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INTERVIEW: DEEN CASTRONOVO of THE DEAD DAISIES – June 2018

| 17 June 2018 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “THE DEAD DAISIES just shot a music video for the band’s next single “DEAD AND GONE” at Black Box Music (Rammstein, 30 Seconds To Mars, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson) in Berlin.  Their album BURN IT DOWN has entered the charts around the world! Led by a #6 in the US Billboard Heatseekers Chart, #10 in the German Media Control Charts, #12 in the US Hard Music Charts, #14 in the UK Sales Charts, #15 in Switzerland and Austria as well as numerous other charts around the world, the album has delivered on the promise of “Burning down everything in its path”! At radio “Rise Up” has been added to massive playlists worldwide. The track is climbing the US Active Rock Chart (currently #42), on huge stations in Germany, Italy, France, Swedenand Spain as well as the UK’s Planet Rock Radio’s A-Playlist. The band returns to Japan in late June to play three packed headline shows in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya before heading to Europe in July where they’ll play Festivals along with dates with the Scorpions & Guns N’ Roses. The Dead Daisies are: Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake, Dio), John Corabi (Mötley Crüe, The Scream), Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake, Thin Lizzy), Deen Castronovo (Bad English, Journey) and David Lowy (Red Phoenix, Mink).” We got Deen Castronovo to give us a call to discuss the album, touring, who he has ripped fills from, and a lot more…

Todd: Deen, thank you so much for taking time out. This is such an honor and a pleasure for me.

Deen: Oh, dude it’s an honor and a pleasure for me, man. I love doing these things. I’m glad they have me doing them. It’s fun!

Todd: I bet. You’re always a busy dude so I want to get right to the point. The Dead Daisies just wrapped up a U.K. and European tour for Burn It Down. What was it like for you sitting behind the kit with The Dead Daisies in Europe?

Deen: Incredible, bro. I’m a hard rock drummer so even though I was in Journey for eight years, my roots are always been, it’s always been hard rock. Heavy metal. That’s kind of where I grew up so to play in a real get down a dirty, gritty, rock and roll band is a blast for me. I’m kind of in my element. This is what I do and I’m having the time of my life, bro. I really am. It’s just great to be back and to be playing. I’m grateful to be doing it.

Todd: That’s awesome. You mentioned you’re a hard rocker and I go back to the days of Wild Dogs…

Deen: Yes!

Todd: I’ve watched your whole career which is amazing. I’m one of those guys that has all three different versions of Soul SirkUS.

Deen: Oh my god, dude! Awesome! I got you now.

Todd: I love everything you do, Deen.

Deen: Thank you.

Todd: You have Burn It Down and now the tour. You guys are getting ready to tackle some U.S. dates which we’ll get to in a minute but what is it about this gang? With the different personalities you guys have, it truly is a gang. What’s it about you guys that make this your home right now? It’s not a project for Deen, it’s a home.

Deen: And you know what, it’s wonderful. We all get along which is a huge thing. Because I’ve been in bands where they don’t get along and it’s not fun. That’s the biggest thing. We all like each other. We all love playing together. That’s the biggest thing. And we go up there with a kill-’em-all attitude. Let’s just go up there and tear it up and have a great time. That’s what it’s about, having a blast. That’s where it feels like home to me. There are things that become work and become a job but this is just, man, just to be able to play and do what I love with the guys that I like doing it with. It’s a huge blessing, man. I’ll take that over dough any day of the week. Being with guys that you care about that care about you and just want to have fun, that’s huge. I’m grateful to be here, bro. This is home for me.

Todd: That’s awesome. With the album Burn It Down, you’ve got more connection to this than some of the other stuff in the catalog but looking over this album, what in this album really feels like it hits your vein, so to speak? It’s in your groove when you’re doing this?

Band members from L-R: Marco Mendoza, David Lowy, John Corabi, Deen Castronovo and Doug Aldrich

Deen: There’s three songs that really stand out to me, for me as a drummer. “Resurrected,” “Rise Up,” and “Burn It Down.” Those three songs for a drummer’s perspective dig into a major solid pocket. And that’s kind of what I did, I said “put your Bill Ward cap on, dude. None of this flashy stuff. Just play. Just be a rock drummer.” Like, “okay. I can do this.” And that was it. Just playing for the songs and giving it a hundred and fifty thousand percent, just going blazing. It’s like the first three songs just a one-two-three kick in the teeth to me. And that’s what I love about it. It’s just like, “yeah!”

Todd: Recording aside, are those the same three songs that when you know they’re coming up in the set list you can’t wait to get there?

