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Exclusive! Interview With Type O Negative Drummer Johnny Kelly

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Thursday, December 18, 2003 @ 2:51 PM


In September, Mick Stingley Sa

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On the evening of the second night of two consecutive sold-out shows at L’Amour, (they are out on tour supporting their terrific new album, Life Is Killing Me), I had the chance to meet with Johnny from Type O Negative. Johnny and I… kind of know each other… we keep crossing paths, anyway. He’s been really cool to me, and I wanted to do an interview with him for KNAC. We last talked at an Opeth show after-party back in the spring, and he knew this day was coming. This night, we talked about the new record, the tours, playing for Danzig, and his awesome wedding story.

When I met him, backstage, he was signing autographs for two giggling teen-age girls…

JOHNNY KELLY: Hey, Mick… I’ll be right with you, man…

KNAC.COM: All right, Johnny…

[A few minutes pass…]

KELLY: Hey- let’s go over here- I have some time before I have to get ready…

[At this point, their tour manager, who looks like Brian Fair from Shadows Fall, comes over and directs us to the band room, “It’ll be quieter over in there, Johnny, it’s better, you know? This is for KNAC…” As it turns out, their tour manager is from LA, and is down with KNAC, so, we start walking over to the band room…]

KNAC.COM: So… I saw the show last night, I saw the show at Irving a while back… what’s up with the crazy marching-band music that goes on for twenty minutes before you take the stage?
KELLY: Oh, that’s Peter’s, like, idea of a joke, you know? It’s circus music.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I was thinking it sort of sounds like “Monty Python”… you want a cigarette?
KELLY: Nah, I quit…

KNAC.COM: Oh, you did?
KELLY: Yeah… [sighs] I-- a year and a half ago… but I don’t think you can smoke in here…

KNAC.COM: Well, then I won’t. So tell me a little bit about Life Is Killing Me… Are you happy with it- what were your contributions? Did you play drums on the album? [laughs]
KELLY: Ahh… hah-hah… Yeah, well, you know, there’s a billion ways the record could have come out, but I’m glad-- I’m happy with it.

KNAC.COM: So -- and this subject was actually raised by KNAC ranters who posted on the interview I did with Josh, and also I’m deathly curious -- in your current live shows, why the emphasis on the old material, with a new CD out… why is there so little, or less of the new stuff?
KELLY: Well, because Peter has this thing about playing new material, about working it in slowly… it’s just one of those things that I can’t really comprehend myself, but…

KNAC.COM: Well, I’m not complaining and I think people are overall just happy to see you guys out there at all… there’s a lot of crappy music out there, you know?
KELLY: Eh, it’s also about getting the stuff out there. He’s like, “Well, let the people get the record first, then we’ll play the new material…” which makes a lot of sense, too… you know, we want to make the audiences happy, too, as opposed to, just promoting your new record, and just new songs…

KNAC.COM: “I Don’t Wanna Be Me” is pretty huge…
KELLY: Yeah, so, you know? It’s cool…

KNAC.COM: Okay… now you’ve been out with Lacuna Coil, you’ve got the New Jersey Metal-Fest coming up… are you going back out after Christmas?
KELLY: Well, our manager mentioned the possibility of us going back out… but…

KNAC.COM: I just got back from LA, dude, and there’s “a rumor” going around -- out there
KELLY: [Smiles] Okay, what’s the rumor?

KNAC.COM: You guys are doing a tour with Cradle Of Filth?
KELLY: Yeah, yeah… that we’re doing… but that’s in November. I don’t have all the details or anything, but, yeah -- we’re going out.

KNAC.COM: Just around the US?
KELLY: Yeah, it’ll be nice. It’ll be like five or six weeks in the States…

KNAC.COM: Cool… it’s not like this will be “news” or anything by the time this interview runs… but it sounds like a great bill.
KELLY: Yeah, I think that’ll be a fun tour…

KNAC.COM: So, onto other things… you and Anita -- proud parents? How is that, being on the road?
KELLY: It-- it’s certainly a compromise, as much as I miss my daughter and stuff, but it’s how I earn my living, you know? This is what I’ve worked my way up to my entire life -- what I’ve wanted to do. I never really thought about what the repercussions would be, or the consequences of being a parent, or having a family and stuff. But, my daughter doesn’t hate me, and I think, you know, in the end it’s really-- it will make for a better life for her, if I can maximize my opportunities now while they’re there.

KNAC.COM: I remember a few years ago, it was Sal’s party for his 30th birthday, and you had just found out…
KELLY: That she was pregnant! [Laughs] Yeah…

KNAC.COM: You were joking then -- did you actually go into the room…
KELLY: The cutting of the cord and all that? Oh, yeah, I was there! I was holding-- I held the light throughout the entire thing, man! Yeah! It was great, it was really great -- it was a mind-altering experience: it was one of the most incredible things that I’ve ever been a part of. It’s so cool to actually be a part of, watching her birth… and to grow up and just become her own person, with her own identity, her own likes and dislikes… it’s really something! It’s great!

