Tag Archives: Cactus

CARMINE APPICE – Talks new Cactus live release, Vanilla Fudge, King Kobra….

(photo from carmineappice.com)

Legendary drummer Carmine Appice really needs no introduction. The guy has done so much from bands VANILLA FUDGE and CACTUS to playing with Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne, and hundreds more. For over 50 years he has been one of the busiest, in-demand, and best known drummers in the rock world. More recently he’s seen the release of the latest Cactus studio album (last year) and currently the Cactus live release – The Birth Of Cactus. He’s also working on a number of new projects. I’m sure my conversation does not cover all that he has on the go, so check out the links below.

I want to talk about the new Cactus album. That was your first show – who thought to record it and where was it all these years that it was able to come out now?

Well, basically what it was our manager found that somewhere, I don’t know where the heck he found it. He’s not only our manager, but he’s also a really big Cactus fan. so he finds collectables, and he found that, I guess on a cassette tape that somebody had and he said that he could get that released on Cleopatra, because he said they were interested….So I listened to it initially, and I said ‘wow, the energy on that record is unbelievable’. Ya know, it’s our first gig, but the energy’s flying off that performance like crazy. And it was at a small stadium called Temple Stadium, in Philadelphia, and Jimi Hendrix was the headliner and we were all friends with Jimi, and Grateful Dead – we knew them, and Steve Miller, and you gotta remember The Grateful Dead and Steve Miller weren’t big yet, so the only one that was sort of big was Jimi Hendrix, and even he wasn’t the icon he is today. It was kind of really a cool gig, and we hung out backstage with Jimi. and then we went on and tore it up. … I was 24 years old at that point, and I was just a fireball , ya know… “Parchman Farm” on our record was pretty fast, and this one is faster than that. It was quite an experience. And they remastered it and it actually don’t sound too bad. It doesn’t have to be unbelievable sound, but you can actually hear everything that’s going on. And if you look at it that it’s a collectable classic, and not a polished – ‘go in and re-do…you know like when you do a live album, like BBA – Beck Bogert Appice, we had a live album from 1974 coming out , and we had the 24 track and we went in and fixed the vocal, and a couple of things that needed to be fixed, but with this we didn’t have the opportunity to do that – what you hear is what you got.

Was that everything , was that the full show that’s on the record?

That was the full show, we only had like a 40 minute set. And I think the first song we played titled “One Way Or Another” wasn’t really “One Way Or Another” yet , that became a song on the 2nd album, but it was always a cool jam, so they just titled it “One Way Or Another” because that’s what the song ended up being. out of that riff. It was a brilliant jam on that take. When I was listening I just ‘wow I can’t believe it!’ It’s the “One Way Or Another” riff that started it and then we’d go off jamming on it.

So, was the (first) album out at that time?

I don’t think so, I think it was just coming out or just came out. And my manager was a concert promoter at the time, so it could’ve even been his gig. His company did gigs all around over the east coast of North America. So that could’ve been his show. Again, it’s not like a stadium we have today selling as a stadium that sells out, that’s huge, there could not have been 8000 people there, maybe. We did a tour with Vanilla Fudge we played some stadiums with Hendrix, it was like a 60000 seat stadium or a 30000 seat stadium and we played to like a quarter of it, the rest of it was empty seats. So I think it was like that too. It’s just the fact that it was an outdoor gig and an outdoor gig to maybe 8000 people, maybe a bit more – but not much more.

I want to talk about leading up to that gig. you and Tim had left Vanilla Fudge and you were going to work with Jeff Beck, and that didn’t work out, so..

What happened was we were planning to work with Jeff and Rod Stewart and Rod didn’t want to work with Jeff – OK, that was cool, so we said ‘Jeff you come on over and we’ll figure out a singer later’. And Jeff got in a car wreck just before that, and that put him back 18 months. He couldn’t come over. And we’d just broken up Vanilla Fudge, that was making big money; you know we were drawing, 5,6, 7000 people everywhere we went. So now, I don’t want to do nothing for 18 months – ‘what about you Tim?’ ‘No, I don’t want to do nothing either.’ So, let’s see what else we can put together. We already knew the band name – with Jeff or without Jeff – it was going to be ‘Cactus’! Because we saw that name in Arizona and said ‘Wow’; it was on top of a drive-in theatre – The Cactus Drive-In. So, I said ‘wow – what a cool name for a band.’ It was really strong, the presence of it was strong. So we knew it going to be Cactus. So when Jeff couldn’t make it we had a singer who was __ , we tried him for a couple of weeks and he didn’t work out. Then we had another guitar player named Terry Kelly, he didn’t work out. So, a friend of mine – Duane Hitchings, who was working with a band called Steel, who my manager managed, and we said ‘Look does anyone know where to get ahold of Tim McCarty from Mitch Ryder.. He plays with Buddy Miles now.’ and Duane had played with Buddy Miles, and he said ‘yeah, I know how to get ahold of him.’ So he got ahold of McCarty and so McCarty came up and played and that was great. So we said ‘well now we need a singer’, so McCarty recommended Rusty Day from The Amboy Dukes. So we had sort of a ‘supergroup’ because that’s what we were trying to do. At that time Blind Faith was a supergroup, and West, Bruce & Laing were just getting together, and there was other band’s like that – Crosby, Stills & Nash; so we were trying to do the same kind of thing, because that was the new cool thing to do. So when we got this band together, and we brought Rusty in, and Rusty was great . And the thing I never knew was that “Parchman Song” was a cover song. We were recording it and rehearsing it, and only when the album came out I found out that it was a cover song; I thought it was Rusty’s lyrics because he was great writing lyrics, as we would play stuff he would start singing lyrics and melodies, and that’s how most of our songs were written. So really that song could’ve been our own song because it wasn’t about the lyrics and the fact that it was “Parchman Song”, it was what we played, that double bass – drum shuffle, which was the fastest double bass-drum shuffle recorded at that time, 1970. So, it could’ve been any song, it was the fact that it had so much energy and the way we played that. That groove was what made the song happen. So that’s sort of a weird little story I tell about that first album. And then we put it all together, and we had a deal on Atlantic Records, which was Vanilla Fudge’s label. And we had a really powerful lawyer represent Vanilla Fudge, and Cactus, The Rascals, Jimi Hendrix, The Yardbirds, Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits, all the powerful bands because he was a real powerhouse. He got us an immediate good deal on Atlantic. And it was kind of easy once we got the band together. But we never got the single that we needed to break-through to make it like Led Zeppelin or Grand Funk Railroad…

Where did the ‘American Led Zeppelin’ tag come from and did that put a lot of pressure on you guys?

It didn’t put pressure on us because Led Zeppelin weren’t that big yet, you know they had 1 or 2 albums. It came from the press, somebody labelled it that and then it stuck. Even today they label that. The last album we did with Cactus ‘Tightrope’, on Cleopatra, I think was one of the better albums we’ve ever done. Unfortunately anything coming out today doesn’t sell, nothing because of Spotify and all that.

I thought it was a good album. I think Paul Warren’s a great fit.

Paul’s great. Paul’s from Detroit. Paul played on ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’, so that’s why we did it. We did it live first, just for fun, to tell the audience ‘we’re going to play a song Paul played on when he was 17.’ And when we played it they all went crazy and we said ‘we definitely got to record that.’ And it came out fantastic. And we were planning that release for 2020, which was our 50th anniversary, and we went to Europe before that and we dates in America and some dates in Canada, but we never got to do the dates saying ’50th Anniversary’, so the dates we have coming up, we’re going to sell the merch we have from 2020, the t-shirts, the album, and everything.

You guys did the 3, 4 albums in the ’70s, then you broke up and went off to other things.

Me and Tim finally had the opportunity to play with Jeff, and that was what we wanted to do in the first place.

Was that the reason for breaking up or was it more that the band didn’t have that single?

No, that was reason, because that second Cactus band that we put together was more like The Faces, and I think we would’ve eventually had a single because there are some songs on that Hot ‘N Sweaty album that could’ve been hits. But at that point we were already starting to go with Jeff Beck, so the label didn’t want to put money in to it. And then when that broke up we gave the rest of the Cactus name to Duane Hitchings, who was the keyboard player in Cactus, and who later on co-wrote ‘Do You Think I’m Sexy’ and ‘Young Turks’ with me and Rod. We’d been friends a long time, so gave him and Mike Pinera Cactus and they did an album for Atlantic called ‘Son Of Cactus‘, and they went out on tour and must’ve grossed through the year like 7-800000 thousand in a year, which was big money back in the ’70s.
Cactus did quite a few major tours, and were on a lot of good bills…
We toured with everybody. We toured with The Faces when they were big doing arenas, we toured with Hendrix, we toured with Uriah Heep, we toured with Badfinger back in the day. And we did a lot of shows where bands opened for us. And big fans of Cactus were people like Eddie and Alex Van Halen. I’ve got cassettes of those guys playing Cactus songs, and on their albums they use some of our stuff, like “Eruption” was the beginning of our song ‘Let Me Swim’, and Alex told me the template for “Hot For Teacher” was “Parchman Farm”, based on that double-bass drum shuffle. They were big Cactus fans, they did a song with Sammy that was a middle section of our song called “Evil”. And King’s X were big Cactus fans, and Ronnie James Dio was a big Cactus fan. We’d go to Memphis and sell-out to 5000 people, and Long Beach Arena we did 5000 people, England we did 3 or 4000 thousand people, so we had a pretty good following worldwide. We went to Europe and do pretty good size crowds in Europe. We played the Isle Of Wight, which is a video that’s going to be coming out at some point. We played in front of 600000 people!

