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Journey Drummer Makes His Voice Heard - The Deen Castronovo Interview
With his new Revolution Saints supergroup, drummer Deen Castronovo steps into the frontman spot and shakes up the melodic rock genre.

Deen Castronovo has put his stamp on the Journey legacy by being the band's drummer for more than 14 years. He has also been part of the best-selling supergroup Bad English, as well as Ozzy Osbourne's band and Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler's solo project G//Z/R. With his latest supergroup, Revolution Saints, Castronovo does double duty as both drummer and singer, the latter being a venture that had been uncharted for the veteran musician. 

In this conversation with Dr. Music supporter Donna G., Castronovo opens up about his spirituality, his role as a full-time singer, and the most exciting moment in his career.


Donna G.:   Hi Deen! How are you?

Deen Castronovo:   I’m very good. How are you, my friend?

DG:   I’m very well, thank you. It is my pleasure to be speaking with you today. I’ve been looking forward to this.

DC:   Awesome! It’s my pleasure to talk to you! So let’s do this! (laughs) 

DG:   I know you’ve been on the phone a lot this morning. 

DC:   It’s okay. I had a conference call with the other guys in Revolution Saints, another interview or two. I’m ready to go! This is a work day, let’s go to work!

DG:   Ever since I heard about the Revolution Saints project, I have just been so excited, looking forward to this new music. I’ve been listening to the album, and it just blows my mind!

DC:   Thank you, Donna! You know, we’re all very proud of it. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to turn out this amazing. It’s such a cool thing. I’m very grateful.

DG:   It’s got such an awesome sound. It’s a must for fans of 80’s melodic rock, but I feel like it has such an edge to it.

DC:   I think that’s Doug [Aldrich] and Jack [Blades]. Well, all of us. When we were listening to the demos I remember Jack calling me and saying, “Dude, do not play like the demos. Be. You.” I was like, “Whoa! Are you sure you want that?!” (laughs)

When we did the tracks, I did my thing and then they were sent to Jack, Jack did his magic, and then Doug just frickin’ put his spin on it and it’s just ridiculous.

DG:   It’s great for him to make a statement here with his playing. It’s a great showcase for him.

DC:   Oh, I agree. We’re all playing killer, but he’s the one that’s really making that thing edgy, and that’s huge for us.

DG:   Does being a 3-piece band have a lot do with having that freedom? Is Doug able to put a little more on a solo and things like that?

DC:    Yeah, I think so. Being a trio like we are, we’re able to be free like you were saying Donna. We’re able to be us and do what we do. For me, to have the chemistry that we have as people, as brothers, and then to go in and play the way we did - and even though we weren’t in the same room, still the vibe is there and it’s awesome.

DG:   It sounds like you guys have been playing together for years.

DC:   Isn’t it freaky! I’ve known Jack since I was 17, and [Doug] and I just bonded. He’s such an amazing player, and what an amazing human being. Doug and I actually bonded heavily in Sheffield, England. I had a tattoo party in my hotel room. I said, “Dude, come on up!” So I had about four or five guys in my room, and we’re all getting tatted up. He put his son, Ryder, on his forearm so when he plays guitar he can see it. He did that and I put my fiancé’s lips on my neck. It was awesome. (laughs)

DG:   What better way to bond?! (laughs)

DC:   Exactly…. with pain. It was awesome. (laughs)


       

DG:   How did Revolution Saints come about? I know it was the president of Frontiers Records that presented it to you. Was it presented as a solo project?

DC:   To be honest with you, at first I thought it was just going to be me playing drums on the record. And then all of a sudden it turned into “you’re going to play drums and sing.” I was like, “W-w-w-wait! I can play drums. I’ve never been a lead vocalist on an entire record.” It was scary, Donna, extremely scary. I was like, “How am I gonna pull this off!” Thank God for Jack and Allesandro [Del Vecchio] because they guided me through all the vocal process. I only had ten days to do it, and the songs were written by somebody else, the vocal melodies were written by somebody else, so I had a template but I was like, “Where should I go with this?!” Jack and Allesandro were like, “Get into the character of the song.” That’s what I had to do - breathe and focus and think, “What is this guy trying to say?” 

DG:   You sound so passionate on these songs. This album showcases you and your outstanding vocals and puts you in the spotlight. Are you comfortable with that?

DC:   You’re humbling me, my friend. I’m humbled. That is so sweet. Thank you so much. Well, I’ve been in Journey 17 years, and I’ve been singing lead on a couple of songs here and there. To be singing a whole record, like I said it was a little daunting, but now I’m comfortable in it. I see the songs, I hear the songs, I know where I’m supposed to be with these things. 

DG:   When you tour, what will you be doing? Will you be fronting the band?

DC:   Well, I think we’re going to take a page out of the Don Henley/Genesis thing. We'll have two drum kits up there. A really really close friend of mine and a great drummer, Steve Toomey, knows all of my stuff and I’ll tell you why. He’s my drum tech in Journey. He’s an amazing drummer. So we’re gonna have him come in and play and do a couple of songs when I’m fronting, and then they’ll be songs where I’m singing behind the drum kit. It’ll be a mix.

DG:   Do you have anything definite yet as far as tour plans?

DC:    The cool thing is, this is going to be a very light year for Journey. So, we’re getting offers. We just want to make sure we do it right.

DG:   The album has been getting great reviews.

DC:   I’m freakin’ out, Donna! But I gotta be honest, I’m afraid to look at them. I don’t want to hear anything about “Yeah, the singing sucks,” it’ll break my heart. (laughs) I’m not a very thick-skinned person, I never have been. My fiancé says that too. “You’re too sensitive.” I am what I am, I’m wired this way, love me! (laughs)

DG:   Well, I haven’t read anything negative. This is big. I hope this goes where I think it’s going to go.

DC:   So do I, are you kidding?! I would love to do this! Journey’s busy and we do our thing, but to have a band like this…  It was always my dream to lead sing. BUT, with Journey, and the way Arnell is, you can’t get any better than Arnell. You really can’t. He’s just a badass. He’s a brother. He’s my little brother, I’m Neal’s little brother. Journey’s a family and we all work together and it’s fantastic, but there’s no room for me to be a lead singer, and I wouldn’t want to do it with Journey. That’s too daunting. That’s scary.

   

DG:   I’ve read that you were a big Journey fan when you were growing up. I can’t imagine how it must feel to be in your position now.

DC:    I’ll tell you a story, Donna. This is cool. I think we were in New Jersey and I was with one of our security guys and we’re walking through the venue after a show and I just stopped and I looked at him and I go, “Dude, I play for Journey.” (laughs) It’s the weirdest feeling in the world. It’s surreal. I had two bands that I wanted to be in when I was growing up - Kiss or Journey. I got the killer band, I love these guys. 

DG:   Looking back on your life and all you’ve accomplished, it’s such a great story you have. 

DC:   I’m grateful to God for giving me this opportunity and for what he’s done for me. I’m a very spiritual human being, not one of those religious people but, I know where it came from and I know it can be taken away at any moment. So, I stay in gratitude all the time.

I started playing in full-on bands when I was 11, and I was with guys that were 23 or 24 and they brought in Infinity [Journey’s 1978 album] and said, “Here, learn the stuff. You’re young enough you should be able to sing it.” And sure enough, I latched on to Perry. He’s my favorite singer of all time. The greatest songwriter of my generation. He has his influences, he had Sam Cooke and his influences. My influence is Steve. He was my biggest influence as a vocalist.

DG:   I want to thank you guys for releasing this Revolution Saints album on vinyl.

DC:   You know what, that’s the coolest part! I was in Malibu shopping at an Urban Outfitters and they had records in there, and there was Journey Eclipse on vinyl. I was like, “I gotta have this!” I didn’t even know they did it!

I remember buying my first records at 6 and 7 years old. My first record ever was Alice Cooper Killer, and my brother gave it to me for my birthday. My mother, who is a staunch Catholic, saw the inside sleeve where he’s hanging, grabbed the record from my hand and threw it in the trash. My brother came in and said, “Do you like the record?” I said, “Mom threw it away.” He’s like, “What?! Hold on…” He goes into his room and grabs a Neil Diamond cover, grabs the Alice Cooper record and puts it in the Neil Diamond cover and says, “Play this on headphones.”

(laughs)

DG:   What are your favorite songs on the album? What stands out for you?

DC:   “Turn Back Time” is my number one favorite. That was the first one we did, the first one I recorded. It was done in two takes, which I love. That one and I really really love “In The Name Of The Father”. That was written for Serafino’s [Perugino] father who passed away. I started crying a little bit. I started getting teary because I got into the character of what the song was about, and it was huge. That one was beautiful.

DG:   A lot of people are going to be amazed by this record and your vocal capabilities. There are a lot of similarities between your voice and Steve Perry.

DC:   The song that Arnell did with me, “You’re Not Alone,” I listen to his vocal part, honestly, and that’s a lead singer. I’m a hack compared to that guy. He’s a freak of nature, in my opinion. I listen back and I hear his passion and his soul and go, “That’s what I need.” 

DG:   I’m glad you mentioned Arnell’s contribution because I wanted to ask you about the song you do with Neal Schon, “Way To The Sun”. How did that come about?

DC:   Serafino asked me, “Do you think that Neal would play a solo?” I said, “Well, I can certainly ask.” I gave him a song and he was like, “You know what, let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.” It took a couple months and he finally went in and NAILED it. Of course… Again, one of the greatest songwriters of my generation. When he played it I knew. Hello?! It’s Neal. He’s a god!

DG:   When you look back on your career, whether it’s with Journey or Bad English or whoever, what are some of the highlights? What are the things that make you smile, and the things you’ll always remember and cherish?

DC:   Obviously, my first big job was Bad English. That was like, “What the heck?!” Number one singles…. and I remember the day it went platinum. It was October 31st, and I cried. I was in tears and thought, “Oh my God. I got a platinum record!” Very heavy. So that’s probably my fondest memory. To see me, a little kid from Salem, Oregon who used to work in the nursing home, go from that to a huge supergroup. Still, it’s like “Wow.” 

DG:   I feel like I’ve been talking to an old friend. It was so wonderful talking to you - an honor to talk to you - and you’ll see me in first row on the tour!

DC:   Awesome, my friend! God bless you, and have a great day!





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