For those of you not familiar with Johnny Kelly let me fill you in on who this crazy talent of a man is. Johnny Kelly (born March 9, 1968) was the drummer for the band Type O Negative, and currently he is recording and touring with Seventh Void, Danzig, A Pale Horse Named Death and recently Black Label Society. Johnny was home from tour for a few weeks and we managed to spend some time on the phone to catch up and get filled in on all he has going on.
Talk about a guy that works hard, he’s recording/writing with 1 band, plays tracks on albums for 2 other bands and is touring with 4. The guy is a machine, but he told me he wouldn’t have it any other way. “This is what I do, this is who I am, I like the uniform and I wear it well, I’m not sure I could easily fit into civilian life, I don’t know if I could find it fulfilling enough. I’m able to squeak out a living doing what I have a passion for, and if I wasn’t getting paid to do this, I would find a way somehow to keep playing. “
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Johnny has been a metal head and gear head his whole life. The guys in Type O’ all lived near each other in the Brooklyn neighborhoods and started hanging out, playing music together. Brooklyn at that time was filled with talented musicians and bands like Biohazard, Life Of Agony, etc. Johnny told me these guys were all hangin’ and doing what they could to keep playing live and keep cranking out their music. At this time gear head Johnny was working in a local shop doing mechanical work, outfitting mostly off road parts on vehicles and putting lots of hours into his other passion his 1970 Super Bee. (not only is the guy a kick ass drummer, but he has good taste in cars). Johnny eventually became the drum tech for Sal Abruscato of Type O Negative and around 1993, Sal decided to to play full time with Life of Agony. Johnny then took over as the Type O drummer. He kept the job at the shop and before he knew it would have to close the shop down when he toured with the band as he was the only one working it. “All of the guys in the band did this, kept their jobs, took time off to tour and then back at it when the tour was over.” After a while, the touring started to get more and more action and they just couldn’t keep up with that routine anymore. A documentary recently released by director Pawl Bazile “Living the American Nightmare” actually touches on this subject in the film, how these guys who were selling records left and right and touring oversees were still trying to manage a job and be in a band at the same time to carve out a meek living. Absolutely not an easy task as the film shows. Johnny actually talks about this subject along with guitarist Kenny Hickey in the film. As I mentioned earlier Johnny WAS the drummer for Type O Negative as it’s now been a little over a year that bassist and front man Peter Steele passed away. I was actually nervous to bring this up when I spoke with Johnny, I didn’t want to him to feel like I was trying to get information out of him about how Peter died or that I didn’t care that he lost one of his best friends and was just trying to “get a story”, not my style at all. I first wanted to offer my condolences and second, touch on the fact that this was pretty much an artistic end of innocence, that our age group is now moving into middle aged life and things like this can and do happen. Could the immortal rock star really pass away? Hell yes and apparently the last 2 years have been forth coming in proving that; with a list of talented musicians passing away to the likes of Peter Steele, Ronnie James Dio, Paul Gray, Jimmy Sullivan and Michael Starr. It’s been hard for a lot of the fans to deal with this changing of times, but imagine actually living it first hand.
I asked Johnny how did you guys deal with this? He said it was crazy, “we all knew the band would end at some point, nothing lasts forever, but we always thought it would be on our terms, nothing like this, so unexpected.” He told me it was one of those life changing experiences where you have no control it just happens, “It’ wasn’t like I could take time to line something else up for work and be prepared, add on top of that I just lost one of my best friends and was trying to go through the grieving and couldn’t help but think how am I going to provide for myself and my family now? Type O was a huge part of my adult life and it was just in an instant, well… gone. I had to face reality, no choice.”
Johnny along with Type O guitar player Kenny Hickey had been working on a side project “Seventh Void” for a while and had recently released the first album. “It takes a hell of a lot of work to break a new band in to an audience, in your 20’s it’s nothing, but in your 40’s it’s different, going out and playing will actually put you at a loss financially. I knew I couldn’t support myself with just Seventh Void, not even close, we are only just starting to make waves. I have a family that depends on me. So you find yourself in that situation where you just have to take the gamble.” We then started talking about what Johnny knew he had to do to earn a living. Playing with other bands, recording and touring. Johnny had been playing on and off for Danzig for about 9 years now and he finally recorded with them on the last album and of course heading out for the tours. In February 2011 he got a call that Will Hunt couldn’t tour with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY in order to join his EVANESCENCE bandmates in the studio for the recording sessions for the band’s third album. Johnny gladly accepted. Johnny also will be touring with Former Type O drummer Sal Albruscato on his latest project “A pale Horse Named Death” who will be touring with Johnny’s band Seventh Void, so get this Johnny will be playing 2 sets a night on that tour… yea, like I mentioned the guy is a machine. Oh and he will have more dates with Danzig this fall too.
So as busy as this guy is he still took some time on the phone with me and we ended up talking for a while, mostly about cars, and how just like anyone else that has to travel for work, was dealing with all the slack from being gone. His Super Bee was having some issues starting so he was working on that and having fun going back and forth to a chevy dealer to try to get the mystery A/C issue in his HHR wrapped up before his warranty ends next month. Typical routine we can all relate to, bullshit that all needs to be dealt with… Yup even rock stars have to deal.
Make sure you check out one of the tours Johnny will be on and support some of his hard work.