Interview: Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance
February 08, 2007 12:03 PM
by Christina Fuoco
For My Chemical Romance, it's been a rough and bumpy--and, at times, painful--road to success.
Take the filming of the video for "Famous Last Words": Pyrotechnics burned drummer Bob Bryar's leg, and the burn turned into gangrene and, subsequently, a staph infection. Meanwhile, lead singer Gerard Way tore ligaments in his ankle when the fire startled rhythm guitarist Frank Iero, who stepped on Way's ankle. That put the kibosh on 2006 tour dates.
"If it's easy, it's not My Chem," said Iero with a laugh. "For some reason, we always find the way to make it the most difficult thing in the world. If there's not a way to get hurt doing it or if it's not overly difficult, I'm sorry--we have to pass. For the next video, I think we're going to release lions and have them [devour] us. We don't like it easy."
Misfortune also struck Iero: he's missing this winter's overseas tour due to unspecified "illness." (He wouldn't comment on specifics; his publicist said he had a "sudden attack of illness.") As a result, he is in Los Angeles doing interviews to advance the US jaunt, which begins Feb. 22. Iero is scheduled to rejoin My Chemical Romance for the US dates in support of the group's Top 10, gold-certified album, last year's "The Black Parade."
"I'm waiting for them to get here. I cannot wait," he said. "I'm here and I've been checking up on them on YouTube and stuff like that. I know the shows are going amazing and they're killing it every night. I've been talking to them every night. I wish I could be there. I can't wait for them to get back to the States so I can play."
Before he rejoined the band, he talked to LiveDaily about the making of "The Black Parade," the album's storyline and working with Liza Minelli.
LiveDaily: This album is quite an evolution for you guys. Did you consciously decide to make an album much different from your previous works?
Frank Iero: It was an amazing experience; it really was. It was definitely a conscious decision to write something or do something we had never done before. We wanted to just to try to break down boundaries that maybe we had set up around ourselves. We wanted to do something that maybe would be timeless, that we would be proud of in 20 years. Something for the rest of our lives we'll always remember that we did this. We did something that we never thought we could possibly do.
What is the songwriting process like? Do you write in the studio, on the road, at home?
Actually, [it's] a mix of everything. When we were writing for this record, while we were on the road, we had a makeshift studio in the back of our bus. We had a little ProTools set-up. Anytime something would come to you, maybe you'd lay down a riff here or there. Or you'd bring it to somebody else and we'd lay down a couple of tracks. A lot of the stuff we wrote on the road--we kind of scrapped. Maybe one or two songs we kept or just kept in the back of our heads to write later. Most of them were just to get the writing process going. We sat down. We wrote in New York. Then we finished in New York. We moved into a [house] where everybody had a room. We had a big live-room and we could play whenever we wanted--24 hours a day. We had a little ProTools set up there where we could demo whatever songs we felt were at the level that we wanted to record.
[Producer] Rob Cavallo would come in and listen to us write, have suggestions where to go from there. He would play some piano and we would write around that. We went in the studio once we had skeletons of some songs and some songs were completely done. I'd never done this before, but we tracked in order of the record. It was so weird. That was Rob's idea. That was great because you could really live the story. You could go through all the emotions that the characters were going through. That's how it was happening. We were actually fine-tuning the story all the way to the end. When we had an ending where we knew where the character was going, and the story that we wanted to tell, some of the songs we needed to write in the studio. Some songs that we thought were great we scrapped in the studio. ,,, "[Welcome to] The Black Parade" ... was one of the last songs we did, and it was rewritten three or four times. It was actually recorded and done one of the ways. We listened back to it and it wasn't to the level we wanted it to be. We scrapped it, rewrote it, wrote a new chorus to it, and kind of flipped it around a bunch, re-recorded it, brought in some orchestration. My dad played some marching snare on it. It was great. It was just a real organic feeling.
Tell me about the story line.
The main character is The Patient. He is dying tragically of a disease kind of early on in his life. When death comes for him, it comes for him in his earliest memory, which is of his father taking him to the parade. So, death comes for him in the form of this black parade and takes him on this journey of basically his life flashing before his eyes. He goes on and sees different things he's seen throughout the years--different decisions he had made, different people he's met along the way--and you get to hear those stories. Finally at the end of the record, he starts to plead with death and realizes he didn't live his life the way he wanted to live it and he wants another chance.
I've heard your songs on pop, alternative and rock stations. Did you think, while you were writing "The Black Parade," that the album would have that kind of crossover appeal?
I can honestly say that never came to our minds when writing it. We just wrote what we wanted to write. We wrote what we wanted to hear and what the songs wanted to be. We were very fortunate that a broad spectrum of people like the songs and appreciate it for what it is. Did we know? No. It's really cool, though, that it happened that way. Now, a wider gamut of people can hear the record on the radio. It's especially cool for us because, in New Jersey and New York, there are no rock stations. Now, you can turn on a bunch of different stations and hear it.
Do you get a kick out of hearing yourself on the radio?
Yeah, it's kind of weird. My mom likes it a lot.
It seems like your talents are showcased a lot more on this album than previous efforts. Would you say that's accurate? It seems like you had more versatility.
Yeah, we definitely weren't tied into anything--"This song has to be a metal song," or,"We're this kind of band and we can't stray from that." We never felt that way. We're My Chemical Romance and any song we write is going to be a My Chemical Romance song, whether it has a salsa feel or whether it's straight 4/4 time or anything like that. .... We definitely experimented with a lot of different styles of music and different feels that we never tried before. That was one of the fun things about this record and the great things about having Bob Bryar in the band. He was just open to anything and could play anything. That's one of the opportunities that we never had in the past--somebody with that talent to be able to play any kind of tempo or feel.
What was it like to work with Liza Minelli?
Oh man, we owe that all to Rob Cavallo. We had joked about it. We didn't think we could accomplish getting her to sing on our record. There happened to be a character in the record, Mother War, who plays a part in the song called "Mama." We knew we wanted a female voice. We wanted a female voice of somebody who had lived a long, turbulent life. Somebody who had seen a lot, maybe experienced a lot of pain and maybe had it rough at times. We tossed around a bunch of names that we thought would be great for it. We kept coming back to, "That would be great if we could get someone like Liza Minelli." And one day, nearing the end of the recording process, Rob and was like, "Do you want someone like Liza Minelli or do you want Liza Minelli?" We're like, "F---, of course we want Liza Minelli. But there's no way that that could ever happen." He said, "All right, hold on." I guess his people called her people and whatever, and a week later we had Liza Minelli singing on our record. It was amazing. Apparently, she was a fan of the band and the things we were doing. She had a great time doing it. She did a great job.
What can we expect from your shows?
We're definitely going to do a My Chem show, but on a way larger scale. I don't think we've taken on as much as we're going to take on with this new tour. We're talking about different set designs and settings of the stories. It'll definitely take you on the journey of the record, but in a more visual sense than we've ever had before.
With a concept album, how are you going to perform the concert? Are you going to do "The Black Parade" in whole? Or are you going to break it into pieces and do a regular concert, per se?
I was talking to Gerard about it last night, and we're actually still talking about it. I think there's a very, very, very good possibility that we're going to do "The Black Parade" in the whole. But are we going to do it in the order of the story that has been released or are we going to change the story around a little bit? I'm not sure.
What are you going to do when this tour is over with?
We're doing the first leg of the US tour. Halfway through, we break, we go over to Europe, we do some European dates. Then we go back and do the second leg of the US tour. And then go to Japan, and then I think there's some European shows for the summer and also a US tour in the works right now.