Deen Castronovo has a long established musical career from the early days with Wild Dogs and several Shrapnel guitarists’ solo projects. He then hit a peak of commercial success with Bad English before moving onto Journey, before he departed their musical ranks in 2015. Relatively quiet musically, he returned with a supergroup project along with Doug Aldrich and Jack Blades. Revolution Saints, as the new band are called, are about to release their second album and I had the opportunity to have a long discussion with the main vocalist/and drummer Deen himself ahead of its release next month.
ANTIHERO: Revolution Saints, you’ve got a new album coming out.
Deen Castronovo: Yes sir, coming out on October 13th. Yeah, I’m excited about it, it’s going to be great.
ANTIHERO: I’ve noticed that it’s been recorded in several different studios. Do you guys travel around different studios, do you do bits in your own studio and send it online? How does that, the album, come together?
Deen Castronovo: Well this time, we did all the drums tracks and bass tracks in Somma Lombardo, Italy, at Alessandro Del Vecchio’s studio. So, we did all the drums and bass there and then I did all my vocals there as well, and when Doug would finish the guitars he would actually be on the road with Dead Daisies, he just worked his tail off. So, he would actually write these songs and record these songs while on the bullet train at the same time and then send me the files, and it’s Alessandro who would, he took a lot of time on this bro, a couple of months, good two to three months on this.
So, that’s kind of how we recorded it, it was interesting and then we finished up stuff, Doug did the rest of his stuff at his house, Jack did his stuff at his house and my stuff was done so I just came home.
ANTIHERO: Is that something that you enjoy, recording that way, or do you prefer like the old school method of just jamming ideas live in the studio?
Deen Castronovo: To have the entire band in the room together writing and recording is always the best, but with this project it’s really not set up like that because Jack’s got Night Ranger and Doug’s got the Daisies and I’ve got this, so I’m putting all my eggs in a basket here but I think it would be better for us to just get together and record, write and record, most of the stuff was pretty much done again by Alessandro so Doug fixed it, what he could, and then I fixed what I could,, but there’s nothing like going into the studio and writing and recording the stuff, do you know. Nothing like that.
ANTIHERO: Yeah, sure. There’s certainly a different form of magic in that format.
Deen Castronovo: There’s nothing like that all the time.
ANTIHERO: What about the lyrics? Did you actually write all the lyrics on the album, given that you’re the vocalist?
Deen Castronovo: Well, you know on some of the stuff I did, like actually my first song ever written was “Freedom”, so that was my first stab at doing anything because I was in Journey for many, many years. I didn’t have to write anything, because those guys are the best writers on the planet. But if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. So, I never had to do that. So, for this I will give it a shot, it came out good, and then the lyrics were already pretty much written. Alessandro had an idea of what he wanted and what I was going through and the things that were happening and stuff, it was really important to get that out and he really did a great job and I just fixed a few things here and there, but mostly those are his.
ANTIHERO: So, do you sing all the lead vocals on the album, yeah?
Deen Castronovo: Yes, with the exception of one, which Jack would do, “A Light in the Dark,” a little duet, which is pretty cool. I love Jack’s voice. I mean Jack’s an icon.
ANTIHERO: Does it not surprise people that you have a hell of a voice as well as knowing you for your drumming?
Deen Castronovo: Thank you, but I’m very… I’m a drummer that happens to sing pretty good. That’s all, that’s as far as I give it. I’ve always been a drummer, that’s what I did and I just wanted to sing backgrounds to help out. Do you know what I mean? It wasn’t about being a lead singer, so it’s kind of weird for me, I’m not going to lie. I’ve never been in this territory. I’m not sure if I’m comfortable in it yet. I don’t mind singing behind the drum kit, I could do that all day long.
But being up front, which was what we were going to try and do a kind of a psychology-type thing, I don’t know. We will see, we will see, other than that we will see if I can pull it off or, if not, I go back to the kit.
ANTIHERO: I mean, so you could have applied for that position… a few years back when Journey were looking for a singer, you could have done that.
Deen Castronovo: You know, people have said that, I wouldn’t have want it. Let’s just be honest. I would not want that gig. That is a gnarly gig for any singer. I don’t care who you are, you know, I mean Arnel has pulled it off for ten years, Steve Augeri pulled it off for the eight that he did, and Steve Perry, I mean come on. How many years did he have a go around it, it’s not an easy gig. Steve Perry is the greatest vocalist that I know, do you know what I mean, that kind of I’ve got that kind of reverence towards to him, so to be able to even in Journey songs was really kind of cool. It’s an honor so… but I’m a drummer, dude.
ANTIHERO: I mean at the same time, like you say, you were given that opportunity to sing some songs in Journey, so obviously those guys recognized your vocal ability.
Deen Castronovo: Yeah, I think Jonathan and Neal, I mean Neal and Jon were backing Bad English, and I still, hadn’t a clue when they auditioned me and hired me that I even could sing back then. So, they knew I could do it, do Bad English with Neal and did harmony in the background and stuff so they knew I could sing, but who’s ever attempted a Journey song? I’ve never attempted one, I mean when I was a kid but I used to, screwing around in my car, but not you know not trying it in front of 20,000 people, and that’s weird, the pressure, the drums go on auto pilot, bro. The drums go on complete auto pilot and it is, it’s all about focusing on breathing, getting that note right, getting it the correct way because if you don’t, the singers will crucify you and, man, it was scary. Arnel is still amazing at it, after ten years, and is still killing it, that’s crazy. That’s just crazy, I could never do that. I don’t want that.
ANTIHERO: So, explain to me did the drumming always came first before you developed the singing?
Deen Castronovo: I started with the Kiss. Kiss were my Beatles, I was six when I picked up a pair of sticks. I was a rippling kid, you know what a Ritalin kid is maybe, they give you, some meds to subdue your energy. You see my mom didn’t like that, so she got me a drum set and I never looked back. I mean from six years old on it was like, deer in the headlights, I want to be a singer/drummer, I mean and that was it. No one could dissuade me, even when I hit 16/17, my parents were like how can you do this for a living? How can you make money doing this? A little town in America people can’t, so I had to move, I was fortunate, God shined down upon me big time. I’m very, very grateful, I’ve had an amazing career.
ANTIHERO: There’s been a couple of videos already released from the album, “Light in the Dark” and “Freedom”, I just wondered if that was something that the band had input into doing or is it something, again, that’s decided by the record label, which tracks you do?
Deen Castronovo: Well, they brought it to us and I listened to the lyrics and I went wow and I called Al and said that’s damn spot on, we need to change a few things, but you know what, that’s my sender right there. There it is, I mean he knew, that’s the thing, Alessandro and I, we have enough discussions where he kind of knew where I was going to come from this, and it wasn’t going to be light and happy like the last record, there’s going to be some dark spots, but I can’t help but live that. I mean apply it to my music and the music that I’m playing, it’s just what I’m feeling. It is what it is, so yeah, those two songs are tight, Freedom was huge for me, so I mean, that was a big, big song for me, the whole thing. How it came about was incredible.
ANTIHERO: Jack and Doug are busy with other bands, so Revolution Saints haven’t played to many live dates, I wonder if that’s going to change for the release of this album?
Deen Castronovo: Well, I know I say this to everybody it’s hard to say but I’ve got to say it: schedules permitting. And Jack is committed to Night Ranger and gosh man, I get that totally. All of us get that. And Doug’s got Dead Daisies, totally get that. So, if we can make it work, yeah great, if not I’m going to go find something else to do. You know what I mean? It’s like Godly, that’s kind of where I’m rolling now, so I hope we do some shows, God that would be great, so…
ANTIHERO: You mention that those guys have got these other bands going on, what else are you doing? Are you involved with anything else musically?
Deen Castronovo: Not really, I’ve just kind of done this and I’ve got a couple of things, little projects I’m playing drums on, for a couple of artists, but that’s basically it, I mean if I could do studio work I do that all day long, I love it. I do other gigs a lot more, for me it’s that, you hone the craft while you are there. On stage, you’re just on your marks, get set, go, so and you hone it as you go, it’s a different thing so. For me, I’ll play with anyone and everyone, I don’t mind. I love it, I love playing, so it doesn’t matter.
ANTIHERO: And obviously, I mean, when you record a song, when you record an album, it’s not the same as going out and being able to perform those songs before an audience. I always view that arena as when songs are given their performance wings when they are played live.
Deen Castronovo: I agree, it is, and that’s what I’m hoping that we can do some shows, I’m hoping. There’s talk and we are waiting to see so, God willing, let’s do it.
ANTIHERO: Generally, for fans I find, personally, and I’m sure it’s true for a lot of music fans, music provides a source of therapy through difficult and dark times. I just wonder how musicians find peace, in the moments of trouble and darkness.
Deen Castronovo: This was hugely therapeutic for me. Because I laid down music for two years, that wasn’t a priority, priority in my life was recovery, sobriety and being a great father and a great husband, you know what I mean? Things that matter now. I was on the road for 17 years with Journey and 18 years before that, it’s like, that’s all I’d done, so it was kind of nice to breathe and go, you know what, life is more than that. It is what it is and you find out what’s important, my friend, and I certainly know what’s important now. So yeah, to answer your question, very therapeutic.
ANTIHERO: Many musicians can only dream of playing in an iconic band, you played in Journey, Bad English and you’ve also played with some musical legends, Ozzy Osbourne for one. I just wondered how does that make you feel? Do you feel proud?
Deen Castronovo: You see that’s the thing I have an, yeah of course, humility and pride, come on, there are a zillion drummers out there that smoke me, in so many different ways. They could have eaten those gigs upside down, I’m not stupid. I know how many amazing players are out there, so, and God gave me a chance to play with, yeah, the biggest artist on the planet. Sometimes you don’t think about it because you are just going through life, you’re just so busy on the road, you don’t stop and go man, look what I’ve done, look at what I’ve accomplished, it’s heavy. So, I don’t really get a chance to do that. Now I’ve been able to sit back and go man, I’m having a pretty damn good moment, it’s not over yet but I’ve done some pretty cool things. I’m very fortunate.
ANTIHERO: Who would have been the most inspiring musician that you’ve ever worked with? Someone that’s maybe taught you a lot personally?
Deen Castronovo: Neal, for sure, and Jonathan. They brought me into that image, and John Blake and Ricky Phillips, those were the first four guys, they really showed me, guess what you’re in the big leagues, my friend, enjoy it, and it was like wow. It was surreal, of course throughout the years there’s been some much divide and Tony McAlpine and Jason and Marty, those kinds, some of the greatest guitarists that have ever walked this planet, and thank God, they’re still walking it, I’m just grateful that I got to play with those guys. They were the cutting-edge shred masters, the kings, the pioneers of shred, in my opinion, and I got to play with them. It was very cool.
ANTIHERO: Taking you back, what was your first introduction to music? Was it something that you’ve always followed from a young age when you were at school, listening to albums in your house?
Deen Castronovo: Yeah, my older brothers, I have two older brothers, I still have them. They would just go to school and of course I was four, I think I was four, maybe five, and I remember sneaking in their bedrooms, turning on the stereo and listening to whatever Mike had on the turntable, and for some reason he was… all I remember was that a Three Dog Night gig, all he would have on was Three Dog Night and that’s all I listened to for months, well I can remember going in to listen to it. I knew those songs inside me out so, yeah, so my brothers were a big influence. They let me listen to Zeppelin and they listened to stuff and then my little brother, David, he was seven, maybe I was eight, and he brought home Dressed to Kill. And I was like you’ve got to be joking me right, I was blown away, eight or nine, I don’t remember how old I was, I was young, so anyway, that changed my life, I said that’s what I want to do. And then I saw Kiss on the Midnight Specials and I said I am going to do that, I am doing that, that’s what I’m doing, and nobody could stop me then. No one. It was awesome.
ANTIHERO: So, what would have been your first gig that you went to? Would it have been Kiss?
Deen Castronovo: I say, you’ll love this, it was… Kiss was the headliner, with Rush…and Beck Bogart and Appice opening up, and the only reason… my drum teacher took me to see that show… and that’s the only reason I would have been, I was eleven or twelve. Young, just young. And yeah, that just blew my freaking mind because when I saw Neil Peart wait, this guy’s got all those drums and he plays them all, and he’s really cool at it, and that changed my life, I was a progressive guy then. So, from then on it was Rush and nothing but Rush and Rush and a little Kiss, but nothing but Rush. It was pretty intense.
ANTIHERO: So, it was always music for you, there was never any other career option?
Deen Castronovo: No sir, no. I mean, I knew… I really, I did, I knew from a young age I was going to do this, no matter what my parents said, nobody could talk me out of it. It was just, deer in the headlights, whatever you want to call it, the horse with the blinders on, on one ear and out the other, whatever you want to call it, I just knew.
