Johnny Kelly and Kenny Hickey, Type O Negative
Los Angeles, CA – 10.15.99
It was a really beautiful, October afternoon in North Hollywood where I met the band at their hotel and had theprivilege of spending one of the coolest days and nights I have ever had with all of the members of Type O Negative. Special thanks go out to Jamie Roberts at Roadrunner Records, to Peter Steele for the wine, thecigarettes, and the conversation, and to the staff and band crew for proving to be some of the most accommodating, friendly, and down-to-Earth people I’ve yet to meet. Drummer, Johnny Kelly, and guitarist/vocalist, Kenny Hickey, let me in on a few inside jokes, dispelled a few rumors, and laughed with me as the minutes passed into hours… and they passed all too quickly…
Where are you going to be on New Year’s Eve? Do you have big plans like everyone else?
J: Ahh.. home?
K: Naw, I hate New Year’s Eve. Much to my dismay, I have no big plans. I hate crowds of people pretending to be happy on one night of the year, where they get drunk and obnoxious by the end of the night. I hate the smell of vomit and there’s the broken bottles… Plus uhh.. I’m a recovering alcoholic so I should be home.
Were you anxious to get back on the road after the three-year wait or has it become more of a chore for you to do this?
K: For me it’s been like uh..it’s torn me in two directions because I always loved the road and always considered myself like a great escape artist, and the road is the great escape but now I have a daughter, two years, eight months. So it’s funny because half of me belongs out here and half of me belongs at home so I guess I’m just twice as confused as ever.
J: I’m kind of glad to get back on the road. I mean, I enjoy playing so it’s…not so much of a chore. I mean, it’s tough being away from home, being away from my family but..
Are you all still living in New York?
Johnny, you didn’t move to Montana? (laughter)
J: No, I moved to Staten Island which is just as isolating.
What track off the new cd is most enjoyable for you to play out?
K: For me, it’s World Coming Down.
J: Yeh, World Coming Down, definitely.
Did either of you get any new equipment for the recording of this cd?
K: Oooooh, I spend money! No, I didn’t really spend any money recording, believe it or not… just when I came out here. The recording was very minimalistic. Just a dual rectifier amp. I used my old, reliable sustainer guitar, Fernandez. So, I didn’t spend any money there, but out here I spent a lot of money. Got a new effects unit, about $1150 and 2 new preamps, one back up, about $600 a piece. So, I’m in the hole like usual.
Where do you like to shop for your stuff? Where’s your favorite place?
K: Well, it’s not a matter of favorite place, it’s a matter of what’s out there right now. You know, it’s just like computers. Everything becomes like old or dated within 6 months. So there’s only a few choices out there now and most people have gone back to stomp boxes and simple stuff because they got all these horrifying units in the 80’s and they made all this noise and there was this big craze of rack mounts and effects units so now there’s only a choice of a few things and they’re all very expensive.
Did you get anything new, Johnny?
J: I got a new kit. (big grin) All new kit. There’s a new line that Pearl has, a Masterworks Custom Kit. Custom finishes, custom shell. It’s green sparkle with black. It has a nice contrast. It’s really nice and it sounds great. Soundman loves it. I had ordered it about 6 months ago and it finally came about a week before we left. For the record we upgraded. We used a MAC, a new MAC, a Proforma program which is much more intense than the last recording… so it was pretty intense.
K: You left out the most important part about your new drum set, man! It’s the first drumset Johnny Kelly ever bought in his life.
J: I waited until I was 31 years old to buy my first drum set. And I got it for free! (laughter)
Cool, so is it an endorsement deal then?
J: Yeah. I was endorsed earlier and now the band’s gained more popularity now I gotta buy it myself!
Are you doing the cover of Modern Drummer next?
J: I doubt it. In this kind of band, nobody wants to talk to Johnny Kelly.
J: Well, you’re a rarity.
K: He’ll do GQ. Heh.
There is that same looming, dark rumor that this might be, in fact, your last cd. Is there any truth to it and how do you feel about people talking that way?
