Chemical Romance interview
There are few things worse than boring, stagnant music... And
personally, I'm in a place right now, where not much rock-based
stuff excites me. It used to be a lot easier - if a band had riffs,
if they rocked, then great, I'd love it... Maybe I'm snobbish
or too demanding, but there are so little rock bands I really
LOVE right now...
Which is why when someone told me to check out a band called My
Chemical Romance, I was skeptical. Nevertheless, I went to their
website, and downloaded a song called Vampires Will Never Hurt
You. I came to listen to the song later, only to discover, if
you excuse the horrible chiché, my new favourite band!
These punky kids from New Jersey make music that is vibrant, immediate,
dark and youthful. And it rocks.
The day I came to interview
Gerard Way, the singer from My Chemical Romance, was the day after
their support slot with Jimmy Eat World was announced. This will
have been the band's biggest gig yet. And this accentuates how
small the band actually are - their debut album on Eyeball Records
was released around August this year, and I still can't find it
in stores in the UK. Gerard is apologetic:
"Ooh, sorry about that. We know how much of a problem it's
been to find our record, and we're really upset about that. Right
now it seems the best place to get it is the Eyeball website."
At this point I still
know nothing about the band, apart from the few songs that I have
heard. Please introduce yourself and your band, and tell us your
"I'm Gerard Way, I sing. Ray Toro plays guitar, Matt Pellesier
plays the drums, Frank Iero plays guitar, and my brother Mikey
Way plays the bass. we're all from New Jersey in the Bergen County/Essex
County area. Lived here all our lives as well."
So how did it all begin with MCR?
"Matt and I got together around October/November and I had
this song, Skylines and Turnstiles, that we worked out together.
We liked where it was going so we asked the best guitarist we
knew to play, Ray Toro. It started snowballing musically and then
we needed a bass player. Mikey loved the songs and he learned
them with little experience. Before we recorded the album we added
Frankie as a second guitar player.
We've all been in bands before that didn't work out for some reason
or another. Nothing notable except for Frankie being in Pencey
Prep, another Eyeball band. We asked him to join when that band
dissolved. We've all been involved in the local scene since we
were young, either in supporting or creating. I actually drew
a t-shirt for Thursday and that's kind of how I met Geoff Rickly
and we became friends."
So, is it fair to say
that the band come from a very punk background?
"Yeah, all of our bands before this were punk bands. Ever
since I heard The Misfits I was sold on punk, that band opened
a lot of new things for me personally. I know the whole band are
huge Misfits fans as well."
Considering your relative proximity to New York, was it the British
punk of the 70s or the NY hardcore later on that inspired you
"It's interesting, what we got from UK music wasn't punk,
directly at least. It was bands like The Smiths, Blur, Pulp, The
Cure, who were obviously had roots in punk music, as well as the
New York and New Jersey hardcore scene that was influenced by
UK punk. It's a weird mix of influences with us."
Well, most bands would like to think so - specifically, what movements
and artists inspire you guys the most?
"Everything from Iron Maiden to The Smiths and The Misfits,
Samhain. More recently At The Gates, the Swedish metal band had
a big influence on us when they released "Slaughter Of The
Soul". Dark concepts influence us - film-wise, the works
of Terry Gilliam, The City Of Lost Children."
We take a semi-autobiographical approach to things, with some
roots in fiction. We try and connect with people in a more abstract
way, to get more meaning out of what were trying to say."
Like using cult imagery on Vampires Will Never Hurt You?
"Yeah, obviously we use vampires as a metaphor for something
else, something deeper than just the supernatural. But there's
just something about the bloodsucking walking dead, that can say
so much to people. There are really so many people trying to get
control over you on a daily basis and steal your soul in some
way, take a part of you..."
That explains a lot
about the content of your music, but what about the delivery?
What relevance does extreme music have in everyday life?
"The extremity of the sound comes from a sincerity and an
energy that we can't contain. When we play these songs, what they
mean to us really comes through. We're all locked in together
in this kind of life or death struggle, it gets pretty dangerous
up there sometimes. But it's really that extreme because of the
way we play, and what we like to play and what really gets our
It's a unique kind
of energy and severity that My Chemical Romance share with bands
like Drive Like Jehu and the sadly defunct At The Drive-In. It
always strikes me as something of a phenomenon that a group of
four to six people can channel their collective energy into a
sound like that, while the overwhelming majority of the peaceful
world spends their lives with the volume turned down.
"I think the chemistry
has to be just right. But I've seen a ton of bands trying to do
the 'At The Drive-In' thing or the 'Thursday' thing and just go
nuts but it just comes off as contrived, like they watched tapes
of the bands and just studied moves. But for four or five people
to lock in like that and channel everything they got together
is pretty rare. I think it's what makes for a great band. I'm
spoiled ever since I saw Thursday play... A band really has to
kick my ass nowadays and give it everything they got"
What about bands that
do the whole lo-fi thing, and are all about subtlety? (And that's
not to call post-hardcore crude!)
"I think there's something great about that as well. I feel
like a band chooses a voice - an identity- and then they figure
out the best way to say that, be it polished or rough. The new
Bright Eyes for example, a very lo-fi recording, very subtle delivery,
but it's great. Some of those songs sound like they were recorded
in a closet or a car, and they probably were. From what I've heard,
which is most of it, I think it's a real accomplishment."
When you say that a band chooses a voice, is this a final committal
thing, or can you see yourselves mellowing out in future projects?
It would be interesting to see how the darkness of My Chemical
Romance manifests itself in a lo-fi context.
"There's a band on Eyeball called Little Joe Gould, and for
me those guys are the most evil, lo-fi thing out there. So I'm
most familiar with them as far as that kind of sound is concerned.
We're going to work on a song together so it should be pretty
interesting with the clashing of the metal and the soundtrack-to-a-slasher-movie
Cool, sounds great. I'm looking forward to it. But ... would you
really describe your music as metal?
"Hahaha! I like to think so but that's just me and I've been
told 'Gerard, you guys are not a metal band', but it's just wishful
thinking. I actually consider ourselves a rock band, I think everyone
in the band agrees and shares the sentiment."
Interesting... maybe this self-perception is where some of that
ferocity comes from.
"I think making
music is all about self-perception of what you're doing. If you
feel like you're in a metal band and the end result is what you
think a metal record is and it works - then go for it. It's just
the Iron Maiden fan in all of us in the band. I know personally
if we could accomplish a tenth of what that band has then we've
done well. I can't think of a single band that more personifies
a lack of compromise. There's so much fucking integrity behind
that band, it's so non-elitist. I use the same mic as Bruce Dickenson
for that reason"
To be honest, At The
Drive-In are the first band I thought of when I heard your music.
How big an influence have they been on you?
"Hmmm, At The Drive-In... I can't say they've been a big
influence on us when we write. Though, I think intensity wise
and sound wise there will never be a band like At The Drive-In.
What about the Mars Volta?
"Now that's interesting. The Mars Volta is probably the one
band out there right now that I feel shares a kinship with us
musically. We had already written our album when that EP came
out and the things I heard on there sounded to me like we were
both going for the same thing. Taking risks, writing seven minute
songs with real movement, and the dark aspect of it."
I agree. Actually, of all the ATD-I offshoot band, I think the
Mars Volta really share the original band's spirit of spontaneity
and experimentation. Anyway...
"I saw Les Savy Fav open for Blonde Redhead and Helium like
six years ago, and they blew the doors off both bands."
Speaking of At The
Drive-In, during the climax of their sudden fame, they were getting
all sorts of Nirvana comparisons by the more sensationalist music
journalists out there. And now Rival Schools are making chart
success with their album, and it's receiving a fair bit of praise
from the press. Do you think this kind of music truly has a place
in the mainstream?
"Absolutely. I think anything someone creates deserves to
be heard by as many people as possible, if they so desire."
Even if it means abandoning your roots on an indie label and being
frowned upon by purists? LostProphets got hell for it in this
country, just recently.
"Well I think you can get to the mainstream without abandoning
your roots. The thing a band needs to do is never forget who they
are or where they came from. Unfortunately that happens all too
often. This is what probably gets purists mad when a band goes
mainstream. There's a degree of bitterness when a band goes mainstream,
people get very protective of a band they've discovered and aren't
so willing to share that. I think anyone that's a real fan sticks
with the band if the band sticks to their guns."
Well said. Would you agree that the punk/emo/hardcore scene is
too insular for its own good these days?
"Haha, define 'insular' and I'll let you know," says
Gerard "I went to art school. Sorry..".
(Heehee) I mean mean, would you agree that it's too self-inclusive
and self-absorbed... And way too often elitist?
"I think that there are definitely people that are like that.
It's what happens when a scene gets too big. I think it happens
in every scene eventually. There are enough people keeping it
fun right now I think."
"Hahah, yeah I think those guys have a good sense of humor
about the scene. They ragged on us when they found out Geoff (of
Thursday) was producing the album, they said he was going to tell
us to 'turn up the emo'.
Haha! Well... I only
have one major question left. As a band, you have existed for
less than a year. You already have an album out, and tomorrow
night, you will play to an audience there to see international
giants Jimmy Eat World. Are you surprised at your own rate of
"Yes and no, and I'll tell you why. I am surprised because
it's happening so fast - I think there's always a degree of surprise
when you find yourself accepted and embraced. But I'm not so surprised,
because I come from the school of thought now, that if you're
cinsere, honest and stay yourself, people will respond. Though,
I guess I'm a little more surprised than I let on...".
Make The Heart Grow Fonder
By George Koroneos
In only two years, My Chemical Romance has gone from a band of
punks with a solid plan of getting out of their New Jersey basement
to a world-wide touring rock group that has spawned legions of
fans with their gothic version of pop-punk.
What’s a measure
of success? In September 2002, MCR had a record release party
at Maxwell’s (Hoboken, NJ), opening up for a bunch of unknown
bands. The place was packed early, and when singer Gerard Way
and his pack of Northern Jersey fiends jumped on stage, the spattering
of fans went wild, culminating with an awesome sing-a-long to
their favorite tune “Vampires Will Never Hurt You.”
And that was after their first album “I Brought You My Bullets
You Brought Me Your Love” had only been out for a week.
Now it’s 2004,
and My Chemical Romance returns to their home state for another
record release party. This time it’s at the newly baptized
Starland Ballroom. The venue is 20 times bigger than Maxwell’s;
MCR is headlining and just as packed. The crowd goes nuts as Way
crawls on the floor piping out tunes from both albums to overpowering
cries from the venomous crowd. This time the album has barely
been out for 24 hours.
So what’s the
band’s reaction been to the love they’ve been receiving
wherever they go?
According to guitarist
Frank Iero, “It’s been just silly.”
been given so many great opportunities and amazing things have
come through for us,” Iero says. “Kids we never thought
we’d meet just love the band. All our dreams have come true
so far. Anything from here on is just going to be a blessing.
Initially, you guys
mentioned that you had a plan for getting the band and your message
out. Have you met these goals?
“When we started
this band we set mini goals and then we had our ultimate goal,”
Iero says. “We met all our smaller goals—we’ve
gotten to meet and work with some of our heroes, and we’ve
been able to reach an exorbitant amount of kids that we never
thought we would ever reach. Our major goal was to actually make
a difference, and I think we are on our way to that goal.”
Beyond your major goal,
you guys have snagged the coveted ring, by scoring a major label
contract in just over a year. That’s pretty incredible.
record (“I Brought You Bullets…”) came out two
years ago, and we signed maybe six months ago—a year and
a half after the record was recorded,” Iero says. “It
really wasn’t that quickly, but we were so busy in those
last two years, touring asses off that it didn’t seem so
short. We got calls early on in the band’s life from majors
and we were always like ‘thanks for calling, but we want
to see how the record does.’”
“At that time,
a lot of bands from this scene/this state were getting calls,”
Iero explains. We got courted by a few labels that actually heard
the record and liked it and when we decided that going to a major
was the step we wanted to make, we picked the labels that were
there from the start and that ‘got’ us. We wanted
to work with a label that would allow us to make the record that
we wanted to make.”
So what have your parents
thought of your newfound success?
in bands since I was 11 years old and my parents have always been
supportive,” Iero explains. “They always let me practice
in the basement with my band and as long as I was doing well in
school I could play as many shows as I wanted.”
Produced by Geoff Rickley
of Thursday, My Chemical Romance’s debut album “I
Brought You My Bullets You Brought Me Your Love” was dark
without being heavy, conjuring audible visions of bands like The
Cure and Iron Maiden. Singer Gerard Way suffered through the recording
of the album due to an abscess in his mouth causing some unintentionally
brutal and mesmerizing vocal work.
Now signed with Warner
Bros, My Chemical Romance’s sophomore effort is a tad more
poppy and a lot more polished, but Way’s cathartic screams
are still held together by his band-mates’ raging yet melodic
punk hardcore instrumentation. “Going into the major label
studios and having a bigger budget gave us so many more tools
at our disposal,” Iero says. “We had three weeks to
write in LA before we actually started recording, and we had more
time to be secluded and just get in each other’s faces to
really fine-tune the songs.”
for Sweet Revenge” was entirely written by the band and
many of the same musical aspects carry over form the group’s
first release. “Helena” is an epic tune, similar in
style to MCR’s breakthrough hit “Vampire,” but
according to Iero there was never any intention to replicate the
past. “We do have epics on this record, but there are also
a lot of different feels on this “Three Cheers,” Iero
says. “We tried to bring the listener on more of a journey
through different mindsets. When listening through this record
we want you to go through different emotions like a ride.”
the release of incendiary new album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge,
New Jersey's own My Chemical Romance has consolidated a reputation
for brilliant, biting, and boundary-leaping rock 'n' roll that
first came to worldwide attention with their 2002 Eyeball Records
debut, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. Featuring
13 new originals written by the band, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge
is an impressive leap forward for a group that's been constantly
on tour for the better part of two years, winning a fanatical
following across North America and Europe, both as headliners
and co-billed with the Used, Taking Back Sunday, Story Of The
Year, and a host of others." (yahoo.com)
Dennis: Hey guys, thanks
a ton to take the time to do this email interview while you are
out on the road! My Chemical Romance, how did you guys come up
with the name and give a brief run down on how you 5 got together?