You mentioned Uriah Heep and Badfinger, 2 bands I’m a fan of. Do you have any recall on those tours?

We used to be pretty wild in those days. One time we were on stage on they (Badfinger) hit us with whipped cream pies on our faces, so we retaliated by bringing this – they a 50 gallon metal barrel that they used to put ice in and all our drinks in it – so we filled it up with all kinds of crap, and not realizing we could’ve electrocuted these guys – we just went up and threw it at them on stage, the 3 of us picked it up and threw the whole thing at them, the audience went crazy — that was the same night. Uriah Heep, I don’t remember many stories with Uriah Heep. I can tell you a great story with Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath had just came out, and they had one their first gigs on the east coast at Asbury Park, it was Black Sabbath and Cactus, it was an equal bill thing and we went on first, and just before we went on, we had a very small roadie and somebody stole a bag of pot from him, and I think they punched him in the face, and it was one of the Black Sabbath guys that did it, so just before we went on we were face to face with Black Sabbath and ready to have a rumble backstage, and luckily the promoter broke it up. Those guys were from Birmingham, which is a working class town – like Detroit, and we’re from Brooklyn, New York, and Detroit which is both working class towns that had gangs, I grew up with gangs and stuff. So we were ready to kill each other before either one of us went on. And they broke it up, and so happens that Circus magazine was there that day, so they later on did an interview with us and printed it in Circus magazine about that almost they’re going to hands and fighting with Black Sabbath and Cactus.

You resurrected Cactus in the 2000s, Tightrope is the newest (studio) album, and you’ve got some shows coming up . You and Paul both played with Rod Stewart at different times, so what did you knoew about him that you got him in to the band?

I knew of him playing with Rod, because I went to see Rod a few times. And I had this show called the Rod Experience, which had bandmembers from Rod’s band in it – I had Jimmy Crespo, Phil Chen, myself, and Danny Johnson, all 4 of us out of 5 played with Rod. And we had a guy that looked like Rod, and he sang like Rod. And we went out and did shows, we went to China , Mccow, all over this country. we did 30-40 shows, and then Jimmy Crespo couldn’t play any more and he had to leave, so I was looking for somebody, and somebody said ‘why don’t you get Paul Warren? He played with Rod’ So I got Paul in, and while playing with him in the Rod Experience I realized he’s great player and he’s from Detroit.??.. And we became good friends. So, when Jim McCarty said that he really didn’t want to travel any more, he just wanted to play his own gigs around Detroit, I had a choice of with ?? band, (because Tim was already out of the band) or keeping the band going, and I did, I changed guitar players. So, I started talking to manager, and he said ‘why don’t we do that?’, and I talked to the band, and they said ‘yeah, we want to keep it going’. So we did, we got Paul in, and then I realized Paul was like Jim McCarty on 10. Paul is amazing. He’s a great songwriter, and on stage he is really great. And we went to Europe with him, and at home we did a whole load of gigs there, and people loved him, and even when we went to Detroit JIm McCarty came, and he knew Paul, and Jim got up and played with Paul, it was awesome. So, he’s well respected from the people, well respected from the audience, and well respected from McCarty. So then we got the ?? deal and we started doing Tightrope, and that was the last record I did where we were all a band in one room. That was great because we started writing songs together from scratch, Paul start doing a riff and I’d start playing drums, then we’d say well let’s go somewhere else – let’ go here after these ten bars, something like that. So we wrote the songs as band – mostly me, Paul, and Jimmy Kunes. And I think in the end Jimmy had some sort of problem with that, because Paul was a much more powerful entity in the band than McCarty because McCArty didn’t get involved in production and that, and Paul was involved in the production, the songwriting, and the guitar player. Me and Paul were the co-producers of it, and I don’t know if Jimmy Kunes likes that or not. And Paul was a really good singer too. He sang on “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, he sang a verse. So after we did all that Covid hit and all that, then we started getting more dates, and we found out Jimmy Kunes didn’t want to do it any more. So as of now we’re just getting a new guy in. He’s an English guy , named Jim, and he played with Jimmy Jones [?] and a few people like that. He plays guitar and he’s a great singer. So Paul is working with him in Nashville. We’ll have a rehearsal in March with the whole band for a couple of days, then we’ll go do 3 shows to warm up, then we’ll do some more shows in June. And you know I haven’t toured yet with this new album, so it keeps us going. And I met with Foghat – Roger Earl, who’s the only original member in Foghat and he’s been going, and they’re doing great! And he said ‘don’t give it up, that’s your advantage, your legendary band Just keep doing it.’

One thing I’m always interested in is the album artwork. So I wanted to know what kind of say and input you’ve had over the years in the albums covers…

We always have influence. The first album was the most notorious because it looked like a penis and testicles erect, it looked just like that. We found this good art guy that was doing shows, and we said that is so cool, it’s so phallic , it’s so manly, and in Cactus – it really tells you what the band is about. So we showed it to Atlantic and they said ‘we can’t release that!’ Back in the day Macy’s and EJ Korvettes, and all the chains like that won’t stock the album if they see that. So we changed it a little bit; it still had the idea but it didn’t look exactly like one. So what we did was we made stickers out of the original one, thousands and thousands of stickers and whenever we went, like on planes – we’d go to the bathroom, pull the seat up and sticker on the cover! So when the stewardess pulls the seat up they see a Cactus sticker. Haha. We used to do crazy, wild things, like bring women out on stage and have them wearing like 5 Cactus stickers! It was pretty crazy days back then, you know – the hippies, the pot smoking generation, the nudity, free sex, all that stuff. I Can’t believe I survived it, to tell you the truth.
The 2nd album, One Way Or Another was – one way was the beautiful Grand Canyon with the sunset, another way was a beautiful sunset in the back was a Hawaiian sunset. And inside was to be all other things that were to be not as cool. And then the third one – Restrictions, the cactus breaking through the concrete, with the drawing of a guy, and I believe there was clouds of pot smoke and you couldn’t see the rest of his body. So we were always involved… Hot N Sweaty we recorded live in Puerto Rico, it was a festival, so it was a very tropical type of artwork, because it was Puerto Rico. And the next one was Cactus 5. And then for the artwork for all the different stuff Atlanta put out, they always sent us stuff to approve and we always had our comments and they fixed it. We were always very much involved in the artwork in Cactus.

I had done a piece on Tightrope cover,…

Susan ….and Paul Latimer. We told them what we wanted, because you know Cactus is always been associated with pot smoking and rebellion and restrictions and all that. So we said ‘let’s just incorporate all that and make it like society’s own fuck {?] ‘the government fucked me’, and put a tighrope on there with somebody walking the tightrope. and that’s what they came up with and we immediately like it, we had 2 comments, we did. Then we had it animated so there’s video we did, that’s the title song. And Paul Warren’s not in that video because he was sick as a dog, before Covid, he had a cold and all these other ailments he had going on, but thank God he’s OK now. So the guitar is a young kid from a band I was producing called Kodiak. It’s like a new Van Halen, the kid sounds just like Van Halen. And I asked him to do it, and that’s why you don’t see his face.

Who did the artwork for the new archive live album?

Actually Cleopatra did it. They said do you you guys want to be involved, and I said Let’s see what you come up with. And they came up with that, and I said you know what – we didn’t have a lot to do with recording it, so go for it. I’m the only one, me and McCarty that knew that was coming out. So our manager Bruce just let McCarty knew recently that’s coming out, and sending him a copy ( I haven’t got my copy yet).

Do you keep up on all the vinyl variants and albums colors and stuff? Do you keep a copy of everything you’ve ever done?

I pretty much try to, yeah. I got the Tightrope album on vinyl, I got Cactus V, any one that we did on vinyl – I got. But they didn’t do vinyl of, you know – The Best Of Cactus is a double CD, and they did all that live stuff and studio stuff, and they didn’t do those. But my Guitar Zeus I’ve got all the vinyls now, they’re just released before Christmas a 4-LP, 3-CD, with a booklet Guitar Zeus box-set for the 25th anniversary, which is really good. We put 3 extra (new) tracks on there that were never released. I actually found them on a 24-track, and we actually worked on them, finished them. I put Tommy Thayer from Kiss on one of them, I put Derek Sherinian (keyboard player from Sons Of Apollo and Dream Theater) playing like a guitar solo on his mini-moog. And I had that kid again, (who was in the Cactus video – the guy from Kodiak) on one of the songs, to give him a break. We have 39 tracks, there’s also some tracks with no vocal, no guitar, so people can play along with it and everything. And then there’s a bundle where you can get a Carmine face-logo – like a silver metal, a photo of me, and booklet, and a t-shirt. So, I’ll keep one. If people want to buy it, it’s on my merch list at my website.