KNAC.COM: How old?
KELLY: Uh… she’ll be three in January.

KNAC.COM: Kenny, Josh, you… all fathers… do all the kids play together?
KELLY: Uh, yeah, sometimes, you know, when we’re all together. We don’t spend that much time together after we’ve all been away for a couple months, but, yeah… my wife hangs out with Kenny’s wife, and they go to the pool and the kids play… Kenny’s daughter, she’s like 6, so she’s got a few years on them, on my Sophia, but – my daughter loves her, so, they get along… she has her fun… it’s just great being a father to her.

KNAC.COM: Cool. Wow -- you’re a dad, dude! Oh, hey, so, I was in LA, we were driving around, and my friend took me past Danzig’s house…
KELLY: [Laughs] Oh, yeah?

KNAC.COM: I gotta tell ya -- not that creepy -- very New England…[Laughs] So I wanted to ask you about playing with Danzig -- how did that come up, what was it like?
KELLY: Uh… really it was like one of those things… we played together before Type O, we toured with him in ’94, but we really didn’t get to hang out, I actually hung out with Eerie, probably, the most… [Laughs] but Eerie… like everybody else in the band. But Glenn is really, uh, more introverted when we were touring with him. I saw that Joey had left to join Queens [of the Stone Age], and uh... we have some mutual friends, like guys that used to work for us, that now were working for Danzig, just friends, and my name came up as a recommendation – and Todd Youth called me up. We got talking and stuff, and they flew me in for an audition, out to California. They had some other guy that they wanted to check out, then they had gone with this other guy initially, but he quit after like two shows. They had some European dates coming up and I guess they felt that my audition was the best out of everyone else that they auditioned. Then Todd called me, and said that this other guy didn’t work out, you know? “Can you go to Europe with us?” And I said, “Yeah, sure…” So we salvaged the situation, went to Europe and everybody seemed like they all had a good time.. I did, so that was it…

KNAC.COM: What were favorite songs to play with Danzig?
KELLY: Uhh… probably “Long Way Back From Hell.” “Twist Of Cain” was always a lot of fun. You know, it’s just fun, because some songs the band played better than others. It was cool, the whole experience was just a lot of fun and it was just great to get the opportunity to play with some other people, just a whole different approach and a whole different mentality going in -- I didn’t have to be too responsible or concerned with any other aspects of the band’s business and stuff, I just had to show up and play my drums – and be responsible for being the butt-end of a few jokes, you know? [Laughs] And that was about it! [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: Okay… now you’re back here and you have the fucking coolest car, dude!
KELLY: [Laughs] My “Super-Bee”!

KNAC.COM: What is it?
KELLY: It’s a 1970 Super-Bee. A Dodge Super- Bee.

KNAC.COM: I miscalled it -- I thought it was a “GTO.”
KELLY: I think, you know a lot of people get that mixed-up, I get that a lot. “Is that a GTO?” you know? A GTO, as far as cars go, was much more popular, and a lot of people make that mistake, and it kinda does have a similar look to it, to an earlier-model GTO, like a ‘66 or a ’67. But it’s fun, you know? That’s like, my first love -- I’ve had that car for years. I’m on my third motor, second transmission…

KNAC.COM: And you do the work yourself, right?
KELLY: Yeah. I don’t do bodywork. That’s really hard for me, but yeah, I’ve pretty much built the car up, and I’m always doing something to it…

KNAC.COM: So where do you go for bodywork?
KELLY: Uhh… I’ve gone to a couple of places… actually a place right across the street; he’s a friend of mine, right across the street from here… he’s my buddy…

KNAC.COM: I’ve seen your car, dude -- plug it! What’s his name?
KELLY: His name is Bruce Palladino -- “Unlimited Auto Body”…across from L’Amour’s in Brooklyn… [Laughs] It’s all bodyshops, this whole street…

KNAC.COM: Okay, I asked Josh where his favorite place for pizza is -- what’s yours?
KELLY: In New York City? Oh, wow, I don’t even know the name of it -- it’s on St. Mark’s and Avenue A.

KNAC.COM: Not Stromboli?
KELLY: Nah… wait -- isn’t that Original Pizza? Maybe Mario’s? No… it’s right on the corner of Avenue A and St. Mark’s… but, if I have pizza, that’s where we always wind up -- it’s there. Usually, real late at night, when we want something -- I will campaign to go to Baraket…

KNAC.COM: [Laughs] Ohhh….
KELLY: [Laughs] Oh, do you know Baraket? What’s that -- Orchard?

