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Type O Negative

Daar zijn ze weer! Dood en wel. Na een kleine vier jaar meldt de New Yorkse cynische depressiemachine zich weer aan het muziekfront met de allervrolijkste en zonnigste albumtitel 'Dead Again'. Het is weer een magnum opus van heb ik jou daar: het kost je bijna tachtig minuten om door de tien overwegend zeer lange nummers met zwartgallige teksten heen te ploegen. De afgelopen jaren kwam Type O Negative, en dan vooral de boomlange frontman Peter Steele regelmatig in het nieuws. Drugsmisbruik, een rechtszaak (in de relationele sfeer), de nieuwe shows van zijn oude band Carnivore en het gemiep over racistische tendensen, zelfs een geruchtencircuit over de vermeende dood van Peter stak de kop op (een hoax dat door toetsenist Josh Silver was veroorzaakt). Allemaal heel gezond voor de imagebuilding van de band. Maar uiteindelijk draait het om de muziek en dat is ze op het nieuwe album weer goed afgegaan. Om nu eens niet altijd maar de zelfkant van de maatschappij te verheerlijken binnen de context van Type O Negative, sprak ik met drummer John Kelly over hele andere zaken. Over positieve zaken, zoals het nieuwe album natuurlijk, maar ook over wat minder gebruikelijke zaken. Let's go positive about Type O Negative…

Door: Evil Dr. Smith | Archiveer onder gothic metal

Never trust your instinct, and your habits. In the past, interviews with several metal bands organised by the same promoter took place at the Amsterdam Park Hotel. So when Type O Negative arrived in Holland and I had an appointment with drummer John Kelly, I went to that same hotel by instinct. I was sitting and waiting in a sheer empty lobby, when my cell phone rang. It was the promoter asking me where I was. Well, in the lobby of course, as usual. He was there too, but he didn't see me. All right, I'm not the biggest guy and sometimes I do feel like George W. Bush standing besides Shaquille O'Neal, but the lobby was almost empty an I didn't see the promoter as well. Do you know that the interviews don't take place in the Park Hotel, but in Hotel American? Oops…


Luckily Amsterdam is just a small, insignificant city and the tourist area is even smaller, so within a couple of minutes I found the right and slightly more luxurious hotel (although they were renovating, so there wasn't much luxury anyway) and went to room 309, where John Kelly was just ending his conversation with a fellow journalist. I always thought that the New York-based band consists of only large men, but maybe it's just lead growler Peter Steele who creates that image, because John is of average length and certainly not six-foot-something. His bags were still standing against the bedroom wall; he and Peter – who was doing interviews in another hotel room, just arrived from another interview session in Italy. Although most press logically prefer to speak with Type O titan Steele - he's obviously the billboard of the band, it's not really a surprise that the Benjamin of the band (John is the only member who wasn't in the band from the beginning) does a lot of interviews too, because he turned out to be a very amiable and talkative speaker. We hardly shook each other hands, or he already showed me pictures of his newly bought dog, that his girlfriend send to him by MMS. 'Actually, I don't really like dogs', he laughs, 'I'm more a cat person. But she likes them.' She is Bernadette, the new girlfriend of John. 'Yeah, we've been together now for a couple of years. I'm divorced from Anita. Bernadette looks a bit like her: strong jaw-line, tall and dark hair, but character-wise she's totally different. And she's eleven years younger than me', the almost 39-years old drummer laughs. He looks younger. 'And feels younger!' he smiles, 'rock and roll definitely keeps you younger, that's for sure!'

