Deen Castronovo Confirms Journey Firing, Opens Up About Addiction: Exclusive Interview
This has been a tough year for former Journey drummer Deen Castronovo.
It actually started out on a high note with the release of the debut album by his side band Revolution Saints, a collaboration with Night Ranger’s Jack Blades and former Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich, which was released in February. But things quickly turned dark for Castronovo, who was arrested in June and found himself facing a list of charges including rape, sexual abuse, and unlawful use of a weapon.
After his arrest and eventual indictment, he entered rehab and was later sentenced to four years of probation and has been undergoing domestic violence and drug counseling and working to maintain his sobriety since then.
As he told Ultimate Classic Rock during an interview on Monday (Nov. 2), keeping that sobriety intact is where he is focusing all of his energies.
“I’m not expecting to work for a while and if God opens that door, he’ll open that door,” he says. “But I’m definitely not ready and even if somebody asked me now, I wouldn’t do it. A year from now, I don’t think I would do it. I need some time. I don’t ever want to have this happen again, bro. I never want to do this to my band members, to any band member, any band, any friends of mine, any family -- this is something that’s life or death and I really better take it seriously. Drumming right now is a beautiful thing that I love to do, but I’m not ready to put the shoes back on and play. I’m just not ready yet.”
Here’s our full conversation with Deen Castronovo, as he talks about the events of the past year, his current status with Journey and what’s next.
I told a few people that I was going to talk to you and, as you can expect with the news that’s been out there this year, they all kind of had the same reaction. They were going, “Man, why is he doing interviews now?” I think that with all of the negative stuff that’s been out there in recent months, however you frame this up, there’s going to be some folks who are going to think that this is just you taking the opportunity to try and clear your name while the story is still fresh. So, why talk now?
Okay, well, you know, it’s not a question of clearing my name. Now that I’ve gotten treatment and I’ve been in recovery and I’m doing the stuff that I need to be doing, I need to tell my story, how horrible this has been. The disease is evil and if I can help anyone at anytime to not be 51 years old, be in your fifth rehab treatment and lose everything that you frickin’ worked so hard for, man, I’m going to stop it. That’s it. This is nothing to do with P.R.
The statement that I sent out was supposed to basically explain what had happened and to apologize. It’s about making amends to the people that I love and care about: my family, Deidra – you know, the victim – my children and the band and the fans. It has nothing to do with clearing my name, bro. I’ll tell you this – the only thing that’s going to clear up any of my reputation is if I live this for the rest of my life, bottom line. It ain’t gonna be a quick fix, and I didn’t expect a quick fix.
I would have loved to have talked after all of this was done. I would have loved after all of this first started, but I went to jail for 15 days and then went straight into rehabilitation at Hazelden. I wasn’t talking to anyone, but taking care of myself. So this isn’t a P.R. blitz to make me look better. The only thing that will make me look better, bro, is if I live this – and I’m taking it every day, one step at a time. That’s all that matters now.
You were arrested on June 14th. As you look back now, where did the problems begin?
The problems began with drug abuse, bro. I mean, the problems began six and a half years ago when Deidra, my fiancee, and I started getting together. I was just starting to dabble in drinking again. I mean, I’ve been on and off the wagon for years. And it’s been a struggle and the band has given me a bajillion chances and I kept screwing those chances up. Finally, it came to a head this year, you know. There’s been a lot of emotional, verbal and physical abuse with D and myself, and it came to a head after this last tour. I hit lower than bottom, and it’s something that I’m going to have to fight the rest of my life.
For you, what were the things that you really had to start working on as you kind of started picking up the pieces?
Well, for me, the first thing I had to start on was working on me, just finding who I was. My identity has been a musician and singer and as the drummer for Journey for 17 years. I was wearing a lot of masks. Deep inside, dude, I was miserable. Not from playing and being a musician, just miserable. I never have felt I was good enough at anything I did – except for playing drums and singing. And it all stems from my childhood.
[The] drug addiction and alcoholism are symptoms of really deep, deep traumatic issues that have happened in my childhood. Heavy stuff that I won’t discuss now, because it’s very personal stuff, but heavy, heavy stuff. And getting into treatment, I mean, first of all, getting into jail – jail saved my life. If it wasn’t for Deidra calling the police and the prosecutors getting me and taking me in, I would be dead. I was on the brink. You know, I was very, very fortunate that I came out of this. And then getting into Hazelden, you know, it changed my life. Jail saved me, and Hazelden changed me.
It’s really scary when you see the word “meth” mentioned in this whole story. That’s a really heavy thing to get into.
