Johnny Kelly Talks New Supergroup Eye Am, Debut Single, and Type O Negative Reissues

Johnny Kelly Talks New Supergroup Eye Am, Debut Single, and Type O Negative Reissues

Originally published by Consequence News

Johnny Kelly will not sit still, but he has a very good reason. In 2010, when Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele passed away, Kelly was confronted with both the loss of his best friend and possibly his career. It was a shock to the system that has kept the drummer moving ever since. As Kelly puts it, at the time of Steele’s death, he had spent most of his adult life playing in Type O Negative, so he set out to find out where else his musical talents would lead him.

Turns out, Kelly has been quite prolific, having played with numerous bands throughout his now storied career, including Danzig, Quiet Riot, Silvertomb, A Pale Horse Named Death, and Kill Devil Hill.

Kelly’s latest endeavor, Eye Am, is a supergroup featuring members of Type O Negative and Crowbar. Along with Kelly, Eye Am consists of fellow Type O alumnus Kenny Hickey, Crowbar frontman Kirk Windstein, and former Crowbar bassist Todd Strange.

The band’s just-released first single, “Dreams Always Die with the Sun” (listen below) sounds like Black Sabbath meets the Beatles if they were opening for KISS in the 1970s.

Kelly checked in with Heavy Consequence via Zoom from his home in Texas on a rare break in his schedule to discuss the formation and future of Eye Am, as well as some interesting tidbits surrounding Type O Negative’s recent reissues.


With both bands known for their heavy down-tuned riffs, Crowbar and Type O Negative seem like such a natural pairing. How did Eye Am come about?

It was great to finally have the opportunity to work with Todd and Kirk. I’ve known them for years. All of us have been friends for, Jesus, like, 30 years now. Our paths have crossed many times throughout the years, but we never had the opportunity to play together. We kept up on social media, but it was [a mutual friend of ours] Andrew Spaulding, who came up with this idea to have us play together and record a song. He’s putting it out on his indie label Corpse Paint Records.

What was the writing process like for “Dreams Always Die With the Sun”?

Kenny and Kirk had been sending ideas back and forth to each other, and I hadn’t heard anything and in our group text I was like, “Hey, anybody got a song?” And I kept getting “no” answers. [And they explained] Kirk likes to write in the studio. So, when I got to Florida, we went right to the rehearsal studio. Kenny, Kirk and Todd were there, and they just started showing me what they had. Then we started putting the song together. So, by the end of the night, we had the song. And then the next morning, we went into the studio and recorded it.

What was the recording process like at Roger Lima’s studio The Moathouse?

That was fun. We were not really doing a lot of pre-production, so we were just going by the seat of our pants. The end result was really cool. So, I basically flew there, did the rehearsal, did the drum track. And then I was on a flight back. Then those guys stayed and finished the song the next day with the vocals and all the guitar parts and stuff. We’re really happy with the way that this song came out and the whole experience. That was the first thing that came from us getting together and I think it’s a great start.


Is there more Eye Am material in the works?

Yes, this was just the start to see how it would work. Kind of like a lab test or something. Lock yourselves in a room and don’t come out until you’ve got something. The challenge of that was cool. Now, the plan is we’re getting together at the end of June in New Orleans for another writing session but this time we’re gonna be there for like a week so we can work on a whole album. Kirk is in Europe right now with Crowbar. And I have some shows with Quiet Riot but then we’re all going to convene in New Orleans.

“Dreams Always Die with the Sun” has a very Black Sabbath meets the Beatles feel to it.

Maybe it’s because of our age but you’re not going to be able to get away from who you’ve been for so long. And I think it would just be straight up bull shit to try to do something that isn’t me, especially at this stage in my career. You’re not going to come out sounding like Avenged Sevenfold or like one of the newer bands. It’s not us. And then anyone that would know us would be like “these guys are full of shit.” Kirk and Todd are into the same stuff, so I think those parallels will be there which I’m totally fine with because I like both bands, so I was like OK. And most people that are familiar with those bands, and I was like, “wow, I like this.”

Will the sound of the entire album be similar to the single?

It’s definitely more of a throwback to the 70s, and the music that we used to listen to. I mean that first opening part [in “Dreams Always Die with the Sun”] with the drums and everything, I was referring to it as the “Sly and the Family Stone part.” They were like, “What are you talking about?” And I was like, “No, listen.” And then they said, “Oh shit, you’re right.” So, we’re more in that mindset so we’ll see what happens.


The single also has more of a Type O Negative feel than other projects you have worked with. Was that intentional?

