Here’s an interview I did with My Chemical Romance back in 2004. This interview was actually recorded and appeared in part on their first DVD, Life On The Murder Scene, which was pretty cool but at the same time strange because I wasn’t told about it so it came as a surprise.
This interview occured a few months after their major label debut came out while they were on their first tour promoting it, so it was a brief time before they became the huge machine they are now. Great guys, I had a great time, even if you don’t like the band take a 10 minute break from life and check it out below.
EDIT: Thanks to everyone for reading! I’m getting quite a few hits on this interview and some great feedback. For those who were asking, if you watch the dvd I’m the guy in the red coca-cola shirt, only visible a few times. There’s a girl wearing glasses (Hi Debbie!) sitting between me and Gerard.
PLEASE leave a comment with your thoughts! I have a bunch more interviews from years past that I can post if you want them (the Sound of Animals Fighting’s first interview ever, A Wilhelm Scream (2004), BoysNightOut (2003), Moneen (2003), and The Used (2004). Let me know what you want!
Band: My Chemical Romance
Members: Gerard, Mikey, Ray and Bob
Label: Reprise Records
Location: Kool Haus, Toronto
Date: October 20th 2004
Interviewer: Gary Hampton
When My Chemical Romance stopped through Toronto this past week I had a chance to sit down with the guys and discuss their band and their opinions on certain topics. For the past three years they have been touring off of their debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, and recently released their major-label release Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge to the delights of many people. Was this album as rushed as the first? Apparently not, as Gerard tells us.
GERARD: We had about a two month break, which wasn’t really a break because we just wrote for two months. We had written stuff on the road and then we needed about two more months to kinda lock it in cause we weren’t very happy with the demos, and it was just a lot of rough ideas and nothing solid. So then we went to L.A. early, spent about a week writing more, then we spent another three weeks in pre-production writing again. Then we made the record and we were on tour literally the next day, after it was finished tracking.
And anyone who has heard the record will probably agree, this abundance of writing time paid off when the final copy hit the streets. Not only were the fans enjoying the album, but the band members agree that this is a better representation of them, and the songs are getting a better reaction from everyone. Did they succumb to the pressure after releasing such a critically acclaimed album as the first?
GERARD: Basically, we knew there was going to be a lot of pressure because the first record kind of got a lot of critical attention but at the same time we realized that not many people had heard it. So we kind of had that on our side. We didn’t let the pressure of making a good first record get to us and we also weren’t super huge fans of a lot of the songs on that record and we knew what we could improve. I mean, we were only a band for three months when we made that record and all the songs that are on that record are the only songs that we had. We literally squeezed every one we could out of ourselves to make that record. This time we had a lot more time to think about stuff and it was way easier, there were songs that didn’t make this record and it was cool to have stuff to choose from.
So heading into the studio the guys knew what they wanted and decided on a producer; Howard Benson. Howard has produced albums with such bands as Hazen Street, Head Automatica, Less Than Jake, Zebrahead and many more. So why did My Chemical Romance decide he was the best choice for them? How did he help them grow as a band?
GERARD: He had made four Motorhead records, and that’s what got us interested about him and what also got us interested about him was the fact that he contacted us and that’s how we like to work. We don’t like to chase people, we don’t have big egos but it’s really nice, I think a project is ultimately going to be better when you have people that mutually want to work together as opposed to having to convince a big shot producer to work for you. That was the case with him, he was very interested in the band, he wanted to find out more about the band, we wanted to get the band. What he helped us do was really structure our songs to not be so self indulgent or last like six minutes long like Vampires [Will Never Hurt You] does. Like ‘Vampires’, I think, is the best song on the first record, it’s the fans favorite song, but it’s also six minutes long. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it was good to learn from that experience and have somebody kind of point out the fact that you have sections here that aren’t adding to your song at all.
If you listen to both albums you can hear a change in the music pretty distinctively while keeping the same My Chemical Romance feel to it. What was it that made their sound change since the previous album?
GERARD: I think kind of a willingness to accept the fact that we’re a band that wants to write great songs and not just be self indulgent or kind of overly intelligent for the sake of being snobby. I think coming to grips with that was what changed the sound, instead of just trying to impress people with the fact that we could do ten changes in one song, or time signature changes or mood changes or something we’re more interested in now.
This record is more than just the music for the boys in MCR, as lead singer Gerard Way designed both the album cover and the tray art. Some would say the crossover between music and art is a simple step, but Gerard found it a difficult task mixing the band and the painting.
GERARD: It’s like the hardest thing, it really is. Coming up with the ideas and a visual aesthetic for the band is the fun part, it’s the easy part, but executing it with that kind of thing is very hard because I find it difficult to kind of remove myself from it, I’m too close to the project. When I draw something, I’d rather have somebody else do it, but with this one the people at Warner loved it so much they convinced me to use it. [The cover art] was really supposed to be a photograph of two people but they loved it. I find it really hard because you’re so close to something.
