Ohio State | 05/05/05
My Chemical Romance, fresh off of their wildly successful "I’m Not Okay (I Promise)" video, is currently on tour opening for Green Day with a short, but extremely entertaining and HOT set. A thirty minute exposure to this group will turn you into a ferocious fan and will leave you thirsty for more! Although the band was formed less than four years ago, MCR is expertly crafting a successful career with tunes such as Helena and I’m Not Okay from their second release, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. We had the opportunity to talk with Gerard Way, lead singer of My Chemical Romance prior to the Columbus, Ohio show and he spoke to Musicpix about life, influences and talked a bit about what’s on the horizon for My Chemical Romance.
Gerard: I’ve always felt that as an individual, that every defeat and every failure you learn a lot more than every success. I have failed a great deal in my life with everything I’ve tried to do. I was a failed artist. I was a failed animator-this-that-and they other thing, I always missed. I never quite made it. I was always very close but I was always not quite there. We go on our gut but we also go with our heart. I’m not sure why that’s working because people who usually go with their hearts just get eaten alive.
Musicpix: I want to start off by saying how much we’ve come to admire your work. Your focus, your honest philosophy and artistic intelligence is the nucleus of your music. In our humble opinion, those are ingredients that are brewed into that elusive-magic chemistry that the music business tries so hard to capture….
Gerard: Thank you so much that’s one of the sweetest things I’ve heard all month!
MusicPix: It’s no secret that your popularity has been sweeping the world…and generally that kind of world-wide excitement is not an accident.
Gerard: We’re really happy that all of our ethics, our philosophy, and creativity is translating well. We actually kind of expected to be swept under the rug because we’ve seen many of our friends with the same intentions get swept under the rug. So we feel really lucky and really blessed to have it work worldwide.
MusicPix: How are you handling your new-found fame and what effect is it having on your music?
Gerard: The great thing about being in MCR is that you live
in a bubble. It doesn’t really affect us at all. There are positive and
negative sides. The negative side I’ll mention first. Your privacy is
gone and we’re really private dudes so that’s kind of unfortunate
but it comes with the territory. The positive side is that it does feel very
good and we’re not going to lie about it. We don’t really read press
or read reviews of our live shows. We stay away from all that stuff. Positive
or negative reviews could affect you negatively. So, we try to stay away from
record reviews- everything like that. If there’s a really interesting
press piece that comes out, like an interview, we’ll read those occasionally
to make sure what we’ve said hasn’t been misconstrued. But it is
really nice to be accepted and loved. So we just take it as it comes so we’re
able to stay very humble about it. It was also something that we were never
concerned with. We were all loners and outcasts in some ways and we still feel
like that woven with fame and success.
The music…? Revenge would have happened maybe slightly different if it was in Indie in the way it sounded. I think that the new material that we’re writing is a product of us growing up as individuals. I mean I just turned 28. I feel a lot older. When you live on the road too, you age a lot faster or you don’t age at all. There are bands that are stuck in the state of perpetual adolescence and they never really grow up and they’re spoiled brats. We’ve kind of been the opposite; we’ve grown up really fast and become adults.
MusicPix: The music industry is cluttered with hot new bands that then fade away. Case in point, Smashing Pumpkins. We think you guys are a close match-they even have a vampire tune! How do you feel about that comparison?
Gerard: The funny thing is about The Pumpkins is, it’s one of me and Mickey’s favorite bands of all time!
Musicpix: So we were’ on the mark..
Gerard: You are on the mark. And it actually goes even further than that. There’s nothing contrived about this band but at the same time, a lot of things are planned in advance. We think about the future a great deal. In fact, when we made out first record, I had patterned our career off The Pumpkins because they were able to do such free and artistic music. I wanted Revenge to be our Siamese Dream though. If you listen to Gish, it’s a band that’s discovering themselves. There are some self-indulgent elements to it, they’re a little bit all over the place…there’s a little acid rock. If you listen to our first record, it was the same way. It was a little self-indulgent, but there’s stuff happening all over the place. You’re really not sure what the focus is. By the time Siamese came out, they had harnessed that into something that could connect with a much broader audience. It was important to them to connect with a broader audience and not for fame or for money or for anything else. I’m not sure about Billy Corgan, but I know for us…it’s important for us to get our message out. It seems very sincere for them, so I really wanted to pattern that in a way off of Siamese Dream of what they’ve done like the next record is patterned off of Mellon-Collie and the next phase of their career.
