Journey: The 2005 Generations Interviews
By Andrew McNeice
See the full article with photos:
Part 1 - Deen Castronovo. Drummer Deen talks about his part in the new Journey album as well as his fight with drugs and alcohol and on a brighter note, his debut as a lead vocalist.
Deen Castronovo joined Journey at the same time singer Steve Augeri did. Seven years have now passed and the versatile drummer has truly made himself at home. He has now made a name for himself as a great singer after taking some lead vocals from singer Steve Augeri during the 2004 tour.
Making a name for himself in Bad English and from there to Hardline (again with Schon) and Ozzy Osbourne amongst many others, the power house drummer has won many friends and fans over the years.
Time to let him to the talking.
How are you Deen?
How ya going bro!
Doing well. You?
Doing great…relaxing on a day off.
Sorry to interrupt your day for some work!
Oh dude…are you kidding? It's the least I could do. It's my job! I love it! Haha
So how are things?
Excellent bro, excellent…first show of the tour was great…everything is going good - I'm just glad I'm out here.
You bet. Lot of questions for you today! Really pleased to talk to you again. Got the album here, so lots of questions.
I guess the biggest one right now is not about Deen the drummer, but Deen the singer!
Yeah, that's kind of a new thing. I love it dude...I mean to be able to sing Journey songs for me is a dream come true. I have always wanted to do this and I am very thankful that Neal, Jon, Steve and Ross have given me a chance to do it.
Obviously you don't get a great voice overnight, but you have never previously been known as a lead singer before!
Just backgrounds…this is the first time I have been able to sing on a record. To be honest with you, I have never ever been able to sing on a record and I love it.
For them to let me even do the songs...I was begging to do at least one and they gave me two and that was a dream come true bro. It's amazing.
Yeah, I'll get to those tracks in a minute, they sound fantastic though, I'm really impressed.
Thank you bro.
The idea for you to start singing – you started on the last tour? The 2004 tour?
Exactly – the 2004 tour. I started with 'Mother Father' and 'After The Fall' and it just kind of spiraled from there.
Neal was my big cheerleader actually. That guy was like, you gotta give him a chance.
Thank God Stevie let me have a chance. I owe him a ton.
I can't say enough good things about Steve as a person. He's a wonderful individual isn't he?
I agree…I love him to death. Every one of these guys I would take a bullet for.
They are more brothers to me than my own family bro! Haha
You probably spend more time with the band!
They don't ask me for money and stuff – it's great! Haha
True to a point that you were allowed or given the chance to sing to give Steve a bit of a break as well?
Yeah, I think so. It was one of those things you know, where we had a couple of songs we wanted to do and Steve was like 'let Deen have a bit of a chance' and at first it was awkward for both of us. It was kind of weird.
But Stevie has big kuhonas man and he let me have it and it was very cool.
It was no secret that Steve had some off nights on tour. For you to step in was great for him and for the band obviously.
Oh I agree. It's a team and if someone goes down and if Stevie has a rough night I am there to pick up the slack whatever it takes.
That's the best thing about this band – there is so much talent and there is so much ability in each member. I like the fact that we pull for each other and there's not like there is a lot of ego involved.
And that's a blessing bro, because I have been involved in some bands where there is some heavy ego's.
Ha ha – you know the band's I have been in!!! haha This is wonderful where there is no animosity and everyone is pulling for each other and I love that.
That is what being in a band and being a musician is all about. It's enjoying what you do and nobody freaking out if someone gets a little bit more of this or more of that. There is nothing like that in this band and I love it.
I couldn't imagine you doing a lead vocal for Bad English.
Oh no…I'd get my butt kicked! [laughs - long and loud!]
I love John Waite and he's one of my favorite singers of all time.
That was his gig. I was brand new and Bad English was my first gig and I just kinda did what they told me! Which was cool.
And now you are wielding the sword aren't you?!
Oh yeah! Hahaha
Steve and you – did you guys sit down and talk about this?
Well, you know…at first we did. We had a talk and I said Bro, is this was ok?
He said yes, it's a good thing and there is plenty to go around. He and I - I'm his biggest fan and he is my biggest fan and we really feed off each other.
And that's what was neat – there was no ego. You would think with a singer there would be 'screw this I don't want to have him do this, this is my job' – but he did it – and this is a bad pun bro, but he did it with open arms bro.
He said 'do what you need to do' and that shows what kind of human being he is and what kind of man we are dealing with here – a true class act.
I read a couple of reviews where Steve signaled to you – take the high note.
Oh yeah, and that's cool. What ever it takes man. Most of the time he doesn't need it, but if he does, I'm there – that's what makes it great.
People obviously love Steve and people love what your doing. What about some calls out there for Deen to be the new lead singer?
