record by myself and distributing it, we could have made money. There would have been no returns to give. I learned my lesson on that. So we’re just trying to take it easy and little by little, build it and get things going.   

What is your vision for the label? Ultimately, what would you like to accomplish with it?
CA: Well, I mean I’d like to get a bunch of the records out, Mike’s business, I’m creative, A&R type. 

Basically, we got a start. We got advance money to pay for the people to master the stuff and do the artwork, and do this to give everybody a little bit of an advance and to get it out on the market and do a bunch of interviews and do press for November and December. And then in January we’ll get a little more money to cover for some of the releases that’ll come out in the first quarter, and then hopefully, we’ll sell enough where it keeps giving us enough money to keep it. 

Mike had me go and meet with them (eOne), and I was very comfortable with the guy who runs it. He’s actually a fan of mine and a drummer. So I’m comfortable with him, and we felt comfortable doing it. It took a while. We met with him last December, and now it’s 11 months later. It took all that time to get it together. So we’ll see what happens. 

Are there any labels in the past you’ve worked with in the past, or industry people who you’ve admired for the way they’ve done business that you can model yourself after?
CA: Not really … well, I could name one: Len Fico from Fuel. He’s a good guy, and I had all this product laying around – King Kobra, I had a solo album that was never released, I had Cactus live stuff, I had Vanilla Fudge live stuff, all this crazy stuff. All totaled, it was like 13 albums, pieces of product. And he actually did a deal with me for it. He gave me an advance. I paid everybody involved advances, and then, within a year and a half, he had sold everything, and we were in the black instead of in the red with him. And he does a good job. As a matter of fact, we just relicensed a Vanilla Fudge product we had with him a few months ago. I really like him. He’s an honest guy; he’s not a rip-off. You can get him on the phone, and then he’d have like all these CDs, and all these stores have closed, there’s nowhere to sell these CDs, and he’d just take them, and nobody was buying them, and he’d sell them at your gigs. Nice guy, you know, and he gave me hundreds of CDs, and we’re still selling them at gigs. When I do my clinics, I’ve got all these different kinds of CDs to sell – Derringer & Appice, my first and second solo albums, it’s a double thing, and a double package King Kobra album. I can’t remember all of them (laughs). Actually, he did a Carmine classics DVD, which had a little bit of everything on it. Every six months I get royalty checks from him, and it’s good – all the publishing, you know. I would say if there was any indie label to model after, it would be his, because he’s an honest guy and he pays everybody. Versus, you know, I got deals with labels in Europe, including that label that released that product they weren’t supposed to release. They weren’t supposed to release that. And I made a deal with an English label that supposedly licensed it to him, but he tells me he didn’t do it. But if he didn’t do it, why is he paying you? Stuff like that, rip-off people, and then when I crossed him, the guy in England, I had him pay me the money, and he did the same deal that Len Fico did with Fuel at the same time. And he has not anywhere near recouped. And he’s got all of Europe. He’s got Europe and Japan. Len’s just got the U.S. Not even Canada. My label, we’ve got Canada, too. And we’ve got Japan. We’re working on Japan. And Europe is hard because all these labels are rip-offs. So now, that guy there that did that deal for that soundtrack, he paid me the royalties that were due, but then since then, the royalties for January to June were supposed to be paid by August and I’ve got to chase him down. This guy wanted to be our distributor for Rocker Records in Europe. How the hell are you going to do this? You can’t even pay the royalties on time. We’ve got another guy who is a promoter, and he’s a bit better, but still, the guy loses track on when he’s supposed to pay your royalties. I mean, with Len, I just call him when I know the royalties are due. I say, “How are we doing?” And he goes, “Well, they’ll be ready next week, and I’ll send it out to you.” I mean, in September, when the royalties were due at the end of August, on Sept. 10, I called him, and I said, “Are you going to that event?” And he said, “Look, I’m going to that event. I’ll just bring you the check.” And he handed me the check, and I take that and I pay everybody who is due royalties. And the European guys, it’s the same with Japan. They never pay the royalties on time. I had a deal with a big company, Virgin Pacific. This is Virgin, you know? Virgin-Pacific, it’s all one company. I never got a royalty statement … We’re going to try not to that (laughs).   

