Type O Negative interview. Magazine: Power Play (UK) Interviewer: Vicky Anderson Date: June 2003."



Peter Steele is without a doubt one of metal's most perpetually intriguing characters, his talent for song writing often overshadowed by his outspoken views, unintentionally provocative lyrics, and the fact that decade-old Playgirl pics of him nekkid as a jaybird are still widely available (probably - it didn't seem right to check).

He's a complex fellow indeed - you never know whether his most thoughtful songs are about a lost relative, a lover, or a cat, and he can catch you out with his more humorous songs being more laden with meaning than they first appear. He's subdued when we speak, and not as wise-cracking as I'd expected from almost ten years as a fan, but if the behind-the-scenes record company malarkey was getting on his tits as much as mine, it's no surprise we both had our guard up. LIKM, Type O Negative's first album for three years, hits the shops this month with a refreshingly upbeat vibe compared to it's predecessor WCD, which is well known for bearing Peter's soul at a very low point in his life More tongue in cheek than ever and full of old-school hardcore bite, Sgt Pepper-style psychedelia, and lavish Goth, LIKM should do two things: a) remind the buying public that Type O Negative still exist, and b) show fans they can still deliver the goods. Changing the title from the original "The Dream is Dead" ("a bit too negative, even for me," Steele ponders), the album is reassuringly set in its ways, with superior production and an energy that wouldn't be out of place on Type O's earliest releases.

"World Coming Down", was very slow, and doomy, and self-indulgent," Peter admits of his last offering. "Listening to the album back I like it very much, but I have always been a fan of hardcore music and punk, and I just wanted to do something intentionally a bit more upbeat than what we had been doing previously. So yes, there was a concerted effort to put a bit more 'happy' into this album." As always, the new album is less a bunch of independent songs and more a collection of interwoven songs, a greater whole than the sum of it's parts, if you like. To Peter, it just wouldn't exist any other way. "It's hard for me to comment on my own music," he begins, unhelpfully. "I guess it's like every new mother thinks that her baby is beautiful - and these songs are my kids. Not that they're beautiful, but it is hard for me to see them from an outsiders point of view." Any song that people should be particularly listening out for? "I like them all. I hope that doesn't sound egotistical, but they are all equal to me. It's like trying to ask me 'what's Pete Steele's favourite body part?' - I dunno, because they all have to work together."

This time around Peter's sardonic wit is arguably his most caustic to date, and more than makes up for its failure to make an appearance on 'World Coming Down'. For starters, 'I Like Goils' will by default become another slice of Type O infamy on the scale of 'Wolf Moon' and 'Christian Woman', and is classic Steele; you don't know whether to laugh, whether it's wrong to laugh, or whether it's not even supposed to be funny. No, strike that last one. "To make it clear that you can't bone me/My tattooed ass reads 'exit only'". Care to explain yourself, Sir? "It was one of my tongue-in-cheek experiments, and I don't think there is any kind of controversy in anything I said within that song. It's about Gay guys trying to pick me up, and yup, I'm flattered whether the person is a man, or a woman, or neither or both - the compliment stands the same, but I simply prefer it if it comes from women."

Peter's persecution complex comes to the fore on many of the albums catchier songs. Although he is adamant that songs like 'I Like Goils' and instrumental "Loud And Queer" mean he doesn't have to justify himself to anybody, by their very nature they appear to be doing just that. In short, anyone looking to attack his politics will have (another) field day. Steele is at his most animated in response to such confrontations.

"You know what I say to PC people? Fuck you. Because who are you to tell me that my politics are or are not correct? All I can say, and I'm sorry to be vulgar, is suck my fucking dick. If you don't like what I have to say, don't listen to me. If you don't like how I look - don't look at me! Find somebody else to pick on."

The plot thickens. The chosen cover song for the new album is "Angry Inch", from transgender road movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch". A cover has become a mandatory track for every Type O Negative release as fans will know, and it serves as a great platform for the band to show their sense of musical diversity. But a song about a sex change gone wrong? "It was such a fantastic film and completely underrated, that I just really took it upon myself to try to expose it to the public more," said Pete. "It's so well-deserving of more attention." What did the rest of the band think? "I will bring down a handful of song ideas to the band, and we'll discuss it, and then during rehearsals we'll make a decision as to what sounds the best. Sometimes we'll rehearse a song for a long time and we'll get to the studio and it just doesn't sound right, so we'll go to something else - plan B."

