INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE Peter Steele of Type O Negative
by: Alex Zander
TYPE O NEGATIVE - /tip/o/neg-ative/-1. Blood type which is not traceable in semen samples after a rape; 2. NYC-based goth metal quartet that plays emotional, over the top music that destroys trends.
They have been called Sisters of Mercy meets Danzig meets Destroyer era Kiss. They've been called racist, Fascist, Pro-rape, Sexist. Suicidal. At some point Type O Negative have been called everything from beautiful to repulsive. And depending on your views, they are.
In my words, I'll sum them up as dark and brilliant. My friend Justin, a skinhead, turned me onto TON, He liked their debut Slow, Deep & Hard, a collection of hardcore songs that are considered by many as misogynic. The LP was written in four hours by singer/bassist Peter Steele while he was drunk and getting over a relationship turned sour. Justin knew I'd like TON because of their latest effort sounds a hell of a lot like Sisters.
I first witnessed Type O Negative at Graffiti last spring. They were mean, drunk, (singer Peter Steele pounded 22 beers during the set), and offensive. But at the same time they played one of the best sets that has passed through the Steel City (Pittsburgh) in recent memory.
The second time I was treated to TON, believe it or not Ripley, was at Star Lake when they were supporting the new and improved (?) Motley Crue. The band played a mere four song set, but four songs in 45 minutes. The average life span of a TON cut is 7-10 minutes long. Bloody Kisses boast 70 minutes of the most intense goth as it has never, and I stress never, been played. The production rivals anything Mike Oldfield has ever done. Thus creating the trademark sound of Type O Negative. Songs like Christian Woman, which is a song telling the tale of a 13 year old girl who being a Christian was told sex is bad. She goes to sleep every night looking at the nearly naked son of God on her crucifix until she eventually begins to have sexual fantasies about Christ. Black No. 1 (little Miss Scare-all) is an ode to a goth girl Pete once dated. "She was so into herself," he explains, "she once had me hold a mirror over my face so she could see herself climax." One line says, "She's got a date at midnight/with Nosferatu/Oh baby, Lilly Munster ain't got nothing on you."
The title track, Bloody Kisses, is a modern day version of Romeo and Juliet. "A crimson pool so warm and deep/lulls me to an endless sleep/take your hand in mine/I will be brave/take me from this earth/an endless night/this, the end of life."
Now, as much as I am devoted to Sisters, I must confess that their covers of Gimme Shelter and Knockin' On Heaven's Door have nothing on TON's reworking of Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze." Steele originally changed the title and lyrics to Summer Girl, but Seals and Crofts abruptly put a halt to its release. Bloody Kisses is 70 minutes of suicide anthems, loneliness, and beautiful blasphemy. It is definitely the most honest expression of emotions recorded in a long time.
I met Mr. Steele after their set, backstage before the Crue show. After introductions and small talk, I sat with the nearly 7 foot Lerch of a vocalist who possesses a set of incisors guaranteed to be the envy of the most bloodthirsty vampire. In the company of the band and with the presence of Motley's Tommy Lee, we began to talk about sex, suicide, bad press, and Peter Steele's wish to disappear into the woods of Iceland.
The first question was directed at me.
Pete Steele: Is that a Sisters Of Mercy tattoo?
Alex Zander: Yea.
PS: I like it. It's cool.
AZ: Actually, my undying love for the Sisters is what turned me onto your music.
(Mike, the green-haired manager, interrupts and asks me again where they can buy beer. Sunday in Pennsylvania--and obviously the venue hasn't accommodated the needs of the band. I tell them to go to West Virginia. Steele replies, "West Vagina.")
AZ: The first thing people ask whenever the topic of TON comes up is if you guys are serious. Are you?
PS: We're completely unserious. As you see, a lot of what I say is like cornball stuff. On stage and off, we certainly don't take ourselves as serious as people seem to think we do. This is what we like to do. It isn't that we're trying to sell albums. We like slow and emotional music. We will never become trendroids.
AZ: A few years ago a review of Slow, Deep & Hard said something to the effect that if TON is serious, they should rot in the maggot filled filth of the gutter that their lives are. They should be cooked alive with their genitals shoved in their mouths. How does negative press like this affect the band?