How did you come to join Vanilla Fudge and what do you remember most about those early years?
CA: Well, we were all just playing gigs around New York at the time, and I was in a soul, R&B kind of band. We had horns and stuff, and one day, these guys came into a club where we were playing and said they heard about me, that I could sing. I could sing lead and harmonies. And that I had a great right foot and that I was technically a pretty good drummer. And they had this thing going on with this manager in Long Island, and they were going to try to make it in the record business and all that. I actually didn’t know whether to take them seriously or not, because I was doing good. I was making $200 a weekend, not having a day job at the time. It was ’66 or ’67. I had a brand new car. It was my second new car. I was only 19 years old, and I didn’t know if I wanted to make a change, but then they told me what they were doing, and I went out and played with them and they were all f—king great. And I said, “Okay, let’s do it.” And nine months later, we had a record on the charts. That scene … we used to call them “production numbers,” slowing the songs down, putting what we’d call “hurting” lyrics and drama into the songs. The Vagrants were doing it, and they were drawing big crowds, but they could never get a record happening. We got in, and luckily, “Keep Me Hangin’ On” was the one. It just broke out all over the place, and it took the album to No. 4, and it only went to like No. 70 on the charts. We had a Top 10 record without having a Top 10 single. 

[Talking about the second Vanilla Fudge album] Ahmet Ertugen and Shadow Morton, it was their baby. We were new kids. We had a good f--king album. We didn’t know the business. They’re telling us we’re going to be the biggest thing since the f--king Beatles. What did we know? We didn’t even know what it was going to sound like until we were done. When we heard it, I said, “Holy sh-t, this is weird.” It’s a f--king strange album. And they’re going, “Yeah, you can take it on the road and have film in the background, and make it like a whole weird, cool light show and film.” Yeah, right. It came out and went up the charts and down the charts. And then we had to rush in and do another album, and then we had another song that went on the Top 20, and then they re-released “… Hangin’ On” and the other album went up into the Top 10. Before you knew it, we had three albums on the charts. The Beat Goes On was like No. 90, but the other two were in the top 20. One was in the top 10, the other was in the top 15, and the single was No. 4. But had we not done an album like that, and done an album like we had done before, it would have probably went platinum, like Queen and Hendrix and all the other people out there, because we were at the top of our game on that first album. And momentum got f--ked up by the second album. It took the third album to try and build it [back] up, and it didn’t quite do it … we didn’t have the big hit single off that one. Luckily, “… Hangin’ On” was one big single that could take the other one into the top 20, but that’s it. And “Shotgun” I guess was top 20, but it probably would have been bigger had we not released that album. 

You guys decided to remake so many songs in your own image. What was it about "You Keep Me Hanging On" that made you want to record that one?
CA: The lyrics, the lyrics. Yeah, if you listen to the lyrics, we used to call those lyrics “hurtin’ lyrics.” If you’re an adult or in love when you had a girl or a wife, and you were in that situation, you would be singing it (in a high, feminine voice), “Set me free why don’t you, babe” – like a happy song. So we just slowed it down, with all the songs – “Eleanor Rigby,” “People Get Ready” – we tried to fit the mood of the song with the lyrics, and musically feed that into the song and create a whole new environment for the song. “People Get Ready” was sort of a gospel-y message, so we did it like a church, with the organ and the vocals. “Eleanor Rigby” was a spooky, at the church graveyard [kind of song], so we did it sort of like a horror movie. “Season of the Witch” – same thing, you know, for “Bang, Bang.” We just slowed it down and added the introduction to “The King and I” – that psychedelic, trippy stuff, because it was sort of like a trippy song. “Take Me for a Little While” we rearranged a little bit, but it’s more of a straight-ahead thing. For “She’s Not There,” we just rearranged that and slowed it down, again with the same kind of drama.  