Did you have much of a collection growing up? did you buy much?

I have a lot of albums, but right now most of my albums are with my drums in a locker in LA. And I live in Florida now, and I have a locker in New York and a locker in LA, and a small locker here for the house. And I’ve got drums, I try and sell the drums because drums are not made to sit in a dark locker, they’re made to be played. I’m actually going to put a thing on Facebook saying that if anyone is interested in buying a couple of sets of drums I have, that I used on records – go to my website and look for Booking information and let us know. Again, I got rid of a lot of drums, and I’ve got drums I played with in the lockers, and I’ve got some real collectables. They’re all in there, I’ve got boxes on vinyl, and I’ve got boxes of vinyl here.

Do you still have a residence in New York?

We have a place in Manhattan, [?] I lived in LA for fourty years, I lived in Long Island for 2 years, more than 2 years, I have 2 houses on Long Island, one of them I turned in to a drum studio and gave lessons, and had 3 teachers working with me, and that’s when I started writing my drum books and all that and became an educator. I had lots of houses in LA. Then I moved to Florida in 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic, and I’m so glad I did because I have the studio here, which I’ve recorded the new King Kobra album, I recorded that here. I recorded The Energy Overload record, that’s on Cleopatra also – myself and Fernando Perdomo, who’s a producer and a muti-instrumentalist. We did this instrumental album that’s getting amazing reviews – 5 out of 5 on VintageRock.com and Classic Rock gave it 9 out of 10. So we’re working on a new record, and we’ve got 6 or 7 songs for that all at my studio. I was telling my wife yesterday I’m so glad we moved here and I got the studio, otherwise I would’ve lost my mind during Covid, because I didn’t have anywhere I could play my drums, you know, I had a house in Connecticut and I could just play my drums but no way to record, the room there was like a gym, it was too echoe-ee to record it. So I’ve done so much work here; I’ve produced this singer name Lisa G ee, I did some some stuff for Cleopatra, I played on Arthur Brown’s new single with Brian Auger. I also did a Pink Floyd tribute, I did that with them as well. So I did a lot of recording here. I did a Modern Drummer Festival here, I recorded it live. I recorded Nico McBrain from Iron Maiden, I did his Modern Drummer festival video here and recording here. And I engineered it which I thought was really funny – Carmine Appice the Engineer now, right!? Ha.

So, who is on the new King Kobra?

We did 2 King Kobra records – one in 2010, one in 2012, and I had Johnny Rod, the original 2 guitar players – Mick and Dave, and our original singer Marcie Free didn’t want to do it, so I got Paul Shortino who sang with Quiet Riot and Rough Cutt, so he did those 2 albums. Now we’ve got a new deal on Cleopatra to do a new King Kobra, and the 2 guitar players didn’t want to do it. Mick works as a union painter in LA for movies, and Dave works for Live Nation – he does all the computer tech stuff for them, so he said ‘nah we don’t want to do, it’s so much work and nobody buys it anymore…’ , I said ‘yeah , but your keeping your only legacy going, and you’re creating music’. So I ended up getting Rowan Robertson that played with Dio, and Carlos Cavazo from Quiet Riot. So those are the 2 new guitar players with me, Paul, and Johnny Rod. And I gotta say this album kicks ass! It’s really really good.. It’s kinda leaning more towards that ’80s metal , but it also has 70s hard-heavy rock. It’s really a good record. But still you’ve got a limited audience who buy for sales, you know most people don’t buy records any more they head to Spotify and bands don’t make any money off of Spotify . So we’re just making it and doing it to get new music out, keep the legacy going, and do music – that’s what I do, I love it – that’s my hobby, my wife, you know!? And the album is called “Music Is A Piece Of Art“. Isn’t that a cool title!? And the lyric in that song is “music is a piece of art, through your ears and straight to your heart”. I think that’s really clever.

I like Johnny’s work, I’m very familiar with him in WASP….

Yeah, Johnny is a great bass player! We just finished his bass parts. We actually flew him to Vegas to work with Paul Shortino in Paul’s studio. Me and Carlos worked from our home studios. We flew him [Johnny] there, put him in a hotel, and he spent 4 days with Paul and did all the bass tracks And Paul called me and goes “Johnny Rod is a motherfucker!” He said he was so good, he made the songs come to life even more than they were actually. And that’s why I put him in King Kobra because he’s a great bass player! He’s got the look, he’s got the image, and he’s a wild guy , he fits the band perfect!

Over the years have you had much contact with John Sykes from the Blue Murder project?

I saw him In 2010 he’d left Thin Lizzy to go out and do Blue Murder. We had gigs booked, the management from Thin Lizzy was going to manage it, we had gigs booked in Europe for big money and something happened between him and the management and they cancelled it all. And since they cancelled it all, nothing’s happened for many years, and then maybe 3 years ago, when I still lived in California me and Tony and John got together at John’s house, just screwin’ around – we got together and played, and it sounded amazing. Then we did it again, then we talked ‘let’s go out – let’s get a manager and an agent’, people are dying to hear Blue Murder all over the world. And we were going to do it, and after the last jam we had John wanted to do like a John Sykes history tour combination with Blue Murder, me and Tony. And we said ‘they want to hear Blue Murder, if you want to do a John Sykes tour – we can do my history too, you know, which is pretty strong, and we can do Tony’s history which is pretty strong too.’ People want to hear Blue Murder I don’t care about doing my history, I want to play Blue Murder. So the last time I saw John was 2020, January, at the Heavy Metal Hall of Fame, at the NAMM show, and he was there and he had put together a drummer and Tony said he was going to go out and that John history tour. And John said ‘oh my drummer is dying to meet you, can you come and meet him?’. I said ‘sure’, so I met the kid and everything. And we left it at John would go out and do this tour in 2020, and when he’s done with that we’d go out and do Blue Murder. And unfortunately Covid hit, so he never did the tour. And I texted him and never heard back from him, I don’t know if he changed his number, but I haven’t talked him in 3 years now.

I want to touch base on a session you did a long time ago, a band named Ursa Major – Dick Wagner’s band.

Oh my God! I did. I don’t even remember the song, but I remember Ursa Major, and Dick was a good friend, and I saw him the last time about a year before he passed. I did a solo album in ’77 called V8, which Dick played on 2 songs

I want to talk a bit about Vanilla Fudge…

Did you hear that new song we did? It came out last year, and it’s the only song from a band from 1967 come out with all 4 members of the original band. It was done before Tim Bogert passed away, it was called “Stop In The Name Of Love”, it’s on youtube, and it’s pure Vanilla Fudge! It’s really good. Tim was sick as a dog, he had stage 4 cancer, and I got him to do it, and it was great.

Is there any plans to do any more recordings as Vanilla Fudge?

Well, we were supposed to do, this was part of what was going to be an album called Supreme Fudge, which we were going to do 5 Supreme songs, 3 other R n B songs, and 2 originals – something like that. So we recorded this one first in December of 2019, that was about the time we got the deal sorted out. So went in the studio and started recording, even though we didn’t get any money yet, because we didn’t have any budget, but we had a studio and we were in the New York area doing some shows, we had some days off so we said why don’t we go in and put that arrangement down that we had of the song. OK, so we did it. And then in the next month, January, I was going to the NAMM show, I talked to Tim, and I said ‘we got a new deal with Supreme Fudge, can you play on 1, 2 or 3 tracks?’ and he said ‘yeah as long as I’m physically able to I’ll do it.’ So, since we had that track recorded I went to the NAMM show, and I sold my house in LA, and went in and recorded Tim at my friend’s house, that was 2020 just before Covid. And when I got back I realized I had to re-do the drums, because the drums had all kinds of leakage on it, for some stupid reason. So I had to re-do the drums. So I said ‘OK when I go back maybe February or March I’ll re-do the drums and maybe we can get together then and start arranging more stuff.’ I had gigs going in February with my brother so I couldn’t do the Vanilla Fudge then, and then Covid hit and that was the end of that. But I did have Tim on that track, so when I moved to Florida and developed my drum sound, and I thought I was ready I put new drums on it. So I did those drums here too. And the rgeat thing about having the drums here in my studio is I can walk in there any day and today I can go in there and put a drum track down and tomorrow or next week I can go in there and say ‘I don’t like that drum fill, let me fix it’, and I’ll still have the same exact drum sound because the drums are in the same exact place, same room, it didn’t change. But when Covid hot we never got to record any more because the other guys don’t have studios, I’m the only one who has a studio . So our manager said ‘well since you’ve got Tim on that and everything else is done why don’t I just work out a deal for that!?’ So he worked out a deal with the same label that released the Zeppelin record and they released the song on digital. So, the manager made the deal for the digital version of that because they didn’t want to release a real version, which they should’ve, a vinyl version. So that’s what happened, and we never got to do the Supreme Fudge album.

