TYPE O NEGATIVE - Interview with... Peter Steele.

Led by the charismatic and imposing Peter Steele, Brooklyn's Type O Negative have been spewing their 60's influenced gothic metal for the past decade to adoring fans ranging from metalheads and rivetheads to punks and goths. Defying trends and forging their own path, Steele's highly personal and in-your-face vocals have made Type O Negative a world wide force to be reckoned with.

Steele started his music career in the New York hardcore band, Carnivore, by releasing a self-titled debut in '85 and Retaliation in '87. Searching for something new, Steele along with keyboardist Josh Silver and guitarist Kenny Hickey formed Type O Negative in 1990, released their debut Slow, Deep and Hard in '91, and quickly followed with Origin Of The Feces in '92. By the time Bloody Kisses and the popular singles "Christian Woman" and "Black No. 1" were released in '93, Type O Negative had acquired a large and ever growing fan base. Current drummer Johnny Kelly joined the line-up to support the successful world tour followed. October Rust was released in '96 and turned heads with the provocative single "My Girlfriends Girlfriend", and the irreverent cover of Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl".

A video compilation entitled After Dark was released in '98 and featured videos for the sexually charged singles as well as interviews, behind the scenes tour footage, and live performance. Since then Type O Negative has contributed songs to the soundtracks of Bride Of Chucky, Private Parts, and The Blair Witch Project.

Type O Negative's latest release on Roadrunner, World Coming Down, will blow you away with its power, intensity, and bleak outlook. No longer focused on the blatant sexuality of previous releases, World Coming Down is, according to Steele, "about battling personal demons, missing people you love, woman walking out on us, self-pity, and chemical addiction". World Coming Down displays a proudly miserable attitude that can only come with age. Josh Silver explains, "When you are in your 30's, you experience a lot more death than when you are a teen. If you interview a bunch of 22 years olds in a band, they haven't lived long enough to know about the phone call...the one you only get in the middle of the night". Kenny Hickey relates to the shifts in tone and subject matter with, "As you live, life throws cinderblocks at you. As you get older, you get more dents in your head". Forget about the metal fringed pop singles of the past - World Coming Down is dark, tumultuous, and depressing.

My interview with Mr. Steele had been re-scheduled a couple of times, and I anxiously awaited his call for half an hour when the phone rings. I hear music in the background and a normal voice - not the deep husky voice of Steele. It's the tourmanager who is letting me know that it will be another hour or possible two before the interview. The band is still sound checking (or more accurately, blowing out) their brand new guitar cabinets before the show in Portland, OR. He tells me not to worry and that Peter will call when he gets back to the hotel.

So for the next hour with sweaty palms, I ruminated over what to ask and not to ask the imposing Peter Steele. Rarely do I have the opportunity to talk to a six foot six inch brawny male sex symbol. In the After Dark video, Steele wields an upright bass slung sideways. Anyone who can play a full- sized upright bass, and carry it around his neck is cool in my book. The phone finally rings and it's Steele. I was relived and I was nervous. In addition to Peter's exceptional sense of humor and sarcasm, he was quite articulate and sincere during the interview. Our photographer later mentioned that at the photo shoot in San Francisco, "He said he enjoyed talking to you, by the way, and would have chatted longer, but he had another interview he had to do".

How's the tour going so far ?

So far, so good...we've been out for about two weeks. The only problem is a little bit of homesickness. We got very acclimated to the good life...being able to shower, eat, and shit whenever we want to. Now it's back to the whims of bus drivers, promoters, and working around interviews...it's an occupational hazard.

But you enjoy performing don't you ?

Actually, I'm not comfortable playing live. It's funny, some kid outside the show just asked me how I felt on stage, and I said, "Like a two meter penis." I really don't feel comfortable. I feel like I'm naked up there. Fortunately, I'm a masochist...so this is the ultimate punishment, which is why I do it.

World Coming Down is quite a change of direction, especially compared to your past singles.

We're trying to get away from the whole sex thing. People were starting to think I was arrogant. I just read some review of the album, and this asshole said I was apparently full of myself. I don't think that at all. We just wanted to get away from the sex thing because it was embarrassing me. It's just that...well, there are other things in life beside autumn, women, religion, and fire...the things I normally write about. Now we chose death, drugs, depression, and Halloween.

How did the change from sex orientated songs to the almost opposite physicality of death come about?

