Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Catching Up With Drummer Deen Castronovo

Just a few days after I interviewed him, it was announced that my friend Deen Castronovo is the new drummer for the fantastic rock band The Dead Daises. Deen and the guys are currently in Nashville working on a new studio album, and I couldn’t be happier for Deen or The Dead Daises. I’m sure what they produce will be phenomenal and I can’t wait to hear it.

Photo by Johnny Pixel.

Deen is most well known for being the drummer of Journey for 17 years. He was also the drummer for Bad English in the early 1990s, and he most recently handled lead vocals and drums on the two fantastic Revolution Saints albums, the most recent of which is appropriately called Light In The Dark. As with my first interview with Deen a few years ago, this one was honest and enlightening. I hope you enjoy it. And make sure to pick up a copy of the new Revolution Saints album – it’s excellent!

Revolution Saints has a new album out, Light In The Dark. What was it like getting into the studio and making new music after such a difficult time in your life?

It was therapeutic. Number one, it was really good to be playing again. That was the big thing. And the songs, they were really autobiographical. It helped me get through a lot of stuff. It was good to air that, on my end, and, through the songs and the music, speak my truth. It came out really good. I’m really proud of it.

Did your experiences shape the lyrics and music on this album?

Alessandro wrote a lot of the lyrics and he’d send them to me for feedback. When it came to the music, it was mostly Doug and Alessandro sending files back and forth. Jack didn’t have a lot to do with the writing on this. He was pretty busy with Night Ranger. We didn’t really see much of him until he came in to do the bass tracks and also when we did the Frontiers Fest Show.

I know you’ve reconnected with the guys from Journey. How about John Waite?

No. There was talk about me, Neal and John Waite doing a blues album together, but that fell by the wayside. I really haven’t heard much about it since then. It got hyped up for a few weeks there but Neal is getting ready to go back out on the road with Journey and I haven’t heard from John at all, so who knows what’s going to happen there.

Photo by Johnny Pixel.

The first time I interviewed you was in January 2015. In August of that year you were let go from Journey as the band’s drummer because of domestic violence charges. And in October 2015 you accepted a plea deal and voluntarily put yourself into an 18-month rehab program and a 12-step program. That’s one rough year, but you’ve since then rebounded from it and I’m very happy for you for being able to do so. What was the rehabilitation process like this time around?

For me, bro, it needed to be done. I look at it this way: getting arrested…Deidra saved my life. Had she not called the police, I would have been dead. Deidra saved my life, Hazelden changed my life and god has restored my life. Those are the three big changes in my life. It was great to figure out who I was again and like myself again because I didn’t like myself for a long long time.

You previously mentioned that this was your fifth time in rehab. What was it like this time around?

The first couple weeks were scary. I had to look in the mirror and say, “I have issues.” And I don’t have issues, I have a full subscription! (laughs) It was tough. And to see Deidra stick with me during that was huge. It was really huge for me. It’s a testament to the woman that she is, and I’m grateful that she’s in my life. I really am. As horrible as it was, she knew that wasn’t me. I knew that wasn’t me. I needed to find me again, and I found me again and it’s nice. But sometimes I still don’t like myself. (laughs)

That’s great to hear, that people stuck with you during the tough times.

You’re still here. I’ve got some good friends in my life. The blood-suckers and the leeches are gone and they will never come back, I’m sure of it. (laughs)

That’s good. At least you got rid of the people that don’t really care about you.

I’ve got to tell you something. The guy I was getting the drugs from ended up in the hospital because he had a heart attack. I went to visit him with my brother. He was shocked. He hadn’t seen me in two-and-a-half years. I told him, “You’re still my friend. Please don’t die. You don’t want to be where I was. You don’t want to be dead.” This dude is a multimillionaire. To see him laying in the bed with tears running down his face saying, “I’m so sorry.” I told him, “Nobody put a gun to my head and told me to do it. I did that.” It was nice to be there and tell him, “All is forgiven, get yourself together, you don’t want to die.” It was pretty ironic, honestly.

You told Billboard that, “My fiancee has gone through hell for the past six and a half years, and it was very rough on her.” What’s your relationship like with her nowadays?

Yeah, it’s beautiful dude. I’m still a pain in the butt, but I’m not the pain in the butt I used to be, ya know what I mean? (laughs) We have a normal relationship. When there’s an argument now, we can discuss it because I’m not fried out of my skull on alcohol and drugs. I can sit down and say to her, “I hear where you’re coming from. I know what you’re going through.” It’s nice to be a fiance, a father and a grandfather. It’s nice to be just that now.

You said you’ve been “on and off the wagon for 22 years.” Take me through a typical day when you’re drinking too much or addicted to pills. How does it interfere with your job as a musician?

When I was on the road, bro, I brought my A-game. Strange as it is, I wanted to be the best that I could be. That’s how proud I was of that band and being a part of it. When I got home is when I got in trouble. Too much money and too much time on your hands leads to disaster. That’s basically what it was. I had no accountability. Poor Deidra would have to sit there and watch me kill myself. What could she do until it got to the point where I became violent and crazy? And she did the right thing.

When I came home, it was terrible. The kids would suffer. They’d want to see me and I’d tell them, “I’m still resting up,” which was a bunch of hogwash. I was getting drunk with a bunch of buddies or whatever I was putting up my nose or into my lungs. On the road I did the damnedest to play well and make the fans happy and the band proud. It’s a strange thing. And I live in a small town, where there’s not a lot to do. Sadly, that’s what I chose.

How did Journey notify you that they were letting you go? And what was going through your mind at the time?

I didn’t hear from anybody in the band, actually. I heard from the band’s manager on my birthday, which I wouldn’t fault him for that. He told me I was terminated and I think the last thing I said to him was, “Well, happy birthday to me.” (laughs) Since then, Neal and I have talked many times and I have a good relationship with Jonathan. The band’s manager and I have talked. They’re all really good guys. They did what they had to do and I will never resent them or fault them for that. They have a beautiful legacy and for someone like me to tarnish it, unacceptable. No excuse.

If they offered you your job back as Journey’s drummer, would you take it?

No, honestly I’d tell them “No.” (laughs) I spent 17 years in the band and that was long enough. I want to try some new things. They don’t want me back and I’m fine with that. It’s OK. (laughs) I love them, but it’s time to move on.

Did you watch Journey getting inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? 

I didn’t go. I had a choice. I was on probation at the time. I could leave for work purposes, but I couldn’t travel or go on vacation. Also, I didn’t have any part in the legacy, other than that I bought every record and went to every show when they came to Portland. I also didn’t want to be a distraction, and I’m sure I would’ve been. It was best to let them enjoy that. It’s their success, not mine.

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