You touched in this before, but what was different about Vanilla Fudge with regard to other groups of that era, besides the fact that you did covers?
CA: Well, No. 1, “ … Hangin’ On” had such a powerful … you know, The Rascals were big at the time, and we sort of blew them away with what they were doing to the extreme. And it’s just like Led Zeppelin took everybody else who influenced them, from Hendrix to Vanilla Fudge to the Cream and everybody else, and took what they were doing – especially The Jeff Beck Group – to the extreme. And that’s why they were so big, but “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” it was such a shock, because nobody really did covers in those days. If they did, they were doing them the same way as the original. But the way we did it, we shocked so many people. I remember reading things that Eric Clapton and George Harrison and Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck and all these people knew exactly where they were the first time they heard that, because it left such an impression on them. And why? Because it was a white group playing really heavy, but soulful – so heavy soul wasn’t really in yet. White, blue-eyed soul was cool. That was what The Rascals did and the Righteous Brothers did, but nobody did it heavy – with big amps and the big drums, the powerful drum sounds. And because we cut actually … “ … Hangin’ On” was cut in mono, I don’t know if you knew that or not. It was a mono track, and the drums were one of the loudest things. In the way I played and the tuning, it created a really heavy drum sound, which was the model that Led Zeppelin used for Led Zeppelin, with John Bonham, that really heavy drum sound. And really, “ … Hangin’ On” is the only track that had that sound on that album, but it created such a landmark drum sound that it was sort of copied. And it was the same with the bass. You had Tim (Bogert) playing like (Motown bassist) James Jamerson, but playing through five Dual Showman amplifiers. And live, we were crazy. You look at the “Ed Sullivan Show,” you look at the way we played – the drama, the excitement, just what we did – it was pretty long. Nobody was doing that. We all sang with four-part harmony and it was great, and Mark Stein was a tremendous f--king soul singer – a great singer, a really great singer. That vocal on “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” is awesome. “Take Me for a Little While” … awesome. “Eleanor Rigby” … awesome. He was definitely the best singer in the band. I always thought I sang okay. People think I’m better than I think I am, but I sang lead throughout my career. I sang doo-wop things in Brooklyn and so did Mark. So between him and me, we taught Vinnie and Tim the vibratos and we all worked together on the vocals a lot. I remember it was ’68 or ’69, when Billboard magazine had their awards it used to be just one page in the Billboard magazine, and The Beatles were No. 1 vocals and Vanilla Fudge was No. 2. I said, “Wow!” If we had that now, we’d be on nationwide television getting an award.             

When you and Tim decided to go off to start Cactus, what was going on with Vanilla Fudge that made it seem like that was coming to an end?
CA: Well, it started changing. Like in ’69, basically, things started changing. You had the Jeff Beck Group starting to get big, Led Zeppelin was starting to get big, and then there were all these other bands coming out, like Deep Purple, who copied Vanilla Fudge and then they started getting heavier. Like we had a song called “Good Good Lovin'” which was really the blueprint for Deep Purple – a really heavy, bottom-y organ, heavy guitar, heavy bass … you know, it was a heavy sound. It was a song called “Good Good Lovin'.” You listen to that song, you go, “Wow! This sounds like Deep Purple.” And that was done before Deep Purple started getting heavier.

But a lot of these guitar bands were coming out – The Who were getting big at that time as an album band and a concert band, not just a singles band. So me and Tim, we were kind of fed up with the organ and everything slow, and no real energy. So we started doing things like “Need Love with Vanilla Fudge,” which was more rock-y. If you look at YouTube, it has hundreds of thousands of hits on it now, but you could almost hear some Led Zeppelin in there, at the beginning of Zeppelin, the way we played. But it was starting to change in music. So we had heard that Jeff Beck loved me and Timmy’s work on “Shotgun” and wanted to start a band with us. In fact, John Bonham told us that. So we had a talk with Jeff, and he wanted to definitely do it, and he talked about having Rod Stewart as the singer, before Rod went solo. That was the plan. It was going to be me, Rod, Jeff and Tim, and in those days, you didn’t just do a side project, because everything was one project at a time. And at the time, Blind Faith had just come out.

