He was born Petrus T Ratajczyk, but you and the metal world that mourned his passing knew him as the man-mountain Peter Steele. The Type O Negative and Carnivore vocalist and bassist lived a full and entertaining 48 years on this planet before succumbing to heart failure on April 14, 2010. In this, his last, never-before-seen interview with Metal Hammer from March 28, 2008, Peter uses his dark and self-deprecating sense of humour to catalogue the life of someone who could never quite fit in.
Following a suicide attempt in 1989, he seemed to have found peace in middle-age. It’s pretty ironic that, despite having been indelibly tarnished with accusations of misogyny and racism during the 1990s, the influence of both Peter and Type O, who had been ‘on hold’ since 2007’s Dead Again album, were at an all-time high. Hammer prints this transcript of our conversation as a window to the positive state of mind that Peter appeared to be in at time of his death.
Where and when were you born?
“Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York on January 4th, 1962, at 3.45am. I was born 23 and a half inches long, my mother said it was like giving birth to a pumpkin.”
As an adult, you stand six-foot-six. Were you taller than your schoolmates, or was there a growth spurt?
“I just got measured and I’m now six foot seven and a half. But yeah, I was always taller than my classmates.”
So did you get picked on?
“Of course. I was like a big fucking punch-bag. When you go to a Catholic school, men and women develop very differently. I was a late bloomer. My dick didn’t get very big until I was in seventh grade. My balls didn’t pump up until I was 17. It didn’t seem fair that girls had tits and guys had moustaches in fifth grade.
“But then something happened. I came back to school one summer and everything had changed. I exacted my revenge – revenge of the nerds – upon those who had been making my life so difficult.”
How was it growing up around five sisters?
“When I did something wrong, it felt like I had five extra mothers. The age gap between myself and my next eldest sister is eight years. Between all of them, it was three years. They used to call me ‘Ooops’.
“I was the dictionary definition of an evil brother to them. I loved scaring them to fucking death. At the age of eight, I told them all I’d seen on the news that rats love to nest in high-heeled shoes. I built it up for weeks. Every Sunday we used to have pot-roast with mashed potatoes. I took my mashed potatoes and mixed it with red food dye and inserted some pins. Then I got up at 3am and left them in their high-heels. I even heated them up, so they felt like a real animal. The screams of ‘Peter!!!’ were incredible, but luckily I was good at hiding under beds.”
Did this background bring out your feminine side? Do you even have such a thing?
“Only when I take hold of my dick, pull it back behind my legs and through my ass. No, I’m kidding. I’m actually a very emotional person. Even asking me that question is sexist, and I admit I am a sexist – I hate all men. I want to be the only man on this planet. I have learned that people take advantage of you if you display an emotional side. I can be brutal, but also sensitive.”
It must hurt when you're called a misogynist.
“Well, I was fucked over by a woman whose name I won’t mention. If I did to her what she did to me, she’d be screaming: ‘Cocksucker, dick’. So when I used the words ‘Slut’, ‘whore’ and ‘cunt’… I’m not proud of that language, but isn’t it better than I wrote a song called I Know You’re Fucking Someone Else than go round to her house with a pick-axe and put it through her head? It’s called sublimation. Listen, I love women. I live for them.”
How many women have you slept with?
“Oh, two or three. That question is sexist, too. Who cares? I’m nearly 50 and it’s out my system. All I care about these days is health care products, Viagra and false teeth. What I enjoy is meeting interesting people. Don’t tell them I told you so, but my friends Henry Rollins, Phil Anselmo and Marilyn Manson are intelligent people. We can have crazy conversations over a glass of wine.”
You once tried to commit suicide.
“Yes. On October 15th, 1989. I slashed my wrists. All I can say is that I fell in love with the wrong person.”
One of your earliest jobs was a park keeper…
“I worked for New York City’s Department Of Parks And Recreation. My job involved cleaning up human shit and driving snow ploughs and dump trucks, before I became a park supervisor. I got promoted four times in seven years, but I had to leave in 1994 when Mötley Crüe asked Type O Negative to tour with them and King’s X for a whole summer. That’s what we like to call the ‘maggot season’ – you can’t take time off in the summertime.”
Very funny. But something must have turned your life around?
“I suppose so. I had been with this one woman for 10 years and when I found out what had been going on, I pretty much went berserk. When I found out about her and her boyfriend, I knocked on their door at five in the morning and smacked the guy in the face. That’s what I got locked up for.
