My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade, released on Oct. 24, 2006, is now widely accepted as a classic of its era. Its significance has only increased over the years, and the album’s 15th anniversary is an occasion for celebration and reflection by a legion of magazines, writers and fans.
“My biggest takeaway, [the] really amazing thing to see is the longer the album was out, it kind of just gained more and more importance,” Way says. “I noticed over the years, people start looking back at that period in music and that era and [The] Black Parade always comes up as one of the records of that era. But that’s been the crazy thing to see, just even the world that’s in the record, seeing that emerge through people’s art, through people’s writing and there’s this entire universe. It’s been amazing to see that album regarded the way it is today.”
AltPress was a fan of the album (and the band) from the beginning. In fact, our Jan. 2006 cover story (issue #210) dropped over eight months before the record was even released. In the issue, focused on our most anticipated albums of 2006, Way gave us a deep preview of the upcoming release.
More than that, he captured the band’s fearless desire to create their own kind of music and their willingness to risk it all to create a timeless record.
The content has been modified and adjusted to meet the standards of Alternative Press’ digital platform.
“Escape Artists” (Jan. 2006, #210)
Author: Jason Pettigrew
Photos: Jayme Thornton
Gerald Way is stoked. Backstage at the Paul Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts, the frontman for My Chemical Romance has a smile on his face so wide, you couldn’t smash it off with a crowbar.
Is he blissful because the band’s Warner Bros. debut, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, has been certified platinum, signifying over a million records sold?
No. Is it because when MCR started this final victory lap of the U.S. in September—spending the prior months opening for Green Day and headlining the Vans Warped Tour— they went from playing 3,000-seat venues and, in some places, graduated to arenas nearly twice that size?
Why is Way so damned happy? Band manager Brian Schechter has just presented him with a brand-new limited-edition Star Wars lightsaber. Way runs to a mobile supply cabinet to heist six AA batteries to get the toy lit and humming so he can bust some Skywalker-esque moves in front of a backstage audience made up of close friends, crew, band members, their girlfriends and one visiting reporter.
It’s the reporter that turns out all the lights in the dressing room so Way can “power up” for maximum effect. The surrounding coterie hoots and hollers their approval, as Way pulls off everything from ninja-ballet moves to basic street-fight slashing.
Yes, Gerard Way, 29, a man who has inspired both adulation and unbridled hatred—as well as kick-starting the libidos of women ages 15-50—is an unapologetic nerd.
According to Way, MCR have 14 songs in various stages of development, which they hope to finish and have in the marketplace by early summer. (One of them, “Disenchanted,” the band wrote during rehearsals for this tour.)
They haven’t yet hammered out the specifics (like a producer or the exact date they’ll convene in the studio), but, as their career has proven, they’ll have a vision well in place by the time they do.
The operative word here is “vision.” Too many new bands are content to ape their influences to the point of parody (the need to name names is as productive as removing water from the Great Lakes, one spoonful at a time). MCR have done everything on their own terms, simply by flipping off punk-rock convention.
For their major-label debut, they dared to mix up elements of punk and classic rock to forge their own post-emo identity. When MCR dared to bring out dancers on select nights of this tour, the message boards of the punk police were seeping with bile.
“Nobody’s in the middle with us,” says Way, firing up another cigarette. “It’s either ‘I love them’ or ‘I want to kill them.’ People love us and believe in us, or they want to see us destroyed. And I love that.”
This is for AP’s Most Anticipated Of 2006 issue. As a fan, whose new records are you looking forward to?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if there’s going to be a new Mars Volta record next year. I’m looking forward to see what the Dresden Dolls are gonna do. Oh, and the next Thursday record. We go way back, and I just know it’s going to be amazing.
What exactly do you hope to achieve for the third album?
We want to make a beautiful record. We want to make a classic record. Revenge is, by far, not a classic record. It’s a moment in time, a statement about the world at that moment. That’s why I think people responded to it in the way that they did.
You said something to me at the Cleveland show [on this tour] that I want to bring up because it’s relevant to what I’m going to say. When you talked about how I lost my grandmother, but how I didn’t really “lose” anything, I thought about it, and I never heard it put that way.
That’s how I feel about the next record. We’ve got nothing to lose. We have it [in our heads]; we can kill it tomorrow.
We’re already accomplished what we’ve wanted in terms of a career.
The only goal now is to make something that stands the test of time, and not something that’s a liner note for Youth Culture 2005: “This is what the kids were pissed about.”
