Vince Martell
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How did the touring affect you?

    After the first album three of us (four in the group, Phil Basille and Shadow Morton) out of the six wanted to stay in the studio and keep the creative process going, and the other three wanted to get out and play since there was already a demand for live performances happening. We ended up going out and touring. Once we did, the chemistry did change - everybody's head changed a little bit. After that we never were able to get into the studio and come across the same way.

    Not that the sound wasn't still good, because after touring we did Renaissance - my favorite album. Renaissance gave me the chance to get into some heavy solos. My own original Thoughts was on that one, and I did the vocals on Season Of The Witch...

    Creatively [Renaissance] was really happening and I think a real showcase for the talents of the entire group. We always wanted to do our max, and we didn't want any kind of boundaries. Boundaries go kind of against the natural way I think that everybody who gets up on stage would just like to "create". Again I'd have to thank Phil and Shadow for also encouraging us in that direction - to do what we felt and not worry about what anybody at any other level thought.


Were there any limits?

    We had our own parameters -- we didn't want to sound pretentious, or overdo arrangements. There's a fine line with all that stuff. It's very easy to put a little too much paprika or salt in the soup, and all of a sudden you've blown it and everything was great all the way up until there but you just... you know? Fortunately with music you can always go back and fix it, but with soup... [laughs]

    I would always go by feel. You can't wait until while you're playing a tune to feel like 'yes, we should be ending this tune now, we're bedragging this thing' -- you can't wait that long. Before you get to that feel you've gotta get out of it. We were fortunate in that everybody clicked to the point where we were approaching that fine line without going over it, yet still pushing the edge of the envelope. It worked out, because the music still stands up today.


With everybody playing for the max, were there times when a group member would consciously pull back?

    The way we did it, we all had to work with everybody else's way of playing, nobody ever told anyone else how to play. We had enough respect for each other's talents. Of course, everybody would also come out and say what they thought, but it wasn't like one guy would feel that he knew more and he didn't want another guy not to do something.

    For instance, [Vanilla Fudge] had a heavy-duty drum and bass section going. Timmy's a great bass player, he's all over the place - it's wonderful because he's able to add things to the music that normally wouldn't be there... and Carmine, also, working the bass drum with Timmy. If Carmine was doing some kind of accents I would try to accent his accents. I used to play the drums and I'm very percussion oriented (even in my way of life, I think). So if the drums did some kind of percussive something I would be looking to capitalize on that, then if I did something I would hear Carmine do the same. Sometimes it would really come together and you would hear things that you really didn't plan on.

    Today in the studio, of course, you might go in and lay down a rhythm track very slow and very straight, because you're going to build on that. But back then in recording there was very little overdubbing, it was pretty much straight-ahead live. So I would play rhythm parts, but I would try to make them as exciting and all-out, to-the-max as possible. That's my general way of trying to do things. It worked out with everybody that if I was doing something, and Mark would be doing a wind-up, and Timmy was doing a flurry of his, and Carmine... everybody was able to keep it together and we sounded like... um... like the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse... [laughs]


How did you feel about the various groups that Vanilla Fudge toured with... groups that you opened for and groups that opened for you?

    Well, the biggest one was Hendrix. I enjoyed that. We did thirteen dates in a row. There's a book, The Electric Gypsy that mentions all the dates that Hendrix did. If you look under the index for what it says about Vanilla Fudge it's interesting - it's good.

    I talked to Hendrix a couple of times like this, but he was like a god at the time. We just hung around him, we weren't necessarily looking to talk to him. There was like an aura around him wherever he played. There was one time - I don't remember how many people were in the place, 5-10 thousand, maybe more, in a coliseum? In between songs he was talking and there was this one couple - extra dressed up for a concert - that got up to leave for whatever reason. They had to walk towards the stage down an aisle to get out... so Hendrix said something like "Well sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" and you didn't hear anybody say anything, it was just these people walking out. It was like when he was around people didn't want to miss a trick - they wouldn't say anything, do anything, there was like no extra-curricular activities going on. Everything was like zeroed in on him.

