|Genre||Gothic metal, heavy metal, doom metal|
|Notable Instruments||Roadrunner Records, SPV Records|
|Labels||Carnivore, Fallout, Type O Negative|
Petrus Thomas Ratajczyk (January 4, 1962 – April 14, 2010), better known by his stage name Peter Steele, was the lead singer, bassist and composer for the gothic metal band Type O Negative. Before forming Type O Negative, he had created the metal group Fallout and the thrash band Carnivore.
As the frontman for Type O Negative, Steele was known for his vampiric affect, towering stature, rich bass-baritone vocals and a dark, often self-deprecating sense of humor. "His lyrics were often intensely personal, dealing with subjects including love, loss and addiction." Steele credited Black Sabbath and The Beatles as his key musical influences.
Steele was born in Red Hook, Brooklyn into a Catholic family and attended Edward R. Murrow High School located in the Midwood neighborhood of Brooklyn. His father was of Russian and Polish descent, and his mother of Scottish-Irish and Norwegian descent. He was raised in the Bensonhurst and Brighton Beach neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Steele was the youngest of six children, with five older sisters. His father fought in World War II and later worked at a shipyard. Steele started taking guitar lessons at age 12, moving on to bass six months later.
Steele worked for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation up until he began touring with Type O Negative in the summer of 1994. He was based at Brooklyn Heights Promenade, where his job involved park maintenance, driving vehicles including garbage trucks and steamrollers, and eventual promotion to the role of park supervisor. Steele considered his days working for the parks department to be among his happiest.
Fallout and Carnivore (1979–1987)
In 1979, Steele formed the heavy metal band Fallout. In 1982, after the split of Fallout, Steele formed the thrash metal band Carnivore. With Carnivore, Steele's lyrics were often harsh, dealing with religion, war, race and misogyny. Carnivore released their debut self-titled album in 1985. In 1986, Steele wrote lyrics for several songs on hardcore punk band Agnostic Front's second album Cause for Alarm. In 1987, Carnivore released Retaliation, before splitting up later that year.
Type O Negative
Steele formed the band in 1989 along with his childhood friends Josh Silver, Kenny Hickey and Sal Abruscato (later replaced by Johnny Kelly). The band originally used the name "Repulsion", but had to change name in 1990 due to legal issues with the American grindcore band of the same name. The band then used the name "Subzero". Steele had a tattoo of a minus sign contained within the number 0 that he originally intended to represent the Subzero band logo. After discovering that another band was already using the Subzero name, and with his tattoo in mind, Steele came up with the name "Type O Negative" after hearing a radio advertisement requesting donations of type O negative blood. When Type O Negative signed with Roadrunner Records, Steele signed his recording contract with a mixture of his blood and semen.
Type O Negative's debut album, Slow, Deep and Hard, was released in 1991. The album incorporated the thrash elements of Carnivore merged with doom metal. Steele had written the music in the space of one night in the aftermath of a relationship break-up, and this was reflected in the lyrical topics of heartbreak, fantasies of revenge, and the contemplation of suicide; something Steele had himself attempted: "On October 15th, 1989, I slashed my wrists. All I can say is that I fell in love with the wrong person."
Steele caused some controversy when touring in Europe to support Slow Deep and Hard, thanks to rumors about his social and political views, with some critics going so far as to brand him a Nazi sympathizer, even though his bandmate, Josh Silver, is Jewish. Steele suggested that the European press had misunderstood his humor, and that his sarcasm was sometimes lost in translation to print.
In 1992, Type O Negative released the "live" album The Origin of the Feces. The album included a fictitious hostile audience and an evacuation of the venue after a bomb threat had supposedly been called in. This simulated some of the real-life response Steele and Type O Negative had recently received while on tour in Europe. The original album cover featured a close-up shot of Steele's anus.
In 1993, Type O Negative released their breakthrough album Bloody Kisses. The album focused primarily on romance, love, sex, and death. The song "Black No.1 (Little Miss Scare-All)" pays tribute to gothic subculture and is an ode to a goth girl Steele had once dated. Steele attacked his detractors with the songs "We Hate Everyone" and "Kill All the White People", which dealt directly with the band's rumored racist ideology and served to erode any such accusations. Bloody Kisses eventually achieved Platinum status and established Type O Negative as one of gothic metal's most influential bands.