Hopefully there’ll be a way to come back to it

No. Not unless the business changes. And not unless this Covid thing goes totally away where we can actually go to a studio. I mean, my brother is in the studio right now with Last In Line – all together, in Vegas, so…

You also put out your autobiography a few years ago. I’m curious – you’ve done so much with so many bands, how would you narrow something down in to one book?

It wasn’t easy. There should be a volume 2. The next book is going to be called “Guitar Zeus – The Book“, and I’m going to talk about all the guitar players that I worked with in my life. That’s an interesting concept that ties in to my album. And I’m going to put 2 CDs in the book. And I’m talking to this guy, there’s a new book on Led Zeppelin, a biography that was just released recently; and the guy that wrote that wrote The Beatles biography, and he’s just been contracted to do the Rolling Stones over the next 5 years, and he wants to do this book with me. So, as soon as he gets his contract figured out and he’s able to do it – we’re going to write that book. And he’s going to get me a deal, which will be a big deal, and it’s going to be all of the guitar players, I’ve got a list, it’s pretty impressive, and I’ve got stories of everybody. And I’ve got pictures… I can do a Stick It : Part 2, you know…







Vanilla Fudge Stop in the Name of Love


KJ, 02/’22

CACTUS – Release The Birth Of Cactus 1970

CACTUS sprung up following the break up of the legendary VANILLA FUDGE, and drew immediate comparisons to the [fairly new] and mighty Led Zeppelin with their first album of heavy blues rock. This performance is the band’s debut, consisting of mainly tracks from the band’s debut album, plus a couple of tracks from then-future albums (“One Way…Or Another” and Sweet Sixteen”). It’s a great sounding recording, and despite being their first live show, it’s a performance from a well rehearsed band, all well in tune with the material and an energetic performance. A brand new band that was making their mark right off the get-go.

*For more info & ordering, see press release below:

Historic First Ever Live Concert From Classic Rock Legends CACTUS Finally Sees An Official Release!

Los Angeles, CA – This is where it all began for the quartet dubbed “The American Led Zeppelin” – on a 1970 bill that also featured the likes of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Grateful Dead and Steve Miller Band. Vocalist Rusty Day, guitarist Jim McCarty, bassist Tim Bogert, and drummer Carmine Appice, collectively known as Cactus, made their auspicious debut in their very first public performance that night. Fortunately, this stunning and historic show was captured on tape and has now been unearthed from the archives and released on all formats!

The Birth Of Cactus 1970 finds the freshly minted quartet ripping through some of the key tracks from their landmark debut album including “Parchman Farm,” “Feel So Good” and “No Need To Worry” plus some smokin’ hot blues numbers. The performances are not only supremely confident, but also fluid and dynamic as each member locks into the groove and relentlessly rides it.

Drummer Carmine Appice had this to say about the concert recording, “I remember doing that first gig, hanging out with Hendrix who was a friend of Cactus. We got on stage and the energy level was off the charts! All the songs kicked major ass. We were so excited to get Cactus going and this show helped. Crowd was great and we did ROCK!!”

The Birth Of Cactus 1970 will be available on digipak CD and on PURPLE vinyl everywhere on January 21st!

Order the CD/Vinyl: https://cleorecs.com/store/?s=birth+of+cactus&post_type=product

Stream/download the digital version: https://orcd.co/cactus_the_birth_of_cactus_1970

Track List:
1. One Way…Or Another
2. Sweet Sixteen
3. No Need To Worry
4. Medley: Let Me Swim / Big Mama Boogie / Oleo
5. Feel So Good
6. Parchman Farm

Press inquiries:
Glass Onyon PR

http://www.cactusrocks.net/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/483511695023380

www.CleopatraRecords.com https://www.facebook.com/PurplePyramidRecords/
Purple Pyramid Store @https://cleorecs.com/store/product-category/record-label/purple-pyramid/

Story Behind The Album Cover – Cactus’ Tightrope

Cactus - Tightrope | Main Street Vinyl

I’m always interested in album art and the stories that go with them. I’d like to add more of these stories in the future, but for a start – Sue Candia gives some feedback and the details behind the album art for the new Cactus album Tightrope. In the past Sue has been credited on Vanilla Fudge’s 2001 album , as well as The Lizard’s 2015 album Reptilicus Maximus – Sue was responsible for the titling and interior of these 2 album designs (and Lizards is cool news to me, as I interviewed Randy Pratt on the band, and now of Cactus many years ago about The Lizards, and I was not aware of this this album).

How you wound up being chosen to do it [Tightrope art]

I began designing CDs, gig cards, and T-shirts for Randy Pratt (the harpist for Cactus) some years ago, and for bands produced on his label Hyperspace Records. I probably worked with the Vanilla Fudge on cd packaging and show promos first, and later on various projects for Carmine Appice, Jimmy Kunes, and eventually Cactus. Cactus is a phenomenal band, and collaborating with them on this particular album cover was amazing for me.

The story or concept behind the cover

I wanted to honor the band’s legacy, and so I felt there should be cactuses in the artwork. I was inspired to explore the challenges we face in the current environmental and political climate. My goal was to reflect the band creatively, in a way that is true to their voice and respectful of their talent and scope, to be both contemporary and historic. Hopefully, that comes across to fans.

Familiar with the band’s music [or just this album]  

I always liked the classic heavy rock style of the late sixties and seventies, so knew about Cactus prior to getting involved with them creatively. But getting to work with such a talented, iconic band, on a double album, for that I’m very lucky and grateful.

The alternate art to the Cactus album at the Behance site

Yes, the band was split on which song to use as the title track and name of the album, Tightrope or Primitive Touch. So they asked me to come up with concepts for both. Ultimately they agreed on Tightrope and chose the concept that I brought to final for the cover. I had a fun time working on the initial illustrations so I decided to post them on my Behance page along with the finished piece. 



Cactus : 2020 Album Cover Concepts on Behance

Susan Candia • NYC Creative Production • Art Direction • Graphic Design

KJJ, 05/’21

CACTUS – Interview with Guitarist Paul Warren

Cactus emerged in 1969, following the break up of Vanilla Fudge, featuring Carmine Appice and Tim Bogert, along with Jim McCarty and (singer) Rusty Day. both from Detroit. The original line-up made 3 albums before splintering, with a few members carrying on with various line-ups and adjustments to the name. Cactus was not a huge commercial success at the time, but earned the title ‘the American Led Zeppelin’. In 2006 Appice, Bogert, and McCarty reformed the band with Jimmy Kunes on vocals (Day had been murdered in ’82), and added Randy Pratt on harmonica. Bogert retired in 2008, and sadly passed away in January of this year. After 2016’s Black Dawn, McCarty would retire, and in 2017 guitarist Paul Warren joined. Now, prior to hearing the new album Tightrope I knew very little of Warren (knowing in most recent years he played with the late Brian Howe and before then Rod Stewart). So doing a little research on him I was amazed to see just how long Warren’s career goes back (a quick check on Discogs!) and some of the other legendary acts and recordings he’s been a part of. From Motown acts like The Temptations, Rare Earth, to Funkadelic, Ray Manzarek (Doors), Tina Turner, Richard Marx, Joe Cocker, and Rod Stewart…. Frankly there was so much of interest, I wound up having to skip a few things with my questions.

His work on the new Cactus album as guitarist / co-writer / co-producer is another great step, as he helps the band put together their best album in decades.

You joined Cactus following the band’s Black Dawn album, how did that come about and were you familiar with the band or guys prior to?

I’m from Detroit, so I was familiar with Jimmy McCarty – from Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels. And I was familiar with Carmine and Bogart because I bought the first Vanilla Fudge album when I would’ve been 13 or something. And Rusty Day I knew because he’d been singing with Ted Nugent, another Detroit act. And I’d seen them play at my local high school or something, so. I was patiently waiting, I was anxiously waiting Cactus when I heard about it. So I’d bought the first 2 albums, I saw them live in concert, and I actually introduced myself to to McCarty and Rusty Day the night my band opened for them at a place called ‘ The Eastown’. I was in a band called Justice at the time, I was 15 at the time and Charlie Bosssalini (who guy who got me that Funkadelic session and Rare Earth years later), was the manager of that band. And I introduced myself to McCarty and Rusty that night, they were both very nice. I was a huge fan, but I didn’t pay any attention after the 2nd album, I kinda lost interest or maybe radio wasn’t playing them much. I really didn’t know what was going on with them. But when they broke up Rusty got ahold of me and I was the guitar player in the first band he put together after Cactus broke up. So I’d already had a musical brush with them long before I joined. And then Cactus were playing in Detroit, I was in Detroit, and they were playing a place called ‘The Magic Bag‘, and Doug Podell – a program director / big shot DJ, a sweet guy in the Detroit area, asked me to join him to go see Cactus, so I went. I was really impressed by everything. And I went and introduced myself to Jimmy Kunes that night at the merch table, and he remembers this very well. And I spoke to McCarty a little bit. And I’d forgot all about it. And Carmine had asked me to do another project with him when I was still with the Mod, and it wasn’t the right fit for me, and I passed. And he called me back a few years later and asked me to do that project again , and I agreed to do one show just because I wanted to play with Carmine so bad. And we hit it off like a house on fire, playing together, I mean at the very first rehearsal we were both grinning from ear to ear. So when Jimmy decided health-wise that he didn’t want to tour any more, I get a call from Carmine, I hadn’t spoke to him, maybe in a year, and he said ‘Look McCarty’s going to have to be replaced, he doesn’t want to do this any more.’ And as I recall he said ‘if you don’t do it I’m going to break the band up, because you’re the only guy I can think of that would be the perfect fit.’ And he liked the fact that I also was from Detroit, as McCarty was. And I think not only as a hook, but I think musically too Detroit has a certain thing going on about it, very aggressive the rock players. And I hadn’t really been playing rock in a long time . With Rod I did “Hot Legs” and things like that, but most things were really kind of pop, and I certainly hadn’t been playing Hard-rock for decades, so. But being familiar with Cactus I knew exactly what they were about. So I learned the material and we did some gigs, and so after a period of time they decided they wanted to make an album, and I had a lot of riffs, some had been around – one in particular -“Preaching Woman Man’s Blues “, I wrote that in 1979, it had been sitting around for a long time. “Tightrope” – I kind of rearranged those, there’s 2 main licks in that song that I borrowed from a song I’d done on my last solo album, actually it’s from 2 different songs, so if you listen to those 2 songs you’d go ‘Oh, Ok, there’s Tightrope’. And then, of course, I wrote a bunch of stuff from scratch, as well. I brought in the riffs, Carmine made suggestions, we changed things around, we got an arrangement going, we gave them to Jimmy Kunes once they were done, and he put lyrics, melody and eventually sang the vocals to them.

