“When I find myself useless by my own standards, I’ll take my life. I will take a swan dive off the World Trade Center hopefully on top of someone I hate,” Type O Negative’s Peter Steele quipped while promoting his greatest commercial accomplishment, ‘96’s October Rust. Coming on the heels of ‘93’s fascinating Goth-metal breakout, Bloody Kisses, this gloomy rhapsodic follow-up gave the band an East Coast stronghold fortified by Steele’s naked Playgirl photos. But Steele never got to end his own life by way of his own hand, as jokingly promised.

A well-schooled, well-mannered giant of a man, Steele’s imposing frame hid the fact he was a sensitive individual with a waveringly thick Brooklyn accent. Born in the Red Hook section of Kings County, the heavily-pierced body builder seemed to be straightening his life out before dying of heart failure, April 14, 2010.

Expressing his insecurities through song, the ex-drug abuser was a composing vocalist-bassist who spent free time routing, welding, and doing home improvements. The sixth child of a Russian-Icelandic family whose grandfather’s cousin was Josef Stalin, he was the youngest and only male offspring. Taking guitar lessons at age 12, he moved to bass six months hence.

This interview took place at a Brooklyn eatery when Steele was 34 years of age. He died at the tender age of 48. He will be missed by a legion of Goth fans still unearthing Type O Negative’s worthy catalogue.

Photos by Mark Weiss

You seem to be a diehard romantic affably posing as a loony psycho-killin’ Goth rocker.

I am. The Goth term was thrust upon us by the media. People, in general, need to know where to put product. It’s like trying to hammer a semi-circular piece of wood into a circular hole. We kind of fit, but kind of don’t.

Do you think because you’re a big man with a deep baritone register that you’d have to contrast that image by being an incurable romantic? Otherwise, you’d be exploiting what’s obvious.

Ah, genetic engineering. I’ve always been very sensitive. That’s always contrasted greatly with my physical appearance. Sometimes people are taken aback by the contrast—which I find pleasing. Someone who’s big is expected to act a certain way. But when I act nice—I’ve become a good actor (insert sarcasm)—people are impressed.

You talk a lot about getting your heart broken in song.

Everyone does, though. Everyone gets screwed over. It’s part of being young. I’ve had many different girlfriends. I prefer tall women so I don’t have to bend down to kiss them because I have back problems. The incomplete evolution rears its ugly head. (laughter)

Is ‘My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend’ based on a true romantic tryst?

First, there’s the lesbian snicker. Then, there’s the comically absurd statement about what people’s beliefs are and what the true situation may be. The song was actually based on a few true life experiences which turned out to be quite pleasant. There are no philosophical implications. It’s purely flesh and fantasy. You definitely have to be up for (the menage a trios).

You’ve picked a few ‘70s tunes to cover on the last two albums: Neil Young’s ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and Seals & Croft’s ‘Summer Breeze.’ How’d they fit in?

Both songs are only four chords—which is all we know. Those are obvious choices.

You use lush instrumentation to lather each track.

Reverb drowns out all the errors. What people think is Goth and genius and depth is just layers of mistakes. The reason we cover those songs is because being born in 1962 with five older sisters, each with their own stereo, I was always subjected to different music. The light sounds of the ‘60s/‘70s became some childhood favorites. When you hear these songs on the radio, I think of fond memories and good times. Like Frank Sinatra said, I wanna do it my way.

When will you do a Sinatra cover?

Like ‘Old Green Eyes’ (mocking Ol’ Blue Eyes)? Maybe we’ll save that for last.

Do your fans misunderstand or misinterpret your satirical sense of humor?

I’d say yes, especially since my humor’s based on sarcasm. You need a working knowledge of English to even pick up on it. When I’m sarcastic with people in Europe, sometimes they print it as I say it and it looks very strange. It’s all a mind game. Five years ago, I got completely screwed over by a woman and realized I had nothing to live for so I might as well use myself as a tool to see where my breaking point is.

You became the perfect existentialist.

If I don’t break, I’ll go far. That which doesn’t destroy me makes me crankier. People think I’m into metaphysical spiritualism. But I’m a serious science book fan and like physics and chemistry and ‘How To’ books. I refuse to pay money for something I could potentially do myself. When I’m home, that’s vacation. I like to work on my house and cars. I have weights to work out with. In-between, I like to eat, sleep, and shit.

