Reggie: Let's talk about "Hands of Silk and Stone". Is it finished yet?
Lenny: "It's almost done. It's in the mixing stage and mastering hopefully in a week. Always in a project like this the easiest part is to record. The busy work is the artwork, the credits, the mastering is a bit of a tedious thing. Mixing and mastering actually. I stay away from both. I'm hoping to get this out by July. My wife and I were talking about setting maybe July 20th as the date. Somewhere around there."
Reggie: How did this project come about?
Lenny: "This is something that I've wanted to do for a very long time. My friends have told me for years and years you've got to do your own thing. It's gotten to the point where the technology is helping me out quite a bit. The advent of garage bands and iPads. I basically wrote the whole thing on iPad. You get it immediately. You don't have to get a tape and get a machine and get a keyboard and get a sound. You just create. Right there!"
Reggie: This project is coined by "Lenny Castro"?
Lenny: "Completely. I mean I wrote everything. I pretty much came up with all the parts. I sent out parts. I sent out files to guys like Mike Landau and I told him I have a guitar part but add your own flavor to it. I did that to all the guys. Pretty much everybody that I sent files to."
Reggie: Where was this project recorded?
Lenny; "I recorded the percussion here, a few things here, I recorded the drums at a friend of mine's who played guitar on the whole thing Doug Bossi. He's also the guitar player for Los Lobotomys. He's got a wonderful studio that he let me use for free. It's got a great drum set in it and I brought some microphones and for two days I did drums at his place. I didn't use a lot of studios. I sent out files to everybody."
Reggie: Who else plays on this?
Lenny: "Mike Landau (g), John Pena, Reggie Hamilton, two bass players. Jimmy Earl, another bass player. my old buddy. Guitar players are George Evans, Steve Lukather, Mike Landau of course. Keyboards I used David Paich, Ricky Peterson, Neil Larsen and David Garfield. Basically what they did was just added to what I already had. I'm keeping a lot of my own stuff. Because it kind of held up."
Reggie: How about Luke playing on it?
Lenny: "Luke is on one song called "El Tres", which is a really great tune. All I did was have him come in and solo. I said there's no parts. There's no nothing. I just want you to spew out all your goodness. There was two short solos and a long outro. He just gave me all his cream. We did it at Steve Pocaro's place."
Reggie: How long did that take?
Lenny: "It took longer to set up than it did for him to do it!" He said 'should I do another take?' I said I don't know. That was pretty fucking good! He did a fantastic job for me! I HAD to have him on there! He kept on saying 'I'm going to be on the album, right'? He was getting adamant. He said 'dude! Your first album and I'm not going to be on it?' I had to give him a slice!"
Reggie: Any plans for any live gigs?
Lenny: "Not yet. I'm just going to release it and see where it falls. I'm going to put it out myself. There's no Record Company. I'm going to do Tunecore, iTunes, Amazon and a bunch of different streamers.I'm going to concentrate on streaming right now because that's the way. Then I'm going to get some hard copies to take on the road to sell at the merch table when I go out with Toto. Then maybe if there is enough of a furor maybe do a vinyl. I'm pretty busy with Toto the rest of the year. We have two American Tours and that more dates around the World."
Reggie: That's so very cool about the hard copies and the vinyl. It's sad because I was just at Best Buy right over there (as I point to the store within a skip from Lenny's pad) and the music section is so small that they hardly have anything. They have ONE row of music.
Lenny: "That makes me sad. I remember when I was a kid I used to go down to record STORES! I would read the covers! Like ahhhhhh!"
Reggie: I would read liner notes or credits and see this name all the time on everything Lenny Castro, Lenny Castro. And I would say who is Lenny Castro? This guy's name is on all these records. Just like I would see Luke's name all the time too.
Lenny: "I just hooked up at the right time. I hooked up with the right people. I just came out here at the right time. Unbeknownst to me I hooked up with 'the guys'. I hooked up with the circuit. Not only the guys, the Toto guys, but a lot of people in the industry through Melissa Manchester and Richard Perry and a lot of other people."
Reggie: You may have been at the right place at the right time but if you weren't any good you wouldn't have kept getting called back,
Lenny: "If I wasn't any good you wouldn't be talking to me. I would be doing something else! I've been lucky. I consider myself very lucky. Very, very lucky."
