Type O Negative and Danzig Drummer Lives in Frisco and Is Offering Lessons

Johnny Kelly drums with Danzig.
Johnny Kelly drums with Danzig.
Wikimedia Commons
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They say that those who can't do, teach. But former Type O Negative and current Danzig drummer Johnny Kelly, who recently moved to Frisco, can do both. He's charging $50 per hour to teach drummers of all experience levels.

“We just moved here, and if anyone is interested in doing it, hit me up and we will fit it in," he tells the Dallas Observer. "We can have some fun.”

Kelly taught at a School of Rock in New Jersey before moving to Texas in July. He credits his wife for putting him up to the task of teaching private lessons.

“My wife is like my project manager now," he says. "She’s the one that has put it out there that I’m doing this.”

Kelly joined Brooklyn-based quartet Type O Negative in 1991 as a drum technician for his childhood friend Sal Abruscato. When Abruscato left the gothic metal band in 1993 to join Life of Agony, Kelly says he immediately called everyone in the band and offered to audition to replace his friend.

Kelly already knew the other members pretty well by that point, and he went to the studio before the audition to work on songs with Type O Negative guitarist Kenny Hickey, another childhood friend, giving him an advantage over any potential competition.

“I had a good audition, and to be honest, I don’t even know to this day how many other people came down. We never spoke about it," he says. "I just came down, and we did the audition. I would find out soon enough if I got it or not, but I wound up getting it and the rest is history.”

While the band’s biggest album is 1993’s Bloody Kisses, released before Kelly joined Type O Negative, he says the band didn’t break through until after he joined.

“The band was relatively unknown,” he says. “I was in the band for almost a year before people even started taking notice of Bloody Kisses. I joined the band in the fall of ’93, and by the summer of ’94 when we were out with Mötley Crüe, we were starting to get a little bit of attention.”

Two years after it was released, Bloody Kisses was certified platinum and spent 11 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Type O Negative’s follow-up, 1994’s October Rust, also saw success and was certified gold. New Musical Express gave the band the nickname “Drab Four” because its lyrics often spoke of depression, death and love.

Type O Negative is considered a pioneer of the gothic metal scene. The band recorded three more albums before the death of founding vocalist, bassist and primary songwriter Peter Steele in 2010.

In 2002, Kelly started playing drums for the band Danzig, and he's performed alongside former Misfits singer Glenn Danzig ever since. In 2011, he joined Abruscato in a new gothic metal band called A Pale Horse Named Death, which is reminiscent of Type O Negative’s doom metal sound and Steele’s depressing, emotive lyrics.

Kelly also drummed for Pantera bassist Rex Brown's last band, Kill Devil Hill, and stayed with Brown for his first debut solo record, released earlier this year.

Although Kelly's résumé as a drummer for hire is long, he doesn't consider himself a session musician.

“I hate sounding like a mercenary because I’ve never wanted to do that,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed playing with other people, but I never wanted to be a fill-in guy. I like having a home base.”

For more information about lessons, contact Kelly at JKDrumLessons@gmail.com.

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