But that’s not where Gerard’s artistic interst ends, as even on stage he likes to give the kids more, usually by dressing up in fancy suits and jumping about to the beat. The last time they were in town was with Face To Face and once again, Gerard was sporting the suit. How planned does this style get and how often does it change?
GERARD: It’s all very spontaneous but just by the way I am I change things constantly. This tour for example the make-ups a little different and I’m a different jacket now, but it’s relatively the same thing, I wear a suit more or less. I always try to keep it a little new.
The tightness of the group has been around from the beginning, especially since two of the members are related. Gerard and Mikey (who plays bass) are brothers, which makes it easier in many ways.
GERARD: I think it makes it a lot easier.
MIKEY: It’s one less person that annoys the shit out of you, you know? Cause you know them, so you don’t have to get to know them.
GERARD: Yeah, and when you’re in a band it takes a while to become brothers with the other guys, but you eventually do. That’s where we all are now and that’s awesome, you know? But it definitely makes it easier because you know you have at least one person that you’ve lived with so long, that you get along with so well that you can kind of go out and go shopping for comics or something, whatever. But really, it’s not really that way in this band where we need to get away from each other. We all get along extremely well, like brothers, and we all do the same things, we all play video games and we go out comic shopping with each other.
Since they all enjoy video games it seems like this tour, The Nintendo Fusion Tour, is just right for them. So exactly what kind of perks do they get from being on a tour with such a sponsor?
GERARD: The first day they gave us a Gamecube with four wireless controllers and Mario Kart, which was really nice of them and we play that stuff all the time. They just recently gave us Donkey Konga, the bongo game, they gave us four sets of bongos so we’re very excited, they’re so nice to us, you know? It definitely has its benefits.
So somehow between writing, painting, video games and touring the band found time to film a video for their single I’m Not Okay (I Promise), which seems to go hand in hand with the movie poster concept found in the cd booklet and even the title of the album. Was this all planned?
GERARD: I wanted [the album title] to kind of be like the title to a movie that wasn’t really a movie, like an unfinished movie or a movie that was never made.
About the video:
GERARD: Mark Webb came up with this idea of making…we had all wanted something kind of school like but we kinda realized we were older and we’re not gonna be very convincing high school students so we had brought the idea to him to be prep school students, maybe post high school. We wanted it to kind of feel like Rushmore, that movie. He came up with the idea of having a movie that didn’t exist, and have a trailer for that movie. I hear it’s pretty convincing, I hear a lot of people who had never heard of the band at first watch it and they think it’s from an actual movie. So it was his idea to do that and the rest was pretty collaborative, like he had this vignettes that are throughout the video but he let us have a lot of input, you know? It was really collaborative.
With all this talk about movies, wouldn’t it be interesting to see a My Chemical Romance movie? But what would that movie be like? How would it end? Who would act as the members? Well, I decided to get their opinion on it and casting themselves wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.
GERARD: I’ll talk about the ending first, I think the ending would be really good. And I think in the end everyone would kind of go back to normal doing that they did before the band or maybe something new like living in the woods, or writing children’s books. Bob would be, probably, an airline pilot or something. I’d like to think that when this band it through that everyone’s lives would go back to normal, not that we’re not happy right now but I’d like to think that everybody is going to have a really good life when this band is done.
As far as who would play us, I don’t really know. What do you think Mikey?
MIKEY: Bob would be played by Lou Ferrigno.
GERARD: Bob knows a lot of celebrities. He’s just knowledgeable, you know a lot of celebrities. You spit out names I don’t even know. Come on man, cast the movie, it’s your job.
BOB: Gerard…Brad Pitt. Obviously.
BOB: Mikey. What was the dude we saw the other day? Caddie Shack 2 guy?
GERARD: Oh! Jackie Mason. I think Christina Ricci would play me, Brad Pitt would play Mikey.
BOB: Ray would be…that’s a rough question.
GERARD: How about Ashley Simpson.
BOB: No, Ashley Simpson would be Frank.
GERARD: Okay, Ashley Simpson will be Frank.
BOB: Definitely. Ray would be that American Idol dude.
After some discussion over which American Idol dude he was talking about…
MIKEY: OH! Clay Aiken!
GERARD: Okay that works. We’ve gotten it all.
Is MCR worthy of a movie? Are they worthy of your attention? I asked the guys what they think makes them so special. Why should we listen to them over other bands; what sets them apart from the rest?
