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Interview with Vinny Appice of Kill Devil Hill | August 5, 2012

Kill Devil Hill

“This was always a dream of mine, my own band.
After all these years, I’ve done all that shit but I haven’t done this!”

Never heard of Kill Devil Hill?  If not, you soon will.  With legends of the rhythm section Vinny Appice (Heaven and Hell) and Rex Brown (Pantera, Down) holding down the bottom end and with Mark Zavon (guitar) and Dewey Bragg (vocals) offering up the vocal and guitar riffage, you’ve got massive potential that realizes itself through potent song writing and the heaviest of down-and-dirty rock and roll.  Sound good to you?  Buy their debut self titled release and you will not be sorry.

Kill Devil Hill paid their first ever visit to the Bay Area this past Sunday night at Oakland’s New Parish … a small joint for some big music.  As any new band cutting their teeth live, things kicked off a little rough but by the end of the second song, the guys were clearly in a groove and blew the roof off the place.  If the post-set line at the merch table was any indication, this show will go down in the annals of Bay Area metal as the one where people will look back and talk about how they were there to see Kill Devil Hill for the first time.

Setlist:

  • We’re All Gonna Die
  • Strange
  • Time And Time Again
  • War Machine
  • Gates Of Hell
  • Old Man
  • Drum Solo
  • Rise From the Shadows
  • Hangman
  • Up In Flames
  • Revenge

Digital Diversion had the privileged of sitting down with the man with the dream … Vinny Appice … before the show to hear about how how it all came together as a result of Vinny’s shoulder surgery.

DD: Since it’s a new band, let’s start from the beginning. How did Kill Devil Hill come about?

VA: It‘s pretty interesting actually. I came off the Heaven and Hell tour and I had that big drum set and I killed my shoulder so eventually I had to get shoulder surgery. I was scheduled to get it in January but then Heaven and Hell was supposed to go out again so I was on a waiting list. In the meantime I did these thirteen drum track downloads for Cleopatra Records. So I did all these recordings and drum tracks … thirteen different speeds … at my friend Jeff Pilson’s house. He played with Foreigner. He’s a great engineer and he’s got a killer studio. Jeff called up and said, “why don’t you come down Tuesday instead of next week.” I said okay. Luckily I did because I recorded and then the hospital called and said we’ve got an opening for you. So I had to get the surgery then I couldn’t play for six months. I was in a sling and I go, “now what am I going to do?” I’m in my little studio and I listen to these drum tracks and they’re great! Really massive, great sound. So I had Jimmy Bain from Dio come down. He played to them and we started working on trying to put songs to the drums and it started working out really good. Then I heard about this guitar player Mark Zavon. He played with World War Three for a while and I know Mandy Lion, the singer, always has good guitar players so I wanted to check him out. So he came down and we started working together; laying guitars on to the songs and working with Jimmy on the bass. A lot of these songs came together that way.

DD: When you first put down those drum beats, did you have a vision of what those songs would sound like?

VA: No, because I was just playing beats … picturing people downloading these drums and doing whatever. But in my head I was going “verse” then I would change it after 16/32 bars of chorus and come back to what I played before. So it was kind of in a structure. One of the songs, War Machine, is almost the same drum track that I played. It’s crazy.
And then he played me a CD of Dewey. He goes, “well you need a singer.” And I was getting a lot of 80’s sounding guys … sounding like Ronnie, trying to sound like Ronnie and it’s like, “I don’t want to do that.” Ronnie was untouchable. You can’t replace Ronnie and I don’t want to go in that direction. Leave that as it is with the greatness that it was. I wanted something more modern. I heard Dewey sing on this song and went, “that’s the guy.” So he brought him down and we started working. And then we lost Jimmy eventually and then I heard Rex was looking for something because I’ve known Rex a while. So I called him and played him the stuff and he loved it. He was like the missing link.

DD: At what point in that process did you decide it was a band?

VA: It started out as, “hey I’m messing around” then “let’s write some songs.” And then it became, “this is pretty cool.” Because I was still with Heaven and Hell and Ronnie was still fine … well he didn’t know he was sick … andwe were planning on going out next year so I thought, “this would be a good, fun thing to start and you never know what could happen with it.” Then this started and it became pretty serious. As we worked, and Dewey got in the band … we were demoing all these songs and people were going, “these are really good.” Mark was playing bass because we didn’t have a bass player and then we got Rex and it was like, now it’s a lot easier. He just fits in like a glove so it became a serious thing. And then Ronnie got sick and the Heaven and Hell thing … that was the end of it.

This was always a dream of mine, my own band. I’ve always played with people that were established so this was something that I could start from the beginning. This is the fifth show where the album’s been out. Now it’s fun to see the people who know the songs, they’re singing the lyrics … it’s like, “whoa this is cool.” Facebook’s growing. It’s a dream of mine. After all these years, I’ve done all that shit but I haven’t done this!

DD: Starting a new band, was there ever a thought of, “do I really want to do this again?”

VA: No! [laughs] You gotta love what you’re doing and you have to believe in the music. Love the music, love the band and it was never a thought. It was like, “wow,” even playing the clubs. We got a whole tour booked, we can make this happen. We’re able to play. It was very nice to be able to do that. We got on the Metal Show with Eddie Trunk and all these little things go on. Rex and I are both on the same page with starting over. We’re not starting at the bottom-bottom but we’re kind of low [laughs]. It’s getting better. It’s getting better.

DD: Who actually named the band?