Yeah, and it was a 24-day run. I had come off the road and I was on pain medication. I’ve had a hip replacement. I’ve had back surgery, pins in my back and that started two and a half or three years ago when I was on the pain meds. It was just to get through the tours; I needed medication to get through it. Then when I got off the road, I’d just, you know, abuse it. Typical addict, man. We just go after what we go after, and we don’t stop.
So yeah, this last run was a shock to me as well. I never thought in a million years that in 24 days I would destroy everything that meant something to me. Everything. It’s heartbreaking, but you know, I’m alive, bro. Thank God, I’m alive.
Officially, how did all of these events affect your status in Journey? What’s the official status at this point?
I was fired on Aug. 10th. I was terminated. They haven’t released an official announcement but, yeah, I was fired. I was in treatment at the time and I’m grateful that I was in treatment to be able to process that, because that was heartbreaking. But then again, you know, Journey has a stellar legacy and I’ve tarnished that, and they did the right thing. They did what they needed to do. Not because they were punishing me, because it wasn’t about punishing me or wrecking my life. They didn’t do anything of the sort.
They did this because they loved me and they wanted to see me alive. That’s the beauty of it. It wasn’t about, “Oh, let’s just kick him out because he’s a loser and he’s just a drug addict.” They knew that I wouldn’t be able to fix this if I was touring or if I was working with the band, or if I was being pulled back and forth. I needed to have solid recovery and to put this first, and they did the right thing. I mean, it was horrible and it’s heartbreaking, because they’re brothers, but they did the right thing, man. They knew I needed a lot more than just a few months or six months or three months or whatever it was to get this stuff right – because this is not a quick fix.
I know things are complicated as you’re going through something like this. Is it something where they were able to be in touch with you as things were going on? What’s the communication been like?
They had an opportunity. They had the phone number to call me and leave messages at Hazelden. But I never heard from them, and I think they were just giving me the space I needed to keep myself focused. You know, I don’t think it was a personal thing. I’ve gotten a few texts from Neal [Schon] lately, and I got a couple of texts from Jonathan [Cain], but that’s about it.
I actually had to call John Baruck, the manager, and ask on Aug. 10th if I was still in the band and he said, “Well, we’ve decided to terminate you” – and you know, I understand, dude. You know what? My best thinking got me here. Bottom line. My actions and choices have destroyed everything. So, it’s now time to rebuild and, for the first time in my life, I actually like who I am – and I’ve never liked who I am.
As you work to rebuild yourself, where do you see yourself going from here?
Well, as far as playing music, that’s on the backburner and I have no intentions of playing. I don’t know if I’ll ever play again, to be honest with you. I don’t know if I want to. Right now, I have no desire. My desire right now is to be a father and a sober father, obviously – a clean and sober father – and work on myself. I’m taking domestic violence classes for the next nine months, and I’ve been offered to volunteer to talk to juveniles that are dealing and dabbling in drugs and alcohol here in the state. And you know, you don’t want to be 51 and lose everything and that’s what I’ve been telling some of these kids.
I remember talking to a kid at Hazelden, he was 19 and he was pissing and moaning about how, “God, this sucks and I don’t want to be here. I don’t need to be here.” I sat him down and I go, “Bro, do you want to be 51 years old in your fifth rehab stint? Losing everything? Losing a multi-million dollar job and having nothing left? Do you really want to be this? You’d better frickin’ stop it now.” And this kid is still kicking ass – he’s got five days less than I do. I’ve got 125 days today. We keep in contact. He’s doing really good, man. It’s like, you don’t want to be this. Nobody wants to be this. Nobody wants to go through this.
It sounds like, at least once you got out, that you’re able to be with your kids.
Yeah, I see my youngest, Roman, everyday. He’s my priority. You know, I’ve got God, sobriety and my children and my family. Those are my biggest supporters, and it’s great to have my sons look me in the eyes and I’m actually present – not just there. It’s a beautiful thing and they’ll look at me and they’ll say, “I’m proud of you, Dad.” They’re happy for me. They see the real me, and that’s the beauty.
Even the Journey guys, they know the real me. They know that some of those charges were dropped for a reason. They were thrown out for a reason – because they never happened. I’d never have the capacity to do the things that I was charged with. And they were thrown out for a reason. The things that did happen, happened and I do not minimize it at all, Matthew. I mean, it’s horrible.
Domestic violence, obviously is f–king evil and I was a perpetrator, and that’s something that I’m going to learn and grow from with these domestic violence classes. Hopefully, someday, after I get enough knowledge – I mean, I’ve got a ton of knowledge in drug abuse – I can help a kid stay off of that s–t. It’s pretty simple to look at my life and go, “You know what? You don’t want to do this.” But domestic violence, when you’re a perpetrator and you’ve been charged with these things and you’ve dealt with these things, you really need to get to know the knowledge as to why you were doing it. Why was this happening?
