How Tragedy and Triumph Sparked Deen Castronovo’s Comeback
Deen Castronovo may never have been busier. He's completing a huge Journey tour with Toto, and preparing for Revolution Saints' fourth LP Eagle Flight. Castronovo is also part of Neal Schon's newly announced Journey Through Time live album, which largely focuses on early-era Journey songs that find Castronovo drumming and trading vocals with band co-founder Gregg Rolie.
Castronovo has been bluntly honest about past problems with addiction, and just as thankful for a career second act that eventually brought him back to Revolution Saints and then to Journey. Turns out, it all came together at basically the same time.
Years have passed, and suddenly Revolution Saints is on again – then you're back in Journey. How'd you get there?
It was the perfect timing, because I had not rejoined Journey yet – and we were talking about doing the next Revolution Saints record and Doug [Aldrich] and Jack [Blades] had bowed out. It was like, 'OK, now what are we going to do here?" Those are big shoes to fill. And then Joel and Jeff came in, and then Journey happened – and everything just kind of came at once. It was a tough time for me because my mother had passed away. Well, actually, I got the call on the 19th. My mom passed away on the 19th of July 2021, and Neal [Schon] called me the next morning – which was just, I mean, the universe. He said, "We need you to come out and help out for these shows," and it was heavy. So there was a lot going on, and the stars aligned, Jesus aligned, God aligned, Buddha aligned. All of it just aligned and everything just worked and fit perfectly.
Life is funny that way, isn't it?
Even though it was a rough time for me emotionally, I needed that. I needed to just go, "OK, mom's gone. Now I got to get in here," because that would have been the time to blow it – to relapse. When my father died, that was a tough one. I almost lost it on that one. Mom, as well. That was really tough. So Neal calling was like a blessing, a huge blessing from God. I was like, "OK, I got to stay in this. My mom would be livid if I screwed up." So I'm very, very grateful. It's a beautiful time.
Watch 'Only the Young' From Deen Castronovo's Journey Reunion Show
At the same time, I imagine that none of this came easy.
There have been ups and downs, deaths in the family and stuff like that, relapses and coming back and then having the back surgeries and all. I'm just grateful to be alive. I've been through hell. My poor wife's been through hell, my family, my kids. But here we are eight years later and we're doing what we need to do, man. Life is good. You wake up in the morning, you don't have a hangover. I actually got money in my wallet. Like, "Oh, good. I didn't spend it on stupid shit!" [Laughs] I think the biggest thing I've got now – I'm addicted to Red Bull and cigarettes. I've got to get rid of the cigarettes. But the Red Bulls, man, those are tough. I love my Red Bulls.
How was the transition back into Journey?
I needed to take some time off. I had to take some time off and, pardon my language, get my shit together. I was a mess, and it was horrible what happened. But today, I'm doing great, clean and sober, working hard, doing what I need to do – and I put God first, family second. My job is third, where before it was all the other way around. "I want to be a rocker, I want to play music and I want to party," and everything was on the back burner – everything else, which is really sad. But I've really got a huge appreciation now, obviously, for family. I mean, that's the most important thing. I was so wrapped up in drugs and alcohol; family was way down the line. That was heartbreaking. But here I am today, and family is most important, and my job is great. I love what I do with Journey and I love what I do with Revolution Saints, but the beautiful thing is what I learned the most, being in treatment, is that if it all went away, you know what? I'm still all right.
What was it like leaving a band after almost two decades?
Journey was my identity for so many damned years – and when it went away, it was hard. People would go, "Oh, that's the drummer from Journey." I'm like "No, I'm not the drummer of a Journey anymore" – and it took me a while to get adjusted to that – because that was my identity. But probably the best thing that ever happened to me was just to go, "You know what? That is not who I am. That is what I do for a living. That's how I get the kids through college and make sure the grandbabies got all the Xboxes they need." That's kind of what it is for me now, and I love that fact. I love my job, I love what I do – but that's not my priority anymore. My priority is my wife, my kids, my grandkids, my sobriety. Music is there, and it'll always be there, but I'll be able to walk away from that unscathed now, which is great. It's a beautiful thing. I love playing, but if it was all to go away tomorrow, God bless, man. Life goes on, and I'm OK with myself. I'm comfortable in my skin.
Watch Deen Castronovo With Journey Through Time
You got a chance to see Neal Schon interact with Gregg Rolie again onstage during Journey's Austin reunion show and with the Journey Through Time project. What makes that relationship so special?
Well, a lot of it reminds me of Neal and myself. I mean, how Gregg kind of plucked Neal from high school and took him in – that's kind of what Neal did with me in Bad English. I was playing with Tony McAlpine, and he just kind of plucked me out. I'm 10 years younger than Neal. I think maybe Gregg's, like, seven or eight years older than him? So, it's a very similar situation, you know, because Neal just grabbed me and everywhere he went, he took me with him. So I owe him a huge, huge, massive debt of gratitude. I really wouldn't have a career if it wasn't for Neal. With the exception of my little time with Ozzy Osbourne, I've been everywhere Neal goes. He's taking me with him, and I'm so grateful to him for that.
Journey Through Time must have given you a much clearer idea of how difficult it has been for others to follow Steve Perry.
Oh, dude. I've got to say, Arnel [Pineda] is so amazing because he does it every night and he's flawless. He goes out there with both guns blazing, and I just watch him and I feel such appreciation. Like, man, how can you do that night after night after night and still sound great? Steve Perry was my favorite. So for me to even sing a Perry song, I just try to do it justice, man. Steve is a god. To me, he's the greatest rock-R&B singer of my generation – bar none. I don't know, man. There's not very many that can touch Perry, in my opinion. He's just got that thing. I just try to sing those songs to the best of my ability without butchering it. You know what I mean?
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