If Ronnie James Dio was the Man on the Silver Mountain, then Vinnie Appice spent much of his career as the man behind that mountain. If Ronnie James Dio was the ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’, then Vinnie Appice spent much of his career as the man behind that mountain. With his new project, Kill Devil Hill, Appice is building his own peak to climb.
Vinnie began in the shadow of older brother Carmine (Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart, Blue Murder). Yet it was his brother, 12 years his senior who first saw Vinnie’s talent and pushed him into drum lessons.
Vinnie has since recorded with bands that make his brother’s resume seem pale in comparison– Dio, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, Rick Derringer, to name but a few. And that’s taking nothing away from Carmine. Vinnie is a behemoth behind the kit, having performed on some of heavy metal’s most seminal albums, and at 54 he shows no signs of slowing down. Perhaps his parents knew something when they tagged him with the middle name, Samson.
“I still got a big fire in me that hasn’t gone out since I was 20,” offers Vinnie with a smile. “I play pissed off. You know, I mean it. And that’s the way this music should be played, and the same with Black Sabbath. It should be played with sheer fucking power.”
After years of being the thunder behind so many influential bands, Appice decided it was time for him to create something of his own. He had recorded some drum tracks which Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Foreigner) had produced, and while recuperating from a shoulder surgery he began to give them a real listen. He liked what he heard so he called on longtime friend, bassist Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio) to help him flesh some ideas out.
Vinnie then connected with guitarist Mark Zavon (Scream Parade, Ratt, WWIII) who in turn led him to vocalist Dewey Bragg (Pissing Razors). When Appice first heard Bragg he knew he’d found his man. “Right away I said, ‘that’s the guy’,” recalls the drummer. “He sings awesome. That’s what I’m looking for.” Bragg’s voice, which sounds like a blend of Layne Staley with a touch of Phil Anselmo and Ronnie James Dio, is raw and powerful.
With the nucleus of the band together it became time to fill in the bass spot, and Dimebag Darrell’s former lady, Rita, knew just the guy. She told Vinnie that Rex Brown (Pantera, Down) was looking for something new. “I always loved the way Rex played,” says Appice. “He has such a great growl to his bass, and really what I thought would fit in perfectly.”
Kill Devil Hill has now recorded its self-titled debut which will be released on May 28th on Steamhammer/SPV records. It might be easy to say the album sounds like a blend of Dio and Pantera, and to an extent it does, but the guys have much more working here, and the energy and aggression is palpable.
This week I spoke to Vinnie about his “baby”, Kill Devil Hill, the debut album, his recent work with 9 Chambers, and his thoughts on unheralded drummers.