Meet Taj: Nick Kastner

If you’ve heard Feels the Force, Part of the Problem or Pretzels & Beer for Santa, you’ve heard Nick. He came back to Taj this year and we’re sure you’ll see him at a few local shows and on our new album. His family and work schedule doesn’t permit him to do all he wants to do with the band, but he’s still our jack of all trades and resident trumpet player.

How did you get into music?

My grandmother has played organ at her church for as long as I can remember. She had both an old 70’s Hammond organ (which I now have) and a piano in their spare bedroom. I know that was an early influence for me.

Now, rambling….

When Ghostbusters 2 came out, I got really into music and can remember playing that soundtrack on repeat (don’t judge me for being old…but not like all those other old guys 😉 ). It was terrible, but in second grade, it was my jam. My grandma introduced me to Rod Stewart, which I can’t believe I ever enjoyed. I just loved music. From Elton John and The Beatles to Jane’s Addiction and NKOTB…I even went and saw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on tour. So, I listened to everything…mostly on this little blue cassette player I still have.

I decided I wanted to learn more so in elementary school, I somehow got a role in this D.A.R.E. musical in 5th grade. It was so cheesy, these super bad rap parts, etc. Anyway, that translated into me wanting to not be in chorus, but band and I wanted to play sax in middle school. I tried out, and the music store rep said “uh, you’re not suited for sax. How about trumpet?” and that’s where it began.

I also convinced my mom and step-dad to take me to see The Bullet Boys, Slaughter and Poison at age 12. That show was amazing.

Favorite song?

Do you know how hard this is? One song? It depends on the genre. If I had to pick one ska-punk song it would be Every New Day by Five Iron Frenzy. The power in the bridge and the prayer, especially on the live album, gets me every time: “The struggles go on, the wisdom I lack, the burdens keep piling up on my back, so hard to breathe, to take the next step, the mountain is high, I wait in the depths, yearning for grace, and hoping for peace, dear God increase; healing hands of God have mercy on our unclean souls once again, Jesus Christ, light of the world, burning bright within our hearts forever.”

I also love some classic country, jazz, hair metal, melodic hardcore, pop-punk and especially rocksteady and traditional ska (Hepcat, Westbound Train, Deal’s Gone Bad, etc.).

Favorite artist?

It really depends. I would lean hard on Five Iron Frenzy but I really like Guns N’ Roses, Four Year Strong, Hepcat, Miles Davis, Chris Stapleton…I could go on. It depends on the genre.

What do you do in the real world?

I oversee marketing for a business school at a large regional university and teach digital marketing, marketing analytics, etc. I volunteer when I can with Habitat for Humanity and very involved in a local church. I also have an awesome wife and 2 kids that keep me really busy.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done but can’t get arrested for?

I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff but I’ve typically been the one keeping people out of trouble, not getting in it. The few times I did something super crazy, those times shall not be discussed in print.

How’d you get involved with Taj?

Well, my best friend introduced me to ska-punk at a party at his house. I was in the band that played this party, attempting to play trumpet…very poorly might I add. At the party, he pulled out his CD collection, and the first non-mainstream ska-punk I had ever heard was the Voodoo Glow Skulls. I loved it! Some time later, my friend had been playing in Taj for a while, had just recorded their first album, and invited me and another friend of mine to try out for the band. Why? Well, we had started a band, won a talent show with the one original song we wrote, realized we kinda sucked and broke up. But, we still wanted to play. So, I originally tried out on trombone and he was gonna play trumpet, but we switched it up. I was terrible without valves.

I started in Taj in 1999, left in 2002, came back in 2003, left in ‘08/’09, played a handful of shows in 2010 or 2012 and then left again. And I’m now playing again when I can. I miss writing music and playing so I’m glad they let me hang on and be around when I can.

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