Super groups were sort of cool, and Mountain – Leslie and Corky were getting together with Jack Bruce. So this was going to be our super group. So when we were supposed to meet with Jeff at the end of ’69 with his manager, Jeff got in this car accident. And that was the end of it, but we had already broken up Vanilla Fudge, so we had to go with plan B and plan B was Cactus, and we put it together with Jim McCarty and Rusty Day. But it never quite did what we wanted it to do. We did okay. We toured around the world. We did all the biggest festivals, played in front of hundreds of thousands of people, hit the charts and went Top 30, but we never got as big as Vanilla Fudge did. 

Hugely influential though.
CA: It was an influential band, just like Vanilla Fudge was. And why neither one of them are ever even mentioned in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’ll never know, especially Vanilla Fudge. We took out everybody with us, opening up for us. Frank Zappa opened up for us. I mean, Cactus had Bruce Springsteen open up for us. You know what I mean? It’s just crazy. And then they worry that Alice Cooper didn’t get in. Okay, they’re right. Alice Cooper should be in there. Certainly the freaking rap artists shouldn’t be in there. If they throw those kinds of acts in there, they should call it the Music Hall of Fame, not the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But then Jeff Beck is in there twice. I mean, The Yardbirds are in there. Why are The Yardbirds in there and Vanilla Fudge isn’t in there? The Yardbirds were never that big here. Is it because they spawned the three guitar players? Vanilla Fudge spawned me and Timmy (laughs). 

When Jeff had his accident and Rod decided to join the Faces, was that a long, prolonged thing, or did you realize it was over right when Jeff had his accident?
CA: Yeah, I mean because Jeff was going to be 18 months recuperating. He had a concussion and all that shit, so we put Cactus together and we went out and started doing our gigs. In ’70, we played a lot of cool gigs. We played with The Who, we played with Hendrix, we did a lot of festivals. We did the Atlanta Pop Festival, we did Strawberry Fields, we did Isle of Wight, we did festivals in Germany, we played over here – we got big in a lot of areas. New York, we played four shows at the Fillmore. It was packed. Memphis, we did shows at 2,500-seaters, and it was packed. And we'd go out with Ten Years After. So we have a two-, two-and-a-half-year stint of playing and doing Cactus, and everybody loved us. And then we got thrown off tours because we were too good.

So our singer before he left, he really knew how to get an audience in the palm of his hand, and the band, we had a really high-energy band, and a lot of bands couldn’t follow us because we had so much good stuff going on. And then Jeff Beck came back with his Jeff Beck Group, but he soon got sick of that. And that year, because he didn’t do it for like a year and a half after we had Cactus, he got sick of it quick and in the summer of ’72, I think it was – we were doing ’70 and ’71 and ’72 with Cactus – he asked us to come on the road with him and replace Cozy (Powell) and the bass player (Clive Chaman) and he got a new singer, and this will be a start. We always had management stuff, so we discussed that this would be the start of the thing, and we’d probably call it Beck, Bogert & Appice. But we didn’t want to make it a big hype. We wanted to gradually build into it. So that’s what we did, and then, before Rod joined the Faces, he bowed out of the thing, even before Jeff was going to come over. He didn’t want to work with Jeff because he had some financial problems, which I’ve had many times in my career with Jeff as well (laughs). I’m writing my book now for VH1, so all these stories are in detail.    

Cactus put out three studio albums in rather quick succession. What spurred all that creative activity?
CA: That’s what you had to do back then. Your record deals had two albums a year, and Vanilla Fudge did, too. You notice all the bands back then had a lot of product? That’s because all the record deals were two albums per year. 

So it was all the record companies with the lash saying, "Put something out?"
CA: Yeah, I mean the record companies owned, and they still own, the product. That doesn’t happen now. Or maybe it does, I don’t know. I haven’t had a major record deal like that in ages.

How did the short turnaround time affect the work and the band members?
CA: We were all doing that. We all did that. Before us, Rusty was with Ted Nugent. They were doing it. Before us, Jimmy was with Buddy Miles. They were doing it. It was just one of the things you knew you had to do. You’ve got a record deal, it clearly says, “Two albums.” Yeah, you might go over, and have two albums in 14 months, but it’s still not like it is now. Now, everybody is one album every two years, if that. But then again, now, there’s no record business like there used to be. 

