Tower of Power Ready to Play Bristow

Emilio Castillo, founding member, second tenor sax and one of the vocalists for the 10-piece urban-funk band Tower of Power, has been touring for the past 46 years and still enjoys it.

This Sunday, he will perform with Tower of Power as the opening act for Journey and the Steve Miller Band at the Live Nation venue, Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow.

The band has seen some new members with Ray Greene taking over for Larry Braggs in 2013, but the “big band” style R&B ensemble, which began in Oakland, California in 1968, continues to stay dynamic by touring and even writing new music.

“[Forty-six years] is a long time,” Castillo said. “People look at me and say, ‘how do you do it?’ [But,] it’s all I’ve ever known. Most men are working six days a week.” In comparison, Castillo tours two hundred days a year, leaving him 165 days “home 24 hours a day” with his family.

“I’m very blessed,” Castillo said, referring to his “good touring life” and “his good family life.”

He also enjoys touring with a big band, although he said truly he has no comparison, since, again touring with Tower of Power is “all I’ve ever known.” Although he said it is “more expensive” and a “logistical nightmare,” most of all, he said it is still fun to spend time on the road with a large group of friends.

When the opportunity came to play with Journey, Castillo thought it would be a good match and good opportunity for his band.

“Journey’s manager has worked with our financial manager for many years. They are like family. They look out with each other,” he explained.

But Castillo said he does not think of the tour as some kind of resurgence of bands popular in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

“I don’t think about it much,” he said. “Throughout my career things like this have happened. In the 80’s [the reporters interviewing us] they were saying, we were ‘retro,’” but Castillo said he never perceived his band that way, mainly because they never stopped playing.

“We do what we do because we’re really passionate about it. We’re not chasing any trends. We’re a working band. We always have been. A long career has been a real blessing for us,” Castillo said. “We enjoy doing what we do. We’ll do it until we can’t.”

Listening to Castillo, one gets the sense he really does love performing. He also talks highly of “seeing the world, traveling with people we really like.”

While on tour, he tries to go off campus a bit. He’ll usually call some old friends and reconnect over lunch.

He also enjoys the opportunity to reach a larger audience while on tour. He said the shows are not just people who grew up listening to him, Journey, Steve Miller or Tower of Power, but it is really a mix of people young and old.

Most Tower of Power fans tend to be really knowledgeable about music in general and have a deep appreciate for their musicianship.

“Yeah. Over the last 15 years, all these young people come to see us. A lot of them heard our records growing up [from their parents, aunts and uncles]. Now, it’s even people’s grandparents [who played the music for them],” Castillo said.

He has also found that often times it was the music teacher who had turned the young person onto their music.

“A lot of players, musicians, that wanted to make music like Tower of Power, didn’t become professionals [in the music business], they became teachers,” he said.

Likewise, he said young musicians frequently tell him trade magazines have introduced them to Tower of Power’s music.

Castillo is also a big fan of music, new and old. He said if he were to see a musician play this summer he would first choose Alison Krauss & Union Station. He also said he shares the love of Bruno Mars and Foo Fighters with his family.

“My kids are really into music,” he said, sometimes Seattle Band, Rush, The Who and Barry Manilow will invite him to a show and he tries to take his kids along.

When Castillo is not touring, he’s a homebody, spending time with his family, including his wife Suzanne, their three children – Christian, Isabella and Dominic – and his two older daughters Ariana and Katina. The three most important things in his life right now are God, family and music.

Castillo is looking forward to putting on a great show this weekend. For those fans familiar with former Tower of Power lead Larry Braggs who retired from the band in 2013, Castillo expects they will be impressed with their new vocalist, Ray Greene.

“[Greene is an] incredible vocalist. He’s really soulful; he has an incredible range,” said Castillo. “He is very accessible to the audience.”

Castillo is also pleased with “Raymond McKinley who is filling in for “Rocco,” Francis Rocco Prestia on bass, while Prestia is waiting for a kidney transplant.

“[McKinley] has done four or five different jobs for us, tour managing us, recording and mixing our DVD,” and now he is featured on bass.

Another progression for the band that Castillo is excited about is “Hipper than Hip” – a live album recording of a concert they performed in Hempstead, New York in 1974.

“It sort of came out of no where. Warner had those tapes. Once I heard it, I thought it was a really good performance and it was recorded really well,” he said. He expects it will be a treat for fans. “People have known for years that we’re a great live band.

He is also working on a new album to include 14 original tracks, and as they approach 50 years, he also wants to put together a ‘best of’ album.

Since 1968, Castillo has experienced many changes in the recording industry, but he is still hopeful about the future of music.

“Music’ is getting out there in a different way. It’s always morphing and changing, but it is a force that can’t be denied. Young people will always find great music. Kids are finding the real music, the real bands, the real players. That will always be true. It’s just a different way of doing things.”

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Arts & Entertainment

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