Richie Castellano, member of Blue Öyster Cult, in 2009
February 7, 1980 |
Brooklyn, New York City, US
|Genres||Hard rock, heavy metal, psychedelic rock|
|Instruments||Bass guitar, guitar, keyboards, vocals|
|Years active||2004 – present|
|Associated acts||Blue Öyster Cult|
A fifth generation musician, Richie Castellano was born in Brooklyn, New York City on February 7, 1980. The Castellano family moved to Staten Island in 1985. He began to study guitar at the age of seven. Among his early musical influences were Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens. By the early 1990s, influenced by the Beatles, he began songwriting, as well as recording on a 16-track reel-to-reel studio he had assembled in the basement of his house. Later influences included Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. He also cites the music of Queen as an important influence on the development of his musical style.
After spending his first semester of high school at Port Richmond, Staten Island, Castellano transferred to Curtis High School in Staten Island, where he joined the Curtis High School Guitar Ensemble. At that time, Castellano met Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, who became one of his most important mentors. In 1997, inspired in part by Thal's 1995 debut solo album The Adventures of Bumblefoot, Castellano recorded a 13-song solo concept album. This album, entitled Alone in My Basement, was surprisingly successful, selling out of its initial pressing within one month of its release. He won two songwriting awards for one of the songs from Alone in My Basement. The album was also acclaimed in EQ magazine for the unusual methods employed in its recording and production. He won a competition to write a song for his high school graduation. Castellano graduated from Curtis High School in 1998.
College and graduate school:1998–2002
Castellano enrolled in the Conservatory of Music at the State University of New York at Purchase in 1998. He majored in Studio Production, studying the then-new practice of digital recording. From 1999–2001, he produced and engineered Regina Spektor's debut album, 11:11, which was self-released on CD on July 9, 2001. During the summer of 2000, Castellano studied advanced digital recording techniques and audio engineering at Wave Studio in Staten Island, under the instruction of Ron Thal. Castellano assisted Thal with the production of his album, Uncool. That year, he also began his association with Blue Öyster Cult as a substitute Front of House engineer. Also around this time, he and one of his professors, Grammy Award-nominated producer Dr. Joe Ferry, were involved in a band, "Richie & the Pocketrockets". This band released one album, entitled Touch of Blue: The Blues Tribute to the Grateful Dead, on CMH Records on August 21, 2001.
Upon earning his Bachelor's degree in music production (graduating summa cum laude), he immediately began graduate studies under the tutelage of Dr. Ferry, while also working as a staff producer at Ferry's record label, Larchmont Records. Castellano earned his Master's degree in Music from the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music in December 2002. Shortly after that, he left Larchmont Records and Richie & the Pocketrockets broke up.
Blue Öyster Cult: 2003–present
In December 2003, Castellano accompanied Blue Öyster Cult on a tour to Germany as their sound engineer; the band played venues in 13 different cities in 20 days. Castellano first performed with Blue Öyster Cult as bass guitarist in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 18, 2004, shortly after Danny Miranda left the band. He remained in that position until early 2007, when original member Allen Lanier retired from the band. At that time, Castellano filled the position of rhythm guitar and keyboards, while Danny Miranda returned briefly to fill the position of bassist. By April 2007, the bass guitar position was filled by Rudy Sarzo on a semi-permanent basis. (Sarzo remained with the band through 2012, when he was replaced by Kasim Sulton.)
Castellano has blended into the band virtually seamlessly. For example, at the "Hawgs of Texas" Show at Somerville Lake near Brenham, Texas on April 28, 2007, Castellano demonstrated quick thinking when his bandmate Buck Dharma experienced a sudden failure of the battery pack for his Steinberger guitar (the "Cheeseberger"). Without missing a beat, he plugged into Dharma's effects unit and proceeded to play the first part of Dharma's solo, then handed his guitar over to Dharma as lead singer Eric Bloom passed his own guitar over to Castellano. Click here to see a video of this event.
Awards and recognition
- 1996: Berklee College of Music soloist award
- 1998: first place award in the songwriting competition of the Songwriters Hall of Fame
- 1998: third place award in the "World of Expression" Scholarship Program competition of the Bertelsmann Foundation (now known as the Random House Creative Writing Competition)
Castellano currently uses guitars manufactured by Ernie Ball Music Man. Chief among these are the Axis, Axis Super Sport, Silhouette Special, and Sterling. He also uses the Line 6 X2 XDS Plus wireless guitar system.
In addition to his position in Blue Öyster Cult, omitsworhis family's music store (Castellano's House of Music) in Staten Island on a private basis. Castellano also plays guitar in the band Morning Starlett. In 2011, Castellano had a viral video hit with his rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" where he performed all of the vocals and instrumentals. In June 2014, the video surpassed one million views. Click here for video .
In May 2014, Castellano began a podcast called Band Geek with Richie Castellano.
- Castellano's father, John Castellano, was guitarist for The Chambers Brothers in 1971. That year, by a strange coincidence, the Chambers Brothers performed on the same bill with Blue Öyster Cult.
- Castellano is one of the children who appear in the background of Whitney Houston's Greatest Love of All music video. Filmed in late 1984, Castellano was only four years old at the time. He appears as a young guitarist, though it is somewhat difficult to see him because the guitar strings on the headstock of his guitar kept getting caught in the dress of Houston's mother, Cissy Houston.
- As a senior at Curtis High School and member of the Guitar Ensemble (CHSGE), Castellano had the opportunity to meet one of his role models, Paul McCartney, when he visited the set of The Oprah Winfrey Show in Manhattan on November 20, 1997. Apparently, Castellano was able to talk McCartney into singing with the CHSGE the following June at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
- While working for CMH Records and Larchmont Records, Castellano and Ron Thal recorded music that ended up on the second (2003) season of MTV's The Osbournes. During the Fists of Fury episode, you can hear him singing a lounge version of Ozzy Osbourne's song, Flying High Again.
- Nicole Inglis (June 18, 2010). "Blue Oyster Cult to play free show Saturday at Craig City Park". Craig Daily Press (Craig, Colorado: Craig Daily Press). Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- Tioga Downs Casino (May 27, 2010). "Blue Oyster Cult Ready to Rock the Downs". Nichols, New York: Tioga Downs Casino. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- Richie Castellano (December 2004). "Castellano, Richie". Discoogle.com. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- Richie Castellano (August 16, 2009). "Richie Castellano Official Website: Bio". New York, NY: Extra Ordinary Productions. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- "Blue Öyster Cult Official Site: Richie Castellano". New York, NY: Extra Ordinary Productions. 2010. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- "Touch of Blue: The Blues Tribute to the Grateful Dead". Los Angeles: CMH Records. 2010. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- "Bobby Rondinelli and Danny Miranda leave Blue Öyster Cult". New York, NY. September 14, 2004. Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- "Richie Castellano". Staten Island, NY: Castellano's House of Music. 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2010.
- Larry Sutton (November 21, 1997). "PAUL, S.I. SCHOOL IN TUNE HE'LL SING AT STUDENTS' HS CONCERT". New York Daily News (New York, NY: New York Daily News). Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- "Students clamor for Paul McCartney". Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, Washington: Seattle Post-Intelligencer). November 22, 1997. Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- Bruce Haring (November 28, 1997). "Macca Gives Kids A Break". Yahoo! Music (Yahoo! Music). Retrieved July 5, 2010.
- MTV Networks (November 24, 1997). "McCartney To Help Out High School Musicians". MTV Networks (New York, NY: MTV Networks). Retrieved July 8, 2010.
- Richie Castellano: official website
- Blue Öyster Cult: official website
- Band Geek with Richie Castellano Podcast