Tony Castriotta – AKA: “RocMan Rocks”
“It’s all about the music.”
While interviewing Tony Castriotta from BackStage360, I was extremely nervous; since, he is one of the best rock n’ roll interviewers of all time. From being a studio musician, songwriter, producer, to conducting interviews, album reviews, attending concerts, and promoting while working for BackStage360, Tony Castriotta has done it all. His most recent interviews from NAMM can be seen at BackStage360.com, where he can be seen interviewing Al Bane, the leather “guru” to the stars, Carlos Cruz – lead vocals Stonebreed, Michael Grant -guitarist L.A. Guns, Steve Smyth Guitarist/songwriter One Machine, Dean Markley – owner Dean Markley Strings, Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein – guitarist Misfits, and many, many more artists and relevant professionals in the entertainment industry. Each time he starts an interview, he begins by saying, “This is Rocman Rocks from BackStage360,” although, he really needs no introduction. He knows just about everyone in the industry; likewise, everyone knows him. He is recognizable and well-respected and has earned his “place in the sun,” so to speak. He knows exactly what to ask while easing into questions and transitions into other subjects. But, he is always positive and upbeat while sticking to BackStage360’s motto, “It’s all about the music.” And he is quick to point out that, “BackStage360 is dedicated to the music. It’s strictly about the music.”
It was at a NAMM event where Tony Castriotta first met Brian Tierney, the infamous lead photographer and editor for BackStage360; and it was, “Just Brian and me for the first few years,” he says. They met through mutual friends. Brian has been a staff photographer for Spotlight Sports, The Telescope, and now for San Diego GasLamp Association as the Lead Photographer and Editor for BackStage360.com. Tony adds, “I fell into the company when it was just Bill (Towner) and Brian and took the concept and ran.” Bill Towner is known as a professional I.T. Manager and Pro Photographer. Together, they have built a force to be reckoned with in the business. BackStage360 is known as one of the most “trusted” platforms to keep up with your favorite artists, concerts, newest projects, and future endeavors, as well as just catching up with award shows, events, NAMM, and album reviews wherein music can be downloaded directly from the website. It was an honor to interview this legendary writer and interviewer from BackStage360.com. With Tony’s busy schedule, I was fortunate to catch up with him for this interview with Goldstar Rocks, The Magazine.
- Tell me a little about BackStage360.
- We want to give kudos to everyone in the business.We cover local bands in the area. They’re getting their feet wet.
- You have been in the business for a long time.Do you think it is easier or harder for artists these days?
- It’s easier I think.We didn’t have social media back in the day; then again, we didn’t have anyone stealing our music. It was easier to get signed.
- Do you prefer being a writer to being a musician?
- Loved being a musician.The interaction with the audience is always special. I’m on the other side now. I enjoy it; it’s just different. You’re coming at the artist from a different perspective. Now, as a journalist, you have to be careful what you ask them. I don’t want them to feel threatened. A lot gets taken out of context. I don’t ask them anything personal. It’s not my place to say that. Our (BackStage360) reputation precedes us. In the beginning, if I sent out 10 requests, I’d get one. Now, they call me a month ahead.
- Do you find that the musicians are reading your stuff along with the fans?
- Musicians, of course, want to read it.And the fans want to keep up.
- What artists are you finding yourself listening to these days?
- Jack Russell’s is probably the best stuff he’s done since Great White.I didn’t write the review. Someone else did. I listened to it about 20 times; and each time, I pick up on something new. There’s doo wop and acapella singing. It’s a pretty special album. I interviewed him a year ago about how much it meant to him – ‘Sign Of The Times.’
- How do you stay motivated in an industry that some find easy to experience ‘burn-out?’
- I love music, and there’s a lot of great stuff coming out now.If you’re not listening to Internet radio now, you’re missing out. I stay motivated; because, it’s all I know. Nothing fills the vessel like music does. I talk to them (the artists) and always get something out of it. It keeps me fresh. We like to do other types of music, like last night. Songwriting is not easy. It’s hard for them to articulate what they see around them. I write about what I witness. Someone has to say something.
“NOTHING FILLS THE VESSEL LIKE MUSIC DOES.”
- Any memorable interviews that stand out?
- Michael McDonald was a highlight for me.I’m a huge fan of his writing. He’s in the Hall Of Fame, 7th-time Grammy Winner. But interviewing him was like talking to an old friend. He’s humble. We have mutual friends. One of his sons was in the band. Rob Zombie – huge fan of his style, awesome, humble, sweetheart of a guy. John Five — we talked about his classic guitar collection. He has every year of every Fender ever made, and he plays them all.
- BackStage360 is known for its quality work.Where do you get your work ethic from?
- Brian is amazing working 14-hour days just because it’s his baby.You see how hard he works, and it’s infectious. I met these guys altogether. Bill — I only met him at NAMM.
- Best advice for writers and interviewers?
- Be on time, prepared, know the questions, know the artists’ backgrounds, No personal questions, and keep it about music, take your time, and convey your thoughts on the show. What not to do?Show up late, not professional, and not prepared. Major ‘no-no’ – nothing negative. Our job is to write about the music and about the artists as artists, not to bash them.
“OUR JOB IS TO WRITE ABOUT THE MUSIC AND ABOUT THE ARTISTS AS ARTISTS, NOT TO BASH THEM.”
- What defines success to you?
- Respect from other players and artists.It’s not about the money or being famous. When I was 14, my father passed. You’ll always know how well respected in life you were by the line at your funeral. Over 1000 friends went to my dad’s funeral. When I saw that, that line came into focus right then.
- Does BackStage360 have any intentions to grow?
- We’re at a crossroads.We’ve done what we set out to do, just to make what we’ve done bigger and better. Now that we have more people, we have more contents. We have 20-30 records sent to us per week. That gives us a lot. We have requests from artist management companies. We are at the point to sell ad space. We gave a good Alexa Ranking. People are staying on the website (BackStage360.com) 40 minutes on the average.
- Have you made any long-term relationships with these artists you interview?
- The artists read and listen.You definitely build a relationship. These people are human beings. They’re not God.
- How many hours a week on the average do you put in of work?
- Depends on how busy we are, January with NAMM, 5 days – parties, pre-/after-, 14/16 hour days — and then 6-8 days the next 2 weeks to have everything ready by the 1st. Brian edits all text, photos, and videos. We try and do the best writing we can, so he doesn’t have to re-write.
- Best overall advice for artists with their on-stage performances?
- Don’t look like you’re loitering on stage.Leave an impression on people.