Albuquerque drummer finds a Motley life after Ozzy
story probably should've been written in 1986, when Randy Castillo returned
to Albuquerque as drummer for Ozzy Osbourne, one of the most famous or
infamous rock stars ever. At
that point there was a bit of vindication for Castillo, who had left 14
years earlier to pursue his dream of making "the big time."
His ascendence to the drum chair of one of rock's biggest acts making records and playing arenas worldwide could be seen as his career peak. Castillo might've felt that way in 1986, but now that he's joined Motley Crue, one '80s rock group whose fame and infamy may match Ozzy's incident for incident, Castillo is a bit philosophical.
"There's a lot of peaks and a lot of valleys," Castillo said in a recent phone interview. "In this business you roll with the punches. There's gonna be highs and lows.
A true musician ... an artist knows there'll be highs and lows. "But as long as you're always true to yourself and you know who are, if you stick with it, things come around."
days, late nights
"So he had gone on wanting to play. I finally got tired of hearing him bang on everthing." His mom ended up buying his first drum set wth her last paycheck as a secretary for the Albuquerque Public Schools. Soon enough, the Castillos would be taking turns sitting in bars chaperoning their only son, who played with the then-popular local band The Checkers while he was attending West Mesa High School. "I wasn't a great student," Castillo said with a chuckle. "I was already playing in clubs. I'd play 'til 1:30 or 2 in the morning and my poor dad, who had to go to work at 6 in the morning, would help me load my drums in the truck.
I couldn't wait 'til I could drive." He also couldn't wait to graduate from West Mesa. "It was hard in school, 'cause I was always falling asleep," Randy said. "I wanted to be a good student. But I knew I was gonna be a musician." By his senior year, Randy was playing with The Sheltons, one of the city's most popular bands. After joining the band, Randy said he was thrown out a few months later because the group, which had thrown out its old drummer, decided they wanted him back.
Randy was devastated, but the incident turned out to be the best thing for him, thanks to his mom. "He was really, really hurt about it," she said. "He said, 'I'm going to show them, I'm gonna be the best drummer and someday they're gonna ask me to come back.' I told him 'You're going to go for drum lessons. I'm going to take you so you can learn to play right way.'" Margaret started taking Randy to Luchetti's Music for lessons with Nick Luchetti, at the time one of the best instructors in the city, if not the state. Eventually, after studying with Luchetti for a year, Randy had a small measure of revenge on The Sheltons. His next band beat them in a battle of the bands at West Mesa High School.
In the end, Randy said it was Luchetti's guidance that helped him realize his dream of playing big-time rock 'n roll. "I give him all the credit," Randy said. "He was the best teacher, he really pointed me in the right direction and turned me on to jazz, bebop, opening my mind as drummer." The influence extended beyond the practice room as well.
He was even recruited to attend school on scholarship, but after a year, he'd had enough. Randy joined The Wumblies and moved to Espanola, where the group played "high school proms and wherever we could." Eventually the "ambitious" band, which played covers of songs by Yes, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, moved to Denver. "We played every little town between Chicago and L.A.," he said. "We'd play four 45-minute sets a night. That's how we got our chops."
When the band fell apart in 1980, he moved to Los Angeles with Albuquerque-bred guitarist Tim Pierce, who is now a renowned studio pro who's worked with the likes of Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson. "We were living in a little fly-infested dump, full of transvestites and bums, auditioning for every gig we could," he said. "I even lived in my pickup truck that had a top for a while. It got pretty hard."
the top with Ozzy
Eventually times turned for the better. On the recommendation of another former Albuquerque musician, singer/songwriter Michael Goodroe, Randy toured with then-hot pop band The Motels, whom Goodroe played bass for, when their regular drummer caught pneumonia. It wasn't a hard-rocking band by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a gig. After that assignment ended, Randy got his second break when his roommate, who was playing with former Runaways guitarist Lita Ford, called on him to replace the skin basher in Ford's band, who had been fired.
