From the archives – Type O Negative: Geriatric ‘Souldiers’ of Rock and Roll

Originally published in Unrestrained! in 2007.

Peter Steele says he’s a “souldier,” a “tool of god.” And as that tool, Steele (who’s best known as the bassist/frontman of Type O Negative) claims it’s his duty to transmit god’s unpopular message any way he can – whether that’s through “rock and roll or heavy metal or graphic design, or skywriting.” Funnily enough, Steele also believes rock and roll’s not doing its job if it’s not pissing someone off, and Type O Negative has been raging proof of that belief for the past 18 years, offending anyone who dares take them or their music too seriously. Now the band’s catalogue of tongue-in-(ass)cheek rudeness has a new entry.

Dead Again is Type O Negative’s seventh full-length aural offence, a “bipolar” combination of everything the band has already done, ranging from “14 minutes of falling down to the centre of the earth” to “two and a half minutes of hyper-caffeinated crap,” as Steele describes it. Like a psych patient with multiple personalities, Dead Again is an album of many faces, a cannibalistic patchwork quilt of Steele’s numerous influences – bands like the Beatles, Black Sabbath, Cro-Mags, AC/DC, and the Psychedelic Furs. As Steele readily admits in his distinctive Brooklyn accent, “I steal from a wide variance of sources.”

TypeO-deadagainEqually distinctive is the atavistic rumble that is the Type O Negative sound, fine-tuned with the cluster bomb precision Steele and keyboardist Josh Silver bring to nearly every Type O Negative release. “Poverty,” says Steele when asked why he and Silver are the best people to record and produce their band, adding, “I don’t need someone to come in and tell me what to do with what I hear in my head.”

Despite Steele’s ever-looming presence on every Type O Negative song, Dead Again features, literally, more voices, including guest vocalist Tara VanFlower (Lycia) on “Halloween in Heaven.” Silver and guitarist Kenny Hickey sing more as well, something Steele urged them to do. “Threats go a long way,” he says. “Josh and Kenny have very good and very distinctive voices and I just believe that they are under-utilized. I felt that it would add an extra dimension to the band, playing off of each other, verse/chorus, whatever the case was, harmonies… I pretty much busted their nuts and said, ‘c’mon man, you can do it,’ so they did it. I think it came out pretty well.”

Though he’ll offer the odd straightforward assessment of Type O Negative’s music, Steele emphasizes he can’t be objective about any of his own songs, and his opinion isn’t immune to revision – including, for example, his previously expressed dissatisfaction with the band’s 1999 record World Coming Down – an album he has since come to appreciate. “When we were writing and rehearsing World Coming Down I had a pretty big problem with cocaine and alcohol, and I disassociated myself from the recording process. I was, at first, disappointed with it, but in hindsight the brutality of the mix kind of reflects how I felt about things at the time.”

Not that Steele has been feeling exactly sunny about life since then. “My mother passed away about a year and a half ago and it made me realize my own mortality. I’m pretty pissed off that I’m getting old and that I’m going to die,” he says (moments after declaring himself “unfortunately immortal” and bound to be doing the music thing “for infinity”).

Dead Again reflects an abundant dose of that negativity, labeling abortion “infanticide” and declaring that there will be no peace until the state of Zion converts to Christianity (“These Three Things”), or prophesying the “beginning of the end” of the world (“Profits of Doom”) – just to list a few of its messages. But even though this is no heart-warming record, Steele still argues that it’s potentially uplifting: “I wrote this album intending to steer people down the right path. Isn’t it better to learn from someone else’s errors than from your own?” Of course, he also bristles at even the thought of someone telling him that it’s “not PC,” declares the people who get offended are the “real assholes,” and adds, “I’m just a lousy bass player from Brooklyn.”

For a “lousy bass player,” Steele and his fellow assholes from Brooklyn – Silver, Hickey, and drummer Johnny Kelly – have still accomplished a lot, including achieving Roadrunner’s first platinum record (Bloody Kisses) and gold certification for the video release After Dark. When asked if those accomplishments mean anything to him, Steele answers, “I’m actually more impressed with my criminal record,” and claims the high point of Type O Negative’s career will probably be “the day the band breaks up.”

He claims it’s only “masochism” that keeps him going, but Steele wouldn’t erase any of Type O Negative’s past even if he could: “It has been an adventure, a journey, and a learning experience. I like how this forthcoming album has turned out, and if anything was eliminated from the past this album could not be the way it is, and I would not like for that to happen.” And because we’ve still got, as Steele assures me, another 21 years before the beyond-nightmarish apocalypse arrives, Type O Negative is bound to have a future as well. Steele sees no reason to end it: “The whole attitude of rock music seems to be the younger generation is tolerating geriatric rock and rollers. I’m over the hill, but I’m not down the hill yet.”

Laura Wiebe

Laura is associate editor of Hellbound.ca and co-host of weekly metal show Kill Eat Exploit the Weak on CFMU 93.3 FM. She loves doom, prog, cats and basketball, believes in equity and social justice and is not cool with any form of discrimination, marginalization, harassment or oppression.