“I tried to mask the pain by drowning myself in cocaine and alcohol until I thought I was the Pope. I used to walk the streets in Soviet and Nazi uniforms. I put a sign outside my house encouraging burglars and left my front door open. I would lie under the bed wearing night vision goggles waiting for people to come in – and they never did. The intruders never came, the fucking cocksuckers. I was a complete mess.”
You served time for the assault.
“I went to [the world’s largest penal colony] Rikers Island. Coming out of there was what made me determined not to go back. You have no idea what it’s like to take a shit in front of other guys. Sometimes you even had to ask for toilet paper. I don’t want to be controlled like that, nobody does.”
Was there a moment of clarity when you knew you'd become a musician?
“I’m still waiting for that moment. Filling in credit card applications, I list my occupation as ‘sonic mutilator’. And still those idiots send me the fucking card – c’mon, you can’t let me loose on the world with $45,000 of credit!”
Does the idea of re-marrying appeal to you?
“Not now. It’s a life sentence. Next time I go down the aisle it will be in a box.”
What kind of women do you prefer?
“Really tall ones, but they must be very feminine. I love redheads. I checked into rehab once and they asked what my drugs of choice were. I told them: ‘Cocaine, alcohol and redheads’. I used to love watching my sisters put on their make-up. I noticed that when their menstruation time came, their make-up went on thicker, harder and more extreme. Once in a while their ovulation periods synchronised; that’s when I would hide under the bed.”
Do you have paternal urges?
“I probably already do have kids. I’m just waiting for them to knock on the door. Yes, I would love to have kids. But it would have to be with a tall woman. I don’t want to have to put her on a milk crate to fuck her from behind. You won’t print that, will you?”
Of course we will…
“Ha ha ha! The best part about that is when you put them on milk crates and they wear stilettos, the heels get stuck in the holes. Let me tell you, if I did have a kid and it got to the age where it could go onto the internet… man, I’m gonna have some explaining to do… Ha ha ha ha ha!”
You appeared in the August 1995 issue of Playgirl magazine. With the benfit of hindsight, was that a mistake?
“Yeah. It made me look arrogant. But I thought the whole thing was a joke. They sent me some past issues and I told them I would do it under one condition: my dick had to be hard. All the others were flaccid. The woman from Playgirl said, ‘Do you really think you can do it erect?’ I said, ‘You bring the cheque and keep your end up, I’ll keep mine.’”
So how much did they pay you?
“$2,000. At the time it wasn’t a lot. The whole thing was fucking stupid. Back then, I was engaged to the woman I’ve been talking about – how on earth was I going to fucking tell her? When the issue came out, my sisters discovered it in a candy store on the subway. They brought it home and showed my mother, whose comment was: ‘That’s why I named him Peter’ [which is derived from the Greek word petros, meaning ‘stone’]. At least she had a sense of humour.”
Afterwards, did your pulling potential go off the scale?
“Actually, there were so many opportunities back then, it didn’t make a whole lot of difference. But in doing that photo-shoot, I do feel like it made a fool of myself. The only reason I did it was for the publicity.”
And here we are, more than a decade later, still talking about it.
“Yeah. You’d have to say it worked. And I’m proud that I kept my dick hard. People still ask me how I did that and I tell them, ‘A hose clamp costs 69 cents’. That’s it, brother.”
Is your addiction to alcohol and drugs now under control?
“Once an addict always an addict, you know. I have five cats that I love very much, and part of what keeps me under control is that I don’t want to die and leave them starving. I’m not kidding.”
Apparently you've re-discovered your faith in recent years…
“Yes. I used to be an atheist but I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. It doesn’t matter a damn to me whether someone is Muslim, Protestant, Catholic, whatever the fuck. All you have to do is treat people the way you like to be treated. [Religious ideology-wise], we can all believe in different things.”
Given your well-documented low-self-esteem, how do you feel about the fact that you have fans?
“It’s called mass psychosis. Every fucking nut in this world, every fucking oddball, has a fan. Look at mass murderers. What’s wrong with people? I’d like to play shows where we allow people in for free. They would have to pay to get out – and I’m a real good welder.”
Have you been treated for depression?
“Prozac has done really well for me. But I have to tell you something – I really miss myself. I miss the person that I was.”
