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Members include Kenny Hickey, guitar; JohnnyKelly, drums; JoshSilver, keyboards; PeterSteele(born c. 1963), vocals, bass. Addresses: Record company--Roadrunner Records, 536 Broadway, 4th Flr., New York, NY 10012 Phone: (212) 274-7500 Fax: (212) 334-6921.
With each band member boasting long hair, plenty of tattoos, and prime influences such as the hard-rocking 1970s outfit Black Sabbath, it comes as no surprise that Type O Negative earned labels like "gothic-metal gurus" from the media. However, lead singer and bassist Peter Steele resisted such pigeonholing. "A goth image has been cast upon us by the media because they have to label us something, I guess," Steele suggested to John Roos in an interview for the Los Angeles Times. "People think we're vampires. I mean, we may suck, but it's not blood. Seriously, I don't like being called goth because there are more elements to our music than that label suggests. If you're gonna call us something, I prefer `junk rock' or `gothadelic.' I think we make music that dead hippies might like." In fact, as Steele proposed, Type O Negative combined elements of metal, industrial, psychedelia, and alternative music, in addition to goth-rock, into their overall sound. Moreover, as stated by the Rolling Stone.com website, "Steele's songcraft supplies Type O Negative with a larger-than-life sound. The rumbling bass lines, thrashing guitar riffs and massive vocalization (paired by the equally massive stature of Steele [who stands six feet, six inches tall]) make this band nearly frightening in its magnitude."
Although Type O Negative first earned a reputation for their brash, speed-metal sound punctuated with vulgar, offensive lyrics, the band would later transform their image. And when the album Bloody Kisses arrived in 1993, critics and fans alike seemed surprised to hear Type O Negative abandoning humor and vulgarity and attempting to convey feeling. The change, as Steele told Roos, stemmed largely from Steele's personal influences growing up. "I've always liked really heavy rock music, like Black Sabbath and Iron Butterfly," said Steele. "Yet at the same time, who didn't like the Beatles and Stones? Then I got older, I was into the droning, dreamy sounds of bands like the Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Dead Can Dance.... I guess you could say that I like music that's soft on the outside but with a strong, solid foundation. With Type O Negative, we like to sugarcoat our bricks."
Based in New York City, Type O Negative formed in 1990 (some sources say 1989) when Steele left his former band, a cult favorite called Carnivore, to create his own metal group. Building on Carnivore's solid reputation as a hard-hitting speed-metal act, vocalist and bassist Steele enlisted guitarist Kenny Hickey, drummer Johnny Kelly, and keyboardist Josh Silver to continue the tradition. Like Steele, Kenny was influenced by other music besides heavy metal. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, emulating the guitar styles of John Lennon and Brian May. "I was the kid that tried guitar lessons but lacked discipline. I was just like any other teenage kid looking for a way to express myself and to become more noticeable," the guitarist told Aaron Johnston in a 1997 interview for Guitar Player. "I'm more at ease now, and I'm more interested in finding stimulating sounds than blasting away, but for me playing guitar has always been more about emotions than intellectualizing."
After signing with Roadrunner Records, Type O Negative debuted in 1991 with Slow, Deep and Hard, an album built around blazing guitar riffs, church organs, and theatrical vocals--not to mention an onslaught of offensive lyrics. One line from the record, for instance, declared, "Hey, don't think I don't know what you're doing, you stupid twat!," as quoted by Rolling Stone writer Julia Szabo. Following this, Type O Negative released an EP (also referred to as a Mini-LP by the band's website) with equally objectionable lyrics entitled Origin of the Feces. "Since both records featured the lyric `I know you're [expletive] someone else,' it's safe to say that Type O Negative concerned itself for the most part with vulgar expressions of base emotion and bodily urges," surmised Szabo.
However, Type O Negative seemed to have matured by the time they recorded 1993'sBloody Kisses, an album that hit number 200 on the Billboard charts well over a year after its release. Singing about nursing a broken heart rather than the above-mentioned indignities, Type O Negative amazed fans and critics alike. Songs such as "Blood and Fire" exemplified the foursome's radical change with lines like "I always thought we'd be together/And that our love could not be better," as quoted by Szabo. Upon the strength of other tracks including the solemn dirges "Black No. 1" and "Christian Woman," as well as a cover of Seals and Crofts' "Summer Breeze," Bloody Kisses gave Type O Negative their first hit album and eventually surpassed gold-status sales.
