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Hammered! Mick Stingley's Alcohol-Induced Interview With Type O Negative Drummer John Kelly

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Friday, January 12, 2007 @ 0:18 AM


Two Irishmen Walk Into a Bar..

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On the evening of December 27th, 2006, a number of events transpired which lead up to this interview. Following a performance by Seventh Void, (a side-project of Type O Negative's drummer Johnny Kelly and guitarist Kenny Hickey myspace.com/seventhvoid) at The Delancey in New York City, a magreat deal of alcohol was consumed by many; there was a trip to Bereket (a Turkish Kebab joint); there was a run-in with the NYPD (alcohol-related, ticket issued); and then a trek out to Duff's Brooklyn (North 3rd & Kent Ave, Williamsburg) involving the further consumption of alcohol pretty much until 4 in the morning. Present among others were myself, Johnny Kelly, Kenny Hickey, a guy named "Slitzy," Jimmy D. (Duff's owner), Johnny's friend Joe, a number of girls, and a foxy black goth-girl who called me "Lestat" (even though "Slitzy" kept calling me "Bret Michaels.")

I, vampire, got home just as the sun was coming up.

Since that time... I've been a little nervous about reviewing the tape; reluctant, almost dreading what I might hear. Invariably, though not surprisingly, the interview was quite enjoyable. Johnny spent about 40 minutes or so talking about Seventh Void, drumming and the forthcoming Type O Negative release, some of which he graciously played for me... considering my condition at the time, and my enthusiasm for what I heard, I can say with some measured degree of confidence that Type O is sitting on a monster with its' new disc.

Be that as it may, the evening was about Mister Johnny Kelly.

A native of the Marine Park area of Brooklyn, Johnny has become known to the world as the drummer for Type O Negative. Tall, charming and affable, Johnny has been called "the social butterfly" of Type O by singer Peter Steele . And for good reason: Johnny is, or presents himself as a happy-go-lucky kind of guy who is loving life with both arms around it. But with Type O notoriously taking as long as four years between albums (the last disc of original material, "Life Is Killing Me" was released in 2003), Johnny is not content to rest on his laurels and let his talent go slack: he has been playing semi-regularly for Danzig (recently with Kenny on guitar) and he performs, mostly around NYC, with a Led Zeppelin cover band for fun and to keep up his chops. This band, "Earl's Court," is always an excellent night out in NYC as the singer, Murphy Daniels, is (vocally) a dead-ringer for Robert Plant...but it is also an opportunity to recognize what a formidable drummer Johnny is. He clearly loves John Bonham and pays his memory great respect in his performances.

In addition to Earl's Court, Johnny and Kenny started "Seventh Void" and have been working on that during the Type O downtime: which brings us back to the evening of December 27th...

The setting is Johnny's truck, parked outside of Duff's. It's after 2:30 AM and Johnny is in the driver's seat, and I am sitting in the passenger seat, smoking out the window. In the back, at the start of the interview (and later, at the end) are Matt (Seventh Void guitarist) and Slitzy (you just have to watch the Type O DVD, "Symphony For The Devil" to understand), Marcelo, (Johnny's drum tech) and Brian Harrah (of Mercy Clinic). The "interview" begins shortly after the tape starts rolling... what follows is an unprofessional, off-the-cuff, rambling joyride of a conversation... which was a whole lotta fun...

KNAC.COM: You sure I can smoke?

KELLY:Yeah, it's cool. I"m smoking...

UNKNOWN: I don't mind getting a cab, bro...

KELLY: No, no... where you guys are staying is not far from where I live.

UNKNOWN: You already hooked us up with where to eat...

KELLY:I DID hook you up where to eat...

UNKNOWN: I will never fuckin' forget this...

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I won't either...

(laughter)

UNKNOWN: That is some of the (unintelligible) food I've had. And my mother is full-blooded Italian...

KELLY: No shit...

UNKNOWN: Full-blooded Italian, bro! Like, no joke. (opens door)

KNAC.COM: It's fuckin' cold out there...

UNKNOWN: I don't care... I'm so drunk it doesn't matter...

KNAC.COM: Drunk is good.

KELLY: That's the beauty of this place... you can take your drinks everywhere here.