Gerard: I think our attitude really sets us apart as far as why we’re in this and what we do this for. It’s not simply for the fun of being in a band or playing music, it really has nothing to do with that, or fame or money or anything. Not saying that a lot of bands are just interested in money but I think a lot of people just are in bands because they love music, you know? And we’re in it because we love helping people and we really wanna be there for people and that’s kind of, that’s our attitude towards this band. So as a result of that we are extremely sincere about it and you can kind of hear that as a result in the music. And we’re also a band who takes a lot of risks musically, and I think that’s the most exciting part of listening to this band. From our standpoint, we listen to it like fans, you know? We’re all fans of the band we’re in and the fact that each song is completely different from the last, you never know what we’re gonna do next, I think is really exciting about us.
So they’re a band who care, a band who takes risks. With so many risks and changes in the songs it’s hard to put a finger on their sound. Sticking them into a genre is a difficult task, but many people have tried. If you go to Launch.com you can find them under the ’emo’ category. Does that bug them?
GERARD: Not really. I mean, Launch.com is owned by ‘Yahoo!’ which is this really huge corporation thing. I’m sure that they have a hard time categorizing music and they’re probably just going off what they find in the media to call bands like ours, you know? The main reason we get categorized in that is cause we tour with so many of those bands. We’re always odd man out on any tour we’ve ever been on though. We’re always the ‘weird dark rock-n-roll band’ touring with these emo bands because that’s just what’s big right now. It doesn’t bother me at all, they have to categorize it somehow for being on Yahoo and stuff.
With so much talk of ’emo’ I was interested on their take on music today and the whole ‘scene’ in general. On their new album there’s a line from the song Thank You For The Venom where they sing “I wouldn’t front the scene if you paid me”.
GERARD: That line was kind of a direct commentary on the climate of music right now and how we aren’t a part of that scene. I don’t want this band to be like the poster child for that scene and I wouldn’t front it, I don’t want, you know.
So they wouldn’t front the scene, but what do they think about it?
GERARD: I think the scene is great for what it is but I think it’s being exploited, it’s way past exploited. It’s probably into its stages of death pretty soon. If these bands don’t evolve soon they’re all going to just fade away. That’s the problem with scene stuff, it’s not like grunge. Nothing is gonna be like that, I don’t think. Not for a long time, I mean this is just like another fad, you know?
If it were up to them, how would they categorize themselves?
GERARD: This is probably every bands answer, but we really categorize ourselves as a rock-and-roll band. I always like to use the term ‘neo-death’ to describe it because it’s kind of like this new wave of death rock which is a genre but I feel like that’s just a part of us, to be a death rock band. All of our stuff’s about death and I don’t see that really changing. I mean it’s positive too, it’s very positive music. It looks at death in both the negative and positive aspect.
So why exactly do they discuss death so much in their lyrics? What does Gerard find so intriguing about it?
GERARD: I’ve always been obsessed with it growing up, and I think that’s just why. I don’t think there’s any other reason.
And what does he believe happens when you die?
GERARD: I’d really like to think that there’s something else after death, I feel that there kind of has to be. It would really be one of the only explanations for everything is that there is something beyond death. What that is I don’t know. It really goes hand in hand with how I feel about God. I think there is something out there, I don’t necessarily know if it’s God, but it’s something.
GARY: If it’s the God that has been discussed?
GERARD: Yeah, it might be like a giant octopus or something. That would be kinda cool.
With so much talk of death in their lyrics I wondered what is happening right now that they would like to be dead, or something that is dead that they’d like to bring back. So I wondered and wondered, and then I asked them. Their response?
GERARD: Hair crimping needs to go. You know what I’m saying?
BOB: Hair straightening.
GERARD: Hair straightening?
MIKEY AND RAY: OH!
GERARD: No way dog! You’d ruin every band out there! Um, hair crimping has to go. I don’t see it very often but when I do it burns my ass.
GERARD: Yeah, slippers. We’re gonna bring back slippers from the dead.
MIKEY: I think Hula-Hoops need to come back. There’s less violence in the world when people are using Hula-Hoops.
My Chemical Romance have been lucky enough to tour excessively, but when you’re on tour you don’t always get to see the places you’re in even though you’re there for the day. So where would the boys like to revisit and just spend a day as a tourist?
GERARD: San Francisco.
BOB: No, remember that place that we drove through? Niagara Falls? Canada side?
GERARD: Oh yeah! Niagara Falls, Canadian side. I’d like to go back there. I think we’d have fun there, there’s a lot of haunted houses.
A band who tours together build strong relationships, and that’s not always just the case with a band themselves but also other people on the tour or other bands with them. Such is the case with frontman of The Used, Bert McCracken. He appears on the new album on the song You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison, and in The Used‘s new single Take It Away there’s a line using the name Chemical Romance. Where did this relationship start? On tour.
