Today, my friend, life will suck. Your mortality will come crashing down upon you like so many lead bricks, and it will hit you, later if not sooner, that today is yet more proof that life really is killing you, slowly and by degrees. For today is your birthday, and I’m sure you know that birthdays, at our age, are severely overrated. Worst of all, I rather doubt anyone will let you just ignore the whole thing to let you slink off to a remote corner and try to forget about it until tomorrow, when it no longer is – your birthday.
On the other hand – come on. Get out. Be adored for the day. So many of us do adore you, and we have for a very long time, in spite of everything you’ve put us through. I have been more faithful to you than to some of the guys in my life, and for at least one of them, it was very much a question of “love me, love the band.” If they didn’t, or couldn’t – I wouldn’t. That was it, the ultimate litmus test. One of two, in fact. The other one was subjecting them to the many splendors of Carnivore’s “Male Supremacy”, and if the irony sailed straight over their heads – forget it. Brains over brawn every time. But should I find both – um, never mind. That would be right around where you came in and chronically infested some secret, dark and thoroughly dank corners of my subterranean mind, and where I’ve found you faithlessly lurking ever since.
Speaking of irony, that has to be one of your defining characteristics, as both a songwriter and a performer. I really can’t think of that many other rock icons (I use that term advisedly and at my peril, in your case) who have crawled up on the pedestal of their own creation, just because it comes with the territory and it’s the done thing to do. That’s not the issue. No, you’re the only one I can think of who has gleefully undermined the whole imposing Baroque edifice with your highly idiosyncratic brand of TNT. So – there you are. “Look up at me, you lesser midgets” you seem to say, “and see my despair. Go ahead. Take it seriously or literally. Because I sure as hell don’t!”
What some of us lesser midgets also see is your hand on the remote control that fully intends to blow it all up, any day now.
On the subject of explosives, many performers have made my head explode. Joy Division, The Doors, Nick Cave, the first time I heard the Cocteau Twins, Pantera, Samhain -it makes for a long list. I can’t, no matter how hard I try and believe me, I have tried, think of anyone else who has forced me to scrape off the pathetic gray matter I call my brain off my speakers or my headphones for going on 16 years.
Not too long after the release of “Bloody Kisses”, you came to Copenhagen along with the rest of Type O Negative, to play one exceedingly hip little venue called Barbue. A girlfriend of mine, who had tried to get me interested in any number of “soon to be underground monsters” bands, got down and begged me to be there for this one. It would be free, since we both worked there, and it would be, she promised, “more music and less dystopia, I promise!” Then, she gave me a very sly look. “Just wait until you see the lead singer!”
Sure. I was pregnant at the time, and I figured I would be immune. I’d met a lot of dudes in the underground music bizz, and I was mostly rather underwhelmed.
Some time later, the day Type O arrived, I went looking for my late-afternoon caffeine fix. When I made my way through the rabbit warren that was Huset, where Barbue was located, back to my own little cubbyhole of an office, one very lost and exceedingly polite giant was wandering the back floors in search of the green room.
That would have been you. I took you back to the rest of the band, went home to clean up, and arrived later that night. My girlfriend dragged me off and introduced me.
I remember that. I remember being so gobsmacked by my own awe over you I said the first thing that popped into my head, never a good thing.
“Dude! Do you know – I could have a raging affair – with your navel!”
That’s charisma for you. Yours, not mine.
As introductions go, it could be worse. At least it made you laugh.
But even then, I wasn’t entirely ready yet. That came much pain, four years and many tears later, when I bought “October Rust” on impulse and my head really did explode, and kept on exploding, more or less on a daily basis ever since.
I have written a novel, several short stories and even a blog to that velvet barbed-wire voice of yours. I’ve pestered every single female I know with it (it’s one of the few things we agree on). Both of your bands, your voice and your music have been the soundtrack to just about every major event in my life for longer than I care to remember.
Thank you for knowing how to enunciate properly. Thank you for all the pleasures you’ve brought me, both guilty and not.
Thank you for never singing the musical equivalent of the Brooklyn phone book, because that would really do me in.
And since it’s your birthday, and one is supposed to be nice to birthday boys, I’ll even thank you for taking up permanent residence in that dark and dank limbic-area basement of mine, because damn it, you’ve been there ever since and probably caused irreparable damage by now.
I don’t care. It’s all rock and roll to me.
Once, I came across the following lines, and immediately thought of you:
” Ran on embattled armies clad in iron,
And, weaponless himself,
Made arms ridiculous”
I hope it will be a while before you get to thank John Milton in person.
Have a rock’n’roll birthday, Peter Steele. Mortality sucks, I know.
But at least you get to sing about it!