Deen: Yes. “Resurrected” is the first song in the set and then “Rise Up” is the second one which, okay, on your mark, get set, go. It’s this big, fat groove and it’s massive. And we had “Burn It Down” in the set and we’ve taken it out right now. We’re just kind of shuffling some things around but we had “Burn It Down” in there for a while and it was a cool vibe. It was really great. Those three songs, man. Like you said, it’s definitely a kick in the teeth.

Todd: That’s awesome. You guys just recently completed the video for “Dead and Gone.” So you’ve done videos before, you’ve done a lot of them in your past. Was there anything different from video shoots in the past for you? Did you have more input or insight?

Deen: We relied on our management and their vision of what they saw for this song and the first videos that I ever done with Bad English and stuff like that and Hardline, they were all day, sometimes all night into the next day type of video shoot back in the day. This one, we started at like seven or eight in the morning, we were done by eight which is pretty good for what we had to do but I think we accomplished it. I have not seen the “Dead and Gone” video yet though. I haven’t seen the finished product yet.

Todd: Deen, you’re coming into this project – The Dead Daisies have been around a few albums in their current incarnation before you jumped into the fray. Was there any hazing for you as the new guy or did they say, “No, Deen he’s a vet he’s one of our buddies and this is just how it rolls?”

Deen: That’s exactly how it was, bro. It was the latter. They were just like, “You know what? We know this guy can play. He had a good voice. He’s got his shit together,” pardon my language. “He’s got his shit together now, let’s bring him in!” And thankfully, bro, I haven’t disappointed. I just go up and I do what I am paid to do and what I am expected to do and that’s to play 100% and just play with my heart and do what needs to be done to see this go to the next level. That’s been my attitude with everything that I’ve ever done. I just want to see it through to the next level, whatever that is. ‘Cause that just makes me better as a drummer. Playing with different styles, that’s what it’s all about, bro. Longevity is the key in this business. And I’ve been fortunate. Very, very blessed to be able to do – still after thirty years being able to do what I love. Are you kidding me? It’s great to be in this band. They’re just brothers and that’s a huge thing.

Todd: Do you think part of the band’s chemistry or what makes them work is the fact that everybody is allowed to do their other stuff? I know John does his solo stuff and you’ve also got a new piece that you’ve completed with Johnny from Hardline.

Deen: And I’m also doing this thing with Neal this Journey Through Time thing next year. It’s Neal and myself and Gregg Rolie and Marco from The Dead Daisies so we’re going to go out and do the classic, the early Journey stuff that Journey doesn’t hit on when they’re playing live. They have to do the hits so we’re doing all the stuff that they don’t do and that’s what’s so fun. So I’m doing that next year as well and then I’ve got another Revolution Saints coming up at the end of this year so I’m just keeping busy, bro. On your mark, get set, go.

Todd: Do you think that’s part of what makes the band work is that everybody still has their own side gigs?

Deen: Yeah, dude, I think so. Everybody’s got to have their outlet and The Dead Daisies is one unit but there’s five different members in this band that have different ideas and different creative outlets. I think that’s huge. Marco’s got his solo band. Doug and I’ve got Revolution Saints. Doug’s got Burning Rain. Now I’ve got Gioeli-Castronovo and they want me to do a solo record so I’m just… As much as I can get working I think it keeps The Dead Daisies fresh. I really believe that. If a dead daisy can be fresh, let’s put it that way.

Todd: The Fresh Daisies, there you go. That said, and again, like I said, I’ve got just about everything you’ve put your hands on, literally. And your vocals are amazing. How hard is it once in a while to not say to John, “Hey, let me take this one.”

Deen: Dude, very easy. It’s nice to be the background singer. As much as I love singing with Journey, there was a lot of stress, man. You had to be spot-freaking-on and it’s a lot of stress to have to sing iconic songs from a singer that nobody can really touch in my opinion. Steve Perry’s just, you know, are you kidding? He’s just fantastic. For me to have John Corabi who’s a seasoned veteran, who’s got a killer voice, just to back him up makes me feel proud, bro. I like this being the background singer. It’s a lot more fun.

Todd: That’s cool. I was excited when they announced you were in the band. Again, you have a lot of projects… I love the Revolution Saints, Soul SirkUS, back when you were in Hardline. Looking back over all the different bands you’ve been a part of, whether you really felt it was a band or you were a hired gun or it was a project, are there any looking back that you think might have been a misstep for you professionally?