Asking about his divorce, John sighs. 'I was inevitable. The hardest part of the divorce is to don't see my daughter Sophia Page so much anymore. She just turned six years old. Before she was born, I was completely terrified about the birth. I wasn't sure how it would change my life: it was purely selfish perspective. I always looked at things at a very practical matter. I realised: all right, I'm gonna have a child. That child needs security, stability and I'm the one who's responsible for that for the next twenty years. Being in this environment - playing in a metal band with an insecure financial situation, it isn't ideal thing being able to provide. One year it's great, the next year I might be digging in the couch to get change to buy cigarettes, you know. Can I swing this, am I gonna be able to pull this off? It's not just “me, myself and I” anymore. But after the initial shock of it, I'm okay with it now. Since my wife and I are divorced, it made me have a better relationship with my daughter, even though there's the hardship now that my daughter wants me home. Why can't you and mom get back together, she asks. That's really hard to explain to her, she will not understand it now. But in the end she will understand and it will make sense to her. Believe me, I say to her, it would not be fun if your mom and dad will live in the same house together [laughs]. And she's got a great memory, so I say to her: Don't you remember when I lived there, that your mommy and me used to fight all the time? That we had these brawls and that we never agreed on anything? And she remembers. So it was inevitable that we should live apart and that we weren't right for each other. I think we grew apart as people. No, I don't think it has to do with the time I spend with Type O. It might have more to do with my fascination for computers, hehe. She needed more attention, but when it wasn't Type O or computers, she always felt that there was something else that was taken priority. At the same time I wasn't getting any support and the things I need out a relationship from her. So we got to the point that I was thinking like “if I not getting any, why should I give it to you?” So when two people come to that stalemate and you're not gonna move, you simply grow apart. Neither of us was gonna budge, and that what's happen. This happens three years ago. Since then I don't have to worry about making my wife happy, I was able to focus on my daughter.'

'I don't want to act like super-daddy or so and doing all these crazy things, but I won't take my time with her for granted either. When we're together, we do have a bond. She's daddy's little girl and she's crazy about me and I'm crazy about her. She just loves being around me, whatever it is I'm doing, even when I'm doing completely nothing. My ex-wife and me get along well enough to arrange good communication in the visitations: I can see my daughter whenever I want. I can have her for weeks, if I want to. We still have a lot of disagreements – that's why we got divorced in the first place, but I'm glad we don't have arguments about the visitations; it would be very unproductive. My new girlfriend and my daughter get along quite well, but at times my daughter will try actively to get her out, hahaha! I want to get your girlfriend get out of here, she said, and come home with me. But at other times she'll be all over my girlfriend and stuff, and she's totally fond of her. Kids have their moods. And my ex-wife – who has just a new baby with her new boyfriend - watches over my girlfriend's daughter when we wanna go out or something. It's weird and surreal, but it works. And I think it's definitely for the better.'

'I want to live my life to the fullest and I want to be an example to my daughter. I'm still chasing a dream, I'm still going after something and I sacrificed a lot of things to get there. There are a lot of good points and there are a lot of bad points, but at least I'm doing what I want to do and I deal with the repercussions of it daily, and I work around it. I think that would be a good example for my daughter, whatever it is that she wants to do when she gets older. Having a dream, going after it, get it and make it work.' We dug in a little deeper in John's relationship with his women and other ex-girlfriends and his favourite city outside the States (which is Amsterdam, by the way), and before we knew it, the record label manager was standing in the doorway telling us that the thirty minutes were almost over, asking if we need more time. But we even haven't talked about Type O Negative! So let's get down to business immediately, John!

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I think the album sleeve with a picture of Rasputin is a great idea to continue the controversy around Type O Negative. 'Well, the parallels between Rasputin and Peter are pretty uncanny. And he looks like he could be a member of the band, hehe. Yeah, he looks like Josh, that's what every one's saying, hahaha! I think the new album is a combination of everything what we've done so far. This wasn't really like a conscious decision; it wasn't like “let's make another 'Slow Deep And Hard' or 'Bloody Kisses' again”, but it wasn't trying new grounds as well. The only thing that concerned us was; whatever we do, as long as it sounds like Type O Negative, it's okay with us. I think that a lot of our earlier influences made its way out to this record, you know those classic seventies rock bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. It just happened that way. The way we got together every night and playing these things over and over again, and then things just started to take their own shape and form. We were cool with it: it started to become something. We were happy with it: just let it go and see where it ends. See what the final result is.' John's speaking in the 'we-form', but when you take a look at the credits of the songs on all Type O albums, almost everything (except for a few cover songs) is written by Peter Steele. 'Yeah, Peter got the credits, but at the same time everybody in the band does play a big part in it, and the songs would definitely sound different if someone wasn't there. But Peter's brings in the skeleton of the song and he writes all the lyrics.' What do you know about the lyrics by the way, because they are quite cryptic, yet sometimes pretty controversial as always? 'Well, I'm still trying to decipher some of them', he laughs. 'Some are pretty obvious, but some are a little hard to figure it out. So that's definitely Peter's corner. But I don't worry too much about royalties and stuff. Quite honestly, I'm actually quite shocked that we're here still talking about Type O. I mean, it's now 2007 and Type O Negative is still together and is still valid. I still think that the band's good and that we put out a damn good record, especially for a band that's been around for seventeen years. That's why I don't worry too much about it, because I always looked at it as “this is all gonna end tomorrow” [laughs]. And when it does end, it's gonna be worthless anyway. So I'm not going into fights like “he did this, I'm responsible for that”, etc.