K: Might be our last minute.
J: Tonight could be our last show.
K: It’s always been there. There’s always been an overwhelming feeling that everything is going to fall apart in this band any minute and that was from day one, for 10 years. So every album is the same. We’re all a bunch of cowards so we’re not about to jump off of the mountain of horseshit until it falls apart.
J: We lack the confidence to try to walk on our own.
How do you feel about the internet and Mp3s influencing sales?
J: Well, in terms of influencing sales, the idea has occurred but I’m sure that hasn’t happened. Maybe the influence on sales for somebody else is probably more appropriate. Like the day we had gotten advance cds of the new record, it was already on E-bay. For like $75. You know, and that’s a cut.
So it’s not flattering to you. The hype…
J: No. It’s just cruel that there are people that are like, preying on people. I mean, it’s not bad if you hear it in Mp3 as a small advertisement, like as a piece of the song to maybe introduce the band to people, but an Mp3 of the whole record.. it’s a bootleg.
K: Also there’s two sides of it, I mean, a band like us, at our level and the way we have to promote ourselves and usually radio just completely turns their back on us, at the same time I think Mp3s help promote us somewhat, spreading the word about the album and stuff. I mean we’ve sold more rapidly, this album, in the first 3 weeks than ever before so I think it helps some. I didn’t help our wallets any, but…
J: Call it expensive advertising.
Well, you’ve always remained kind of an anti-status band …which is cool, I think
K: A cult.
and you’re never going to become Korn….
K: Well, we’re corny enough.. y’know? (laughter)
J: I think it’s just us being afraid of success.
K: I think it’s just a lack of ability, we’re incapable of writing hits. (more laughter)
J: We just don’t fit into to that kind of format.
K: We always throw something ridiculous into a song and that ruins our chances. That’s what makes Type O Negative Type O Negative.
How do you feel about the trend of hardcore bands right now, like for instance, your label mates, Slipknot?
J: There’s room for everybody.
Do you listen to that kind of stuff? Or what have you been listening to for the past couple of months?
J: Led Zeppelin.
K: Queen … rules the world.
J: I got Lenny Kravitz the same day he got Queen.
Johnny, what’s it like looking at Peter and Kenny’s asses all the time? (laughter)
J: Kenny’s you don’t get to see much ’cause he’s always running around. Peter, on the other hand, he’s pretty,like, you know…ping pong board or something… it’s like looking at a tennis court with the green stripe…(LOTS of laughter)
K: Tell her about the time you covered my entire back and ass with spit…
J: Who me!?
K: You and Josh, right?
J: Yeah, Kenny becomes like a moving target.. No, really there’s so much going on it’s hard to pay attention to the show itself, I’m so worried about like, what I’m doing.
How much of the crowd can you guys actually see from the stage?
J: 10 feet, 15 feet.
K: I look at is as one single entity. I dehumanize the audience. This way, I don’t get nervous, you know? Otherwise if I stop to think I feel like a dick. I lose my place, I fuck up, I feel like an asshole.
Do you still get nervous or did you ever?
K: Yeah, I kinda still get nervous sometimes now. But you know, there’s no choice in the matter, that’s the way I look at it. You’re going out on stage no matter what? I mean you can call home to your wife and some strange guy answers the phone and you still gotta go on stage five minutes later, so.. fuck it.
J: I welcome that feeling. Well not the feeling of having a guy like, answer my phone.. but… (laughter)
How much input do the guitar player and the drummer have on what ends up being written and put onto the cd?
J: In this band, as a drummer, I have to work more with Josh. Peter, when he writes songs he’s not really concentrating on drums. He doesn’t think drums, he writes more for melody. Josh is more drum-oriented. Peter’s pretty easy-going with drums. He gives you a general idea of what he’s looking for but he’s not real good at articulating with drums. He’ll say, “I wanna hear a crash here, or a floor tom..” but I do more of my battling with Josh.
Is it a battle?
K: It’s always a battle. Everything is with Josh. Everything is a battle with this band.
