Josh Silver - keyboardist / producer, Type O Negative
Warfield Theater - San Francisco, CA - 2000
Somewhere at the head of the Goth scene, during a sexual revolution, is a scene all it's own, misunderstood and yet revered (perhaps for the wrong reasons). It is headed by four very angry looking large men who always appear somber in their adapted permanent frowns. This band of four garners new fans all over and the rest of the music-loving public just don't quite know what to make of them. The vocals are deep, resonating about as low as humanly possible. The music plods along slowly, depressed, dark. This is the band known by the very medical name of Type O Negative - dark princes of the somber and macabre. At least they would have you think so.
I came to find that even their own record company reps were convinced of these four men's persistent depressions and unfriendliness. Nothing could be further from the truth - although it would be hard-pressed to prove it. We recently had the opportunity to chat with keyboardist and producer extraordinaire Josh Silver. Josh, who underplays his obvious talents - and humor - is very adept behind the production boards and knows what to add and how to add it. Type O's music is strikingly original not only due to the well-excavated songs that sprout from the head of man/monster Peter Steele, but also do the the brilliant production quality. Unfortunately, as with many works of genius, it largely remains underappreciated and very misunderstood.
There were two of us trapped in a bus with Josh. As we begin the interview, one must be reminded of a home video that the band released to the public a couple of years back entitled "After Dark". During a segment of the video, Josh drops and squats on some grass in an unproductive attempt to cleanse his bowels, as it were. As nothing to his hoping occurs, the rest of the video is interspersed with clips of Josh, depressed, squatting (with pants on, this time) on a city sidewalk with the note "Still has not shit" appearing under him. Thus, with that in mind, we begin the interview right after Josh describes the band as being somewhat "hate-filled" on this particularly rainy night in San Francisco.
K2K: So, why are you hate-filled this evening?
JS: (he mumbles something along the line of 'Vodka') and my natural personality.
K2K: I thought it was just Peter.
JS: What? Filled with hate? No, actually it's most of us at this point.
K2K: Is he just depressed?
JS: I think we're all... everyone is depressed except for Johnny and even he leans towards violence. It's a real pain in the ass, I gotta tell you.
K2K: I was going to save this as a final question, but I have to ask - Have you taken a shit yet?
JS: You know, today, when you finally drop that first cork, which is the worst... I'm a constipated Jew. OK?
K2K: I would have figured that it would be orgasmic after you let it go.
JS: No, actually it ripped my guts out and it has not stopped since about 3 o'clock this afternoon.
K2K: You're still shitting now?
JS: Well, I'm on a bus, so that's it for today. It's the shot I got. I got a six-hour stretch and that's over so that's it. Man, I definitely lost a good fifteen pounds. How are your bowels doing, by the way?
K2K: I took a healthy one, actually.
JS: Every day?
K2K: Every day. Mine feel good though. It's just smooth.
JS: The 'regular' people. (laughs) You know, some people take great pleasure in shitting and I'm not one of them.
K2K: You like to hold on? Are you a pack rat?
JS: Yeah. (laughs) There you go. I like that. You're a sharp character. I'm impressed. Any psychology in your family?
K2K: No. They've tried to put me in with a shrink before, but that's about it.
JS: You succeeded with him.
K2K: So now are you going to go into Child Psychology?
JS: No, no. I 'need' Child Psychology.
K2K: For your Inner Child? My Inner Child is beating up your Inner Child.
JS: (looking at Joe, laughing) He's good. He should do the interview with himself.
K2K: What I was going to start with was that I don't think people get your music and I don't think that you think people get your music either.
JS: I don't think that we're as concerned. We gotta do what we gotta do. Some people will get it. Some people will 'think' they get it and make it something totally different. That's part of any kind of art. People read their own thoughts into it.
K2K: Do you think that people see the sad, depressed side or more the humorous side?
JS: I think you see the humorous side. I don't think as many as I see it too.
K2K: Yeah, but I'm a pretty sardonic, cynical guy though. I see hate everywhere, but it makes me smile.
JS: I know the feeling.