What led to Jim McCarty and Rusty Day entering the band and then leaving Cactus? 
CA: Well, as far as entering goes, we had to look for somebody. We tried some unknown guys out there. It didn’t work. We always liked the way Jim McCarty played with Mitch Ryder and the Buddy Miles Express. So a friend of ours that lived in New York, he was signed to my management company, knew McCarty and said, “Let me call him.” And so he called him, and McCarty was interested. We flew him out, and we had a jam with him and it was great. And then McCarty recommended Rusty, because they’re both from Detroit. And then McCarty got fed up with Tim’s playing, because Tim’s a lead bass player, and he left the band. And then we got another guy in, Werner (Fritzschings), and then we brought Duane Hitchings in, who was the actual guy we got McCarty from. He played keyboards. And then we got an English singer, because Atlantic wanted Rusty out because they never liked his voice. And we were on tour with The Faces. They wanted somebody to sing like Rod, because Rod was the happening, “in” thing at the time. So we got an English singer who sang similar to Rod, and we did the “’Ot ‘N’ Sweaty” album, which did great, and that album was interesting because that album influenced AC/DC. AC/DC used to do that album in its entirety I was told.

Is that right?
CA: Just like Van Halen used to do Cactus songs and BBA songs. I have tapes of them doing that. I have tapes of them playing BBA and playing Cactus songs. It’s great. 

The Beck, Bogert and Appice partnership was a real whirlwind. In what ways was it exactly what you imagined it would be and in what ways was it nothing like you thought it would be? 
CA: It was totally what I expected in the music department, except when we did the album, we wanted the guitar louder, and Jeff made the bass and drums louder, because he loved the way we played at the time and he wanted us to be more featured. And we expected it where Jeff’s name was big, us coming along would make him bigger and we thought where we were big and Jeff was big, we would be really big. And when me and Tim were sounding big, it made for a stronger package. But we were averaging a 10-thousand set night, every night – a 10,000-seater. I mean, Jeff, when he joined BBA, he was doing maybe 4,000 people, if that. And Cactus was doing 4-5,000 people in different markets. It was very similar, but together, we were really f--king strong. We were strong, but then the same thing happened with Jeff that happened with McCarty. After awhile, Tim would overplay, and guitar players don’t like it, because they think it gets in the way of the guitar. But then with Jeff, it was even crazier, because he was like … you know, we did the second album twice, and we finally decided to record it live in London, and that was our last gig, and then he never lived up to the contract, and it was just a mess. 

Did that live album capture what you were all about?
CA: Well, it did, but we didn’t like it, because they left all the mistakes in there. We didn’t get a chance to fix anything. I mean, that was what we were about live mostly, and then the last album we did came out of the bootleggers, this f--king monstrous bootleg that sold around the world. It was so big that when me and Tim in 1999 went to Japan, we played a number off that bootleg album and the whole audience of 8,000 people knew it. When we mentioned the name of it, everybody f--king cheered. It got an amazing response. We released that album, and it would have brought mine and Tim’s name up to more of a household name, but then I went on to play with Rod, and my percentage of Rod, which was small, was the biggest financial (payout) monetarily (I had). It was bigger monetarily than a third of BBA (laughs).

What are your memories of working with Rod and specifically the tracks "Young Turks" and "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy"?
CA: Well, the memories were great, just great. I mean, what can you say? I mean, Rod was God at the time. He just took off in his solo career – huge, bigger than The Faces. I mean, we did six nights at the Forum and five nights at the Garden, and five or six nights all over the world in 20,000-seat venues. And the private planes … you know, I never took a bus in my life until I played with Ozzy. We got wardrobe girls and masseuses with us, and we got paid good money. The audiences were just unbelievably responsive, to the point where they would sing all the songs. They would sing all the songs by themselves – “Maggie May” and all that kind of stuff. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my career. And writing a hit song that was so big, I’d never done that. I mean I wrote songs for the BBA record and songs I’d done completely myself which I shared writing on. I had songs on Vanilla Fudge albums that went gold and stuff, but I never had a song go No. 1 in 10 countries and stay at No. 1 for weeks at a time, a song that I’d written. It’s like, “Holy crap! This is unbelievable.”