I've got two words for you bro – NO CHANCE! Hahaha
Dude, I'll tell you something - the best thing about doing what I'm doing is that I have all those drums to cover me up!
I could never be a front man I told those guys I would stand in front with a podium, a microphone and my eyes shut the entire night.
It is really scary. Stevie has the charisma and the personality to pull it off. It's just not who I am - I'm a drummer.
I'm like Phil Collins! I have seen him live and he doesn't do anything…he just stands there and when it's time to play he goes and smokes. I am a drummer first and a singer second.
That's my life bro…it's a great life.
A couple of things…first drumming and then vocally. This is a three hour show. With the stamina involved - how do you keep up with it?
I'll tell you something…four or five years ago I wouldn't have been able to do it. I was pretty messed up on drugs and alcohol and the band had an intervention with me and got me on the straight and narrow.
It's been great, I lost 60 pounds and that is the only way I could do it – off the drugs and alcohol and with the weight loss. I am able to do 3 hours with no problem.
I remember seeing you backstage in 2003 and you had lost a lot of weight.
Yeah, and a lot of people thought oh no, he's relapsed…he's back on drugs...but no, I just stopped eating crap! haha
I really watch what I eat now. I'm 40 years old now and you just can't keep going to McDonalds and Burger King – you just can't do it.
Especially now, doing this kind of work and traveling I was living proof that Super Size Me is real!
It's a lot better now….fish and chicken and power bars/slim fast – nothing fun!
It's a bummer…you get older and it's like, all the fun stuff is done. No drinking, no drugs, no girls, no good food…no nothing! Hahaha
Thank God for rock n roll!
It is a hard life on the road though isn't it? You have to look after yourself.
Very much so bro. I mean, it's something…when you need sleep you have to get it – at any time you can. I do a lot of resting. It's a different lifestyle. Everyone thinks its all and games and it probably was in the past. I never really got into the heavy heavy aspects of the rock n roll lifestyle when I was on the road.
When I came off the road I had money and nothing to do. And that was my problem.
Now it's a different thing though. I have a 15 year old son that is playing in a band now – he's a drummer!
He's a little monster….he loves the heavy stuff! He is following in my footsteps and I'm trying to help him as much as possible. I have an 8-week old boy now. I haven't seen him in two and a half weeks now and it's just crushing my heart. But that's what I do – it's my life. I'm a musician and I'm a dad.
Do you have some breaks from touring to catch up with him?
Yeah, I'll get a little bit of time to see him. Usually we go for 3 weeks then take a week off…go for another 3 and take another week off. I'll get a little bit of time to see him. I just hope he remembers who I am!! Haha
It's funny you have a son – I talk to Steve Lukather and he has a son who has son playing guitar – you guys need to hook up!
Yeah, it's funny. I was talking to our manager John Baruck, I said dude, you have to hook my son up with Woflgang Van Halen!
I know he's a great little player, but nothing ever came of it. I'm, still bugging him!
I'm not bragging as a dad, but my boys got stuff I can't even do. Dang dude! That's because he is listing to guys like Fear Factory and that heavy stuff.
How do you keep your feet moving for 3 hours?
You have to keep well, well hydrated. As soon as I get dehydrated, you begin to cramp.
My sister is a pharmacist, she said the best thing to do is get a big ol' bottle of tonic water and just chug it. It helps cramps and sure enough, as soon as I down that stuff, the cramps stop.
As we get into the tour more I'm sure I will get a little more stamina going.
I haven't played 3 hours in my life - this is the first time!
On that – the first set features you on vocals there quite a bit.
Oh dude, when I was 11 years old, the first songs I ever learnt were Journey songs. I had these guys that were 25-30 years old going here's 'Infinity' – learn these songs and since you have the prepubescent voice, you gotta sing it!
Those songs are so so special to me. To me, to this day – Steve Perry is and always will be God of vocals – the man can do no wrong.
I have ripped him off blind, just like I ripped off Steve Smith! Haha But I tell them that!
If you are going to steal, steal from the best!
Amen! Did you catch up with Steve Perry at the Walk Of Fame event?
You know, I shook his hand and said 'nice to meet you', I was just in awe. I turned the corner and my heart skipped – it was like, Oh My God, he's here!
To me that was the highlight of the event – to get to see my idol.
That was the coolest thing. To have him show up dude, it would not have been as special without him. I was praying he would be there.
I don't have any right to be there – I don't have anything to do with that legacy, but he needed to be there.
Did you have any time to chat at all?
Just an introduction and that was it…the rest of the time I was just staring at him. I'm a fan just like anyone else. It was freaking me out - the coolest thing ever!
Well, let's talk about your imitation of him on the record!
Yeah, I've stolen blind! Haha
Journey's sound is very distinct. When you get these songs, It's hard not to. For me it's very hard not to sound like Steve Perry as that's who I grew up listening to.