The band didn't tour so much on the last album 'Life Is Killing Me' (2003), so you had a lot of time to do other things. 'Yeah, I had quite some time, especially being the drummer, hehe. I worked on some other things and lucky for me I round up by playing Danzig now, too. I toured with Danzig in Europe in 2002, but then I had to work for Type O again. Glenn Danzig wanted to have a permanent drummer, so I left Danzig. Glenn got another drummer, they did the record ('Circle Of Snakes') and after the record was done Glenn wasn't happy with that drummer anymore. So he called me up again asking me what I was doing. And he asked Kenny Hickey [Type O's guitarist] as well. At that moment our schedule were pretty open, so Glenn kept me pretty busy doing live gigs with his band throughout the year 2005. So it was two Type O members were playing in Danzig. Now it's obviously only Type O for us and Glenn doesn't like to tour all that much anymore, so it works out for him. Or maybe he just thinks: “You know what? Half of my band is not there, so I'm not going on the road”, hahaha!

You have also another band. 'Yeah, Seventh Void. That's also with Kenny. He's the singer in that band. We've just started playing a couple of shows. We also opened up a show for Carnivore in New Jersey. Peter wanted to, and we thought it was fun to do, hanging out with each other while playing in other bands than our main band. Seventh Void is more like a straight rock band, like Black Sabbath and Soundgarden.' In every interview I read from you, you are always talking about the classic rock stuff. On the thank lists in the CD booklets you even thanked your parents' record collection. So the music of Seventh Void makes much more sense to me than Type O Negative's metal. 'Don't get me wrong,' John replies. 'I totally love metal. Growing up metal was a big thing for me. I bought 'Master Of Puppets' the day it came out and 'Shout At The Devil' was one of my favourite records. 'Kiss Alive' was the first record that literally blew me away. Metal was all I was listening to, I loved Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Over Kill, Slayer: I was a full-blown metalhead. And I still love bands like Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, but also The Beatles, Stones: I think nothing tops that stuff. As a kid, that was my record collection. To me, I see a lot of that stuff in Type O Negative. Even though there's a kind of atmosphere that's presented in a lot of our songs, at the core of it Type O Negative is Black Sabbath, The Beatles and Pink Floyd. That's what I always saw in the band. So it didn't really strike me as being that much of a departure of the things that I grew up listening too. It's just presented in a little different way. And the new record even gets closer to it to me, than everything we've done in the past.'

That's why you didn't need a cover song on this album? ('Dead Again' is the first album without cover songs.) 'Yeah, it is the first, except for 'Slow Deep And Hard'. We did do a cover song, 'Bad Moon Rising' from Creedence Clearwater Revival, but we weren't happy with the way it came out. We played this song live every night on a tour years ago, so Peter wanted it to record it this time. But we weren't happy with the results and we already had 78 minutes of recorded music. So even a short song like 'Bad Moon Rising' wouldn't fit anymore on the disc, even if the recording satisfied us.'

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What blood type do you have, is it type O negative? 'No, it's not', John answers, 'no one in the band has blood type O negative. When I first joined the band – which was fourteen years ago, I told my mom about it. She heard about the band, because she knew Kenny; Kenny and I used to play in a local band when we were teenagers. Also I already had done some things for the band: like driving them to shows and so. I wasn't a good roadie, I used to drink all their beer and get fucked up. But we had a lot of fun together', he chuckles. 'Anyway, when I told my mother that I joined Type O Negative, she said to me: “I think you're B positive”. Recently, Peter told me his blood type, I think he said it was A positive. But everybody in the band is so cynical, so I don't think the band name Type A Positive would have fit the band. The name Type O Negative really suits the band and is way better than the first band names they came up with, like New Minority, Repulsion, Subzero. Actually, a friend of mine and me found out that Repulsion was already taken by another band when Type O Negative was still named Repulsion. I had to tell Kenny that they had to change their band name, hehehe.'