VA: Mark came up with a list of names and that was one of them. He’s into aviation and that name was where the Wright Brothers flew the plane and there was a cool story behind it. The name was from hundreds of years ago the pirates used to hijack ships and steal the rum and burry it on a hill in North Carolina. They said the rum could kill the devil, it was so strong. Then it became Kill Devil Hill. We thought, “ that’s a cool name, let’s use it. “

DD: You mentioned earlier that it’s been a dream of yours to have your own band. What kind of expectations come did you come in with?

VA: You know what? I didn’t have expectations. Naturally it just grew. At first it was, “alright let’s write songs.” At some points in my studio we would just crank the songs out … this was without Rex … we’d listen to songs really loud down in my room and I went, “this is fucking badass.” There was something special about it. It just went by steps. It wasn’t expectations , it was all natural … song writing, Dewey’s vocal abilities … everybody contributed and it just grew like that. The next steps management, trying to get a deal … those things just happened. There must be something there.

DD: The debut album just came out in May. What was the writing process like for that?

VA: We started with those drum tracks … there were probably three or four songs that were finished and that made the album. When I was able to start playing again, I went over to Mark’s house and we had a set of drums and we’d jam a lot. We put together the riffs and we’d piece this stuff together. Then we’d put bass on it so you could hear it then double the guitar so we’d have some semblance of a song and then we’d give it to Dewey. Dewey just comes up with stuff … fucking great. He comes back with, “here’s what I’m singing on it,” and it’s fucking great shit. Hooks, weird, dark, awesome. Mark sometimes would work together with Dewey and they would work on vocals but everybody did their thing which was pretty awesome.

DD: Any favorite tracks off the record?

VA: I like We’re All Gonna Die and War Machine. I love them all. Luckily we were able to put that many songs on the album because they were originally getting left out.

DD: How does it feel playing the clubs?

VA: You know what? It doesn’t matter where you play. Even after a show here, a club, you feel just as good musically that you played for these people and they got into and it was a great show than you do playing an arena.

DD: Maybe more connected too?

VA: Even more because you’re right there with the people. People are just right up front … it’s a different thing. With an arena, sometimes it’s isolated. Some of those shows you don’t even warm up. Big drum riser, it’s cool in there, the lights are not making you sweat and everybody’s far away. I love being down on the floor, no riser, playing like this. This will kick ass tonight.

[referring to the arena shows] I’ve done that and it sucks because you’re so isolated. Then you don’t hear amps, everything is through the monitors. So I love being right in front of the amps like this, being right down there with the boys. Right in the center of things.

DD: You’ve had a handful of dates since the record came out. How have those gone so far?

VA: They’ve gone good. We’ve done Vegas, Arizona … somewhere in Phoenix … Ramona California [San Diego], the Key Club last night in Hollywood … and it’s great because now we’re seeing more people at the shows. When we first went out last year, they didn’t know what was going on. We were just trying to pull everything together, even the Facebook and the website. Now it’s a build. We’re going out and we’re seeing more people at the shows and now they know the lyrics, they know the songs. It’s pretty cool to see this happening. It’s thrilling for me.

DD: You’ve got some dates coming up with Alice Cooper in November including San Francisco. How did that come about?

VA: Erik our manager heard that they were looking for a band and he proposed us and then a couple of days later they said yeah. I went, “Yes!” Alice opened for us in Heaven and Hell. We treated him like royalty and there was never a problem. I went to the movies with Alice and Eric Singer and a couple of people and he was a cool guy. He buys popcorn for everybody, he insisted on buying everybody everything and it was pretty funny seeing Alice Cooper walking around looking like “Joe Normal.” But we got along really well and we hung out together so maybe that had something to do with it too. It’s pretty awesome that he gave us that spot and we really appreciate it.

DD: Where does Kill Devil Hill go after that?

VA: To the top! We’ve got a lot of touring to do now that the album is out. We’ll do this tour for 6 or 7 weeks, then we’re taking a little bit of a break and then we go back in November and start doing more stuff and then the Alice shows and then we’ll continue to keep touring around and building this up.

DD: As of right now, this is everyone in the band’s full-time gig …

VA: Oh yeah. This is it.

DD: It’s not a side project …

VA: No, this is the real deal. Like I said, it’s a dream of mine to have a killer band and not an established band. It’s a whole new thing. This is everybody’s baby right now.

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Upcoming Tour Dates:
8/10: Drumheller, AB @ Dinosaur Downs Stampede Barn
8/11: Red Deer, AB @ The Vat
8/12: Edmonton, AB @ The Pawnshop
8/15: London, ON @ Norma Jeans
8/16: Hamilton, ON @ Corktown
8/17: Toronto, ON @ The Rockpile
8/18: Montreal, QC @ Underworld
8/19: Quebec City, QC @ L’Agipee
8/20: Ottawa, ON @ Mavericks
8/24: Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall
8/25: Greenwich, RI @ The Rock Junction
8/26: Clifton, NJ @ Dingbatz
8/29: Albany, NY @ Bogies
8/30: Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall
8/31: Marlborough, MA @ The Lazy Dog
9/1: Long Island, NY @ Revolution
9/4: Winston, Salem, NC @ Ziggy’s
9/7: Lancaster, OH @ Mickey’s
9/8: Chesterfield, MI @ New York, New York
9/12: Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s
9/13: Chicago, IL @ Double Door
9/14: Joliet, IL @ Mojoes
9/15: Janesville, WI @ Back Bar

With Alice Cooper:
11/23: Denver, CO @ The Paramount Theater
11/25: Reno, NV @ The Grand Sierra Theater
11/27: San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield Theater
11/29: Los Angeles, CA @ The Orpheum Theater

© 2012 Alan Snodgrass | www.digitaldiversion.net. Please do not use without express permission (contact). If you like what you see, leave a comment below and subscribe so you can be notified of new posts. You can also become a fan on Facebook.

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