Q&A: My Chemical Romance's Frank Iero on Club Shows, Concept Albums, and Comic Books

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of South Florida and help keep the future of New Times free.

​Read our review of My Chemical Romance's performance at Revolution.

If there's one common thread running through the career of My Chemical Romance, it's that the New Jersey-bred foursome has always zigged when doubters have expected it to zag. When the band started out playing tristate-area basement shows ten years ago, raw, ragged screamo was the rage -- so the guys showed up in makeup and costumes. 

Then, after 2004's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge helped push emo as a hit in the mainstream, they ditched that style too. In came 2006's The Black Parade, an outsized concept album about a dying, regretful cancer patient with a sound hinging on glam rock and a tour production full of pyrotechnics and set changes. All of those overly complicated plot lines and easy comparisons to Queen disappeared on My Chemical Romance's third fourth album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, which appeared this past November. 

What remains, though, is a knack for big, hooky anthems and lyrical encouragement of individualism and critical thinking. Current single "Sing" is a hefty singalong with just enough melodic melodrama to keep things interesting. The band, to the delight of its fans, can probably never completely shake a sense of the theatrical -- which made its material perfect, though perhaps improbable, for recent reinterpretation on Glee

Markedly, what's also gone, at least for now, are the arena shows. The band's last stops in South Florida came some four years ago, first for a headlining gig at the BankAtlantic Center, then later that summer at what is now the Cruzan Amphitheatre. Those are huge venues, which might make tonight's show in Fort Lauderdale a surprise -- it's at the humble, 1,000-ish-capacity Revolution. (Unsurprisingly, it long ago sold out.) 

With a full decade now officially under its belt, it seems My Chemical Romance is consciously returning to its roots. County Grind caught up with guitarist Frank Iero for the scoop in advance of the band's local gig. Here's what he had to say. 

County Grind: The last time you all came through South Florida to headline, it was a big arena. Was it a conscious choice to play more intimate venues this time around?

Frank Iero: It's kind of like a where-do-we-go-from-here kind of thing. It's fun to do the smaller shows, and then if we're fortunate enough to do a bigger show, then we come back and do that. For us, it's how we started out ten years ago, playing basements and stuff like that. Smaller shows, and especially theaters, those are really fun shows for us. I think it's important to try to do a show like that at least once a year. 

When you've come through here, the productions have always been huge, with pyrotechnics and set changes. Are you still doing that in this smaller environment, or again was it a conscious choice to strip part of that away?

We've always tried to match the show to the record. For The Black Parade, we thought it was very important to hear that record in its entirety and be transported into that world. But this record is not like that -- it's not a full story -- so we don't feel like we need the set pieces or these massive things. 

It's been a while since people have actually just seen the band, you know? So when we were talking about doing this tour, we were talking about doing smaller venues and a more intimate show. It's still going to have a kick-ass light show, but it's based around just us, as opposed to costumes and sets. 

So is there any kind of matching visual element at all, or do you guys just sort of come as you are?

As far as wearing huge headdresses or something like that, no. 

Were you feeling sick of doing big shows, or were you just looking for a change of pace?

Well, definitely at first it was a reaction. It was what we had been doing for years. We toured behind the last record for two and a half years, and it took a lot out of us. We didn't want to go back and just do it again. 

So we started setting up these rules about making the record in reaction to that. But when we did that, we tied our hands behind our backs. So when we scrapped that and started making this record, it was less about rules and more about whatever we felt like doing at the time, just pure.

What were some of the rules you set?

Well, we toured behind Black Parade for two and a half years, and then we took six or seven months off. Then we went back into the studio, and our rules were like, "No story line, no costumes, basically nothing Black Parade was." Then we made a record that way and hated it. So we took all those rules away. They ended up being arbitrary. 

So there was an entire album's worth of material that got scrapped? Did any of it survive and make it onto Danger Days?

Yeah, we have it. I was actually just listening to some of it the other day. I would say that it's an album of material that I don't hate. I actually think some of it's pretty good. It just wasn't the record we wanted to live with for the next two or three years. It didn't feel right. It didn't feel like the record came from a positive place, where it was like, "Oh, just this happened." I don't know, it felt -- not forced, because it was us, because we wrote it.  It just didn't feel right. We weren't happy with it, is what I can say.

Danger Days is still pretty stripped down relative to Black Parade. Were you worried about the reaction from your fan base? After that record, it felt like there was a large contingent of your fans that was really particularly drawn to that level of pageantry.

No, I mean, with any record you do, you can't listen to what people say or what your next move should be, because then you'll be dead in the water. The thing is, when Black Parade came out, that was a real scary release. Kids weren't into that when we put it out. They found their way into liking it, but it wasn't a popular position to be in. 

Everything we've ever done has been a risk. Even when we first started, we were the only band in a basement show putting on eyeshadow, you know? We almost got beat up at shows because we dared to be different. And that's kind of the place we have to be in every time we do something new. We like to test the boundaries, and by playing it safe, we wouldn't feel like we were being true to ourselves. 

Do you consider this record to have a story line? In some interviews you all in the band have done, you say there isn't one intentionally. But at the same time, at least with the videos you've released so far, there is, in fact, a connecting narrative.

Right, with the videos there is, but not with the record. There is a setting and a high concept, but it's not necessarily a concept record. There's no story from front to back; you're transported to a world. But as far as the first two videos, yeah there is. They connect, and there will be a third part that we're working on actually soon.

Right, in the second one, for "Sing," the Killjoys, the characters introduced in the video for "Na Na Na..." die unexpectedly. So there will be a resolution to that plot line in a third video?

Yes. We're waiting for the singles to catch up to what we want it to be. Basically, it has to feel right. We don't want to force the story line into a video for a song, so we're waiting for the right song to finish the story line in the video.

I've read that you guys have started work on the video for "Bulletproof Heart." So is that unrelated to what you're talking about?

As we're talking right now, all of that is a little bit undecided. I'm not sure yet.

How much is the rest of the band involved collectively in shaping the content and high concept of your records? Gerard [Way, frontman] seems to get a lot of the credit for that.

We're all involved in all aspects. We all just kind of throw ideas into a hat and see what works.

On a somewhat related note, are you guys all equally into comics? If so, what would you recommend right now?

Anything Eric Powell does. I'm really excited to start reading his Godzilla series. And our good friend Grant Morrison is not just one of the great comic book writers but one of the greatest authors of our time. You can't go wrong with anything he's ever done.

My Chemical Romance, with the Architects and Circa Survive. 6:30

p.m. Tuesday, May 17, at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort

Lauderdale. Sold out. Call 954-449-1025, or visit jointherevolution.net.

Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind.

Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.