Interview with Ray Toro!
BEING LUMPED IN WITH A “BUNCH OF SHITTY BANDS” WAS THE WORST PART OF BEINGLABELLED EMO, RECKONS MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE GUITARIST RAY TORO. BUT MARKHEBBLEWHITE LEARNS THAT LONGEVITY IS THE BEST REVENGE ON THOSE EMO LUMPERS.“
Under normal circumstances, it’s impossible to tell whether someone is rolling their eyes over a phone line. But when asked about professional American right wing nut job Glenn Beck’s recent categorisation of the band’s track Sing (which was featured on the mega popular Glee) as “propaganda”, the sound of eyeballs sinking gracefully back into Ray Toro’s skull is almost audible. Not surprisingly, Toro is unwilling to grant the Beckmiester anymore of his time or breath, but he is willing to again address another charge often labelled against the band. That is that My Chemical Romance is – you know – the ‘E’ word.
“The emo tag doesn’t really bother us as much as it did in the past,” laughs Toro. “As we’ve developed as a band that charge has really gone away to the point where it only creeps up now and then. I think what was really frustrating though was that the tag itself was really indefinable – we kept getting called something that to us made no sense whatsoever. Second, it meant that we were lumped in with a whole bunch of, for lack of a better word, shitty bands.
“Our revenge on all those journalists and commentators who wanted to call us ‘emo’ as if to suggest we were a band that teenagers liked for a couple of months, was to survive and carry on making good records and playing good shows. And in doing that we’ve not only kept fans who have been with us from the beginning, but we’ve made new fans with each record; fans that appreciate us for a range of different reasons.”
So if Toro himself could go back in time and invent a catch all description for his band’s blend of punk fire, metal riffage and alt rock angst, what would it be? “This is going to sound so clichéd and I don’t want to offer up platitudes, but I’ve always felt that we are one of those bands that doesn’t fit into the traditional categories that people use to describe heavy music. When we first started writing songs, we decided that we didn’t want to have boundaries and that’s why you’ll hear everything from a straight punk rock song right through to big emotional ballads like Sing. Basically we don’t give a fuck – if a song sounds good we’ll use it and think about what genre it fits into later.”
It’s been a busy time of late for the Garden State natives. In 2010 the band unleashed the well received Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys LP before setting out on the mammoth World Contamination tour that has seen them play to sold out crowds across America, Europe and Japan. With those dates under their belts, the band is poised to once again hit Australia as part of the Big Day Out line-up. According to Toro, the tour represents a blend of déjà vu and excitement at the bright future the band see stretching ahead of them.
“We played Big Day Out back in 2007 and I can safely say it was one of the best festival experiences we’ve ever had in our lives,” he gushes. “We played with such a great line up – Tool, Muse, The Violent Femmes, Trivium – really diverse acts and I got to watch them all every night. It was fuckin’ mind-blowing. There’s something about that particular festival – it has its own unique energy that doesn’t exist in any other festival throughout the world. And trust me, we’ve played everything from the Warped festival to the big European shows and as great as all of them are, there’s nothing like coming down to Australia to do the Big Day Out.”
A big part of the Big Day Out’s appeal for My Chemical Romance is the fact that the festival’s very diversity means every band is in a sense being thrown to the lions. Playing to a partisan audience at a festival where every band sounds alike is easy. Stepping on stage in front of thousands of people who have never heard a note of your music is extremely hard. But Toro wouldn’t have it any other way. “When you’re out of your element there’s a real challenge to get people’s attention,” he explains. “You have to push harder and play better than you would at one of your own shows. These aren’t people by and large who’ve gone out of their way to see you. They just happen to be there and at best are curious. But this situation, which could be seen as a negative, can bring with it a great positive. When you crossover at a festival – in the sense that you have the attention of those people – it creates a palpable energy for the band that you can never get anywhere else. When you know that a large group of people have become interested in you for the first time at that moment because of the music you’ve been playing, it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
However, it’s not only My Chemical Romance’s live schedule has Toro excited for the coming year. As it turns out the guitarist is anxiously awaiting the rebirth of one of metal’s greatest institutions. “When I heard that Black Sabbath were getting together I just couldn’t believe it,” he admits. “What an amazing band and it looks like younger fans like myself who never got a chance to see them before [will]. Sabbath are the soundtrack to my life when we’re on tour. I just put my iPod on shuffle through all their albums and I don’t have to worry about anything. Every song that comes out of the speakers is fantastic.
“I would never compare our band to Sabbath, but in a way they are like us because they had a willingness to write anything. You know, they’d go from something like Snowblind, which is really fucking heavy, to something like Changes, which is a piano ballad. I really admire them because they weren’t afraid to take risks with their music – and to me that’s the hallmark of a great band.”