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ROCK ON! This Week's Sound Bites...11/13/14

By Danny Coleman

originally published: 11/13/2014

“Oh wow. Randy stuck out from other drummers, he had his own style, his own personality that was unique; it was so very much just Randy,” said Lita Ford as she elaborated on drummer Randy Castillo from her hotel room in Parsippany, NJ. Castillo is the subject of a new film from director Wynn Ponder and longtime friend Michael Bell titled “The Life, Blood and Rhythm of Randy Castillo.”

Randolph Francisco Castillo, better known as “Randy,” was born one of five children to parents of Native American heritage in a musical family. Castillo, who Kip Winger called “The Godfather of heavy metal drumming,” with his passing of at the age of 51 in 2002 left a legacy of talent, innovation and a passion for his craft that are tough to match by any standards.

Castillo’s path to rock drummer stardom was not an easy one by any stretch; often he took chances and met obstacles head on along the way. Whether it was his father’s refusal to allow him a drum kit out of fear that Randy wouldn’t stick with it, as he didn’t stick with the trumpet he originally played or living in his truck when he made the bold decision to move to L.A. in pursuit of music; Castillo persevered.

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While kicking around the Hollywood and L.A. scenes, Castillo networked and made his reputation piece by piece and gig by gig. Prior, Castillo had gained some national touring experience with his band, The Wumblies but it was an opportunity with new wave rockers The Motels that helped put Randy on the musical map. The Motels drummer had fallen victim to a heart condition shortly before a scheduled arena tour opening for The Cars and Randy was asked to fill in.

Once the tour ended, Castillo went back to performing with various other bands until he got the call in 1984 from Lita Ford. Randy was featured on her “Dancin’ On The Edge” album and from that point on his career grew by leaps and bounds. “Randy? As a person he was very funny, I mean stupid funny,” Ford started with a little laugh. “Randy was the kind of guy who could make us all laugh if we were in a bad mood or if there was tension at a rehearsal. He was the kind of person that any one of us could show up at his hotel room with a problem at four A.M. and he’d wake up and listen to what you had to say. Having him in my band was a blessing, I cherished him and every moment, he was a beautiful man.”

Ford’s boyfriend at the time was Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx. Lita introduced Castillo to Sixx and the two quickly became friends. While at a party with Ozzy Osbourne in attendance, Sixx discovered that Ozzy was searching for a drummer; he immediately notified Castillo who auditioned and got the job. Over the next ten years, five albums and multiple tours; Randy was the man behind the drum kit for one of rock’s most famous personalities. Oddly enough and proving that things do come full circle; Castillo’s final drumming moments came with Motley Crue as he replaced Tommy Lee without an audition when Lee left the band in 1999.

Ironically, while performing with a side project, Castillo fell ill during a performance and immediately following the gig rushed himself to the hospital. Emergency surgery revealed that he had a stomach ulcer which ruptured and it was during his recovery that he discovered a lump in his jaw which in a very short time period grew rapidly. A trip to the doctor revealed a curable form of cancer known as Squamous cell Carcinoma; usually not fatal if detected early. The cancer went into remission in 2001 but within a few months returned and within a short time after returning to the doctor, Randy Castillo passed away.

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Enter Michael Bell who was a fan of Randy’s work and befriended him by attending shows and sneaking in backstage whenever he would come through town. Bell would be there to grab an interview and catch the show; eventually becoming quite tight with one of rock’s premier drummers.

Upon Randy’s death, Bell wrote a four page testament to his friend and sought to put it to film; taking his idea to commercial film maker Wynn Ponder at Cinema 1 Film and FX. “There was a personal connection that Michael Bell brought to my company; he knew Randy,” said Ponder. “Gosh, I’ve been a filmmaker a long time; I do a lot of commercial work and am usually more focused in the FX end. My company has worked on Transformers, Spider Man and the Iron Man movies so this was a definite change of pace for me. When Randy passed away, Mike got on it right away and was determined to make this a tribute to the person Randy was. One of the things that I discovered from making this film was that Randy never got that armor that so many personalities do. He remained a regular guy who would talk to anyone, make time for whoever approached him and I developed an emotional attachment to him during the making of this film.”

Bell brought his idea to Ponder almost immediately after Castillo passed in 2002 but it didn’t all come together until earlier this year as one key piece of the puzzle was missing; Randy’s mother. Margaret Castillo would not speak with Bell or the filmmakers, saying it was just too traumatic and difficult to do so. “Sadly, Margaret passed away within the last year,” explained Ponder. “When she finally gave in and conceded to do this we had the final piece that we needed to finish the film. Up until then it was just too difficult for her to talk about it and we were not going to push it; could you? So we waited and when she was ready it was a beautiful thing to hear her discuss and talk about her son. Randy’s death had a profound effect on her and her very core. Margaret was a devout Christian who felt with Randy’s passing that God had let her down and she lost all of her faith. She wasn’t necessarily bitter but she was very much lost it seemed. She talked with such love and devotion of a man who still called and came home to see his mother; a good boy so to speak. I took a dozen crew members with me and during the interview she had us all crying; it was very emotional.”

