Naked Truths And Dark Secrets: Type O Negative’s Peter Steele
Naked Truths And Dark Secrets: Type O Negative’s Peter Steele (†)
PAST INTENSE // It’s been almost a decade since Petrus Thomas Ratajczyk better known as Peter Steele has left this mortal coil. To this day the former singer and bass player of American Goth metal legends Type O Negative remains dearly beloved and distinctly remembered by many. Not only for his musical legacy and his vampiresque looks, but also for his dark sense of humor, provocative views and his intense yet gentle personality. On a cold sunny day in spring of 2003 AS LONG AS IT’S BLACK met with him; not for the first time, but as it would turn out later, for the last time.
Back from the dead, so it appears. Four years after the release of their last and what seemed to be their final album World Coming Down the Casket Crew from Brooklyn unexpectedly gives birth to an exciting new record. Life Is Killing Me is a master piece that summons several ghosts from the past and combines tragedy, comedy, clichés in a typical, authentic Typo O Negative manner. Vocalist and bass player Peter Steele uncovers how this album was conceived and opens up about ex-girlfriends and past mistakes, political correctness and sexual desires, sickness and age, family and flaws. When pressured accordingly, the 6’8” giant not only reveals his criminal record, but also discloses what type o’ woman he is looking for as his future companion.
How have you spent the past four years?
With cocaine and alcohol.
Well, not anymore. I’m slowly getting too old for it; too many negative side effects.
The last time we met, you were in an awful condition. How are you feeling today?
It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I feel pretty good.
To be honest, I was surprised to hear that you were releasing another album; I didn’t think you’d enjoy making music anymore. Also, your last album World Coming Down is extremely frustrating in many ways.
I agree, very negative, very depressing. But that was the person I was back then. I had a drug problem and an alcohol problem. Additionally, I started to comprehend the death of my father – although he had passed in 1995 already. I had relationship problems, stress with our record label and with our management… All of this weighed me down and influenced my song writing. The album was the best I was capable of back then. I can’t listen to it myself, it pulls me too far down.
From what I understood back then, you had to release these things in order to be able to continue at all…
Exactly, that is correct.
Having to play these songs afterwards and being reminded of how miserable you felt: Why you would do that to yourself?
I am a masochist, I suppose.
It almost seem like you would like to apologize to your band and your fans for World Coming Down?
Yes, indeed, I do. I was so self-centred and egoistic back then, that today I have the feeling I have disappointed some of my fans because I have not met a certain level of quality. With this new album I wanted to become more diverse. Sure, it also has it’s dark sides, deals with death, revenge, ex-girlfriends and all the usual stuff that I commonly write about. However, it also has many humorous sides. It sounds like a mix of Bloody Kisses, October Rust and a little bit of World Coming Down.
“There will always be people who hate you, no matter who you are.”
Speaking of humor: The lyrics and music of the song I Like Goils are very strange…
I Like Goils is a hardcore song. I just dig this kind of music, because it represents an aspect of my personality. I had the idea for the lyrics because after I had done the pictures for Playgirl seven years ago, many fans approached me with the magazine and asked for my autograph. Among them were many homosexual men. As they were handing me the magazine I could feel how some pages were stuck together, you know? And they were slipping me their phone number. I didn’t have a problem with that at all, but what I disliked was how some of them acted really pushy and aggressive. I made them understand: “Hey, I feel very flattered, because it is a nice compliment, no matter if it comes from a man or a woman. However, I do exclusively give these compliments back to women.” Yet, as I was writing the song, I immediately realized that this was going to be interpreted as an anti-gay song. Suck my dick! Sorry, please excuse my language.
Did it make you angry?
Oh, it happened many times, but no, it didn’t make me angry. All I could say was: “I cannot help you.” Obviously, I do have the right to be heterosexual.
Do you have homosexual friends who have heard the song?
