MetalSucks Exclusive Pt. II: One Year Later, Peter Steele’s People Speak About His Life, His Music, And His Last Days
If they weren’t laughing with me, okay; if they want to laugh at me, it’s better than nothing.
— Peter Steele, 1962-2010
As far as I can tell, it was easy to laugh with Peter Steele. It seems like he invariably got the chuckling started himself; his companions merely could wait and watch, then break into laughter whether they wanted to or not. I get the same feeling watching his interviews. His joke might be brutally self-deprecating, but you laugh with a knitted brow. His remark might disregard standards of good taste or social sensitivity; you choke down tee-hees while scanning your proximity for aghast eavesdroppers. Or maybe he drops a bad pun or a hoary old uncle joke, causing you to mingle groans with guffaws.
We laughed at Peter, too. Once he, like, totally frenched an admirer on stage at The Ricki Lake Show. At the final stop of Type O Negative’s tour with Pantera, he instigated a multiple body pile-up on stage during a song. He inadvertently made it so that his bandmates would forever be asked to autograph pictures of his nude body. Only Peter.
In the first installment of our salute to Peter Steele, his friends, family, and bandmates talked to MetalSucks about their relationships with Peter, his modesty and talents, his genuine respect for fans, and his new commitment to a healthy life. In our conclusion, recurrent themes include the painful timing of his death and the future that could have been. Consider it: At one moment, Peter was poised to relocate to Staten Island to commence work on new Type O music; the next moment, he had gone and his surviving bandmates were left to contemplate a future without him. At one moment, his family was awaiting his return from Pennsylvania; the next, so began life in a world filled with little reminders of their special big man. At one moment, we had our laughs with and at Peter; the next moment, as he was dying far from his home and his family, we knew to expect no further fun and games from him. Then again, he might be laughing at us right now.
IV. “In one two-minute phone call, I lost my closest friend, my confidant, and my career.”
A. JOHNNY KELLY friend/drummer of Type O Negative, Seventh Void, and Danzig
Johnny Kelly: The night before Peter died, Kenny and I had made arrangements to go check out a rehearsal studio, so we could start the writing process. We found a place in Staten Island that we were pretty happy with. It was all working out: Peter was planning to move to Staten Island, so we would’ve had three of the four of us living in Staten Island; we had found a studio. Peter died on the 14th, and we were scheduled to move into the studio and start bringing the gear in … The room was ours on May 1st. The place that Peter was gonna be moving in to was going to be available to him on May 1st. Everything was supposed to start on May 1st.
That night, Kenny and I tried to get in touch with Peter to tell him that we found the place, that it seemed pretty cool, and it looked like something we could work with; logistically it was going to make sense, because it was close to us. I couldn’t get him on the phone. He was sick in bed. He wasn’t feeling good for a couple days before he passed away. I called his house the day he died to tell him we’d found a place, but I didn’t get him on the phone.
ADF: Later, you were phoned by Peter’s sister with the news?
Johnny Kelly: Yeah, his sister called me later that night a few hours after I’d called the house.
ADF: You had to tell the other guys?
Johnny Kelly: Yeah. I was on my way to rehearsals with Kenny for Seventh Void. The way that it all happened was I saw that somebody had called me [from] a number that I didn’t know. I let it go to voice mail. When I got in my car to go to rehearsal, I checked my voice mail and it was Peter’s sister. I called her back and she told me that Peter passed away.
I figured that I would see Kenny in a few minutes anyway at rehearsal. I’d tell him in person. I called Josh on my way to the studio to tell him what I knew. We really didn’t know much. We weren’t sure how, y’know … what was the reason or anything like that. His sister told me that he’d passed away. That’s pretty much all she knew as well, because Peter was living in Pennsylvania at the time. He was living by himself out there, so nobody really had … There wasn’t much information available.
ADF: Was it one of those things that shocked you, but it wasn’t exactly a surprise? Peter had been enjoying a time of good health.
Johnny Kelly: At that point he was in his life, yeah, it was certainly surprising. It’s pretty well-documented about some of the things Peter went through in his life with substance abuse and stuff like that. At times in his life, he really did punish himself physically with that stuff. Had it been two years before he passed away and I’d gotten that phone call, I wouldn’t have been surprised. When he died, he’d been sober for eight months. Anytime you’d speak with him, he was always enthusiastic. He was really looking forward to getting to work on the next record. He was living a clean life. Anytime you spoke with him, he was happy and looking towards what was ahead.
ADF: It’s fascinating that Peter had uprooted himself from Brooklyn, a place with which he is closely identified, and moved out to Pennsylvania.
Johnny Kelly: Well, he did that because he went to a rehab facility out there. He had checked himself in to get himself clean. And then he just stayed out there.
ADF: Would you say that he was ready to get healthy? It was a real attempt?
Johnny Kelly: Throughout his life, he had gone to rehab a couple times. That lifestyle wasn’t something he glorified or was proud of. He had an addiction. It was hard for him to kick those habits. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to do it, it was just that it’s very addictive. He always wanted to help himself and get clean, stay sober. He wasn’t the kind of person who says “Alright, going out tonight to get wasted!’ That was never his thing.
ADF: Did it concern you that he planned to return to New York? Did you foresee that threatening his resolve at all?
Johnny Kelly: No, actually I was looking forward to it. He was sober for like eight months. We could get to work on the next record. We could get back to work.
Right before Peter passed away, I had a date lined up. There was a big radio show with Danzig in April in Phoenix. The day that Peter was buried I literally went from the church and the funeral to the airport. I was on a plane going to California to rehearse with Danzig for that show. It was pretty weird. It was tough switching gears and I initially considered canceling it. I’m sure everybody would’ve understood. It was something along the lines of [that] I feel that it’s important for me to keep going. What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to go in the ground with him? Or do I keep going?