J: Well it’s a compromise. You’re dealing with four people and four people that feel that they can contribute something artistically…
K: You beat each other and whoever screams the loudest…(laughter)
Kenny, have you ever considered playing a 7-string?
K: Aww, come on man, I can barely handle 6 strings. I mean, what for?
J: (to Kenny) Can I get a cigarette?
K: So.. no.
J: (to Kenny) No I can’t have a cigarette?
K: No.. NO I REFUSE TO PLAY A 7-STRING! (laughs and hands him a smoke)
How long have you been a writer/author?
J: About 10 years?
K: Since I was in elementary school. Then I discovered Queen and Kiss and then I wanted to be an asshole rock star so I got away from that.
Do you keep journals on the road?
K: Journals? No, but I have a scrapbook.
J: I keep a mental journal.
Are you planning to formally publish “Sex is Dead”?
K: I think it already is. People are pulling it off the internet. I don’t know. Yeah, sure why not. We’ll see what comes out of it.
Your voice sounds incredible on this cd, by the way.
K: I was sober for the first time in my life. So that has a lot to do with it.
The duet on Hallow’s Eve is really nice.
K: Yeah, thanks! Our voices sound good together, eh?
Is New York a tougher crowd than anywhere else or is it easier for you guys to go home and play?
J: In terms of entertaining them? I think it’s easier. It’s like we can’t do anything wrong. It’s more of a psychological thing.
K: It’s like playing for your own dysfunctional family on Thanksgiving or something.
J: It’s actually more nervewracking to play at home than anywhere else. It’s a little more personal when you’re playing at home because you’ve got your friends and family out there and if you’re playing in Los Angeles or Minneapolis, you don’t know anybody…
K: Yeah, you’re disconnected. But in New York, you got all these people that you grew up with that wanna see you dead. They wanna see you fuck up and make a mistake y’know? ” I HOPE YOUR BUS CRASHES!”
I know that in L.A. people are a little more jaded than anywhere else…
K: That’s because everyone in L.A. is a star!!!
Yeah, no one is impressed anymore, it’s hard to get everyone excited …
J: That’s the way it was in San Francisco last night. They all think that they can do better.
K: We’ve had unbelievable audiences. From the East coast to here it’s been sold out. Enthusiasm like I’ve never seen it for this band. But we got to San Francisco I was like crickets…
J: (cricket noises)
K: And I was working, I was trying to work’ em real hard and no matter what I did man, it didn’t matter. There were like 5 kids in the front all screaming and that was about it…
The cheerleading squad.
J: As opposed to like, Cleveland or Chicago..
K: Denver. OH yeah! Colorado.. the screams were deafening! You couldn’t hear shit…
I’ve heard a lot of the line ups are weird, this tour… (Los Angeles dates included Puya, Ultraspank, and Fu Manchu)
K: You oughta see some of the line ups in Europe. You think this is weird? We played with Neil Young over there.
J: Yeah we’ve played with Bjork, David Bowie, Slayer, Kiss…. The Presidents of the United States of America?! It was just anything goes.
K: There is like, NO format at all. It’s a MUSICA.
Val from Pist On said that they would have liked to play with you guys, this tour.
K: Just her alone?
J: All right. I speak to her often.
Yeah, she said to ask about your chinchillas and how they’re doing, Johnny… (chinchillas = the band’s pet name for Johnny’s buns)
K: They’re getting hairier.
J: Yeah, they’re getting hairier with age.
Are you guys going to do the Howard Stern show to promote this cd?
J: If we were asked to do it, we would do it. Yeah.
Are you fans?
J: I used to listen to him when he was on a.m. radio.
K: We’re still fans. WE LOVE HOWARD!
J: I know he likes the band and all..
All right .. then.. that does it guys.
K: We did all right huh? Pretty smooth, yeah?
You were so smooth. Smooth as silk…
(Lesa Pence spends her free time dreaming horribly gory and twisted nightmares and trying to figure out how to get them up on movie screens for the rest of the world to be horrified by.)