Even though I listen to metal and am a real heavy metal freak, Journey was always a guilty pleasure.
You liked Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer…but still, Journey was always my favourite.
Steve Augeri has his own style and that is so cool about him, but I'm just a good chameleon.
I think you have got some of your own style there too Deen.
I hope so…I don't know. After I sang it, I listened to it a couple of times and I start picking it apart, I don't like that...I should have done that better…so I don't know.
On 'A Better Life' you sing in an octave lower than you probably normally would live and I think it sounds very soulful.
Oh, thank you bro. I was listening to it thinking I could have done this better…I just pick it apart.
No, very soulful!
Thank you Andrew, thank you so much. I was a blessing to be able to do that song. I go tin the studio and was like, 'please Steve Steve Steve, please please let me do that one' and he said go ahead. Excellent!
One of my favourite songs on the whole album is actually 'It's Never Too Late!'
Dude, let me tell you about that song. The first day I heard that song was the day I got out of rehab. Those boys – all three of them, Neal, Jon and Ross flew up to Oregon. I come walking out the doors and they are standing there and I tell you, it was the most emotional time in my life.
They said 'here, listen to this'. Jack [Blades], Neal and Jonathan had written it and I just cried…I mean it was just such a major thing.
I mean that's my life right here – drugs and alcohol. Just a freaking mess.
You know what…you didn't write the song obviously. But when I listened to it, the emotion in your vocal just came right through to me immediately and you are singing with such conviction.
You have just explained why I felt that emotion.
Let me tell you something…when we were doing the recording – when we were doing the song – not the vocal – just the basic tracking…when we got to the middle, I start tearing up. I'm like the biggest puss on the planet – I am what I am you know, I'm just real sensitive.
The song was real special to me and it really hit home - it showed me where I was.
And here I am doing this record clean and sober and I'm seeing where I am now.
It was very emotional for me.
We were singing the song…I was in there singing and we got to the lead solo and I started tearing up again.
And that's when Steven came up and said 'man, that's yours. It's very special to you; it's very dear to you, that's yours. You sing it'.
I'll never forget that man, that song is very emotional for me and I hear it now and think Wow, God has given me a big chance here…I'm alive.
I was going to ask you how you landed lead vocal on that track.
Yeah, that was a Stevie call. He said 'that ones special, you take it'.
I wish it was on the US version also.
So do I dude! Haha
But I love it – it was a great song and Kevin Elson is a great producer.
He was so inspiring doing this record. He another one, you know…this whole band is my idol and with Kevin producing was like I was bowing…I'm not worthy!
I'm a big fan of his from way back.
I know…every record he's produced!
Yep, Night Ranger, Mr Big…
…and the Europe records…everything! He's the king!
'A Better Life'…tell us a little more about that song.
That was one that Jonathan and Neal had written and they were demoing it up and I think first Neal was going to sing it and Jonathan ended up doing a demo of it vocally and they wanted me to do the choruses for Stevie as a reference…cause Stevie wasn't there. They said 'just do the chorus as a reference vocal so he knows what the melody goes like'. I put it in and everyone was saying wow that sounds really good.
And that's when Stevie said 'let him have It…I have enough songs' and that was really cool.
I get chills when I hear it
Those guys are the best writers on the planet dude…I have played with a lot of guys and these guys and I'm just home. I feel like I am home. They're the kings!
You also – aside from vocally – I feel like you put your stamp on this album as far as drumming.
Again, they let me have a lot of room. Where as before, on Arrival – Kevin Shirley is a great producer also – I had to do what they want.
They said that's 'too busy' play this. And I was basically doing demo drumming work – here is the demo, play like the demo.
Here, I sat with Kevin Elson and said 'I want to open this up a little bit, I want to try this'.
He would say 'yeah, that sounds great, try that'.
There's still the pop sensibility of course…you gotta play for the song obviously.
But there were times like in the middle of Out Of Harms Way when I'm doing that drumming…
That just came out. I wasn't even planning on doing that, it came out in the studio and Kevin was like 'that was baaaad'!!
I was going to do a straight beat through there and I came up with that tom thing and they were all like, 'that was killer'.
A lot of it was very spare of the moment stuff.
I was going to mention this to Neal and Jonathan, but 'Out Of Harms Way' is something I would like to hear Journey do more of.
Oh dude, I'm telling you….we played that live and people were freaking!
I love that tune…classic Neal. Wicked riff and a lot of power.
And I love the drum fill on the back end of Faith In The Heartland.
Oh excellent dude!
I love that last couple of minutes.
That was another thing…I wasn't planning on doing that…I came up with that bell thing. That was all on the spot stuff. That's what I love this band. No one says I didn't like that or anything…it was just flowing.
It sounds pretty inspired.
