Howie Pyro, the punk rocker best known as a founding member of the New York City band D Generation, has died. Jesse Malin, Pyro’s longtime friend and bandmate in D Generation, confirmed the news in a statement, saying he died of complications from COVID-19-related pneumonia following a long battle with liver disease. He was 61.
Born Howard Kusten on June 28, 1960, in Whitestone, Queens, he adopted the moniker Howie Pyro as a teenager. In the 1970s, Pyro led the underage band the Blessed, who played at CBGB and Max’s Kansas City. It was during that time that he befriended Sid Vicious, who died from a heroin overdose in 1979; Pyro was one of the last to see the Sex Pistols bassist alive. In the ’80s, he formed the grunge outfit the Freaks with his future wife Andrea Matthews, before coming together with Malin, guitarist Danny Sage, drummer Michael Wildwood, and guitarist Richard Bacchus to found D Generation.
“We wanted to make a band that would be the band that we always dreamed about wanting to go see, a band that really didn’t exist anymore,” Malin explained in a 2016 interview with Loudwire. “We’d throw parties, we’d DJ, we’d hang out together on a street and listen on a boombox to a world that we had heard about, but we didn’t really see in the rock scene. We came out of hardcore so we figured we could take this on and take it into our own hands and actually make something. We started to rehearse in a loft and put on shows there.”
Following the release of their 1994 self-titled debut, D Generation signed to Columbia for 1996’s No Lunch and 1998’s Through the Darkness. The band’s final album, Nothing Is Anywhere, arrived in 2016. In addition to his work with D Generation, Pyro collaborated with artists including Danzig, Rancid, Joey Ramone, the Misfits, Debbie Harry, Alan Vega, and more. He also hosted the radio show Intoxica! Radio, where he played “50s and 60s rock and roll, psycho surf, garage, rockabilly, hillbilly horrors, voodoo r & b, insane instrumentals, religious nuts, and teenage hell music.”