KNAC.COM: Yeah... no, I love Brooklyn. I wanna meet one of those girls like Marisa Tomei...

(laughter)

KNAC.COM: Like in "My Cousin Vinny"... when am I gonna meet one of those girls?

UNKNOWN: What are you doin'?

KELLY: We're gonna do a quick interview...

KNAC.COM: We're rollin'! We're rollin'!

KELLY: I'm ready...

KNAC.COM: Okay. Okay... it's almost 3AM in Brooklyn... and you're sobering up while I'm evidently getting more drunk, which sucks.

KELLY: I have to drive.

KNAC.COM: Oh, yeah. 'Cuz you're in Brooklyn... that's the only downside. That's the good thing about Manhattan- you can get fuckin' drunk off your ass and then jump in a cab...

KELLY: Yeah, but you go up in the tax bracket.

KNAC.COM: Tax bracket? Who thinks about that?

(SLITZY appears...)

SLITZY (to Johnny) I thought that was a girl... is he blowin' you?

(laughter)

KELLY: We're cuttin' up some lines. We're doin' some big fat rails... (laughs)

KNAC.COM: That's rock n' roll...

KELLY: Nah... we're doin' an interview...

SLITZY Oh, okay. About what?

(laughter)

KELLY: About you, actually...

SLITZY Did you clear this with Mike? Should I stop this interview? What's this for, anyway?

KELLY: (laughing) Nah, it's okay... it's about you.

SLITZY Oh, well....

KNAC.COM: It's for KNAC.COM.... the LOUDEST DOT COM... uh... (pause) IT'S ON THE INTERNET!

SLITZY I'm gonna go talk to that goth-girl...

KNAC.COM: DAMMIT! I'm gonna be wrecked and won't be in any condition to talk to her...

KELLY: You never know. It's not a bad thing...

KNAC.COM: All right... lemme get myself together here.... Seventh Void.... it was called Black Water Rising, originally. Why... did you even start this in the first place?

(laughs)

KELLY: (laughs) Well... it really just started out as something just to pass the time between the recording and touring cycles with Type O Negative.

KNAC.COM: Well Type O always takes, like... a long, long fucking time...

KELLY: Yeah. And it was something that really started out, very simply. Kenny had a couple of songs that he had written and he wanted to record them....

KNAC.COM: But they weren't for Type O?

KELLY: No, no... well- with Type O...Peter is like the main... songwriter.

KNAC.COM: Okay.

KELLY: Within that environment... Peter will come down, with the main idea... and everybody puts their two cents into it. And then Kenny had a couple of songs that were pretty much written. And, you know, he had asked me to work with him to help develop those songs. And it just went from there.. we just kept on... more songs kept on... coming and getting developed and it was just stuff like that.

KNAC.COM: So Kenny was just like... "This won't work for Type O... let's do something else here with them..."

KELLY: Pretty much, yeah. It was just something different, something that didn't fit into the curriculum of what Type O Negative is.

KNAC.COM: That Seventh Void shit is awesome. It's like The Cult meets Soundgarden and Sabbath at the crossroads of Monster Magnet!

KELLY: (laughs) Well, thank you...

KNAC.COM: Well, I mean that as a compliment of course. Who knew Kenny had such pipes? Jesus. Okay, though. So... now what?

KELLY: Well- we were gonna release it or work it up to release it on Big Vin Records- Vinnie's (Paul) label... but then he said to us- "You should try to shop it around. Just to see... maybe it works out, maybe not..."

KNAC.COM: You guys toured with Pantera... you all know each other...

KELLY: Basically... and Vinnie...

KNAC.COM: He clearly loves it...

KELLY: Well, he has been very enthusiastic. So...

KNAC.COM: So you're gonna look for a record deal for Seventh Void?

KELLY: We're gonna see what's out there. Big Vin might be the best thing for us, though...

KNAC.COM: But people can check you out on MySpace until then...

KELLY: For the time being... yes.

KNAC.COM: Okay- switching gears--let me ask you this: I've seen you with Type O, I've seen you with Danzig... a couple of times with Seventh Void- but I've also seen you with Earl's Court. You really come alive with that band - obviously it's a different drumming style... but are you satisfied... as a drummer.... do you get to do more of what you want with, say, Seventh Void than you do in Type O? Is that sort of it? Is this an opportunity to express yourself... more? In a way that's more satisfying to you?

