Thursday, April 15, 2010

He Was The Green Man

Wow, 2010 has turned into a lot of death. Between the earthquakes and people in my every day life, I've already heard of more deaths than I can count since January. But there was one I was not prepared for.

(this might get long, just warning you)

Peter Steele of Type O Negative left this world yesterday, at the young age of 48. Everyone has their own beliefs, some believe in an afterlife, others don't. I am of the opinion that none of the fairy tales are the way they tell them, but there also has to be more to existence than a bunch of random equations involving carbon atoms. So yes, I do believe in an afterlife, just probably not the same kind that most people believe in. Regardless, that's not what this is about.

I remember the very first time I saw Type O Negative. I was in 8th grade, and my dad took me to see Ozzfest '97. That was one of the best lineups ever for that festival, but also probably the best lineup ever, period. One of the biggest highlights was Type O Negative. October Rust was out and they were supporting that album. I wish I could say I still remember the performance, but sadly I do not. I do remember that at the time I was so blown away that I went out that same week and picked up Bloody Kisses. I also picked up Cowboys From Hell, because it was also the first time I'd ever heard Pantera. (Should there really be an afterlife, Dimebag just got himself a monster bass player to jam with)

TON changed my life, and I can say without a doubt in my mind, heart, or soul, that had it not been for Peter and the gang, I would be a very different person. In fact, I'm throwing away my inhibitions right now regarding sharing too much personal info, and I'll even say I may not even be alive.

I've struggled with some serious depression from a young age. I hid it well for the most part, but it's still something that still keeps me up at night from time to time. Had it not been for the way I could relate to the music of TON, I honestly don't know if I would have been able to hang in there through it all. I looked up to Pete in so many ways, but most important was his ability to take the most depressing things and make something beautiful out of them. Funny guy, too. He would not only make beautiful music from his own depression, but he would make it funny. I remember summer nights, sitting in my bedroom with my windows open, the lights off, candles lit, blaring TON through my stereo until my mother would knock down my door to tell me it was too late at night to be blasting my music. I'd then retreat to headphones. I remember, distinctly, being the music obsessed kid that I was, standing in front of my mirror for hours with my bass guitar, mimicking the music, pretending to be playing a live show. But not low-key at all. I'd put on black jeans, a tight green t-shirt, tucked in (to give my fat ass a slightly slimmer appearance), sleeves rolled up, hair slicked back.. ok, ya know what, I'm done with these details, I can make an ass out of myself some other time... But yeah, it's all true, I was obsessed. Listen, fat kids often look up to people who have body types they can never have, it's the same chemical reaction that average-weight women have when they see a Victoria's Secret model. There may be nothing wrong with you, but you think there is.

Over the years, as I began to appreciate the deeper aspects of music and art, TON was always there. They had a way to put out masterpieces of music every 4-5 years without ever repeating themselves, while also keeping true to their signature sound, AND, they never got big heads. Talk about a balancing act! Most bands these days don't make it past their sophomore album before they're stale (some can't get through the first half of their debut album!) - but TON knew how to do it. they didn't just write songs, they didn't just get a riff in their head while taking a shit and throw it on an album. They carefully constructed epic soundscapes that wove seamlessly into themselves and created an entire experience. I think the key word, actually, is experience. They weren't just a band, they were an experience. Kind of like the groups of old, like Pink Floyd. They didn't just make music, they made an environment, their live shows had a feel all their own, their album artwork was carefully structured around the theme and vibe of the album. The whole thing would make even DaVinci jealous.

I related to their music in such a way that it helped me get through not only the itty-bitty "disasters" of going through those awkward teen years, but also the genuinely hard times that life would throw at me. Even as of lately, with Peter having gone all born-again Christian, and making it blatantly obvious in his music, I still found ways to admire the man. Probably one of the worst parts about this is that he had finally cleaned up his act and got sober. He gave himself a second chance, but life, or fate, or God, or what-have-you decided his time was up.

This isn't just the death of one man, this is the death of Type O Negative. Some of the last true stick-to-their-guns pioneers of music. They never cared about trends, they didn't care about serving up the flavor you liked best. They made music that made them happy, they recorded songs that they would want to hear, and if they sold a few records, great, if they sold a ton of records, even better. If they sold not one single copy, I'm sure they'd still stand by what they put out. They had an integrity that most bands can't even imagine. Which is another thing I admired about them, their integrity.

When me and my now-fiancee started Paragon Music Magazine, there were 4 people I desperately wanted to eventually land in-person interviews with. They were Dimebag Darrell, Peter Steele, Zakk Wylde, and Ozzy Osbourne. I'm 0:4 on that goal, and only half of them are still alive. Of course, aspirations change over the years and now there is a bigger list of people I'd love to talk with, but those 4 guys, man, those 4 guys I wanted to sit down with, shake their hands, and thank them profusely for all the strength and inspiration they've given me over the years. I may not be me, and I may not be alive, had it not been for what their music means to me.