Is it fair to assume you brought up the idea of covering “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”? Did you have a vision of how you wanted it to sound?

It was not. We were doing a gig in Chicago, a year or so before we actually made the album. We were at sound-check, and I started messing around with it, and you know Cactus does a jamming, and we were, I don’t even remember what song it was, we were jamming and I just started playing “Papa”, and I went up and started singing for the Hell of it, and Carmine went nuts – he loved it. So we actually put that in the show, that one time only, somewhere in the middle of it we did a little bit of “Papa”. And when we went in to record the first song was “Primitive Touch”, which as I recall, we all wrote that collectively in the studio together. And once we got that down, I think Carmine said ‘let’s do Papa’, I can’t remember if just started playing and I just started making shit up, as we went along. But I do know that we all played through it all, one time – with no arrangements, just absolutely flying by the seat of our pants. And we all got kind of excited about how it sounded, so we said ‘Hey – let’s record it!’ So that arrangement, that was no arrangement, I’ll have to learn that again to play it live, if live gigs ever start again. And we just ad-libbed that. And I’m singing half the vocals on it, that’s because Jimmy Kunes wasn’t wasn’t familiar with it, and I said ‘I’ll lay down a work vocal and you can take it home and learn the song from the work vocal.’ So that was a one pass, there was no way we were going to keep it. And everybody, including Jimmy, Carmine, Randy Pratt – they all loved my voice on it. As a matter of fact Randy was pushing really hard for leaving my vocal throughout the whole thing. Out of respect to Jimmy, and the fact that I didn’t want to have to sing it live because it’s a lot more work [laughs], I refused, I said ‘no, I’ll do it as a duet with Jimmy.’ So, my singing on that was a work vocal, no fixes, a one pass, just rough, and we went with it. And I muted myself to make room for Jimmy, and he went in and did his vocals on a separate day.

How did the Tightrope album come together – was much of it done through sharing files and info through email / online? Or was there any band collectively [in whole or part] in the studio together?

Almost all of it was cut live as a band, which was something I hadn’t done in years. It reminded me of Motown – all these guys went in the room, started bashing it out, got it together and hit ‘record’. And I might overdub a lead part or double a part, or something, but it was collective. Then Co-vid hit, and almost everything was 100 per cent done, except for – there was a few keyboard thing I wanted to hear on say “Suite 1 And 2”, and clavinet on “Primitive Touch”, and also I hadn’t laid down the solos yet before Co-vid for the song “Elevation”, which by the way was based on a riff Carmine had around for quite some time, he told me. So I hired a studio hear in Nashville, that’s run by a keyboard friend of mine – Michael Whittaker. And I went in there and laid down the keyboards, just he and I, and then I laid down the solos for “Elevation”. But, other than that everything was done in New York, at Randy’s studio. And when it came time to mix, it went around and around, because it was Co-vid time. There was the engineer – who had files, and myself and Carmine co-producing . Carmine, he was generous, I mean it’s his band – he’s Carmine, he owns the name and he’s been around a long time, but he trusted my instincts. But, like me and the engineer would discuss things and he’d send me something to listen to, and then I’d play it for Carmine and he’d say Yay or Nay. And of course, he made lots more suggestions than that, especially about his drums, his sound. Yeah, so the 3 of us mixed that, basically with files and over the phone.

You co-wrote the tracks – “Tightope” and “All Shook Up”. What can you tell me about these songs. You also wrote “Suite 1 And 2: Everlong, All The Madmen”, Can you tell me a bit about this song? What inspired lyrically, musically?

Well, I didn’t write any of the lyrics on the songs – that was all Jimmy Kunes. “Tightrope”, as I explained – there’s 2 main riffs in that song, one came from a song of mine called “Made To Be Loved” and the other one was a song of mine called “Back Where I Belong”, both from my previous solo album The Paul Warren Project, 2011. So I rehashed those riffs, and then we did an arrangement, and then Jimmy took it and wrote the melody and the lyrics. As far as “All Shook Up”, that was made up in the studio. Carmine had a beat, he wanted to use a certain feel – the drum part, and I just wrote a riff around it in the studio, and wrote some chord changes . We laid it down, and it was a bit long here and there, and I remember we cut a few little pieces out , just to make a bit more tidy , and again we gave it to Jimmy and he went home and wrote the lyrics and melody.
As far as “Suite 1 And 2”, that’s a song I had completely done, minus the lyrics. I had written it for a group here I Nashville I was producing called The Cunning, and we never got around to recording that one. So I had that sitting around, the melody, everything but a lyric. And there was a little discussion up front about that one, because Jimmy wasn’t used to singing someone else’s melodies, but I held firm on that and said ‘no, it’s got to be my melody, but go home and write a great lyric.’ – which he did! I did have some words floating around, but what he wrote was so much better, it fit the song and the mood and the style to melancholy [??]. And then his vocal performance! I must’ve told him probably ten times – It’s my favorite vocal on the record. His interpretation of the melody and the lyrics he added, I was just flabbergasted with his work on it. That’s my favorite collaboration between Jimmy and I. And Carmine had “Elevation”, he came in with the main riff, I know I added a couple of chords here and there, but that was basically his baby, but again Jimmy wrote the lyrics and the melody. So I’m a co-writer on everything but the bonus tracks. And I would say the initial ideas in, maybe 50 percent of the cases in those 10 songs came from me. But then Carmine’s a genius with arranging, he can come up with how to change things around, put them in different orders, and drop a beat and add things, you know – he’s very musical for a drummer. I’ve never met a drummer so musical. He’s not just about grooves and tempos and percussion, he’s got a great ear. Yeah, so I mean it was a collaboration musically between Carmine and I to get the tracks together, and then Jimmy put the icing on the cake.

Any insight to any of your favorite moments for you on the album – songs, performances, solos?

Well “Tightrope” attacks, right out. There’s a reason that’s the first song. Carmine and I through out ideas for running order, but ultimately I presented him with the running order that they’re in, and he agreed with it. And I know I did it a little different than him, he was looking at it from tempo-wise, you know – fast song, slow song, shuffle, straight, but I also wanted to look at it from keys, because rock riffs are often written in the same key, so a lot of the songs were in E and A, so I wanted to do it based on Carmine’s tempos and things like that, but I also looked at keys, and flipped it around. So, ultimately it just seemed that “Tightrope” was so good and so impactful that it was a no-brainer to start with that one. I’m really pleased wth the whole thing. “Suite 1 And 2” I’m partial to, and it’s the only thing that really stands out as being completely different to anything Cactus has ever done, and I was actually not sure how it was going to be received, because it was so different. But everybody was enthusiastic about it and I think everyone’s really happy with it. We spent more time mixing that than any of the others, I know that. I really love “Primitive Touch”, I just think that jumps out of the speakers as well, very aggressive and well performed, everybody killed on that one. I really like “All Shook Up”, but that riff I wrote for that I was kind of thinking of “Paperback Writer” by The Beatles, so It brought a little bit of pop sensibility there; that song’s a little poppier in general. But it’s still done the way Cactus plays, which is very aggressive. So yeah, I think stylistically that one and “Suite” are my favorites, only because they’re just so different than all the rest, but I love it all. I can tell you of the tunes I didn’t quite get finished mixing, I would’ve liked to have had a little more time, but we ran out time, the label had to have the record out, was “Preaching Woman Man Blues” and “Third Time Gone”, I wish had maybe a couple more hours for each of those, to tidy them up. But I’m still pleased with them, they still sound great. Randy Pratt plays his ass off on this record, by the way. it’s by far the best I’ve ever heard him. And we spoke last night, and he feels the same way, this is a big step up for him.
[“Shake That Thing”, I felt was such a great song]
Nobody else could make it that day, except me and Carmine; it was just he and I in the studio and he had a beat that he wanted to use. So he just started playing the beat, and I sat down and started making up the riffs and the chord changes as we were going . And we ran through it maybe once, and I said ‘Yeah, it’s all there’, so we hit ‘record’. And again, there was no arrangement , we didn’t bother, we were just jamming. We only played it twice, and the first time I made up all the changes and the riff, and we got excited, then hit record and just made up and arrangement I made up in my head, as we were going. So that was flying by the seat of our pants as much as “Papa” or “Primitive Touch”. That came from nothing, there was nothing there to be cut when we went in , and when we left that day that track was virtually done.