We've been home for about two years, and my father passed away about four years ago. It actually didn't hit me until I got home, and I had all this time to think. I'm not going to say that I am obsessed with his death, but I still live in the same house that we all lived in. I live downstairs, my parents live upstairs, and my sister lives above. So there's a lot of ghosts in the house, figuratively of course. I just lost interest in everything...sex, working out, food. I could not stop seeing his face everywhere. After that, I lost an aunt and uncle. This is what happens when you come from a large family. I happened to be one of its youngest members, so I've seen a lot of people go. I guess my father's death was the straw that broke the camel's back. That's why there's so much death on the album. I have a hard time coping with abandonment, whether it's a parent dying or someone I love dying or a woman leaving me, or even lost pet or something...it's just not something I deal with well .

Did you work through those feelings on World Coming Down?

It's in a way cathartic, but the songs, especially "Everyone I Love Is Death" and "Everything Dies", are really personal. I have a hard time executing them live, because I have to disassociate myself. Hell, I never thought that I would have to sing these songs live. It's really funny how people misconstrue song titles...someone asked me if "Everyone I Love Is Death" is about necrophilia. We actually recorded about thirteen or fourteen songs for this album, and due to time limitations, we had to leave off three or four. I really thought that these songs were thrown away ones that just going to be dumped. It became that "Everything Dies" is not only the first single, but we just recorded a video for it as well. That was also very difficult. My father was a ship yard supervisor, and I chose to do the video where he worked...so I have stabbed myself, and then I just had to go and twist the knife.

Are your videos usually that painful to do?

The good thing about doing videos was that they always included women. So if I had to do a shot like thirty times, then it really wasn't too painful. There are some positive things about it, but it's a real drawn out process and I'm not too fond of it. We don't get much of a budget, and sometimes you have to work twenty hours a day. It may not seem like the end of the world, but you're talking three days in a row when the record company wants you to do interviews when you're not being filmed and all this other shit. Bit I like the songwriting process more than anything else.

Was the songwriting process for World Coming Down different than previous releases? Well, I was extremely unmotivated to anything while I was at home...and that included songwriting. With the previous records, I've always just brought the completed songs down to the band. And this time I was completely irresponsible and totally unprepared. I would come down to rehearsal, and we would just start jamming. Anything that the band collectively agreed we liked, we'd salvage the riff or the part. After getting three or four different parts, I would string them together in some semi-logical sequence and try to get a song a song out of them.

Did the rest of the band prefer writing and recording that way?

I sensed that they enjoyed it more because they had more input. But at the same time, when the songs are all ready for them, that's easy too because they just have to learn them. So I guess it's a win-win situation either way. We've been together for ten years...a decade of death. We were friends even before we formed Type O Negative. I've known these guys for about twenty-five years, so we have a lot of understanding and compassion for each other. Of course, every relationship, whether it's between band members or a husband and a wife, there's always some rough spots...there's always some potholes in the road, but the key is to just give people some space. If someone is having a bad day, just leave them alone. Because when you are trapped on the tour bus and you've got to see each other for months at a time...communication is also the key.

The songs on World Coming Down are so powerful and dark because they are blunt and honest. We've always tried to be honest. And the problem with that...well, actually it's not even a problem. Because when you're honest, at least you know who your friends are and who your enemies are, or if they don't like your opinion about things. The truth hurts...I guess we're just here to hurt you.

But the song "Pyretta Blaze" is happier and upbeat.

I wanted to get away from the whole sex thing, but I couldn't resist putting just one sexually orientated song in there. "Pyretta Blaze" is this fantasy woman...a female pyromaniac that I have to punish her for being a bad girl.

And "White Slavery" is about...

It's about cocaine addiction. It's not about enslaving Europeans or anything.

Is cocaine addiction something you've had to deal with yourself?

It's something that I could have potentially fallen into, I think. It's more based upon...actually, I have one cousin who got pretty messed up on that, and he's never been the same ever since. It was really about him, more than anything.

Are you still taking Prozac?

Of course...it's God. I think I'm keeping them in business.

Have you always had to deal with depression?

It just got to the point that I really didn't know what to do. I was feeling suicidal, and figured I should go talk to somebody before I did something...not something stupid, but something I would live to regret. Prozac doesn't make me happy, it just somehow prevents me from feeling really bad. If it was ten or fifteen years ago I would have a hard time confessing to it, but now it seems like everybody's taking something illegal or legal. So at least my drugs come from over the counter.

The songs "Sinus", "Liver", "Lung"...

Just be glad that we didn't put "Rectum" on there.

Did drugs also inspire those songs?

It's easy to get mixed up with drugs on the road. Coke, alcohol, pot...it's rampant. You shake somebody's hand and you open your hand up, and there's a bag of some unknown powder or it looks like a piece of Long Island, or something like that is in there. We are actually an anti-drug band, but unfortunately we're in our thirties...we could be parents of most of our fans, I would think. So rather than get on stage and preach, "Don't do drugs"...because when I was seventeen, I would do the exact opposite that my parents had ordered me to do. We felt that maybe if our fans could hear their potential future, maybe it would get them off the track of drug use. That's why all three of these tracks..."Sinus" is coke, "Lung" is pot or cigarettes, and "Liver" is alcohol...they all end in death.

