How We Wrote I Don’t Wanna Be Me, By Type O Negative’s Kenny Hickey
In 2003, goth metal icons Type O Negative released I Don’t Wanna Be Me from their penultimate album, Life Is Killing Me. Four years removed from their previous full-length World Coming Down, I Don’t Wanna Be Me garnered a new audience for Type O in the new millennium, and is still amongst their most-played tracks on streaming services.
Here, guitarist Kenny Hickey takes us through the whole journey of the song – from its lyrical content to the recording process. Plus the rather sad meaning behind the song title…
“At the time, Peter (Steele, vocals, bass) wasn’t really doing too well, health-wise. He was getting sick of addictions and sick of life, hence the title, I Don’t Wanna Be Me. He didn’t wanna be Pete anymore. I think, also, he was getting sick over being a rockstar – going on the road, doing interviews, having to write music. I think he was getting tired of what had been going on for a decade to us. That’s what the lyrics are talking about, ‘I don’t wanna be, I don’t wanna be me’; he doesn’t wanna be Pete.
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“We very rarely, or never, created music around lyrics – it was always the music first. I remember we were just jamming in the rehearsal studio for hours, playing a lot of dirgey stuff, and then Peter just started playing this punk riff. We all joined in and I remember him going in, trying to write a simple song, because I remember getting frustrated with him. Just saying, ‘Hey Peter, you’re a brilliant writer, but you can’t write simple songs, everything you write is just so damn complicated,’ but one of his efforts of writing a simple straight-forward song was a straight-forward punk influenced song, and it came out really good, actually! So, I guess he proved me wrong – he can write simple songs! Most of his songs were five or six different movements; changing tempo, changing time signatures, changing keys, changing modes, then it’s always very complex when we do music together.
“The video was written by me, actually! You know, certain people, they want to be anyone else – any star in the world, anything else except themselves – which went along with the theme of I Don’t Wanna Be Me. It was kind of making fun of anyone who was obsessed with these Hollywood personalities, obsessed with being or glowing over any other personality except themselves, and it’s really all about self-avoidance. I was just trying to work on that joke. The very first scene in the video is actually my mother’s house in Brooklyn. I was going for this (’70s sitcom) All In The Family kind of thing, but I think the director was too young to remember the original comedy series.
“Dan Fogler was the comedic actor that did all of the parts and played all of the characters. At the time, I remember we auditioned upwards of seven to ten different comedians for the role, because we realised that the entire video would ride on the performance of this one actor. If he was terrible, the video would tank too. So, we needed to find the right guy, and I remember auditioning about ten guys, just sitting there in the director’s office. One after the other came in and none of them were really too good. I think the director knew who we wanted, so we see this guy, Dan Fogler, we saved him for last and he just blew us away – he was hilarious. We were just like, ‘That’s the guy, get him!’, and he was great, he added some taste and flavour to it. He didn’t need any direction, he had a style all of his own. And he ended up becoming a big star! Three years later, there was this movie, Balls Of Fury, and I look up on the screen and it’s him! So, I don’t want to sit here and say that the I Don’t Wanna Be Me video grew his career or anything, but I think at that time, he was up and coming. To us, he wasn’t known at all when we hired him because we hired him for cheap! If he had cost too much money, we wouldn’t have been able to hire him. Then two years later he became a comedian, went to Hollywood; thought it was so cool. He was great, though he got a little stand-offish when I made him dress like Marilyn Monroe, to cross-dress and stuff. I wanted him to do something a little provocative and he got a little pissed off at me. But he was great, and he went on to be a big star.
“I’m shocked that it’s the Number One song on our Spotify page! I never thought it at the time. I always felt that Life Is Killing Me was not the strongest Type O Negative record, it’s probably the weakest. There’s two great songs in that album, Anesthesia and I Don’t Wanna Be Me. Obviously, the label is always gonna pick the shortest, quickest melody song for the first single, that’s why it was picked. I like the song, I’ve always loved the song, but I never would have figured I would see it as the Number One listed song on Spotify. It didn’t exist back then, but I could have never foreseen that! Trivium did a cover of it, so that’s probably the reason why, it was reintroduced through Trivium.”
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