Interview with Mikey Way!
MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE are a band constantly progressing in both sound and image as they search for musical enlightenment. Bass player MIKEY WAY tells LINDSEY CUTHBERTSON about the US punk rock group’s most positive changes yet.
You know a band has made it when they can dictate the terms of their touring schedule. When My Chemical Romance bassist Mikey Way chats to Rave from his home in the USA, he is enjoying a nice long break from the road designed specifically to take in the festive season.
“We’re just enjoying a little time off after the year-long stretch that we’ve done recently. We’re just relaxing at home right now, regaining some energy and sanity,”
Way explains, half in seriousness, half in jest.
Hang on a second; wasn’t My Chemical Romance’s latest album released only last year? Five years ago MCR wouldn’t have considered stopping touring at this stage of the album cycle. But it’s not like that anymore.
“We’ve never done it this way. Every album [before 2010’s Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys] we’ve toured on for two-plus years, so this is a different way of doing things for us,” Way says.
“We decided to go hard for about a year and then stop and make a new album, which is the plan that we’re sticking to at this current period of time. The last thing that we’ve got booked as far as shows go is Australia. We don’t plan on touring much after that…” he pauses for a moment, casting his mind ahead before finishing his sentence. “…Actually, that’s the end.”
Yes, you heard that right. The touring lifespan of Danger Days, MCR’s fourth (and second concept) album is almost at its conclusion. After the sombre theatricality of The Black Parade, Danger Days was a blast of colour, positive musical diversity and Mad Max-inspired imagery. After the heavy touring schedule of The Black Parade almost drove Way and his bandmates into the ground, they’re now approaching a lighter life on the road with the same upbeat attitude that they conveyed on the more recent album.
“The thing is that the way we used to tour we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were burning ourselves out a great deal with the way we did things, so we figured that this is a good way to stay creative and keep things fresh. This way, not touring on Danger Days for two-plus years means that we’ll be able to get back in and write new music quicker and we’ll be able to get back on the road much quicker and play that new music to people.”
After MCR’s tough slog supporting 2006’s The Black Parade, Way sees their new approach to touring having a great effect on the attitudes of himself, his brother, vocalist Gerard Way, and guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero.
“Everybody is in the best spirit mentally that I can ever recall. Everybody’s happier than ever, everybody’s more positive; I think that this is the right move,” he happily exclaims.
Time, experience and a conscious effort to change for the future led MCR to this point, but the end result is what keeps them there. Way attributes much of this invigorating feeling to the success that creating Danger Days eventually proved to be.
“It was all about an optimism and showing a different side of the band and changing people’s perspectives of us. We wanted to have fun and make an album that the fun was conveyed through the speakers,” he says.
“We did something on Danger Days that people probably thought we couldn’t do. We all stepped out of our respective comfort zones and broke down the walls of preconceived notions about the band. We wanted to show all these sides of us and influences that probably haven’t been seen before.”
It wasn’t easy to create that sort of album for MCR. They recorded an entire album and scrapped it before discovering the spark what would eventually become Danger Days. It was that desire to provide something fresh, new and ultimately fun that kept Way and the rest of MCR striving to achieve their goals rather than settle for something less fulfilling.
“We always wanted My Chemical Romance to be the band that we wished existed when we were in high school.”
“We’re such fans of each other as musicians and I think that’s how we maintain that level of interest in the songs. We’re as into the music as our fans are, so it was as surprising a revelation to us as it was to any of them to discover what Danger Days was. We were as exhilarated and shocked as everyone else. One thing that as a band we all frown on is that sometimes bands make albums that sound exactly the same for the duration of their careers. Even as music listeners, we never wanted to make a My Chemical Romance album that sounded just like a My Chemical Romance album. We don’t ever want anything like that to happen because that is boring to us. With every album we like to create a kind of universe for it to live in. We always try to make it as different as what we did last time and if we do ever tread over old ground it’s at least a nod or a wink and not just us aping what we used to do,” he says.
“We could write 100 albums that sound just like (2004’s) Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge and we could write 100 albums that sound like The Black Parade, but that would ultimately bore us as well as the fans. They’ve got those albums already. I think our fans would be disappointed with hearing The Black Parade, Part Two.”
That journey for progression has now taken MCR from an underground phenomenon to breakout megastars with the ability to not tour as long as they once needed to. But Way admits that while their sound and attitude has changed, the core of the band never has.
“We always wanted My Chemical Romance to be the band that we wished existed when we were in high school. No matter how old I think we get we still maintain that: we know how we felt when we were pissed off as 15 year-olds and I don’t think that’s ever going to leave us,” says Way.
MCR has come a long way in a decade. They’ve battled with preconceived ideas and burnout, but never once gave up on reaching their goals. Earlier this year Mikey’s brother Gerard described the difficulties of MCR’s career up to a point as being like “climbing up a mountain of slime.” It’s safe to say that they’ve now reached the precipice; so what does little brother Mikey see on the other side?
“That’s a good analogy he made. The uphill climb that we had, we were up against some impossible odds. We fought against everything: everything that was going on in music was against what we were doing, and we were this tiny band and we were playing halls and basements where sometimes only four or five people would show up,” reflects Way.
“So what’s on the other side of the hill?” he says, repeating the question as he searches for an answer, “That remains to be seen, but I know that it’s going to be exciting and fulfilling for us, because that’s the frame of mind we’re in and the type of people that we are now.”