KELLY: I think each thing is like... each thing that I do, working with different bands and stuff... it all helps... I think that it all helps- collectively. I think that all the things are different, but to me, all the things... it all has like, this certain continuity and the playing style and the approach to songs.

KNAC.COM: Okay... playing style. You're like a super-tall guy and you sit... pretty low on your- whaddya call that? Throne?

KELLY: (laughing) Yeah...

KNAC.COM: I've seen you with Earl's Court- like out at Tamaqua (a rock club in Sheepshead Bay) and then tonight- and you hit hard. It's like- "Is Johnny angry?" Because you hit those fucking drums like someone owes you a debt...

KELLY: (laughing) No... really... that's just... the way I approach playing. In all honesty, I'm enjoying myself. It's a great release, it's... uh- you know, like- I guess like, "the school" that I went to, the guys that I looked up to when I was younger... like Bonham, Bill Ward... and later on, guys like Tommy Lee- Tommy Aldridge....Cozy Powell... all those guys... they all fuckin' hit hard. And like, you know, if you're gonna make a statement- do it with a sledgehammer! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Hit hard.

KELLY: Yeah. And, you know the way I always looked at it was, for what I lacked in talent, I always made up for with enthusiasm.

KNAC.COM: Why do you think you lack talent?

KELLY: I... well, I mean... like, it's... as I've gotten older and stuff... you know, with like whatever you do, there's always gonna be somebody that's better than you... always gonna be someone that tops all that. And it always... having that philosophy, you know, made me try to push myself harder. To try to achieve... to be the best that I can be. For me... the resources that I have... I try to make the most out of it.

KNAC.COM: Well- I don't know drums. Nothing. But I know what I like and I know what sounds great. You're great, man. I saw Bow Wow Wow, maybe a couple of years ago...

KELLY: "I Want Candy" ...that band...?

KNAC.COM: Yeah, yeah. I saw them on a reunion thing... Annabella... still rad, dude. But they had Adrian from No Doubt. That band... Bow Wow Wow- they have a lot of this thing - up here- those drums.

KELLY: Toms.

KNAC.COM: Toms. That's all that band is, fucking toms. Tribal. I thought that kid was great when I saw him- but that's... there's something- it's another style. What makes a good drummer? Like... everybody's all "Neil Peart! Neil Peart!" Why is he considered such a great drummer- ? Those guys you mentioned... they're all good with me... but as a drummer... are you doing what you want to do with these bands? Is there something more you want to do? I"m not knocking any of your bands, mind you- I'm just trying to understand- what's different - in your opinion about what you're doing, like tonight- versus what you do with Type O, or Danzig... or Earl's Court. (pause) Oh, dude... I think I'm hammered...

KELLY: (laughs) Yeah... I went through my phase when I was younger. It's like, when you play drums... I guess the way that I saw it - if you play drums, it's a rite of passage: you have to become a Rush fan. (laughs) And I WAS a Rush fan, until, you know, I was like fifteen or something and I went to go see them at Radio City Music Hall... quite honestly, as a fifteen year-old, I was kinda bored with it. Because... to me- I found it to be just a boring show. As a fifteen year-old... now that I'm thirty-eight I can find things in it that... there were definitely elements of it that I could appreciate and respect. But then.... I was bored. Rush...

KNAC.COM: What doesn't bore you now at 38, though?

KELLY: Pyro... (laughs)

KNAC.COM: PYRO???

KELLY: (laughs) Pyro works! It's always entertaining! I wish that I was in a band that had pyro... (laughs)

KNAC.COM: But Type O...?

KELLY: Type O could do it... it just becomes... banal- in light of everything that's happened in the last few years.

KNAC.COM: You mean the Great White thing?

KELLY: Right.

KNAC.COM: Dude, you know I'm from Rhode Island.... what are you saying? I went to The Station a lot...

KELLY: I know... you can't...

KNAC.COM: That place was a firetrap, though. It made L'Amour look like fuckin' Radio City. They had flyers.. beer ads, promos... on all the walls... God, what a tragedy...