ANTIHERO: Do you still have unfulfilled ambitions? I mean, you’ve achieved so much in your career across many bands, many musical projects, just wonder if you still had ambitions/hopes and dreams?
Deen Castronovo: You know bro, I’ve never really thought about that. Right now, I have… my ambitions have changed with my priorities, you see, so everything is different now, it’s like well, yeah, I would like to go out on the road for a bunch of years and be out with Journey again or whatever, do whatever, play with whatever, but it’s like OK, what am I going to lose and miss and sacrifice if I do this for another 15 or 20 years? 30 years have gone, it’s like wow I’m 53 now, OK, now what. So, it’s one of those things where I just take it day by day and I’m just like God, lead me. Because I’m not promised tomorrow. I’m not even promised ten minutes from now, and who knows what can happen, so I just, I’m just living in the now, live in the moment. Are my needs met today? Yes. Are my kids fed? Are they healthy? Yes. Are the bills paid? Yes. OK, my day is good then. You know what I mean?
ANTIHERO: You’ve mentioned God several times over the course of our chat here, I just wonder if you are a spiritual person?
Deen Castronovo: Do you know, for me, Christianity is not so much a bunch of actions you do, as it tries to teach you just living spiritually, in my opinion. A lot of rules and things you say and do, it was always a very spiritual thing for me. And when I got hard into drugs and started partying hard, I put my hand out to God and, do you know what, you see what happened. If I’m any testament to anything, it’s that when you take yourself out of your true spiritual self, you lose everything. You may not think you do, but you lose everything. And then after you’ve lost everything, you lose everything else. It’s sad. So, I just really reconnected with Christ and spirituality, and that’s it. I roll with the day about it.
It’s the trying, I try to do the right thing each day and all one of my pastors said just do the next right thing. Every time you come up with something, what’s the next right thing, that’s all I have to do, so long as I keep doing that I’m going to be alright.
ANTIHERO: Looking back, if we can just pick out one of your bands, I was a huge fan of the two Bad English records, I just wondered, in your opinion, why that band didn’t endure.
Deen Castronovo: Well, I mean, I know what I was told. I, so I don’t know… it’s like they didn’t even say, the cover was, a lot of it had to do with, I don’t know. Do you know what, maybe I just not say anything? What I heard and what went down are pretty much similar to what happens in a lot of bands, so, it just kind of went away and it’s heart breaking, I was bummed when it happened, just bummed, it was like OK, now what. And, of course, God says you turn to the next gig and the next gig, I’ve been very fortunate.
ANTIHERO: Looking back on your musical legacy, are there any of your own records that you now look back on and think, not too happy with that, or is it just how it was at the time?
Deen Castronovo: The first Revolution Saints record for me, because we did it so quickly and we didn’t really have the time to sit down, the songs were done and it was like here, you’ve ten days off between the American tour and the Canadian tour, you’ve got 10 days, can you do drums and vocals in 10 days? I’m like, I’m just going to have to, aren’t I? So that’s all we did, and I rushed through the drum parts, I rushed the vocal plays, I mean, after that record came out, I picked it apart, I still can’t listen to it today. It’s just one of those things where a musician says God, I let that slide. Why did we let that slide, I shouldn’t have sung that, do you see what I’m saying? It drove me insane. This last record, the new one, is too little better, is too little better. But I found that I did the right thing this time and just distanced myself. I listened to it after all the mixes were done, listened to the whole thing, OK. Now I’m just going to set it aside because I will pick it apart again. It’s just… I think every musician does that.
ANTIHERO: Are there any of your musical back catalogue that you can still listen to and say yeah, I like that, I’m proud of that, I’m happy with that?
Deen Castronovo: Yeah, anything that I did for Shrapnel was for me, was like, because it was just records for bands and no holds barred, if the market said and I just got to create, just be, and then it was really cool, I think that’s where I grew the most, was from my time with Wild Dogs, oh God, I mean. Yes, that’s hard, from Wild Dogs, I mean, as a metal drummer, that kind of a player, I’d say from Wild Dogs to like McAlpine’s flash record from issues when they started doing that. I mean that’s when my playing was like wow man I’m really going somewhere here and then you get, there was certain gigs that you fall into the gig rut, do you know what I mean? When you are playing the songs every night, you’re doing it on auto-pilot. That can wear on you too and so, yeah, I would have to say anything after Shrapnel, I can listen to Bad English actually, because I’m proud of that one.