Pete's philosophy regarding plan B seems to be 'just because you're paranoid don't mean they're not after you.' He won't reveal what other songs the band tried out for this album, should it give people the idea to steal them and do them first, although he does admit they could pop up again in the future. But what is with all the gay-straight interplay on this album? Who on earth could be bothered to doubt Peter's love of the female form, as heavily documented on the horny-as-hell October Rust" and possibly in every interview he's ever given? Who cares? Ask him, and you'll get this: "I feel like I have to attempt to defend my sexuality here, which I will not do. All I will say is just because a man prefers to be with women and not other men does not make him sexist, it makes him heterosexual."

When he refers to himself as a 'sexist pig', don't be so sure the 'If you can't eat it or fuck it, kill it' days of former band Carnivore have returned - we'd all like to put them behind us, Pete included most likely. "I don't like competition. That's why I hate men," he says by way of explanation - unsurprisingly, deadpan. But forgive me for focusing on easy targets. There is a lot more to this album. With "The Dream is Dead" being about his late father, "Nettie" about his mother and "How Could She?" about his five older sisters - as well as self-depreciating tracks like "Less Than Zero", the squishy, vulnerable side of Pete Steele is there for all to see. But how does this strange spectrum of subject matters all fit together?

"I'm extremely bi-polar, and quite a moody person sometimes. If I'm feeling. I guess more comfortable I'll write a song with a sense of humour, if I'm feeling blue then I'll write a song like "The Dream is Dead", and so on." Type O Negative albums are always such a glorious melee of humour and the darkest emotions, of ferocious hardcore and lavish, sweeping keyboard-led ballads (for want of a better word) - something Peter says that is never intentional in the song-writing process. "I never try and balance anything. It's kinda like taking a shit, excuse my language - whatever comes out comes out. You really can't help it, but either way you really have to deal with it. "Normally I start by either having a bunch of chords or a melody, or sometimes lyrics, but rarely. I'm not like a person who can sit down and write a song from start to finish. My songs take a long time to evolve. And even after they are recorded, they still continue to evolve."

Harnessing new technology has been the key to any progression in the sound of LIKM, the band utilising Pro-Tools to enhance the complexity of their multi-layered sound in the studio. Peter - straight-faced as ever - is the first to admit that the song writing process was "quite stagnant" on the new album. Holding it up to the fatalistic WCD, however, listeners will instantly hear a vitality and vibrancy that the previous album lacked as it creaked under its own weight.

Now is a time of change for the band, as their current contract with Roadrunner expires with this release. Peter takes a rather businesslike approach to the bands future regarding this - in fact, Type O Negative are a more intense and astute band in this respect than you'd imagine, not at all as casual as they first appear.

"Like anything else, I'd have to go for the highest bidder", he says. "But there's an old saying, 'Better an old demon than a new God'."

There was a time when Type O Negative typified Roadrunner, and had other diverse acts such as Obituary and Fear Factory to stop them being singled out. Today, amongst the Slipknots et al, they are, arguably, too diverse, not to mention old, to fit on such a youth-orientated label. "I don't listen to any new music whatsoever anymore, and it's not because I'm a snob, but because I'm just happy with my older music collection." Pete says. "I really can't name more than three or four other bands that are on Roadrunner - I don't even know how we 'fit' on this label to begin with."

Type O Negative was born, and continues to grow as an outfit most obviously influenced by Pete's great loves of Sabbath and The Beatles, along with almost everything from 80's pop to hardcore - everything, that is, except thrash and rap ("It sounds like the soundtrack to urban life, which I am definitely trying to get away from," he muses). WCD was released in 2000, and the long wait for a new album is just the nature of the beast when your label can stump up enough cash. "After touring, and having to come home and write an album - which doesn't happen overnight, it takes at least six months in the studio, and then six months on preparation, if you do the math everything seems to add up. It seems to take a little time because outside the band we all lead separate lives."

This much is true - Type O Negative is a surprisingly single-minded project, in that in the gaps between working together, the band members do not associate. "There's an old saying," Peter says again, "'Familiarity breeds contempt' and we are quite contemptuous of each other."

I enquire about a project I heard Josh was involved in and get a frosty response: "I think you should ask him - I cannot comment on what the other guys do with their lives, because after knowing each other for so long and being in this band for 14 years, we hardly ever talk to each other." Drummer Johnny Kelly has kept a somewhat higher profile than the other band members during Type O's hiatus by touring with Danzig. After so long in Type O Negative, was there ever any danger of his role in Evil Elvis' crew becoming a permanent one? "I was happy for him when Glenn asked him to come aboard for a while and if Glenn had asked him to stay and Johnny had accepted, I can't say I would have blamed him. You know, Johnny's the type of person that really likes to play live, and that's the difference between him and I - I like to write and he likes the live stuff."