Was the weightlifting…

Purely vanity. Low self-esteem. Feeling like a piece of shit all my life probably because I’ve always been really tall. But as a kid, I was kind of heavy. I was the perfect punching bag. I was big, but didn’t know how to fight back. I looked 15 but I was 10. I was completely introverted playing with HO trains in the basement. At 15, something happened, my balls got really big, I grew a foot, and gained a hundred pounds—but it wasn’t fat. The people who picked on me became best friends. Of course, with friends like that, who needs enemies. What I really wanted was a girlfriend. I was 19 and felt unattractive. Even to this day, the mirror is my worst enemy. I was born 24 inches long and 10 pounds. My mother said it was like giving birth to a pumpkin.

You’ve become a touch political on the last two releases.

Yes. I’m definitely pro-government. But there’s a pro-life party. I’m pro-death, for capitol punishment, pro-abortion, pro-Euthanasia—kill everybody. I have many sides.

Conversely, there’s an emotional conviction that’s more personal than social.

Having five sisters taught me quite a bit about women. I’d rather be around women than men. My best male friends are in the band.

Do you write and arrange all the band’s songs a la Pete Townshend of The Who?

It’s an understanding the band doesn’t have a problem with. I write ‘em, tell ‘em what to play, and the band doesn’t have a problem. If they want to add something, that’s ok. As long as it doesn’t stray away from the point.

What’s your archetypal song?

Hard to say. All my songs are like my children. Some are bad, but you love them equally because they all stem from myself. The whole first Type O record, I exposed my weaknesses to the world. I told them I got fucked over. It was therapy. I didn’t think that album would actually be pressed. It was a demo the record label gave us 30 grand for. Capitalist that I am, I took the money and handed them the tape. For awhile, people thought I was a psychopath.

How was October Rust a learning experience?

I learned to listen to my heart and not the business minds of people who’d rather do things for financial gain instead of a dignified reason like personal satisfaction. I’m going against the wishes of the record company and sometimes the band. I’d rather prostitute myself and be to blame for my own destiny. The record company wants more sensationalism, more sex, perhaps a pornographic booklet. I’m on a small label thriving on sensationalism. They need shock value to sell albums. I hope I’m passed that. The highest form of art is civil engineering and architecture. It’s not just something that looks good, but also is functional as well. Art should have function. It shouldn’t sit on the wall and do nothing.

Art should have an organic function. Paintings should be so imposing they change the room.

Definitely to make a statement and not sit there.

Timothy Leary was an interesting role model. He lived his life, didn’t try to be politically correct, and did his thing. He never backed off of advocating psychedelic drugs.

In this society that kills creativity, you need some kind of emotional rollercoaster to just stand outside the prism, look at the colors, step back inside, and remember what you saw.

What about drug abuse inside the art community?

I think people do drugs because they have too much time on their hands. Lately, with technology, the quality of life’s improved. Two-hundred years ago you tended fields for 12 hours, drank wine, and went to sleep. Life to me is work, coming from a father that implanted that in my head. If I wanted to, I could make my life one continuous party schmoozing. But I’m not the life of the party, I’m the death of it.

Photos by Mark Weiss for weissguygallery.com.

16 Responses

  1. Bean

    There’s nothing more to say, DB. This interview doesn’t kill me the way those with Peter saying “When I’m 60” or “When I have kids” or “When I’m old and…” do. No death, celebrity or otherwise, has quite affected me like this since my grandpa’s back when I was nine. One month later, and it still makes me sad. I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely over this one. For those that feel like aliens in this world, I’m sure you understand exactly what I mean.

  2. Sour

    I will miss that voice forever. The tragedy lies in his never having found that true happiness that he had desired for so long, a la “the dream is dead”. A truly honest and cynical man, a truly beautiful waste. Like I said, I will miss that voice forever.

  3. Julia

    Thanks very much for this interview.I love Type O Negative and I can’t get believe Peter has died.I agree with the other person,I don’t think I’ll get over this one.He was one of the few people I really looked up to.I’m so sad about this.The world won’t be the same without him.

  4. Mike

    Pete has always been a somewhat role model for me in a way, I mean the guy had troubles but blamed them on no one but himself, he was very into science and hands on stuff, plus he was actually a very nice guy with a hell of a sarcastic wit.
    Not to mention he fronted one of the most original bands out there, original, because he had the balls to not conform to what the masses expected.
    For all that, you will be missed, Pete, and hopefully, you have found what you were looking for.

  5. Tom

    Its still hard to believe that Peter Steele is gone. The man’s music changed my life for the better & I know that there are plenty of others who feel the same way. It genuinely feels like a member of the family or close friend died, mainly because I was a fan for so long. Here’s hoping that another generation of kids who feel they don’t fit in find his music & know they aren’t alone.

    In closing I’d like to point out that Type O Negative weren’t Goth. They had much more in common with Black Sabbath than any goth band.

  6. peter north

    who ever wrote losing pete steele was like losing a family member was dead on. With all the bullsht pop songs that get masterbated into our heads each day on the radio, you could always count on a new type o record to come out about every 1 to 2 years and it was always cut from the same mold yet it was awesome. Ive been listening to them since highschool and im thirty now, no other band have i listened to for that long except maybe metallica, but look how those guys changed over the years and got gay. I was mildly upset when kurt blew his brains out, for about 10 minutes, but this really sucks. i last saw pete at mulcahys in wantaugh long island ny in 08, it was fckn great, it only sold half the place out, just goes to show you the shit people will pay for, fckn brett micheals sold that same place out, and pete steel would have vomited on that guy. Pete ill miss you man,

  7. Robert Wilkins

    Peter Steele was a good man,a great musician and last but not least a great influence.I still cry when I listen to Type O Negative.He is the main reason I chose to pick up and learn how to play a Bass guitar.Ive lost so many people that I care about,I at least wanted a chance to meet him,or maybe even play with him.However,there are things that will never be.And so it is with this.We love you Peter,you will be greatly missed,I WILL make you proud.

  8. Haley Bailey

    For sure, everone, Pete changed
    my life, since the moment I first heard “No more nights” (of bloody
    dy fire) I bought tickets to the Last tour and couldn’t go because I contracted the H1M1 flu virus and almost died, myself. I hope He at least knows there are souls who will love him throughout time.We all love you PS

  9. Haley Bailey

    Ever since I heard October Rust, I’ve been a TON fan. just because Pete is gone onto a higher level
    doesn’t change anything. I just look forward to death more. HA! I’ve enjoyed listening to Type-O-Negative
    more than ever, and will support the rest of the band, in whatever they do. Love You!