Deen: God, professionally. Honestly, no. Every gig I’ve ever done, bro, has led me to a stepping stone of something bigger or something better or something that’s maybe not better financially but it’s a better fit for me which will lead me to something else. It’s amazing how life goes like that. I’ve gone from one thing to another thing. I owe a lot to Mike Varney and Neal Schon. Those two guys, man. Mike Varney got my start with The Shrapnel Records and Neal grabbed me from those records and took me everywhere he went and I owe them both a debt of gratitude. For me, man, there’s nothing that I could say that, “Man, I wish I wouldn’t have done that.” Because there’s a learning curve with everything. Like when I got booted from Ozzy, I didn’t understand why. What the heck happened? I just realized I just wasn’t the right drummer for him. I get that. But at the time I was like, “Well, he doesn’t like me!” That has nothing to do with whether he likes me or not. It’s what is best for the chemistry of the band and I wasn’t right for it, whatever that was. It was a learning thing and I was ready to retire after that, bro. After the Ozzy gig I was like, “I’m done. I quit. I’m just going to live with my wife and I’m done.” And I got a call from this artist in Italy, Vasco Rossi, and I was like, “I’m just going to ask him for an exorbitant amount of money so I don’t have to do it,” and I asked and they said yes. So I was screwed, I had to do it. And I went and honestly, it was the greatest gig I think I’ve ever done in my life. Just the way they took care of us and the way, just everything. It was high-end. Big time. And I was ready to quit, ready to give up. So everything works out for a reason. And from Vasco I went to Journey. Seventeen years with Journey. Huge.

Todd: You have such an array of lead singers that you have worked with and again, we’ll take you out since you enjoy being the background singer right now. Which front man made the most impression on you or, we won’t even say front man we’ll say what vocalist made the biggest impression on you so that when you did have to or want to step up in Journey, you almost have gleaned or tried to glean some of that experience or what you witnessed from behind the kit?

Deen: The guy that blew me away the most out of all the singer’s I’ve worked with, was Paul Rogers. Watching that guy every night, bro. He was stellar. Even when he was sick he was stellar. I’ve never seen anything like it and I haven’t seen anything close. It’s just amazing. With the exception of John Corabi. He’s another one of those guys that can just go out there and belt it effortlessly even if he’s sick. I learned a lot being with Paul how to play for the song, man. How to play more of a pocket thing cause I was always a hard rock player so I learned a lot and that really helped me going into Journey. I really believe it did. And I was a big Journey fan anyway but it just showed me that less is more, these are all about the songs. It isn’t about how many chops you can put in here, just playing the songs the way they were recorded. I did the best I could. Steve Smith is my favorite drummer of all time so I can’t even get close to what he is. But I did my best with what I had, my abilities, to play the songs as best I could and keep them as true as possible. I think just being with Paul really showed me that, you know- Consonant professional and perfect every night, bro. I never heard anything like it. Blew my mind.

Todd: I can’t even imagine what it’d be like to sit behind Paul Rogers every night.

Deen: Dude, like I said, dream come true. I have to credit Neal again. Neal brought me into that. Neal took me everywhere with the exception of Ozzy. He took me everywhere. I’m grateful that he’s brought me back into his life and we’re doing stuff together again because he’s a brother, man. He’s like my big brother and I’m very loyal to him no matter what. He found me. I owe him. I will be loyal to him until the day I die.

Todd: That’s awesome, man, and it’s also not something you hear or see very much in the music industry today.

Deen: No. Lot of cutthroats, bro. And I’ve seen it and I don’t like it. And that’s one thing, man, if I get into a band where there’s cutthroats, I’m out. I don’t care how much money I was making. I can’t live in that. Especially in my recovery as an addict, I can’t live in that chaos and that drama. I will not. I’ll separate myself before I will get involved in it cause it can be deadly. For me as an addict, it can be deadly. Oh yeah, I watch it all now, bro. My eyes wide open.

Todd: I can imagine, Deen. Getting back to the album Burn It Down, what’s the one song that was the most hard for you to get into the vibe or the groove while you were laying it down?

