On Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn's evolving, working-class Marine Park neighborhood, a generation of local metalheads has spent a small fortune in spare change feeding the meter outside Fastlane Studios. Johnny Kelly's been doing it for more than two decades.
The Seventh Void drummer remembers working at the place when it was called Sink the Pink. It turns out that he's spent an entire career honing his craft there when not traversing the globe with Type O Negative and Danzig. In fact, the studio isn't far from where Kelly joined his first band and played Judas Priest and Iron Maiden covers (with Evan Seinfeld, before he became the lead singer of Biohazard), or where he and his Type O predecessor, Sal Abruscato, cut their teeth at a small club called L'amour.
"When I go up the stairs, it's like, 'My god, I can't believe I'm still coming here,'" says Kelly. "It's very humbling at the same time. Just when you thought that you were too big for anything and were so worldly, having all of these experiences, there you are on Flatbush Avenue parking your car and going up to the studio like you're walking the green mile."
Type O.2 Positive
Kelly and Type O Negative bandmate Kenny Hickey have been working on Seventh Void material between Type O gigs since 2003. The band represents a return to their stripped-down roots as well as a nod to the small metal community that contributed to the two musicians' success.
Spurning the high drama and intricate instrumentation that fueled Type O's goth metal, Kelly and company have embraced a "stoner rock with hooks." In the process, they've taken their inspiration from the harder elements of the 1990s Seattle sound, ending up with something reminiscent of Clutch or Kyuss.
"Things like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and stuff, to me that was great music," he says. "That was the last push of great music to come out, and I remember at the time in the early to mid-'90s thinking, 'This is our generation's moment for good music.' Then bands stopped playing guitar solos."
Seventh Void's subject matter doesn't deviate too far from Type O's. The title track to the group's debut album, "Heaven is Gone," deals with a dead man's dismay at being returned to life. But in place of Peter Steele's growls and Type O's goth dirges, Seventh Void gives us Hickey's Chris Cornell-ish cries set to driving, distorted power chords.
"We just wanted to do something that was like the bands we listened to, like Zeppelin and Sabbath," Kelly says. "As far as Kenny's vocals, I hear a lot of Bon Scott in them. He'd probably do OK in an AC/DC tribute band."
The Pantera factor
Once it came time to put out a record, Seventh Void's old-school sound earned plenty of support from Vinnie Paul, the former Pantera drummer who'd met Kelly and Hickey while touring with Type O Negative. Paul offered to release Seventh Void's album on his Big Vin Records label after he and his brother, late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell, heard a track that Kelly played for them during a tour with their band, Damageplan.
"Damageplan was playing in New York City one night and, after the show, we were just hanging out on the bus, and Vinnie and Dime were playing us new songs they'd been working on," says Kelly. "I'd gone out to the car to show them what Kenny and I had been working on, and they were blown away by it."
Paul assigned the album to Pantera engineer Sterling Whitfield and stepped in himself during the mixing process. When a deal to distribute the album proved more elusive than he'd anticipated, Paul encouraged Kelly and his friends to seek out another label in order to expedite the process. Kelly politely declined, opting to stay the course with Paul's independent.
Kelly says he's not only grateful for Paul's help, but also for having the ability to pursue such a project in the first place.
"When I was a mailman, nobody was interested in what I had to say," he explains. "When I was fixing cars, they were just like, 'Fix my car, thanks.' I wasn't doing interviews for Colorado Springs, I was thinking more about the new springs in a Chevy."