“We felt like nobody could touch us…” – Gerard Way #4
My Chemical Romance’s journey has been astonishing. Growing up in New Jersey, they were at the heart of a scene that spawned the likes of Thursday and other acts associated with the band’s first label, Eyeball. Growing up, all four of the band say they were misfits. Gerard said his time at school was “pretty solitary. I didn’t have too many friends. I was really isolated and found solace at the comic book store. One of my first days in high school I sat all alone at lunchtime. It was the classic story – the weird kid in an army jacket, a horror movie T-shirt, long black hair. People were never really mean to me, though, they mostly just left me alone. I think I wanted to be alone, too”
Frank grew up sneaking into clubs to see his musician father play before joining local act Pencey Prep and gigging in halls, basements and anywhere that would have them. Meanwhile, Ray says he was one of the “invisible masses” in high school, and spent a childhood indoors trying to play Hendrix, Zeppelin and Metallica riffs while pondering a career in film. It was him, Gerard, Mikey and drummer Matt Pelissier who first came together as a band, kick-started by Gerard watching the Twin Towers collapse on September 11 2001, and realising that, with life so fragile, it was worth doing something with it. From that days on, he put down his comic book dreams and turned to music.
“I was in Hoboken, which is right across the Hudson River,” he said. “There were 400 people and me. Right in front of us, those buildings went down. It was the biggest fucking neutron bomb of mental anguish you’ve ever felt. From then on, I was in my parent’s basement with a very small practice amp and a very old Fender guitar. That’s when I wrote Skylines and Turnstiles [as a reaction to what he saw on 9/11] and some of the earlier material. I wrote those songs sitting in my pyjamas with notebooks all around me. It was me going, ‘All this stuff has been inside me for years and I want to get it out,’ I wasn’t depressed at that time exactly, but I mas certainly a hermit”
It was Gerard’s brother, Mikey, who found their name. He worked in a bookstore and, while flicking through the racks one day, came across the Irvine Welsh Book Ecstasy: Three Tales Of Chemical Romance. From then on, their identity was complete. They plagued Thursday’s Geoff Rickly to produce them.
“Gerard came up to me at a party and said, ‘Me and my brother are going to start a band.’ When your friends says that to you at a party, you think, ‘Okay whatever,’ ” recalled Geoff. “He said , ‘No, I’m serious. We’re going to be called My Chemical Romance.’ I laughed and said, ‘Well, at least you’ve got a great name.’ ” But they forced him to the studio in early 2002 and, a few months after they formed, they had made the rough diamond of their debut.
“The beginning of the band was a pretty magic thing,” said Gerard. “We felt like we were on fire, that nobody could touch us. Nobody could figure out what we sounded like, they just knew they liked it. There was this energy – we were like a fucking gang.” Needing an extra guitarist, they turned to their friend in Pencey Prep, Frank, and with the album made, toured it fanatically. It was there, on the road, that they discovered what they had. Something about their intensity, their openness and blackened poetry not only connected with the small crowds they found but inspired, too. From New Jersey nobodies, They became underground somebodies, their power and passion too potent to ignore.
By the time of second album Three Cheers Fro Sweet Revenge, though, the had been knocked off course. Gerard and Mikey’s grandmother died the night they returned from a tour.
“Se died the night I got home,” said Gerard. “The emotions I went though at that moment and over the next six days completely fulled…Revenge. All the fucking anger, the spite, the beef with God, the angst, aggression and the fucking venom all came from those six days. When I lost her, I felt like I lost my mentor.” He took out his frustrations by drinking heavily and popping Xanax, an antianxiety pill. Meanwhile, the pressure on his band to record a major-label album was tightening. “It was a very fucking insane place to be at that moment,” said Gerard.
The album was made in LA, and three of the band – Gerard, Mikey and Frank – threw themselves, at least partially, into a hedonistic lifestyle. “When we weren’t making music, there was such a fog. Some of us were experimenting with pills. We’d all just vanish for days when we weren’t in the studio,” said Gerard. But the record they made was extraordinary. Furious, ambitious, imaginative, howking punk-rock, it was stunning. In lead tracks like I’m Not Okay (I promise) and Helena, they had written anthems. Yet as it was readied for release, the band were in trouble. Drummer Matt Pelissier was becoming isolated – eventually sacked was becoming isolated – eventually sacked and replaced by Bob Bryar – while Gerard was drinking to the point of breakdown.
An eight-ball of cocaine, handful of pills and his daily bottle of vodka in Kansas in 2004 caused one collapse, while binge-drinking sake in Japan soon after persuaded him to get help. As he got clean, so Three Cheers…became a phenomenon. No rock band in years had created the impact My Chemical Romance had then. Their fans were not simply fans; it became almost a cliche for crowd to tell band they had saved their lives.
And so it built, through the recording of The Black Parade and on until Danger Days vibrant slashes of colour and sound. They were the biggest, most innovative, most glorious band of the last decade. Four kids from New Jersey did something when they came together that no other band in 12 years has equalled: they created music that gave people a reason to live. How many others can say the same?
Where they go from there is anyone’s guess, but it seems unlikely we’ll not hear more from them. Gerard has already proven his talents as a comic book creator with the The Umbrella Academy, while Ray is too gifted to keep quiet for too long and might make a brilliant producer. Mikey has hinted in the past that he might work on comic books, while Frank’s future is perhaps clearest: his Death Spells side-project is touring with Gerard’s wife’s band, Mindless Self Indulgence. But, for now, it looks like it’s all over. For good? Gerard Way has responded to a 16,00-strong online petition requesting a farewell tour saying, “I think it would be best to spend some more time with my letter though, as time and understanding will make it clearer why this cannot be.”
It would be a shame, though, if the most important, perfect rock band of the last decade should come to an end with a whimper rather than the grand explosion they deserve. So long My Chemical Romance.
Thank you for the venom.
Posted on 04/06/2013, in Death Spells, Frank Iero, Gerard Way, K!, Kerrang Magazine, Mikey Way, My Chemical Romance, Ray Toro, Scans, Uncategorized and tagged Frank Iero, Gerard Way, Kerrang Magazine, MCR, mikey way, my chemical romance, Ray Toro, Scans. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.