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In Music

Where are they now: Jeff Castelaz


It's almost hard to imagine Milwaukee still has a music scene since Jeff Castelaz left town. Certainly there was one before he appeared, but it hasn't been the same since he left his mark, before moving out to Los Angeles in 2000.

A Milwaukee boy who loves music, Castelaz started out as a WMSE DJ and a music writer for the now-defunct Downtown Edition and other mags. But he soon found himself guiding what was then Brew City's hottest bands, Citizen King. And he did it with a mix of street smarts, sweet talk and astonishing dedication.

That passion and hard work guaranteed that by the time Citizen King imploded, Castelaz had already built enough of an empire that a continued career in music was guaranteed.

Now that his record label has a handful of releases, we decided it was time to catch up with Castelaz and find out about Cast Management, Dangerbird Records and his history in the business.

OMC: When did you move out to Los Angeles? Was Citizen King still going at the time?

JC: I moved to L.A. in February 2000, six years ago. Citizen King was still very much going at that time. In fact, I remember that I timed my departure flight so that I could see a CK show in Milwaukee the night before I left. I have no memory of the show, but the party after was good. I remember standing in the warehouse space next to our studio, Bionic, with Eric Benet and DJ Brooks from CK. We were laughing and having a great time, then the cops came in and busted the place up.

OMC: Why did you make the move?

JC: I was spending so much time in New York and Los Angeles, the decision to leave Milwaukee kind of made itself. I love New York, but L.A. is where I had more friends, and was doing more business. And something about the minimal possibility of snow gave it a leg up.

The thing I love about L.A. is that space is far cheaper than NYC, and people are very driven here, but in a different way than New York. Plus, I get car sick in cabs, so I like to drive myself, which is perfect for L.A.

OMC: Did you adjust pretty much right away, from a business standpoint and a personal standpoint?

JC: It was definitely for both business and personal reasons. Seven years ago, there was no delineation between me as a person and my professional identity. I am happy to tell you that that is not the case today.

The move was necessary, because, managing Citizen King, I was spending so much time in L.A. anyway. In the beginning stages of CK's tenure at Warner Bros Records, I would constantly do week-long trips to L.A. or New York. Over the course of 1997-'98, it was more like: I'd go back to Milwaukee for five days and spend the rest of the time away, particularly in L.A., where Warner is based. At that time, I was spending up to 10 hours a day in the Warner headquarters in Burbank, setting up and working the CK record. It was great. And every time I went home to Milwaukee, I felt like I was missing out.

In fact, I would have made the move sooner, but I had an office running in Milwaukee, and four people working for me. So I had to make the move at the end of the "Mobile Estates" album cycle.

Since I was already doing so much in L.A., it was a very pleasant transition. My friend who manages The Flaming Lips told me to rent a spare bedroom from someone who worked at Warner. There were always people looking for that kind of thing. So I put the word out, and ended up renting from a friend, who became my best friend, and was a very important part of my life when I moved to L.A. I was a groomsman in her wedding last year.

OMC: What happened at the end of Citizen King? How much of an effect did it have on Cast Management?

JC: Well, what happened is a good question, and one that I won't go too far into. I will say that what happened is one of the saddest things I've ever been involved in. And, to some degree, I still can't believe that all the work we did went up in flames almost overnight. But that is what happened. And, based on the reality at that time, it had to happen, I suppose. That is all I will say, out of respect for everyone.

The effect it had on Cast and me as a person was tremendous, as you can imagine. Especially because so much of who I was at that time was connected to what I did professionally. At the exact moment CK fell apart, we had the second album 85 percent complete. For all six of us -- the five band members and me -- it was a complete obliteration of the reality that we had been living in -- and fought to create -- for eight years.

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Talkbacks

OMCreader | May 17, 2006 at 2:35 p.m. (report)

Clayton said: I remember hearing some people in Milwaukee always talking sh*t about this guy, when he lived & operated here...just nonsense. Well, people here can say whatever they want...Jeff made things happen. He was good for the city and helped get the music scene here some currrent, relevent recognition that normally wouldn't have happened. Glad to hear he's continued to succeed!

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OMCreader | May 4, 2006 at 8:01 a.m. (report)

Grayton said: You should really write a blog!!!

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OMCreader | May 3, 2006 at 11:55 a.m. (report)

Newbomb Turk said: Silversun Pickups are cool and I saw them in NYC a while back. I'll pass on the Vacation, however.

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OMCreader | May 2, 2006 at 12:44 p.m. (report)

silversun fan said: great article. i love the silversun pickups. hope you can route them to mke.

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OMCreader | May 2, 2006 at 11:13 a.m. (report)

deancast said: right on bro! the vacation, the shys, the sun and rockin local band-motivo loco PLAY LIVE !!!! FRIDAY 12 MAY @ STONEFLY (FORMERLY ONOPA)!!! GET ON IT! BE THERE! WITNESS THIS SHOW FOR THE HISTORY GIG BOOKS!

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