I thought about it a little bit and I was like, ‘I should do the show. It’ll probably be good for me to get out of the neighborhood. It’ll be good to get away from everything and concentrate on starting to make that move. What’s next for me in my life and my career. Gotta keep going.’
[That show] was pretty weird. It was a big radio show, so of course a lot of people were coming up to me, asking me lots of questions, and they wanted to send their condolences. It was pretty strange getting on stage so soon right after everything happened. Then, you’re going on stage and you hear the intro tape rolling. Once I started playing, it felt good, like this is what I was supposed to be doing.
ADF: Did Glenn give a shout out to Peter that night?
Johnny Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. Glenn said a few words about Peter. A couple shows after that, he dedicated a song to Peter. Peter passed away in April and Danzig’s record came out in June and we did a couple weeks of dates. Every night, Glenn gave a shout-out to Peter.
ADF: I always thought it was interesting that you’ve played for two such singular, storied frontmen as Peter and Glenn. I see a parallel between the two.
Johnny Kelly: It’s there. [laughs] Throughout the years of playing with Glenn and playing with Type O, it always seemed that the schedules worked out. There were only a few instances when Type O was doing something and I wans’t able to go out with Danzig. For the most part, everything’s been able yo work out. Both bands are what they are, but it seemed as both got later in their careers, they didn’t tour as much. It seemed that one year, Type O was busy and Glenn wasn’t; then it’d flip flop. And that’s the foundation of Kenny and I starting Seventh Void — to try to fill in the gaps when Type O wasn’t doing anything. You get three years in between records, so you better find something to do with yourself.
ADF: It wasn’t for a lack of fan demand that Type O recorded infrequently —
Johnny Kelly: It was just the nature of how Type O Negative moved. How we did things. We weren’t the kind of band that could just bang out a record once every six months. We only did that once in Type O. That was October Rust. We had toured for a year and a half on Bloody Kisses. We came home and were only home six months; [in that time] October Rust was written and pretty much recorded and then we were back on the road with Ozzy. This was before cell phones and the internet, and I remember Josh sitting [on the phone] in hotel rooms telling the engineer what to do with the record.
ADF: That’s amazing.
Johnny Kelly: [laughs] Because we were already back on the road.
ADF: That album turned out awesome. Was there a temptation to create an album under those constraints?
Johnny Kelly: Well, there was always the intent and the desire to get our records out quickly. It just didn’t work out that way. We felt that it was more important to have something be the best that we can offer, instead of compromising just to get back out on tour.
* * *
B. KENNY HICKEY friend/guitarist of Type O Negative, guitarist and singer of Seventh Void
Kenny Hickey: Peter had just gotten convicted of a second DUI; he’d moved out to Pennsylvania and managed to get in trouble out there too. Peter had mentioned this in interviews: They had put an ankle bracelet on him to test and make sure that he wasn’t drinking alcohol. So he was totally sober [for the 2009 tour]. He hadn’t drank at that point for a few months. He was very clear-headed. The old Peter. We did a three-week run mostly on the East Coast. It was great. He was sober for the whole thing. Sang great. What really sucks about this whole thing was to see him like that and experience him again like that, and not knowing … Obviously, none of us knew that this would be our last tour. Our last show was at Harpo’s in Detroit on Halloween. It was a great show. A great time.
After that, I hadn’t seen him for a couple months. Then one of his sisters passed away; she was laid out here in Staten Island. I saw him at her wake and he looked good. He was still sober. He was answering my phone calls, we were talking weekly, and we had to get together [because] at the time, we were going to sign with Napalm Records for our next record. We hadn’t written a single note yet; Peter hadn’t come up with anything yet. He had, like, one riff that I vaguely remember. But at this point in the band’s career, Peter really didn’t do any work until we got to the rehearsal studio and were standing in front of each other.
Johnny ended up finding him an apartment or was helping find him an apartment; he was going to move right next to me in Staten Island. I’ve lived in Staten Island for about eight years and there’s a studio really close to me with a nice room to develop music in — and even a room to record tracks. Just found the apartment, just got the okay, I had just nailed the studio down, and he had just signed the contract for Napalm.
Like 24 hours later, I got this news that he was gone. I was on my way to rehearsal for Seventh Void and my wife called me to tell me. It was one of the most defining moments in my life — as defining as the inception of Type O Negative for me. I remember that my mind and my heart just went blank at first. It was complete shock. In one two-minute phone call, I lost my closest friend, my confidant, and my career. It was a whirlwind. It was definitely one of the worst moments of my life.
After that, we went to the wake and all that stuff, that stressful shit. Afterwards, as far as I was concerned … I’ve been in this business so long. 20 years. To me, this was like the last blow. Like, ‘Fuck this. I’m done. Whatever. I’ll go get a regular fuckin’ job. I’m just through with this shit.’
When somebody that has much talent and personality and impact on your life, once he’s gone that void is always there. I think back and I’m like, it’s too short; he was too young. He had so much more time and creativity ahead of him. We had so many more good times and crazy times to have.
But, he definitely left an impact. That’s his legacy. Changed my life forever. It was my identity, who I was for a very long time. Half of my life. It was very, very hard. I’m still adjusting and struggling to adjust everyday. At times, I’m like, ‘Fuck this. That’s in my past. That’s what my life used to be.’ But then I’ll run into three fans at the fuckin’ supermarket and I’m signing autographs. So then I go the other way. I try to stay creative; I’m writing a record now. Napalm ended up signing Seventh Void and they released Heaven Is Gone in the rest of the world. Now, I’m in the middle of writing another record. Which, to me, is mind-blowing.