The last track [“Wear It Out”] features Jim McCarty on guitar and Phil Naro on vocals, who also wrote the lyrics. Were you on this track with Jim? And do you know how Phil got involved?

No, I did help mix it though. They cut the vocals. I wasn’t a party to any of the actual recording, but Josh the engineer had mixed it and sent it to Carmine, and Carmine sent it to me and asked me what I thought. And the only thing that I requested as a change was that that Jim’s solo should be louder. And I think something to do with the effects on the vocal or lack there of, or EQ or something . Primarily I just know for sure that I said ‘turn the solo up’. And then Carmine, from that mix asked me to work with the engineer to try and get a better kick-drum sound; it might’ve just been the volume. I think he asked for more volume, and it was hard to get with the way it was recorded, so I think we may have changed the EQ or something there. I never even met Phil, I wasn’t familiar with him prior to that either. I know Jimmy, for some reason didn’t end up finish writing that or singing it, and I know Carmine went with Phil.

(Bruce Pilato – I managed The Platinum Rock All Stars, which Carmine was in, along with Rudy Sarzo, and Gene Cornish of The Rascals, and Geoff Downes of Asia and Yes, and Bumblefoot on guitar. And there was one point where Jimmy wasn’t sure about his commitment to Cactus because he was doing this Humble Pie thing, that version of Humble Pie. So he didn’t want to cut this track, so Carmine said have Phil sing it, and Phil sang it…….But I’m really glad Jimmy decided to make the commitment back to Cactus, because I think that album is incredible, and I think he realizes now that Cactus is the band where he needs to be.)

(Paul continues) – I think so too. Jimmy from the get has befriended me, which was nice. I mean everyone was nice, and Carmine – I’m there because of Carmine, my respect for him couldn’t be greater, but Jimmy – when I first went out on the road he wanted to hang every night; he’d call me and we’d have a couple of beers together or something. So, we’ve been in communication a lot, last night for example we were texting back and forth for a couple of hours. But he’s in to it. There was a little tension in the mixing, you know what it’s like – the bass player thinks there should be a little more bass, the singer thinks there should be more vocal, the drummer thinks there should be more kick or something, everybody’s got there opinion, which is a difficult way to work when there’s too many opinions, but Carmine ultimately threw it in my lap and let me make the call. So Jimmy and I, there was some issues there about his vocal volume, and / or maybe the sound of it. But then about a month ago, he apparently went and listened to the whole record on a different system than he been listening to, and he contacted me that night just freaking out, and he apologized profusely for stirring anything up, just saying what a great record. He’s very excited about the record, as he should be. It’s a great record and everyone I played it for loves it. It way harder rock, I would not normally put something like that on my stereo. I listen to more song melody type of stuff – Beatles, Burt Bacharach , I’m a big Burt Bacharach fan as writer.

Recollections From Paul Warren’s Career back to his early days….

Paul Warren - Jailbreak (RM) 15/12/2010 | by Riccardo Arena Photographer

Joni Mitchell’s one of my all-time favorite artists. I mean when I was 18, on the road, I used to carry a little record player around with me, and all I listened to was For The Roses and Blue. I took those on the road with me everywhere. I set up the little stereo and listened to them on days off . She’s one of the greatest writers that ever lived.

Early influences as a writer, guitar player – favorite players, albums…

The first thing that really stands out, I mean I listened to some stuff when I was younger, rock n roll – ’50s rock, I had older sisters who bought those records, but I think it was around “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen that I just went crazy. I guess that’s considered garage rock now, and that was the first album I bought – Louis Louis by The Kingsmen. I got a guitar when I was 12. I’ve been listening to music almost constantly since I was about 5. And I’d gone through my Elvis phase when I was quite a bit younger. My first guitar influence would’ve been Chuck Berry, and The Ventures, until Hendrix and Cream came out around ’67 and everything changed. I almost had to learn how to play all over again. As far as writers, I really got interested in songs around the British invasion time – The Beatles, obviously, but my favorite band – it’s funny in that era of the British Invasion from ’64 forward there was the standard question ‘are you a Beatles or a Stones fan?’ , and my response always was ‘I’m a Kinks fan.’ It was the Kinks for me. When I heard “You Really Got Me” I literally just about passed out – I was so excited. It just flew out of my speakers and that record has since been the clam to how that sort of guitar sound started, that distorted slap chord – power chord style of rock. Some people say they invented heavy metal, I wouldn’t go that far. And the interesting thing about that is that I’ve since read that Ray Davies when writing that song was trying to write something like “Louie Loue” . So the first song I wrote, I still didn’t have a guitar, but I wrote it in my head was kind of a Kinks rip-off, style wise. And then I got more interested in The Beatles, so I started listening to them closer – as writers. And started really writing pretty regularly around the time I was 15. Favorite guitar players to this day would be Hendrix, early Clapton, all the blues guys – BB King, Albert King, Freddie King. Peter Green from the original Fleetwood Mac was a big influence on me as well.