The band's subsequent album, October Rust, appeared in 1996, featuring another cover: Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." But Steele insisted that all of the band's cover tracks were played with sincere intentions. "We're not into doing parodies," asserted Steele in his husky voice to Roos. "I'm just taking something I like; I chew it up and spit it out, and then I see how it looks and sounds. It's not a challenge to me to replicate a song note-for-note. I'd much rather put our own style into it by taking a light song and turning it into something heavier." Described by Roos as a "sprawling 15-song, 73-minute epic filled with layers of guitar, keyboard and synthesizer" October Rust also featured heartfelt, yet at times brutal and self-destructive tracks such as "Haunted," "Love You to Death," and "Burnt Flowers Fallen." Explaining how he came to write these songs, Steele, the band's primary lyricist, further explained, "I have gotten my heart broken so many times that I've lost count. Any time I've been involved with someone I've cared about, I've suffocated them by caring too much. That's probably why I lost them."
After contributing to the soundtrack I Know What You Did Last Summer, issued by Columbia Records in 1997, and drawing in crowds for the Ozzfest '97 tour, Type O Negative released their fourth full-length album entitled World Coming Down. Hailed by Alternative Press as "One of the Most Anticipated Albums of 1999," according to the band's official website, Steele, who had recently lost several members of his extended family, revealed that most of the songs were "about battling personal demons, missing people you love, and women walking out on us ... and self-pity and chemical addiction." Therefore, when Steele announced "Everyone I Love Is Dead," he was referencing his own personal hardships. Comparing World Coming Down to Type O Negative's earlier work, Steele further added, "The band capitalized on a sexual aspect. Now we're trying to move on. I'm too old for heavy metal. I just want to do something unexpected."
And as Steele and Type O Negative had hoped, World Coming Down did succeed in taking critics by surprise. As Washington Post writer Mark Jenkins noted, "Almost as unexpected [as replacing the monsters and victims of the heavy metal genre with issues of real-life mortality] is the band's growing interest in melody.... Any band that ends its album with a medley of the Beatles' `Day Tripper,' `If I Needed Someone,' and `I Want You (She's So Heavy)' is bucking to get evicted from goth-metal's mausoleum." Produced by Steele along with keyboardist Silver, the album still managed to find room for a few goth-inspired tracks, including "White Slavery," which opened with a funeral-like organ, and the title song, which featured a Gregorian-sounding chant.
In addition to creating their own albums, Type O Negative contributed to numerous film soundtracks in addition to I Know What You Did Last Summer, such as Bride of Chucky, Howard Stern's Private Parts (for a version of Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men" with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals), and the highly-anticipated 1999 film The Blair Witch Project (for the song "Haunted," previously recorded for October Rust). "Haunted" was again used in an Interplay Productions video game called Descent 2. The band also produced a home video entitled After Dark, released around 1993.
by Laura Hightower
Type O Negative's Career
Formed band in New York City, 1990; released debut album Slow, Deep and Hard, 1991; released gold status album Bloody Kisses, 1993; released October Rust, 1996; toured with Ozzfest '97; released World Coming Down, which focused on real-life issues and featured a medley of Beatles songs, 1999.
- Selected discography
- Slow, Deep and Hard , Roadrunner, 1991.
- Origin of the Feces , (EP), Roadrunner, 1992.
- Bloody Kisses , Roadrunner, 1993.
- October Rust , Roadrunner, 1996.
- I Know What You Did Last Summer soundtrack, (contributor),Columbia, 1997.
- Private Parts soundtrack, (contributor), Warner Brothers, 1997.
- World Coming Down , Roadrunner, 1999.
- The Blair Witch Project soundtrack, (contributor), 1999.
- Alternative Press,August 1999.
- Billboard, September 21, 1996, p. 63.
- Guitar Player, March 1997, pp. 37-43.
- Los Angeles Times, February 14, 1997, p. 37; February 22, 1997, p. F, 4:3; July 1, 1997, p. F, 2:3.
- Melody Maker, October 9, 1999, p. 39.
- Rolling Stone, February 23, 1995, p. 74.
- Washington Post, October 22, 1999, p. N14.
- "Type O Negative," Rolling Stone.com, http://www.rollingstone.tunes.com (December 6, 1999).
- "Type O Negative," Type O Negative at Roadrunner Records, http://www.roadrun.com/artists/TypeONegative (December 6, 1999).
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