Mikey : The name "My Chemical Romance" originated from
the author Irvine Welsh's novel "Three Tales Of Chemical
Romance". All of Irving Welsh's novels have also been classified
as "Chemical Romances" as they involved young people
whom are strung out on drugs with some sort of romantic element
to it. This isn't to say that the band condones drug use, as we
are all clean and sober. We all got together after Gerard called
up a bunch of friends after writing a bunch of songs with our
previous drummer, Matt. We all loved the songs so much that we
wanted to be a part somehow. Frankie joined the band after the
break up of his then band "Pencey Prep". We wanted a
second guitarist and Frankie really wanted to be a part, so he
was inducted into the band. Finally, Bob was added after the dismissal
of our previous drummer, Matt.
Dennis: MCR is all
over the board on the latest release, "Three Cheers for Sweet
Revenge" both vocally and musically. What was the biggest
influence for this album with those perspectives in mind?
Ray: There really wasn't one main influence on us for this record.
We each listen to different music, so we all bring our own ideas
to the music. I come from a more technical style of playing, Frank
plays a little dirtier punk style, and Gerard and Mikey are obsessed
with Brit-Pop and the Smiths, so all those elements work their
way into the songs.
Dennis: One thing we
noticed was a lot of dark imagery and doom-and-gloom lyrical content.
Often through this type of message very important messages are
given but sometimes missed. What was the purpose and the message
you want portrayed from this album and why was their a PA sticker
on the cd with basically limited offensive words at all on the
Gerard: The PA sticker was for lyrical content, suggestive or
otherwise blatantly violent lyrics. The message is simple, and
one that we always portray: keep yourself alive and always have
hope. If people see through the doom and gloom they will find
the light at the end of the tunnel more obviously than "...bullets...".
The idea behind this record was to tell a fictional story that
mirrored the first 2 years of our lives. To execute the message
we use metaphors, such as the supernatural element of resurrection.
Dennis: Our stance
on lyrical content is listeners must weigh the positive and negative
inputs in their life. I personally steer away from negative music.
What are your thoughts of the influence of negative lyrical content
on the listeners?
Gerard: People should be allowed to think for themselves. I know
this is the typical answer but it really is true. We like to give
our fans more credit than most people would and let them figure
out what's right and wrong on their own.
Dennis: MCR has been
touring machines lately and never seem to rest. You guys are currently
on tour...how is the tour progressing?
Frank: Yes we are currently on tour for the rest of our natural
lives. However, there is talk of using a form of cryogenics so
that we will be able to tour longer. We are now on the Nintendo
fusion tour and the shows have all been great because of the kids,
and for no other reason. MCR fans are the most amazing people,
our shows are a healing and everyone gets involved. I can't imagine
any other bands having better kids than ours, and if they do at
least I know our kids can beat up their kids.
Dennis: The imagery
on your site and cd is pretty goth/eccentric. We don't noramlly
even ask bands about that but I love art and what influences others
in that regard. Who did the cover art for your cd and website?
Ray: Originally the cover was supposed to be a photograph, so
Gerard painted a sketch of what it should look like. The sketch
ended up being so good that we used it for the cover. The website
was designed by Gerard and Jon Sulkow at Prod4ever.
Dennis: I noticed the
image of the rosary in your cd booklet. One of the things are
website deals a lot with are the aspects of importance on spirituality
and with us that is Christianity. What are your thoughts, yes
you can be honest we have heard it all haha, on the modern movement
of Christianity both pros and cons?
Mikey: The image in the CD booklet of the rosary beads was meant
as a memorial to Helen Rush (me and Gerard's grandmother) who
passed away shortly before we went to Los Angeles to record the
record. It's actually a scan of her rosary beads. As for my thoughts
on the modern movement of Christianity, I am kind of on the fence.
I'm not 100 percent familiar with the goings on in Christianity
today, as Gerard and I grew up with a Christian upbringing, and
we no longer practice it. I understand the importance of faith
and spirituality but I think that each person in entitled to their
own opinion for such. I have my own form of faith and spirituality
but it isn't Christian based.
Dennis: Most bands
are put on a pedestal by fans, whether it is welcomed or not.
What is your advice to teens that may be going through some crazy
things in their life and do you have any examples you are willing
to share about how you guys have overcome adversity?
Ray: Everybody goes through rough things in their lives, us included.
The best advice we can give is to never give up, and always believe
in yourself because when you do that, anything is possible.
what did you blokes do on September 19 in celebration of "Talk
Like a Pirate Day" and please answer in pirate talk only.
Frank: ARRRRGH!! The romance got tested fer the scurvey they did,
and got drunk off Cap'n Morgan.....arrrgh!
interviews to My Chemical Romance