Cactus is a name that invokes fond memories for many 70's hard rock fans. It's been over 30 years since the band broke up, but now original members Carmine Appice, Tim Bogert, and Jim McCarty have reunited, along with former Savoy Brown singer Jimmy Kunes, and unleashed a new album on Escapi Music called V. It's a surprising return to form, as the album is filled with quality bluesy hard rock as only Cactus can churn out. Sea of Tranquility Publisher caught up with legendary drummer Carmine Appice to speak about the reunion, the new album, the tour, Vanilla Fudge, Rod Stewart & the Faces, Blue Murder, and much more!
Read on for the full interview!
Sea of Tranquility: So, what ultimately led to the Cactus reunion? It's been a long time!
Carmine Appice: We had been doing Cactus tracks in the studio that a friend owned in NY. Whenever we were in NY doing Vanilla Fudge stuff, Tim, Jim and I would get together and put down some Cactus tracks. This was at the request of Randy Pratt (bassist for The Lizards) who owned the studio. He also is a BIG Cactus fan. That is why he offered us to do this. He even flew Jim McCarty in for these sessions. In December 2005 The Swedish Rock Festival called and gave Cactus an offer to play the Festival, which we accepted. Then my label for the Travers-Appice DVD and my Guitar Zeus project asked me if we had any Cactus music they could release in time for the festival. I told them we had 14 songs without vocals and played them some. They liked it made us a deal to finish it and release it. Which is Cactus V, and Randy Pratt ended up playing Harp with the band on it as well.
SoT: Had you, or the rest of the band, gotten a lot of pressure from fans over the years to reform?
Carmine: It was mentioned now and again but without Rusty Day (who has passed away) we really never considered it. But with the success of the Rhino releases Cactology and the Double live and all studio collector CD's, we really started realizing that Cactus had a pretty good size cult following…but we never really got pressured from fans.
SoT: While you and Tim had obviously played together in other projects since the original demise of Cactus, how was it to get back with Jim after all these years? Didn't he leave the band under less than amicable terms 30+ years ago?
Carmine: As I said, we got together in NY at Randy's Studio. That was 2001 ..it was fun to play with Jim because we immediately sounded like Cactus. Yes, Jim left under not very good terms 30 years ago. But time cures all, and we are older and wiser now …I hope!!!
SoT: Originally Cactus was hailed as the "new Led Zeppelin" by the press-to me your music always had more in common with Humble Pie, Grand Funk Railroad, Free, or Savoy Brown. What bands of the early 70s did you feel Cactus had most in common with?
Carmine: The Zepplin thing came from Atlantic records because of the line up..3 piece with a front man who plays harmonica. These other bands you mentioned except for Free had a different line up. We jammed more than Free, lots of jamming in solos etc. I don't know what other band you could compare Cactus too because we jammed more than most bands as well as the ones you mentioned. Live we were more like The Allman Brothers… we don't sound like them…but we jam like them.
SoT: What are some of the bands Cactus toured with back in the day, and do you have any fun stories to tell our readers?
Carmine: We toured with many bands, Rod Stewart and the Faces, the Who, Hendrix, Ten Years After, and Deep Purple, just to name a few. We use to wreck the rental cars of the Faces almost on a daily basis. They use to retaliate and wreck our cars! Finally at a festival in the Poconos, we had brought our own truck to the gig. The Faces were on the gig, they were getting ready to destroy the truck, and we told them not to do as it was NOT a rental this was our truck, we owned it. We caught them just in time !!!
SoT: Sounds like some crazy times!! Back to the new album-it is very solid bluesy hard rock, and should go over well with the older fans. Can you talk a little about the songwriting process and how long it took to put V together?
Carmine: Well, that is a long story. As I said earlier the tracks were done over a four year period. Me, Jim and Tim were in the studio just putting riffs and song arrangement ideas down. Jimmy Kune was a guest singer on these sessions. Then in 2006 when we had the new deal with Escapi, we decided to ask Jim to join, which he did, then Jimmy Kunes and I spent one solid week in the studio and a bunch of other days working on melodies and lyrics…that is how these songs were put together.
SoT: Has classic rock radio open their arms up at all to play any songs from the new album?
Carmine: The label has NOT gone after Radio yet -that is supposed to happen soon. But in my experience for Classic Rock radio, they barely play anything NEW by anyone. You never hear new Stones on the Radio.
SoT: Sad but true...how has the tour gone? Are there still plenty of raging Cactus fanatics still out there? Seems like that is the venue to reach people with the new music.
Carmine: Tour dates are being put in for a sort of re-release of the CD in September. First gig is a re –release party in NY at BB Kings and should go on until November. We have only done 2 gigs in June right now, but both those gigs had very fanatical fans at them!!!
SoT: Many of the songs on the latest album pack plenty of punch-does it feel good that four veterans of the scene can still rock very hard when they want to and give the young guns a run for their money?
Carmine: I am just doing what I know how to do and that is ROCK HARD..Cactus has always had no problem Rocking Hard. So why start now? All the Cds I put out all have great energy and hopefully really great songs-Cactus should be no exception. We should do a T shirt "Veterans Do ROCK"!
SoT: What songs from the new album, and what Cactus classics, are in the current set list?
Carmine: Cactus Music, Muscle and Soul, Part of the Game, The Groover (New CD) Parchment Farm, One way or another, Brother Bill, Oleo, Evil, Long Tall Sally, Swim …that is pretty much all of it…
SoT: You've been involved in many projects over the years-what are some of your favorites?
Carmine: Beck , Bogert –Appice, Blue Murder, Cactus, Rod Stewart, and Vanilla Fudge!!
SoT: Has there ever been talk of a Blue Murder reunion with the original three of you?
Carmine: Yes. We talked and then jammed , it sounded great then NOTHING HAPPENED!John has his own ideas on what he wants to do…I thought it was going to happen in November of this year but nothing so far...maybe someday.
SoT: I have heard that Cactus & Vanilla Fudge are looking to do some dates together-how does the prospect of nightly double duty appeal to you?
Carmine: Playing is my hobby..I love it. The more the merrier. So, let's Rock for the night! Not a Problem-it should be great. Cactus plays, then Fudge then Cactus and Fudge on stage together..I love it...looking forwad to it actually.
SoT: Escapi is officially releasing the Guitar Zeus project (finally!)-why did it take so long for this to get an official release?
Carmine: I had to find a label that understood that this was MY solo CD. We put it together like that with really cool songs and then I brought friends of mine on board to play guitar solos. This brought attention to the CD and it contains a lot of cool songs . Everyone on the cd played great. But it IS NOT a various artist CD it is MY CD. a solo CD. So it took a while to find a label for it. And too often the CD went on the back burner to newer projects like Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Travers –Appice. I'm looking forward to seeing how it sells…
SoT: Best of luck with everything!
Photos Courtesy of the Cactus Website
(Click here to read our reviews of the new Cactus CD V)