Is having a rockstar parent the quickest route into the industry? It’s easy for those of us whose parents don’t make their living from rock ‘n’ roll to assume that, if they did, we’d have a one-way ticket to the big time. But the hard graft that’s needed to make your mark as a musician isn’t necessarily skipped because your dad’s in Journey, or your mum married Max Cavalera. We spoke to three guys with rockstar dads to find out how their lineage shaped their own careers.
Richie Cavalera is a musician in his own right with Incite, but his family is known in the metal world as a tight-knit musical dynasty. His childhood wasn’t what you’d call run-of-the-mill; from bringing Max Cavalera to his school parents’ evening, to hanging out with the Osbournes, and playing guitar on stage with Sepultura while barely into his teens – metal is in his blood. It was there even before Max came into his life.
“My mom [Max’s wife Gloria] owned the first metal bar, The Bootleggers, in Arizona in the ‘80s, and she got me into that arena of music,” Richie explains. “We’d have Faster Pussycat, Poison, and all these bands playing. She started managing bands, and the next thing you know, Sepultura and Max [were] coming in. I was probably around seven or eight and Max really became my father, and that catapulted me into the mix with some of the biggest metal bands.”
Surrounded by musicians – “Sacred Reich lived at our house for two years!” – the young Richie, who started touring with his stepdad while still in school, saw only one career path. “I think it really hit me when Sepultura toured with Pantera and Prong in ‘94,” he says. “They brought me out to play Policia on guitar, and there were 10,000 metalheads going ape-shit. To see that at that age was incredible and it changed me forever from loving it to wanting it to be what I did with my life.”
Once Richie finished school, he was straight on the road with Incite, playing small shows in his hometown. He did have the advantage of being able to hop on Soulfly tours, but began at the bottom. “I started off selling merch for them,” he says. He does admit, though, that opportunities arose as a result of Max being there. “I’m sure I could have said to Max, ‘Hey, call this person, try to make something happen’, but even him, on his level, he’s fighting to get tours,” says Richie.
“The people putting together the tours aren’t like, ‘Hey, this big shot called me, we’re going to put him on this tour,’ unless it’s someone huge like Bruce Dickinson or Ozzy! I could have gone the easier route and just changed my name, because when we release records, there’s so much put on us to be like this or that. After four records I think that people are understanding there’s more to Incite, but I think that’s from years of being at the merch table. But you have to do this stuff to make it work – nobody’s ever going to hand it to you.”
While Richie was aware from a young age of the world he was growing up in, other metal kids take a while to realise what their dad actually does for a living. Slipknot drummer Jay Weinberg’s dad Max was the drummer in the house band on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, before rejoining Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (who he played with before Jay was born) in 1999. “For a long time in my childhood I didn’t really get what my dad did,” says Jay. “I was a child, I didn’t stay up ‘til 12:30 to watch Dad on TV. I knew he didn’t come home at night when I was going to bed, but aside from that I had no concept of what he did.”
It wasn’t until he was entering his teens that he decided he wanted to follow in his dad’s footsteps, and by the time he realised exactly what his dad’s job entailed, his classmates were also catching on. “Kids start finding out what my dad does, and that had its positives and negatives,” he explains. “You had people that were genuinely interested, and other people who just want to rub elbows with someone they think is famous. You have to learn how to weed out the people who are truthful and respectful and people who just want to be next to somebody famous.”
The biggest thing Jay says he got from his dad wasn’t having doors opened, but advice on how to stay sane and healthy as a musician. “Being a creative person, trying to live a life that’s left-of-centre, you need to give yourself all the legs-up that you can, so his advice to me was more on a practical level of ‘don’t burn yourself out’,” he says. “He always stressed, ‘I can’t open the door for you. I can show you how I did it and talk to you about how I did it, but you’re going to have to do it for yourself because that’s how the connections are made. Nobody’s going to hire you on as a drummer because you’re my son, they’re going to hire you on as a drummer because you’re a good drummer – or they won’t because you suck as a drummer!’ Slipknot is not going to hire Jay Weinberg because he’s Max Weinberg’s son. That’s not going to happen. They’re going to hire Jay Weinberg because he’s the right guy for the gig.”
Wednesday 13 drummer Kyle Castronovo, whose dad Deen drummed for Journey before being fired for allegedly abusing his ex-fiancee, agrees. “I never really pulled the ‘Do you know who my dad is?’ card,” he says. “It felt a little pretentious to me. Of course my dad’s my biggest influence and the reason I do what I do. He’s my favourite drummer, he’s the best person I know, but at the same time I didn’t want people to think I had this easy [ride] just because of who he is.” He does admit that his connections helped, though: “The reason I got the Wednesday 13 gig was one of my dad’s old production managers is really good friends with him, and that’s how I got to know him.”
Deen was publicly ejected from Journey last year after he was charged with domestic abuse and rape of his ex-fiancee. In his trial, he pleaded guilty to domestic violence, and was sentenced to four years’ probation and counselling. His situation is an example of the darker side of being the child of a celebrity – Kyle says he “get[s] a lot of questions” about his father’s trial and subsequent recovery from drug and alcohol issues. “A lot of what people heard in the media was blown way out of proportion,” he says. “I know who he really is and what really happened. It was a dark period but I’m so happy to see that not only is he alive, but the fact that he has come out of it so strong, and he’s 16 months sober now. This is the happiest I’ve seen him in a long time and he’s still cool with the Journey guys.”
For the musicians we spoke to, being respected as an artist in their own right was more important than riding on their parents’ coattails. But that doesn’t mean they’re not aware of the opportunities that came about as a result of their family ties. Being the kid of a celebrity might open doors the rest of us would have to use a bit more force to break down, but it’s not all plain sailing, and whoever your dad is, hard work will still go a long way.
Slipknot drummer Jay Weinberg: I started album work hours after my audition
Incite stream Oppression in full