Where are they now: Jeff Castelaz
It was an exciting time: the advances that were due from the label and the publisher were tremendous. But the money was the least of it.
Contrary to the left-handed swipes the daily papers in Milwaukee continue to throw at Citizen King, "Better Days" was a monster pop hit all over the world; the Journal characterizes it as a "minor hit". To this day, "Better Days" has received over 300,000 spins in the U.S. alone; it is still a major recurrent song at Top 40 radio. We did millions of dollars in film, television, trailers and commercial licensing of all the songs on "Mobile Estates," and had a hell of a time doing it. Plus, we wove the "Summerfest Polka" into the album, something we were very proud of!
So, regardless of the how and why of the demise of Citizen King, it was a very painful thing.
For me, it was also the beginning of a change in my life that has brought me to where I am today. I am still friends with four of the five band members, and on decent terms with the fifth one. And, the man that brought me into this game, Dave Cooley, is still a client of mine. He is producing some incredible records at the moment -- including the debut Silversun Pickups record, for my label, Dangerbird.
OMC: Maybe we can go back a bit and you can tell us about how you got involved with bands in Milwaukee?
JC: I remember the time and place: March 1992. A friend introduced me to the keyboard player in Wild Kingdom, Dave Schneider (who later changed his name to Cooley, taking on his mother's maiden name). It was at an in-store record signing for Lush at Atomic Records. I had just interviewed Miki and Emma from Lush on my show on WMSE, and had made a deal with the promotion rep from Warner Bros. that I'd drive them to Atomic for their record signing. I am sure there's no way I'd have been there otherwise, because I didn't own a car. I actually borrowed a friend's car to pull this whole thing off.
Anyway, this mutual friend of mine and Dave's (honestly, I don't even remember her name) thought we should meet. It was the single most important introduction in my life. It is, without a doubt, the reason I am sitting in my living room in my house in L.A. with my two boys, doing this interview. The funny thing is, that Warner Bros. rep I mentioned earlier -- my family and I live in her old house here in L.A.! My wife bought the house from her when she moved. Now THAT is some weird, fateful shit!
That day at Atomic Records, Dave had heard I was a driven dude: that I was a DJ on WMSE; I was involved in promoting concerts at Marquette University, where I was a student; and he knew I was the music editor of the weekly, Downtown Edition, and a freelancer for Milwaukee Magazine and Ray Gun magazine out of L.A. He was looking for someone to manage Wild Kingdom, and wondered if I was interested. I said yes, and immediately felt guilty, because I had been critical of the band in my paper, for having not written a new song in a long time. He either didn't know, or didn't care.
A few days later, I was meeting with the entire band in their rehearsal studio in the Sydney Hih building on Juneau Avenue. I have never been so fucking scared in my life, sitting there with these guys: Dave, Paul Finger, Sage Schwarm, Malcolm Michiles, DJ Brooks. I went to high school at Tech with the sax player, Jason Todd, so that added another odd dimension this meeting.
Their studio was an entire world that I instantly found mesmerizing. I had no idea how to manage a band, but I jumped into that meeting with both feet. In the middle of it, as I could see them lighting up at the things we were talking about, I knew I had found a new home, and that I could fit in.
I learned a lot from those guys. I would definitely not be the person I am today without those Wild Kingdom years. Those guys were into jazz, blues, hip-hop, hardcore punk. They were reading Nat Hentoff's book "Jazz Is," and threw on Chicago Art Ensemble, then Bad Brains, then De La Soul. They were musical mercenaries -- very competitive about what they knew, and very interested in creating pastiche music, ignoring the false borders between genres, mixing currents. That is the reason they broke up Wild Kingdom and started Citizen King.
OMC: And after Citizen King, you started working with other bands, too, right?
JC: I started to manage other bands during CK. I managed Cupcakes, who were on Dreamworks. Then, I picked up The Promise Ring, and moved them from Jade Tree to Epitaph's non-punk imprint Anti-. I also started managing a producer named Tony Hoffer, who had been Beck's guitarist for a moment, then went on to produce Beck's "Midnite Vultures" record. Tony did the second CK record that never came out. The first record Tony and I did together was Air's sophomore record, "10,000 Hz Legend"; we've never stopped working since.
OMC: Tell us a bit about Cast Management's roster now. Who are you representing?
JC: The bands I manage are Peter Walker, The Vacation and a new band called Division Day.
The producers are Dave Cooley, Tony Hoffer and Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who you know from being Beck's bass player; he has just produced an amazing new band called Canon.
You already know Cooley very well. I am very proud of the work Tony Hoffer and I have done over the past six or seven years, which includes records by Beck, The Thrills, The Kooks, Belle and Sebastian, Air, Marianne Faithfull, Turin Brakes, and a ton of other stuff.
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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!
Grayton said: You should really write a blog!!!
Newbomb Turk said: Silversun Pickups are cool and I saw them in NYC a while back. I'll pass on the Vacation, however.
silversun fan said: great article. i love the silversun pickups. hope you can route them to mke.
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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