Working with Motown, recordings with the Temptations…

I was out playing Top 40 in a little dive bar called Jimmy’s Lounge in the Detroit area, and the bass player on that was the one that got me the gig. He was 5 years older than me and he went on to become Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band’s bass player throughout that entire era. And he and Bob both tried to get me to join the Silver Bullet Band a couple of times, and the last time was when I was 20, and I moved to LA instead with Motown. But I was 17, playing underage in clubs, and had been doing for 2 years at that point. At Jimmy’s Lounge, with Little Reuben And The Second Floor. Other than the bass player, it was a pretty lousy band, but we worked 6 nights a week, 4 sets a night. And I made a tidy 200 bucks a week at that time, which wasn’t too bad for a 17 year old. And one night on a break there was 3 guys sitting at a table and they asked me to join them, which I did. And one guy Bob Babbitt, who was a Motown bass player – there was only really 2 guys that did all the hits – Babbitt and James Jamerson. And then there was a drummer, relatively new to the Motown scene at that time, but real good friends with Babbit, Andrew White, and there was a guy named Mike Campbell (who later changed his name to Michael Champion), and he was one of the only white artists ever signed to Motown at that point. And they said ‘Look, we love your playing .’ And Babbit and Andrew White had been in a band with Dennis Coffey prior to this meeting with me, called Scorpio, and they were doing kinda like a ‘rock’ thing . And they said ‘we really want to put a band together and Mike can sing, and they said ‘do you write?’, and I said ‘yeah, of course I write’. So Babbitt arranged for some studio time , free studio time – including an engineer at Motown, late at night, I think we started around 11 at night, and I tossed in one of my songs and we cut that instrumental. And Michael Campbell had a song, and he showed me how that went, and we cut that instrumental, and at 3am, I think, we finished up with all the overdubs and everything. The engineer was tired and wanted to go home, and we never did get around to putting down the vocals on that stuff, but we did a rough mix that night, went our ways, and I got a call from [I can’t remember his name], the guy that ran Motown 9?)… Berry Gordy was the CEO – The Godfather, so to speak. And they had an office downtown and a lot of the day to day record business was run out of that office. And the head guy’s secretary called me, and he said ‘look, I’ve heard this tape, it’s surfacing around and people are handing it around at Motown, and it’s interesting – do you have more songs with lyrics and melodies?’ and I said ‘Sure’. And he asked me to come down to the office with an acoustic guitar to play him some of my material . So I showed up. And my material, the 2 songs (the one and a half I got through) – the one was called “I Wanna Die High”, which was very influenced by Hendrix -lyrics, the material like “If 6 Was 9”, all about ‘freaks flashing by, and no woman could control me’, that sort of stuff. So, I got through that one, and I’d written both of these songs when I was 16, even though I was 17 at the time, so the lyrics were pretty, let’s just say – young . And the next one was called “I Turn To Goo”, which was about having an orgasm [laughs], and I think I was half way through that one and he stopped me and said ‘I have no idea what you’re doing, I have no idea what these words mean – you’re definitely not right for this label!’. So I packed up my shit and went home. But as it turned out that tape found it’s way in to the hands of Norman Whitfield – the producer, who you know, Norman wrote and produced for everybody at Motown – The Temps being probably his biggest act. He co-wrote “Heard It Through The Grapevine” and some absolutely legendary stuff – “Just My Imagination” and “I Wish It Would Rain”. And Norman had just been trying to blend psychedelic with soul music and was calling it ‘Psychedelic Soul’, like a new concept he had come up with. So he had done that with The Temps on Cloud 9, and Psychedelic Shack. And I played rock, and the guy that played the rock for Motown at that time was Dennis Coffey, but Dennis Coffey was literally just a jazz guy with a fuzz box and a wah-wah trying to simulate rock, and Norman could hear by my playing that that’s who I was and that’s what I did. So I got home from Jimmy’s Lounge one night, at my girlfriend’s, I was living with at the time , I received a call from a lady named Asari Graham, who was Norman Whitfield’s assistant and to call her as soon as I got in and don’t worry about waking her up, so I called Asari probably around 3 or 4 in the morning and she said ‘Can you be at Motown tomorrow morning at 10am to do a session for Norman Whitfield?’, and I said ‘Of course – no problem!’ And in the meantime I didn’t have a car or a driver’s license, but I arranged for a friend to drive me down, I got there at 9am, after a couple of hours of sleep and I’d never done a session, I’d only been in the studio one time and that was with a self-contained band when I was 15, so I didn’t really know how it really all worked. But time since dictated that I be there early and ready to go, so when the guys started falling in, I was all set up and tuned up and ready to play. Looking back, it must’ve been funny then because I was looking like ‘I’m going to make a record, I’m going to be a rock star’, so I showed up in platform shoes and a green velvet suit, and my hair spiked up in the back like Rod Stewart, and they all blew in in t-shirts and jeans and whatever. And that session… you know I did a lot of recording for Motown over the years, and sessions go so fast, and Motown was doing it like an assembly line, and Barry’s since even admitted they styled their way after Henry Ford’s car factories. So we cut 3 songs in 3 hours, and as soon as you’re done with one – you’re on to the next, so you don’t often remember what you just finished. And by the time you walk out of there you might not remember any of it.
I was driving, once again, back to Jimmy’s Lounge a couple of months later, and I heard a something on the radio, and I was like ‘man – that’s familiar!’, then I recognized my own playing, and it was “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, but not by the Temptations, it was by a group Norman had signed called The Undisputed Truth; they had a number One with a song called “Smiling Faces Sometimes”, a great song, another Whitfield song. So I heard that once on the radio, and I never heard it again. The record was a flop, and I continued doing sessions for Norman and a couple of other producers, and a session was a union day of 3 hours , and sometimes I’d work for 2 producers in one session. You’d get a flat fee for 3 hours, and another producer might come in and I’d cut something for someone else. I did a couple of albums worth of material for ‘The Undisputed Truth’. I continued recording for The Temps, as a matter of fact I was in Palm Springs about ten years ago doing a benefit concert with Vince Gill and Richard Marx, and I went in to a pawn shop and saw box set of The Temps. I picked up and went through this box set, and I’m on 7 tracks, and some I didn’t remember at all! So I bought the CD, went home and listened to it once, and was like ‘I don’t remember that song, but that’s not me’, but my name’s on there and I know my playing. But in the midst of all this, some how one of the tracks was “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, Norman had re-written it for The Temps – the bass line was completely different , the riff was different. And I cut it with a band. Everybody knows the great thing about Motown everybody’s set up in one room, pretty much. The percussionist, and maybe the B3 (? this is a long time ago), No, it was the percussionist, he’d be in an isolated booth, and in the main room would be the drummer, the piano, the organ, bass player, and sometimes up to 3 or 4 guitar players. So I cut the track with the normal ensemble of musicians there, and then Whitfield had me come back and do overdubs, just he and I , some lead fills around the vocals, and some other stuff. Yeah the vocals weren’t on there yet, but Norman wrote and knew exactly, he dictated exactly what The Temptations sang. So he sang to me and I played around his vocals. And I did one more overdub, a rhythm overdub on it. And I had no idea at the time how monumental that recording was and how eventful it was going to be for my career. I do remember at the time I was playing at another club in the Detroit area called King Arthur’s, and the Grammies were on that night, and “Papa” won 3 Grammies that night, and between sets I would call my same girlfriend, and say ‘what’s happening?’ and she said ‘oh, it just won Best Instrumental track.. or it just won Best song..’, I don’t remember what the Grammies were for, but it won 3 of them that night. And the doors flew open. And at that point I started doing every session in Michigan, not just for Motown, but for Gladys Night And The Pips, for their producer down in New York, and every jingle, I was on pizza commercials – you name it, practically every session going down in Detroit at that time. And then Motown moved to LA, and Whitfield asked me to join him, and they put me up in a hotel, and paid my fare out there, put me on a small salary, and kept me busy with sessions to pay the bills.

Familiar with other Motown players such as Dennis Coffey and Joe Gutc?

I knew Joe Gutc before I ever worked in Motown, I only met him once – I bought a guitar off of him. He advertised it in the Detroit Free Press, and I went and bought a 1959 335 off of him for 225. bucks. So that was the first time I’d heard that name, and I didn’t hear that name again until I got to LA. I never did a session with Joe Gutc, I never saw him in the studio. Dennis Coffey, sure I did a lot of sessions, he was on a lot of them, as were Robert White and Joe Messina, and of course bass players – Bob Babbitt and James Jamerson, and Pistol Allen, Earl Van Dyke, and Johnny Griffith, Eddie Bongo (or Eddie Brown) were all the main guys, they played on everything. And Joe Gutc I never heard his name or saw Joe until I got to LA, and that was not associated with Motown.

The story behind playing on Funkadelic’s “Get Off Your Ass And Jam”.

When I was 15 in Detroit, I was managed by a guy named Charlie Bossalini, and his partner Robert Middleman. and when I got to LA in ’74, Charlie was managing Rare Earth and Parliament / Funkadelic, along with another guy. And he called me up one night in LA and said ‘Grab your guitar’, the main guitar player for Funkadelic had been arrested that night for heroin possession, and George Clinton wanted to carry on with the session, so I showed up with a guitar, they had an amp. They gave me $50 under the table, no union deal, and a big pile of white powder was on the consul, I was welcome to help myself to it, too. And they said ‘just go in and play’. The track was all cut, the last thing they added was my lead guitar. They said ‘just go in and go wild’, throughout ? the track, so that’s what I did. I got my 50 bucks, I jumped in a cab, and I went back to my apartment.

Was George Clinton happy with it?

Well yeah, he loves it. But there’s a whole mystique around that track. On line there’s been amazingly long threads about who the guitar was, and this was partially George’s fault because he wrote a book and in his book he said they were in the studio and some guy off the street walked in, a junkie, and George gave him 50 bucks to play the solo, and when he was done he left the building and he never heard from him again, he tried to find him to hire him. So I know that makes for a much better copy than the true story, but if you look my name’s on the album. And I injected into this thread arguing who it was, and fans attributed it to numerous other guitarists that worked for Funkadelic, and Bossalini the guy that hired me, actually piped in to it and said ‘No, I’m the guy that hired him – I was there’. I’ve seen George once, but I didn’t have a chance to speak to him.

A short stint with Rare Earth making the Back To Earth album –

Rare Earth had split up at that point, and a guy named Gil Bridges had retained the name. Gil was one of the original members, and primarily played a little sax and tambourine, so he had the rights to the name. And they had just hired Jerry Lacroix from Edgar Winter’s White Trash to sing, and Frosty from Lee Michael’s to drum, I was a big fan of both of those guys, and Reggie McBride from Stevie Wonder to play bass. And Charlie Bossalini, going back to Funkadelic, he was also managing Rare Earth. And I kept calling, when I got to LA, I was trying to hustle up a gig , because what had happened by this time was Norman Whitfield decided to start his own label, and he wanted to sign me as a solo artist to Whitfield Records, distributed by Motown. And he presented me with a contract, which I took to an attorney who told me I’d be insane to sign that contract. He said ‘they’re even joking about it, it’s Delirium Productions, and that’s anyone that signs them to us would have to be delirious.’ So I had to tell Whitfield that after all he had done for me that I wasn’t going to sign with him. And that ended our working relationship. So when I called Charlie, hustling for work he said Rare Earth might be looking for a new guitar player. I was actually living on the fly at that point, I didn’t have a permanent home. And I went to that audition on an RTD bus, I loaded my amp and guitar on to a bus and went to the SIR – the very first SIR in Santa Monica. I got there an hour before them, was all set, knew their material inside and out and aced the gig. And yet they were short on material and so I started writing and presenting songs and they loved them, so that was the first time I ever had any of my material on a record. The first single was one of my co-writes. And I went up to ASCAP, I was so broke, I mean God, they later told me they had no idea I’d ridden the bus and how broke I was, they said ‘you seemed to have your shit so together that we just thought we were lucky to get you’. And I ended up going to ASCAP and making a deal. I said to the guy ‘look you can have me right now for a thousand bucks’. and he said ‘I’ll give you a cheque right now for 500 bucks and I said ‘Done!’ So I signed with ASCAP. And then I got screwed because the album was in the can and then the guys in Rare Earth, the producer Stewart Levine and the leader said ‘look, we got to go back and cut 3 more tracks.’, and I was like Why?’, and they said ‘Just to add them in the can’. So we went back and cut 3 songs I wasn’t familiar with. And just before the record was record to come out and be finalized I got a call from Motown to go down to Jobete Publishing Company , and I went down and they said ‘Ok, we’re going to publish your songs’, and I was green but I had spoken to enough people who said keep your publishing that’s where the money is. And I said ‘No, I’m going to keep my publishing.’ and they said ‘we just happen to have 3 songs in the can that we do publish, and if you don’t sign with us we’re going to put those songs on the record instead of yours’. So it was obvious what I was going to do. So they set me up for that one…. We recorded them and they had them in the can because they owned the publishing on them. So it was all sneakily done. They had us record those so they could threaten me to get my publishing for those songs.

