Peter Steele was a prominent American musician, best known as the lead vocalist, bassist, and composer for the gothic metal band TYPE O NEGATIVE. We look at 13 random facts about the legendary frontman you may not be aware of
Early Life And Musical Influences
Born Petrus Thomas Ratajczyk on January 4, 1962, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Peter Steele developed a passion for music at a young age that would eventually propel him to stardom.
Steele was the youngest of six children, growing up with five older sisters. He began taking guitar lessons at age 12, before moving on to bass soon after. He would draw inspiration from diverse sources, ranging from the punk rock of THE RAMONES and MISFITS to the progressive rock of PINK FLOYD and KING CRIMSON. His musical influences also included BLACK SABBATH, IRON MAIDEN, THE SISTERS OF MERCY and BAUHAUS.
Steele’s first breakthrough came in 1983 when he formed the band CARNIVORE, a crossover thrash metal group that blended hardcore punk and heavy metal. CARNIVORE went on to release two albums, “Carnivore” (1985) and “Retaliation” (1987), both of which were critical successes but commercial flops. Nevertheless, Steele’s reputation as a fierce and charismatic performer began to grow, and his unique blend of musical styles laid the groundwork for his future success.
The formation of TYPE O NEGATIVE
After the breakup of CARNIVORE, Peter Steele founded TYPE O NEGATIVE in 1989 — a gothic metal band that would become his most enduring project. Along with guitarist Kenny Hickey, keyboardist Josh Silver, and drummer Sal Abruscato, Steele crafted a sound that was heavy, melodic, and darkly romantic.
“Slow, Deep, And Hard”
TYPE O NEGATIVE‘s first album, “Slow, Deep, and Hard” (1991), was a concept album that explored themes of heartbreak, betrayal, and revenge. The album’s mix of heavy metal riffs, doom-laden keyboards, and Steele’s deep, baritone vocals established the band as a force to be reckoned with in the metal world.
The Success Of TYPE O NEGATIVE
Over the next two decades, TYPE O NEGATIVE would release several more albums, including “Bloody Kisses” (1993), “October Rust” (1996), and “Dead Again” (2007). The band’s music continued to evolve, incorporating elements of progressive rock, classical music, and even disco. Steele’s lyrics, which often touched on themes of love, loss, and existential angst, struck a chord with fans around the world. His larger-than-life persona, which combined his imposing stature with a wicked sense of humor, made him a beloved figure in the metal community.
The Death Of Peter Steele
At the time of his untimely death, Peter Steele‘s net worth was estimated at $1.5 million, a testament to his success as a musician and performer. However, on April 14, 2010, Steele passed away at the age of 48 due to sepsis caused by diverticulitis, which was originally reported as heart failure. The news of his death was met with shock and sadness from fans and fellow musicians alike, who praised him as a visionary artist and a kind-hearted person.
Peter Steele‘s legacy as a musician and cultural icon lives on to this day. His music continues to inspire new generations of fans, while his unapologetic embrace of his own sexuality and vulnerability has made him a symbol of acceptance and self-expression. He was also known for his activism on behalf of animal rights, a cause that he championed throughout his life.
Here are 13 things you may not have already known about legendary TYPE O NEGATIVE frontman Peter Steele
1 – Peter Steele was naturally left-handed, however he played right-handed bass guitars throughout his career. This came about when one of his earliest bands, AGGRESSION, which also featured future TYPE O NEGATIVE keyboardist Josh Silver, for which Steele played left-handed rhythm guitar, threatened to kick him out unless he switched to bass guitar. As a left-handed bass proved to be too expensive to purchase at the time, Steele bought a right-handed bass and taught himself how to play it.
2 – Peter worked for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation 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 garbage trucks and steamrollers, and an eventual promotion to the role of park supervisor. He would consider these days within this occupation to be among his happiest.
3 – Steele’s first substantial band was called FALLOUT, which he formed while still in high school. The group played local shows and recorded a few demos before disbanding.
4 – Peter’s time in the crossover thrash metal band CARNIVORE was marked by controversy, as the band’s lyrics often dealt with taboo subjects such as racism and violence. However, the group gained a dedicated following and released two albums before disbanding in 1987.
5 – After CARNIVORE disbanded, Steele formed a new band with childhood friends Sal Abruscato, Josh Silver, and Kenny Hickey, which they initially named REPULSION. The band later changed their name to SUB-ZERO, then changed it again one final time, settling on the name TYPE O NEGATIVE because it “didn’t sound too metal”.
6 – Steele was known for his imposing physical presence, standing at six feet, seven inches tall and weighing over 300 pounds. However, he was also known for his quick wit and self-deprecating humor, which often came through in interviews and onstage banter.
7 – Peter Steele‘s lyrics often dealt with themes of depression, addiction, and nihilism. He was open about his struggles with substance abuse and mental health issues, and used his music as a way to explore these topics. Despite his often dark subject matter, Peter was also known for his love of humor and irony. TYPE O NEGATIVE‘s music often featured tongue-in-cheek references to pop culture and everyday life, such as their cover of the song “Summer Breeze.”
8 – Following the success of TYPE O NEGATIVE‘s 1993 album “Bloody Kisses“, Peter began to receive attention outside of music, eventually appearing as a nude centerfold in Playgirl magazine in 1995. Steele later found out via bandmate Kenny Hickey‘s contacts that only 23% of the magazine’s readers were female, and after being asked by men to sign copies of the magazine, Steele came to regret the decision: “After I did it, I thought, ‘Oh my God, what did I do?’ It was more than upsetting that so many guys had it. Girls, OK, but there just seemed to be at least as many guys. Not that I’m homophobic, but it was certainly irritating.”
9 – Steele would make television appearances as a guest on the talk shows Ricki Lake, The Jerry Springer Show, and The Howard Stern Show. In 2003, Peter took on an acting role in the episode “Exeunt Omnes” of the television series “Oz“. He would also appear in the 2004 feature film “Dirtbags (Armpits of Metal)” and the 2005 flick “Bad Acid“.
10 – Peter was a longtime fan of the New York Rangers hockey team, and often wore their jersey onstage. He was also known for his love of animals, particularly cats, and was a vocal advocate for animal rights.
11 – Despite his success with TYPE O NEGATIVE, Steele struggled with personal demons throughout his life. He suffered from depression, addiction, and health problems, and was hospitalized several times for heart issues.
12 – The original cover of the TYPE O NEGATIVE album “The Origin Of The Feces” featured a close-up of Steele’s anus. This was changed for the re-issue two years later, to a green and black version of the 1493 painting by Michael Wolgemut, “The Dance of Death“. The album’s title is an obvious humorous reference to Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”.
13 – TYPE O NEGATIVE‘s final live performance took place on October 31, 2009, Halloween night, at Harpo’s in Detroit, Michigan. Drummer Johnny Kelly reflects: “After the show we drove straight back to New York on the bus. Kenny and I had our wives there and we just stayed up late hanging out, singing Elton John songs along the highway – nobody knew it was the last show we’d ever play. At that point, we’d got past the feeling of a tour ending and thinking the band was gonna break up; we thought Peter was going to be like Lemmy and do it until we physically couldn’t.”
Though he is no longer with us, Peter Steele‘s legacy lives on through his music and the impact he had on the world of metal and goth culture. His unique perspective and willingness to explore taboo subjects helped pave the way for a new generation of artists, and his towering presence and booming voice will always be remembered.
In conclusion, Peter Steele was a musical genius whose unique blend of heavy metal, gothic rock, and romanticism inspired countless musicians and fans around the world. Though his life was cut tragically short, his music and his legacy continue to resonate with audiences to this very day.