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I know Baraket-- it’s on Houston and Orchard! Like a block up from Arlene’s Grocery… but that’s Mediterranean… gyros and stuff… it’s great…
KELLY: Yeah, yeah! I will always try to go there first, before pizza… to Baraket, yeah… when we’re out with the guys… but they’re always, “I don’t want to go there… let’s just go… let’s just eat here…” [Laughs]

[Guitarist Kenny Hickey comes in to the band room, “Hey man, we’re coming up soon…” and then closes the door…]

KNAC.COM: Ok, now-since we have to end, I wanted to end on this: when you and I first met you told me the best story about you and Anita -- will you tell that story, about you and Anita… getting married...?
KELLY: [Laughs] Getting married? Yeah… I had been… I was in Vegas with the band Pist-ON -- filling in, the drummer got sick -- for a couple of weeks, and I as staying in this hotel, and we had a day off in Las Vegas; we stayed at The Luxor Hotel. And I called home, and I said, “You know we should get married here… this could be a lot of fun!” And at the time, she was like, “Yeah? Whatever. Put up or shut up!” – you know, she was just like so over it… and, ah… so we went to her Mom’s house for the Holidays. Her Mom’s-- my wife’s from California, so we went out to California for the Holidays… and then like two days after Christmas, I was like, “Let’s go do it! Let’s get married!” And she was like, “Yeah? All right… whatever…” And she didn’t really believe me at the time.

KNAC.COM: And you had been together how long?
KELLY: Oh, like two and a half years, three years. Three years.

KNAC.COM: So, she was going, “Tick-tock!”…
KELLY: [Smiles] Yeah, she was just, like, “You know, whatever! You’re never going to go through with it… you’re a pussy!” [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: So… fear of commitment?
KELLY: Oh yeah – the whole thing! [Laughs] So, we were like, why don’t we rent a Viper, and drive to Vegas and get married there and we’ll make a night or two out of it, you know? And it was really off-the-cuff… so we set up to book a car. They didn’t have a Viper at the time, they only had-- actually we wanted to do a [Porsche] Boxster, but at the time we called down, they only had Vipers… so we’re like, “All right, we’ll get a Viper…”
We get to the place, somewhere near the airport, near Sepulveda, or wherever -- something like that -- some exotic car rental place… and when we got there, they said, “You know, when you called, we didn’t have any Boxsters in, but since then a couple have come in, so if you want a Boxster, you can have one!” And I was like, “Well, maybe we should take the Porsche -- it has windows and I don’t want this car to get stolen -- it’s gonna sit in a parking lot…” [Slaps hands] So we went from there to Downtown LA, to the Jewelry District… and got a ring… got the car and drove to Vegas…

KNAC.COM: So… you get to Vegas…
KELLY: We get to Vegas and we had to go to the Courthouse first, to actually get the legitimate license and just when you think you’re doing something special… that’s when it hits you that you’re just another fuckin’ statistic! Because, when we got there, there’s a line out the door at ONE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING for marriage licenses at the County Court House! It took us like an hour to get it… [Laughs] So after that, they tell us, “Okay, you can go wherever in the city you want, now you can get married by anybody! Your marriage is legal and binding…” So we had to decide where to have the ceremony. I wanted to get married by Elvis, but my wife wanted to do something that was a little more ‘toned down’ so we went to “The Drive-Thru”! [Laughs} And, you pull up to the Drive-Thru and it’s like going to McDonald’s, man! A woman comes to the window -- like the take-out window at McDonald’s -- you fill out the papers and applications and stuff… then she’s like, “Would you like ‘The Love Wedding,’ ‘The Civil Wedding’ or ‘The Religious Wedding’…” and there’s a checklist! “Would you like pictures or no pictures?” “Do you want music, or no music?” -- it’s unbelievable, they go through this whole thing, and you put in your order! And then, like five minutes later, the minister or whatever, priest or whoever -- the guy in the robe -- he comes out and they put out these little speakers from a boom-box [Laughs] they put them out the window and we’re just lookin’ – and he goes, “Oh, it’s just a little mood music, to uh, help enhance the environment!” So we’re like, “Okay!” [Laughs]… and we went for the “Love Ceremony.” And we kept the car running! And we did the whole thing -- we exchanged vows and stuff -- in the car, while the car was running, with the top down! And you know what? It was fun! And then after that, you know, we hit the hotel, and we went drinkin’ and gamblin’ and, you know, we made a night out of it! But-- and I’m lucky, because I was a complete asshole up to that point. [Laughs] I was so apprehensive about getting married, you know, the whole thing… ‘Am I really doing the right thing,’ or whatever? …you know?

KNAC.COM: So how do you feel now?
KELLY: It worked out. I’m really happy. I love my wife, you know? I mean, it’s tough -- it’s tough like everything; but playing in a band helps you try to understand marriages a little bit because being in a band is basically like being married to four or five other people -- you have to learn about them and you learn a lot about yourself, too… it can be negative, but most of the time it’s not so negative…it’s nice, you know?

KNAC.COM: Dude… that’s great -- that’s killer! Let’s end on that!


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