And let me think, what else. I can listen to Steve Vai because its Steve Vai and he is a musical genius. Yeah, certain things I can and certain things I can’t. Ozzmosis, I can’t listen to.
ANTIHERO: There’s a lot of Ozzy fans don’t listen to Ozzmosis.
Deen Castronovo: I think so, I don’t know, I just, for me, in my opinion, just me. It was just the wrong direction, but who am I, I was drumming, I was grateful to be there. But man, it just didn’t, to me it didn’t sound like Oz, you know what I mean?
ANTIHERO: I know exactly what you are saying.
Deen Castronovo: But that’s me. I grew up with fucking Blizzard of Oz and Sabbath and it didn’t… it wasn’t him. But that’s OK.
ANTIHERO: You mention outside of Revolution Saints you’ve nothing going on musically yourself, at the moment? I just wondered with all that extra free time have you taken up any… developed any other interests, hobbies, outside of music that help you get through the days?
Deen Castronovo: You know what, mostly bro, it’s just being a dad and I’ve got two grandkids too, two grandboys, so that occupies the days more, it really does, it’s like, I’m OK financially right now so I’m good to go here so but it’s just nice to be with the kids, and just, OK, yeah, I’m ready to go on the road when it’s time, absolutely I’m going to go out, but it’s just nice the time that I don’t, that is my hobby is just being a dad and a granddad. That’s awesome.
ANTIHERO: Must be nice to catch up and maybe times that you missed when you were on the road touring all those years?
Deen Castronovo: Pretty much so, dude. I mean I bonded with my 12-year-old son finally, I was just on the road all the time, I was working all the time. So, it was, it’s been nice, there’s things that I miss about that and there are things that I don’t miss so you know.
ANTIHERO: What about a book, did you ever think about writing a book, possibly?
Deen Castronovo: You know, people ask me that and go do you want to do something, I just, you know what, I’m a human being, I don’t think anybody is really going to get anything from me that hasn’t been told a million times over by a million other rock stars. You know what I mean?
They get into drugs, they lose everything, they come back, they have a drink and they die. And I’m not going to die so, that’s something, what am I going to tell them? All I can say is trust God and do the next right thing. That’s all we can do. That’s all I can tell them, take up two pages….
ANTIHERO: Yep. Just a final one then Deen, if we could. You’ve done many of these interviews, over the years through all your musical bands and projects over the years. But who would you personally like to sit down with you asking the questions? Maybe not even a musician, a personal hero or source of inspiration maybe?
Deen Castronovo: Not a musician. OK. If I could interview anybody?
Oh, boy. If I had any journalistic skill, right, if I had any, because I don’t want to just be some staid reply, you know what I’m saying, let’s think about this. OK, not just because he’s a great musician but I think he’s a really, really… I don’t know. To me, there’s a lot of genius in this fellow, it’s Corey Taylor.
I think he’s just…. I love his stuff with Stone Sour, I definitely love the stuff with Slipknot, but even his books and stuff. His books that I’ve read, my son is turning out just like, this guy’s got it for me, he’s alright this is alright. This is the real deal. You don’t find a lot of real deal people anymore, and he seems like the real deal. So yeah, I’d like to interview him. “Are you the real deal, sir?” And Corey would say yes. I think he is, he seems like a solid guy.
ANTIHERO: Another guy that that always, I haven’t interviewed him yet, but another guy that always struck me in a similar vein was Dave Grohl, as well.
Deen Castronovo: Oh dude, yeah that’s another one. I don’t know what I’d say to him, either. That’s another guy I’d be like, what do I ask, I mean, yeah, there is a beautiful picture right there of a drummer going in and becoming, you know what I mean, and going to another, a different place, I’d have tried to, that’s huge. That’s freaking huge.
ANTIHERO: I’d say he would be a very interesting guy to interview.
Deen Castronovo: And he’d be real, he’s just a real guy, that’s another one, he’s just, you just look at him and listen to him talk, he just seems like a real guy.
ANTIHERO: Thank you very much again, Deen. Thank you for the music as well.
Deen Castronovo: Thank you for listening, I appreciate it very much, thank you.