Román V. Castillo was born September 22, 1971 in Alameda, a suburb of Albuquerque, NM. Alameda was a place that time forgot, the Rio Grande river was full and the Clear Ditch was clear. He attended Alameda Elementary School where he was introduced to his first music class; but it was watching his uncle play in the back studio of his grandmother’s home where he watched from the loft and realized his love for music had just begun.
At nine years of age, Román was given a Ludwig snare drum to be used in band class. He found out very quickly his natural talent for rhythm, but was scolded many times for refusing to stay quiet during instruction. His teacher found himself frustrated by Román’s refusal to conform to class rules and told Román he would never accomplish anything as long as he continued to bang on everything within his immediate reach and wasn’t learning to play with so-called “traditional” technique or percussion theory.
His teacher was wrong.
In 1982 Román received his first drum set a white set of CB-700 drums from his mother; Seven pieces of heaven – it came natural to play the trap set after being bored with one drum.
His Uncle Pax would influence him more than expected by showing him true musical geniuses like Billy Cobham and Buddy Rich and exposed him to new genres like Big Band and Jazz Drumming. Román would go on to take classes from Nick Lucchetti, the best teacher in the region, and would continue to be scolded but never given up on. Nick would show Román how to take his unbridled hyperactivity and turn it into positive energy and to use his emotions to play and strike every note clearly.
In 1990, Román heard about a drum contest at a prominent local music store, the top prize was a Pearl drum set. He predicted and told everyone that would listen, that he was going to win that drum set. So when he traded his Emerald Green Pontiac Phoenix LJ for a chrome set of Pearl drums, everyone thought he was nuts! He took that set home and practiced every day until the evening of the Thunderdrums Competition on June 21, 1990. His prediction came true – He won the first prize in the 21 and under category – a five piece set of Cobalt Blue Pearl Drums! What a rush!
That night opened the door to his first opportunity to play with high caliber musicians and people began to compare him to drummers like Randy Castillo, Jon Bonham and others like Buddy Rich and Neil Piert – all of these drummers were great influences so Román was very flattered, but didn’t believe he was that good. Then he met Paul LaPierre, former guitar player for legendary local heavy metal band, “Legacy”. They would go on to create the band “Predecessor”, adding Geoff Von Kaiser on bass and Tony Tenza on vocals. Predecessor entered and won the Battle of the Bands at Maxwell’s and entered several competitions including the “Z Rock Theme Song Competition” where the band then found themselves being taken advantage of by a devious California con artist disguised as a representative for a prominent record label. This would cause a rift in the tide with Predecessor and they eventually went their separate ways.
While with Predecessor, Román worked for IATSE Local 423 Stage Hands Union and other non-union companies as a high-rigger doing lighting and audio setup and as a semi driver hauling trucks full of equipment. He worked local shows but would eventually leave Albuquerque and try his luck in Denver, Co. He played with blues band “Wildcard” and hard rock group “Ethnic Groove.”
In 1994 Román came back to Albuquerque, without a group and five dollars to his name, he would stop at the casino and spin on his last fifty cents and win $500 – just enough to rent a shabby apartment. He would then go on to create the death metal group “Blasphematics”. This band was short lived and would become “Knot Rite.” He continued playing with “Knot Rite” until the birth of his daughter in 1998. He would play in the Thunderdrums competition in 1998. He went on first and blew the doors off the place, but was disqualified for being a previous winner.
Discouraged and finding it difficult to put another band together he looked for other professions that he was interested in. He had always been interested in medicine and science was one of his best subjects. He got himself registered for classses in radiography, set to begin on September 26th, 2005 –
Then the most unthinkbale thing happened:
After being shot, Román thought he was never going to play drums for a living again. . .
However, Román would then begin a transformation that could never have been anticipated – with love and support from family and hard work at the rehabilitation hospital, something began to happen. He regained his strength, Román was allowed to bring his drums to the rehabilitation hospital so that staff could evaluate his potential to drum again; he could sit behind the drums and go to town on them like he used to. His son turned a cane into a tool so that his dad could hit the base drum. Then Román developed a way to turn his floor toms into base drums and incorporated them into his new style.
Five years of effort and determination later, Román made his first attempt to come back by entering the Guitar World Drum-off. Although he wasn’t a winner that year, he gained something infinitely more valuable: the confidence that he could continue to perform the music he loves.
This gave him the drive to be just as good – not better – than ever before and to cherish and put to use what he had, not what he wanted.
Now in his quest to inspire other individuals that have lost the use of their limbs through service to their country, dedication to their sport, wild and crazy lifestyles and/or personal tragedy, Román strives to be an inspiration to all the world as a handicapable individual. He often says:
“Crippled is in the mind and soul. A man is never truly crippled unless he gives up on his faith and his family.”
Román has now embarked upon the quest to set new standards in the treatment of handicapable individuals around the world and has dedicated the salsa company “The Chile Collection” and his music collection to raise money for spinal cord research. He has a charity devoted to the restoration and distribution of musical instruments to handicapable individuals in need of a way to focus on something other than their disabilities.
Musicians Backing Musicians
“Musicians Backing Musicians” is an outreach program designed to bring neglected and restorable instruments to people with disabilities or have just suffered an inury and are living with a newfound disability.
GEARED is Román’s ongoing personal project.