You’ll Never Take Us Alive: The AP history of My Chemical Romance
Last weekend, after four albums, two live DVDs, two alter egos and countless miles logged on tour, MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE issued a statement announcing their dissolution. AP’s association with the band goes all the way back to their early origins. We went through our back pages to reminisce about the band’s career arc, and how they did everything on their own terms.
May 2003 (AP 178)
AP gave the band a half-page write-up in our Low Profile section (now called AP Recommends) to herald the release of I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. The band were so new to the game, they didn’t have promotional photos taken, so we opted to run with a live shot. In those days, as a public display of his appreciation, frontman Gerard Way would occasionally (and unapologetically) sport an MCR shirt onstage. “Iron Maiden used to wear their own T-shirts because they believed in their band that much, and I’m the same way,” he said. “We’re all the same way.” That sentiment would later be echoed 10 years later in the singer’s farewell post. “We were spectacular. Every show I knew this, every show I felt it with or without external confirmation.”
February 2004 (AP 187)
When we spoke to the band for our Most Anticipated Albums Of 2004 issue, they were working on an album described as “loosely based on Brian De Palma’s Phantom Of The Paradise.” That record would become their breakout, major-label debut, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge.
August 2004 (AP 193)
In this feature, Gerard Way proffered a hypothesis regarding the emotionally charged attraction toward the album. “It’s almost like your revenge is living your life the way you want and doing exactly what you want to do. All the people who shit on you or picked on you in your life, it’s your way of getting revenge.” It was around this time that Way announced his band’s goal (“The main thing we’ve always wanted to do was save people’s lives”), while making an astute observation. “I feel like there’s so many people out there who have the kids in the palm of their hand, listening, but there are so few people saying anything.”
December 2004 (AP 197)
For their first AP cover story, the band chronicled all of the great highs and lows they experienced, from firing original drummer Matt “Otter” Pelissier to Gerard’s dalliances with drugs and alcohol. “There are things required to be in MCR,” said the singer to former AP editor Leslie Simon. “The main thing, above all else, is that you have to embody the spirit of the band. Talent is definitely a part of it, but you have to be a fighter.”
January 2006 (AP 210)
For our Most Anticipated Albums Of 2006 issue, Gerard acknowledged how the passion and energy they put into their shows were exhausting, but they were nowhere near calling it a day, like many success-phobic outfits have in the past. “I think there’s an expiration date for this band, but it’s up to us and nobody else,” he said. “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,’ ‘Ray, the classical-guitar virtuoso,’ ‘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.
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.”
December 2006 (AP 221)
The band’s third album, The Black Parade, is released, and they earn a lot of respect from various quarters for their mix of post-emo drive, classic-rock history and full-on energy.“The intention was to make something that was classic, something timeless,” explained guitarist Ray Toro. “Something that 20 or 30 years from now, parents could play for their kids and say, “This is what I was listening to when I was your age. Check it out, it’s still fucking cool.’ We wanted to make a record you could pass down. There’s a lot of music out now that doesn’t feel like that.”
Guitarist Frank Iero was totally blasé about people hating on the band for this decidedly “non-scene” record. “When we did Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, we didn’t fit in,” he said. “There was a little less screaming and a little more melody, but it was still us. Never was it a case of, ‘Don’t put that melody there because Hardcore Chuck, who took me to my first show at Fairfield American Legion Hall, is really going to be bummed at me.’ I don’t give a shit: If I had to work at McDonald’s for the rest of my life to play shows and ride in a shitty van on tour? I’ve done it. I’ll do it again.”
July 2008 (AP 240)
After the exhausting pace of The Black Parade world tour, the band were rethinking their next moves and their general modus operandi. “Now, I think it’s about making a big gesture without a big spectacle,” Gerard told editor in chief Jason Pettigrew, but added that he wasn’t about to put an end to the band just yet. “We’re like crack addicts: We love it so much, we keep fucking doing it until we have no more fingers or vocal cords left.”
January 2010 (AP 258)
Gerard Way laid it out to AP in no uncertain terms for the cover of our Most Anticipated Albums of 2010 issue. “We have never had some kind of shock-rock agenda, nor do we have the desire to please people anymore. I’m fine with that.” He added that his band’s appetite for creative self-destruction was limitless. “I think that’s the goal; to drive everything so far into the sun that the rubber off the tires is shredded, the engine blows up and everyone—our fans, our peers, ourselves—should feel like we’re not going to do another record. I want each record to feel like it’s potentially the last. Because we don’t know when it’s not going to be.”
The album they were working on was a reaction against everything they felt making The Black Parade, and they began imposing rules upon themselves, rather than rebelling against an outside force. In a moment of clarity, the band went back to their original message. “The whole ‘My Chemical Romance saves lives’ thing is a misrepresentation,” Way reflected. “We are grateful that you got something out of our music. But, ultimately, it was you who worked through your reality. That’s my message to the world: Get in the clear, we’ll take care of this.”
March 2011 (AP 272)
After abandoning a near-completed album, the band hit the reset button on their creative mindset and completed Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys, their post-apocalyptic, synth-drenched fourth album that went from proto-punk rave-ups to EDM dancefloor-fillers. The polarizing release did a lot to toughen the band’s resolve in the face of adversity. “I am so over that cred shit,” Iero told Jason Pettigrew. “There was a time when we were like, ‘Watch what you do, watch what you say. We’re a rock band: We can experiment, but we gotta be careful.’ Why? The people who come to see our band and the kids who got beat up in high school for wearing our shirts weren’t scared of who the fuck they were. So we can’t be either. Ten years later, we’ve shown the world that we’re not going to make the same record twice. If they want that, keep listening to the old ones or listen to the 10 new bands who are ripping [those records] off right now.”
“Those guys that want to throw the Molotov cocktail?” Gerard asked rhetorically. “I’m not speaking to them. I’m speaking to the new generation of fans who don’t want to throw it. These guys who want to have the Mohawk—which, to me, is the new business casual—and buy the shirts at the mall that say they’re angry at something? They have to prove by how they look that they’re mad-fucking-cool and have cred? Go ahead, hold that torch. I’m not singing for you. The world moves so fast, we don’t have time for imaginary rebellion; that’s their older brothers’ music. Kids want to dance.”
November 2012 (AP 292)
When Gerard Way teamed up for an interview with EDM artist deadmau5, he dropped hints about his band’s involvement within the scene they came up through.“I think that the older I get, I see the reasoning in playing [Warped], and I see that there’s a different path. I don’t think a kid that goes to Warped Tour would even be able to relate to My Chem] anymore. Who’s not relating to whom?”
At various junctures in their decade-long history, My Chemical Romance polarized haters and fuelled great passion in their listeners’ hearts. Despite the accolades, the sales awards and their notoriety, MCR were always, at the core, a straight-up punk band. Because every creative decision they made was theirs alone—from refusing to pander to pricks at commercial radio or scrapping a complete album that cost seven figures to make—they were in complete control of their ship. And if they wanted to ram the whole enterprise into a psychic iceberg of their own design, rest assured all of their hands were on the wheel when it happened.