Highlights for you as a player / contributor, working with the likes of Tina Turner, Richard Marx…

Well, Tina – I cut a lot of songs with her that helped get her her record deal. And her producer, a staff producer at Capitol was a huge fan of mine and he got me in on that. So it was all me and other studio guuys, and Tina would come down and we did pre-production rehearsals for a week or 2. And I was singing background with her. Anyway, once we went and cut the tracks, and then when it came time for vocals Carter called me up and said ‘Tina really wants you to be there when she’s doing her vocals.’ So I went down to the studio and it was amazing – I’m watching Tina Turner record vocals, and between you and me, she never sang a bad vocal in her life. At one point I remember Carter asked her to do one more and when she got off the talk-back I said ‘Why?’, and he said ‘I just want to hear her sing!’ [laughs]. You know, because every one was a take. And we were down there and there was a song we’d been rehearsing and I was singing the high part on, and she said ‘I want Paul to come in and sing with me, I need his energy, it’s not the same without him. So Carter said ‘let me hook up another mic’ , and she said ‘no, I want him to sing on the same mic as me.’ So I got to go in and sing, standing right next to Tina with the headphones on, on the same mic, which was a highlight. I remember thinking ‘wow, a kid from the farms of Michigan never thought this would happen.’ Because I admired Tina’s talent so much.
Richard Marx – it’s a long story of how I got on that. I really didn’t want to do the gig, but I did it as a favor for the head of his label and his manager, because he had never done live performances. So I was hired as MD, and this was the first substantial gig I was hired as Musical Director on. So I got to hire all the musicians, I put the shows together, Richard would show up. He was there for all the first tour rehearsals, but by the 2nd tour, by that point he trusted me so much I would just go in and I’d put the show together and I’d rehearse the band, and help the lighting director put together the whole package, and then Richard would come in and I’d teach him the show. He’d signal to the band – ‘we added a solo here, blah blah blah…’ So that was exciting.
Joe Cocker – playing Woodstock. It wasn’t what I’d hoped, but it was somewhat monumental. It was a lot of fucking people there! That was Woodstock ’94. And it was Joe – and to my knowledge he was the only guy that had been there in ’69 and came back for the 2nd one. So there was a bit of history involved and I got to be a part of that.

Highlights of recording and touring with Rod Stewart

I’ll start with the highlights of the live shows. Glastonbury – my nickname for that is ‘Limeystock’ , it’s a 3 day festival every year in Glastonbury, England. And we performed there, and it was a live broadcast all through the UK , and mixed by Bob Clearmountain for TV, as it was going down live. And I had a specially good night that night. That was 115 thousand people out there holding up lighters or whatever, before cellphones became the thing…oh maybe it was cellphones – it 2001 or 2002. But just looking at that sea of light, and fortunately I was On that night, and it was broadcast live and everybody was raving about my performance the next day. And then re-showed that on Boxing Day in England, as well. I’m real proud of that night, that was a magical moment. Also we did Rock In Rio, for what that’s worth. And we did the 10th Anniversary of Princess Di’s death, at Wembley Stadium. And looking out seeing the royal kids playing air-guitar to my solos was kind of a laugh, I got a kick out of that. And with Rod wanting a Knight-hood we played for the Queen, and he was doing a lot of favors for the royal family – we played for Prince Charles – we played there for his birthday, and we stayed at one of his guest houses. Those are moments that you kind of go ‘How the fuck did I end up here?’
And I was also working for 10 years, on and off, for this very famous singer in Europe -Eros Ramazzotti , an Italian singer, and we did Pavarotti And Friends in Modena , at Pavarotti’s house, that he’d do it every year. It was us and The Spice Girls, and Celine Dion, and Stevie Wonder, and Pavarotti would always do a duet with these big stars. And Eros brought me and the piano player to play along with, using the house band. So I’m standing there on stage playing guitar while Pavarotti was singing, and looking out at an open air audience, under the stars in Italy was a moment of ‘Holy crap! How did I get here?’, ya know. It was a real moment of ‘Wake up Paul. Don’t forget this Paul, this is never going to happen again.’
As far as recording, shortly before I left him, Rod was going to do a blues album with Jeff Beck and invariably they had another falling out, so that didn’t happen. So he decided to record a blues album with his touring band, and that morphed in to anybody who had any songs, so of course, I presented some songs. And he was using Chuck his keyboard player to kind of co-produce that. And one song we cut was a cover of “Here Comes The Night” by Van Morrison And Them. Which had a great chorus, but the verses were really wordy. I said ‘How did that go?’ and he said ‘There’s too many words, I can’t sing it, I ran out of breath.’. I said ‘Well, you know you could re-arrange the phrasing on that.’ and he goes ‘What do you mean?’, and I said ‘Well, I can fix that, I can fix that in 10-15 minutes.’ So he said ‘Ok, show me what you’ve got.’ So while they were working on something else, I sat down with a piece of paper and pen, and re-qrote the lyrics, went in and did a work vocal for Rod to learn from, and he said ‘Dude, you’re a genius, you’re fucking brilliant! If you ever done work as a producer?’, and I said ‘Of course I have.’ . And he said ‘Do you want to produce my vocals for this album?’, and I said ‘Absolutely!’ So that album was called Time, it came out in 2013, and it was #1 throughout the UK, it Top 40 for something like 6 months, top 10 for over a month, and the single was #1 – and I produced the vocals on that record. So that was my recording highlight. I played on it, just not on every track, I played on a couple of tracks because he used a variety of musicians.

Working with the late Brian Howe [ex of Bad Company] –

By the time I joined Brian he was no longer in Bad Company, we were touring under the moniker ‘Brian Howe – Former Lead Singer of Bad Company’, because he didn’t get to walk with the name. He’d been out gigging under his own name ‘former lead singer’ logo for some years already. I came in and we were talking, and before I even played a note he told me I was his new musical director, just from the conversation. So I really had a good time with that, and I enjoyed the songs. I was already a huge Brian Howe fan. in the ’80s while on tour with Richard i remember hearing the song “Holy Water” on the radio, and I was ‘Holy shit, this sounds good. The singer’s insane!’ So I bought that on cassette, at a truck stop on the road, and Richard and I used to listen to it every night, the Holy Water album with Brian singing and writing, every night in the back of the tour bus. So, a friend of mine was playing bass for Brian, and he said ‘I’m going to want to get you on this gig. You’re the perfect guy.’ So I was really excited about it; I had a lot of admiration for his talent, and he was still singing his ass off. We became very best friends, we spoke every single day. And then he passed away last May, 2020. And that was that. I lost that gig, but more importantly I lost one of the best friends I’ve ever had.







*Cactus live photos courtesy of Marty Rickard, from Token Lounge, Westland, MI, April 2018.

*Special thanks to Bruce Pilato

KJJ / 05/’21

Cactus – Tightrope


Cactus returns with a new album titled Tightrope, their first in 5 years. The band were originally founded by [then former] Vanilla Fudge members Tim Bogert [RIP] and Carmine Appice, along with guitarist Jim McCarty [ex Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels] and singer Rusty Day [ex Amboy Dukes], making the band something of a ‘supergroup’ at the time, and would be dubbed ‘the American Led Zeppelin’ for their blues rock approach. In 2021 the band is still lead by the legendary drummer, and includes longtime members Jimmy Kunes [vocals], guitarist [and co-producer w/ Appice] – Paul Warren [ex Rod Stewart, Rare Earth..], Randy Pratt on harmonica [The Lizards], and bass player Jimmy Caputo. Tightrope also includes guest appearances from Jim McCarty, Phil Naro, and Pete Bremy.

Featuring 12 tracks of varied blues and blues rock, Tightrope is a good album to get in to and enjoy multiple plays, with so much to offer. Notable is the rocked up cover of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, a song that Warren played on as a session for The Temptations decades ago. Other highlights include blues rock numbers “Primitive Touch” and “Elevation”, as well as the epic atmospheric piece “Suite 1 and 2: Everlong, All The Madmen”. Dig the closing track “Wear It Out”, a cool rock tune, with the added bonus of featuring McCarty and Naro. *Available on CD or a nice looking 2 LP gatefold, colored vinyl.

Classic Rock Legends CACTUS Balance Power & Precision On New Album TIGHTROPE! | Glass Onyon PR

Cactus – Tightrope (Limited Edition Colored Double Vinyl) – Cleopatra Records Store (cleorecs.com)


KJJ, 04/’21