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Jeff Castelaz: Music As a Weapon, Solace In Cycling, Building a Life of Service & Why It’s All About The Neighborhood

By October 4, 2015January 19th, 20247 Comments

“Music is a weapon for me. I want to feel myself bleeding.”

Jeff Castelaz

Jeff Castelaz is a big deal in the music biz. A self-made guy who scraped his way from nothing to launch and manage major musical acts, found and run a successful indie label and even serve up president duties at a major record label.

All of these things are very impressive and interesting.

None of these things are what draw me to Jeff.

Jeff is on the show because of his compelling, at times heart-wrenching but incredibly human life story. From his abusive childhood to his struggles with alcohol to the devastating loss of his six-year-old son Pablo to cancer, Jeff is a survivor. A guy who refused to let unbearable pain destroy him, instead leveraging it to access a deeper personal truth, inner strength and sense of purpose.

Finding life-saving comfort and solace in both music and cycling as far back as he can remember, Jeff successfully channelled his incredible passion for both into creating a life and legacy of meaning in selfless service to others as an entrepreneur, husband, father and philanthropist.

In his most recent post as president of Elektra Records, a division of Warner Music Group, Jeff worked alongside the likes of Ed Sheeran, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kitten, bringing in acts like Fitz and the Tantrums, Saint Motel, The Moth & The Flame and Kaleo.

Prior to his post at Elektra, Jeff served as CEO of Dangerbird Records, which he co-founded in 2003. There, he played a key role in the careers of Silversun Pickups, Fitz and The Tantrums and Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis effort, Beady Eye.

In 2009 Jeff & his wife Joanne Thraikill tragically lost their son Pablo to cancer just six days after his sixth birthday. From the moment of Pablo’s 2008 diagnosis with bilateral Wilms Tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer, Jeff took to the blogosphere to keep friends and family apprised of developments. Sharing his incomprehensible pain with a bold and raw vulnerability, PABLOG! went viral, resulting in a massive and unexpected outpouring of love and support for Pablo and the Castelaz / Thraikill family. Support Jeff and Joanne ultimately channelled into what would become the Pablove Foundation— a pediatric cancer charity which has raised $10 million to date in support of innovative pediatric cancer research and programs for kids and families living with childhood cancer.

Each year since its inception, Pablove hosts a charity ride called Pablove Across America. Today — Monday October 5, 2015 — marks the start of Pablove’s seventh annual week-long cycling event in which 40 cyclists will ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco to raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer. To find out more, get involved and donate, click here.

This is a conversation about music and life. Rage, pain, disease, addiction, loss and grief. It’s about breaking old cycles. Learning how to heal. Growing up, self-care and sobriety. It’s about hope, family, redemption and service. It’s about salvation. And it’s about the beauty, comfort and agony that comes with loving wide and loving deep.

Jeff is an incredibly charismatic guy with a infectious energy and a spirit the size of Montana. I’m proud to call him friend. And I’m proud to share this conversation with you today. May it move you as deeply as it moved me.

Peace + Plants,


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Pablove Foundation: | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Background, Context & Reference:

Major To Minor Songs Discussed

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast:

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:

Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson.

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  • Tommy F says:

    Jeff has the gift of gab for sure. Lots of great insight into the inner workings of the music industry. Very interesting stuff.

    We’re all going to have to face grief in our lives. With Jeff no longer having alcohol to turn to (burying emotion), he channeled his emotions into cycling and writing instead. You could hear the subtle pauses as he reflected on the cognitive dissonance between what would give him immense joy (seeing his son alive in his NOW), but quickly understanding that that is not a possible reality and surrendering his breathing into acceptance. I really thought he’d break down and get emotional during this podcast. Talking through deep emotional pain is no easy task. But his mindfulness cultivated from overcoming the debilitating grief he’s endured, has built inner strength which keeps him from falling apart.

    Solid human being. I wish him and his wife the very best in maintaining joy in a life shaded by loss.


  • Yo Momma says:

    It would be nice if he would create a Spotify playlist of his choice in songs.

  • Yume says:

    Wow what a pleasure to listen to the story of such an interesting individual for nearly 3 hours long. I could have and would have continued listening. This podcast was a gem, and Jeff has all my support for being open to a plant-based lifestyle!

  • Richard says:

    Just want to share this. I listened to this interview this morning on a long drive home from France. After the interview I turned on the radio and stumbled on Nigella Lawson on BBC Radio 4 talking about a vegan chocolate cake she makes “all the time”. The host seemed a little puzzled about what makes the cake vegan so Nigella explained how she substituted some ingredients for coconut oil and butter and then went on to tell the host about a big article she’d read in the New York Times last week about vegans – your article! Sadly, it went downhill from there as Nigella started talking about a salmon recipe, but it was still a cool moment.

  • Mandy says:

    I was listening to this interview returning home from a trail 50K and was fascinated about the talk about Milwaukee because I was actually driving through Milwaukee!
    Having been born and raised in the county directly west of where Jeff grew up my mind was and is still blown. He rode his bike on roads “in the country” where I lived.
    Thanks to both of you guys.

  • SK says:

    Wow! What a moving story. I was engrossed in this podcast, and have been thinking about it since I listened. I was moved to tears several times. My heart goes out to Jeff and his amazing family. Thanks for sharing.

  • ultracookie says:

    This was so beautiful. I found myself talking about this podcast after listening and tearing up. Anything else I write would pale in comparison to the message in this (and many other RRPs)… Thank you Jeff and Rich for the gift of your sharing.

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