Very much so bro, I was ready for this record man…I mean ultra ready. We did a lot of rehearsal and stuff. I wanted this to be special.
I have done a lot of records and this one – not blowing smoke – is probably by far the most fun I have had on record and the most challenging for me as a player. Not for chops and stuff, but for playing the song correctly and making the song sound good.
They were all one or two takes at the most. We'd do one take and Kevin would go
that was great. I'd say, 'man, I can smoke that one'….I'd get another one and they'd say, 'yeah, that's the one'!
One or two takes man, it's not record science.
It's a far looser record isn't it?
Yeah, it just feels good. It sounds like was feel more comfortable as a band.
I'll never forget this – Ted Nugent said this once. He heard the second Bad English record and he said to Neal 'man, it sounds like you guys freaking hate each other'.
I was like – he was right! We were at each other's throats on that record!
It was a dark record that one.
I guess it came through. I never really noticed it, but you can tell on this record that it's definitely a team and we are on a mission and it's cool.
It sounds cool.
Well, you know this stuff in and out. You have been a cheerleader for us since day 1 bro and I have to thank you very much.
I love the band.
It shows…my heartfelt thank you.
Thanks Deen. So when's the solo album coming out?
Haha…you know if I do a solo record, it's going to be thrash…like Fear Factory!
Do you ever see yourself doing a record?
You know, I'd love to…but I wouldn't know where to start. I don't write music. Like I said, I am a good chameleon. Someone can say play this and do that and I can do that.
But I have never been able to create on my own; I'm not that kind of guy. You have guys like Phil Collins and Don Henley that can write their own stuff.
I wouldn't know where to start!
Hook me up bro, get me some songs, let's do a solo record together!! Haha
I'll get you some songs.
That'd be great!
No doubt a major disappointment to yourself would be the Soul SirkUS record.
Oh dude…still, to this day, it crushes my heart that I could not do that.
I'll tell you what happened. I got sick just before we went to Jamaica. I had that really wicked flu and it lasted me about 4 to 5 weeks. I just started getting better, got on the boat and played the show and got bronchitis so bad I could hardly breathe.
Then 2 weeks later we were going to do Soul SirkUS and my doctor, he prescribed me this stuff – he thought I was bi-polar. It took this stuff and was so dehydrated that it was like getting pure doses of this stuff – I had no water, no fluids and I almost died!
I was in the Emergency Room and the doctor said, well you can either go on the road and die, or you can go home and get yourself well.
And I had to tell Neal this. It broke his frickin' heart. Not only that, but it broke my heart that I had to hurt him.
Because, I tell you Andrew, if it was not for Neal Schon, my career would not exist.
I would do anything for him.
I told him the other day, if you ever need me again, I am there. I know Virgil Donati is frightening….dude, I can't even do a quarter of what that man can do. He is scary…I mean, stupid scary!
What the hell was that!
There are not many dudes that could touch that man, but I said to Neal if you ever need me, if Virgil can't do it - I'd love to come home. I miss it so much. Jeff is amazing, Marco is frightening and Neal, he is my brother man. I would do anything for him.
Maybe God willing one day I'll be able to do it again, but that really crushed my heart not to be able to do that.
Actually, it's hard for me – I have never heard the record with Virgil. I have never heard it. I can't – it hurts.
I'm glad I got that version with you also.
You're lucky, I gave all mine away to friends.
I had to buy it from the Warner site!! Haha
Oh, what a bastard!
You know my health at that point…some day I'll be able to make it up to them.
I had to stay at home and get well.
Go away and die, or stay at home and get well. You know, I had these bottles and bags of Saline going into my body. I mean, I went into hospital when I got home and they had 2 big liters suck in each arm trying to get my re-hydrated.
I couldn't get out of bed! My wife and mother came down to help…I couldn't get out of bed – literally! To see the look on Neal's face – I was so hurt and he was too.
I would do anything for him….except have his baby! Hahaha
Well fabulous talking to you Deen.
You too Andrew…thank you so much for calling.
My pleasure. Thanks for taking some time out of your day off to chat. Dinner time now?
Actually I'm off to an AA meeting with my sponsor and one of our tour managers. Going to have a little meeting and then we're of to watch Batman.
Congratulations Deen, I have the utmost respect for you for doing that.
You know…it was either that or die. Using drugs and alcohol is definitely an installment plan! I thank God for the guys in this band, if it is wasn't for them I'd probably be in a box six feet under.
Hang in there man. You have a good one man.
You too. You got it! Keep in touch.
Do you have e-mail yet Deen?
You know what, I don't….computers scare me because they are smarter than me. Hahaha.
They do suck!
I can't type either. I beat on stuff for a living bro, that's all you need to know.
You do a good job at that!
Thank you bro…have a great night. God Bless.
© 2005 MelodicRock.com / Interview By Andrew McNeice