Type O Negative - Four assholes from Brooklyn
In a music world dominated by MTV, visual impact is everything. With their
front-man, Type O Negative have what's needed. Pete Steele is around seven
foot tall, built like a tank, with long black hair and a voice that registers
on the richter scale. In short, he is like the bizarre love-child of Dracula
and Hulk Hogan.
Keyboard player Josh Silver may not have quite the same visual impact, though
he does have the long black hair and a similar gravelly Brooklyn accented
voice. He may not be the same size as Pete, but he does have quite a few
more piercings, with large chunks of metal hanging from his ears and a small
silver bar-bell through one eye-brow. He fills a very important position in
the band, his keyboards providing the atmospheric back-drop that gives the
band's music it's individual quality.
In a few short years, the band have left the Brooklyn hard-core scene that
spawned them far behind, gradually consolidating their position as the
spear-head of the new US goth movement. Along with Marilyn Manson, Type O
Negative have made black leather and arcane symbolism the new uniforms of
Josh, however, is not very comfortable with the goth tag they have attracted.
"We see ourselves as four assholes from Brooklyn. Classifications are
usually inaccurate. The word goth is used in Europe far differently that it
is in America. I mean, you've got a classification we've lost 9, 10 years
ago. We just wanted to do something that had a lot of depth, a lot of
feeling, some real soul."
They are, in many ways, more renowned for the controversy surrounding their
music than for the music itself. The allegations that followed the release
of the first album "Slow, Deep and Hard" and the subsequent banning of the
live album "Origin of the Faeces" has been well documented. Josh's reaction
to the mention of this is one of amusement.
"I'm the first Jewish Nazi and I find that pretty funny. To even defend
against that is giving it credibility, so I won't bother."
This controversy is something they have noticed more in Europe than in
America. "In America they just don't look for anything, in Europe, they
misconstrue it to what they want it to be. America's too shallow to even
get it, but Europe takes it and makes it what they want. Europe is looking
for somecoby to scream at and we're good candidates."
The band are very cynical about the effects of all the controversy and judge
that it has done them no harm. Josh pointed out that it has got them a lot
of press and that is something they are very glad about, as it helps them
"I thank those people for misinterpreting everything we've done. It's great.
There is no bad press, only no press or press."
All that aside, there is their actual music, whether you call it goth or not.
Type O Negative have paved the way for an onslaught of black clad bands.
Josh bears no ill will to those who have followed.
"If somebody's influenced by what we do, I'm gonna take that as a compliment.
Artists always affect each other and we openly admit we rip off stuff from
the Beatles and Black Sabbath, and I'm not ashamed of that at all. You gotta
learn from the best. I'm not saying that we're the best, they just chose the
worst people to learn from, that's all."
The style of their most recent album, "October Rust", is somewhat different
from that of "Bloody Kisses". Missing are the out-bursts of vitriol like
"Kill All the White People", replaced by a much more measured laid back
sound. This is added to by a change in Pete Steele's lyrics. In comparison
to the dark vampiric tales of "Bloody Kisses", tracks like "Be my Druidess"
seem almost tender and romantic. Pete is the only member of the band to
write the music and the lyrics and Josh, as co-producer, does not like the
"There's a lot more continuity on this album, which I personally don't give
a shit about. I like the eclectic mess. Peter's a big fan of keeping
things with a lot of continuity and that just happens to be the material
that was presented to us. I think some of the lyrics are actually shallow
to a point that really annoys me. I think Peter's a great lyricist and I
think more time should have been spent on some things."
The romantic element of the lyrics is not the problem for Josh. On the
contrary, recent event in his own life have made him more appreciative of the
world of candles and red roses and he welcomes that element into their music.
"I just got engaged and I'm feeling a little romantic myself at the moment.
But, I'm also a very angry person. Romantic or not, that anger will always
be there somewhere. I think or music is a combination of romance and anger.
If you don't change, you're stagnant, so I'm not saying the next album is
gonna be more romantic, less angry, we don't know. We're gonna go with the
changes of life and deal with it."
One thing that hasn't changed from their first album to their most recent
recording is the inclusion of a twisted cover version. On "Bloody Kisses"
it was sixties hippy classic "Summer Breeze", then it was Neil Young's
"Calendar Girl" and most recently they recorded Status Quo's "Matchstick Men"
with Ozzy Osbourne for the soundtrack of "Howard Stern, Private Parts".
"A lot of bands did covers note for note just like the originals. We do a
cover and it turns out to be a Type O Negative song. We're just borrowing
someone else's material, but it still becomes a totally different song and
that's really all I care about. Sometimes I like the music, it simply keeps
us entertained. We gotta be entertained too."
In a blatantly commercial move, the band have just had some of their stuff
remixed by Nine Inch Nails' Charlie Clouser. "We'll admit we sold out. The
truth is musicians as artists do have to eat as well and that is the reality
of the situation, much as I dislike that. Am I a fan of it, no I'm not. To
me, it is what it is, it's a great piece. But, it is a brilliant Charlie
Clouser piece, not Type O Negative."
The imagery on "October Rust" had a very Pagan feel, with it's pictures of
trees and songs about magic and druidesses. It stands in stark contrast
with the Christian/vampire symbolism of "Bloody Kisses". This was another
one of Pete's ideas.
"Peter was shooting for a pagan thing, but the word pagan scares me because
it has religious connotations itself. I mean, I think we're complete
atheists, basically we're godless people and the only thing we have one ounce
of respect for is nature. Call that pagan? Nah, 'cos I'm not gonna bow to a
rock and do rain dances around it, but it is what it is and we do have respect
for nature. What is there left to respect but nature? It has the final say,
it'll destroy humanity and I'm looking forward to it."
by Donnacha DeLong