K2K: Oh, actually, this is the first time that I've actually gotten to see you play.
JS: I'm sorry. I apologize.
K2K: Are you guys trying to steal the thunder from the Cure as being the most depressed band?
JS: Not intentionally, no.
K2K: Robert is pretty upset.
JS: I think that most artists are leaning towards fragile idiots. Why should we be any different?
K2K: Have you ever heard about how Robert has recorded? He does some of the saddest songs while on the floor, rolling, laughing. It was like a whole joke of it all.
JS: We did a vocal track on the floor once, with Peter laying there. But it was mostly because he had to hyperventilate, to breathe for, like, ten minutes straight, over a track and he was going to pass out. I'm not going to do an impression. Even if I did, it would be the old, "that sucked, let's do it again." The usual stuff.
K2K: What inspires most of the lyrics?
JS: Uh, different things. I would say, overall, experience. Things like that.
K2K: In looking back, it's kind of a double standard, as humor is thrown in.
JS: If you don't laugh at life, man, what are you going to do? Take yourself seriously and think that you're all fucking cool and hot shit? You just rocked out like any other asshole, so what difference did it make? So, you've got to laugh at yourself. My God. I mean, Jesus Christ, come on, you're almost laughing at me.
K2K: I am laughing at you.
JS: See? I like it.
K2K: Where did "Loving you was like loving the dead" come from?
JS: A bad lay.
K2K: Whose?
JS: Not mine.
K2K: Have you had any good lays?
JS: Well, three of us are married so I assume that we probably figure our wives will hear that.
K2K: Before that.
JS: Yeah, I guess everyone's had a reasonable amount of sex in their lives, some less than others.
K2K: When you guys decide on choosing cover songs, who comes up with the ideas?
JS: Usually Peter but people chuck in their ideas. The "He's So Heavy/Day Tripper" part, we've been jamming with the riff in rehearsal for a long time. It just finally came around to be and we got around the legal aspects of it.
K2K: What about "Cinnamon Girl" and songs like that?
JS: Everything that's chosen is because you would not expect Type O Negative to do it. That is why we would go for a song like that, a nice acoustic nappy song.
K2K: And then depress the hell out of it.
JS: Aaah, some of it we didn't successfully depress but some are leaning towards depression, like Seals & Crofts ["Summer Breeze"]. Actually they are really heavy and depressing lyrics when played correctly, no offense to Seals & Crofts.
K2K: Is there something floating around right now called "Light My Fire"?
JS: Yeah, everything that's done ultimately becomes a bootleg. So it's probable, a live thing.
K2K: Are most of your albums conceptual in the beginning?
JS: No. I think it's really just a reflection of what state of mind we're in during any given time period. We don't pump out albums eight months apart from each other. You know, a lot of bands are forced to, on a lower level, that churn out as much as possible instead of giving it some time. How much are you going to change in eight months? "Oh wow. I was 21 and now I'm 21 1/2. I got new insights. My penis works. Wow!" Over a period of a decade, certainly if you're not changing, you're dead.
K2K: Another thing that I noticed while watching you play, a thing that I don't think people get about your music is the whole experimentation thing. The extended jamming. I was reading a thing on Roger Waters and how they used to put songs together. I would almost call Type O Negative the "Pink Floyd of the heavy set".
JS: Well, I love Pink Floyd, so I wouldn't be offended by it. I only intentionally robbed them three or four times.
K2K: Like you said about moving ahead and all, there's a lot of lush orchestration and different ideas and experimentation thrown into your music.
JS: Well, Peter has a writing style, but again, time changes subject matters and attitudes. I think that, even though we've done five records and, to me, they sound pretty different, each one, they still retain an identity to all five. That's ultimately what we strive to do. The identity but not do the same thing over and over because it's boring.
K2K: What kind of musical background do you have? Have you given many years to the keyboards?
JS: Not a whole lot. A lot more than it sounds like, I'll tell you that.
K2K: Who are some of your classical influences?
JS: I used to love Bach. Too much discipline, so fuck it.
K2K: Really? You're not trained?