MusicPix: Well we can hear it… great job! At this point in your career, you sound like you’re a big planner and that you really have focus. Do you have a gut sense of what it takes to last in the music business?
Gerard: I think we do have a gut sense of it. I think that everybody in the band has a gut sense of it as well. Basically, because I’m 28, it gives me an advantage because having failed so much in my life. And having realized why things went wrong, I’ve always felt that as an individual, that every defeat and every failure you learn a lot more than every success. I have failed a great deal in my life with everything I’ve tried to do. I was a failed artist. I was a failed animator-this-that-and they other thing, I always missed. I never quite made it. I was always very close but I was always not quite there. We go on our gut but we also go with our heart. I’m not sure why that’s working because people who usually go with their hearts just get eaten alive. We also think about every single decision we make a great deal. And that goes down to what we put on our t-shirts. Every step, every phase, every decision we think about and meditate on it, break, and then talk about it later. We do the right thing every time. And ultimately, we’re just going to do the right thing. Whatever the right thing is, that’s what we do.
MusicPix: Back to the music…You’ve mentioned Tom Waits as an influence because of his ability to craft a story. Storytelling is inherent in good Rock but Punk & Metal aren’t generally prone to storytelling. MCR has been able to artistically blend all of them together because of intelligent lyric. Can you talk about your hybrid sound?
Gerard: Contemporary metal is pretty devoid of storytelling. I mean there are some great bands that are doing it.. like Three Inches of Blood and Cradle of Filth- they have storytelling ability. If you look at metal for a long time, it was about shredding and stuff like that. Iron Maiden was a huge influence. Iron Maiden are storytellers… And punk rock, especially (besides The Misfits) there wasn’t any storytelling going on. It was political statements and things like that. I really just felt that there was a void in the lyrics. I felt like there was a giant void and that we could fill that. It was another decision that was really honest. And I said, this is what I want to do. I don’t care what everybody else is doing. I thought, wow, everybody is just singing about their girlfriends and that bummed me out. There wasn’t any contemporary music out there that I could listen to anymore.
MusicPix: Now that you have 2 albums under your belt, and are considered more than up and coming, what’s on your musical horizon?
Gerard: As a band, we are going to continue to tour. We are locked into Van’s Warped Tour for the whole summer. It’s pretty much Green Day, then going back to Europe because things are kinda of happening simultaneously in the States & Europe. We’re doing all of the festivals…we’re doing the German Festival-the UK ones. I believe that we’ll do our first and only headliner for Revenge- it won’t last awhile, we just want to do one tour to complete the vision with stage set up, the stage theatrics- theatrics that we’ve been promising ourselves for a long time. Then leave and go make another record.
MusicPix: Are you writing new material now?
Gerard: We’re eight songs into it now. We’ve always been prolific but never been so focused. Whenever we wrote before, we ended up with a lot of crap that we couldn’t use and a lot of self-indulgent weird stuff…we’d just go…all’s we’ve got is this cool metal riff with nothing to put over it or go under it. We learned a great deal about songwriting. And what we learned most of all, when you write stuff that speaks to somebody’s soul or their insides, the payoff is greater. Emotionally. So why wouldn’t you try to speak to someone’s soul? So why would you want to suppress, or try to confuse them, or just try to shell off. We’re not concerned with just shelling off. So I see lyrics or songwriting elements to a degree, becoming more simplified and direct. That isn’t to say it’s getting dumbed down…I just believe that it’s becoming more beautiful. We have eight songs…by the time we record the record, we’ll probably be in the thirties, and we’re just going to pick the best. I want the next record to have a great sense of duality. Very much like Mellon-Collie. I don’t think it will be a double-record.
MusicPix: We’ve talked a lot about emotions. And it appears that you guys have touched a hot spot because life is hard. MCR has touched a hot-spot that seems to be prevalent (and necessary) for all of us to deal with and that’s the ability to cope with the dark side of life- the duality of life. You’re obviously reaching folks with ‘issues’- what’s it like to have that kind of therapeutic influence?