Deen: Let me think… God, bro. To be honest with you, there wasn’t any one song that was like, “Man, this is not feeling right.” I knew what they wanted. I listened to the demos that they had recorded and written and I was like, “Okay, I know what needs to be done,” and all I did was work with Marti Frederiksen. I said, “Dude, this feel good? This what you like?” He said, “Yeah, that’s perfect!” So I would just adapt to what Marti’s vision was. To me, that’s what a session drummer or whatever, a recording drummer, is supposed to do is to get what the producer wants out of you. And that’s what I’ve done with ever record I’ve ever done. It’s like, “Okay, what do you want from me? What do you hear? What are you hearing that I’m not hearing?” And Marti’s a drummer so that helped a ton, bro. Cause he knew. He’s like, “Well, I’m hearing this. This might be a dumb lick but put it in there, let’s see what it sounds like.” And I would and he’s like, “That’s perfect.” It might be the dumbest lick every but it fit the song. So I just go after what the producer wants, bro. That’s hugely important to me. For me, it was a no-brainer: I did what I was told to do, what I was hired to do, and that is to play the best rock drums I possibly could. And it wasn’t really a challenge. It’s straight ahead, kick-you-in-the-teeth rock and that’s what I’m good at.

Todd: It definitely is and it definitely is what you are a master of, Deen, that’s for sure. Couple more for you before we cut you loose, man. What drummer out there do you think you’ve stolen the most fills from?

Deen: Steve Smith, definitely, by far. I have ripped him blind. And he knows it and I’ve told him that. But definitely not the way that he approaches. He’s such an amazing drummer. So I’ve ripped him blind, I’ve ripped Bozzio blind, I’ve ripped Neal Peart off blind. Oh god, are you kidding? I’ve ripped from everyone. And I’ve stolen from the best, man. I think I’ve got kind of a hybrid of those three drummers. I got a little Neal Peart, little Bozzio, and a little Smith all kind of rolled into one. I think those are my three biggest influences as far as drummers that I grew up learning from and have gone, “Man, that’s pretty sick.” It was cool. I was more for a progressive rock drummer. I like that kind of stuff and then the heavy metal came and it was like, “Oh, man. I’m into this.” That was awesome. I used to take Smith’s drum licks at warp speed and put them in metal songs and nobody’d every heard that before. Nobody’d ever head that kind of stuff in a metal record. And it was like, “Okay, I’m the first guy.”

Todd: On the other side of that coin, Deen, what’s it like when a kid comes up to you and tells you that he’s stealing your fills? That he’s taking what you’ve got?

Deen: Oh, dude, it’s humbling. I’m not going to lie. You don’t know what to say. I’ve had a lot of major drummers come to me and like, “Dude, you’re one of my favorites,” and I’m just like, “Really? You even freaking know who I am?” Joey Jordison, Slipknot, who I love to death as a drummer and as a person – good man – he was just singing my praises to my son who’s out with Wednesday 13. He’s playing drums for Wednesday. And it was just humbling to hear that Joey Jordison thought I was a great player. Like, “Fuck, are you kidding?” Pardon my language but Joey’s an animal! Joey’s a freaking beast and for him to say that he loved my playing was huge for me. It’s humbling, bro. It’s humbling.

Todd: I can only imagine. One more, Deen, if you had to look back through time and had to pin your career on one album that influenced you enough to make you want to play drums, what would that album be?

Deen: Kiss Alive!, dude. Kiss were my Beatles. When I saw Kiss Alive!, I must’ve been ten, nine or ten I think, when I saw the album cover. I was like, “Oh my god, I want to be this.” That was it. Nobody could tell me otherwise. I was like, “I’m going to be a rock drummer and I’m going to be in a band like this.” This is no joke. There were two bands that I wanted to be in when I got older, if this ever could happen: Kiss and Journey. No joke. So I got one of them cause I look like shit in spandex. I didn’t have to wear that cool looking stuff which I love but Kiss was the reason, bro. They were the reason. Peter Criss that “100,000 Years” drum solo, come on. For a little kid that was just like *gasp* and you get the face and it’s like, “Aw, this is the coolest thing ever!” That was the reason. So I would have to say that, definitely.

Todd: I agree with you. I mentioned earlier a tour. You guys have a date coming up with The Machine Shop, the world famous Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan in August. I can’t wait for that. I know none of you guys have ever been to the Machine Shop but I think you’ll find it to be a nice little home away from home.

Deen: Awesome, brother. I’m excited to play anywhere in the state. It’s been a while since I’ve been here so I’m excited to get out there and do it, man. Definitely.

Todd: Deen, I cannot thank you enough for the time, man. I really appreciate this.

Deen: Thank you, Todd. Thank you for your time, bro. I appreciate you allowing me to speak. Awesome, man.

Todd: And we’ll see you in a couple months at The Machine Shop when you guys are out on tour this year.

Deen: Yes sir, brother! You have a great rest of your week, man. God bless you.

Todd: Alright brother, talk to you soon.

Deen: See you, brother. 

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Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

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ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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