When he died, I would never tour again, never go to Europe again. Whatever, it’s fuckin’ over. The next thing I know, I get a call from Jamey Jasta to go out [as temporary tour guitarist] with Kingdom of Sorrow. We went out and did a run, which reminded me of Peter. Every venue we played reminded me. He and I had done every shed in the U.S. We grew up together. Our careers … It was parallel existence. We ended up getting an opportunity to tour with Monster Magnet in Europe, of course, playing all the same rooms that Type O played for years. There are a lot of memories in every dressing room. But most of them are funny. [laughs] Most of the time I end up laughing when I think about him. The crazy shit he did.
[lightly] So, I have one foot in the business and one foot out of the business. Or my head is in the business, but my heart out of it — my heart in the business, my head out of it. I’m very much still running around in circles with it. Like I’m this chameleon that’s changing colors back and forth.
A year later, wounds still haven’t healed. I still don’t know where the fuck I’m going or what the fuck I really want. I’ve been in music for so long and performing live for so long; that’s my safety zone. That’s what I love to do. But sometimes, I’m like, ‘Maybe that’s it. Maybe you should put it behind you.’ To have that kind of success with a band and to live life on ten for two decades straight, it gets really hard adjusting to regular civilian life. Living as a regular person for the rest of my life … I’m not saying that musicians or rock stars aren’t regular people; they are regular people. But they’re over the edge, way over the top. It’s not a normal life. So I’m still trying to adjust to normal life.
* * *
V. “It was a relationship that you’re not going to find again.”
A. JOSH SILVER childhood friend/keyboardist and producer of Type O Negative/New York City paramedic
Josh Silver: The timing [of his death] was strange because he had been in much worse places. You imagine something like that would more likely occur at his worse moments. It still is surreal. We used to take pretty long breaks between records and not really see each other for six or eight months at a time. At this point, I guess I feel that my music career is more than likely winding down and ended, frankly. It left a bad taste in my mouth, the whole thing. It was rough. And I don’t really want to chase mediocrity for the rest of my life.
I will say one thing about me and Peter’s relationship: It was a great musical thing that we got together to create. I really enjoyed it. And I don’t think it could ever be that good again, musically or successfully. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to recreate something that was so natural and good. It worked and it worked for 20 years. That’s a long time. I feel very privileged to have been involved with this group that has functioned — even in a dysfunctional manner — for 20 years.
I don’t really want to chase it. That’s one of the reasons I went to a totally new career; and I was very interested in doing the emergency stuff. How long can you do [music]? I’m almost 50 years old. Am I going to go join another band? Probably not. And production is toast at this point; every schmuck in the world knows ProTools.
It’s still not very real to me. I’m not really sure why. How did I feel? I don’t know. I felt very angry at first.
ADF: Frustration over the end of a great creative partnership?
Josh Silver: [pauses] No, just that he did things that led to not being healthy. On some level, this was just a horrible, horrible thing. It was really frustrating because, for a lot of years, we tried to talk to him and try to get him to change the route of his life. And it didn’t happen. It’s unfortunate. I mean, he did change his route but I guess it was just not in time. It’s frustrating to lose somebody. There’s always an anger. You’re not really angry with that person, you’re just angry period. It’s upsetting.
ADF: Were you surprised by the scope of the public’s reaction to Peter’s death?
Josh Silver: No. We were a cult band for 20 years. We had a pretty big following even in our lesser days when we weren’t a gold- or a platinum-selling band. We still had a loyal following; we could still tour and fill rooms. So, no, it didn’t surprise me at all. That’s what kept us around so long, our cult status.
ADF: I feel that a lot of fans struggle to make sense of Peter’s death. Was he worn down by hard living? Did his size contribute?
Josh Silver: I don’t try to explain it. Especially now with my career [as a paramedic], I know that shit happens. All kinds of shit happens. All the time. People don’t want to sit there and think about that, but the truth is that crap happens everyday to lots of people. Now, most people can’t go through life thinking that it could happen to them, but it can. Maybe that should make us better appreciate what we have while we have it. You never know when some random event is going to rip it out, or if something you had to do with — not taking care of yourself, smoking for 20 years, weighing 350 pounds, whatever abuse you perpetrate on yourself — will take its toll and kill ya.
I don’t have an explanation for what happened, and I don’t need one. It’s enough just that it did happen. I have to cope with that fact. There really aren’t definitive answers in life and death. Why did this person get into a car accident and get wiped off the face of the earth at 20 years of age? Why! Who knows? Maybe they were driving drunk, maybe some other asshole was driving drunk, or maybe it was random. You never know. Shit happens. [laughs] It doesn’t really matter why because he’s still gone.
ADF: I see your point. But by this logic, can we not conclude that your music career must continue? As you say, time is short and we must appreciate every moment; how can you reconcile this idea with your virtual retirement from making awesome music?
Josh Silver: It was what it was. Now I wanna do something else. [laughs]
ADF: Okay, I’ll get off your case about it.
Josh Silver: No, listen, you’re not the first person to say that. I understand what you’re saying, but I only have one life, and, again, I don’t know how long it’s going to last. You never do. I lived a hard lifestyle as well. Not quite as hard as Pete. I’ve changed my ways drastically; I live a very clean lifestyle now. Now it’s time to go out and do something different and lead a whole different existence.
I don’t want to go to me grave having only done one thing. It’s a big world out there. The reality is that it’s never likely that I’m going to find a situation that was as musically creative as I had with Peter. It was a very special thing, I agree. As far as finance, I’m never going to make a lot of money doing what I’m doing now. But to go around chasing something mediocre just to stay in my comfort zone doesn’t seem like I’d grow very much.
ADF: But, Josh, what makes you think it would be mediocre?
Josh Silver: If you found true love in your life, how more many times do you think you’re going to find it after the divorce? Think you’re going to find true love three more times? You’re not. [laughs] Let’s be real here.