GERARD: It started on the road, which is how we met Bob. Bob did their sound for three years, then he did Thrice for about two years?
BOB: Something like that.
GERARD: And we just became friends. [Bert] was just a fan of the band, nobody had known who we were. It’s kind of like what he’s doing with The Bled right now, although more people know who The Bled are than knew who we were, but he just loves that band. He’s a big fan of, instead of taking out who’s hot at the moment, just taking out something people haven’t been really exposed to and exposing lots of people to it. He brought us out for three months and to probably five countries.
GARY: The first time I saw you guys was two years ago, here (The Kool Haus), with The Used.
GERARD: Yeah, that was our first, probably one of our first times in Canada if not the first. Oh yeah, we came with Piebald, and then that was our second time.
Anyone who read the latest issue of Alternative Press that has read the latest interview with The Used knows about what Bert had said about his appearance on the album, and his story about himself and Gerard making out for a long period of time. I wondered about this, so I asked him.
GERARD: I don’t really comment on that. Um. Yeah.
Okay, okay. No comment. But at least is it a true story?
GERARD: Uhhh, yeah. Kind of. Me and Bob make out all the time so it’s not a big deal.
I guess it goes to show how close you can get to people. All in all I would say that that song (You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison) is my favorite on the album. I always think about bands and their own personal favorite tracks on their own albums and what they like to play live, and here’s what the band had to say.
GERARD: Prison. For sure. That’s my favorite live and on the record.
RAY: Prison probably live, and on the record To The End. Live too we’ve been playing I Never Told You [What I Do For A Living], and it ‘s been really good. It kind of has a new life now I think, that kids know the words kinda know where the songs gonna go and stuff.
MIKEY: My favorite to play live would probably be Helena, because it’s fun. Favorite on the record would probably have to be Cemetery Drive.
BOB: I think live…I don’t know. I think it’s Ghost [Of You]. It seems like it’s a change of pace half way through the set, kind of. [On the record] Helena.
If you notice, all the songs listed above appear on the new record, and none of their favorites are from the first. Does this come into play when choosing which songs to play live?
GERARD: We prefer our new stuff. We toured off [I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love] for like two years. But we play about three to four old songs per night. It was very strange, before the new record even had came out we noticed the new songs were going over better than the old songs. And now that the records out it’s a big difference in who knows the old stuff and who knows the new stuff.
I can remember seeing them live for that first time and them starting their set even before most of the kids were in the venue, and watching the crowd kind of start to notice them and start nodding their heads. For the majority of the people in that room this was their first time hearing the name My Chemical Romance, me included. Sure, I had heard a couple of their songs but only because I listened to them once I heard they were opening the show and I wanted to hear what they were like. And now when I see them play they have their crowd; they have their fans that are there for them and them alone, which is just awesome to see. So where do they want their band to go? To what extent of fame are they looking for?
GERARD: We really want to be able to get to the point where we could up the production value of the show and really play for at least an hour long with proper lighting and really theatrical things going on. You know? To do that you have to get pretty big to afford it and I think that’s really where we wanna get, to give people a really good show and really to reach people and drive the point home. I think that’s what we want.
It seems like tour life is a big part in their band. The success the want is for their show, to give kids a good time. What draws them to this tour life and also what’s the worst part about it?
GERARD: What draws us, I think, what drew us in the beginning was the fact that we get to see the entire world. We had always hoped to see just the country and then we got the opportunity to see the whole world, and we have really. I mean, there’s lots of places we haven’t been but we’ve been to so many places that were really high on my list and were more important to me like Japan was huge to me. And having the band play a show in London and have it be a huge show, really, that’s like a dream come true. So I think that’s what drew us, the fact that we weren’t gonna just be these guys that lived in our parents basements anymore, we’re gonna be guys who saw the world and experienced things and grew up a lot as people. I think the worst part is you just miss people that you left back home. Your friends and family and loved ones, like you just miss all them. That’s the worst part. The best part is waking up in a new city and kind of trying to get a sense of where you are and going out and exploring it.
With the sudden interest in My Chemical Romance and their love of tour life I’m sure you will get the chance to see these guys in your home town if you haven’t already. They say they have tour plans coming up including a North American headlining stint next February. This is a band to see live, they put all they have into it and you can tell that they love what they’re doing. I can say in all honesty that My Chemical Romance is one of my favorite bands right now and one of my favorites to see live; they’re so exciting every single time. Go see them play, go buy the record, they deserve everything they get.
If you want more interviews, let me know. I have more to share! I think The Sound Of Animals Fighting might be next, it was the first interview they ever did and Rich got very detailed into the origin of the band. Let me know if you want it!
Interview originally posted on ThePunkSite.com
13 Comments so far
Leave a comment