My Chemical Romance
When My Chemical Romance first arrived with "I Brought You My Bullets You Brought Me Your Love" there's was little to separate them from the flood of emo bands at the time. It was an accomplished album recorded just 3 months after the band formed, but an album that gave little away as to what to expect on the follow up "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge". Propelled to national TV on the back of "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)", a song which goes along the line of thinking that the school days are certainly not the best days of our lives, the album is bursting full of overblown rock classics with each guitar riff and vocal multitracked to an opera sized epic. Designer Magazine editor Alex McCann caught up with MCR's frontman Gerard Way.
Q: You've been out with so many bands previous, How does the Taking Back Sunday tour compare?
A: We've actually been out with Taking Back Sunday twice. They're the sort of band that make you believe in what you do. They have so much fun and they're so grateful for what they have. There's very few bands you can consistently watch for the whole set, but TBS are very spontaneous so it's a joy to watch them every night of the tour. I guess the main difference is there are very few bands that you can feel you're friends enough to go round their house for Christmas or call them up in at four in the morning. TBS are one of the few bands you know that have your back. There have been times we've been on tour with other bands where everything's supposed to be cool, but there's always that underlying tension. We've never had any major problems, but when we're out with TBS or The Used it's like being out on the road with your best friends.
Q: Does it feel strange going from the headline tour to almost taking a step back to the support level again?
A: It was a decision that we had to make. It was easy because it was them, but it wasn't the easiest thing in the world. We have a good thing going in the UK on our own, whereas we support absolutely everyone in the US. I think the thing that swinged it for us is Taking Backing Sunday know what we need and even if they bring out five bands with them every band on that tour gets treated equally. They're very gracious like that.
Q: How has it changed for you as a band from "Bullets" to "Three Cheers...."?
A: Tremendously at this point. Especially in the States. There was actually a time when we thought we were going to be bigger over here, we always felt that the UK had an appreciation for real bands, and things just took off in the US in a way that we couldn't have imagined. Just things like regular MTV specials on the making of our videos and regular time on TRL. In the span of two weeks we'd done Connon O'Brien, Carson Daley and Letterman. We were on Letterman like we were some proper band rather than a little punk band. It's not a problem at the moment, but what we're trying to avoid in the US at the moment is becoming "the band that do the I'm Not Okay song". That's always a danger in that one song takes the band over.
Q: Musically there is a huge leap between the two records. Do you feel like a different band now?
A: The first album was really a good example of a band that wanted to tour a lot and play live. So our concern was just getting something out so the kids could learn the lyrics, sing along with us to our favourite songs and really understand what the band was about. We were only a band 3 months when we recorded it, and I don't want to say it's not the brightest thing to do cos I really love that record, and looking back we probably would have taken a little longer on it. I'm glad we put it out when we did because we found out very early on that we had a very big sound. At that time it was us finding our way. Now we know how to take that sound out of our heads and people say it sounds really polished, but it's still a really raw record.
Q: As you said it is a big bombastic scope to it. Is that what you wanted?
A: A big obnoxious sounding rock record. There was this feeling of bringing a real rock band back. Even when you see us live it sounds as if there's ten guitarists up on stage cos Frank and Ray have so much going on and complement each other so well. They really try to work with everybody as opposed to look at me. Franks has these riffs that play right under what i'm singing and Ray really loves these big power chords that I can just play along inside those. We're definitely a band that is very self aware. We think very much about in terms of what it's going to be like live when we play. There are songs that we flat out wouldn't put on a record if we couldn't play them live.
Q: When you first came out it was easy to call you an emo band, now it's like what are MCR made of?
A: That was actually what we wanted to happen. We were like please, this emo shits got to stop. We were called emo originally because we were a product of our environment. If you'd kinda been from Jersey at the time you'd realize that we were the most different band in Jersey at the time. I just hope that whatever we do it's classified as rock.
Q: When you witness My Chemical Romance live it comes across like the section in Alice Cooper's "Schools Out" where the band drops back and it's just the choir. With MCR it's like that with each and every song?