Brooklyn born and bred, it was a conscious decision on Peter's part not to let the events of September 11 seep into his work in any way at all. Hugely hostile towards other artists who have felt it necessary to either pay tribute to or commemorate that day on record, Peter will not be using that as an excuse any time soon. I feel that at this point it's a very sensitive subject still. I didn't even want to mention it at all, because I didn't want people pointing at me and saying I exploited what happened here, this really horrible thing, just to make money off of it. It's a very personal thing to me. To write a song about it now, I think, would be very insensitive." Peter was at home on that day. "I was in bed, and the phone rang. Just like most of the people in the world found out, somebody said 'put the TV on, you're not gonna believe what I just saw,' he said. "I was quite devastated - living in Brooklyn, when I walked outside I could smell the smoke and there was masonry dust in the air, and I was also, you know, inhaling vaporised human beings. "It was a very unpleasant situation. And that day - nobody spoke to each other that day. Everywhere you went, it felt like everyone was just at one giant funeral. There was nothing that could be said because everybody was still in shock." Peter is passionate that nothing should be built on what is now known as Ground Zero, suggesting something along the lines of a cemetery or park to mark the area better than another office block. But he explains that obscene property prices in the Manhattan district make rebuilding too strong a magnet to resist - in short, too much money stands to be made by the few, for the concerns of the many to stand for very much at all. The Bush administration in a nutshell, really!

"If it happened anywhere else in the world, people would not even consider building there," Peter believes. "And to build there again and use the excuse that 'this has happened, and we must go on, if we don't build there then the terrorists have won' - I can't agree with that. I think that by going on with our daily lives, it proves to the terrorists they have not won." It is spooky that a year previously, the album cover for WCD featured the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline including the Twin Towers. "That was kinda strange. Every time I see the World Trade Centre, pictures of it, it freaks me out. I never thought it was prophetic or anything like that, it's just sheer coincidence."

September 11 is still obviously raw in his mind as a New Yorker, but he does not see how today's events and war in the Gulf are any vindication for it. "All I can say is that I don't understand why the United States feels like it has to be the world's police department. I think that this whole thing - the conflict between the people that live in the Middle East, we should keep out of it, and you know what - let them kill each other. They can do the world a favour. But don't kill my people, don't kill my friends or relatives." Type O Negative has always seemed like a band determined to fulfil their obligations. With their European tour on the horizon, although concerned at the thought of leaving home in the current political climate, at this point they still intend to perform the scheduled dates - including two in the UK.

The short, sharp Ramones-like "I Don't Wanna Be Me" is tipped to be the first single as they push for a better promotion from Roadrunner than their previous effort received. The band not only wants, but needs this album to get heard - there's a sense that it's almost as if their future depends on it. Josh Silver has already had a rant on their website regarding Internet leaks of the new songs, stressing the importance of first week sales in the States, and worrying how that could affect their bargaining power in the future. Nothing to worry about, I'd say - place your bets on how many lazy journos resort to calling LIKM a 'return to form' - and it took a bit more than a week for 'Bloody Kisses' to go platinum, didn't it?

Finally, to get off such maudlin subjects, I couldn't resist trying to get to the bottom of the rumours that since Evan Seinfeld got engaged to porn star Tera Patrick, an, ahem, more exotic change of career is on the cards for the Biohazard man. Could long-term pal Pete shed any light on this? I've heard a couple of things here and there but I don't give them any merit to gossip and I do not subscribe to it. All I can say is that unless it comes from Evan's mouth I will not comment on it, because I consider him to be a close friend - and I would assume the same respect coming from him." Ah well, I stutter in a gutless about-turn - who needs a career in porn? Biohazard are doing great these days after all this time, as in yourself. The Strokes? Who'll be listening to them in five years time? New York rules!

"Well, so far so good, thank God. I'm glad that Evan and Biohazard are doing so well, they're all friends and we like their music," Peter says. "Hopefully we can possibly do some touring together, somewhere in the not-too-distant future."

The following months will be nothing but serious hard work for Type O Negative, so I leave Peter to his last day at home before the circus of press tours and gigs begins and let him get on with cleaning his back yard. Beyond the next six months, anything could happen in the world of this unusual, iconic (ironic?) and seemingly indestructible band of brothers, but Peter heralds it simply and kind of wearily. "I have no plans for the future," he contemplates wryly, sounding as if he's wondering why on earth he signed up for any of this in the first place. "Ever."

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