KELLY: I just mean- not to be cliche... just as long as people are being entertained. Like you know... sometimes- I can go to a show... and I can go see... like, let's say, Gov't Mule. I could be completely mesmerized. And they'll play for hours... and I don't get high! (laughs) And I went to see... they played for three and a half hours and I stood up for the entire time. I was completely, like, you know, caught in it. But some bands, you know, when you get into that whole progressive rock-thing... I lose it. Because I'm really like, you know, even though I'm a drummer...

KNAC.COM: You're a great drummer, man.

KELLY: Even though I'm a drummer, it's not really, to me, it's not really about... you know- "chops"- and how many notes and fills you can put to a song. A good song is a good song. If a song... if a good song stands the test of time... the classics are considered classics for a reason. I'm always interested in hearing a great song- whether it's ten minutes or three minutes or whatever it is, you know? A great song's a great song. And...

KNAC.COM: Dude... wait- are you yawning?

KELLY: It's fucking 3 in the morning...

KNAC.COM: Yeah and PS- I wanted to do this thing hours ago. And now I'm loaded and there's some hot black goth-chick talking to a guy who's calling me "Bret Michaels" and I won't be anywhere closer to home before the fucking sun comes up. Now I'm pissed... (laughs)

KELLY: (laughs) We'll figure something out... (points) That's Manhattan right there...

KNAC.COM: Yeah. And I live up near the GWB, my friend... I'm not complaining... but... I'm looking at, like, South Street Seaport...

KELLY: (laughs)

KNAC.COM: All right... so- when you're playing with Earl's Court, though... like when I saw you at Tamaqua... I told your brother... "Johnny's totally unleashed here!"

KELLY: Well, it's about whatever it takes to make the song. Earl's Court, Seventh Void, Danzig, Type O... there is definitely something unique about it... each experience...

(pause)

KNAC.COM: Were you a Type O fan...?

KELLY: Yeah, very much. Very much. I was definitely... I was hooked on them. The first record, to me, was like... especially, for the time... when it came out...

KNAC.COM: Yeah!

KELLY: It really was such a breath of fresh air. But knowing Peter... and I've been friends with Kenny for over twenty years... so I was aware of what they were doing. As it was happening... but, uh... but knowing Peter and knowing the guys in the band and stuff like that... the song titles...

KNAC.COM: So long... (laughing)

KELLY: (laughing) Almost like complete sentences... yeah- I know... but it was like... I caught the sense of humor in it. You know? I always saw it. Whatever he was singing about... there was always that tongue-in-cheek element to it. And I always found it funny.

KNAC.COM: Okay.

KELLY: But the music... always hit you... and it was satisfying for me as a drummer, because, with Type O Negative's music, you know, compared to, like, the other things that I do now... it's challenging. The challenge is to have a good meter and to be very consistent and (laughs)... and some of these songs are like fifteen minutes long... (laughs)...

KNAC.COM: Totally! (laughs)

KELLY: Okay? So it may not be, like, having a lot of chops and having a lot of fills and you know... where it's busy- as in how much you're playing during the song... but, as in when we're writing- to make it- the song- have a flow to it. And, you know, to make all those parts work together. To make them fit. It's like... a lot of Type O's music can be mathematical puzzles...

KNAC.COM: So how does Seventh Void satisfy you as a drummer?

KELLY: Really... it's just something that's on a different level... where it's just fun.

KNAC.COM: Isn't Type O fun?

KELLY: It is... it is. But at the same time, it just becomes... to create a Type O Negative song... really is such a labor... by which I mean... you have to fit yourself to the song...

KNAC.COM: You played me some of the new Type O stuff tonight... it's awesome!

KELLY: It's not simple! (laughs)

KNAC.COM: Do you get to... do you have input?

KELLY: Uh... yeah... well- you mean... it's different from when I do something with Kenny for Seventh Void... like after it's all said and done... or Type O... like all the drum tracks have been done... since, uh... like, April...

KNAC.COM: Good lord! (laughs)

KELLY: (Laughs) So, well... to step away from it for a couple of months... and hearing it again, with all the other stuff on it, with all the layers and all the vocals... you know- to not just hear, like- bass, guitar, drums... I mean... which is what I heard for months... as, as.. like, the songs were being written... in development and stuff like that... it's... even.... hearing it... even though I recorded it- it's like hearing a new song. And to hear like, you know, like all those times where Peter would say, "Just go with me on it.... you're not hearing the whole thing." (laughs) Constantly questioning him... like- "Why are we doing this?" (laughs) What's the... uh...

