Peter Steele – the man was the walking, talking embodiment of Goth. He lived it. He breathed it. He oozed it from his pores.
But for all the darkness, he was a totally kind, gentle 6-foot, 6-inch giant.
He was a true pleasure to talk with and I was lucky enough to interview him several times for The Indiana Gazette through the years.
This interview was printed on June 28, 1995.
If television talk show host Jerry Springer is smart, he’s busy watching his back right now.
Peter Steele, the basso perfecto vocalist-bassist for the New York-based Gothic rock band Type 0 Negative, isn’t one of Springer’s biggest fans, thanks to the near-hanging the singer recently endured as a “guest” on Springer’s talk show.
“The topic of this program was rock stars and their groupies, so my first thought is, why do they want to talk to me when I’m not a rock star and I don’t have any groupies?” he said during a recent telephone interview from Birmingham, Ala.
Steele explained that while the discussion was going on on stage, he was sitting in a back room, oblivious to accusations being made on stage, which he said were totally untrue. Upon going to the stage, he had no idea why he was facing a jeering and unfriendly audience.
“I was really kind of annoyed that I was out there to be made fun of, like some kind of social clown. I had a really bad feeling about doing the show … and my feelings were correct. In the future, when I have a gut feeling about something, I am definitely going to go with what I feel in my heart. There are things much more important than money to me; dignity is one of them.”
The night before this interview, Steele — whose band is currently opening for Queensrÿche and will perform Wednesday, July 5, at the Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheatre — had played a headlining show to 600 fans at a club in Shreveport, La.
Steele and bandmates keyboardist Josh Silver, guitarist Kenny Hickey and drummer Johnny Kelly were pleased with the turnout.
“I would rather have a small qualitative audience than a large one that does not care if we live or die,” Steele said. “I don’t know what it means to get 600 people out on a Monday night when they have work or school the next day, but it means something to me.”
It’s not just American audiences that are dying to get a taste of Type 0 Negative’s darkly seductive sound — European audiences are swooning as well.
Several months ago the band played the three-day Dynamo Festival in Holland and Steele remembers the experience vividly.
“I took a peek out at the audience about a half an hour before we were supposed to go out and I had to run straight to the bathroom, because I was thinking, ‘I have to entertain 150,000 people. This is very, very scary’.”
Steele said sometimes when performing he finds his mind wandering and occasionally forgets what he’s supposed to be doing on stage.
“There’s a lot of weird stuff that goes through my head when I’m on stage. I’m not always thinking about what I should be thinking about.
“Sometimes I’m thinking, ‘This is the last change of clothes that I have and I’m sweating profusely and I have nothing to wear when I get off stage.’ So sometimes I kind of lose track of what I should be thinking about and I screw up, but then again, I’m just human.”
The release of their current album, “Bloody Kisses,” in 1993 also marked the first time Steele’s mother had heard any of his music since he played at a community block party as a teenager, he remembered.
“This was the only album I could let her hear, because it was not so profane. My former band Carnivore was a bit extreme, and because I didn’t want to cause my parents a premature death, I kept it from their clutches.”
And what was his mother’s reaction to her son’s music?
“She thought it was cute, that’s what she said; whatever that means,” he confessed, a note of embarrassment surfacing in his voice.
“I wasn’t going to ask because I was really embarrassed. Thank you. Ma … ‘Pete’s mother says the album is cute, quote unquote’.”
Growing up in a home with five older sisters had a positive effect on his appreciation for and understanding of women.
Critics have often misunderstood songs from Type 0 Negative’s previous album, “Slow, Deep and Hard,” which Steele said was written not about all women, but about one woman after a particularly painful break-up.
“I think it (growing up with five older sisters) taught me to respect women more than anything else. It also gave me a very strong idea of what I consider to be feminine, because my sisters have always been very feminine. They always wore high heels, skirts and some make-up. It was very sensual for me to watch them apply make-up and everything.
“I was always fascinated by it because it was something I could never do. It’s something I still don’t want to do. I love being a man, but I respect the differences between the sexes — and there are many, as politically un-correct as that sounds. We are separate, but we are equal.”
Type 0 Negative will finish its current tour with Queensrÿche near the end of July, and Steele said that after a short rest he is looking forward to entering the studio again to start working on the next album.
“I have so many ideas it might be a 10-CD boxed set, really. Sitting on the back of a bus for the last 16 months has given me lots of time to think about songs and what I’d like this next album to sound like.
“I think the songs will sound something like ‘Christian Woman’ or ‘Black No. 1,’ but as for the atmosphere of the next album, I would like it to be performed as though we were rehearsing in haunted woods. Each song would be strung together by the sound effects of the environment.”
Regardless of what their schedule looks like, it’s guaranteed Steele won’t be wasting any time.
“Time to me is the most precious thing in this entire universe,” he said. “When I waste time, it is something that I can never get back.
“Even if I lose $1,000, it hurts me, but I can always make more money. But I can’t always get the time back that I’ve wasted.”
Peter Steele died April 14, 2010, of an aortic aneurysm. The remaining band members decided to dissolve the band rather than to go on without him.