An Interview with Johnny Kelly of Type O Negative

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Type O Negative understands that change is good. After releasing seven albums during a dozen years with Roadrunner Records, Brooklyn’s favorite purveyors of lead-heavy melodic metal (think: The Beatles-Meets-Black Sabbath) jumped ship for a new home at SPV. While Peter Steele (vocals/bass) Kenny Hickey (guitar), Josh Silver (keyboards) and Johnny Kelly (drums) completed pre-production on their much anticipated follow up to 2003’s Life Is Killing Me, SPV threw the fans a bone in the form of an amazing live DVD, Symphony for the Devil. “We’ve actually been working on that project for a while,” explains Johnny Kelly. “The concert footage was a bootleg of our performance at Germany’s Bizarre festival back in 1999. It was a professional-quality, multi-camera shoot that we just loved and, fortunately, we were able to get the master reel. It took time to edit the performance footage and go through all of the candid, behind the scenes video of the band that’s also included on the DVD, but it came out pretty cool. The band looks surprisingly well preserved!,” he jokes. Keeping busy with various side projects that include nailing all of Bonham’s best licks in his Led Zeppelin tribute band Earl’s Court, Johnny spoke with Metal Edge just days before Type O Negative entered the studio to record their as-yet-untitled eighth album.

Metal Edge: You’ve played a couple of tours with Danzig; most recently in 2005 on the Circle of Snakes tour. How is drumming with Danzig different than what you do with Type O Negative?

Johnny Kelly: To me, the drumming on Danzig records is more rock oriented. Some of the later stuff gets a bit more metal with more double bass, but it seems to have a rock ‘n’ roll approach to it. There aren’t that many tempo changes, whereas Type O songs are much longer and there are a lot more changes in the song structures. The good thing is that my drumming style with Type O seems to have lent itself to what Danzig has done, though there were little things I needed to be aware of to really keep the integrity of what the music is all about. It was a lot of fun and at times it didn’t seem like work at all. I’ve always loved playing different music with other people. It’s a good way to keep my chops up and to keep things fresh.

Metal Edge: You were out at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention recently. As a drummer, what are the high points of attending that show?

Johnny Kelly: I go to NAMM because it’s a great opportunity for me to see and meet all of my endorsers – guys that I only speak to on the phone or via email because they’re all in different parts of the country – in one place. It’s great to go out there, get face time and maintain the relationship. As far as gear, it’s also the best way to see what’s new or what’s old and new again (laughs).

Metal Edge: Between recording Life Is Killing Me and this new record, have you recorded with any other projects?

Johnny Kelly: I recorded one song for the Roadrunner United CD that came out in 2005. I went down to Florida and worked with producer/engineer Jason Suecof along with Matt (Heafy) from Trivium and we recorded a song Matt wrote called “Blood and Flames.” The day before I left, I got an MP3 of the song with just a guitar track and a click track. When I got down there I asked if they had anything in mind as to what direction they wanted the song to go. Matt said, “When I wrote the song, I had all of the other parts written out but I just didn’t think about the drums.” At first that was kind of scary, because we had just a couple of hours to learn the song, get the creative aspect of it solidified and get a good performance out of the track. I’d had a couple of thoughts on the plane (laughs) so I played them my ideas on how I felt the song should go and they were like “Dude, it’s great, let’s go!” We went through the song a few times until we got a performance they were happy with and that was it.

Metal Edge: On some of the previous Type O albums you’ve relied a lot on drum programming. Will you be taking the same approach for the new one?

Johnny Kelly: No, on this record we’re going to do live drums. The way these songs have developed, we want to get more of a ‘live band’ feel to it. You know, Type O songs, when recorded, have lots layers and textures. This record is going for a looser feeling – a little bit more raw and reckless. The impression that I get is that this CD will be more like the first two records: Slow Deep and Hard and Bloody Kisses. Thinking about it, I was actually listening to World Coming Down yesterday (laughs). I hadn’t listened to that in a long time and I could hear a similarity between our new songs and the songs on that record. We’re all looking forward to the end result.

Johnny’s Gear:
Drums: Pearl Masterworks in John Bonham Green Sparkle finish
Sizes: 24×16” kick, 14×12” rack tom, 16×16” & 18×16” floor toms, 8×14” free-floating snare
Cymbals: Sabian
Heads: Attack
Sticks: Ahead, Tommy Lee Studio Model

Official Website:

johnny kelly drummer

This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.

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