  10. aga

    An Interview with Peter Steele of Type O Negative By Charlie Steffens, aka Gnarly Charlie: ON FAITH “After my mother passed away last year and a couple of other things happened, I pretty much got back to my faith. I was born Roman Catholic. Believe it or not, I go tot church on Sunday and I do read the Bible. But I don’t read it as a how to live your life book. I read it as if I have a question I can open any page. If you’re open minded you will get the answer from a passage. And you will get a different answer if you read the same passage but it will still be just as worthy. “ “I went to confession for the first time in 30 years. And the priest was very happy that I had come back to church and stuff. I didn’t go into each and every sin otherwise he would have to take two weeks vacation (laughs). I said ‘Father I did wrong and I want o apologize to God for my behavior and I’m going to try for it to not happen again.’ It’s better to pay in this life then in the afterlife. So he said “well, make a large donation to your favorite charity, which I did. I’m not going to tell you which charity it was or how much, because that really started me thinking about these so-called charitable people. Charity should be anonymous. If you’re going to get a pat on the back for doing…”Oh, you’re such a great guy. You gave five million dollars—even though you have 50 billion—to South Africa. You’re a great fuckin’ guy.” So I donated my money anonymously and when I had reformed Carnivore I had asked the guys to do just one thing for me. And that was to make a donation anonymously. ‘Don’t tell me, just please, that’s all I’m asking you to do.’ It’s never dome up again and I trust they have. You shouldn’t get a pat on the back for fuckin’ doing the right thing. You should always be doing that. In a great world people would treat each other the way they would like to be treated. My mother always told me if I really didn’t wan to do something, if I was really tired, but if I had helped someone and I really went out of my way for them but I asked nothing for it, that I should donate my energy to the souls in purgatory—meaning that to give my goodness to those who are trapped. This is purgatory/limbo. This is a very Catholic thing that very few people really understand. I just feel that if you always do the right thing in you’re heart, number one, you’re going to get fucked…there’s no doubt. But after death, I think there’s a better place.“ FORGIVENESS AND REDEMPTION “I’m not radically different, but I am different. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and some of the mistakes I’ve made involve other people. When I get the opportunity I do apologize to them. Sometimes it’s not an easy thing to do and sometimes they don’t accept my apology, which is very painful. I ask why. Sometimes they just don’t want to talk about it. I can accept that, but at least I went. There’s a difference between apologizing and saying you’re sorry. An apology means that you’ve thought about your actions and you think ‘Man, I was a real fuckin’ scumbag. I was an asshole. She didn’t deserve that. He didn’t deserve that. And I just really want to tell her that I’m sorry.’ And I also want to tell her how it’s not going to happen again. I believe that part of being a Christian is forgiveness. I’m not here to preach. I’m here to warn, more or less. Beautifully, once or twice, a couple of the people who did not accept my apology at first have contacted me and said they thought about my actions and they do accept my apology. I was very grateful, and all I can say to them is ‘The only way I can really make this up to you is by not repeating my behavior.’ I’m still human. I still fuck up. I still sometimes instinctively utilize this same shitty behavior. But a true sin is any action that hurts you, someone or something with forethought and malice. I’ve never really gone out of my way to fuck somebody over, to hurt them. There have been times that I was disrespectful and I was irresponsible. I was a dick. We all make mistakes but I’m very happy that I have the opportunity to apologize for mine. I feel that God will not forgive man until man forgives man.” HEAVEN AND HELL “Let’s put it this way. I would find it very hard to believe that Adolph Hitler and Mother Teresa are going to the same place. I guess it’s comforting to believe in some sort of justice. My definition of God is attempting to put a face on physics, mathematics, and chemistry that we have yet to understand. That is my God. Something had to create everything. I lie in bed awake at night freaking myself out. Thinking about going somewhere forever, with the clouds, the harps, the angels, the wings. St. Peter had a secret, and.St. Peter one time questioned God. And he had no right to question God, but God allowed him. God said, ‘Alright. What’s the question?’ If you are so merciful…if you know everything, and you create your children that you know are going to wind up in Hell—why would you bother creating them? And the answer was ‘Because Hell does not last forever’. No one goes to Hell forever. It’s like a waiting room, a Godless place. And Peter goes ‘If you know about mans suffering on earth, why do so many horrible things happen to good people?’ And God said, ‘Because I love them so much that I pour pain upon them so that the transition from life to death will be more profound for them and they will appreciate my gift more than the others.’” ON CHARITY “God does not like actors. It has to be heartfelt. I shouldn’t tell you this because it’s almost contradicting myself, but one of the examples of doing some sort of charity anonymously is on my block there are quite a few old people. When it snows I shovel their walk and they have no idea who shovels their walk. Now, I’m not looking for a pat on the back, I’m just trying to make an example. One day I’ll be 75 and maybe somebody will do that for me. That would make me cry.“ PROPHECY “The closer I get back to God, the more temptation comes my way. As psychotic as this might sound, I have pretty much been told that I am the prophet of doom. I know the date of the end of the world. How do I know so? Because, I’ve been told so. Did I hear a voice? No, I did not. But…there are three others like me. We know of each other, but we do not know each other. I know it and I know what’s going to happen and I am to point out the signs. This is the Seventh Seal. At this point, if this last sign is not acknowledged, God will no longer forgive man and then there will be Hell on Earth. Earth is Heaven, already, without the bullshit, and at the very end, the good thing is, that God will even forgive Satan.” “Ever since I have come back to my faith, such incredibly strange things have been happening. Ten times a day if I ask God for a sign, through numbers and letters I will get it. I believe that God speaks to everyone in a way that only that person can understand, but I have been enlightened…you have to ask to be enlightened. I ask these questions and I get the answers. I don’t hear God’s voice. That satisfies me.” “When I said I have hit rock bottom, it’s not in a bad way–it’s in a good way. I’ve found piece on something solid and now I know what the meaning of life. I’ve always thought that the meaning of life was to try to find something to live for. Now I realize, all this time, it is finding something to die for. It’s been right there all the time I will die for my faith. I am going to. I know it.” “When I do interviews and I lie about everything, people think I’m so serious. When I tell the truth they think it’s hysterical. Who’s going to believe you with the things I have said? I believe myself. Print whatever you want. No one will believe it, I’m sure.”

  11. Dms

    Very sad the world has lost someone REAL. Great man, great vocals and someone honest for a change. He, to me, was refreshing in a world of false intensions. RIP

  12. Tasha

    I’ve never once in my life, excluding the times I’ve listened to type o, found a musical outlet for the shit in my head. Never once. I’m a horribly screwed up person, my brain and the way it works makes it incredibly difficult to connect with others. Yet the music from this band, the lyrics from this man, I’ve never had a problem identifying myself with. It’s almost as though they reached in and grabbed a chunk of my brain… It’s that close, it means that much. Pete dying..I honestly never thought I’d cry over a musician. Ever. I bawled my freakin eyes out. Three (almost) years later, I still have problems believing it’s real. There will never be anything new from them. They’ve been the soundtrack for life for so many years, how do I go on without them as background? How do I find some other musical input that matches my thoughts? How the hell do I find the comfort that they once brought me?? I’m afraid that I don’t know how to live without this. (not suicidal, just stating an observation of my history there). In my entire life, thinking and feeling the way that I do, this band, their music, is the only time I have EVER felt truly, completely connected to something other than myself. They can never know how grateful I am for what they have given me, and oh, how I wish he was alive today so that I could tell him. I don’t even know if they could grasp just how much they have saved me from. Thank you, from everything I am, to all of you.

  13. anna

    I have always thought this man rules.
    And he does.
    Even after his death. Love you Peter.


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