You mean the person you were before taking Prozac?
“No. Once I got into drugs and alcohol… [voice trails off]. One of my messages to our fans is that it’s better to learn from the mistakes of others than your own. I started doing cocaine when I was 35 years old. What kind of an asshole does that? I was working out and in good shape. Shouldn’t I have known better?
“I feel like it would be an honour to serve God. I wouldn’t mind being a stepping stone, so long as I could help other people. I am not a materialistic person. I go to church every Saturday and I argue with the priest because the Bible is simply a fucking metaphor. You ask me whether I’d like to have children… Well, I’d have to meet the right person.
“I want to fuck the shit out of the woman I love. I want to cum in her as hard as I fucking can, bite her fucking face off, tell her how much I love her, and for her to have our kids nine months later. I do believe in marriage, but you have to be a team. One of the things I’d love to do most would be to bicycle through Europe with my wife. Of course, she would be pedalling and I would steer. It would be great for us both to learn things from one another. That’s what marriage is about.”
People won't expect to hear you talking like this.
“What can I say? I love architecture and civil engineering. Some day I’d like to build my own house. I don’t believe that women should have to clean the bathroom. I will do the horrible stuff like cleaning the toilet and emptying the cat litter, but I won’t dust nothing, bitch. Why do women insist upon filling every shelf with dustables and knick-knacks? That’s something I’ll never understand.”
What has been your most extravagant purchase to date?
“For a moment there I almost told you the truth, and then I remembered that my reply would be printed. So… let me see… I bought a prototype Harley Davidson, a military bike, only 50 were made. It cost $8,000.”
Was reuniting your former band Carnivore to do with closure?
“There are many issues going on within Type O Negative that I cannot get into here. But I don’t like downtime. There had been such a titanic resurgence of hardcore bands that have come back, I saw that as an opportunity to go out and make a couple of bucks. But it was also about having a good time.”
Carnivore were extremely controversial in their day. Had that changed second time around?
“It’s still illegal to play a Hitler speech in Germany, or to Sieg Heil or fly a swastika. We were the first band in 60 years to go there and blast a Hitler speech before the song Jesus Hitler [from 1987’s second album, Retaliation]. People have completely misunderstood Carnivore. Nobody has got the fact that Jesus Hitler is about comparing Christianity or organised religion with totalitarianism – two souls being put into one person’s body. It’s like, do I want to save the Jews, or do I want to cook them? It was so funny to walk out onstage and play that song again after 20 years. Believe it or not, Carnivore is actually a pro-Christian or pro-God band… if you can read, read the fucking lyrics.”
Given what you've just said, how did the shows go down?
“The Germans looked at one another and didn’t know what to do. Some of them tried to raise their hands to Sieg Heil. It was a social experiment, just to see people’s reactions. But we got away with it, the shows went really well. What we did in Germany was completely illegal, but the whole point of Carnivore is that sometimes you have to upset people. What’s the point of preaching to the choir? My father got half his leg shot off during World War II. I’m of Polish, Russian, Icelandic, Scottish and Irish descent. My ancestors were slaves, but what am I supposed to do 1,000 years later, sue fucking Austria? Get the fuck over it, man. That war’s over, brother.”
Do you have any views on the current Middle-East situation?
“Give the Palestinians and Israelis one nuclear weapon each and let them deal with it between themselves. It’s a war that’s gone on for 5,000 years. There are 18-year-old kids going into war who don’t even know what they’re fighting for. If the United States has the audacity to declare itself the world’s police department, that’s the reason the World Trade Centre came down. We have enough problems of our own here, brother.”
What do you hope to achieve with the second half of your life?
“I’m probably closer to seven-eighths of the way through my life, that’s what I hope anyway. What makes me happy is making other people happy. I’d like to make some kind of a difference in this world, but to do it anonymously. Bill Gates gets a pat on the back for donating $50million to charity, but he has a fortune of $50billion – that’s one per cent. Believe it or not, I’m actually thinking of becoming a priest.”
You're kidding, right?
“I’m serious. I think I have something to say. It’s not too late. Like I said earlier, the Bible speaks in metaphor. You really wanna know about Adam and Eve? Adam created Eve, and that’s why women fucking hate men. What do you think the snake was? Look between your legs, asshole. You know how I know this? I used to work for the Parks Department and I am the gardener of Eden.
This article originally appeared in Metal Hammer #206.