Journey's Deen Castronovo Will "Really Blow Your Mind"; Talks Sopranos and Social Distortion
Deen Castronovo might just be the complete embodiment of the American dream. His résumé is enviable, and with four decades holding down the skins for some of rock's biggest names, he hasn't been above some surprises. Although he might be predominantly known as Journey's longest-running drummer since joining its ranks in 1998, his CV includes stints with Ozzy Osbourne, Wild Dogs, Steve Vai, and Social Distortion.
But like all good supermen, Deen's a humble man who continually feels blessed to be involved with one of rock's biggest acts, and hearing him talk about the overall experience, you'll have to pinch yourself a few times over to realize that you are not talking to a kid fresh out of the conservatory. A powerhouse drummer and clearly a versatile one at that, Deen is also known for his vocals and instruction methodology.
With Journey poised to kick off the second leg of its three-year Eclipse Tour with a two-night stay at Hard Rock Live, Deen is a joyous man full of bonhomie who took the time to speak with us while working with his fiancée to "furniture up" and decorate their new home. We can only hope we helped stave off some of his home chores.
- Photos: Journey at Cruzan Amphitheatre
New Times: OK, first off the bat, I have to ask about your background playing drums, because you've played with some bands that you'd never associate in the same room let alone the same record collection.
Deen Castronovo: Oh yeah.
Ozzy Osbourne? Social Distortion?
Social D! I love that band!
Bad English, Journey... That's very eclectic, man.
Oh man, I've been on so much stuff, even some albums I'm not even allowed to tell you about because of confidentiality agreements... There's some stuff that will really blow your mind. [laughs]
Well, let's not incriminate anyone in this, then.
"City of Hope"
I like Social Distortion, but I've always thought that Mike Ness has been living on borrowed time given his excessive behavior in his youth; what was it like playing with those guys?
Oh dude, Mike was the sweetest freaking guy and Dennis as well -- may he rest in peace. They were so sweet. I came in to do it as a favor to Michael Beinhorn, since I had done the Ozzy record with him, and he goes look, I need you to do me a favor, if you can do this record, you know, it's not big money, but they have no drummer... And I was, of course! I love Social D!
We did 14 songs in four days and seriously nailed them! We had such a blast, and they were so sweet, because for me, I was so intimidated because, number one, it's Mike Ness and Social Distortion, and these guys have more tattoos than I've ever seen on anybody in my life! It was fantastic, such an amazing and humble guy Mike is. Just freaking humble.
Well, when I saw Social Distortion on your rap sheet, it didn't make any sense, but now I guess it does.
Now I gotta ask you some Arnel Pineda stuff.
Sure man, I'm available for that.
Now, my lady friend is a Journey freak, she's seen the band play pretty much every time you've played in South Florida since 1986...
Honestly, Abel, what girl is not a Journey freak?
Well yeah, but...
That's gotta be the coolest thing; what woman doesn't?
It's true, I get it, I get it, but I've endured so many conversations about the band that turn into arguments that aren't really arguments since she's arguing with herself for whatever reason and just projects it at me.
Oh! I know that feeling! [laughs]
"Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'" (drum solo)
Yeah, you know what I'm talking about, but she was all, if you have any Arnel questions just ask him, but in reality, all I really want to know since I'm a huge Filipino food fan was if he had any weird food demands while on the road.
You know, it's not that it's weird so much as what he is comfortable eating and what his body is used to eating... You can't take a guy who's been living in the Philippines his whole life and just feed him cheeseburgers and fries. That's just not what he does; he has a strict diet and eats very healthy, he's only forty-five but he's very health-conscious. He knows that whatever he puts in his body is going to mess with his voice.
So he's really on top of what he eats, and has an amazing assistant that cooks for him and that he has the food that he needs... The weirdest thing I've ever seen him eat was balut. You know what balut is?
Oh, yeah dude! I was like, what, what? You're going to eat that? Are you serious? I'd never seen anything like it! But that's about the weirdest thing I've ever seen. If that's your culture, God bless you! Whatever he needs so we can keep him sane all year? We'll feed him anything! [laughs]
That's cool. I was just wondering if he was forcing you guys to eat dinuguan?
Oh, what? No, [laughs] we still go for the cheeseburgers!
When I was first given this assignment, James Gandolfini was alive, and it's unfortunate that he has passed, but now I gotta ask you because there are huge Sopranos fans out there that will always remember the end of the show with the Journey song. You already have a pretty big umbrella over popular culture, but I think that fortified it even more.
What was your opinion on the ending of the show?
Let me tell you, I wasn't involved in any of the, uhm, picking of that or any of that; that was Steve Perry and Neal Schon. I did not even know that it was going to be on the show until after the fact, and while I didn't really watch The Sopranos that much, but after watching it, it was just the coolest thing ever. And you're right, it opened the doors to such a broad spectrum of fans that it was just ridiculous.
I was a big fan of the show, and a lot of people were talking about oh, what did the ending mean? And I think that any other song played at the end there would've leant a completely different impact on the open interpretation of the show's ending.
I agree. I remember Steve talking about it and being worried about his song being in the last scene where Tony gets whacked, but the producers assured him, no, no, no, that's not going to happen; we can't tell you the ending, obviously, but it's not going to be a bunch of bloodshed, so Steve signed off on it.
I didn't really see the impact of it until a couple of days later when it all came out.
The Sopranos final scene
That scene is seared into my memory, edited with the song, so it's pretty powerful.
When James passed away, they were showing that last scene, and I was like man, what? What a huge door that was for us to open. Just huge, huge. That show was groundbreaking, pretty much the first time anything on TV pushed the limits on language and violence like that; it was a really groundbreaking show.
So to have that, it was amazing.