Reggie: Toto's '40 Trips Around the Sun' is a remastered Greatest Hits with three new songs. "Spanish Sea" is a 'new/old' song that Jeff and Mike Porcaro played on. Talk about that for us.
Lenny: "That was really weird when the guys told me that they got permission to go into the vault and get stuff out. I was like, wow, wow! They were like we got some tracks, one with Mike and Jeff on it! I was like 'this is AMAZING!' It sounds just as pertinent now as it did then. It was great to hear them again. This is like the third time I've done an album with people that are not around. I did Minnie Ripperton after she had died, Roy Orbison after he had passed too."
Reggie: How about the set list you guys did for Europe earlier this year. It once again included new songs. This time from 40 Trips. How did the new songs go over?
Lenny: "They ALL went over great. The set list on this last Tour was fantastic.It was tight. AMAZING! It gave a little bit of everything. New stuff, and they included a tune that I NEVER thought they would do, Dune (Desert Theme). I never thought they would do that because they did it back then and they were like we did this song for this movie but.... I'm a Sci Fi buff. I love even the worst Sci Fi movie. I LOVED that movie. The guys hated it. They said we got connected to a real piece of shit. I'm like dude... I dig that movie. I loved that movie to death! The song Dune live..Oh man! I got to use my gongs. (David) Paich looked at me and said...be orchestral! I said YOU GOT IT!
Reggie: That song is the perfect platform for you!
Lenny: "Oh ya! My imagination just ran wild! I knew the melody and I knew all the music because I was hanging with the guys when they were recording it. I was around at that time. I think I may have even put down a snare drum thing on there, possibly if I remember correctly. I always loved the stuff they did on it and I loved the movie. So when I saw that on the set list I was like YA, that's what I'm talking about!"
Reggie: Have you heard the Weezer version of 'Africa'?
Reggie: Did you see them on the Jimmy Kimmel Show with Steve Porcaro?
Lenny: "YES! I stayed up man! The wife & I! We were out camping in Bishop, Ca. and our cabin had a television and of course I found out through the web site and we stayed up to watch it. I thought it was so great. My wife was like 'where is he, where is he'? I said there's an extra keyboard there. Then he came out and I laughed so loud. It was great! You talk about being close to something. I mean, I'm part of it. I just had to take my brain out and say 'what we did is what we did'. These kids have to do it their way. It's kind of a stripped down version of it. But the vocals are very nice and I think they did a very respectful job. You know man it gives us a lot more longevity. It puts us out into the younger masses."
Reggie: The last chart I checked Weezer's 'Africa' was #5 on Billboard's digital download chart and Toto's 36 year old version was #61 on the same chart.
Lenny: "WOW! We bumped ourselves! Oh my God! It's being rejuvenated. It's so exciting to part of a song like that. It's history."
Reggie: The last time I was here you hadn't even met Toto drummer Shannon Forrest yet. It seemed to me that you guys clicked immediately and even beyond that seemed to get even tighter as time went on. It looks like you guys have been playing for 20 years. You couldn't tell from the beginning that you just had just started playing.
Lenny: "We're like old souls now, which is really funny because my relationship with Jeff Porcaro was that. When I first met Jeff Porcaro which was at recording session, Studio 55. It was a recording session for Diana Ross when our eyes first met, Jeff and I just looked at each other and said I know you. We've never met but I know you. This relationship with Shannon is kind of like that. I had heard so much about him. It was so funny because when I first walked into the rehearsal studio to start rehearsing Shannon wasn't behind the drum set. He was behind the monitor mixer tweaking up his monitor.I said this guy is great. I said this guy is happening!"
Reggie: You knew it right then.
Lenny: "I knew it right then! This guy is the motherfucker! Pardon my French. You know the thing is right off the bat. Even before I got here, Shannon since he's been playing this music, and even before he' been playing it he's acquired such a respect for me and what I've done with Jeff. Because he's a real disciple of Jeff. He gets it. He's one of the paramount cats as far as a matter of fact as far as I'm concerned. He gets Jeff"
Reggie: He got the nod from the Porcaro family. I talked to Joe Porcaro and he loves Shannon.
Lenny: "He got endorsed by the Porcaro Family."