World Coming Down also includes a medley of The Beatles' "Day Tripper". Are they a big influence?

I have four older sisters and I was born in the 60's. I always heard The Beatles coming out of every room in my house. So it's kind of ingrained in me. I think The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Black Sabbath are the big threes.

How do you feel about your record label having to pay Michael Jackson for the rights to cover the song?

How do I feel? I don't really have any feelings about it. I guess, I'm happy for him...what can I say?

What about the pressures of the music business?

It's like any other business. You've got to deal with lairs and cheats...you've got to shake hands and smile at people you'd love to see dead. I was actually happier working for the city back home.

Working for the city?

I was a park maintenance worker. Actually, I worked for the Park Department from '87 to '94. Type O Negative came to existence in '89, so I was juggling two careers at one point. It just became too difficult and I had to make a chose...I chose the band.

A few years ago, Jarboe of Swans said to say "Hi" to you if we ever did an interview.

That's great! Jarboe and Michael Gira lived down the block from some venue where we were playing. I overheard someone say this, and I said, "Oh, my God, please ask them to come down". I love the Swans. Jarboe has a very beautiful voice. I had seen them back in New York a whole bunch of times. I like the fact that each album is different and that there's a lot of melody, which I believe is sorely lacking in modern music.

What do you think about the trend towards hard rock bands or that kind of post-Manson stuff?

I'm not really into it. I don't watch MTV. I don't read magazines. I don't listen to radio. I actually make it a point to disassociate myself from it all just because I don't want to be influenced by trends. If you sing about dark things and have long black hair, people are going to think this is a vampire band. Human beings need to categorize and that's fine with me. I don't care. I think we're the last band that all four members have long hair. It is a real pain in the ass having long hair, but it's a part of my uniform for my occupation.

What bands do you listen to?

It's everything from old Sabbath and The Beatles to Devo, Laibach, Cocteu, Twins, My bloody Valentine, Dead Can Dance...

And Type O Negative toured with Lycia...

They are such a great band. It was such an honor. But unfortunately sometimes our fans can be very ruthless to the opening bands. And there was nothing I could do. I thought it was actually pretty interesting. The October Rust album just came out, and it was all about creepy things and Halloween. I always thought A Day in the Stark Corner was one of the most depressing albums I have ever heard in my entire life...it actually influenced me somewhat.

Since Halloween is a reoccurring theme on your albums, that must be your favorite holiday and time of year?

I love it. That's why I really like the October Rust album, because it's all about things I love: women, fire, autumn, ghosts, and witches...all these creepy things. I thought that the October Rust booklet was really nice looking too. I have always loved autumn. I don't know where it comes from or why it's there, but I just wish I could live in a place where it was an endless autumn. I was thinking about moving to someplace in Europe, but I always want to come home to Brooklyn...it's not clean, it's expensive, it's crime ridden, but it's the hell I know and I'm comfortable there. I own the house, so there's no real reason to leave. The house itself is not in great shape, but I'm kind of like the caretaker and I hold on to it, not so much for me, but for my mom and my sister. I miss it right now. I'm calling you from Portland and I have this really wonderful view of some river, but even though it's beautiful...I guess I'm just a big baby.

Do you enjoy hanging out around the house and doing home repairs?

Yep, I do all that shit myself...all the electrical, and I refinished the basement and all this other stuff. I am pretty handy with tools and I like working with my hands. I like to work out. I like to read, but just factual information. I'm very curious about civil engineering and architecture. I like superstructures, bridges, dams, and shit like that. I'm also into Frank Lloyd Wright stuff...I just really like his work. (The cover artwork for World Coming Down ) is very graphic and very civil engineering minded. I'm really a practical person. I don't know...I love square things, I love geometry, I love solid forms. I don't like blurry borders of any facet in my life. I like things black or white. I am definitely a type A personality. I don't just drift with the tide, I have to swim against it.

What about Type O Negative's consistent green and black visual theme?

I've always been into graphic designs and logos. That was something else that I always thought about doing. I always felt that a business should be associated with certain things, and all bands are business. The reason why I chose black and green is because I wanted to...well, people would thing that with a band named Type O Negative that the obvious chose would be white and red, or black and red. So the reason why I chose black and green is because green is the opposite of red, and I'm just trying to show people chromatically that we are not going to be what they expect us to be. We are just going to do the exact opposite. Like the Marx Brothers said, "Whatever it is, we're against it".

Interview by Octavia - Outburn - January 2000

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