Yes, my sister. She had a good laugh. I don’t have many friends, and, to be honest, don’t even know whether or not the few I have are homosexual or not. It doesn’t matter to me. As long as they respect my sexual orientation, I don’t care. The problem is: If you prefer something it doesn’t necessarily mean you disapprove of the opposite. I like the color green. What am I then? A greenist? People will say: „Hey, why don’t you like yellow?“ Or: What’s wrong with blue?“ Nothing! Relax, people! I just like it green. Jesus Christ!
You don’t like political correctness very much, do you?
Americans are extremely strict when it comes to political correctness. I hate that. When somebody tells me: „Oh, that was not very pc!“, I can only reply: „Who the hell are you, to tell me what is pc and what isn’t.“ I mean, the very fact that the term includes the word „political“ means that it merely reflects an opinion that was premeditated to serve a certain purpose. I will not have somebody’s opinion forced upon me. And I can only say: „Fuck you, you white heterosexual male piece of shit!“ I just offended myself – what does that make me? Come up with the appropriate term, please!
Please tell me about the song Angry Inch.
Do you know the movie Hedwig And The Angry Inch? It is a musical film with very humorous dialogues. The whole band loves the movie, the songs, the story. And it has a great message: It doesn’t matter if you are heterosexual or homosexual, a man or a woman, black or white, as long as you are yourself. But there will always be people who hate you, no matter who or how you are.
There are many songs that deal with suffering, ageing and grieving on Life Is Killing Me. The song Nettie, for example, is about your mother who suffers from a severe case of diabetes. How do you cope with seeing your mother in pain?
She is in the hospital right now and will most likely lose one of her feet. You know, my father died on Valentine’s Day 1995. Ever since I have learned to take nobody and nothing for granted.
And as soon as somebody falls ill, you think: Shit, here we go again.
Exactly… that is how I feel at the moment.
Are you afraid of death?
No, not personally. But sometimes when the phone rings at two o’clock at night, I know that something bad has happened. That goes down every six months, but every time it happens, it happens too soon. And it doesn’t get easier to cope with. One of the really cowardly things I have done in my life was not going to my father’s funeral. I am reluctant to quote a psychologist, but it’s true: It is the reason I couldn’t accept his death and start dealing with it. Because I was a coward, I have to suffer from it now. It is almost as if I have developed an obsession with death and loss ever since. I hope, that will change, but it’s been going on for a long time.
Do you visit his grave?
I was there twice. There is something, that makes it even more complicated. That’s what the song Todd’s Ship God is about. My father used to say: „If you must cry, might as well do it in the rain so that nobody sees your tears. Be a man!” Before his funeral I had to think about these words and that was a conflict to me…
The first time I visited his grave was four or five years after his death, I wanted to see his tombstone, but it was really bad…
Did you cry?
Yes, I did.
In the album’s title track you write about your hatred for doctors…
Even weeks or months after my father had died, medical bills were mailed to us… All kinds of tests and treatments that had probably been unnecessary, because his life couldn’t be saved anyway. Under the pretence to help people, many doctors earn themselves a fortune. Now, that my mother is in the hospital again, it happens again.
“My relationships are very complicated.”
What is the song I Don’t Wanna Be Me about?
That was another one of those stupid hardcore tracks that I had written for the record. It will be our first single. What it’s about? No idea. I have not put too much time and effort into the lyrics, just smashed them together. There a a few lines that mean something, for example this verse about falling to sleep in the snow and never waking up again. That has to do with cocaine and that I hate myself for being too weak and not able to deal with my drug addiction. It is hard to kick a habit and stop using all of a sudden. I am moving in small steps, but at least today it’s two steps ahead and only one back. It gets better.
A track that sounds very much October Rust is Anesthesia.
Another song about drugs and alcohol.
It strangely enough feels like a love song. Have you ever contemplated suicide when you were feeling really bad?
Why didn’t you go through with it?
Because I am a coward. And because I feel responsible for my family, especially my mother.
Would your mother say that you are a good son?
She would probably say: „It could be worse.”
