"There was no separation between falling leaves and blowjobs." That's how Kenny Hickey describes the combination of sexual and pagan themes on Type O Negative's 1996 album, October Rust. Johnny Kelly, however, turns to Type O's touring mates Pantera for his favorite assessment of the record. "To quote Phil Anselmo, 'Chicks dig it, goddammit.'"
Indeed, October Rust has a lush and layered sound that — along with the overtly sexual lyrics — marked yet another new direction for Type O. "Truth be told, Bloody Kisses had the last remnants of Carnivore in it with songs like 'Kill All the White People' and 'We Hate Everyone,'" Monte Conner observes. "It wasn't until October Rust that the band fully transformed."
"Peter wanted to have more texture, and Josh was adding all kinds of samples and crazy stuff," Kelly offers. "And yeah, Peter wanted to appeal to the chicks. I think it's a very courageous album."
When asked by Seconds magazine in 1996 about the aura of sexuality that permeates October Rust, Peter Steele said this: "I'm really afraid to admit this, because I know how unpopular it is and how I'll be crucified for saying it, but I am a devout heterosexual. I know it's wrong and I know it's filthy. I know it's disgusting, but I just cannot stop thinking about women. I'm actually just a lesbian in a male body."
For "Love You to Death," the album's first full song after the "Bad Ground" intro, Steele nicked a line from Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and turned it into a louche goth fantasy, complete with black lipstick stains, red wine and a hundred burning candles. "Her hips move, and I can feel what they're saying," he insisted. When I saw Type O on the October Rust tour in the fall of 1996, I got the impression that many of their female fans wanted a private demonstration.
Both Hickey and Kelly cite "Love You to Death" as their favorite track on October Rust. "That song was one of Peter's great moments," Kelly enthuses. "It had a great hook, an awesome melody, and it moved well through some great key changes. A lot of our songs would have something really cool and then this really awful part, like, 'Why is that in there?' But that song didn't. To me, it was the perfect Type O song."
On "Be My Druidess," Steele tells his special lady — or any lady, really — that he'll do whatever it takes to pleasure her. The tune follows a lusty bass groove, with a lot of not-so-subtle talk about long fingernails, caressed thighs and moist nether regions.
But it was the album's lead single, "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend," that re-stoked the hot lesbian flames of the Bloody Kisses album cover. The song's CD single brought Steele's ménage à trois fantasy to life with a photo — shot by Cinema of Transgression icon Richard Kern — of the singer in bed with two porn stars. Or, as Steele so eloquently describes it in the song's third verse, a "meat triangle."
"You like that song?" Kelly asks us incredulously when we express our fondness for the track. "I'm hanging up. This interview is over."
The story behind Kelly's mock ire towards "My Girlfriend's Girlfriend" goes like this: "That was the last song written for the record," he recalls. "We're at Josh's house, and Peter starts showing us his idea for the song. I hear it and I'm like, 'We can't do this. It's "War Machine" by KISS.' But they didn't believe me, so I go to the Wiz near Flatbush Gardens and buy the KISS CD. I bring it back to Josh's house, put it on and go, 'Here's your song.'"
When faced with hard evidence, Steele suggested they speed up the tempo and add a surfer beat. "So I'm turning to Josh, because he's our producer," Kelly says, "I'm like, 'You've gotta put a stop to this.' But Josh wanted to explore it. I was like, 'Dude, this is a bad idea.' Then it became what you hear on the record, and everyone at the label is like, 'This is the first single!' It was like The Producers: 'That's our 'Hitler'!'"
More poignantly, Kelly views the song as the beginning of the end for Type O. "It was like the first iceberg the Titanic hit," he says. "It was a poor representation of the album, and it didn't do anything."
"I remember the head of Roadrunner, Cees Wessels, specifically telling Peter, 'We need radio singles,'" Hickey says. "And this was Peter's idea of a radio single. When it didn't hit, Peter was pissed, like, 'Fuck. It didn't fucking work.'"
"When the band was making Bloody Kisses, the general public didn't give a fuck," Conner points out. "But with October Rust, the eyes of the world were on them. 'What's it gonna sound like?' But it never achieved the sales of Bloody Kisses, simply because it didn't have a radio single. We took 'My Girlfriend's Girlfriend' to radio, and it did nothing."
Though October Rust sold over half a million copies to become a gold record, it wasn't the overwhelming smash its predecessor had been. "Because of the success we were coming off with Bloody Kisses, the expectations for October Rust were really high," Kelly says. "Everybody expected this record to do 10 times better commercially."
Though Type O diehards revere it today, October Rust didn't set the world on fire in 1996. "The problem with that record was it took a long time for anyone to recognize the genius in it," Hickey acknowledges. "When you're trying to take your career to the next level, you need it to happen right away. It took a while longer for that album to catch on than I wish it did."