JS: I was for a minor amount of time but I was probably a better pianist at 15 than I am now. But I couldn't produce when I was 15, so it all works out somehow.
K2K: Did you ever have any interest in trying to compose classical?
JS: Compose classical? Can you outdo Bach? (laughs)
K2K: I just figured that you might do something different on your own time.
JS: I think that Type O Negative is pretty eclectic and we encompass so many styles that I'm pretty satisfied doing the 30 styles that we do. We do do such a variety, especially if you consider all five records. It's really been everything from punk to, I don't want to say 'Pop'.
K2K: There's nothing wrong with doing Pop. I mean, it sells. You covered the Beatles, so you've done Pop.
JS: Not the way we did it. (laughs)
K2K: It's all about how you put a song together. Anybody who knows what they're doing can take a song apart and redo it in a whole different context.
JS: Then how come all the tribute albums don't sound good?
K2K: They're not that good.
JS: Obviously not everybody can do it. That's the only thing that's enlightening about those tribute albums is that there are a few people who can do it in their own style, but why just do a cover of a band?
K2K: How did you guys come up with the musical style of the band?
JS: We just got together and came up with this. We thought, "Oh wow, this sounds pretty terrible. Let's go for it."
K2K: You and Peter have played together since high school?
JS: We've been in bands other than Type O Negative together, yes.
K2K: How old are you guys?
JS: I'm 37. Peter's 38.
K2K: So you're not that old. I'm 36 so I have to say that. (laugh)
JS: Fuck you. What you say? Who are you to say 36? Wait three years. You'll see what you feel like. (laughs) You'll dislocate your hip.
K2K: I already just broke my wrist recently.
JS: There you go. Your bones are already brittle. You're showing signs of Osteoporosis. It's over for you, man.
K2K: Was Subzero your first name for this band?
JS: Subzero was just a temporary name until some band came out of the woodwork and said, "Fuck you. We're going to sue you if you use this name." We said, "Fuck you. It's not worth it." They didn't even have a record, so who gave a shit.
K2K: What are your musical influences as a band?
JS: The only thing that the four of us would probably agree on are the Beatles and Black Sabbath.
K2K: At least they're two classics. You can't go wrong there.
JS: I believe that's true.
K2K: It's funny that you would say that because Black Sabbath has the same problem as you when critics don't 'get' them. [The critics] would never talk about the lyrics or anything.
JS: I don't care. They call them Satanists while the (Black Sabbath) are singing about Christianity. So, they don't even listen to the lyrics. So what? They did them a favor. Look at all the press it got them.
K2K: The album [Black Sabbath's] Master Of Reality is actually entirely Christian except of course for "Sweet Leaf".
JS: Actually it's a warning against evil.
K2K: Is Peter really as depressed as he appears or is that his ruse?
JS: Like all of us, we have pretty serious mood swings. (subtly laughing)
K2K: I don't think that you're that depressed.
JS: Talk to my wife.
K2K: Yeah, my girlfriend just tells people about me "Oh, he's depressed, but that makes him happy."
JS: Oh yeah, usually that's it. Let's say that we all have our heavy mood swings.
K2K: Is this actually a hateful moment or a happy moment?
JS: What do you think? (everyone snickers) It's a humorous moment.
K2K: How is it going through customs with all of your alleged pharmaceuticals?
(The band is rumored to carry many antidepressants on the road. - Ed.)
JS: Fine because they're all legal.
K2K: Sometimes yeah, but they would look at a long-haired rocker and try to keep you a little bit longer to interrogate.
JS: We have gotten hassled, but places like Canada are lightening up because they're simply losing finances from Britain, God forbid, and you don't want to do that, not even in a socialist country.
K2K: Since I read that Peter is Russian and Icelandic, have you ever played in any of those countries?
JS: I didn't know that he's Russian and Icelandic. He's a big Pollack. We both Polish and Russian, actually. Icelandic? That was just for...
K2K: Somebody had taken it seriously.
JS: Oh, everybody did. It was great. "Oh man. What kind of accent do you have? Are you from Iceland?" 'No, we're from Brooklyn. What are you talking about, Iceland?'
