Howie Pyro — bassist, DJ and longtime veteran of the New York punk and underground scenes — died Tuesday due to complications from Covid-19-related pneumonia after a lengthy battle with liver disease. His death was confirmed by a rep; he was 61.
Rest In Peace Howie Pyro-keep playing and spinning that vinyl up in Heaven old friend. pic.twitter.com/wTuV8DuNV0
— Matt Pinfield (@mattpinfield) May 5, 2022
Born Howard Kusten in Queens, New York, Pyro was best known as a founding member of the ‘90s glam-punk band D Generation with singer-guitarist Jesse Malin, but he was a widely recognized figure on the city’s scere for more than two decades, jamming with other musicians, DJing or throwing legendary regular parties such as Greendoor and many nights at the East Village club Coney Island High, which was basically the band’s clubhouse.
Adopting the name “Pyro” by the age of 15 and picking up the guitar at the same time, he became the de facto leader of the Blessed, a 1977-era band where all of its members were underage when they set foot on the stages of Max’s Kansas City and CBGB.
In 1979, while the Blessed released one single in “Deep Frenzy,” Pyro gained notoriety by befriending’ Sid Vicious, and reportedly was one of the last people to see the Sex Pistols bassist alive before his overdose later that year.
By the mid-1980s, Pyro created the pre-grunge punk band Freaks (with Andrea Matthews, eventually Mrs. Pyro, and Malin as the band’s stage manager) and released two albums, “Pippi Skelter: A Rock Opera in Five Movements” and “In Sensurround.” In 1991, however, Malin became an even greater force in Pyro’s life when the former showed the latter his songs. Pyro switched to bass and the group became D Generation.
Pyro co-wrote D Gen’s first single, “No Way Out,” and recorded a handful of several albums with the group (1994’s “D Generation,” 1996’s “No Lunch” and 1999’s “Through the Darkness”) before breaking up and reuniting in 2016 for the “Nothing Is Anywhere” album and a tour. In the intervening years, Pyro moved to Los Angeles, joined Danzig for 2001’s “Live on the Black Hand Side” and 2002’s “I Luciferi,” played with Joey Ramone on 2002’s “Christmas Spirit… In My House” and Genesis P. Orridge on 1997’s “Electric Newspaper: Issue Four.” He also hosted his own Intoxica! Radio show.
Howie Pyro is survived by his sister Robin Hartmann, Rory and Leah Hartmann and former wife Andrea Kusten Matthews. His family ask that in lieu of flowers people consider donating to the UCLA Division of Liver and Pancreas Transplantation.