Have you been playing music at all yourself?
Not at all. I’ve got a drum set setup in my studio here at home, and I haven’t touched them. To me, there’s more important things in life now. It was great to be in a huge band and it was great to have all of that success and have the money that I had and those things but, you know, when you lose it all, you finally realize what’s important. And what’s important to me is like I said, my kids and my sobriety. It’s going to take a long time.
I’ve got to prove it to not only the Journey fans – or just people, in general. A lot of people have lost faith; . A lot of people don’t believe it. But you know, as long as I’m true to me, all I’ve got to prove it to is my kids, my family, God and myself. If other people don’t believe it, then that’s their right. But I’m not out to please other people anymore. That was my biggest problem is that I wanted everybody to like me and that’s why the masks were all put up, because I hated myself. It’s pretty deep stuff, but I grew a ton at Hazelden. I grew a ton.
Neal’s a guy that you’ve played music with for decades and I’m sure there’s a lot of situations like that where you let people down, where there’s been a long, long relationship like that.
Yeah, I love Neal and that whole band. They’re brothers and, you know, I know they truly care. I mean, I know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I’ve been in their lives since I was 23, Neal and Jonathan. They’re more like brothers to me than my own family sometimes. They have stuck with me. But they’ve also given me a lot of chances, bro. And you know, I’ve let them down more than once, and they just kind of had to say, “Okay, enough’s enough.” You know, “We love Deen as a human being, not as a commodity. Not as the drummer and the singer that we need.” You know, they love me for me and it was time that they cut ties, so I could actually take care of myself and get myself well – and that’s true love. That’s brotherly love right there.
Do you have a good support system otherwise?
Oh yeah, I’ve got good family and friends here. I’ve got two AA sponsors. I go up and I volunteer at Hazelden once in a while, talk to kids and stuff. And like I said, I’ve got people that really know me. They know the real me, and never gave up on me. Those people, I’m embracing again – because you know, when you’re using and drinking, you isolate. You push all of the people that love you aside. You don’t care. The drugs and the alcohol take over, and you lose yourself. Now that I’m seeing myself again, they’re seeing me again, and it’s beautiful to just go and be with family with no preconceived issues.
You know, it’s not about me being in the band anymore. What can I do for other people and what can people get out of me? The playing field is leveled now. I have nothing to offer anyone but my heart and my authenticity. I have nothing else to offer. I can’t give them money. I can’t get them tickets to shows. I can’t fly them all over the world. This is who I am and this is all I have. Accept me for me, or you don’t have to be here anymore. You know, I’ve learned to draw boundaries, Matthew. That’s huge, because I haven’t been able to for years.
What is it about this bottom that really felt different than the other times that you’ve tried to get clean and get past this?
One word: Consequences. When you’re thrown in jail, that scares you straight. That scares you straight. When you’re charged with stuff that some of the s–t is so heinous and you can’t believe it happened, that scares you straight. Losing your job with brothers that you’ve had for years, scares you straight. Consequences, man. That’s what woke me up. It needed to be this bad in order for me to become the man that I’m supposed to be, that God created me to be. It had to get this bad. Nothing happens on this planet by accident, is what the Big Book says – and it’s right. Nothing happens by accident.
It was horrible, it was traumatic for myself [and] much more traumatic for Deidra and our kids. But you know, the end justifies the means. It happened and it happened for a reason, and I’m grateful daily that it did. A lot of people would be bitter or angry or resentful or pissed off at the world. No way, man. I’m awake now. This is the most awake I’ve been in my life, and I have every intention of making sure that each day I do exactly what I’ve been doing the past 125 days. And you know, it’s one day at a time. I can’t predict the future, but I’m going to make sure that tomorrow when I wake up, if I’m not dead from a heart attack or a plane crash or whatever, I’m going to do the right things. I’m going to make sure that my recovery comes first and that my children are next.
The stuff that’s in place legally, I mean, you lost a relationship in all of this. Is there ever a chance for you to make that right?
You know, the great thing about this is going and doing these domestic violence classes and keeping my treatment up as well, the probation is set up to where that in, I think, six weeks, I’m able to actually talk to Deidra again. After that, they’ll allow me to maybe see her once in a while and then, you know, after counseling and stuff like that, separately – it’s really up to her. It’s up to her. I would love to see her again. You know, I guess I want her to see me as I am now. Because for six and a half years, I’ve been either using or withdrawing or just a dry drunk.
Now, it’s a different thing and I know she’s rooting for me. I know deep down, even though I have no contact with her, I know. I will always love her. No matter what, I will make the proper amends. You know, if it’s just as friends – I’ve known her since she was 14. It’s going to be hard to throw something away that I’ve known pretty much all of my life. She’s a good lady.
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