UPDATE: We have now included a word from Type O Negative's Josh Silver and Roadrunner's Doug Keogh and Elias Chios. - Ed.
It is with great sadness that we report the news that Peter Steele, iconic frontman of Brooklyn goth-metal legends Type O Negative, passed away at 6pm yesterday due to heart failure.
With a sense of humor blacker than the clothing he wore, the sarcastic messages in songs like “Set Me on Fire,” “I Don’t Want to Be Me” and an album entitled Life is Killing Me once viewed as darkly tongue-in-cheek now take on a more gloomy meaning as we remember the man who wrote them. SVP of A&R Monte Conner, who originally signed Type O Negative to Roadrunner Records in 1989 puts it best, saying:
"We have lost several Roadrunner artists over the years but this is a biggie – this one hurts the most, not just because Peter was a great, great guy, but he figures so prominently in the history of this company (our first Gold album, our first radio success). He was a tortured soul for most of his life and certainly for the entire time we all knew him. Let’s hope he is in a better place."
Writes Type O Negative keyboardist Josh Silver from the band's official site: "Peter, My endless source of frustration, (as I'm yours) you have really done it this time. You have changed and touched countless lives through music, comedy and often brutal honesty. You've made life both interesting and irritating and I could not imagine not having known you for 37 years. It still isn't true in my mind but in time I will miss you and the creating that we all endured together. We certainly disagreed constantly and I believe (and hope) we all learned from each other. Should I call you brother, friend or neighbor ? I can only call you Peter (and usually after 2 PM). We laughed at ourselves more times than I can count. knowing humans are preposterous creatures and I know we reveled in that fact. I will miss you in time, but at this moment your premature departure seems surreal and has pissed me off to no end. Though I never told you that I harbor a deep respect for you, I do. Goodbye my friend.-Josh"
Pete Steele was surely a man who towered over everyone he met, not just in his physical stature but in his personality riddled with humor and heartache. His dramatic baritone voice carried foreboding lyrics about death and despair over electronic chaos and bottom-heavy guitars, proving to become not only the band’s signature, but a sound unmatched ever since Type O’s inception. With profound distaste and disgust for both humanity and political correctness, Type O Negative never changed with the times - the times changed with them. Marked by sharp wit and bouts of gloom 'n depression, Peter Steele and the Drab Four rewarded their listeners with what can only be expected from the Brooklyn doom squad: A nihilistic world view, anthems of sex and death, and a blinding torch of well-placed fury.
Roadrunner Records' Executive VP Doug Keogh remembers Pete as a great man, saying: "Of all the great artists that I've been blessed to work with, Peter Steele may have been the most important of them all. While Peter was brilliant before Type O Negative, it should be noted that his partnership with Josh Silver brought out his best, and while Josh brings prodigious talent to the table himself, he should be considered a hero of our times if only for birthing the glory of Peter Steele.
These are lofty words for two of the most obstinate and negative men I've ever met in my life. When I sided with director Parris Mayhew, and would not allow Josh and Peter to make the Black No. 1 video green and white instead of black and white, Josh would not talk to me for seven years. Peter, on the other hand, never stopped being the most gentle man I've ever known. I can only judge them together though - so Josh gets credit for Peter, and Peter is responsible for Josh. I've never witnessed a more fully realized collaboration between two great artists.
Labelling Peter Steele as a heavy metal musician, or even as a musician, belittles his contribution. His work transcended any genres, or the medium of music. His palette as an artist included wisdom, humor, manhood, respect, and a volcanic creativity that just happened to be unleashed in the context of a rock band. If not that, the natural resource that was Peter Steele would have erupted in some other way, believe me. In the end though, we who work with music should feel blessed that it was this channel that was chosen.
Peter was the most unlikely of artists, at least in light of all the stereotypes we've created for what artists are supposed to be. He was gifted with a superhuman body, and he respected his gift by lifting weights, perhaps becoming the most physically impressive artist ever. He came from an immigrant family and the cultural backwater of deepest darkest Brooklyn. He filed his teeth into fangs. He read science textbooks to relax while on tour. He was completely committed to the color green. He drove the scariest muscle car you've ever seen. Before his music career made it impossible to continue, he insisted on working for the NYC Parks Department. Not for the money, but because the man knew he needed to work. He wrote the best menstruation song ever ("Wolf Moon"). He would speak the unspeakable, and he would do the unthinkable. He angered the entire country of Germany, and then made those who could think for themselves fall in love with him. He bared his asshole for the front cover of an album. He signed his recording contract with a mixture of his blood and semen, drawn from his body right in our tiny office. He scared people, but he always treated people with the utmost respect. He defied our expectations, and he changed our lives, for the better. We are thankful for the sacrifices he made to do so.
Please continue to talk about the great shows and the great albums, but please also understand that Peter Steele was first and foremost a great man."