The decision to have Lita Ford narrate the film was an incredibly easy one according to Ponder. “We interviewed Lita early on in the process because Randy was her drummer. She was beautiful, so true in the love that she had for Randy. She’s articulate, well-spoken and was friends with him. I remember during the recording process, there were multiple times that we’d have to stop because Lita would start remembering other stories and we’d all get choked up or she’d have to gather herself a bit. This is such an emotional story and anyone or anything less than Lita Ford would not do Randy justice; her tone is all over this film.”

“I thought it was a great idea when they approached me about doing it,” said Ford. Randy had done so much for others that it was my pleasure to do this; I was truly honored to be asked. When the word came that Randy had died, I was in the Caribbean and due to that I never got to attend the services; so this is my good bye to him. This was a very emotional experience for me. I knew Randy’s parents, his family, we were all friends; he was a big part of my life. You know, when people die, it doesn’t matter who they are, a big chunk of you goes with them and having lost Randy; I lost a piece of my life too.”

Castillo’s time with Ford on the music front has long passed and it’s been 12 years since his death and as Ford still thinks of him fondly; she has moved onward with her career. A planned book release is tentatively planned for April of 2015 and she continues to perform and make appearances. “No one will ever replace Randy,” she explained, seeming rather reflective. “All of the fun things we did, the laughs, the parties, we had so many good times but it won’t and didn’t stop me from moving forward. I’ve got to go on; randy would have wanted that for sure. I have an autobiography coming out next year, it’s a memoir let’s say, about my life growing up in a teen age rock band and me coming of age and my hits in the 80’s. Randy was a big part of that and my success. The story is not easy to tell because not a lot of people have done what I did or chose the path that I did or the way I did it. My future includes a lot of me just being myself and trying to be creative, not copying people. In this business there is a lot of copying. I was watching the “2013 Victoria’s Secret Runway Show” recently and I looked at an outfit and I thought; I wonder. Then another outfit and this time with a guitar and I’m thinking, I know where they got their ideas and I thought well, imitation is the highest form of flattery. I’ve got much to look forward to.”

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Ponder notes how Kip Winger’s aforementioned quote and Castillo’s drumming has caused Winger to look at his own music differently. Kip saw Randy in a bar called “Godfather’s” in Denver, Colorado. After seeing him perform, Kip said that Randy influenced the way he put his music together. Randy used to emphasize the one and three beats not just two and four like most others and yet he never lost energy in his fills. He said that Randy definitely raised the bar and was a real performer on stage, a real showman who pulled the rock ‘n’ roll drummer out front and from behind the drum kit; which up until Randy came along was a huge barrier.”

“The Life, Blood and Rhythm of Randy Castillo” made its debut at the Red Nation Film Festival in Beverly Hills, CA. on November 4. Ponder is extremely pleased this was the chosen premier spot as he feels it is quite the apt spot given Randy’s Native American lineage. “We are all very excited about this; it is the perfect place to premier the film. There was this supernatural magic that surrounded this film with lots of happy coincidences as if Randy’s presence was actually there and definitely felt at all times. Odd things would happen and we’d all look at each other and say, “Yeah, Randy is here,” or “Oh Randy must’ve done that,” it’s like we could all sense him and his presence. Randy was almost shamanistic and with his Native American Ways this film premiering in this spot is the perfect ending to this guy’s life. In this film you get to know this guy. You’ll meet some very real people who speak of and love Randy as if he is still alive. They say they can tell when Randy was there with us and still feel him to this day and claim that they try to mirror the energy that he had and I feel we convey that very well in this film.

When asked to summarize a man that he had never met but learned about and grew close to his life through the making of this film; Ponder didn’t hesitate. “Oh, well, he was the rhythm and Apache drummer who played with and for a lot of people. Randy Castillo was a bigger than life musician who remained a good man; no, make that a great man.”

“The Life, Blood and Rhythm of Randy Castillo” can be found at or . To discover more about the film and Randy Castillo please visit and/or .

That's it for this week! Please continue to support live and original music and until next week....ROCK ON!


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101 Main St. Hightstown
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358 Farnsworth Ave. Bordentown

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Wildflowers Inn

2572 Pennington Rd. Pennington

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Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 7:000pm EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.



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