    As I said, I talked to him a couple of times - in fact we did a recording that must be around somewhere, somebody must have it - at Steve Paulsine's (he became Johnny Winter's manager for a while) The Scene on 46th Street. At night when the night life would die out a lot of Rock musician's would go and jam there.
    There was a jam going on one night and Carmine, me, Buddy Miles, Hendrix, and a handful of other people were hanging out. Eddie Kramer, Hendrix's engineer, said, "Let's go down to the Record Plant..." after they were closing up The Scene. The Record Plant was on 43rd Street, right down 8th Avenue, so we all walked down. Eddie had the key and let us all in, he put the machines on, and we were going to do a jam. Hendrix let me do the first solo, I was using a big fat 05 guitar at the time - the one I used on Near The Beginning. The guy was like a gentleman and a half, letting me do that solo.

    Recently I saw Eddie Kramer out at the KISS convention and I asked him about that tape. He said he didn't remember it... but that tape must be someplace, and someday it'll surface.

    Then Led Zeppelin used to open for us when they first came over to this country over on the west coast, and I talked to them a few times. Once we went up to Robert Plant's hotel room and he had a large suitcase with all of his records from Europe - this was before cassettes were really abundant. He was a real nice, low key, regular guy. Then we did something with the Doors over in Seattle, and Janis Joplin, we did gigs with her.

    Also Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape... One time when we were doing a gig with them someplace on the west coast, Frisco or Seattle, or somewhere... Mark and I were walking through the hotel - this was the afternoon - and there was a door open where we could see a couple of girls in this room. So we walk in and we start talking to them... "Hey, how ya doin'..." and you know, we saw them as a couple of babes over here hanging out or whatever. And who comes walking in but Jerry Miller, Moby Grape's guitar player, and another guy from the band - and it was apparent that these were their girlfriends. So we go "Hi guys, how are ya..." and we scooted out of there real quick. The girls had never let on...

    The thing I remember about all the groups, we were there to blow 'em off the stage - and vice versa. You didn't socialize or make friends too much, because of the competition we all felt. Especially being from New York and they're from the West Coast, and we're thinking they feel the same thing - they're looking to put us down in a performance. You be as nice as you can but you try and keep to your own business because you're going to hit that stage soon.

    Today it would be a different story, but back then you had to go on and go over heavier than them, no matter what you had to do - go crazy.


So in addition to creating music the Fudge kept the performing fresh as well?

    Oh yes, we were still very much into the moving thing.

    When we would get up on stage that was the idea. A lot of the groups were into the performance end. Anytime we went anyplace we'd keep a very mellow attitude before we went on, because you don't want to let on that you're planning to get up and destroy the whole place... [laughs]. When we did get up we'd try to put all the energy we had into the performance.

    There's so many things that go into playing - our group would kind of let everybody do what they felt and the music was able to keep it together. When it did come together our performances brought some great write-ups on their own - even on the Hendrix tour. Like when we played with The Who in the Royal Albert Hall in London we got a better write-up than they did, and they were the biggest group in England at the time.

    Looking back, we were able to do the performances because the group was tight at the time, and very tight with the music we were doing. We could all give it our max and still keep the music together. That's one of the keys, you have to get the music so second nature that you don't even have to think about it [during a performance].


What are your thoughts on the break up of Vanilla Fudge? Was it time?

    It wasn't time. We broke up because we had been together so much in the years of '67 to '70 that we had only two two-week periods off. The rest of the time we were always going, we'd only have a couple days here and there. After a couple days off we would get back together on the way to the airport and everybody had things to say, but by the time we hit the airport nobody was talking. We had talked the old stuff out so much, and now we just finished talking the new stuff... that's kind of what did it.

    What we should have done was taken a year off -- taken two years off. Do nothing, get away from everybody..

    The smart thing for any new groups to do: Get together, get the run going. When the run is going take a break... like the Stones... take two years off, then do a world tour. You've gotta have your breaks, you know, you're not married to each other. Otherwise you get to the point where you're not being yourself, you're walking on eggs a little bit. It gets to the point where you've got to get away or you're going to start telling the other person how you feel...

    That's kind of what happened with us, though not quite that bad. We were just together too much. We were in Italy when we decided that when we came back to the States we'd call it quits. And I was looking for the time off, so it was fine by me. But in retrospect we should have taken time off while planning to get together later on... we really got too sidetracked.

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