KNAC.COM: You mean, like... "What? Are you crazy? Are you fucking stupid?"

KELLY: Well, you know, we're in a band together. It's like... if I wasn't able to talk to him and communicate with him on that level... well, like... you know?

KNAC.COM: So he does listen and takes it in?

KELLY: Yeah! And sometimes he'll... you know... he'll go, "You gotta trust me on it and just go with me!"

KNAC.COM: So he's cool?

KELLY: Of course!

KNAC.COM: Let's flash forward to you and Seventh Void... you and Kenny... and I know I'm jumping around here... and that's a lot of drinking tonight and I blame you for all of it... (laughs)

KELLY: I had nothing to do with that...(laughs)

KNAC.COM: Yeah... like these drink tickets just magically appeared for Christmas...

KELLY: (laughter) Merry Christmas!

KNAC.COM: (laughing) Uh... Kenny is like... this amazing vocalist... and I didn't recognize how he contributed this way to Type O... but he's got pipes which would make Chris Cornell, like.... embarrassed.

KELLY: Kenny really has... like, I guess the best way to describe it is that Kenny has really stepped up his game.

KNAC.COM: Okay. Fair enough.

KELLY: I always thought that he was a great singer with all the work that he's done with Type O over the years... I think he really compliments Peter in a lot of what Type O does. A lot of people, people who have worked closely with the band, they had no idea... they thought that was Peter singing...

KNAC.COM: So Peter is David Lee Roth and Kenny is Michael Anthony? Is that fair?

KELLY: Uhhh... yeah... I think that like, you know, in all fairness, Kenny's singing in Type O is more... pronounced... like Michael does a lot of harmonies and stuff... embellishing... as opposed to with Kenny singing in Type O... a lotta times, he's got the spotlight. Certain parts of the song and stuff like that. Not quite like... Gene and Paul... (laughs)... but somewhere between those two... Gene/Paul and Michael Anthony/DLR.... somewhere in there...

KNAC.COM: Okay... the sound of the band... Kenny... I mentioned this already - but - I hear a lot of Sabbath... I hear some Soundgarden... I hear The Cult... and maybe some Monster Magnet... but I hear your drums more than I do with Type O. Now maybe that's because you guys can't put a record together in under four years... but... (laughs)

KELLY: Well... (laughs) it's more like... I mean.... I don't want it to be like, a term, like, that would be degrading in any way... but it really is just guitar, bass and drums. And there's not so many layers of things going on- like in a Type O song... tracks and tracks of stuff just taking place... it really is just guitar, bass and drums and a vocal melody on top of it.

KNAC.COM: Kenny's a badass. Who knew?

KELLY: Yeah. I gotta say... being friends with him and playing in bands with him since I was a teenager... Kenny and I have been playing together for fucking years... and I always knew that he was a talented person. Always. And... I knew that it would just be a matter of time that he would front his own band... and, you know- express himself that way. Within the last couple of years.... he went to a vocal coach...

KNAC.COM: Was he not comfortable with that early on?

KELLY: Well... he's always been a songwriter. I guess with, like, with Type O... Peter is the songwriter- and everyone contributes to that- and says, "Let's do this..." I think it would totally change what Type O is.

KNAC.COM: Jumping around again... Seventh Void... your demos... produced by Vinnie Paul from Pantera. Which is HUGE.

KELLY: It's a total honor. I... you know, like... when I think about it and I sit here and I say.... "Yeah, you know- Vinnie Paul's involved..." - I gotta pinch myself. (laughs)

KNAC.COM: But you've been kinda cool about it... but let's talk about it. Real quick or whatever. You've spent some time with Pantera. A: How did the death of Dimebag effect you?; and B: How does working with Vinnie Paul NOW...

KELLY: The two actually are... connected. You know, when everything happened... when the whole thing happened with Dime, I was completely devastated.

KNAC.COM: Go on...

