Mr. Joey Castillo was the rather muscular, heavily tattooed guy behind the set in for the last decade of QOTSA. It’s no surprise that he comes from the “smack ‘em ’til they cry for mercy or break” school of thought in regard to drumming considering that the likes of Dave Grohl, Gene Trautman, and Alfredo Hernandez were his predecessors in the band. Many times in the short breaks between songs, if there are any in QOTSA’s sets, he can be seen guzzling fluids and panting uncontrollably among other signs of the energy he brought and the sweat he expelled in the name of keeping Queens’ heavy beat.
Castillo was born on March 30, 1966 and began playing drums at age fifteen. Having never received any formal training in keeping rhythms, he paid close attention to every drummer he could and became most interested in the pulsing, almost out of control rhythms and boundary breaking attitudes of punk a la Black Flag and the Stooges.
Joey got his start in the biz with a later evolution of the influential LA punk band Wasted Youth and had a stint with the grunge trio Sugartooth before becoming involved in his extended stay with Danzig from 1994 to 2002. Though the band’s output was steady and at least somewhat interesting at his time of arrival, by the late ’90s touring slowed down and musical direction was almost exclusively coming from vocalist Glenn Danzig, whose earlier days were spent with The Misfits. Joey explains his reasoning for staying with Danzig for so long, saying that he didn’t want to leave “for just anything.” But when he was informed of Queens’ need for a rhythmic force, he quickly answered the call and says that the transition was pretty natural seeing that he had known Josh since the days of Kyuss.
The previously mentioned love of aggressive, self-trained drumming that Joey has is evident in the fact that he generally takes most Queens songs faster than they’ve ever gone before under previous timekeepers. This isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing, as it adds to the aggressive edge of some tunes, but at times it can completely change the groove of a song or just get things going ridiculously fast.
Take the performances of “Avon,” “Regular John,” and the Desert Sessions track “Covered in Punks’ Blood” from the DVD “Over the Years and Through the Woods” for example. The two songs from Queens’ earlier days are pushed in a direction that is quite different from the laid back feel of the recorded versions while the last tune, which was already pretty aggressive in its studio version is brought into a warp speed that barely allows the others in the band to get all the notes in. Whether a listener likes or dislikes this aspect of Joey’s drumming aside, his tempo does a lot to make the more recent QOTSA lineup’s takes on older material all their own.
Joey has also been involved in doom metal outfit Goatsnake, a band whose later incarnations have come to include the sock footed former Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder. He also drummed for Zilch, an experimental group of “musical terrorists” led by Japanese vocalist Hide Matsumoto. The band opened for Marilyn Manson before Hide’s mysterious death and tried to continue on after, but found that each member simply had too many outside obligations.
So far, Joey’s approach of playing hard, fast, and extremely tightly has helped to solidify his identity as the longest serving drummer for QOTSA and while Joey left the band in 2012, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him back playing with Josh at some point in the future.
Written by Ben Erickson