It was the touring and recording with Ford that brought him to the attention of Motley Crue's Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx, who was dating Ford at the time. The Crue had been touring with Ozzy Osbourne, the veteran rock singer who started his career in the '70s with heavy metal godfathers Black Sabbath. Lee knew Osbourne was looking for a new drummer, so with the Ozz-man in the background, he called Randy, who had returned home to visit, from a party in L.A. at 4 in the morning. "He says, 'Hey, I got a dude here who wants to talk to you,'" Randy said. "It was Ozzy."
One problem Randy had broken his leg skiing in Santa Fe and had a cast on his leg. Osbourne still flew him to England for an audition, which brought on the second problem. Osbourne wanted someone who played a double bass drum set, which Castillo had never done in his life. "I basically lied my way into (it)," Randy said. "Ozzy asked 'Do you play double bass?' I said, 'Oh yeah' and on the plane to England I was practicing double bass." Randy spent six years with Osbourne, recording six albums, including "The Ultimate Sin," "No More Tears" and the live "Just Say Ozzy." "It was a long fruitful relationship," he said. "We're still good friends. It's kinda funny. I used to ditch school and me and buddies listen to Black Sabbath, Jimi ... so it was really heavy to end up playing with him."
After parting ways with Ozzy, Randy continued working in L.A., playing sessions, and trying to get his own bands going. One was Bone Angels, with guitarist John Lawrey, who now plays in Marilyn Manson.
That group, which was blues-based rock, turned into Red Square Black, a group whose sound was "very industrial." "We were doing then what a lot of bands are doing now," he said. "We were ahead of our time. We were doing all the sampling, kind of funk-rap-metal that seems to be happening with new bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit four or five years ago."
After the group folded, mostly because its record company "didn't have any money," Castillo served a short stint with Ozzy again as well as touring Motley Crue singer Vince Neil on his second solo tour and appearing in the movie "Ford Fairlane" as part of Neil's band. Earlier this year, he had begun working with the L.A.-based hard-rock band Black Sheep, when he got a call from Osbourne.
"He tells me 'You gotta call Nikki Sixx, he wants to talk to you,'" Randy said. "We never even played, we just talked on the phone for an hour and hit it off. "Then he tells me 'Hey, you're the guy. Let me talk to Vince and (guitarist Mick Mars).' He called back 10 minutes later and told me I was in the band." Just like that, Randy had replaced Motley Crue's original drummer Tommy Lee, who had decided to pursue a solo project rather than tour.
While his involvement with the band was originally as drummer only for the band's current tour with the Scorpions, Randy said he quickly moved beyond just filling in for Lee. "It started out that way, we were just kinda feeling it out, but it worked out so well, that now I'm in the band."
It's a tough assignment, not only because of Lee's prowess as a drummer, but also because Lee helped Randy get his biggest break. Randy, who said he remains good friends with Lee, said it's not a problem. "I love Tommy, he's an original, a great drummer," he said. "I have big shoes to fill, but like I say, I've got big feet. I've got my own thing, I don't wanna be him. "When they sat down and said 'We want you in the band, we like the way you play. We don't want Tommy Lee Junior.'"
Randy will head in to the studio to record a new album at the beginning of the year, when he said he'll "get his two cents in" on the re-emerging band's signature hard-rocking sound. It's just another example of the determination and drive that Randy showed from the moment he began playing the drums. "I always believed in myself, that's for sure," he said. "I knew I could cut it and something would come along. I play just as well in front of 10 as 100,000, which I did in Moscow with Ozzy. "Six months ago, I was playing a little dump in L.A. loving what I was doing as much as when I was in Russia.
It was as much fun in that little dump as a huge stadium. "I feel lucky to be able to do that." It also proves the support his parents gave, and the faith his mom showed when buying the first set of drums, was well placed. "Randy was determined from the beginning, he had the determination, hard work and perseverance," she said. "He always said 'I'm gonna make the big time.' Of course, we supported him, but we weren't as sure as he was. But he was right. "He's always been very positive."
Margaret Castillo says her only regret is that Frank Castillo, who died in 1979, never got to see his son's successes. "I'm sorry his father didn't live long enough to see his successes and what he's achieved," she said.
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