Gerard: It great because it works really well…because the band started as my therapy… and then it became the band’s therapy… and that’s how we functioned for about seven months. And then it became other people’s therapy so it just made sense. Now it’s to the point where it’s a lot people’s therapy. And that’s really what the live shows are. It‘s a cathartic release of so much positive and negative energy being shot back and forth- and that’s what the live show has become. And our fans, we have the best fans in the world! We’re just starting to scratch the surface with our fans…they are the loudest, they are the craziest, they feel like our army. I can’t remember the last time I saw a band –not just have a room full of fans but to have an actual army. That’s really what they feel like when we play. We’ve actually tried to make the message slightly more positive live because I realize how impressionable some people can be.
MusicPix: Music’s most common thread focuses on life and loss. Can you give us your perspective on each? And why they’re important to each other?
Gerard: Absolutely. Life and Loss. It’s weird. I’ve been obsessed with death out of the fear of death. It took me until writing the lyrics for Revenge- it took me that long to come to grips with death and start to realize that death is a very beautiful thing. It’s a release. It’s a closure. It’s the end to one story and the beginning of another story. It’s very integral to life. If you don’t have loss-not even just with physical loss but you have to loose other things. You have to fail. Life is truly beautiful but there are really ugly things about life as well. Life is just like that. Death is tragic. Death is beautiful. Death is ugly so is life the same way. I think our understanding of death is going to make that next record so much more evolved past Revenge. To have this really grown up approach to death. I never thought I come upon it…just thought I’d always be pissed off and angry about death. But I’m not anymore.
MusicPix: Life is full of defining moments. Can you talk about your most definining moment?
Gerard: There are definite moments just before going on stage, that I felt the presence of somebody that I’ve lost and then go on to perform one of the best shows in my life. Long Beach Arena very recently was a very defining moment for this band. I think the death of my grandmother. The day we buried her was a very defining moment. That was when I think I really began to understand death a great deal. Then, Long Beach Arena really felt like one of those moments too. It was a really strange day. It was really crazy. I felt like a lot of things came crashing in and it was our moment to perform and show 14,000 people what we are made of.
MusicPix: True & Timeless art in its many forms, taps into human emotions. MCR makes us feel…why is that important to you?
Gerard: It’s important because for so long, people have gotten by with feeling nothing. Feel something! That’s why we’re so challenging live even to our own fans. Love & Hate are so similar. We’d rather have a room full of people who hate us and want to kill us than just stand there. There’s been such a high level of mediocrity in music that it just got to the point where people didn’t feel anything. People would just say, ‘hey I’m going to go to a rock show….probably get bombed, probably find somebody to screw…’ and it becomes this routine of bullshit. We’ve always been fighting against that. I think the first time people see us live.. when they were going to see the headliner…they were definitely taken aback and didn’t understand quite what was going on at first. Most of our fans didn’t like us the first time they saw us. Which is interesting- some of our die hard fans hated us the first time they saw us…they’re all fans for life now. Pretty strange. We’re that kind of band where people go to see another band and then see us, they are a lot whoa, this is a lot different than I expected from a rock show. Feel something. That’s what we’ve always been fighting for. Music is obviously reflective about it. It’s all right to be fucked up. That’s what we’re saying. It’s OK. There are other people like you, and we’re it. There’s this mystique in rock music and it’s taken that away…untouchable mystique where…they’re perfect-they have a perfect life…they make huge money…they screw groupies all day. And then we came out, it’s like whoa. There’s still a mystique about it this band because of the supernatural element to the music, but there’s something really real about this and I think people feel that. If you don’t feel anything, it’s not worth doing.
MusicPix: You’ve talked about that feeling of being dissatisfied and unfulfilled with your prior career, how has artistic expression helped define your music today?
Gerard: I feel that without my background in art, I would have
never really leaned how to communicate. And I think art ultimately; in its purest
form is communication. Not to get completely bizarre, to compare rock &
roll to cave drawings…but early cave drawings were the first art but they
were also communication. Now there’s a lot of bullshit art, it’s
not communicating to you. It just looks pretty or it’s just there to make
you angry. It’s just not communicating anything. I learned a great deal
about communicating through art. For awhile, I was actually very anti-art but
I didn’t realize the whole time, that’s what I was doing. I had
a fuck-art attitude in the beginning of the band. It worked though because I
got a greater understanding of art and what I was doing.
MusicPix: Many artists crossover into various forms of creative expression. Any plans to dive into other outlets?