TON were famous for playing concerts on Halloween. I never thought I'd get to see one, but then back in 2007 they played NJ on Halloween, and I got to go. Not only that, but I got to shoot the concert. I have to be 100% honest, it was great and not-so-great all at once. It was great because it was TON, so that was always great. It was also great because it was Halloween. Yet another great thing was the set list. I could go on and on, who doesn't love a concert featuring one of their favorite bands? The not-so-great stuff was really just that Pete had been hurting that day, and so he didn't put as much into the performance as usual, he was a little off. But still, he was up there, in his usual ironic humor, doing what he did best.

I never even edited those photos until this morning. At the time, I didn't have the most up-to-date editing software, and my camera didn't have the same capabilities as the one I use currently. So I kind of looked at the previews of the shots and pushed them aside, thinking nobody would ever be interested in these.

Last night when I saw the news, I realized those photos were the last ones I ever shot of the band, and the last TON show I'll ever see. So I started pecking through them this morning and posted them on my site. You can see the full gallery here.

I am beyond words right now (though you wouldn't know it) - All that I'm saying here is what I've been saying over and over again in my head, but I don't know if I can offer anything really elegant regarding this. I can only share my own personal experiences and stories of TON.

Everything for me is music. Every little thing I do, revolves, in some way or another, around the only constant I've ever known: music. Without the music that this man made, things could have gone in an entirely different direction.

We don't often think about how short life is (or maybe we do, but I know I don't) - we're usually worried about whatever the next big hurdle will be. We don't stop to think that there might be someone out there that admires us. I mean, most of us are not celebrities, why would anyone look up to us? Why would anyone look at me, and what I do, and say "wow, I wanna be like him" - Hell, most of the time I don't even wanna be me, why would anyone else? But the truth is you never know who you touch, or in what way. Peter Steele, for all his fame and success over the years, just kept doing what he did because he liked it. He knew he had some die-hard fans, but I wonder if he ever really knew, even partially, the impact he had on so many. It often happens, when someone famous dies, that the tears pour out from every corner. You see it a lot with mainstream stars. But for someone so relatively unknown to the mainstream, he had a cult following that surprises even the people that were a part of that very same cult following. So I wonder, did he ever know just how much he meant to all of his fans? Did he know what he did for music on a whole? Would he ever have given up, would he ever have retired from making people laugh, from inspiring people, from putting that comedic edge on all of life's little sucky things? Probably not. That's the part that hurts, probably the most. The fact that he wouldn't have given up on this, that if he lived another 50 years, he would have been entertaining people in some way or form, for the duration of that 50 years. This is just what he did, and he liked doing it.

I could only dream to be half as inspirational to people as Peter was.

Being that I felt so connected to him and his music, a little part of me died along with him. So I'll raise a glass of red wine (grape juice, for you that don't drink) and toast to him tonight. But for right now, I'll be unsuccessfully coping...

By the way, my good friend Mike Grosshandler had recorded a cover version of TON's "Die with Me" a few years ago. You definitely should check it out.

More soon,


  1. I know you're not the only one this band had this much of an affect on. I've seen them live twice, both times you could tell Pete was struggling. I'm sad I didn't get to see them 10 years earlier like you did at Ozzfest. Thanks for sharing and that last picture is really great. :)

  2. Excellent stuff friend. I always think that when "famous" dudes die and people get upset that its kind of silly. I rarely feel that connection with anybody that I don't know personally. I think I get it now. I've felt a deep sadness and disappointment the past few days. The man will always stand, and has always stood, as one of my all-time favorite musicians. Like you read in my blog, his attitude and sense of humor (along with Josh,Kenny and Johnny) spoke to me in a profound way. Incredibly sarcastic, beautifully ironic, not to mention his songwriting and incredible ear for melody.

    And while we're here sharing personal Type O memories, heres one I've never told anyone:

    When I met my ex girlfriend five years ago, I made her a mix cd that had "Love You To Death" on it. When I asked her what her favorite tune was on the cd, of course Type O was the band she liked the most (she had never heard them before either). Anyway, during one of our first makeout sessions in my car, I decided to get crazy, so I sang "Love You To Death" to her. Every word. And I killed it too. Pete would've been proud. I don't think I need to tell you what happened after that. A few years later we went to see them in Philly, and when they broke into the song, we just looked at each other and laughed. Two really excellent moments in my life provided by the Drab Four.

  3. Also, your friends cover is EXCELLENT. Super impressed with it.

  4. Thanks Dennis, I'll be sure to let Mike know you enjoyed his cover. Thanks, also, for commenting here. This blog is taking a while to gain any momentum, haha.

  5. I know what its like. I do a radio show every monday night 8-10 pm est. Tonight I'm doing an all Type O affair. A few Carnivore tunes thrown as well. Check it out if you have the time!

    here is the link:

  6. Dennis, I just got back home from some errands and tuned in to "White Slavery" - Nice pick.

  7. That was really wonderfully written. Between Peters humour, his humble nature and the beauty of the words he wrote and played he was so underrated, as was TON. Cried for the first time in ages once I heard he'd left us.

    Popped my comment up on a site a little over a month after he died (when I could finally get my thoughts together). You're right about one thing.....he has no idea how many people miss him...