"Don't mistake lack of talent for genius" reads the slogan on the back cover of Type O Negative's 1993 breakthrough masterpiece Bloody Kisses, written with the group's characteristic Brooklyn sarcasm. But inside the liner notes, there's a much more sincere message:
"This entire opus is respectfully dedicated to all those who have loved unconditionally only to have their hearts unanesthetically ripped out: Base not your joy upon the deeds of others, for what is given can be taken away. No hope = no fear. — Peter"
The two statements, side by side, represent the captivating duality of Type O to a T: romantic yet cynical, earnest yet sarcastic, unabashedly poppy yet crushingly heavy, clever and philosophical yet self-deprecating and gleefully juvenile, part Edgar Allan Poe, part Beavis and Butt-Head. Bloody Kisses displays all these shades, contradictions and complexity better than any of the band's other albums, capturing the group — singer-bassist Pete Steele, guitarist Kenny Hickey, keyboardist Josh Silver and drummer Sal Abruscato, who would leave shortly after the LP's release — mid-transformation as they morphed from the post-Carnivore thuggery of Slow, Deep and Hard to the full-on sensual, sweat-on-breast goth metal of October Rust.
In celebration of the enduring classic, here are 10 surprising facts, stories and insights about Bloody Kisses.
1. Pete Steele wrote "Black No. 1" while driving a garbage truck
The fact that Pete Steele was employed by the NYC Parks Department before making it big is a well-known piece of heavy-metal lore; that he wrote his most popular song while doing particularly dirty work at that day job is less celebrated. "I was waiting in line for three hours to dump 40 cubic yards of human waste at the Hamilton Avenue Marine Transfer Station, and I wrote the song in my head. I'm not kidding you," Steele told Revolver contributor J. Bennett in 2008, for the liner notes of the "Top Shelf Edition" reissue of Bloody Kisses. "And it's about the girl I fucking slashed my wrists over. She was the ultimate goth girl, and I was poking fun at her because she was in love with herself. I actually lost the original lyrics to that song, so I had to rewrite them."
Of course, the ultimate irony of the song is that even though its lyrics lampoon the pretentious, narcissistic attitude of many goths, "Black No. 1" became a massive hit with many of those same goths. "The brilliant part is that goth kids still take it totally seriously," Type O keyboardist Josh Silver enthused over the song's enduring popularity. "But the people who get the sarcasm also like it. So, it worked out pretty well. I guess being sarcastic has its rewards."
2. The girl moaning on "Machine Screw" was Josh Silver's ex-girlfriend
Type O set the dark, sexual tone for Bloody Kisses with an unnerving ambient introductory first track complete with the sounds of a woman in the throes of orgasm, titled "Machine Screw." "But I didn't actually screw her; she screwed me," Silver recalled to Bennett of the woman, an ex of his, whose moans are heard. "And I mean that in every possible sense of the word."
"Type O has obviously spent a lot of time, regardless of what album it is, mourning relationships," he added. "Obviously Peter has had some troubled ones. 'Nothing but love songs' — that's been our slogan forever. They're all love songs."
3. The real-life "Christian Woman" would ask Pete Steele to dress as a priest before he "incorporated" with her
Along with "Black No. 1," "Christian Woman" — Bloody Kisses' first proper song — was one of the album's breakthrough hits, played nationwide on rock radio in a four-and-a-half-minute edited version. Musically, it owed its infectious hooks to Eighties New Wave — "I always like to refer to Type O Negative as 'Flock of Assholes,'" Steele joked, "but we have somewhat better haircuts" — but its lyrics had anything but a radio-friendly origin. "She was a Roman Catholic, much as I am," Steele recalled of the Christian woman who inspired the song. "But she would get off on breaking the rules a little bit. She would ask me to dress up as a priest and, well, I guess you can just imagine what would happen after that. So, I guess you could say I have a bit of a priest infection."
4. "Bloody Kisses (A Death in the Family)" is about Pete Steele's cat
In true, irreverent Type O form, Bloody Kisses' majestic, mournful title track was about a cat. Named Venus, the feline had been Steele's beloved pet for 17 or 18 years before she passed away, whereupon he buried her in his backyard. "No one wants to hear a guy who's six-foot-eight with long black hair and fangs crying about his fuckin' cat, so I had to make it extremely metaphorical," the singer-bassist said of the song. "I have a huge problem with abandonment and loss, so I took it very seriously. I love animals. She used to sit on my chest while I was doing bench presses."
5. Type O Negative originally recorded their cover of "Summer Breeze" with rewritten lyrics and a new title, "Summer Girl," but were barred from releasing it by the songwriters
Steele loved Sixties and Seventies pop songs, including Seal and Crofts' soft-rock hit "Summer Breeze." He brought it into rehearsal one day, and while popping pills, the band jammed on the tune and the singer played around with the lyrics, reworking them in a typically salacious new direction. "See her smile lead me to the bedroom/Fire burning and there's wine for two/Feel your legs spreading out to take me/Just can't wait to get inside of you" went Type O's version, which they dubbed "Summer Girl."