Josh Silver: I’m not saying Peter is my true love or anything.
Josh Silver: It was a relationship that [pauses] you’re not going to find again. That’s my point. I don’t want to sit there and try to recreate it. I really enjoyed it, though it was frustrating as well. It’s just time to do something else.
ADF: I’ve been told often about the final tour that Type O did. It seemed like it marked the return of the classic Peter Steele live performance.
Josh Silver: I wasn’t there, so I wouldn’t know.
ADF: Right. Is that a regret for you that it ended up to be the last tour?
Josh Silver: No, the regret for me is that they wouldn’t wait and do it at a time when I could do it. I couldn’t do it. I was in school and I wasn’t going to give up a year to do a two-week run.
ADF: They wouldn’t wait?
Josh Silver: Yeah. They felt like it had to be in November and that’s fine. You have to get on with it. I wasn’t available until March. I told them, ‘We could do a March run, it doesn’t have to be in winter.’
ADF: Why didn’t they take you up on that?
Josh Silver: I don’t know. Maybe it was financial. Maybe they just felt it was a Halloween tradition. Whatever it was, I was in school. I couldn’t do it.
ADF: And there was a different person on stage playing Type O Negative keyboards. That didn’t bother them?
Josh Silver: No, I guess not! [laughs] They did it right? So it didn’t bother them. [laughs]
ADF: And that turned out to be the final tour. Are you pissed?
Josh Silver: No. I was pissed just because they did it, I didn’t think it was the appropriate … I was not happy it happened to begin with, but nobody knew it was the final anything. That doesn’t really change my feelings about the tour. It is what it is. I felt like we all waited for each member of the band [to sort out] various problems. Except for Johnny, who never required any waiting for. I felt that I had a right to have my problems waited for as well. But each person has their own issues. Everybody has different motivations, y’know?
ADF: It must be tough to keep a band together so long.
Josh Silver: It is. The fact that we lasted as long as we did is a fuckin’ miracle. In this industry, with the never knowing where the paychecks are coming from or if they’re coming, or if everybody is going to be capable of functioning … it’s a lot of stress. I know people look at musicians as having a cushy life, but it’s a high-stress life.
ADF: More so than your new occupation? Isn’t emergency medial assistance inherently stressful?
Josh Silver: Yeah, but it’s different. When I come across someone who’s in really bad shape, I don’t know them. I do the best I can for them and it’s stressful, but it’s over relatively quickly. You spend 20-30 minutes on a job and that’s pretty much it. You try to help people, that’s the bottom line. You treat people with dignity and humanity.
* * *
B. KENNY HICKEY friend/guitarist of Type O Negative, guitarist and singer of Seventh Void
Kenny Hickey: I think Josh was kinda over it before this even went down with Peter. It’s a highly unstable life. You gotta depend on two other nut jobs; me and Peter were the nut jobs. We were always out of control on the road. We liked to have fun and party. But there’s no security in it. I guess Josh felt that he was getting old, he’s got kids, so he needed to go learn how to do something. I don’t know.
ADF: Josh said back in 2005 that he didn’t foresee Type O lasting another decade, which would’ve put him on stage at age 55. Was there a sense among you guys that Dead Again’s follow-up would be the final album?
Kenny Hickey: Absolutely not. Me and Johnny dubbed Peter “The Lemmy of Goth.” He was going to be like Lemmy, walking backstage with a 20-year old groupie in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other. That’s how it was supposed to be. He had already reached that status. We could go anywhere in the world to play and still bring 1000-1500 people in the room — no matter what the fuck we’d put out as a record. The status was there.
We could’ve kept going into our 60s, just like fuckin’ Motorhead, if this hadn’t happened to him. And we would’ve. [The musician’s life] was a torture that Peter knew best, and that Johnny and I knew best. Maybe Josh would’ve high-tailed it out. I don’t think he could’ve tolerated it. He hated the road. He hated a lot of aspects of it. But Peter hated the road in the beginning. It took us pulling teeth to get him on the road for Bloody Kisses or for Slow, Deep, and Hard. But then that became his safety zone. You get very used to it.
* * *
C. PAT RATAJCZYK ROWAN elder sister
ADF: How does it feel now when you see an interview on the internet with Peter or an old video with the band?
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: Every time he performed, we were at the concert. When they were in New York, New Jersey, we were always there at every concert with him. So when I see these things on the internet, I know. I was there. I saw it. It’s hard. It’s very hard.
ADF: Were you present for any shows on their final tour?
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: Yes, I was.
ADF: Everybody seems to agree that Peter was back at full strength as of that tour. He sounded great, he played great, and at least one of his bandmates expressed how great it was to have that Peter back on stage at full power.
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: Yeah, I was there. I definitely saw it. I saw the crowd and how they reacted to him. After that whole thing with the joke that he was dead, and then he wasn’t around making music for a while, a lot of people in the audience were amazed at how great he looked and how well he sang. It was extremely hard for him. He pulled himself back up. He was much better.
It was just terrible. Within a couple of days, he would’ve been back with his family. He was all packed to go.
ADF: The timing, if you’ll permit me to say, was extremely cruel. For this to happen at a time when Peter was feeling better.
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: Well, the main thing that you can get from me is how I feel that, having gone through hell and come back, Peter had a lot to say. He had a lot to say after that. He was going to write songs that nobody else would be able to write. Not only because of what he went through, but also because of his mind and how he was able to express it.
ADF: That’s totally true.
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: There was still a lot in him to come out. He was still making plans. That’s the one thing that I could say. I just wonder what he would’ve been able to come up with. And he would’ve done it for a long, long time, too.