Type O Negative released the album October Rust in 1996. It featured a more multi-layered and melodic sound than its predecessor, though it retained similar lyrical themes. Steele penned the majority of the material on October Rust while on the road touring, though he had conceived some of the basic musical ideas during his early-teens. Steele designed the Vinland flag that first appeared on the October Rust artwork. It has since appeared on every subsequent release by the band. The flag encompassed a variety of Steele's interests, political beliefs and his heritage. Steele based the design on a Nordic cross flag that incorporates his favorite colors. The concept of Vinland is also referred to in the title of the track "The Glorious Liberation of the People's Technocratic Republic of Vinland by the Combined Forces of the United Territories of Europa". "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend" is a tale about a ménage à trois that Steele based on a few true life experiences. The song introduction includes a sample of the garbage truck once driven by Steele. The song "Red Water (Christmas Mourning)" is about his father's death. October Rust eventually achieved Gold status.
Steele had been dealing with personal problems during the recording and mixing of 1999's stripped-down and heavier sounding World Coming Down. Themes of drug abuse and addiction appeared on the album, particularly on the song "White Slavery". Death also featured heavily on the album, with Steele mourning the loss of loved ones on the tracks "Everyone I Love is Dead" and "Everything Dies". Steele recounted his experience with psychiatric treatment on the song "Who Will Save the Sane?". On "Pyretta Blaze" Steele tells of his sexual fantasy involving fire. Steele noted the emotional strain caused by executing songs from World Coming Down in a live setting. The setlists for live shows performed since the initial tour to support World Coming Down usually featured very few selections from the album.
In 2000, Steele made a guest appearance on the song "Just Say No To Love" from Iommi, the first solo album by Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. In 2001, Steele made a guest appearance on the song "Cross the Line" from the Biohazard album Uncivilization. In 2002, he guest appeared on the track "Descent" from the Doro album Fight.
Type O Negative released the album Life Is Killing Me in 2003. Lyrically the album deals with topics including self-pity, hatred, drugs, death and religion. On the title track Steele offers his criticism of the medical profession. The song "Nettie" centers around Steele's mother, while "Todd's Ship Gods (Above All Things)" is about his father. "The Dream is Dead" refers to Steele finding it difficult to celebrate Valentine's Day as the date coincides with the anniversary of his father's death. Steele wrote the song "(We Were) Electrocute" about a "stunning" ex-girlfriend, and how they would attract the interest of passers-by when out together as a couple. Steele's favorite female television characters are the inspiration for the track "How Could She?". "I Like Goils" makes light of the attention Steele received from gay men, specifically after his photoshoot for Playgirl magazine.
In 2005, Type O Negative left Roadrunner Records. Steele had never been happy with the conditions of the recording contract and had described it as "a millstone around my neck". Steele alleged that Type O Negative's split from Roadrunner Records, aside from a poor offer, had to do with an unauthorized release of a "The Best of Type O Negative" compilation. Steele remained on friendly terms with the staff at Roadrunner Records and in October 2005 he appeared on the Roadrunner United album to help celebrate the label's 25th anniversary.
There were unconfirmed rumors at one point of Steele's death after the band website posted an image of a tombstone bearing his name and the dates 1962–2005. According to an article dated May 14, 2005, Steele was not dead; the gag was related to their fresh signing with SPV Records. The website discontinued the tombstone picture in October 2005.
Steele made his final recording on the 2007 album Dead Again. He revealed on MTV]]'s Headbangers Ball that the new alliance with SPV Records was probably his favorite thing about Dead Again from a production standpoint. Steele considered Dead Again to be less melancholic and more positive compared to the band's previous albums. The album cover depicts the Russian mystic Rasputin, a historical figure that Steele admired. The title track touches on drug abuse and Steele's sense of having killed part of himself after suffering a relapse. "Tripping a Blind Man" is a diatribe on how Steele felt after his involuntary commitment was brought about by his family. "Halloween in Heaven" is a song about dead rockstars that Steele was inspired to write by the death of his close friend Dimebag Darrell. Steele's final live performance was on Halloween night at Harpos Concert Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, the last show of Type O Negative's 2009 tour.
Peter Steele is mainly reported to have died of an aortic aneurysm (initially reported as heart failure) on April 14, 2010 at the age of 48. This, however, is not true. His family has released the real cause of death to be sepsis from diverticulitis. His girlfriend at the time left Steele sick and alone with his sick cat, and he died from lack of medical care. Media disregards this information, adding to the spread of misinformation. Prior to his death, Steele was preparing to write and record new music. The remaining members of Type O Negative decided to dissolve the band rather than replace Steele, with Johnny Kelly stating "Even if there is somebody who could take his place it wouldn't matter. We don't have any interest in continuing. It's impossible – it hasn't even come up in any kind of discussion. When Peter died, Type O Negative died with him."
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- Type O Negative's Peter Steele is dead! April 15, 2010 MuzikaBlog.com Retrieved 2010-04-15
- Type O Negative Died with Steele, says Kelly. Rock News Desk (July 13, 2011). Retrieved on 2014-02-14.