VP of Promotions Mark Abramson recalls his time spent working with Peter and Type O, saying: “I remember getting the demo tape of Repulsion (soon to be renamed Type O Negative) and feeling this visceral outpouring of rage in a way that very few records hit me. We went on to be friends in addition to my being one of their biggest fans, and I worked the records with a passion. Hell, I even sold shirts for them in some early shows when they needed help! When we were going to take Type O to commercial radio I felt it like a life mission and for the 2 years of the Bloody Kisses campaign we changed so much -- we helped take this label to a new level, gave them and us first Gold records, helped expand boundaries at the soon-to-be-named format of Active Rock radio and introduced the world to a truly unique band. I remember being ridiculed at the Gold plaque presentation picture that I “could breathe now” as I was puffed-chest proud, and responding that I actually couldn’t! Traveling with Peter to radio stations was always an adventure and fun; Peter was a rock star, but he didn’t know it, which made it so much better! I have so many great stories and memories of traveling the road with them but most would only mean something to me. Cities and shows flood back to me now: Ft Myers… Lubbock… Toledo… crazy nights for sure! We were an important part of each other’s lives. Peter was a unique person with his own issues but they were part of what made him Peter Steele and the later years were not his best years but he was a good person, with a good heart. The only person I have ever known him to hurt was himself. There are so few bands like Type O and very few personalities like Peter. I will forever love his music and his art, and cherish the time we had together. Farewell my friend – be well and be happy.”Kathie Reed Merritt, Sr. Director of Digital /Physical Sales -West Coast, comments, “The news of Peter Steele’s passing is very sad and my heart goes out to the men of Type O and all the fans who loved and idolized Peter. He was truly and quite literally larger than life. He was everything you would ever want in a Rock Star: a great, off-color sense of humor, a fabulous persona and deep voice that would just melt you heart. And a musical talent beyond words. His loss is so tragic, and I will always be grateful for the education that he and his band gave to some of us at the label . They really helped mold who we are as people in this crazy music business. I spent the better part of three years on and off the road with Type O Negative in the 90’s and love those 4 men like family. Unlike many bands, these guys let us be part of their world, a very unique thing in this day and age. Peter, rest in peace, a part of me will forever be 'Your Druidess.' Here is a video of the band talking about their most memorable show - I would say for myself and Mark Abramson - that was a night we both would never forget!"
Elias Chios, Sr. Director of Marketing: "I was introduced to the music and visuals of Type O Negative and Peter Steele by my buddy in college; I fell in love with what they were all about immediately. MAN, this was captivating… that voice, the music, the look, the TEETH, everything about it scared the living shit out of me: That guy is playing a stand-up bass, but sideways, HOLY SHIT, he’s HUGE! My reaction was more in a comedic way at first because of the over the top nature of Peter; his expressions, the lyrics and his antics in the band’s videos, unreal. They were awesome in every way. Peter was my new hero – a bad ass, scary-as-shit 9.2-feet-tall and his guitar strap was a real metal chain, total badass.
At that point, I looked at my buddy and said, “How amazing would it be to work with them and at Roadrunner…” We both nodded, then shrugged our shoulders.
Flash forward 5 years - both my buddy (Phil Kaso) and I are working at Roadrunner Records with Type O Negative! When I started at RR, as the Northeast Radio Regional (covering Virginia to Maine), Type O’s "World Coming Down" was just released. Their tour started in the Northeast and I had about 8 dates in a row with them: Get to town, bring Peter to the Rock radio station for an interview, get back to venue, meet and greet with fans and station, drink some wine and have the laughs of a lifetime - that was my routine and introduction to Peter.
The first time I meet Peter [is] at [a] venue and I instantly think 'HOLY SHIT. THIS MAN IS A MONSTER.' He shakes my hand and says 'Hello, let’s go' – on our way to the local radio station in Wilkes Barre, PA. I clean up the front seat of my car for him and he says 'I’ll sit in the back.' Awesome, he already hates me. 'Move the front seat up please.' I am a nervous wreck now and didn’t want to get lost on the way to the station. Then, his phone rings: 'Hello…OH SHIT!! WHAT!!! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME????… I TOLD YOU NEVER, EVER, EVER OPEN MY GODDAMN FUCKING MAIL.' He hangs up. Looks like he is about to punch out my window. Looks at me and says, 'That was my mom. Sorry you had to hear that.' I lost it, totally lost it and now because I got so distracted and frightened, I am now lost on the way to the station. Fantastic. I am freakin’ out. He keeps asking 'Where the fuck are we?...How much longer?' I say 'Almost there, Peter, sir (thought to self: I am an idiot).' Truth was, I had no clue where I was. Then, BAM the station just appears in front of me like a gift from the devil. We do the interview, he says. 'That was a lot of fun, thanks for doing this, but no more questions about Playgirl.' Got it. Later that night, we drank, had a blast and it opened the door for a great run and what I still feel to this day were very important life lessons.
I look back at that time and am so grateful to have these memories with him. The man was serious. He was hilarious. He had amazing vision. He knew exactly what he was doing. He scared the shit out of you, but it was clear he had a huge heart and was kind and grateful. He really was everything you ever want in a Rockstar. Thanks for the music, the voice, the memories and the great time we shared. No one could ever forget them. God Bless."
From everyone at Roadrunner Records, we offer our condolences to Peter's family and friends, and hope you'll join us in listening to some classic Type O today in honor of a true talent and a Roadrunner legend.