It’s just very, very sad. We’re out at the cemetery all the time. The outpouring of love from people … Anytime you go onto the internet, somebody else has put up a new tribute video of him with all wonderful pictures. And some horrible pictures, too, at times, which I get very upset with, but —
ADF: I’m sorry. What pictures?
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: I’ve seen a couple pictures out there that were absolutely horrible. From when Peter was at the bottom of … He should not have been onstage, and nobody should’ve been photographing him. That’s not right. But that was Peter. He was open with himself and his life.
* * *
D. JOHNNY KELLY friend/drummer of Type O Negative, Seventh Void, and Danzig
ADF: I’ve spoken with everybody about a 2005 interview in which Josh expresses his doubt that Type O would continue for another decade.
Johnny Kelly: I wouldn’t say that Josh was the optimist of the group, that’s for sure. But we’d been saying that since I joined the band in 1993, and we didn’t think anything was going to happen just a few months past that. There we were, 17 years later, still doing our thing.
It’s a very fickle business. For our band to be around that long was just incredible — just the fact that we survived. We were still a band and still playing. Usually bands are only together for a few minutes. [laughs] They’ll actually have a decent run then everybody moves on to other stuff. Maybe years after that, they’ll get together for a reunion. [laughs] We outlasted all that.
ADF: I think it’s especially remarkable because Type O Negative is very singular and identifiable. If you heard it from a passing car, you’d know right away it’s Type O Negative.
Johnny Kelly: That was a primary concern. That was the most important thing to us creatively that whatever we did, it needed to sound like Type O Negative. You could tell when we would do cover songs and such. It wasn’t us playing a cover like a bar band. The approach was, had we written the song, what would it have sounded like? That was always the goal. Whatever we did needed to sound like Type O Negative doing it.
It was very important that Type O sounded like Type O, whether we were doing something with our hardcore roots or the more iconic 15-minute opuses that we would do. Whatever it was, it needs to sound like the band. We had our own identity. That was always the primary objective. Not only with Peter’s vocals, which we so unique, but everything about the band needed to sound like Type O Negative. That was always important.
ADF: The flip side of that there was some baggage with Type O. Peter’s larger-than-life persona, his exploits in the world of nude modeling —
Johnny Kelly: [laughs]
ADF: — and his provocative sense of humor. I’m not talking about drug shit.
Johnny Kelly: It was all encompassing. That was all part of it. It all coexisted. We always thought that the funny part of it … We took everything lightly. It was all very sarcastic and self-deprecating. But at the end of the day, that’s really who we were as people. It wasn’t like, “Okay, we’re doing press now or going on tour or making a record, so you have to get into that mode now.” It was like putting shoes on in the morning. It’s that simple. There wasn’t any kind of pre-conceived notion or agenda, like ‘This is how we’re going to present the band.’ What you saw was exactly who we are. If you saw us on the street or on the stage, it didn’t matter. That’s what we were as people.
Opportunities came up, like Peter doing the Playgirl thing … We thought it was hysterical. I remember when Peter was like, ‘What do you think about this. There’s an offer to do this thing from Playgirl.’ My response was, ‘Why not? It will make people talk about us. It’ll make people talk about you!’ [laughs] Here we are in 2011 and people are still talking about it. There were positive things we were known for, and things we’re known for in a negative way. We didn’t care. We saw the humor in everything. It was all part of the big joke.
ADF: I’m glad you said that. I think that fans detect and respect that genuineness.
Johnny Kelly: It’s one of the character traits that people identified with the band.
ADF: Did it ever frustrate you that there were extracurricular issues with the band?
Johnny Kelly: If it did, it was already too late. [laughs] It was already out there. There was nothing you could do about it. [laughs] It all added to the character of the band. Whatever it is, fans could grab onto it and use that to identify us. It’s too late [once] you put it out there [laughs]. Usually, when you put something out there like that, you hope that nobody picks up on it and it goes away quickly. That’s usually the thing that stays around you for the rest of your life.
ADF: I was always mad at Peter about the Playgirl thing. When I see any other musician, I’m not distracted by mental images of their nude bodies. It’s not an issue for anybody else.
Johnny Kelly: [laughs] It was something that we had to live with. When we would do meet-and-greets, people would show up with the magazine, and it was like, “You don’t have any thing else for me to sign?” [laughs]
ADF: So you know what I’m saying. Good.
Johnny Kelly: “Nothing else?” [laughs]
ADF: If Peter were still here, where in the process of a new album would we be today?
Johnny Kelly: At this point? Best case scenario, the record would be done and we’d would be getting ready to do press for a tour and for the release. We’d be getting ready to tour. That was the plan, really. We were getting ready to start working on another record. It took us a long time; we went through a lot of stuff with our old label, SPV. They went into insolvency, which is the German equivalent of bankruptcy protection. Once that all happened, we were shopping for a label.
We had finally found a label that we were happy with and had just signed contracts to go with Napalm Records. The head of Napalm Records had just gotten the contracts in the mail and then he got a phone call saying that Peter had passed away. Everything was getting ready to start right around the time he died.
ADF: That makes it even more cruel and unfair.
Johnny Kelly: There’s no rhyme or reason with stuff like this. When you think about it, when’s a good time for something like that to happen. [laughs] Is there ever a good time? Should he have waited? Should he have died sooner? You never say, hey this would be a good time for my friend to pass away. [laughs]
* * *
VI. “I wish he had escaped with more of his life.”
A. JIMMY DUFF friend/proprietor of Duff’s Bar in Brooklyn
ADF: It’s been reported that, at the time of his death, Peter had been feeling ill but not in a serious way. Now, with the knowledge that he passed away that night, I wonder why there was no hospital visit.
Jimmy Duff: Yeah. I’m pretty much of [Peter’s] mindset myself; it’s not correct or proper, but I pretty much need to be near death to go to the hospital. I’ll think, ‘Oh, it’s just a flu. I’ll pull out of it.’ It’s just one of those things. I really don’t know what happened. There are a lot of question marks around his final days and the people whom he was associating with at that time in Pennsylvania.