PS: Sells albums. Negative press is better than none. And I'd like to point out that I wish the guy that said that (David M. Earle) would say it to my face (At this point, Steele's eyes widen and bulge while his face becomes red with rage.) because I would ram my fucking genitalia down his throat. Anybody who ever slams this band never has the balls to say it to me. Never! It's always some dick 5000 miles away with a big mouth. And I will catch each and every one of them and kill them with a Bic fuckin' pen.
Tommy Lee interjects, "There are some questions you just don't ask." laughter all around.)
PS: The pen is mightier than the sword. Suck my dick you fuckin' cunt! If I lose a fight, no big fuckin' deal. I have a lot of blood to shed. Political correct fuckin' cunts! Sorry Alex!
AZ: For those that don't know, why did TON stir up so much controversy in Europe?
PS: I did an interview one time with a German magazine and they were asking me how popular I thought TON was becoming. I said at this point I think TON is more popular in Germany than Adolf Hitler. And it was much the same thing Lennon said about Jesus Christ. I thought I was being a funny guy 'cause I am funny actually. But they don't get it there. (Steele mocks a German accent.) "Ah. so you are a fascist Mr. Steele!" Then there were protest, riots, and bomb threats; and it was great because it just sold albums for us. The label got bomb threats as well.
AZ: Why the change of attitude between Slow, Deep & Hard and Bloody Kisses?
PS: I think that 3 years would do the trick. We kinda grew up. We don't listen to hardcore any more, and shit like that. And when the band first got together I guess it's safe to say, was in the ashes of my old band Carnivore. We had to do a demo really quick so I wrote these songs in one night. So it was hardcore and sludge and shit like that.
AZ: You sound as though you regret the album.
PS: I do because it was only supposed to be a demo. I was drunk and pissed and I wrote the whole thing in 4 hours. Little did I know that demo would be pressed into an album. So we were pretty much trapped into something I wrote in a span of a few hours. That's why there's such a gap between Slow, Deep & Hard and Bloody Kisses. If I had to do it over, Bloody Kisses would be the first album. I gave the world a really warped idea of what TON is.
AZ: One time you said, "I don't think people who commit suicide are cowards. I think they are heroes because they are taking a journey that nobody has come back from, and nobody knows what's there." Do you consider suicide a solution?
PS: Definitely. I don't think that life is sacred. I think that life is pretty much a waste of time. And part of being successful at anything is knowing when to bow out. I'll never die of colon cancer or heart disease or of a brain tumor. When I become useless by my own standards, when I cannot function as a man, I'm going to do a swan dive off the World Trade Center-hopefully onto someone I hate.
AZ: What kept you from succeeding in your attempt at suicide?
PS: Didn't cut deep enough.
AZ: When you reflect on it, how do you feel about it now?
PS: Well, it was a symbolic death. The person I was is certainly gone. I don't consider myself that person anymore. See, here are the scars. Next time I do it, I'm ...
Josh Silver, keyboardist/composer, interrupts, "Next time he does it, I'm gonna do it for him.")
AZ: You have to cut vertically on the vein (I demonstrate.)
PS: That's what everyone tells me.
AZ: Since people have interpreted you as pro-rape, how do you feel about marital rape.
PS: Oh god, that's a very complex question. I never really gave it any thought. Personally, when I'm with a woman, what gives me great pleasure is knowing that she wants me. I would never force anybody to do anything. I don't have to prove to a woman that I'm a man and that I have to jump on her and fuck her brains out. If she jumps on me and fucks my brains out, that's the ultimate compliment. So I wait till that happens. I will never force anybody to do anything. I mean, look at the callus on my hands, you think that's from working out? It's from jerking off. (Josh shows me his and I admit I'm impressed.)
PS: Look at the callus on his feet! That's from jerking me off. (Tommy Lee, who doesn't jerk off, leaves at this point.)
PS: Weeee! Athlete's dick!!!
AZ: The fact that people get turned on by your attitude on stage. Is it something you strive for or do you think that they identify with you.
PS: Let me say that we're trying to be anti-trend. We don't consider ourselves rock stars. If everybody is running one way, we run the other. We don't want to be grouped with anyone. We wanna do our own thing. It gives us our satisfaction. But are you asking me if my attitude is sincere?
PS: Well, honestly, I don't think that we're the best musicians. But if people want to buy it, I'm not going to tell them not to. I just have to question if they have any hearing problems.
