Friday, May 30, 2014

Will never get over it.

My dead gothic vampire wolf boyfriend was a feminist.

Every year, sometimes more than once per year, I remember that Peter Steele is dead.  This is still pretty hard for me to accept, and I generally mark these occasions by watching a million live shows and interviews on Youtube, and feeling very sad, then feeling ridiculous for feeling sad, while still feeling sad. 

This year, I was joined by my jewelry bff, with whom I spent all of this week's idle hours at work discussing the matter at length.  I think we are probably friends because of Type O Negative, in fact.
Soon after meeting in a jewelry class, she showed me a keychain or pendant or something that she had made.  "Looks like the Type O Negative logo," I said, instantly regretting my comment.  My foreverlove for this band isn't really something I bring up in mixed company, because most of the people one meets while out of the house in this town have a "Rascal Flatts" air freshener hanging from their rearview mirrors.  Those who do know the band instantly call my taste credentials into question.

Worn constantly in the 90s and never again. I keep it with the clothes I wear regularly, though.
Mock all you want, jerks.  DGAF

"It is the Type O Negative logo," she said.  I raised one eyebrow.  We were now besties.

So anyway, in trawling interviews this week, I noted how remarkably without prejudicial hangup Peter seemed to be.  Believe it or not, a 6'8 white guy with a Brooklyn accent who fronts a doom metal band is fed a lot of baiting questions by music journalists, trying to lead him into representing the cliched mentality of many of the genre's fans.  He batted each of these questions away with bored yet witty answers that would have made any one of today's contributors to give a reply of, not bad.

Despite insisting that he hated everyone equally, Peter kind of sounds like a third wave feminist to me.  Labels are offensive to everyone, and I wouldn't go around re-casting a dead person's values to better suit my own, but it's true and you should know it.

In one early interview, he was asked about the recent national criminalization of marital rape (1993).  Obviously, it was a leading question intended to elicit a controversial reply re: marital rape isn't real rape, that you somehow forfeit sexual sovereignty when you marry (if you're a woman), or whatever stupid ass opinion stupid frightened men were having at the time.  He instantly rejected this position and instead talked at length about consent, the lack of which was completely unacceptable to him.  I don't think I can over-emphasize how unusual his approaches to topics concerning women were for his lifestyle and surroundings at the time, not to mention the fact that there was no mainstream outlet for feminist thought at the time that could have influenced him - he was influenced by his lifelong positive, supportive or familial relationships with women.  He may not have described the issue in the way that I would have, but the message was the same.  Certainly not what that two-bit music journalist was expecting to hear, no doubt.

He was accused of misogyny, and rightly so, in response to the band's first album.  The songs are frantically angry, all written about and immediately following a breakup, and the music sounds like 80s hardcore.  I bought the album as a young teen and pretty much instantly threw it out a window.  It was not the band I knew from the super baroque and atmospheric Bloody Kisses album.  Peter took a lot of heat for the lyrics on this album, again rightly so, but I believe his explanations when he says he was a very angry, very young and emotionally shattered person at the time of the writing.  Additionally, the songs were not written for an album.  They were demos that he had made for himself which were made into a record in a very questionable move by the record company.

Believe me, I almost never accept the inevitable excuses when a guy is accused of misogyny.  Rarely do these characterizations result from misunderstandings - many men express themselves expecting the support and lauding that they've received all their lives, and when they get busted for crossing the current societal boundary line of acceptability, it's all a big misunderstanding, no one has a sense of humor, it's a witch hunt, they're being discriminated against, and all of the other tearful protestations regular white guys get up to every time they get into trouble.

But I believe Peter.  And not because I love him.  I believe him because everything he said from the beginning of his career to the painful end was almost confrontationally authentic.  At the height of his career, he discussed his fear and insecurity, his self-loathing, his suspicious feelings about praise, and all of the other issues that people of his particular emotional constitution feel on a daily basis.  When asked about how he got into bodybuilding, he says flat out, it's vanity and insecurity.  He thought he was unattractive and that his considerable height made him look ridiculous, and he did what many young men do in response: worked the hell out.  People rarely admit that kind of shit, particularly not when someone is writing it down.  When he became a sex symbol among female fans, many of whom rabidly pursued him in person, he said, "What's wrong with you? I'm just another asshole in a band."  He openly discussed his drug addiction and subsequent destruction late in his career, and it is heartbreaking to watch.  Aged beyond his years, these interviews show a frightened and gaunt-faced man discussing the bitter experiences he had in the penal and institutional asylum systems as a result of his addictions.  His eyes were wild, his teeth were rotten, and he could have walked through a crowd of his own fans without being recognized.  That is, if he hadn't still been the size of Andre the Giant, with hair down his back like the metal version of Marius the vampire.  (Anne Rice, fool! It's goth night)

His bandmates and family say that he was finally clean and reasonably happy or hopeful when he died.  His cause of death was aortic aneurysm, a breach resulting from the weakening of the walls of the aorta - an ironic, fairly common malady among recently rehabilitated long-term addicts.  It's a fast death following a very long one.

If I misrepresented him when talking about his openness about his discomfort with life, it's because I didn't mention that he normally expressed this with a black, rapier wit.  He slipped dark jokes into his conversation constantly, sometimes absurd one-liners, and sometimes subtle, razor-thin remarks that only revealed themselves when one started to bleed.  He seemed to enjoy expressing his frustrations and troubles comedically, and he was very, very funny - but then, his brand of bleak wit is just the kind I like, just the kind I am attuned to look for, one that we all possess in some way but that few are able to hone.

Plus he was hot.

The end.

Scraggly, early 80s, Carnivore-era, cartoonishly adorable.  Fascinating for the Brooklyn street scene, too.

No comments: