Steele: "You guys want a beer?"
-"Yeah, sure. You want one?"
-"Not a beer-man?"
Steele: "I like wine, tastes like menstrual fluid. How many hits do you guys have?".
-"Around 450.000 a month".
Steele: "After this, it will go down. Is this recorded? I do have a face for radio".
In a dressing room, in the 013 venue in the Dutch city of Tilburg, two reporters for Metalrage.com sit at a table with one of the greatest cynics in metal. Peter Steele and his breakthrough band Carnivore that was surrounded by controversy in the mid-eighties are in town to do a show that is announced on various websites that is to be filled with dead animals, naked women and edgy lyrical content. Upon entering the building, a note stapled to the door catches our eyes. "Smoking prohibited in the concert hall". Strange, since there's no such thing in Dutch concert venues (yet). Another sign is noticed. "Carnivore is looking for blood girls. Please report at the merchandise booth". The band that is promising to raise major controversy tonight is asking for girls covering themselves in blood on the one hand, and restricting their fans to have a smoke at the same. This should be a good night.
When arriving backstage a fellow with a laptop is playing the most annoying music in the world. It's a tune that almost every Dutch person knows from his youth, as it's the theme of a popular ride at the theme park 'De Efteling' (kind of like Disneyland, every Dutch kid has been there). A very cheerful and bizarre contrast to the people walking the backstage, mostly roadies and members of the support groups, who are all looking metal as can be. Carnivore's tour manager walks the backstage too, and asks us to wait. So we do, be it slightly annoyed by the guy with his cheerful Efteling-music that he keeps on playing and playing. What's this dude's problem? It stopped being funny after a minute or two. Finally, the tour manager tells us we can enter the dressing room and that we have about twenty minutes. We do.
Two things jump to mind around that time.
1: 'Holy fuck, that really is Steele, sitting there slightly drunk and seemingly confused'
2: 'Wait, there's the whole 'band': including Joey Z from Life of Agony, Paul Bento and Steve Tobin.
The first thought isn't all that remarkable. Peter Steele is one of my favourite metal persona, a great cynic, a brilliant lyricist and a fascinating personality. He's the dude that gets serious pleasure from pissing everyone on this planet off, he's the guy who wrote stuff like 'You want to go out cause it's raining and blowing, you can't go out cause your roots are showing’, he's the man who supposedly once sat at restaurant, ordered 'The worst wine you've got', and refused what he got offered after tasting it, insulted stating: 'I said: the worst!'. Many great stories in metal involve Steele, his depressions, the riots surrounding his actions and the never ending self-loathing sense of humour that is one of a kind.
That second thought is slightly more surprising. Carnivore was the band Steele fronted in the mid eighties, soon to be forgotten by the mainstream in the nineties. The band recorded a couple of low quality demos and two full length albums, the self titled (sporting titles like 'Male Supremacy' and 'God is Dead') and the cult-classic 'Retaliation' (happily kept safe from lots of moms and dads in 1987 due to songs like 'Jesus Hitler', 'U.S.A. for U.S.A.' and 'Angry Neurotic Catholics'). The line-up didn't actually include any of the guys sitting in front of (except Steele of course), and what's more these are four completely different kind of guys. Steele is a kind of big giant metal reincarnation of Nietzsche, Joey Z is a super-duper optimistic zen-master, Paul Bento a deadly serious musician that has a strange kind of calm over him, and Tobin, well he's a friendly neighbour that just doesn't talk too much. In fact he didn't say a word throughout the interview. So all in all a queer but definitely interesting bunch. Let's review that question of 'to-beer-or-not-to-beer' again, this time with the reactions of the entire band:
'You guys want one?'
Steele: 'I like wine, it tastes like menstrual fluid'
Joey: 'No, thanks'
Bento: 'No, no, I'm drinking a lot of water right now for the hydration you know'
This should an interesting night, and an equally interesting interview. But no-one could blame the real curiosity went out to Steele. He's the mastermind of the two Carnivore records. But getting a simple question answered seemed impossible. If he wasn't cracking his typical jokes, he got utterly lost in his own confusing, long sentences.
In the eighties, Carnivore was the centre of controversy. They were labelled Nazis, and picket signs in front of concert venues prevented the band from playing. This is where the interview starts off. Or where Peter Steele starts talking, to be precise. He hardly stops, with the exception when he had to vomit.
Controversy in the eighties
Peter: ‘When rock and roll came around in the sixties, the world was very rightwing. The music was upsetting to your parents, where these days you can listen to an album with your mother or father. (..) The world has become so left. I’m not saying I’m a fascist or a right wing, but if I would fall of a fence it would be on the right side. I don’t blame the school system, I don’t blame my parents, I don’t blame the church. When I look in the mirror I say: ‘wow, I blame everybody”. And I blame myself’. There were so many things I had said with Carnivore. Stuff like in songs such as ‘Jesus Hitler’, and ‘God is Dead’. I just wanted to say a lot of things because everything was shifting to the left. To say right-wing things, that is rock and roll. (..) One of my favourite bands is Laibach, they are Commie-Nazis. I don’t know if I’m left- or rightwing. I chicken wing.’(..)
‘One of the best compliments I’ve gotten was that a really hot girl came up to me and asked: ‘are you Pete? I really hate you, I can’t stand your songs but I can’t get God is Dead out of my head’. And that’s a compliment! I don’t want to intentionally be hated, but I think people who understand me don’t take ourselves to seriously. When I wrote those kind of songs I was intentionally trying to provoke people. I had no idea I was so talented. I mean, getting a box of shit, covered in cockroaches, sent to your house means something. I was like, ‘ were is the sugar’?.
Peter: ‘. On the first album I was more influenced by bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. But between the first and second, I gotten a significant hardcore background. Getting beaten up, pouring ammonia on people. Agnostic Front had asked me to write Lyrics for them, and they also asked Louie (the original Carnivore drummer –ed) to play drums. So Louie was rehearsing every night of the fucking week and really got trained in the hardcore type of playing. I love bands like Discharge, but I also love Black Sabbath. (..) The Riff in Jesus Hitler is a combination of Black Sabbath’s Sweet Leaf and IronMan. Sweet Man, or Iron Leaf. Carnivore is a combination of fast and slow. Humour and Horror. That sounds like a tattoo. You know, comedy and sodomy. No, wait..’
Carnivore in 2008
Peter: ‘I’ve been working with Paul and Steve. I’ve known Paul for around 15 years at least. Steve has been exiled from North Carolina’.
Steve: ‘South Carolina’.
Peter: ‘But he does have a green card. He has been in Dust to Dust. Paul and Steve play in Metal Health Association. I Know bands with members that come from Texas, one from Botswana, one from Iceland. We’re all neighbourhood guys, so we are all within stalking distance. (..)
Joey: ‘The older songs also hit a new level, because we’re playing with two guitars now’.
Peter: ‘In the beginning there were things I couldn’t express because of instrument limitations. And since Steve is in the band, it’s been much worse.(..)
It’s a collective, a partnership. With these guys, I want to sit down and talk about how the songs should sound like. For example: when I say industrial I mean getting construction gear and breaking down a wall.
What does it take to shock people these days?
Peter: There are certain things that are sacred. As a catholic, I think that abortion is wrong. I am not going to tell any woman not to have an abortion, but you guys have the right to go to hell. There are certain lines you cannot cross. I don’t want to get locked up for showing my dick, but for not having one. Mocking. (..)
A new record?
Peter: ‘I have them all.. gold, platinum, criminal. Actually, yes.’
Joey: ‘We’ve started throwing ideas around. It would be interesting to see what comes out of it, just to see what the intensity would be.’
Peter: ‘I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago. I’ve been working on new stuff with these guys, but it sounds like Type o Negative, because that’s the person I am right now. I guess I have to get back on steroids and rip somebody’s head off and shit down his neck. (..)
We haven’t really written anything new yet, but we are planning to do a live album. Maybe a couple of songs.’
Joey: ‘That would be a good break-in’.
Paul: ‘And get acceptance from our audience that this is the new Carnivore and how they present themselves’.(..)
Peter: We pretty much have the same background. Black Sabbath, early metal. I love New Wave, and hooks in songs.. (..)
But we don’t know what the next album is going to sound like.
Joey: ‘It’s work in process’.
Peter: ‘Everybody has his own band, those entities come first. I have to and hate to admit it, but I’m having a lot of fun on this tour’.
On Stage Fun
By the time the show is supposed to start, we enter the big hall in the 013-venue. As announced, no-one is smoking in the entire hall, but that isn’t the most remarkable element that strikes the visitor upon entering. What’s truly eyebrow raising is the music. It’s that damned Efteling music we heard the guy play on his laptop backstage. And not just once, but seemingly infinitely. It just didn’t stop. It didn’t stop when the show was supposed to begin, not ten minutes overdue, nor thirty. After a long time of the same tune, finally the choice of music changed. The ever familiar riff from Pantera’s Walk flamed through the speakers. …for about ten seconds, before being cut off and replaced by the silly Papier Hier music. This happened more than once, and after an even longer wait, the stage lights dimmed, people started cheering, and… the lights went on again…. Efteling music. Again the trick was repeated, until finally the moment arrived, and Steele and co entered the stage, with their backs facing the crowd. After that they improvised for a minute, Steele said: “thanks” and left. What did we all hear? Right!
It’s obvious Carnivore was in town to annoy. It used to be in town to annoy uptight people as well as your parents, but nowadays your parents find it very amusing that you listen to fascist death-punk and no one raises an eyebrow for extreme slogans. Face it, more than one Dutch politician says things that equal or even surpass what Peter Steele said as a joke in the beginning of the eighties. My guess is that Carnivore isn’t able to annoy anyone except one group: the people who come out to see the show. If so, they did this successfully, and if you were among the minority this evening who got the joke, it made you piss your pants with laughter like we did.
In the end there were no blood girls, there was no Nazism, no severed animals. Carnivore came, and played a great tongue in cheek joke on the audience. Good stuff.
Of course, the group returned to the stage for the real set list. Obviously a mixture of the two albums Steele recorded. The group as a whole is a very strange ensemble to watch, with the very hardcore Joey, the very introvert Paul and the, well, just plainly tall and dark Steele.
Songs included were World War II & IV, Jesus Hitler, Inner Conflict, Carnivore, yes all you’d hope they play. Even a Beatles cover (being Helter Skelter), found it’s way into the 013. But to me, the great act of the day was the Efteling music and the absence.
Carnivore annoyed a lot of people that night. Who’d have guessed, anno 2008?