"Peter changed some of the lyrics of 'Summer Breeze' because he felt he needed to add some humor and Type O references," explains Monte Conner, former VP of A&R at Roadrunner and current President of Nuclear Blast. But what Steele didn't realize was that he would need the songwriter and publisher's permission before he could release his tweaked version. "We approached the publisher, who then approached Seals and Crofts, who clearly were not amused and rejected the request," Conner recalls. "So the band were forced to go in and re-record the vocals and they remixed the song to make it into a straight-up cover."
6. There's a hidden message at the end of "Can't Lose You," which says, "Everybody smokes pot, Monte Conner sucks cock"
Taking a cue from their heroes the Beatles, Type O Negative spoofed the song "I Am the Walrus," specifically its closing chant, which has been widely interpreted to say, "Smoke pot, smoke pot, everybody smoke pot" (though John Lennon confirmed to Playboy that the line is actually "Everybody's got one"). Type O answered by closing the trippy, sitar-assisted cut "Can't Lose You" with a distorted chant of "Everybody smokes pot, Monte Conner sucks cock," a shot at their Roadrunner A&R man. "That was kind of surprising, but I wasn't offended," Conner says today. "I was really good friends with the band and I knew it was a joke — a joke of love. It wasn't meant to be mean."
7. Three of Type O's four original members hate the song "Blood & Fire"
"That fuckin' song is horrible," Hickey stated succinctly looking back on Bloody Kisses. Silver and drummer Sal Abruscato agreed. "I remember all three of us cringing when we had to play that song," said the former, while the latter noted that it sounds "too Eighties." "The romantic stuff never did it for me," Silver continued. "I'd rather complain about romance than try to acquire it. Acquiring romance is something that you do at a bar when you're drunk. And you're probably drunk because you can't cope with the fact that you can't acquire romance. But acquisition, to me, doesn't really have a place in music." Steele, however, admitted to having special feelings for the song. "It meant something to me," he said. "I'm not into the whole blood thing, but I do have a smoke and fire fetish."
8. At least one band member also hates the album cover
Bloody Kisses' sexy/trashy Sapphic cover image is one of metal's most iconic covers and, at least according to Roadrunner's worldwide staff, the greatest album cover in the label's venerated history. But that doesn't mean that all of Type O's members like it. "The album cover tortures me to this day," Silver vented in 2008. "Let's put it this way: If you want to have two gothic girls on the cover, never leave it to a guy who has blond hair and is from Atlanta — which is what the photographer was. Those girls are so un-gothic, it's not even funny. But that kinda makes it Type O, I guess. I think Peter had a darker idea in mind, but he likes lesbians, so it's OK."
9. Pete Steele spent a lot of time trying to find the right green for the album cover
Steele's nickname "The Green Man" was, in part, a reference to his time in the Parks Department, but also due to his obsession with the color itself. "Pete was obsessed with the color green and having green on all the covers," Conner says. "And it had to be the right green." Conner recalls Steele visiting the Roadrunner office to sit down with the label's art director and pour over "these color-coded PMS books that designers use." "Peter would literally spend hours looking through hundreds of different shades of green until he found the one he wanted," he recalls. "Sometimes we would generate a print on paper to make an example of something for him, and if it was the least bit off because of the coloration of that particular copy machine, then he would complain. He'd drive us way crazier about the colors than he did about anything having to do with the music. But in the end, the record had an aesthetic. The cover of Bloody Kisses was very noticeable."
10. Pete Steele didn't want to quit his job at the Parks Department to tour nationally in support of Bloody Kisses
According to Conner, Steel was "perfectly happy" with his life working at the Parks Department and was reluctant to upend it. Indeed, his reluctance to quit his day job and focus on the band was what led Abruscato to split with the group after Bloody Kisses' release. "Pete didn't want to be in a nationally touring band," Conner recalls. "He liked being at home. He liked his routine and he really liked working for the Parks Department, so it was a pretty big thing for him to quit. Pete was like the Jolly Green Giant. You can picture him going through the park doing his thing, saying hello to all the old ladies and probably bringing bagels for the homeless. He was a larger than life character to a lot of people, from his co-workers to the various vagrants in the park. There was a lot of pressure on him when Bloody Kisses started to happen."
Of course, Steele did eventually quit the Parks Department and Type O become legitimate "road warriors," as Conner describes them, but the singer insisted on doing it his way. "Type O Negative did tons and tons of touring. But in order to go on the road, Pete had to do it on his terms," he says. "They had a bus and stayed overnight in hotels. And Peter brought all his gym equipment on the road so he could stay in shape."