Gerard: Yea, I’m working on a comic right now. I haven’t discussed it with any publishers yet but I want it to be something very separate from the band and yet very challenging to what’s going on in comic books. I have this great love of superheroes from being a kid. It’s a very experimental version of superheroes…to those who don’t know superheroes or understand superheroes… But I also want it to be very separate from the band. It would just be contrived if I did something like a vampire comic because I’ve moved on from vampires as a metaphor. I’m working on a comic right now that I’m very excited about.
MusicPix: Musical icons like Jagger, Clapton, and McCartney all started out very young. They’re all in their sixties now. Where do you think you’ll be musically at that age?
Gerard: As far as all of those guys, I have a great deal of respect, love, and admiration and I’m a huge fan of Beatles, The Stones, and Clapton. The guy that always interested me though was David Bowie. I think that if anything, I admire his career the most because it’s very elusive and it kind of only peeks its head out when it wants to. Something about Bowie…all of his incarnations, it’s so exciting. And since we’re such an evolutionary band, I think that fits right in with us. Making music when I’m 60? This is the kind of the band though that’s inherently engineered in its DNA to not be around when we’re 60…But then again, so was The Who. The Who is a very interesting band that you thought would live fast and die young…but The Who still plays and there’s a beauty to that. So who knows, we might still be around when we’re 50 still making music very much like U2 or something…but the DNA of the band is live fast die young-make a mark, fuck things up, and move on…
MusicPix: OK, we’ve talked about the aged. You knew you wanted to be in music at early age. Any advice for kids getting into music?
Gerard: The same advise I give to people wanting to get into anything and that is…create what you want to see or hear or feel, be honest about it- have the best intentions about it- use your creative power for good not evil and work your ass off! Honestly, the rest is easy and I truly mean that. There’s an element of talent there but I was just thinking about this the other day…I’m not the most talented individual; I just have a lot of drive. And I think my talent is having drive. I wasn’t a born musician. I wasn’t a born artist. These are all things that I trained myself to do because I wanted to do it so badly. I think that applies to anything in your life. You can do anything you want if you believe that you can do it. This band has an incredible sense of self-belief to the point that it’s terrifying to some people and that’s where we draw our power from. Being in a room of 20 people or 14, 000 people, we believe it, so eventually you’ll believe it no matter what. The power of belief is the strongest thing in the world. There’s no quick way. Even though we’ve only been a band for three and half years now, we had such a crash course in pain and suffering and misery and defeat and being on the road so much- we‘re a band living 7 years jammed into 2. That’s how worn out we got; that’s how sick we got; that’s how much fatigue we got, through the wringer we were put…ground down to almost nothing. You could do it faster, but it’s more work.
MusicPix: We ask everybody this question.…what’s your perfect world?
Gerard: I don’t think the world could be perfect because it’s imperfections that make it what it is. I think any world that was perfect would probably be destroyed very quickly.
MusicPix Six: We have a series of short questions that we ask every artist called The MusicPix Six:
MusicPix: What is the first musical instrument you played?
MusicPix: And at what age?
Gerard: 10 years old
MusicPix: What artist/performer influenced you the most?
Gerard: Can I pick 2? I played guitar at a young age and I gave it up. When I picked it up again, it’s ironic, it was because of Billie Joe. I don’t really talk about it that much in the press but I bring it now because it’s very relevant. He made it look fun and easy. He was also very honest. He made me want to pick up the guitar and play again. He was probably the first influence to make me play music again. He was the first artist who made me want to play music again. Also, Morrissey.
MusicPix: If you weren’t in your current band, what band would you like to play in?
Gerard: A back up musician in Tom Waits band. I’d actually like to be one The Bad Seeds because I’d like to call myself one of The Bad Seeds.
MusicPix: What are your 3 ‘desert island’ albums?
Gerard: Misfits- Walk Among Us, The Smiths, Best Of.. Brian Eno, Music for Airports
MusicPix: Who do you think is the most over-rated in the music industry?
Gerard: We usually stay away from calling people out in interviews. Really, a lot of the artists that people generally think are overrated, I actually enjoy. Some would say Madonna is overrated but I don’t think she’s overrated at all, I think she’s fantastic.
Gerard Way-Lead Vocal
Mikey Way-Bass Guitar
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (June, 2004)
You brought me your bullets, I brought you my love (July 2002)
- My Chemical Romance