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At what point did you start playing "funky"?
I always played funky. I played jazz. I played rock. I played punk. I played Latin. I played anything. I played weddings, you know, you have to play everything. It all rounded out my playing actually, which was really cool.
Were you interested in any other drummers at the time?
At the time I really dug Dino Danelli from the Rascals. I was into a lot of the Funk drummers. You know, the James Brown Band - anything that was really good - Bernard Purdie. I was also into Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Joe Morello and all those jazz drummers. Because, really, other than the Funk drummers rock drummers were pretty boring at the time.
Yes, they were pretty straight ahead before you all...
Yeah, we sort of changed it. Me, Mitch Mitchell, and Ginger Baker were the first three - and Keith Moon. All of a sudden we blew everybody's mind on drumming - a whole unique thing going on there.
So you've always drummed the same way?
Pretty much, yes. I've always had a "killer back beat" sort of thing - the heavy foot. I've got tapes from back when I was 17, playing with a band that had two horns, a keyboard with left hand bass, guitar, and drums. It was wild to hear how I played when I was that age. It had the same kind of feel as the Fudge.
You see, my thing first - like Ginger and Mitch Mitchell - I was more aggressive as far as power was concerned because back then it was so loud with Vanilla Fudge. I had no choice but to turn the sticks around and play louder - from a need for pure volume. Then I got a big bass drum for volume right after the first album.
When did you go to the double bass?
In '68, when I got the Ludwig endorsement. Then I got a totally oversized drum kit that changed the whole face of the drum industry. At that time all the drums that were being ordered were weird sizes - different sizes. My bass drums were 26" x 14". Normally the biggest bass drum was 24" x 14", and hardly anyone used that. Mostly people used a 22" bass drum. A normal size tom tom was 12" x 8" or 13" x 9", and I was using a 15" x 12". It was actually a marching tenor drum. My floor tom toms were bigger - 16" to 18" - and I had a 22" bass drum turned over on it's side for use as a big floor tom. Then my snare drum was six and a half inches. Most snare drums are 5". Also I was the first one to have a gong and chimes.
I remember the gong at the concerts...
Yeah, obviously the gong became a trademark of rock drummers and Bonzo [John Bonham, Led Zeppelin] made it famous as well. When he saw my kit it was all maple. He wanted the same kit, so I called Ludwig and got him on endorsement with them too.
As far as I know the gong was only played once on the Fudge albums - or was it?
It was played on the beginning of Renaissance , I know, and I think it was played on Near the Beginning , on my solo in the Break Song. I did use it with Cactus and BBA [Beck, Bogert, & Appice] quite a bit.
When Vanilla Fudge did take off, can you remember how it felt?
It was amazing! Like we'd be driving along in a car hearing our songs on the radio. There was a radio station in New York City called WMCA. It was an AM Top Forty station. They were, like, huge. When you were played on there you knew you'd made it.
We'd drive along in the car going out to Long Island from Brooklyn and hear my song on the radio. Wow, you can't believe it - you call your friends. It was just like you see in the movies. It was really a great feeling. Then later, like when we flew to the West Coast we'd go: "Wow, all those people down there know us!", or when we flew to Europe. It was hard to believe. It was pretty wild, pretty amazing, and we used to pinch ourselves a lot.
Did your family's treatment of you change after that?
No, not at all. But the treatment of other people around us definitely changed. I mean, all of a sudden you're getting all this attention from everybody.
The first album (Vanilla Fudge) is dedicated to Mrs. Lucy Monaco...
Carmine: [laughs] That was something to do with Shadow Morton. We also frequently got asked that. We don't even know who it is.
One of the things Vince [Martell] mentioned, after the first LP [Vanilla Fudge, 1967] or the Beat Goes On , there was a conscious decision as to whether to go out and tour or stay in the studio...
First of all, we never did tours like they do tours now. We'd always play 3 or 4 nights a week, a lot on the East Coast and in the Midwest. If we went out to the West coast or Europe, that would be a tour and we'd stay out for a month. We probably should have toured, it would have been more cost effective. But since we only worked 3 or 4 nights a week,.we'd fly to Florida, say, work down there and come back home. It was a waste of money because we were always flying - we even used to fly all our gear. We didn't know what a tour bus was. I never took a tour bus until 1984. I didn't know any better [laughs]. It was pretty amazing back then doing it that way.
What did happen when The Beat Goes On came out, I remember when we finished it we all listened to it. Timmy and I were like, "Nah, I don't know about this. This is real strange - I don't know if we should do this". But Ahmet Ertegun [Atlantic Records] and Shadow Morton [the producer] were so positive. Even our manager Phil Basille was skeptical on it, but Mark and Vinny were totally into it. Timmy and I were like, "I dunno, this is so strange, it might not make it."
Sure enough, when it came out everyone was going on "acid bummers", as they called it. People in California - they immediately played the whole record and would call up saying: "Man, we're tripping - this is putting us on a bad bummer", and this and that.
Before that we were thinking of going out on another tour if [The Beat Goes On] went really big - going out with screens and projections of all the stuff. Making like a really big show like they do now. But it never really got there and so we never did it.
Instead of doing any tour on The Beat Goes On, after all we couldn't do anything but Moonlight Sonata live, we went and in probably a four or five week span wrote and recorded Renaissance to try and save us from the damage that The Beat Goes On did to us [laughs]. When I think of it now, we must have been out of our minds. Shadow Morton was definitely out of his mind. He was so creative, he must have thought, "Now we have this group, Vanilla Fudge..."
Like when we went top 3 or 4, the only thing holding us back from number 1 was the Beatles. We won things for vocals, number two to the Beatles on Billboard's list, and that kind of thing. So [Shadow] probably got even more egoed out than we did. He came up with this idea and we go "Oh, that's cool". But man, when I listen to it now, we must have been nuts. There's no music on it. All we had to do was some of the stuff we had in the can: Like A Rolling Stone, Take What I Want, One More Heartache...
Are they still in the can? Are there any others?
They're still in the can. Yes, they could be released. We had a bluesy thing we did that was great. There's a bunch of stuff in the can. All in Your Mind [first released on Psychedelic Sundae] was in the can, and I'd say there are probably four or six others. Like a Rolling Stone was ten minutes long, and had a great intro. All that stuff was right in the same genre or vibe as the first album. All we had to do was a few more of those, follow the same thing as the first time, and we'd have probably been more successful. But instead [laughs] we were like trying to salvage the band's success by doing Renaissance.