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Bio

My Name is Richie Castellano. I was born in Brooklyn on February 7th, 1980. I'm a fifth generation musician. My great great grandfather was a guitar player, my great grandfather was an orchestral multi-instrumentalist, my grandfather was a jazz bassist, and my father is an r&b singer/guitar player.

I remember my first performance. It was at a night club in Brooklyn. I think I was 5 years old. I sang with my father's band, Good N Plenty. Over the next few years, my father would frequently bring me up to sing with his band. I was content with being just a singer until 1987 when I saw the movie LaBamba. After seeing Ritchie Valens rock out on the big screen, I asked for guitar lessons.

Learning guitar was a slow and tedious process for me. Like many young kids, I wanted to play songs right away. It wasn't until I formed my first band at age 11 that I got really motivated to get better at guitar. At the time I was heavily into the music of the 1950s. This was great for me since those songs only have 3 or 4 chords.

When I turned 12 I was introduced to the Beatles. This got me very interested in songwriting. I started writing music like crazy. With this came the need to record these songs, so I borrowed a 3 track (4 track with one broken) tape recorder from my Uncle Phil. Recording my songs forced me to learn a whole new set of skills. I had to start learning the nuts and bolts of recording. I also learned how to play other instruments. My Uncle Phil started giving me bass lessons, and I taught myself keyboards, drums, and harmonica.

As my songs became more sophisticated, so did my recordings. I quickly outgrew the 3 track, and my Uncle ended up giving me his 16 track. This was a huge deal for me. We setup a recording studio in my basement, and I locked myself in there for the next few years. During this time I learned about effects processors, MIDI, sequencing, mixing, and arranging.

At age 14, I wrote and recorded a song for a contest at my junior high school. The contest was to come up with a song for graduation. My song won, and this was the first of many magic moments to take place in my basement. My basement was cold and dark, but the room had a pretty good sound. I started calling my basement studio "The Dungeon."

When I got to high school I became heavily influenced by progressive rock. This was a great time to be into that music because I was like a sponge. During my sophomore year I formed my first progressive rock band called Speed Of Sound. The band was made up of Andy Ascolese on keyboards, Andy Graziano on guitar and bass, Adam Sachs on drums, and me on guitar and bass. We wrote a few songs, and went into the dungeon to record a 4 song demo.

During my junior year of high school, I was writing a lot of angst-ridden high school songs. My band wasn't really interested in playing any of these songs, so I decided to make a solo album. The album took 9 months to record and I ended up calling it "Alone In My Basement."

This album was very good to me. I sold out of the initial pressing, and had to get a 2nd pressing. I won 2 songwriting awards including first place for the songwriter's hall of fame songwriting competition and third place in the Bertelsmann World of Expression competition On the production side, this album was very ambitious. It even got a write-up in EQ magazine about the unorthodox recording methods used.

this is a photo of my grandfather, Phil Castellano Sr., and me at the friars club during the Songwriters Hall of Fame awards ceremony

this is the EQ magazine article on the making of Alone in my Basement

Aside from the press and awards, Alone In My Basement also helped to get me into college. One of my songs, "The Story", was heavily influenced by the vocal arrangements of one of my favorite bands, Queen. I remember playing this track on my college auditions and blowing away the professors. You also have to realize that this was before the big computer recording boom, and Alone In My Basement was recorded completely on analog equipment.

Once I got into to the Purchase Conservatory of Music I got right into digital recording. My first digital recording was an album for Speed of Sound. (which had just changed its name to Progeny) The Progeny album was recorded on a mac in my dorm room.

Eventually, Progeny broke up due to certain tensions that arose during the making of the album. This left me at college, without a band. I wanted to take a break from prog rock and original music. I formed a hard rock cover band called Hit Me With It featuring Jason Spoor on Vocals, Chris Kuffner on Bass, Andy Ascolese on Keyboards, Jared Apuzzo on Drums and me on Guitar. With this band I really got to stretch my guitar chops. We played mostly in the Westchester area.

Around my sophomore year of college I became involved with the recording of Regina Spektor's debut album. The album was called 11:11 and I was both the producer and engineer. This album took 2 years to make and eventually launched Regina's extremely successful solo career.

During the summer after sophomore year, I started an unofficial internship at Wave Studio in Staten Island studying under the musical genius Ron Thal. (AKA bumblefoot) Ron taught me all about advanced digital recording techniques. I was also lucky enough to assist Ron with the engineering of a few of his albums.

When I returned to school for my junior year, I was informed that I had enough credits to graduate college a year early. I had been taking an average of 22 credits a semester while maintaining a 4.0 average. This put a little pressure on me, but I was mostly taking classes that really interested me so I really enjoyed it.

During my junior/senior year I got a call from Steve LaCerra, who was a longtime friend of my family's. Steve was working as the Front of House Engineer for Blue Öyster Cult. He was unable to make a few gigs and asked if I could fill in for him. Of course I agreed. This event set many things in motion. The band really took a liking to me, and I was asked to sub for Steve more and more frequently.

Around this time, I started a band with one of my professors, Joe Ferry. Joe is a grammy award winning producer. Joe heard me play at a blues jam, and asked me to form a blues band with him. We called the band Richie & the Pocketrockets. Through Joe's connections, Richie & the Pocketrockets began appearing on several blues tribute CDs including "the Blues Tribute to The Grateful Dead."

With everything that was going on with School, the Blues Band, Blue Öyster Cult, and my cover band, I was finding less and less time to write my own music. I started writing and recording songs for a second solo album. These songs were strong but they were all over the place stylistically. On top of that I was nearing graduation. Joe Ferry asked me to consider the Master's program. I would be able to major in composition which would give me plenty of time to work on my own music. I agreed and in 2001 I became a graduate student.

Aside from studying under Joe Ferry, I also began working for him. He hired me as a staff producer for his record label, Larchmont Records. Larchmont did a lot of work on tribute albums. During this period I was working insane hours knocking out one album per month. Although I was accumulating an impressive list of studio credits, I still didn't have the time I needed to work on my solo album.

I got my Master's Degree in Music in December in 2002. Shortly after I decided to leave Larchmont records and the blues band. I didn't have the time to make the trips back and forth to westchester. I tried to devote as much time as I could to working on my solo album. The album wasn't going so well. The differences in style from song to song were too drastic. It sounded like I was working on 2 different albums, a rock album, and a pop album. Just I was about to bang my head against the wall, I heard a few songs that Andy Ascolese was working on. His songs had a very similar style to my pop songs. After a little discussion we decided to combine our songs to make a duo album.

We wanted to start recording the album right away, but we had a bit of a delay. I got another call from Blue Öyster Cult. This time, the band was going to Germany and needed me to come along. Of course I went. On this trip I really got to know the guys in the band, and developed a very good relationship with lead singer, Eric Bloom. Eric and I were into a lot of the same things.

When I returned from this amazing trip, Andy and I got to work on out album. Andy and I were still also performing with our cover band Hit Me With It. Around this time, Hit Me With It was planning the ambitious task of performing the album "Rubber Soul" by the Beatles, live in its entirety at an upcoming gig. I invited Eric Bloom down to this show, and to my surprise he actually came down!!!

A few weeks later, I was asleep on one particular morning when my phone woke me up. The voice on the phone said "do you play bass?" To which I replied "uh, yeah..." Then voice said "do you rock?" Then I said, "yeah, sure..." Then the voice said, "Do you want to play bass?" I said, "ok..." The voice said, "Ok, you're in. Go back to bed. I'll call you later," Then I hung up the phone, and went back to sleep. About 2 minutes later, I realized what had just happened. I sprung out of bed and told my mother, "I think I just joined Blue Öyster Cult!"

Later that day, Eric called me up with the details. I had to learn 18 songs in 4 days. The best part was that there would be no rehearsal for the gigs. I practiced my ass off for those 4 days. We were able to get together in a hotel room before we had to play. I plugged my bass (actually it was a bass I was borrowing from my uncle Phil) into the television. The rest of the band was either banging on chairs, air guitaring, or playing acoustic. We went through all 18 songs in a row. They went incredibly smooth, without a single mistake. My first show with the band was in Las Vegas, and it was amazing!

Afterward I found out the whole story. The band's bassist had to leave on very short notice. When the band was trying to think of a replacement, Eric remembered seeing me play with my band a few weeks earlier. For the next 2 years I continued to play bass with BOC.


Blue Öyster Cult: Jules Radino, Eric Bloom, Allen Lanier, Buck Dharma, & Me

In the winter of 2005, Andy and I finally finished our album, and we ended up calling it 2 Part Invention.

In 2007, I moved over to guitar and keyboards in Blue Öyster Cult upon original member Allen Lanier's retirement. They were big shoes to fill, especially since I didn't really play keyboards that well. I did another crazy week of wood shedding. The guitar parts were challenging, but since I already knew the arrangements, it wasn't so bad. They keyboard parts were the real killer. I had to basically learn an instrument from scratch in a very short time. Between revamping certain parts, and building up some new muscle memory, I was able to do the gig.

As I moved over to guitar, the bass position was temporarily filled by former BÖC/current Queen's bassist Danny Miranda.


Blue Öyster Cult: Me, Jules Radino, Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma, & Danny Miranda

Then, later that year, the bass position was filled by Rudy Sarzo on a semi-permanent basis. Rudy's resume includes playing for: Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dio, and others.


Me & Rudy Sarzo

Aside from being a great musician, Rudy is also well versed in 3D animation, and video editing. Under Rudy's tutelage, I took up filmmaking as a hobby. My next project combined 2 of my hobbies: Kung Fu & Filmmaking. The project was called the Tiger's Fang. It started as a private spoof video between my friends and I. As more and more people saw what we were doing, the fun side project developed into something a little more complicated. To date, we've made 6 Tiger's Fang Movies, and our cast and crew has grown from 3 people to over 30 people.


the cast of the Tiger's Fang

Currently, I am on tour with Blue Oyster Cult, approaching my 5th year as a band member. I teach guitar, bass, and recording privately in Staten Island, and I'm working on a new music project.

-RC
8/16/09


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(top left photo by Julia Rabkin)