K2K: I have some more funny info from websites. OK, true or false...
JS: True.
K2K: Is Peter distantly related to [Joseph] Stalin?
(The Russian leader during W.W.II, for you historically retarded. - Ed.)
JS: I'd say it's not terribly open.
K2K: But his real last name is Stalin and then he supposedly changed it to Steele.
JS: (thinks then laughs) I'll keep that going. I like it. Yes. True.
K2K: So, it's true?
JS: Sure.
K2K: Is it or not?
JS: Sure. (laughs) Whatever. I'm related to Schindler too, but I changed it to Silver.
K2K: Schindler's Fist?
JS: Exactly. We're in San Francisco so it's appropriate. (snickers around the room)
K2K: Do you ever plan on doing any solo work?
JS: I don't make plans anymore. I know better. I like working with other people but I'm not a songwriter, I'm a producer. That's what I do and I enjoy even the hateful moments of a relationship where two people or four people come together to make a bigger mess than originally intended. That's part of what music is to me.
K2K: Do you produce Life Of Agony?
JS: I did their first album.
K2K: Oh, another subject from a website - Are you the pothead that you claim to be, or that this guy claims you to be? Morning, noon and night? Breakfast, lunch and dinner?\
JS: Absolutely. I put my pipe away before you got here. (stark sarcasm)
K2K: How hard was it being in a band where you guys grew up [in New York]? From my understanding, it's the toughest place to get a gig.
JS: We're from New York, so we have a decent following. If you get a following, you can probably break anywhere. I don't believe in "scenes". Those "scenes", that are temporarily focused on by the media, have existed way before they told us that and will exist way after they stop focusing on them.
K2K: Except for Los Angeles which seems to have dried up for a "scene".
JS: No, I'm sure that there's a lot of L.A. bands out there. They just don't admit it anymore. Now they're from Orange County or whatever. Clubs close. I won't even go into a bar in California. You can't smoke? That's insane. You can't smoke in a bar? You're going to kill yourself? It's a place to kill yourself and you can't smoke? What the fuck is that about?
K2K: They tried to close up some smoke shops and clubs too.
JS: You guys need some new legislation.
K2K: Well, I'm glad, as a non-smoker, that it's easier to breathe at concerts now.
JS: I'm glad that, in this bus, you're suffering.
K2K: Suffering will make you happy.
JS: Yeah, well, I couldn't think of anything else to say.
K2K: Being a keyboardist, did you ever have pressure to be in a progressive rock band?
JS: No, because I suck. I'm a judge of music and musicians, as a producer, so I know what I'm capable of on keyboards. I do my job in Type O Negative. It doesn't make me a great keyboardist. Being in a band is far more than playing an instrument. It's surviving. It's getting an album together. It's getting four maniacs together in the same room to focus on something, to try to do something productive. You know, musicians aren't very stable, in case you hadn't noticed.
K2K: Some. Some are really unstable.
JS: So, out of four people, how many do you think we get? It's just a percentage basis.
K2K: Who has more of the say in the band?
JS: Peter has the biggest mouth, so it goes to be a mouth contest. He handles a lot of the arrangement and music and I handle a lot of the technical mixing and that kind of stuff. So, it's both.
K2K: Is it more of a band or is it more Pete's project?
JS: No, everybody contributes. Absolutely.
K2K: Do you think that the media focuses too much on the idea that it's Pete's thing?
JS: The whole lunatic thing, we don't give a fuck. We're 37, so we don't give a shit. Get real here buddy. It's not going to buy me groceries, right? "I'm in Pete's band. Will you give me some groceries, man?" "No."
K2K: How come the original drummer left?
JS: Because at one time the band had gotten together and decided that we were not going to tour for any serious length of time. He was more interested in playing out live. Why? What story did you hear?
K2K: None.
JS: Do you want to make up one?
K2K: Did you kill the drummer?
JS: He killed himself. He's been a good friend for decades.
K2K: How hard was it to get a new drummer?
JS: I wouldn't want to be the next guy after him, I'll tell you that. Johnny here has done pretty well. It's a tough thing because you've already established a sound and a direction and then somebody new has to step in. He had his own stuff, but yet continue in that direction as well.