A: Yeah. It's weird as well because we're not really a singalong band. It's a lot harder for a band like us because there's a lack of repetition and there's more of a confusion thrown in. The kids somehow get these schizophrenic songs that we're writing and it's really nice when you get that moment where the whole room is singing along and believing in you.
Q: Do you see yourself as a singer or a frontman?
A: I think a frontman only because the rest of the band see themselves as performers and not just as musicians. The whole band have this mentality that this could be the last show so I can't just stand there and sing just like they can't just stand there and play. We really go for it and it's nothing we have to try and be contrived about, like when this part comes in make sure everyone's off the ground.
Q: The whole concept of the album changed lyrically from it's original idea to something for more personal
A: The way it happened was because I didn't think i'd be able to sing every night about fictitious things. Even if the things are metaphorical, which occasionally it is on this record, I just wanted to be straight and honest about a lot of stuff. Lyrically it is still quite ambiguous and I think that's purposefully done so that people can identify with it in their own way. It can't be so direct that you're spelling it out for them, they really need to get something out of it themselves.
This record particularly I looked up to Tom Waits and Nick Cave because there very colourful, almost poetic writers, but they're also very direct. They won't use a big word if they don't have to and I like that. At the same time though i've been a big fan of the Pixies for years and there's a cleverness that comes with Frank Black's lyrics.
Q: I've read previously that "It's Not Okay" and "Prison" are about your relationship with Bert from the used?
A: "It's Not Okay (I Promise)" is the actually the one song on the album about High School. It's a cry for help. "Prison" is more about life on the road. It's about Bert (The Used), my band and all the other bands we've toured with like TBS. It's about the people that you meet on the road that become very special to you.
Q: It's not hard to notice the film references such as John Woo / Tarrantino in your lyrics as well?
A: People always comment that we must watch a lot of movies and to tell you the truth movies inspire me lyrically and they inspire me musically. When we write a song we don't say lets make it a real punk rock song, we say let's make a cowboy song or a cabaret song so when the song first starts it will sound like a cabaret tune from one of the shows.
Q: Are you thinking about the next record now?
A: Someone gave me a piece of really good advice when we first started. He said "stop writing songs for a new record, you write songs that you want to play live. You're a band that first and foremost write songs to play live so just start writing songs for yourself". We've always felt that way so we're never thinking of the next record and that's why we're ahead of the game. By the time we got to pre-production on "Three Cheers..." we were all set to go.
We know what we're doing this time so it's going to be similar to this album, but I think people will still notice the leap. We might even have a ballad on the next record. Within this band you can do anything you want because when it comes down to the five of us playing it will sound like My Chemical Romance. I think this time round I will be a little more direct notions like salvation, retribution, damnation and how the band saved my life. I definitely want to deal with those subjects as opposed to something fictitious.
Q: How do you feel your life would have been if you wouldn't have formed MCR?
A: If I hadn't found this band I would probably still be very unhappy. I would probably still be drinking. I would probably be in a slump. Im 27 now so I would be 27 and felt like I have done nothing. You start to hit that point around 25 and that's right when things started to turn round for me. I'd been feeling lost since I was about 22 because I would always put a lot of pressure on myself, i'd been depressed and the band in many ways was a last ditch effort.
Q: Is it quite hard lyrically when you're contented like you now?
A: It's weird because it doesn't seen to affect our sense of black humour or what we worry about. We're always able to put ourselves right back in those lulls. I'm never able to forget the really bad stuff I went through, but i've found a division between what I do on-stage with the band and what I am in real life. It's really nice for me where I can be happy almost all the day before I go on stage. It's used to be the fact that for 45 minutes before i'd go on-stage I used to act like this f**king lunatic. Now it's like 2 minutes before I'm just hanging out and I get up on-stage and it's like woo woo. I think being sober and relearning how to be a frontman as a sober guy is a new feeling. Now I don't drink, I don't even take cough syrup with alcohol in it. If it's got alcohol or any type of drug in it, I won't go near it.
My Chemical Romance tour the UK throughout April
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