ADF: In what way?
Jimmy Duff: Well, from what I understand, it’s that some of the people weren’t looking out for his best interests when he was out there. People were taking advantage of him. That’s just unfortunate. He was getting ready to come back; he didn’t like it out there. I know he was coming back to start rehearsing and writing a new album. It looked like everything was great. It was really out of the blue. It’s not just that he was clean and sober. The damage was done, but he was getting his stuff together. That’s the irony of course.
* * *
B. JOHNNY KELLY friend/drummer of Type O Negative, Seventh Void, and Danzig
Johnny Kelly: A lot of it is speculation. It’s hard to say. When I would talk to Peter, he didn’t say, ‘There are a bunch of people leeching off of me out here.’ Before he got clean, I’m sure there were people that were hanging out with him just taking advantage of him. He had people like that in Brooklyn as well.
ADF: Because he’s a famous musician.
Johnny Kelly: I don’t know if it’s just about the fame. Peter always had a lot of friends. He’d walk into the pizzeria and all the guys making pizza would be like, ‘Hey Peter!’ He was a fun guy to be around. There were always people there hanging out with him that were definitely just there for the ride, that didn’t have his best interests in mind. I’m sure there were people like that out in Pennsylvania, too. He would tell me some stories … He wouldn’t necessarily name names, but he’d tell me some things; I’d be like, ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing that?’
ADF: I know what you mean. One wants to say, “We have good things to do. Why are you wasting your time with stupid people?”
Johnny Kelly: Yeah. But when you’re in that mindset, you’re not thinking clearly. Sometimes people whom you think are your friends really aren’t. On the flip side of that, the people who really are your friends, you think they’re the enemy! [laughs]
* * *
C. JOSH SILVER childhood friend/keyboardist and producer of Type O Negative/New York City paramedic
Josh Silver: A lot of things remind me of Peter. Half the time I listen to music, it reminds me. We had very similar tastes. We had a lot in common musically. I wish he had escaped with more of his life and got to be a family person, to have children, and to do some of the things that I think he really wanted to do. I wish he hadn’t left this so quickly. I wanted to see him do those things. I wanted to see him go to another place. I guess that’s what frustrates me and makes me sad. He didn’t make it to that. It was very upsetting.
Peter wasn’t Peter Steele to me ever; to me, he was always Peter Ratajczyk [pron: ‘rah-TIE-chek’]. I knew him when we were children. We went through liking girls together, then having our first girlfriends, and getting fucked over for the first time. We did all that together. So to me, he was never even Peter Steele. He was Peter from down the block. Even though he became that — even in his own mind to a degree — he was never that to me. He was this guy I grew up with. I knew him way before he was considered any of this.
ADF: So, in having lost Peter, you’ve lost your collaborator, bandmate, and friend. He was a part of your life for most of your life.
Josh Silver: Yep, 36 years.
ADF: And even today, you’re talking about him.
Josh Silver: That’s why you can’t replace him. He’s not something that’s replaceable. You lost and you move on.
ADF: I was upset that Peter wasn’t part of the Grammys retrospective. It wasn’t surprising, but it still was stupid as hell.
Josh Silver: That’s just a commercial thing, so it doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s a measure of commercial success. You’d never see someone win a Grammy that wasn’t selling hot.
ADF: But they honored some persons of dubious importance ahead of Peter and Slipknot bassist Paul Gray. In general, there’s not enough noise for Peter.
Josh Silver: In a way, that’s what made Type O Negative something interesting to like. It wasn’t out there for public consumption. Especially toward the end, it was an underground thing. If you didn’t seek it out, you didn’t find it. That’s part of the mystique.
ADF: Part of what delayed my fandom of Type O Negative was the baggage around the band. I didn’t really get Peter’s sense of humor; I didn’t get his Playgirl thing or his sexy persona. At any point, did you ever lament that these distractions might repel new fans? You work so hard on music and then these superficials might counteract its effect?
Josh Silver: Yeah, I did. Playgirl probably lost us a lot of fans; so probably did the whole style of October Rust. Nevertheless, I’m still willing to do something different. You don’t really make these great plans, you just do it as it happens. He got the offer, he did the layout. In retrospect, was it a great thing to do? Yes and no. It did put off some fans, but it also caused enough shit-stirring to keep us in the limelight for a little while.
ADF: So, it may have served as a distraction and good word-of-mouth.
Josh Silver: Yeah. You can never say how much good and bad these things cause. When we got assaulted in 1991 for the whole Nazi issue, we never planned on that being a good thing. But it probably turned out that it got us a lot of press. Who knows how much good and bad it caused? We didn’t have this brilliant plan to make it happen.
* * *
VII. “When he sings ‘Lay your head down for the last time,’ that says it all.”
A. JOSH SILVER childhood friend/keyboardist and producer of Type O Negative/New York City paramedic
ADF: If I were a music executive, I would have proposed around 2008 that Type O Negative follow a professional path similar to that of another cult band, Rush. Your schedule: Play feel-good shows, record sturdy albums, bask in fan love, deal merch by the acre. But, back in reality, you projected in 2005 that Type O Negative’s demise would come within ten years.
Josh Silver: Jesus, that would’ve made us a 25-year old band. [laughs]
ADF: Exactly! Look at Rush! Ancient and awesome!
Josh Silver: Yeah, I don’t want to beat a dead horse though. I was pretty satisfied with Dead Again as a record; I don’t know how many more great records we would’ve had in us. I’m not saying Dead Again is a great record; it’s pretty good. There’s a lot of good material on it. But how long can you do the same thing for? Life has to go on.
