Hope in Hollywood

Jann Castor, né Wiesław Ruciński (1954-2016)

By Marek Żebrowski

Jann Castor, an outstanding Polish rock musician, guitarist, composer, arranger, poet, sound designer and film editor, died in Hollywood on 21 April 2016 after a long illness. He was 61 years old.

Born Wiesław Ruciński in Włocławek, Poland, on 27 June 1954, he began using stage name Jann Castor after emigrating from Poland to Australia in 1981. Interested in music as a child, Ruciński at first explored guitar, piano and composition, but found his artistic calling by producing audio shows for the “Bielany Radio,” a student broadcasting cooperative, while studying chemistry at the Copernicus University in Toruń in the late 1970s. As Ruciński became familiar with sound recording equipment and the group of engineers working at the radio station, he began to create soundtracks for puppet shows and radio plays for children and collaborated with the student-run Panoptykon Theatre in Toruń. Ruciński’s most important early achievement however was to establish in 1977 and lead Res Publica, a legendary art rock ensemble that performed experimental compositions and pioneered electronic layering of soundtracks. When Res Publica’s early cassette albums became popular across Poland, Ruciński’s fame on the avant-garde music scene soared and led to the release of his first single, You’re Gotta Go (1981) on the Tonpress label. Soon thereafter, Ruciński moved to Sydney where, as Jann Castor, he continued to gather laurels as a composer and performing rock artist. Within a few years in Australia he recorded two very successful albums, Precedence (1990) and Red Express (1991), which were released on the BMG label and nominated for the Australian Grammy Awards.

Castor performing in Toruń in 1975

Building on his Australian success, Jann Castor set his sights on Hollywood, moving to southern California in the late 1990s and working mainly as a composer and sound designer for various film projects. His career in the field spanned over twenty-five years and included such films as Red Express (1991), Last Detour (1994), The Killers Within (1995), Kiss of Death (1997), Maniacts (2001), Asylum Days (2001), Beyond the Quest (2007), Four Nights with Anna (2008), and 11 Minutes (2015), among others. Castor’s artistic collaborators included several distinguished film directors, including Jerzy Skolimowski, Malcolm McDonald, Russell Solberg, Andrei Feher, and Thomas Elliott.

Castor on the beach in Australia in 1985

In addition to his film scoring achievements, Jann Castor was a virtuoso flamenco guitar performer, who appeared at various festivals and public venues in Australia, Poland and southern California. He also authored a Concerto for the 11-String Steel Guitar and Orchestra and Bicentennial Requiem for 40 Didgeridoos and Orchestra, served as music consultant for Radio WAWA in Warsaw, and collaborated with actress and performer Katarzyna Figura on several charitable projects joining visual arts and music.


Endowed with a unique gift for the creative use of new music technologies, Jann Castor’s boundless imagination and astute ear created memorable soundscapes for all of his musical projects, including commercials, short films, and experimental videos. A gifted arranger and sound editor, he also collaborated with Jon Anderson on a highly acclaimed 2010 album, Unbroken Spirit.

Solitary and proud, given to intense, all-night sessions in his home studio where he endlessly experimented with sounds and video, Jann Castor was an embodiment of the artist-auteur who pursued diverse creative challenges and ingenious ways of expressing music just the way he heard it. Original and unyielding, stubborn and brave, he remained an incurable optimist who steadfastly refused to succumb to the terminal illness he was diagnosed with over three years ago. Hospital admissions for treatments to relieve his failing liver and kidneys grew ever more frequent and lengthy, yet Jann would always insist on being discharged home where, next to keyboards, monitors, mixing tables, computers and microphones, he would continue to arrange music, work on editing projects for clients and friends, and also write poetry. The seriousness of his condition notwithstanding, all inquiries from family and friends were invariably parried with Jann’s terse and impatient, “I’m fine. Don’t worry.” Although his voice became weaker and his denials more ardent, Jann’s spirit remained strong throughout the difficult last few months. His wish to be the master of his own space was finally granted on that fateful late April afternoon, when his body was discovered by the Los Angeles Police Department summoned to enter Jann’s apartment. With a photo and a poster of his Rock Songs album prominently displayed on the wall, Jann’s apartment was strangely quiet, yet filled with a powerful presence a unique artistic personality. The sad formalities over, at some point the investigating officer pulled out his phone and tapped in a few characters. Instantly, the sounds of a video, My Didgeridoo with Jann and his beloved guitar soared well beyond the space of a little street in Hollywood that was his last earthbound destination.

Castor in Los Angeles in 2014

State of Consciousness

By Jann Castor, Saturday, August 5, 2006

All galaxies are in your own room.
Not in monasteries.
Not in churches.
Not even in Universe or Heavens.
It is just you who has the access to the beyond of thought.
State of consciousness.
No gods. No fear. No fiends or angels.
All galaxies are in your own room.