As I sit on April 14th, yet again mourning the loss of Type O Negative’s Peter Steele, and reliving the sorrow that I will never get to see this monolithic band on stage, ever, on the 10th anniversary of Peter’s passing, I felt I should add some words of my own, to the floods of tributes already paid, to a literal giant of the alternative music scene.
The first time I truly recall the work of Type O Negative in my life, was a feature in Kerrang, with a beginner’s guide to their work (which was an excellent feature and I think they should’ve kept up, and unless the well ran dry, someone else could really monetise this premise), highlighting their 15 best songs, and the albums you should purchase. Although my love of music had not yet blossomed to its fullest strength, track names, album titles, and finer details quietly seeped into my brain of this newly acquired band, and did not awaken until three or so years later. That being in a time where music streaming and YouTube were still in their embryonic stages, and as a teen with little money, mp3 samples on online retail outlets, and the use of LimeWire, were my common practices to cherry pick and obtain the music I wanted to listen to. Yet I didn’t make the first step. My brother did.
My brother, head deep into his emo phase at this time, scoped out and sourced various different, often provocative, bands and songs from LimeWire, put them on an iPod, or played directly from his laptop, and that music permeated out of his bedroom door seven days a week, right up until he slept. One such song he played was Dead Again, taken from the titular album around the time of its release, and while it never initially gripped me, rotations over months and a huge love for thrash metal, brought pleasure when it belted out from his speakers. I eventually asked for the song to listen to myself, and in that moment, triggered the memory of that Kerrang article, and the song titles I should seek if I wanted to hear more. Unbeknownst to me, my brother did also have this song himself, but Wolf Moon, acclaimed to be the best song they had written by whomever was in charge of that article, was the song I next listened to, and it tore open an entirely new realm of music to me.
There was something about that bone-grinding bass tone against the backdrop of ethereal gloom, the keys alone scratching that 80s itch I’d later become obsessed with, but his ungodly bellow, reaching from a place of pain yet staggeringly melodic, totally floored sixteen year old me. How could something sound so gargantuan, melancholic, and beautiful at the same time? My first encounter with Wolf Moon did precede becoming better acquainted with Sabbath’s back catalogue, but in those six minutes of head-crushing bliss, a world where Ozzy and Paul McCartney went for a sad drink in the pub, and wrote songs together, made absolute sense. I wholeheartedly defend Wolf Moon as the best song ever written about giving head to a girl on her period.
Wolf Moon became somewhat of a staple in what was a meek offering of my musical tastes, but my love and fascination with Peter Steele and Type O Negative never truly took off until Spotify sprung into existence. I had already owned Dead Again in full by this time, but the true birth of music streaming, enabled me to experience so much more of what was Type O’s darker, heavier, and often deeply hilarious universe. You can take countless examples through out their career on what is considered as the funniest Type O song, but mine remains September Sun from Dead Again, while an excellent song in its own right, it almost exists solely to be a upbeat pastiche of November Rain. The Drab Four was perhaps an astute term befitting their music, but it cannot be understated just how funny this band were, attached or separated from their art.
With firm adoration established, the very harsh reality that I could never experience them live began to set in. No chilling rendition of Love You To Death. No deafening chants of Black No.1. No tongue-in-cheek pomp of My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend. No venue-trashing frenzy from I Don’t Wanna Be Me. That particular space in my head to fill with being in the same room with another of my favourite bands, will forever remain a void, and hollow.
Peter Steele, a man whose lore and public perception paints him as one of the nicest people to grace alternative metal, who battled his own demons and vices for decades, and perhaps in a final hope, turned back to Catholicism in his last years, before his body succumbed to the damage that had been done to it. A larger than life person and personality that could never take to the stage again. Especially in an age where the veil surrounding mental health is gradually dissipating, his demeanour and conduct was always that of a magnetic and wildly entertaining songwriter and individual. Were he still alive, could things have been any different? Perhaps, but with so many warming accounts, archive footage, and of course his incredible back catalogue, to ponder that what if scenario only does an injustice to the memories of those who met him, and were touched by his music. A man who by his twilight years came in touch with his own mortality, and despite not following so many parallels with, I felt a genuine human connection to.
The greatest example I can offer you is a lengthy interview with the often considered divisive Juliya, which is still one of my favourite videos I revisit, in which her closing question to the band is ‘How would you like to die?’ The vast majority of the interview is jovial in tone and while the rest of the band answers in the same light-hearted manner, Peter answers with the following, could be considered sobering, statement:
‘How would I like to die? It wouldn’t really matter, so long as I made a difference in the world.’
Every April 14th, I’m reminded of these words as a moral code to abide by, in the hope I can one day get closer to that goal of feeling like I too can make a difference before I shuffle off the mortal coil. It seems fitting that Peter admired Rasputin, a historical figure who famously couldn’t die, because for the influence he has had on my life, and countless others, as a musician and as a true innovator, he too, will surely never die in the hearts of music fans either.
Thank you, Peter.
Rest in peace.
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