My Chemical Romance: At the end of the Black Parade route
As the mania over the My Chemical Romance reunion continues to escalate, we're revisiting an interview we did with Gerard Way, not long before the 2008 touring campaign behind The Black Parade came to an end.
This interview, originally appearing in AP 240 (July 2008) finds the frontman/conceptualist discussing the arc of a tour that traveled the planet, as well as making a victory lap on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution tour and a final theater-run after that. The best part? Despite the truly stentorian emotional highs and lows associated with this chapter in their lives, Way has not one regret.
In the liner notes to his avant-noise album Metal Machine Music, Lou Reed snottily wrote, “My week beats your year.” A year in the world of My Chemical Romance would scar most people’s lifetimes. Since the 2006 release of their third album The Black Parade, My Chem―frontman Gerard Way, bassist Mikey Way, guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero and drummer Bob Bryar―have celebrated and endured personal highs and lows that would make the most hardened road warriors crumble. Before they retreat into the rock ’n’ roll ether, the band are releasing The Black Parade Is Dead!. The DVD/CD package lensed in Mexico by filmmaker Adam Rothlein is a document capping off the extensive world-touring treadmill the band found themselves on.
During a short run of dates culminating in a Madison Square Garden headlining show in New York City in early May, Gerard Way spoke with AP about the band’s experiences in the past two years. Although the band have a lot of living to catch up on, from their personal lives to other creative avenues (like Way’s comic book series 'The Umbrella Academy' and Iero’s hardcore outfit Leathermouth), the singer thinks they’ll be back in the thick of the scene before anyone realizes they’re gone. Or not.
You worked with Adam Rothlein, who filmed the footage from New Jersey’s Starland Ballroom that appears on the Life On The Murder Scene DVD. Did it turn out the way you expected?
I really like what he did. He didn’t over-light us; he kept it dark, smoky and sweaty. He definitely captured the spectacle. That’s all we wanted to do. It didn’t matter if it was the best or worst show on the run. Fortunately, it was a good night.
Right before we went on, we made the decision it was going to be the last show as the Black Parade. We had booked a bunch of shows in Australia, where we were supposed to do it all over again. Have all the stuff flown over: the costumes, the pyro, the production. I couldn’t do it anymore, because every night getting on stage was like, in some small way, reliving the experience of making the record. Going to Mexico and knowing that it would be the last performance of the Black Parade made it a bit more fatalistic and very good. We had [production elements] on that tour that never made it to Mexico—blimps and stuff. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to doing that kind of thing ever again. It’s kind of like a personal benchmark for us.
That’s surprising, because My Chem have always been about making grand gestures in the presentation of the music, regardless of constraints, real or perceived.
True. Now I think it’s about making a big gesture without a big spectacle. If anything, we as a band will get stronger and broader. We’re going to reel it back visually and aesthetically, but it will go forward.
I had a huge talk with [avatar comic book artist] Grant Morrison—he’s my comic-book mentor and a huge pop-culture fan. He was into the whole bravado and death-rock elements of The Black Parade, and our plugging into that nihilistic view of the world, yet being funny about it. He told me, “Don’t go backward. I’ve got a feeling from what you’re saying, you’re gonna go backward. You’ve got to take your fans places they’ve never been. You may think this is your Sergeant Pepper, but I think [The Black Parade] is your Revolver.” I never thought of that: You want to withdraw and turn people off a little bit. It’s an interesting feeling, like, “God, I wish it was simpler.”
Like the early days of the band, when you were playing second on a four-band bill, knowing you were gonna kick the other bands’ asses.
Right! And that’s such an amazing feeling. That’s what Projekt Revolution was like. Linkin Park were amazing on that tour, but one of the reasons why we were excited to take that tour was like, “Oh, we get to open? Sure.” Handing this band a ticket to prove something is the greatest thing.
My Chem played some of their best gigs ever during Projekt Rev. You came off arrogant and boisterous, yet you continued to put in the sweat equity that earned you the very right to come off cocky in the first place.
Exactly. We had to put in the sweat equity like you said, because we came out nightly with the attitude of “this is who the fuck we are,” and then we had to show [the crowds] why. This is why we’re at this festival, this is why we’re here at that moment. But we had to back it up; if we didn’t, we were dead. We weren’t coming out with aggression per se, as much trying to prove something to ourselves. We walked away from Projekt Revolution very happy.
I could’ve stopped at the end of that tour. I should’ve, really. We had some really difficult runs [after Projekt Revolution ended]. We went back again to the U.K., we went to Vietnam and South America, back to Malaysia…
But that was part of the plan. In your last AP cover story (AP 221, Dec. 2006), you said the band were committed to 'The Black Parade' for three years. Is this last run a victory lap?
Projekt Rev felt like what Warped Tour felt like during Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. We felt so much love from the bands and the crowds on Projekt Rev, it felt like a victory lap. We didn’t expect it. This final swing is more about fan service. I’m too tired to take a victory lap. I can’t run anymore. [Laughs.] This last run is a thank-you to the fans.
You also mentioned that after your touring commitments were fulfilled, the band were going to go back to being five individuals who love and respect each other, yet had to go live life to recharge creatively. Straight up: Are MCR going in cold storage for a few years?
Realistically, I think our next record will be out in 2009.
That soon? When you consider that nearly everyone in the band are either planning to be or are already married and have other projects they want to explore, is that really possible? Doesn’t real life get in the way?
I could be wrong. Six months off to us is like a lifetime; we always have to be doing something or we’ll kinda go crazy. But that doesn’t mean put out a record and tour our asses off. We’re definitely over touring; next time we go out, it will be half the amount we did this time.
Was there ever a point in the last few years where you thought, “If I have to go on a bus with these guys for one more week, I’m going on a tri-state killing spree?”
It was never like that at all. The only time it came close to that type of feeling, it had nothing to do with individual personalities of the band. And everything to do with outside pressure, like how would we be the Black Parade. There was all that tabloid nonsense in the U.K., saying that we were a death cult. We’d arrive in countries and we’d be psyched that we were impacting culture. Then we’d be less than psyched when we see our kids getting hate crimes perpetrated against them—which is rooted in homophobia, like what’s happening in Mexico. That’s just hate crime—that’s got nothing to do with emo. Going through a lot of that kind of stuff for their first 10 months and then a bunch of bullshit questions about Marilyn Manson, emo, the fans getting beaten up… Stuff that’s got nothing to do with our band.
Maybe I am incorrect in thinking [a new album] will come sooner. Just for the sake of the band’s longevity, we need to go away for a while. We’re not going to rush or half-ass anything. But at the same time, the stuff that I went through making The Black Parade I will never go through again. I will never take a hammer to my life like I did during that record. It’s not worth it; I have too much to care about.
Last question: Do you have any regrets about the last two years?
Y’know? I don’t. There may have been instances where I should’ve put my foot down sooner and said, “We need to stop, I need a break.” I didn’t speak up because I enjoy it. We’re like a bunch of crack addicts: We love it so much, we keep fucking doing it until we have no more fingers or vocal cords left.