The song Electrocute deals with love or rather lost love. Why do you keep writing songs about your ex-girlfriends?
Because I am not John Lennon. My relationships are very complicated. And breakups are something that everybody can relate to. Everyone has been left at some point. To me it is hard to lose somebody that I love. When a relationship breaks apart, in the beginning it is worse than death. Because the other person is still alive. I might very well happen, that the person I have written this song about listens to the album out of curiosity and thinks “the song is about me”. You are right, you stupid bitch!
Why did all of your relationships end tragically? Or are only the tragical endings worth writing about?
I had many relationships that ended in mutual agreement; very happy. However, if I were to write a song about them, it would sound like circus music.
But why are you so mean in these songs?
Mean? Me??? Do you see these scars on my wrists? This woman has completely knocked me down. I was so rattled that I wanted to kill myself. She had sex with three of my former friends behind my back!
Do you have a girlfriend at the moment?
Should we place a personal ad for you?
A personal ad? (laughs) Oh dear!
Go ahead, what does a woman have to have to catch your attention?
I’m reluctant to sound so superficial, but first of all I need to find her attractive. But that’s normal, don’t you think? You wouldn’t want to date the hunchback of Notre Dame, would you? Additionally, she should have a great sense of humor, compassion and patience… Also, I like shy women. Loud people drive me crazy. Of course, intelligence is very important. And she has to be somebody that under no circumstances wakes me up when I sleep. Sleep is my ultimate passion and drug.
“If you give a person too much freedom, she or he will sooner or later fall in love with someone else.”
What is a woman to expect from you? What are your worst habits and flaws?
Most likely my alcohol problem. And that I react very emotional when someone pushes the wrong buttons. I become aggressive and punch walls and doors instead of sitting down and think about it quietly. When I am in a bad mood and a woman is with me, I ask her to leave me alone, because otherwise I will completely lose it. That’s something else I need to work on. I have been with women who have said that I didn’t pay enough attention to them because I am too caught up in my own problems. Yes, because that is the only way I can deal with them. When they get on my nerves and push me until I get angry at them, they claim that I take it out on them. What they don’t seem to get: If they would have left me alone in the first place – like I asked them to – it wouldn’t have come to this. But then there’s a lot of screaming and I can’t be bothered with that.
Have you ever been so in love that you gave yourself up completely?
Yes, definitely. And that was a mistake. There’s this old proverb: „If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s meant to be.“ That’s shit. If you give a person too much freedom, she or he will sooner or later fall in love with someone else.
Is there anyone you hate from the bottom of your heart?
Oh yes. I will not tell any names, but I wouldn’t have a problem to slowly torture that person for many human lifespans.
The last song on the album IYDKMIGTHTKY – If You Don’t Kill Me, I’m Gonna Have To Kill You has made me think of the following question. Have you ever been accused of or convicted for a crime?
But this is not what the song is about.
I would like to know it anyway.
(Turns to drummer Johnny Kelly who has just entered the hotel room: Johnny, she just asked, if I was ever accused of a crime. What should I answer? Johnny Kelly: Well, that is… I don’t know, tell her, I guess.)
The charges were reduced to physical insult or something. But I can’t say who it was.
What was your sentence?
Having to give interviews for the rest of my life. (laughs) No, just kidding. Five years on parole, since it was my first offence.
Do you sometimes lie in interviews?
If the interview totally sucks, I try really hard to confuse the journalist. But in this case… You probably think, our interview sucked. But I think it went well. I am in a good shape, no drugs, not like the last time. Only coffee and vitamins.
Peter Steele // Lead Vocals, Bass
Josh Silver // Keyboards, Piano, Programming, Backing Vocals
Kenny Hickey // Guitar, Vocals
Johnny Kelly // Drums, Percussion
Type O Negative // Studio Albums
1991 // Slow, Deep And Hard
1993 // Bloody Kisses
1996 // October Rust
1999 // World Coming Down
2003 // Life Is Killing Me
2007 // Dead Again