As a matter of fact, we’re putting together – it’s getting finished now – it’s called the “Rod Experience.” It’s guys from the Rod Stewart band – different eras of the band from ’76 to ’82 and also like, another guy, Jimmy Crespo, that played with Rod for three years and also played with Aerosmith – and we’re doing the Rod show. I got a guy that looks just like Rod, and we’re doing a historical Rod tribute show. It’s sort of like what The Rascals are doing now, but a little different. They’re doing their history and how they missed 40 years of everything. We’re just going to talk about how “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” came about, how “Young Turks” came about, what it was like to be on the road with Rod – just little tidbits of stories. And they’ll be delivered by video camera onstage, and that kind of thing – just historical things that only we would know being in the band.

What was it like being on the road with Rod? 
CA: It was amazing. It was amazing. It was a lot of fun – a lot of fans all the time, big money. It was amazing. And there was this thing called the “Sex Police,” which was just crazy, where anyone who had a chick, the Sex Police would break into their room and stop whatever they had going on. And Rod would participate in that stuff. We would lock people in their rooms – crazy stuff, a lot of fun. It was a great band. We were the Rolling Stones, you know?

I wanted to touch on other bands your experiences with other bands, including Blue Murder and King Kobra. What are some of your favorite memories of being in those groups?
CA: Well, like Blue Murder was great, especially when we went to Japan, because the band was huge over there. We don’t know why. I guess it was because it was a superstar band. It was funny for me because they had Burn! magazine over there, it was a big magazine. They were saying that Blue Murder was the trio of the ‘90s, and they said they were just like classic trios. And they did Cream, Hendrix and BBA, right? So they did that, and I felt really good because I was in a new band of the ‘90s, and I was also in a classic band with BBA. And then we had 12,000 people at our shows in Japan, which was amazing. So that was great. Well, you know, King Kobra for me was my retaliation for getting fired from the Ozzy tour. Sharon (Osbourne) fired me and told me, “You need to find your own band.” So, I did. And it was really lucrative at the beginning. We all got some big deals on Capitol and big merch deal and all that, but then Capitol never really did their job. They never really got the hit single. So King Kobra became like a cult band.

Now that you have Cactus going again and Vanilla Fudge, what’s been most gratifying about reviving those projects and playing those songs again?
CA: It’s playing the songs again, and then seeing people’s reactions. Like we just went up to Bethel Woods, the site of Woodstock, with Vanilla Fudge a month ago, and we got an amazing reaction. And then, by the same token, Friday night we played Detroit in a small theater called The Magic Bag, a good rock venue. It was packed and the audience was amazing. We got a great response and so, just playing the songs again and playing them again for people that really appreciate it. The interesting thing for me is I’m getting to do everything. In the old days, you could either play with Cactus or Vanilla Fudge, or King Kobra. Now, I get to play with Cactus and Vanilla and King Kobra, my “Drum Wars” show with my brother Vinnie, and then this new Rod show. It’s interesting that there are some gigs on the horizon for King Kobra next year. And it’s funny. I get to play with all three bands in the same year. That’s pretty wild. It reminds me of the days of my idols, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. In the heyday, they were playing big theaters; then, as they slowly grew older, they played with different people. You’d see some of these quartets featuring Gene Krupa, and then he’d do an album with them, and several months later you’d see another album. So, I see that happening with my career, playing with different people and just having a good time. 

I never really made that connection, but because that’s what those guys did, so, naturally, you’d follow them. 

CA: Yeah, well, I’m following, not only lead guitar players … and back in those days Gerry Mulligan would play with Gene Krupa, or the Tommy Dorsey Quartet would play with Buddy Rich for a tour and an album. And then Buddy Rich would play with Frank Sinatra, you know what I mean? They’d jump around. They did all kinds of gigs. They’d play dinner clubs to theaters and some festivals, may open up some arena gigs.