ADF: You don’t think that the fans energy would sustain Type O for another decade or two?
Josh Silver: Y’know what, I don’t want to be a 60-year old fat guy on stage. I don’t want to be a 60-year old skinny guy on stage! You had a time, it worked out great, and you don’t just ride it to death. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have done an album or two more with Type O — or even three. I don’t know what the future held.
But I certainly think that at a 15-year juncture, when someone is 42 years old, it’s fair to speculate about the thing coming to an end. I would’ve preferred that it come to an end without Peter’s death, certainly. It didn’t have to end that way [laughs] and I certainly would’ve preferred that it didn’t. Nobody has to die for it to end. Then again, we don’t control those kinds of things. That’s why [you have] anger — you want control over that and you have none. You have to relinquish control, and you do relinquish control because … tough shit. [laughs]
ADF: I think it’s impossible that no act, young or established, will want Josh Silver’s help. I think you’re going to get a phone call from somebody cool who’s doing a cool project —
Josh Silver: Naaah. Never. First of all, there aren’t a lot of cool things happening now. That’s number one.
Josh Silver: And number two, it’s not true. Really, Typo O was a fairly underground thing — especially towards the end. To make a living as a producer, you really have to go out there and hump and bullshit. I’m not a good bullshitter and never was. I’ll probably pay dearly for it in the end, but I was never one to go tell a young band, ‘Oh, you’re gonna be great!’ Know what? It’s a hard life. You might do well, but there is no guarantee.
The few things that I did produce are things that I really liked. I don’t want to take bullshit jobs just for the money. That’s just not what I want to do. I did Life of Agony but I really like them. I did it for almost no money. It was a passion thing, not a money thing.
ADF: I ask you for my own selfish purposes. I want to hear more of your work. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that something comes along and catches your interest.
Josh Silver: Well, if I were offering production services [around the time of] Bloody Kisses or October Rust, then maybe. [laughs] Those years are long gone. You sound like you’re a fan so it’s still fresh in your mind. As far as producers, you’re only as good as your last album. I mean that from a sales standpoint, not a creative standpoint. I’m a very opinionated cocksucker.
ADF: [laughs] Then give me your opinion on something. To the Type O Negative producer, which album has the most material that you consider strong?
Josh Silver: There are great moments and not great moments on all of them. I don’t think that just because something succeeded commercially … Just because an album like World Coming Down, one of my favorites, wasn’t as big as Bloody Kisses, that doesn’t mean it’s not as good. It’s a hard sell.
ADF: I agree that World Coming Down was a hard sell, especially following the catchier Bloody Kisses and October Rust. Do you also consider its follow-up Life Is Killing Me to be a hard sell?
Josh Silver: No, I thought it was one of the weaker albums.
Josh Silver: Oh yeah, absolutely.
ADF: You can’t be serious.
Josh Silver: I’m dead serious. In fact, I put it on a few weeks ago and felt the exact same way as when we made it. [laughs]
Josh Silver: I can tell you why!
Josh Silver: To me, each album had its own identity. We tried to never do the same thing twice. Even with Dead Again I find that to be true. But with Life Is Killing me, I find it to be an eclectic sum of everything we ever did. It never developed its own identity. I’ve always felt that it’s not as strong as the other records.
ADF: Is it leftovers?
Josh Silver: It’s pieces from here and there. I wouldn’t say leftovers. Pieces.
ADF: I love that album.
Josh Silver: It has good moments also — don’t get me wrong. “Anesthesia” is a good song. But on Dead Again, we got back to an album having its own identity. It had the oomph that I was missing on Life Is Killing Me. To me, artistic success and commercial success aren’t the same.
* * *
B. JIMMY DUFF friend/proprietor of Duff’s Bar in Brooklyn
Jimmy Duff: I’ll tell ya this story that kinda captures the spirit of Peter’s sense of humor and his coolness. He and I were meeting up at the bar one night. We were hanging out and I got a text message that a friend of mine’s birthday party was going on in Manhattan. I said, ‘Aw shit. I forgot.’ I already had plans with Peter. It turns out that this girl, my friend, was a huge Type O Negative fan. So I said to Peter, ‘Hey listen. It’s my friend’s birthday party in downtown Manhattan. How about we take a ride over there in The Hearse. I’ll bring you with me just to fuckin’ surprise her.’ He said, ‘Yeah, alright. Cool.’
We drove over there; it was in a financial district and everybody was outside the bar smoking. I had put Peter in the back of The Hearse. I pulled up and said to her, ‘Hey, happy birthday. I brought you a gift.’ She knows that I’m a mysterious motherfucker, so she’s like, ‘Oh no. What the fuck is this?’ I open the door and fuckin’ Peter comes out and says, ‘Hi, happy birthday.’ Everybody went fuckin’ crazy. It was so fuckin’ funny. He went and said hi to everybody; he was real nice and cordial. They were just falling all over themselves. They couldn’t believe it. We all went back to the bar in Brooklyn, hung out, and had a fuckin’ smash-up good time. That’s one of my favorite Peter stories. He was up for anything.
ADF: I love that story. If on my birthday, you had showed up at my party with Peter, I would’ve shit my pants. No doubt.
Jimmy Duff: [laughs] It was classic.
* * *
C. KENNY HICKEY friend/guitarist of Type O Negative, guitarist and singer of Seventh Void
ADF: The Seventh Void record is great. Do you feel fulfilled by that project?
Kenny Hickey: Yeah, I love doing it. Of course I do. You gotta understand that to bring a band to the precipice that Type was at, to get to the top of where it was at, was such an undertaking. It’s like climbing Mt. Everest over a 20-year period. Up to the peak and back down again — but it takes you 20 years. I’m driven. Making another record, I’m gonna go for it. It’s in my nature. I’m can’t not do it.
