Josh performing at “The Hot Box” in North Los Angeles, Calif. Photo by Pablo Unzueta


Josh Castro was 17 when he moved to Hollywood to study music production at Musicians Institute in Hollywood. No matter what unique characteristics an artist brings to an institution like Musicians Institute, it rarely resonates with people like Castro, who outcast themselves from the mainstream, who fight the norm to be different, who find it difficult to simply fit in. It’s a mental thing, a mentality shaped by individual perception. After a year at MI, he decided to quit school.

“I told myself fuck this. It just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t about being molded into this standardized image. I knew what I could bring,” he said.

It was then, in 2009, when his life began to take a downward turn.

Castro was born on June 1, 1991 in the California desert city Victorville. At an early age Castro played sports, only to realize that it wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his teenage years.

“Why would I want to fit in with these kids playing sports? It was always about who was chewing the latest baseball gum or who was wearing the ‘coolest’ gear. I said, ‘that is so lame.’ I just wanted to be different early on.”

It was the smallest of common things that inspired Castro to follow a different path without caring about anyone else’s expectations of him.

A portrait of Josh standing in front of his home in Woodland Hills, Calif. Photo by Pablo Unzueta

He spent the beginning of his teenage years getting expelled from school and conflicting with the people inside his household. The man who raised him until he was 17, who he later found out wasn’t his biological father, introduced Castro to the guitar. He was 13.

“He hardly ever allowed me to touch his shit, so I would just watch him play the strings.”

Castro would sneak into live shows in small local venues with his older sister around town. He was inspired by the theatrics of live performances and its beautiful dramatic sequences. He would also meet, whom he thought was, the love of his life.

Castro spent his childhood moving from house to house, city to city in California. He lived in a small rural place in northern California, Susanville, and then Oakland. At 17, he headed to Hollywood on his own to pursue an education at the famous Musicians Institute. That’s when he regained contact with his lover. He recalled the first time reuniting with her in Hollywood.

“She was skinny — all bones. Needles were lying around everywhere in the car. I could see her slow death. Heroin was some serious shit, but you know, I loved her.”

Left: Josh performing at “The Hot Box” in North Los Angeles, Calif. Right: Rehearsal at Cascade Studios for “The Comedown,” his most recent album in Hollywood, Calif. Photos by Pablo Unzueta
Band members of “Me Vs. I.” Cascade Studios in Hollywood, Calif. Photos by Pablo Unzueta

From prescription drugs to heroin, drugs eventually began to take a toll on Castro’s life. It became a part of who he was and what later helped him to create “Me Vs I.” It all came crashing down on Christmas Eve 2014 when his girlfriend overdosed on heroin.

“It affected me deeply and it still does, because I thought she was ‘the one,’” he said. To deal with the disbelief and anger, he started writing more music. It seemed like death was lingering around many corners in Castro’s life. In 2010, a close friend committed suicide. He jumped off a bridge overlooking the freeway and immediately died after being struck by a car.

“My life is all over the place — it was a mess.”

Castro spent much of his time moving from apartment to apartment throughout Los Angeles. It was a situation that seemed to have a grasp on him. He would sometimes isolate himself in his apartment room and write music. His lyrics flowed.

Mixing beats inside his Woodland Hills home. Photo by Pablo Unzueta

His most recent album, “The Comedown” highlights the pitfalls and his mental state during his early years living in Los Angeles.

“L.A. is always going to be home, man. It’ll be the place where I can always come back to live,” he said with pride. “I got to know the real side of L.A. and the fake side, which is Hollywood.”

Castro has several favorite tracks from the album but his most notable track is “Smokey Haze.” He allows himself to vulnerably express his feelings on depression and failure with a mellow bass that allows the listener to drift inside his mind without being too confrontational with a loud sound.

Despite being in and out of rehab, Castro always stayed honest with himself when it comes to creative writing. He expresses his sorrows poetically and remorsefully.

“I don’t see myself doing anything else with my life, but creating beats and music.”

Smoking weed and talking about music with his beloved pitbull dog, Ziggy. Photo by Pablo Unzueta

Castro talks a lot about what bothers him in the lyrics on “The Comedown.” Life just happens, for everyone. It happens in the most bizarre ways. Death is inevitable for all of us. It inspires artists like, Me Vs I. It inspires a unique and honest and cut throat dialogue. He explains his concept being the music: “When you look at yourself in the mirror you only see yourself. So it’s you vs. yourself. Only you can control what’s within internally. I have a lot to prove to myself still. And at this point in my life, I want my happiness.”

There are a few things that make up “Me Vs. I.” Love represents the musician in many ways as he described. It was love that led him into a committed relationship with someone who was strung out on heroin. It was love that taught him the trials and tribulations of death, loss, pain, grief, recklessness and most importantly, inspiration. It’s difficult for people to express themselves in a creative manner after enduring such trauma. But Castro did it, because the love he had for music. When he first listened to his stepfather play the guitar that was love also. He also suggests that this particular love had led to an evil and good side of him. “Love always seemed to destroy me. Including the temptations of doing drugs and other bad shit.”

Artists like JMSN (insert soundcloud) and Kurt Cobain from Nirvana, inspire Castro’s ethics for music. After reading Cobain’s published journal entries, which his sister had let him look through, Castro immediately shared a connection with the highly proclaimed and respected grunge singer.

Performing his most recent album “The Comedown” at Viper Room in Hollywood, Calif. Photos by Pablo Unzueta

Finding balance and creating good karma — a Buddhist philosophy, Castro stresses, is the character he abides to. “Life is all about finding your balance. It’s about talking to your own version of God,” he added. “I’m past all that fake shit, the material world,” he said.

Although “Me Vs. I” represents his past, Castro looks ahead towards a new career and a new mentality. “The Comedown (soundcloud),” is a self-funded album. Castro held part-time jobs to help pay for rent, while at the same time recording and holding practice sessions inside Hollywood studios. “Hustle. I’ve worked jobs that I never wanted to work in my life. I don’t know, I just found ways,” he said. It was also the assistance of his longtime friends that gave him the creative space to record music and to shoot the promotion videos. “All of those dudes in Choospa Camp (embed homepage link) helped me get to where I’m at,” referring to his friends who run a collective group who help artists of all kinds.

Castro’s next project won’t be released anytime soon. It’ll be a project that will take time.

“I want to just sit back and take my time on this. It will be different,” he said.

Castro recently moved to Oakland where his mother is currently living. The new joint will definitely have a piece of the Oakland lifestyle. The best feeling for Castro will be getting back on the stage and connecting with people as he continues to tell his story.