KELLY: Because... I mean... we've... out of all the years that Type O's been on the road, touring with different bands and stuff like that... the most time we spent on the road with anybody was with Pantera. We were with them in '95... we toured with them from January to April. That was for "Bloody Kisses." And they were touring for "Far Beyond Driven." And I think at that time it was a moment where both bands were at, like, the peak of their popularity. It was like every show... you walked out to a packed house every night. (pauses) You know... both bands, like I said, were at the peak of their popularity... and, uh, it was a good time for everybody then. And that was, like... the thing that... as we maintained the friendship throughout the years... it was the thing that we're both remembering. We're selling a lot of records, we're filling up rooms...

KNAC.COM: You're moving the units...

KELLY: Right. And, uh... and when we toured with them.... just as people- we hit it off. You know? We got along with each other - great. And Pantera... as a headlining act- they treated us so well- they treated us great. And... they didn't have to. We had been on tour... and... you know where you are on the food chain... you know? And... but with Pantera... it wasn't anything like that. Whatever they were doing, and whatever was happening... at that moment... they always tried to make you feel like you were a part of it. You know? They made you... "friends" instead of "support act"... Dime was one of the most genuine people I ever met. And he was... I mean- he was the guy that really facilitated that whole atmosphere...

(pause)

KNAC.COM: That atmosphere... that Dime facilitated... is some of that on the DVD? Are we seeing that on "Symphony For The Devil?"

KELLY: (long pause) Uhh... I mean... you can see how he is... as a genuine person. But it's only such a small piece... but I think it does give a little bit of insight as to what he was to everyone- and especially to us. Especially to us...

(pause)

KNAC.COM: Okay... so where do things stand for the Seventh Void project now?

KELLY: Right now, we're just... especially right now with Kenny and I both playing in Danzig, and Type O and Seventh Void... it's definitely in full play constantly. It's- for me- playing- when I'm behind the kit, that's when I'm most content. Even if it's Earl's Court, it doesn't matter. I just enjoy playing. With Seventh Void... we have ten or eleven songs that are done and have drums tracks. Right now we're just... we haven't been actively pursuing a record deal because we're just trying, or have just found our identity.

KNAC.COM: How would you describe the band? I mean- you can hear a couple songs on your MySpace site - that song "Heaven Is Gone" is killer...

KELLY: I would say... it's heavy as fuck! (laughs) That's it. It's heavy as fuck! The songs.... I would say that they have a lot of character. There's strong hooks... it's like... we joke about it... like this: it's stoner rock with a hook!

(Slitzy, Marcelo and Brian arrive...

SLITZY Did you guys kiss yet?

KELLY: (laughing) Yeah... so what do I owe you- twenty bucks?

(laughter)

KNAC.COM: This is getting out of hand...

(someone starts singing a Warrant song... I think "Heaven")

KELLY: We've got... there are five songs... we have some more recording to do then we have to get the songs to Vinnie Paul so he can mix them...

KNAC.COM: So it'll be a while...

KELLY: It's gonna be a while... we have a website that we're working on, we haven't officially launched it yet... but right now, now that Type O is gearing up... we hope to finish those songs before we go to NAMM with Type O. There may be another two songs to rerecord... but we'll see.

KNAC.COM: Okay. I know we have to wrap this up... the new Type O will be out soon...

KELLY: March...

KNAC.COM: So we'll look forward to that... and Seventh Void and Earl's Court... do you have any other bands? (laughs)

KELLY: I have a full schedule.

KNAC.COM: What are your hopes for the New Year?

KELLY: To have many blisters on my hands!

UNKNOWN: I got my blisters on my hands...

KNAC.COM: I think he means from drumming...

UNKNOWN: Hey- you know that chick took off her top in there...

KNAC.COM: Oh?? All right, Johnny, it's been great talking to you...

UNKNOWN: Did you ask him what his hopes are for the New Year? That is so gay, man...

KNAC.COM: Hey!

KELLY: Well, thanks for coming out and- hey- Happy New Year!

Type O Negative will be appearing at the House of Blues in Anaheim on January 21st & 22nd; and it's new album, "DEAD AGAIN" will be out in the US on March 13th.

Check out all of Johnny Kelly's bands:

And if you're ever in Brooklyn... be sure to visit Duff's:

duffsbrooklyn.com

...and then there's this guy...
myspace.com/slitzy


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