Reggie: That says everything.
Lenny: "That says it all. That says it ALL."
Reggie: Can I read you what Shannon had to say about you?
Lenny: "Of course. I'm surprised he hasn't called me yet! (laughing) He usually calls me. I'll probably talk to him here in a minute. My wife loves him dearly. We've become so close."
Reggie: I talked to Shannon and this is what he had to say about you. "There's no one else like Lenny. From his approach to composition, to the way he hits, to tone and groove. He just has a different approach. his parts become hooks in their own right, because the are always playing off the other instruments and vocal and create a deeper rhythmic connection through the song. His list of credits speaks for itself. He's always able to add something important, no matter what style of music. I often tell people it's like playing with another drummer, because the groove is so heavy and the parts are irreplaceable. On top of all that, his presence on stage is something to behold. Truly an entertainer in his own right. I could go on and on but I think that's enough! If he could only get his hanging chops together.....such a drag. NOT! (laughing) And wait until everybody hears his solo record! It's a huge groove party! You won't believe it, and he has an incredible list of guests, which also speaks to everything else I just mentioned. Dig it!"
Reggie: That's pretty deep.
Lenny: "That's very deep. He's a knucklehead! (laughing) I love him to death! We have become so tight. We have a lot of the same likes."
Reggie: It's like having a new friend.
Lenny: "He's another appendage. He's not a friend. he's another appendage. God Bless him."
Reggie: How about playing with Toto bass player Shem von Schroeck? He's been around the block and played with a bunch of great people. I saw him play with Don Felder and he was great.
Lenny: "He's a very musical guy. His vocals are massive. His knowledge of music.....he is classically trained and operatic as hell. He's fitting in very well. Shem is doing an incredible job."
Reggie: How about the local music scene here? I see you still play at the Baked Potato once in a while. There's some pretty cool gigs here locally like at Bogie's with the Waddy Watchel band. Waddy, Russ Kunkel, Danny korthmar and Lee Sklar.
Lenny:"Yes I still play there.. When is Waddy playing?
Reggie: July 1.
Lenny: "Waddy already talked to me about it. I might be there to play but even if I'm not playing I'm going to say hi to my guys. Those are all my boys. Kunkel and I have been brothers for a long time. He got me on the Stevie Nicks Tour over 25 years ago. He called me up and said 'man these 16 notes are kicking my ass on The Edge of Seventeen! You have to come help me out'!
Reggie: Was that with Waddy too?
Lenny: "I think when I first got on the gig he was doing something else and then he came on later. Kunkel and I have done a lot of things together. He also got me on the Dan Fogelberg Tour. I became really good friends with Dan and that's a guy I really miss a lot. He was very beautiful. Kunkel and I go WAY back man.
Reggie: I have a few more quotes from some of your musical pals.
Steve Lukather: "I met Lenny at 19 years old...he is not a friend. He is family. Always my first call ever since. LOVE is a word that does not say enough."
Lenny: "Ya, that pretty much says it. We've been buddies since 19. I was on his first tours. He had never left town. We did Boz (Skaggs) together. He had never been to Europe. I took him on his first trip to New York. Quick story. I took him down to 42nd Street. This is before it got gentrified, cleaned up so to speak. We went walking down 42nd St. Lot's of people, it was the afternoon there were a couple of pimps hanging out. The essence was there. We were walking side by side and I kind of veer off to one side and he didn't really notice me. Then all of a sudden this legless guy came wheeling up on a dolly cart yelling hey man do you wanna buy some drugs? Do you wanna buy this?' Lukather is looking for me and I'm not there! Luke's yelling 'Lenny"! I was just right there so I came back and I told the guy 'sorry man we don't need anything.' Luke's eyes got big and he said 'THIS is New York'? We've seen each other in many different situations. We basically grew up together. We watched each other get married. We watched each other become fathers. We've been through a lot. We're still boon coon buddies. The fact that every time that we get up on stage, especially nowadays and he always turns around and looks at me and says 'we're still here'.. Who would have thought? FORTY years later!