AZ: What about all the comparisons to you and Eldritch. Does it bother you, flatter you, or both?
PS: It certainly flatters me; however, I never meant to sound like him. Maybe he's trying to sound like me. But it's a compliment. Whenever you start to become successful in publicist terms, they try to describe you by comparing you to things that people know very well. So you're always going to be compared to something. I guess I'm proud to be compared to these guys.
AZ: Other than the Beatles, where else has TON drawn musical influences from?
PS: I guess it's obvious I should say Sabbath, although it's so trendy now to say that. I write the songs and pretty much let the guys add in what they want as long as it doesn't take away from the idea of the song. But the band is influenced by Sabbath, Beatles, '60's psychedelic music, Deep Purple, Zeppelin, bands like Judas Priest, and AC/DC; all the way up to Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. Everything I listen to influences me.
AZ: Are you going back to Europe?
PS: We don't really know what's going to happen with this Motley Crue tour. We may do a headlining US tour which the label would love. Or we may do a support UK tour that the label would hate and we would love. So as much as we'd like to work with them, we have to work with ourselves first.
AZ: Are you anxious to go back?
PS: Yes, because as you know we have problems over there. I'm the type of person that when a problem exists I have to rectify it. I really want to go over there and get it over with--it really eats at me. I want to show people that I'm not really who they think I am. That we're just here to play lousy music.
AZ: Once you said you want to get away from everybody and build your home in the woods of Iceland and live with the wolves. Do you still want to do that or become the next big thing?
PS: I've learned to never say never. As much as I have to stick with what I said, I may change my mind. I would still like to leave with a woman I feel I could spend the rest of my life with and spend our days pleasuring each other.
AZ: How was your tour with Nine Inch Nails?
PS: The band will certainly disagree with me...As much as NIN treated us very well, their audience did not. As the band spokesman I did not have a good time on stage. I felt more like Andrew Dice Clay than Peter Steele. I was just up there insulting people. They were trendy, grundy industrial crowd that just wanted to hear 120 beats per minute, not 20 beats per minute, which we play.
AZ: Anybody that listens to the lyrics would understand that TON and NIN are the ideal combo for a tour!
PS: Well yea, I think Trent--when he requested us to go on tour--had sensed the emotion of the band. I mean, NIN is a very emotional band , which I can respect because I feel that we are the same way. But, unfortunately, I think the audience is more narrow minded than Reznor thought they would be, and just did not pick that up.
AZ: Iggy Pop told me that the strangest thing that he'd been hit with on stage was the fist of a 7 foot mountain man. What's the most fucked-up thing you've been hit with?
PS: A used tampon.
AZ: That's not so bad.
PS: It hit me in the eye. I've been hit with bottles of course, and lit cigarettes. It hasn't been that bad. No cinder blocks.
AZ: So what's going to happen after the tour?
PS: I had a meeting with the label last week and asked them when they wanted a new product. They said by September in '95. The problem with that, is when are we going to record this thing? Spring or Summer? But that's touring season. So I'd rather record around Christmas season. Hopefully, get the thing rolling for the summer review. So I'd like to come out with a new product. I'd like to play the U.S. some more, then Europe. Be home for the holidays. I really care about my parents very much and I'd like to spend the holidays with them and my girlfriend.
AZ: Are you and Josh going to produce the next LP or hire from the outside?
PS: Well, Josh and I work very close together. Josh has a lot of recording experience. He's a technician. I'm the guy with the ideas, and he helps me realize what I have in my head. So I don't think we'll hire out, because we're too cheap.
AZ: I think the production on Bloody Kisses is a phenomenon!
PS: You should be familiar with Lycia. It's dark, ambient goth music. The last album is called A Day In The Stark Corner. I would like our next album to sound something like this. It is the most depressing thing I've ever heard in my life. If I put it on in the morning when I get up...I'm useless for the rest of the day. Makes me feel like killing myself. It's like why even bother getting dressed when I can just slit my wrists. Such simple hypnotic beats, everything is drowned in reverb. Yet, the emotion comes through so loud and clear. It's just devastating, as beautiful as it is devastating. That's how I want to come through.
Dedicated to the memory of David M. Earle.
R.O.C. thanks Alex Zander, Type O Negative, and Mike Amato. Mike, you're one of the best! THANKS