Actually, they’re more of a pill-and-booze-induced haze. Since releasing MCR’s sophomore album on Warner Bros, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, nothing’s been the same. Exceeding anyone’s expectations, the sales were bigger (Revenge sold in one week what Bullets sold in nearly two years), the show were bigger-and the drinking problem that had been plaguing Gerard for years was now officially out of control. “I can’t believe that they’re even still a band,” says Rickly, incredulously. “Who can go from zero to 120 like that? I heard stories that Gerard was drinking so much and going so many drugs that I through, ‘Somebody’s gonna die; the band’s gonna fall apart, and it’s gonna be awful.'”
With an unyielding momentum, My Chemical Romance embarked on the Vans Warped Tour ’04 and soon started making fans out of their idols like Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. “I wandered out into the crowd. [MCR] started playing, and I got kind of the same feeling that I got going to see Naked Raygun shows,” Skiba remembers fondly “They were so good and sounded so great, and the energy exchange with the crowd was something that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I had no choice. I had to start dancing. My drink was full when I walked in there, and five seconds later, it was all over a bunch of kids ‘heads.'”
Warped was one big traveling circus, and MCR were becoming the star attraction. But the devastating heal, the overwhelming schedule and Gerard’s increasing chemical addiction were starting to affect the band and their performance. Rickly saw the self-destruction firsthand when both bands were on the tour and he wondered if he should intervene. “It’s weird to say, because the’re a band and they can do what they want, ” Rickly pauses. “But those are our friends. You don’t want to see them get sucked into something you’ve had your band get sucked into.”
At the height of the band’s success on Warped, Gerard was going through $150 worth of illegal pills per month, mostly Xanax, and drinking a bottle of vodka every day to day and a half.
“I worked out a system,” Gerard says as he takes a swing from this bottle of vitaminwater, “where if we played at noon, I was basically just hung over, still drunk probably from the night before. If we were playing at 1 or 2. I was already drunk if [I wasn’t] fully drunk, then I was trying to get drunk at any signings we had to do. After that, I would continue to get drunk well until the [day’s tour stop] was done, until bus call. Bus call would come , or sometimes before it, and I would pop an bunch of Xanax and basically be cracked out. It was the only thing at that point that would put me to sleep and shut my brain off.”
The name My Chemical Romance was no longer homage to Irvine Welsh’s book, Ecstasy: Three Takes Of Chemical Romance; it was now Gerard’s mantra. The band jumped off Warped’s traveling punk-rock circus in mid-July, and immediately embarked on a co-headlining tour with Senses Fail. Both bands were sharing a tour bus and partying it up, but things went too far on a tour stop somewhere in the Midwest.
“I had done to see the Killers and got really drunk,” recalls Gerard. “I found a way to get cocaine, and I bought a whole fucking eight ball and pretty much did the whole fucking thing. I did so much cocaine that I was in the middle of the street, throwing up everywhere. My head was pounding; it felt twice its size. All the veins in my head felt like they were going to explode. The next day, I woke up, and I was more suicidal that morning than I had ever been in my entire life-and it was completely amazing to me. “Nobody in my band knew,” he adds. “I had a really good way of hiding stuff.”
Or if they did know, they certainly didn’t acknowledge it as a problem. “I think I was accepting because I was equally bad as he was at one point,” explains Mikey. “I was even worse than him at some points early on in the band’s career. I thought it’d be really hypocritical to say, ‘Put that vodka down!'”
“Any time you mix drinking with narcotics, something bad can happen,” adds Iero. “And depression-mixing the three of them is really bad. Every time you do it, it changes your whole body chemistry. When we were touring, no one really thought about it, because we were all doing it together.” After making a call to his manager, who talked him down for the next three hours, Gerard managed to snap out of his suicidal stupor in time to finish the tour and head back to Jersey to regroup-but not for long. The band were scheduled and the one place he feared he wouldn’t return from.
“I was terrified,” he remembers. “All I did was sweat two days before Japan, I sweat buckets, drank and loaded up on my pills for the trip.” He loaded up on liquor at the airport bar, popped a whole bar of Xanax and woke up in a completely different country. Doped up and unsure how he even made it through customs, Gerard was on autopilot. He overindulged in sake, entertained more thoughts of ending his life and played two of the largest shows of the band’s career completely wasted.
“My intention was to make it a memorable experience for everyone, and I did,” he says with a shrug and a sheepish grin. “But it’s kind of like marking a deal with the devil. I made it a memorable experience for everyone-but in the worst possible way.”
“It’s weird, because usually when we’re playing, me and Gerard can look at each other and no matter what’s going on, I can pull back to it and go for it,” say Iero. “When I looked for him [in Osaka] and he was underneath the stage being drunk, I just wanted to [put my guitar down] and go.”
“I walked offstage and I threw up for 45 minutes straight in this garbage can, like I had never thrown up before,” Gerard says as he lights another cigarette. “I puked everything out. The whole band was there, and I was sitting on the couch in the corner. Ray turns to Brian [Schechter, Manager] and says. ‘You need to get him to the doctor. Listen to him. He’s really sick.’ Sitting there, I still have vomit all over myself, and I just thought, ‘This has to be the end.’ I was still really suicidal and depressed, but I was just like, ‘I have to stop drinking. I don’t know how, but this has to be the end.’
“I didn’t know what was was going to happen when I got back to the U.S.” Gerard continues. “I got off the plane and was really upset, I knew what was going to happen to Otter, and I think that’s another reason why I was upset. I said goodbye to him and knew that I probably was not going to see him again. At the same time, I didn’t know if I was going to be alive the next day. I said goodbye to everybody and I had tears in my eyes because I wasn’t really sure if I was going to see anyone in my band again.”
“THE LAST TIME I SAW OR HEAR FROM GERARD,” say Pelissier, “it was when I gave him a hug at the airport.” While Gerard was dealing with getting clean, MCR were struggling with and ever larger challenge-building up the courage to ask their drummer to leave the band he helped start. “It was like the moment that you break up with someone you’ve been dating for three of four years that you used to love in the beginning of the relationship and things went sour, but for some reason you’re still together,” explains Toro, who, along with the band’s manager, went to Pelissier’s house to break the news.