K2K: Johnny's a hard hitter though.
JS: I keep him hating me and make sure he keeps hitting.
K2K: How are you guys doing financially? Are you doing OK or doing as bad as Peter always says the band is doing?
JS: I definitely could be doing worse. We're not the millionaires that people think when they see busses.
K2K: Oh yeah, we were wondering as we were driving up here, did you bring the rain?
JS: I hope so. If it's sunny tomorrow, yes!
K2K: How was it making that home video?
JS: It was devious, actually, because we're pretty dry motherfuckers. It's a hard thing to do a home video.
K2K: Speaking of dry humor, are you influenced by British humor at all?
JS: You'd think so. I've sat in a room with British bus drivers [watching British TV] and they're hysterical. They're sitting there, rolling, and I'm thinking it's not even remotely funny. It was torturous sometime.
(Just then, drummer Johnny Kelly enters)
Johnny: Are you guys still rapping in here?
K2K: There he is. Hits drums as hard as shit and then this guy who still has not taken a shit.
JS: It's all good.
(Guitarist Kenny Hickey joins the party...)
Kenny: You guys still bullshitting?
K2K: Oh look. Happy guy is back. I have this all figured out. Happy As Shit, Pounds The Drums Hard As Shit and Still Hasn't Taken A Shit.
JS: What does that make Peter?
K2K: Depressed As Shit.
JKH: Or, just Shit. (everyone laughs)
JS: I like that because we consider ourselves shit. A shit entity. We're not good but we're too stupid to be evil, so we're simply a shit entity. It's takes some intelligence and cleverness to be evil and we're not even that. We're just stuck in the middle.
K2K: I don't think you are as bad as you claim to be because you're production is so much better than most bands.
JS: It's just cheating.
KH: We think that we have great potential but never reach it. I guess it's really going on a limb to say 'never', but we haven't reached it yet.
K2K: Peter says that he was making more money doing his job before the band.
JS: Oh that's bullshit.
KH: No, he believes that though.
K2K: So it's not just a media story?
JS: It's just a matter of subtraction. He's losing a number somewhere.
JKH: Peter missed math class that day. The batteries on his Fischer Price calculator went dead.
(Then Johnny goes into the bus bathroom. By peeing loudly, he adds to the ambiance of our recording.)
K2K: Yeah, this will make a nice addition.
JS: If that's all he's doing, that would be pretty boring. Do you see that porno theater? (We all look out the bus window, across the street.) We were watching there, in the daytime. This guy comes out, a little schizophrenic, he comes out. He had obviously just jerked off. He walks over to the curb, no big deal. We're watching him and he walks over to the curb, takes his dick out and starts pissing. There are couples [walking by] and he's waving his dick.
(Suddenly Johnny lets out a very surprised yelp and freaks out in the bathroom.)
JKH: There was a whole quart of milk in there [toilet] and I hit the button to flush it and it went shooting...
JS: Yeah, it shoots up. (giggles all around)
JKH: I thought Peter jerked off in there.
K2K: That's a big load, don't you think?
JKH: No, it's a quart today.
K2K: A quart low. My next question was the wildest moment on the road. I now heard about today, what about any others?
(A show is brought up that occurred in San Jose some time back where a security man was stabbed to death.)
JS: This guy came back and said that somebody from one of the bands screwed his wife. A security guy got stabbed. Fourteen times, so he's dead.
K2K: I have a question for you - Will there ever be a Type O Positive?
JS: Not hardly likely. Kenny might become positive one day.
K2K: Doesn't Kenny seem happy to you?
KH: We're going home in three days.
K2K: Are you guys happy about that?
JS: Mixed feelings.
And with that, we booted ourselves into the night drizzle before we overstayed our welcome and became as morose as the band appears. On our way out, Pete Steele happens to be coming in, gives a big smile and a hearty "Hello", shakes our hands and heads deep into the confines of the bus - thus finally dispelling any rumor that he is what so many think he is.
Written by Philip Anderson

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