|Journey features, back left to right, Deen Castronovo, Neal Schon, Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory and, front, Arnel Pineda.|
The first time I interviewed Deen Castronovo, back in 2008, the Journey drummer had the audacity to thank me for taking the time to talk with him.
"It's usually Neal and Jonathan and Ross that get all the interviews," he said, referring to Journey's original contingent of guitarist Neal Schon, keyboardist Johnathan Cain and bassist Ross Valory, "and Arnel [Pineda, vocalist] and I are just kind of like the little guys in the back. I'm just the drummer ... who wants to talk to the drummer? I appreciate you giving me the chance to talk to you, bud. I appreciate it."
I wish more rock stars were as gracious and unjaded as Castronovo.
When I got the opportunity in interview him again, this time in preparation for Journey's U.S. "Eclipse" tour — featuring nearly 50 dates in a package with Foreigner and Night Ranger (for my review, and a photo gallery, from the tour-opening show in Salt Lake City, click HERE) — I reminded Castronovo of his "nobody ever wants to talk to the drummer" quote from three years ago.
"And you know what, dude? It still rings true," he said. "But I'm just glad everybody is allowing me to do this stuff, cause most of the other guys, I don't know if they're into it or not, but I love it, dude. I really do. I just love doing this kind of stuff. It's great!"
Click HERE to read my story published in The Daily Herald based on the Castronovo interview. But, as always, there were many more highlights from the interview that wouldn't fit in the main story. Here they are:
On which songs from the new album, "Eclipse," were translating best to the stage during the band's European tour in June and early July:
CASTRONOVO: I’ll tell you, “City of Hope” is big, huge. That one’s coming off great. Another one is “Chain of Love.” People really love “Chain of Love” because it’s really hard driving. And we were surprised, we were doing “Tantra” and, boy, in Europe they were going nuts for that tune. So it was great, bro. All the songs are good and I love playing them all, but those three, I think the crowd really dug into those.
On the difficulty of adding new songs into the live performance when Journey has so many hits -- which the band refers to as "The Dirty Dozen":
CASTRONOVO: Well, you know, we have to do those and that usually takes up about close to an hour. So we’ve got, really, about half an hour to play the new stuff. We’ve got enough time to do those. We’ve been able to at least fit three or four in, it’s been great.
On the past couple tours, Castronovo has been featured singing lead on a few select songs -- and, incredibly, he also sounds a lot like former vocalist Steve Perry. Does he still get the chance to sing lead on this tour?
CASTRONOVO: You know, I’ve turned into the second stringer, the second-string quarterback, which is great. I’ve always been the second-string guy, what Neal calls the secret weapon. So if Arnel ... usually Arnel doesn’t have bad nights, he’s usually pretty spot on, but if he’s fatigued, after like maybe three shows in a row, or two shows in a row, or he’s got a cold or something, they call me up. They’re like, “You’re going to do ‘Keep on Running’ tonight and ‘Mother, Father.’ ” It just gives him a little bit of a break and he doesn’t have to kill himself. So I’m the second-stringer, and I don’t mind at all.
On this year's touring package, which also includes rock stalwarts Foreigner and Night Ranger:
CASTRONOVO: Well, the cool thing is both bands are the soundtrack to my teen years, which is awesome. I mean, we toured with Foreigner in '99 and it was an honor to tour with Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, when he was singing. And, of course, Night Ranger, I’ve got a long history with Night Ranger. Their lighting director was also Journey’s lighting director years back and he also managed the metal band I was in called Wild Dogs. And we would always go backstage and we would meet these guys and hang out, and it’s going to be great. And of course, wait until you hear Foreigner, they’re just incredible. They sound amazing, they really do. The new singer, well, he’s not new, he’s been there a while, Kelly Hansen, is flawless, flawless nightly. And Mark Schulman, the drummer ... he’s a Portland boy, from Portland, Oregon, where I’m from. So he’s a hometown boy, so it’s great to just hang out with him, it’s just fantastic.