'When I joined the band in 1993, which was shortly after the release of 'Bloody Kisses', Type O wasn't really a professional band. I had no high expectations when I joined the band. I wasn't gonna quit my day job and neither did they. I was a mechanic at a one-man shop, Josh had a studio, Peter worked for the public parks department, Kenny was a plumber. We were only doing shows on the weekends within a limited amount of travelling. Type O had a record contract, but it was always going to be a stay-at-home thing. I was in the band for quite a few months before we started doing any kind of travelling. What happened was like this: in February 1994 we did a club tour in the States. At this point, I was in the band for about six months. It went well. It wasn't in those really big rooms or anything, but it was our first tour on our own. After that, we went home and everybody got back to work. It was like a hobby. Then we got a call from the people of Nine Inch Nails, which just released 'The Downward Spiral'. They were doing small theatre dates on the West Coast. Their support band had broken up three days before the tour. So we jumped in a minivan, drove cross-country, did the ten shows with them, came home and went back to work. But then we got the offer to tour with Mötley Crüe. At first we had no idea where that call came from. We understand that the band liked 'Bloody Kisses'. So it was the Crüe themselves that asked us, while their management didn't care less and tried to get a support act that could generate more money and sold tickets. But Mötley Crüe wanted us. And I really like Mötley Crüe, especially the album they just had released with John Corabi on vocals, because that's the heaviest Crüe album they've ever made. It was a difficult time for that band, with the grunge thing and Vince Neil's departure and all, although I thought Corabi is a better singer and his song writing made Crüe a better band. But it wasn't the same vibe as it was in the eighties. So the tour they did together with King's X and us – yeah, a totally weird combination, didn't went very well for them. They lost a lot of money on that tour. But we had a great time playing for like 3,000 to 4,000 people in amphitheatres, and Mötley Crüe treated us great. Even the audience was okay for us; the Crüe-fans are more open-minded than you might think of. When we were touring with Crüe, we started to get the attention of radio people and they started playing 'Christian Woman'. Then it started to get picking up. This was in the summer of 1994, while the album 'Bloody Kisses' is from the summer of 1993. And literally the day after the last show with Mötley Crüe (in Texas), we had our own headline show in Dallas: it was completely sold out and they had to turn down like 600 people.'

'Then it started happening. We returned with our own tour to all those places we played with Nine Inch Nails, half a year earlier. Nine Inch Nails was then like the toughest band to open up for. So back then, the audience fucking hated us, they hated us so much: they wouldn't even boo. When we finished a song, it was dead silence. Nothing. It was incredible, so I also found it rather amusing. But when we played there for the second time, after our tour with Crüe, a lot more people were showing up and things started snowballing. After that we played a couple of weeks in Europe and when we got back to The States, we did another tour with Danzig, which just put out '4' and he was pretty hot at that time, mainly because of the live version of 'Mother' from the 'Thrall' mini album. That tour did great! And after that we went on tour with Pantera for a few months and that was just insane! That was the best tour we've ever done. At that point I already gave up my day job – I quit my job when we got the offer to tour with Crüe - and we still weren't making a lot of money, but it was still more than was making as a mechanic, hahaha! Thankfully, it worked out [John's knocking on wood at the same time]. Since then, I have had work in-between. I mean, there are gaps of four years between our albums, what do you think? If we put out records every two years, I could do it, I could swing it. We've made certain accomplishments, but they all take a long time. For instance, our DVD 'After Dark' went gold recently, but that album already came out in 1998! It's not enough to survive on. I'm good at budgeting my money, but I'm not that good. I have to supplement it somehow. So thankfully I have now Type O and Danzig.'

'The friendships I made during the tour with Pantera, became really close. I talk to Vinnie Paul (Dimebag's brother and ex-drummer of Pantera and Damage Plan) all the time. Vinnie's got his own label now (Big Vin Records), released this fucking awesome “Cowboys From Hell meets country” album with David Allen Coe ('Rebel Meets Rebel') and he's the one who's mixing our Seventh Void album and wants to release it as well. Vinnie said to me that Dime never stopped talking about Seventh Void after he heard that demo.' John's letting me hear some songs of Seventh Void, but in the meantime he's talking my ears off, so I couldn't get a clear picture of the band's sound. Also because the press promoter entered the room for the fourth time, saying that we already spoke for one and half hour instead of thirty minutes and that I really, really had to leave the room…

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