This is from Steve Weingart: "Lenny is a really gifted and beautiful soul. He recorded on Renee and my 'Dialogue' album. He really brought some magic to our tunes! He brought a history of knowledge and experience to our music with his playing. He had a huge array of percussion instruments to choose from at the studio. On one song, he listened to a part of what we'd recorded and said 'I know what to do'! He went to one of his many boxes, pulled out a tin can with some special gravel inside that gave a particular sound. He recorded that little thing the song and it made it swing so hard, it was amazing and on top of that, he's got some stories! The hang was really cool. It was a recording session Renee and I will never forget! It was so fun."
Lenny: "It's not only giving them music and giving them what they want on their stuff. It's giving them a good experience. I've tried to do that with all my recordings. Give them a painless good experience and maybe learn something. Mick Jagger would ALWAYS want me too come an hour before session time just to talk and say 'what's that? How does that work? How is so and so'? Small talk. But he always wanted information. I like it when people can walk away from it with not only what they wanted musically but walk away with a smile on their face. Maybe I told them a joke or maybe I said something. It's a good thing. I remember I did a Liza Minelli session with the old regime, the old cats. I was honored that I got called for it. Are you kidding me!? I was sitting there with the best. It was an overdub session for them. It was easy for me. I LIVED that music. The Big Band, the Jazz. I understand it and I went right for it and when I finished the overdub the guys were like,' you're finished, what do we do now"? So guys, go have lunch and enjoy yourselves and that's what they did. I got paid for my three hour session. I didn't have to be a strenuous type situation. I should know right away, BOOM! Let's do this and let's go. Let's enjoy life."
Reggie: When I told Weingart I've seen you with that look in your eye when you're listening to someone's song and you know exactly what you're going to play on that track for them within a few seconds. Steve told me "Yes, it's like a light bulb is over his head. You can almost see the cartoon bubble saying 'eureka'! How do you know so quickly exactly what to play?
Lenny: "you know, I live and breath music. I wake up every morning with some kind of melody in my head. Music is always all around me. Even when I'm trying to shut it off . It's still there."
Reggie: Do you mind if I ask a question based on what you just said right there?
Reggie: "Why did it take so long for you to do a solo record?
Lenny: "I was afraid. I was really kind of afraid of my writing. Writing it was difficult. With a garage band you just get the idea and you put it down. In the old days I would have to have a tape machine, and a piano, which I didn't have and sit down and.....with a garage band you just go for it. It's a lot easier and a lot more immediate. It was a bit difficult for me and maybe just a little bit lazy. Really a little bit afraid of putting my soul out there. Because when you're writing that's what you're really putting out."
Reggie: Is it also different in that this time your name is in bold letters stamped on the album as opposed to your name just being in the liner notes?
Lenny: (laughing) "Ya, it's scary. Like I said earlier I'm putting myself out there. This is my representation of me. It's a little bit nerve wracking, oh my God. There's gonna be some haters. It is what it is. I'm not doing this to get rich. I'm doing this for me because it's something I've always wanted to do. Something that I can get out and I think everybody would enjoy it."
This is from Hukim Ludin: "The first time I played with Lenny was in 2010 in Paderborn at the Drums and Percussion Festival. We played one concert and practiced together for four days. During those four days we got close and I learned that Lenny is such an inspirational person with so much power and passion, which makes him the top percussionist on the planet! He is a great maestro!"
Lenny: "WOW! Hakim Ludin! My brother from Afghanistan! He is an amazing character. His knowledge of percussion, especially Middle Eastern percussion is fantastic. I love him a lot. We got the chance to do some really creative stuff. He's a wonderful person."
Reggie: I saw some stuff that you guys did on Amazon.com. Were those just songs?
Lenny: "It was the concert at Paderborn that we did. They recorded it. We put together some percussion ensemble things. We did one thing with bongos. We did like four or five different little things that we just came up with and then later on when the Paderborn people decided to put it out we had to come up with names for it. We had no names. They were just kind of jams. Were going to do something with the bongos....do something with the cajon. So it kind of evolved on its own. They're not really songs but just little percussion jams."
Reggie: Is there anything else you wanted to add or you were working on?
Lenny: "Right now it's my project and the Toto guys is what I'm concentrating on. I'm working with an artist named Geila Zilkha. She's an Israeli Japanese girl who lives in Japan and is a great singer. She just sent me some files that I just worked on. Amazing, amazing, great tracks."
More info about Lenny and his new album at hardhnds.com.