More on Night Ranger and Foreigner:
CASTRONOVO: The funny thing is with Night Ranger, I know all their songs, and sometimes, you know, if they feel they want to do it, I’ll go up and I’ll play “Sister Christian” with them while Kelly [Keagy, drummer] goes out and sings lead. It’s awesome because I grew up with that stuff. And, of course, Foreigner, like I said, the soundtrack ... when I was 13 I remember when “Hot Blooded” came out. I can remember listening to that on the way to school one morning, it was like, “Oh, this is bad. I love it. This is awesome!” So, yeah, I’m a huge fan, dude.
On how he was a music fan first and has maintained that attitude and enthusiasm over the years:
CASTRONOVO: Dude, I’ve learned so much. I mean, I learned from those guys. Kiss was my Beatles. They really were. They were the reason I became a musician. You know, Journey, I learned all my drumming skills from Steve Smith. I mean, those were the guys I listened to. Steve Perry, of course, the voice, man, to me, one of the greatest singers of my generation. There’s not very many guys that can get near that guy. So I’m a huge fan, it’s pathetiic!.[laughs]
On his work with former Van Halen members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony in the short-lived project Planet Us:
CASTRONOVO: Oh, man, working with Sammy and Michael Anthony was a dream come true. A dream come true. And I got to tour with Van Halen when I was with Hardline, years ago, back in '92 ... we got to tour and did some shows opening for them, and got to sit down with Alex, what a sweet man. I mean an iconic drummer, pretty amazing.
On the amazing staying power of the song "Don’t Stop Believin’ ":
CASTRONOVO: It’s incredible, bro. I mean, we were in Sweden doing the Peace and Love Festival, 53,000 people, we start doing “Stop Believin’ ” — the crowd goes ballistic, right? OK, soon as we start the [sings] “Strangers ... waitin’ ” ... the crowd is bouncing. You know they do that European bounce? It was awesome! I’ve seen that before, but not 53,000 people doing it. "Don’t Sop Believin’. " It gave us chills. It was just incredible!
On why he thinks a band like Journey isn’t in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame:
CASTRONOVO: You know, my opinion and whether it’s valid or not, because I really don’t know much about it, but maybe because Steve [Perry] isn’t in the band anymore. That’s the only thing I can think of, man. Come on, 90 million records worldwide and they don’t want to put us in? That’s the only thing I can think of. “Well, Steve Perry’s not there, so who cares?” That’s very possible. I have no idea. Maybe another scenario is Journey was never popular with Rolling Stone magazine and the press. We were panned constantly, incessantly, you know? And I think the fans and the audiences have proven those people wrong. You know, so maybe there’s a little egg on those people’s faces and they’re like, “Well, forget it anyway.” Who knows? I don’t know the truth, but we should be in there. Put it this way, I shouldn’t ... I shouldn’t be in there. I have no part of the Journey legacy with the exception of I bought every record and I went to every show in Portland. But, I mean, those three gentlemen, Steve Smith, all five of them, Smith, Ross, Neal, Jonathan, Steve they should be there. Bottom line. Bottom line. And I’ll be in the audience checking it out! [laughs]
On opening the U.S. tour with Foreigner and Night Ranger in Salt Lake City:
CASTRONOVO: It’s going to be great. It’s a beautiful city. I mean, Salt Lake City’s gorgeous. One of the biggest memories I have of Salt Lake, we were supposed to play, I believe, if I’m not mistaken, the Delta Center, and the first tornado ever, ripped the Delta Center’s roof off. I was in my hotel room watching it happen. And when I saw the tornado rip the damn roof right off — it was awesome! It was a bummer, but ... and the funniest thing was Foreigner’s bus, they were there as well, the windows got blown out of their buses. Yeah, they were sleeping on their bus waiting for their hotel rooms ... the windows got blown out, so they had to go up to their hotel room, so they got them in early. That’s the fondest memory, or the biggest memory I have of Salt Lake.
[Editor's note: Journey was actually scheduled to play Franklin Covey Field with Foreigner on the day of the tornado in July 1999. The outdoor show, after much consideration, did go on as scheduled.]