Howie Pyro, the lifelong punk rocker and co-founder of New York punk band D Generation died on Wednesday (May 4) at age 61. The musician born Howard Kusten was eulogized by the DGen singer and fellow co-founder Jesse Malin, who wrote that the announcement about his “best friend and brother” was “the hardest post” he’s ever had to pen.
“He fought real hard right till the end. He change my life and so many others in ways I can’t even begin to say,” wrote Malin in a post that included pics from their nearly five-decade friendship, along with snaps with such punk icons as Joey Ramone, Joe Strummer and Patti Smith. “We made our world together. From Whitestone, Queens to Madison Square Garden and every crazy, dirty little place in between. I learned so much from him. He made this planet a much better, cooler, weirder, and more beautiful place.”
According to Rolling Stone, Pyro underwent a liver transplant in 2021 and was recovering in Los Angeles; he reportedly died from COVID-related pneumonia following a long battle with liver disease. Born on June 28, 1960 in Whitestone, Queens, Pyro cut his teeth during the fecund 1970s punk explosion as the underage founder/bassist of The Blessed, choosing his stage name at 15, when he moving to hotbed of the city’s burgeoning punk scene in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
After releasing just one single — 1979’s “Deep Frenzy/American Bandstand” — Pyro moved on to form the group The Freaks, with future bandmate Malin serving as their roadie. The pair teamed up in 1991 to launch DGen, a glam-punk-garage powerhouse whose self-titled debut was released on Chrysalis Records in 1994. After jumping to Columbia Records in 1996, they dropped their Ric Ocasek-produced second album, the high-energy No Lunch, which featured blitzkrieg, gritty garage pop tunes such as “She Stands There” and the no-holds-barred “No Way Out.”
Their final major label album, 1999’s Through The Darkness, was produced by famed David Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti and released shortly before the band’s break-up. It found Malin beginning to explore the more melodic avenues he would pursue in his long-running solo career on such metal-edge, head-bobbing tracks as “Helpless,” “Every Mother’s Son” and “Lonely.”
Pryo left New York and moved to Los Angeles after DGen’s split, joining Glenn Danzig’s band, Danzig, for several years and appearing on the 2002 Danzig album I Luciferi. The bassist also began what would become a second, lucrative career as a party DJ, performing at celebrity events and nightclubs and hosting his long-running, eclectic “Intoxica Radio Show,” on which he played a mix of rock oldies, obscurities, R&B, horror rock, rockabilly, garage, surf and old movie clips.
“For decades he impacted so many different kinds of people and so many different scenes all over with his style, his taste, his music, his knowledge, his Art, his fashion, his attitude, his humor, his records, his movies, his bravery, his swagger, his smile, his heart, and his compassion,” Malin wrote in his tribute. “Thank you to everyone who bought a ticket, a shirt, donated, said a prayer, or sent a message to help him out.”
DGen reunited in 2011 for a U.S. and European tour and then again in 2016 for more touring and their fourth and final album, Nothing Is Anywhere. Malin organized a March 5 all-star tribute/benefit concert for Pyro’s medical costs earlier this year at the Troubadour in Los Angeles that featured members of D Generation, Butch Walker, Jakob Dylan, Kid Congo Powers, Prima Donna, Rival Sons, Tommy Stinson, Sweet Thing and L7’s Suzi Gardner.
Check out some of Pyro’s music and see Malin’s posts below.