People are gonna kind of have that expectation. These guys are from Type O so it’s going to kind of sound like Type O, but then it doesn’t always, which is kind of cool and refreshing. It doesn’t quite sound like Crowbar or Type O. It sounds a little different, a little abstract. But you could tell the ingredients are there. There are definitely things that are elements of both bands that are in the song and that’s alright.

Is Kenny Hickey going to be the main vocalist for Eye Am?

It’ll come down to the song itself and who would be a better singer for that song or that part. We do have two guys that can sing. They’re both very unique. Kirk is a very unique singer, and he has the versatility to do a lot of things with his voice. I prefer it when Kenny’s screaming his head off. Like, he’ll send me a track and I’ll be like, “It doesn’t sound like you’re suffering enough. You need to sound like you’re suffering.” And then you could utilize the range of both of them. That way they could trade off kind of like Sonny and Cher. So, it’s cool to have options like that.

I think the Type O Comparison is partly because Kenny does the lead vocals on the Eye Am single and he was the other recognizable voice in Type O.

Kenny is an exceptionally talented person. He’s a great guitar player, great singer, great lyricist. And so, I’m glad people get another opportunity to hear what Kenny’s capable of. At the end of “Dreams Always Die with the Sun,” I love the harmony that Kirk was doing with Kenny. So, I’m hoping that there’ll be more of that stuff. I’ll do whatever I can to get more of that stuff in there cause that’s one of the cool subtleties in the song.


Speaking of Type O Negative, the AI video for “Halloween in Heaven” just came out. It depicts the lyrics of the song about a party in heaven with the likes of Dimebag Darrell, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison. Whose idea was the video?

It was not mine. A few weeks ago, I was told about it and then they sent us versions of it asking for edits. Like there’s a picture of Dime and he’s playing a Stratocaster in the picture. I was like, “Dime never played a Strat.” And our manager was like, “No, they can’t do that. These are the options that AI offers.” Another thing was a picture with Jimi Hendrix playing right-handed and a picture of Jim Morrison holding a guitar. So, they took those out at least. Then Josh [Silver] was like Tara [Vanflower from Lycia ] should be in the video since she sings in the song. So, then they put her in the video, but she wasn’t singing in the right part, so we were like “Can you move that over?” So, at first it was kind of weird, but then It kind of grew on me. It kind of reminds me of an old cartoon like Betty Boop, and it’s cool that we could bring some of those songs back with a different visual to go along with them and just keep the name Type O out there.

So that AI video is meant to promote the Dead Again 15th Anniversary reissue that came out last year?

Yeah, and the vinyl reissues. I just got my copies of the vinyls. It’s very exciting to see some of these records that were never released on vinyl in that format. I grew up when going to the record store was like a religious experience. You could sit in there for hours trying to figure out what you were going to get. Hopefully, people that are buying our records kind of get that same feeling. But it was cool to see the covers so big, except for Origin of the Feces — that was a little tough.


Right! The original cover art for The Origin of the Feces was censored because it is a close up of Peter Steele’s behind …

Oh yes. At the time it was originally released, it was one of those things where, with that cover, places like Walmart weren’t going to carry it. So, we had to do something that was a little more toned down. So, the original cover on vinyl is the crown jewel in our career. We released [the 2022 reissue] as a scratch and sniff.

Whose idea was it to reissue it as a scratch and sniff?

We were like kids at Christmas. Some people get to get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, we have Origin of the Feces as a scratch and sniff. We had been trying to do that for years and the label and our manager was just like, “No way. That’s never gonna happen.” Pete always joked about it when he was alive. It was an ongoing joke for years and I always thought that would be brilliant. It would be the funniest thing. So, I get a call from my manager, “we’re going to go with the scratch and sniff.” And it was like “Yes, yes, we win!” That’s the man. The guy that was in Playgirl with the scratch and sniff ass. And then Mark Abramson, our manager, keeps us up to date on everything in our group text, was like, “I’m testing samples for the scratch and sniff today. So, what do you want this to smell like?” And we’re like, “Think of the worst smell that you could think of.” And he’s like, “I think this smells more like shit.”

Have you actually scratched it?

I’m afraid to open it. But that’s how we cement our legacy. I mean it’s all in good fun. During the pandemic, we were planning the reissues, I wanted to put the Origin of the Feces cover on a face mask. We could do like a three pack and have normal ones and then kind of slip that one in there. I thought it was brilliant. But they basically told me, “Quit while you’re ahead.”


Our thanks to Johnny Kelly for taking the time to speak with Heavy Consequence. For a bonus story on Type O Negative getting kicked out of their studio, as well as more on the scratch-and-sniff edition of The Origin of the Feces, watch the video at the top of this article.