It seems that most of the bands that came up alongside MCR are doing predictable and safe things. There’s a whole trend of bands singing about “what it’s like to be in our band.” How do you reconcile the art-imitating life syndrome?
That’s something I talked to Billie Joe [Armstrong] about. I’m afraid of writing about my life and having kids go, “I can’t relate to this guy. Boo-hoo, you’re famous. I can’t relate to this shit.” I think if we ever wrote about what has happened to us, it would take a much different approach than what we’re used to. But that’s one of those things. We find things that maybe don’t work and find a way to make it work for us. But that is one of my biggest fears: What am I gonna say on this next record?
And how are you going to say it? Much of what you and MCR have done—from stage banter to wardrobe tips to long song titles—has been glommed onto by lots of bands. It’s pretty much public domain.
I’ve gotten to the point where I want the next record to have one- or two-word song titles. [imitates hipster.] “Well, the Smiths did it!” Well, so what! That’s where I got it from! But Drowningman was doing that long before anybody. Long-ass song titles are the new black—that’s why I’m looking at one-word titles. Who knows, maybe the song title will have something to do with the chorus for a change…
In a way, we kind of opened the floodgates. We wrote from our hearts, and we wanted to use open choruses to move people. When I hear a band doing a big-sounding thing, they only do it because they want what we’ve got, and they’re using their shit for evil. A band like Taking Back Sunday is doing it for good. Adam [Lazzara] was the first person who brought it up to me. It was the first tour we were ever on together. I was wasted; he was wasted. He said “You know what I mean, man? People don’t want to use their powers for good, only evil.” And I’ve been saying it ever since, like it was mine. So there you go!
But exactly how are you going to make that record?
The thing about My Chem is that we never sought respect. If I wanted to be safe, I would have gotten married and had become an accountant. Why be in a rock band and pull some bullshit like [adopts a precious-artist tone], “I want cred. I’d like some new fans, but at the same time, I don’t want to bum anybody out. So what I’m going to do is make a record that’s pretty much like the last one, only with a couple more weirder songs…”
Your next record will have you reading excerpts from the Tibetan Book of The Dead while some ambient loops are running in the background. Which will make it weird, but certainly not honest.
Exactly! Because that’s being contrived. Something happened that, as much as I love this band, [they] fucked a lot of bands up, and that’s Radiohead. I love Radiohead, but when they came out with Kid A, so many bands thought, “I’m just gonna blow people’s minds and we’ll gain all this credibility.” Give me a break, man. Write what’s in your fucking head. You’re in this for credibility? Fuck credibility.
But at the same time, we want to explore. This record is going to be like every other record we made: it’s gonna be what we want to hear because it doesn’t exist. We’ve listened to our records and have been able to take ourselves out of them and not be egotistical. In that respect, [the next record will] have hooks, but not the Tibetan Book Of The Dead. [Laughs]
Because MCR achieved a level of success that eclipsed many in the scene you came up through, has the perception of the band been distorted? Are you still the same guys who used to hang out at [Eyeball Records founder] Alex Saavedra’s apartment? Or is there an implied prejudice of some people in that scene that you guys have changed?
All of the above. People expect you to change, so they act different to you. But those people aren’t your real friends. I never changed who my real friends are. There’s only about four or five of them, and it’s awesome, because they don’t expect anything different from us. We’re the same dudes fucking around with lightsabers. [Laughs.] If you need to find Mikey or me when we’re home, we’re probably in a bookstore drinking coffee, talking about what’s next.
This may seem brusque, but what the hell: Does MCR have an expiration date? Because it seems that each individual band member’s ambitions transcend the confines of a rock band.
That comes from the fact that everybody in this band is so multifaceted and talented. I think there is an expiration date for this band, but it’s up to us and nobody else. Nobody here is going to be known as “that guy from MCR.” It’ll be more like “Frank, the guy who has a record label,” “Mikey Way, who directs shark films,” “Bob, the producer,” and “Gerard, that guy, who…” I don’t know, “writes children’s books.” That’s the beauty of My Chemical Romance: it’s our call. You’re the only person with the balls to ask me that. [Laughs.]
I’ll be dead honest because I don’t mind seeing this in print: I don’t know how many records we’re going to make, providing we survive the next one. One thing we have always said from day one is that this is something special and beautiful, and it’s nobody’s but ours. This band is a special thing, and all special things are supposed to die. And when it’s time for it to die, we will put a bullet in it.