Wednesday, April 21, 2010


"PS: They’re going to dump me in prospect park lake Brooklyn and not even fuckin cremated. (Ha! Ha!) There going to put me on a meat slicer."

There is never gonna be another Peter Steele, that's for sure. His is a fascinating story ripe with great tunes on a winding-road of sociology that included both "deep shadows and brilliant highlights" indeed (to borrow a turn of phrase from the band HIM). 1st of all, How many 6' 7", born to sing Goth metal crooners out there do you know about? Over his musical career as a satirical button pusher, both in Fallout and Carnivore and then with the mighty Type O, Peter was truly an artist who was hell-bent on being an individual. Type O in particular were absolutely brilliant at blending their musical influences like Black Sabbath and The Beatles with their own flavor of melodic woe, soul searching and tongue-in-cheek black humor.
The most important vantage point from which to view Peter Steele and his art is by remembering that he was human, full of talents and flaws, a troubled soul like the rest of us who managed to make platinum selling music out of his unique, twisted sonic landscapes, doubt, pain and even...confidence. Pete could sound like the cockiest dude in the world on some songs and then the most vulnerable, sad person you'd ever heard...despite his insanely low and menacing voice, nonetheless!
I am very, very progressive politically, and while this would often make me question the taste or validity of certain Type O songs, I am a HUGE fan of the band. I am not an "apologist", but I will say that "Kill All The White People" is basically about racist black people, a basically much poorer-taste Brooklyn faux-racist version of "Guilty Of being White." Type O was always about saying "fuck you" to being "PC". When the rather heterosexual (to say the least) Steele found out that his famed Playgirl centerfold spread was mostly seen by gay men, he wrote the campy and ridiculously immature-mouthed "I like Goils" that talked about how he didn't want his poop poked, but Type O also covered "Angry Inch" from Hedwig & The Angry Inch on the same record! The band was not about catering to popular opinion and loved to push buttons, much like, say, Steve Albini in his Big Black days. Remember..."We Hate Everyone"! I have to say, I still always preferred the more serious or Gothy-fun side of Type O to these sort of songs, however, which is why OCTOBER RUST is my favorite Type O record by far.
As a music journalist, I was really hoping I would get a chance to talk with Peter when Type O made another record. I had a great time interviewing Johnny (drums) once for his newer band Seventh Void, and everyone I've met associated with Seventh Void or Type O has always been super fucking cool.
Looking at the band's catalogue or live output, there are so many moments that stand out. The warm and gloomy cover of "Summer Breeze" on BLOODY KISSES. The fun and again 'campy" yet emblematic hit anthem "Black No.1". The stunning "Wolf Moon" from OCTOBER RUST, maybe the most beautiful and hypnotic sounding best (and only) song ever written about having werewolf sex with someone while they have their period! (hmm...maybe Moonspell has a song like that too).
The live footage of Type O at Wacken Open Air that is on the deluxe CD version of DEAD AGAIN is nothing short of brilliant. Watching it again gave me goosebumps the other day.
I can remember playing "Angry Inch" really loud in a health food store where I worked and seeing an old lady turn white when Peter started talking about getting a sex-change. Awesome. We had to put on Yanni afterwards to pacify the customers!
The last few years as the national and international music scene grew even more and more fluff than ever before with cookie cutter "emo" bands who've never even heard of Rites of Spring, Fugazi or Team Dresch cluttering pop culture with the same bad haircut, I found myself returning to bands like life of agony and Type O from my earlier days as a metal head more and more. Granted, there are tons of killer bands out nowadays like Ava Inferi, Kylesa, Stray from The Path and Salome who are being themselves, but it also was cool to know every time I picked up a record of Peter's that he was going to make you think, throw in some startling twists and turns and use his real, insanely personal voice. I am a melodic singer. I love death metal and hardcore (and have interviewed many major artists in these genres) but I hate when say, "metalcore" bands all try and copy the same screaming style ad nauseum. Peter was always someone who reminded listeners you could fight hard and make it big by sounding like yourself. Fuck yeah.
There's a lot of contradiction within Type O at times, sure. The tray of LIFE IS KILLING ME bore the phrase: "Type O Negative is a non-prophet organization".
The following (and final album) DEAD AGAIN would find Steele unloading tons of baggage and grief following the death of his mother and a newfound faith in a Catholic God. Some of this was easily foreshadowed to fans on the song for his mom "Nettie" that appears on LIFE IS KILLING ME, a beautiful and very personal song Pete wrote to his mom hoping she wouldn't be ashamed of him.
Later on in interviews he would take his religious views to a new extreme, while still performing "Christian Woman" and other "blasphemous" songs live and begging for forgiveness before performing them. Why do it? I guess to be an example of 'sinfulness'? ,who knows. His band mates stuck by him anyway. The former atheist Steele even felt that God had spoken to him.

PS: But I have pretty much been instructed to say three things: One is that God will not be the man let the man be the man. That abortion is the killer of angels and I am guilty of that myself. And that peace on earth shall not come until this state of design has been converted to fuckin Christianity. And that you are going to fuckin pay for what you say and that’s your ticket to death so. . .

Prior to this it is well known Steele had a rough few years from family deaths to prison for assault and acute paranoia from cocaine abuse. He had to spend time in a mental institution and let me tell you, that kind of shock, especially I can imagine after being such a big rock hero, is a lot of strain on a person. Despite DEAD AGAIN having some very conservative streaks in it like the anti-abortion "These three Things" (which also claims Zion must convert to Christianity or we're all fucked), it is still a great album, a snapshot of a struggling person. Peter enjoyed a long period of sobriety and was turning things around, it is said, towards the end of his life. Some people use God for that. That's fine. The ironic thing to remember here, and this is not an attack on Peter, but a hard that Catholics condemn a lot of rock n' roll people simply for being themselves and finding salvation or a path to sacred feelings or self-worth through rock music. That is bullshit. Music is just as valuable as religion and brings many more people together than stringent orthodox thinking. The Pope certainly wouldn't approve of Type O's music, but I sure do, and that is what fucking matters
I write this as a fan and not to be insulting, but rather that some of this controversy overshadowed the talent of Peter and Type O at times. The thing we should all keep in mind as music fans is that he was looking for answers just like you and I are, and that the full sweep of his music, whether you agree with all of it or not, is a testament to that.
Thanks for all the music, Peter. RIP. NYC and music were forever fucking changed.

I love that when Peter died no one was sure if it was real or not. THAT is so perfect for Type O fans, sad as the reality may be. But remember, "don't go there to mourn, but to celebrate...". On the bright side, maybe he has finally found some peace of mind.