But what I know that I’m going to have to go through to make it viable and to make a living at it … When I think about that, I’m going to run from it. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of struggle, insanity, and alcohol. It’s a gigantic undertaking. I’m not a 20-year old musician who has no idea what’s in front of him. I have a wife and two kids as well. There’s a lot of sacrifice involved, a lot of work, and a lot of risk-taking. Now, in my middle years, to be undertaking it all over again? [laughs] I wish I still had Peter, yes. I wish I still had Peter period. And I wish I still had Type O Negative.
It was easy with Type O. It came easy, know what I mean? We did it for years. We had our fan base. We could always go out, earn a living, laugh, and make another record. We could always be creative. It was not a question; it wasn’t a struggle. I mean, it was a struggle. Everything was a struggle with Type O. There were such complicated, strong personalities. Every Type O record was an undertaking. This one would’ve been no different, I’m sure. But it was a struggle I knew, that I was used to.
There have been some sweet things. In Seventh Void, we did a piece of “World Coming Down” on the Monster Magnet tour in Europe. I thought it would never, ever be played again in front of an audience. I love playing that song. It was one of our best live songs. But what are ya gonna do?
ADF: What’s it like playing on stage with Seventh Void? You turn around and see Johnny Kelly there, but —
Kenny Hickey: He’s behind me looking at my ass now. I’m used to being at stage left and always being able to turn around and lock in with him. Even when I played with him in Danzig. I don’t have that now. I have to face the audience and come up with shit to say. I find myself bitching and moaning the same shit that Peter bitched about for years. Back then, I was like, ‘Eh, you’re always bitching and moaning.” Now I know what he was talking about.
It’s a different experience in Seventh Void. Not that Type O was a simple gig — I had a lot on my plate, a lot of changes, a lot of parts. But I always had time to drink my beer with Peter doing a bass solo and things like that. I wasn’t strapped to a microphone like I am with Seventh Void. I have to sort of [pauses] connect with the audience while playing my instrument. It can certainly be a pain-in-the-balls gig. It’s going great. It’s fun as shit. Like any gig, if audiences react, then it’s fun. I haven’t had shit thrown at me, so … I had plenty of shit thrown at me in Type O. [laughs] I got hit in the head with a bottle from the balcony in Chicago, I think.
ADF: That sounds like Chicago.
Kenny Hickey: A bottle of beer right in the fucking head. A bunch of kids beat the guy up in the balcony. It was a good shot, though. Square in the forehead. I’ve gotten hit with full drinks in the chest, banana peels, all sorts of shit.
* * *
D. PAT RATAJCZYK ROWAN elder sister
ADF: I’ve read interviews in which Peter expressed that the best time in his life was when he worked for the parks department. Can you explain what about the entertainment industry that drove him crazy? What was hard about it for him?
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: Peter spoke about the simpler times when he got up at five o’clock every morning, exercised, and went to work to put in his nine hours. He had good friends there and on the weekends, he would possibly perform places if he could. It was very structured. It was something that he loved to do. He loved working with nature. I think he missed that.
Once you’re in the music business, your life is completely opposite of everybody else’s: You get up at four o’clock in the afternoon, you have to be at the show at nine, you’re there until three o’clock in the morning, and you have dinner at five o’clock in the morning. You never get to see daylight if you’re performing enough, or rehearsing or whatever you’re doing. It’s a rough business. I know that when you’re a bartender, it’s the same type of scheduling. You become a night person.
ADF: Josh Silver expressed a similar thing to me. In his new career as a paramedic, there’s a structure that was missing on tour. I’m paraphrasing.
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: Yeah, definitely. Especially when you’re traveling on those buses, how comfortable could that be? To be on buses all day, traveling to places …
ADF: And he was so tall. And large.
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: Exactly. For a normal sized-person it would be uncomfortable to travel and just sit as you’re traveling to and from places.
I don’t know. It’s extremely sad. There are other things that I can’t really talk about. There’s a lot more to the story to tell. I guess you just have to know that we’re absolutely devastated by this.
It was absolutely devastating. Especially … He was our baby brother. We practically raised him. There’s a lot of funny stories from when he was a kid. There’s a lot of stuff. Very, very sad.
He had so much more. The older he got, the smarter he got — the wiser he got, the more in tune with the world he got. He definitely had a lot more to say [about] what he had gone through.
ADF: I was looking forward to more music, more interviews, more everything.
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: That’s it. There was a lot more music to come out. I’m sure he would’ve continued to change music as he had been doing. There wasn’t anybody like him before. Tony Iommi thought the world of him [and] gave Peter a special medal that he’d gotten for him.
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: Tony was impressed with Peter’s interpretative version of “Black Sabbath” on their tribute album.
ADF: What an honor.
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: Playboy magazine did a review of [Carnivore’s debut] and said that “Male Supremacy” was the best rock song that they’d ever heard. It’s an excellent, excellent song. And now, stuff that’s going on in the world — y’know, “World Wars Three And Four” — [Peter’s work] is very apropos to this time.
ADF: Do you have any favorite Type O Negative songs?
Pat Ratajczyk Rowan: The one that he wrote about the family, “Red Water (Christmas Mourning).” The song is absolutely fantastic. And so is “Die With Me.” There are a number of songs that you listen to, but when he sings “Lay your head down for the last time” … that says it all.
* * *
Photo used by kind permission of the Ratajczyk Family
Read part one here.
To share more Peter Steele memories and pictures, visit the Ratajczyk family’s awesome new blog at fortheloveofpetesteele.blogspot.com. To pester Josh Silver about having cut his hair and not making new music, visit his Facebook page here. Get rad Seventh Void stuff here. Dates here for Johnny Kelly on tour with Danzig. Follow Anso DF on Twitter here.