In early 1997, Pete Bremy was surfing the internet late one night and discovered a fledgling fan website for Vanilla Fudge, the veteran American rock band known predominantly for its extended rock arrangements of contemporary hit songs, notably the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” “The site was beautiful by the standards of the day,” he recalls. “So, I emailed the webmaster, and we became pen pals. He later invited me to help him with the website and taught me basic stuff.” One by one, Fudge members Vinny Martell, Carmine Appice, Tim Bogert, and Mark Stein discovered the site. They all liked it and declared it the band’s official website. Bremy, who lives in New Jersey, eventually discovered that Martell lived not too far away, and they soon became friends. “He liked my playing and singing and asked me to join the Vince Martell Band in 2000.”
In January 2002, Vanilla Fudge reunited for a tour, but the day before the first show, bassist (and BP Lifetime Achievement Award winner) Bogert landed in the hospital with pneumonia, so Bremy got a called from drummer Appice. “He said, ‘Vinny says you know all our songs,’ which I did,” remembers Bremy. “I have a small studio at my house, complete with a Hammond B3, drum kit, and PA.” The other members of Vanilla Fudge showed up that night for an audition/rehearsal with Bremy. They paced him through their set, and then went out in the backyard for a pow-wow. “Carmine came back in and said, ‘I think this is going to work.’ The next day, less than 24 hours after Carmine’s call, we were off. I subbed for Tim for eight months. Tim eventually came back, but due to lingering ailments from a bad motorcycle accident, he retired in 2009. I took over permanently in 2010. I also replaced Tim in Cactus in 2011.”
Pete Bremy started playing drums when he was 11 years old, in 1964, for the same reason many kids his age got into music: the Beatles. When he was 13, he switched to bass, and his parents bought him a Hagstrom II. He played along to records by the Beatles, the Kinks, and DC5, and happened to catch Vanilla Fudge live on TV the day before the band’s eponymous debut album dropped in 1967. “I was 14,” he recalls, “and Tim Bogert just blew me away. So, Bogert and Paul McCartney were my two biggest influences, which is interesting, since their styles are so different.”
How faithfully do you stick to Tim’s bass lines?
Vanilla Fudge music is commonly labeled “symphonic rock.” In most of the earlier songs, all the instrumental parts are quite orchestrated, leaving not much room for improvisation. For that reason, I mostly stick to his parts in “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Take Me for a Little While,” “People Get Ready”—pretty much the entire first album. I think that’s the reason Tim’s fans have mostly accepted me. Songs like “Shotgun” and “Good Good Lovin’” offer more freedom. Admittedly, for years I wished I could have added more of my own touches. In 2015, we released a new studio album, Spirit of ’67, so that’s all me. I could finally be myself. I was in Cactus for five years, too, and we released Black Dawn in 2016, so that’s all me as well, except for two bonus lost tracks that have Tim on them.
Your bass of choice lately seems to be 6-string. Why?
I rotate between 4-, 5-, and 6-string basses—the right tool for the job. I am not a progressive player, so I use a 6-string bass mostly for chords. I also play with a trio cover band locally at home, and when the guitarist takes a solo, I dislike it when the chords go away. So, I often simplify the groove and add chords. I also sometimes cover other instrument parts. Many times, I’m told, “It sounds great, like there’s more than three guys up there”—so I must be doing something right. When I first joined the Fudge, I used my MTD 635-24, but some of the guys didn’t like it; they are more old school. They didn’t like it when Tim used a sixer, either. So, I switched to my MTD CRB 4, which is Mike Tobias’ version of a Fender Precision. On “Break on Through,” a track on Spirit of ’67, Mark Stein composed a heavy metal passage that required a low B string. We play it live, so now I’m using my MTD Saratoga 5.
Has playing with legendary drummer Carmine Appice influenced your playing style?
The biggest influence he’s had on me is better counting, timing, and syncopation. He thinks nothing of throwing a straight 32nd-note fill in the middle of a 6/8 shuffle, or, in a 4/4 groove, he’ll play a fill in 5/4 and come back where the ones meet after five bars of four—things like that. Feel goes out the window; you’d better be counting [laughs]. He did much more of that in Cactus, where we jammed a lot. In “Season of the Witch,” there is an extended guitar solo. The groove builds and gets more intense. I turn to Carmine and try to tonally and rhythmically match his fills. Occasionally, he’ll catch me and give me that evil Carmine grin, which says, “So, you think you can keep up with me, eh?” The fills get crazier and crazier until we both laugh and come back to earth.
Cactus, Black Dawn [2016, Sunset Blvd.] Vanilla Fudge, Spirit of ’67 [2015, Cleopatra]
Basses (All MTD) 63524 (USA), Saratoga 5 (USA), Kingston KZ6, Kingston Saratoga 5, fretless Kingston CRB 5, Kingston CRB 4
Rig Hartke HA5500 head, HyDrive 410 & 115 cabinets
Strings MTD Medium Custom Stainless Steel
Effects Boss DS1 Distortion, Boss CEB3 Bass Chorus