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May 3, 2011


After successful legs throughout Europe, the UK and Japan, Edmonton was one of their first stops on My Chemical Romance's North American leg of the World Contamination Tour. Guitarists Frank Iero and Ray Toro invited me into their tour bus before the sold out show to talk a bit about the tour, their new album (Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys), their scrapped album, their love affair with vinyl and their recent appearance on Glee.

Bobby: Starting with the basics, you guys are – of course – on the World Contamination Tour. How’s that going so far?
Ray: So far so good.
Frank: Yeah. It started – what? Early November?
Ray: Yeah.
Frank: In the UK. We’ve gone through Europe, UK, Japan, some US stuff and now we’re in Canada. It’s pretty amazing. I feel contaminated.
Ray: Yeah, thoroughly contaminated. There’s been a lot of contamination actually, there’s been a lot of people sick on this tour.
Bobby: That’s never a good thing while you’re on tour – especially in the confined spaces of the bus.
Ray: Yeah, that’s the worst part because one person gets sick and then it instantly travels around.
Bobby: Other than the eight days you had in December in the States, you guys have been all over Europe, Japan, UK. What made you decide to do the North American leg so far into the tour?
Ray: That’s a good question. I’m not sure actually.
Frank: Yeah, it’s one of those things that I guess is just the routing of it; the amount of days in the year that you can actually tour and stuff like that. It’s almost like a tradition where we start in the UK for some reason. It’s one of those good luck things. We’ve done it for the past two records and figured it would be good to do that again – get your legs back you know? 
Then also, it’s hard touring overseas – you know what I’m mean? I’m sure it would be the same if we were a UK band to tour over here. So when you’re overseas touring and you’re there for two months, it almost feels like you’re there for four. It’s kind of like when you come to the US, you exhale a little bit. You can use your cell phone, that shit’s pretty fun.
Bobby: It’s the simplicity of it.
Frank: It’s the tiny things man. Like being able to plug in your computer without fucking blowing them up.
Ray: All the crazy adapters and things. It took a while for us to get here yeah. It’s been a couple of months since the record has been out and I kind of like it better in a weird way because it fees like the record has kind of had a chance to take hold of people. Just from meeting the fans and stuff, they’ve really gotten to listen to the whole record and they’ve gotten a chance to really absorb it and kind of live with it. It’s interesting because the stuff we did earlier in the UK and Europe, that was almost like their first taste of it and now the fans are different, like the reactions to the songs are different and talking to them you see that they’re experiences are different. Bobby: One thing I found interesting – which you actually touched on a bit – was with your Europe dates you actually split it up into three different legs. You played in October then in February and March you went back and now you’re going back in June/July/ August instead of just straight, all at once. Is that just because it is more complicated?
Frank: That and just like timing wise with festivals and stuff.
Bobby: Which is the big thing in Europe.
Frank: Oh it’s huge there. It’s totally different then in the States; we don’t really have those type of things. We have touring festivals but…
Bobby: You have like Coachella and that’s pretty much the one big one whereas in Europe you have Goezrock, Reading and Leeds….
Ray:  Yeah, Germany has like Rock am Ring, Rock im Park, there’s a ton out there.
Bobby: I also gotta ask this question because I was watching a video you guys did with Alternative Press about the dead mic.
Ray: Oh yeah, yeah.
Bobby: Is that actually true – do you have a dead mic?
Frank: Yeah – there’s two. No, there’s more! Because ….
Ray: Pedicone has one and Dewees has one. We have four now and it’s awesome. It’s just a good way for us to communicate to each other. Frank’s great on it. He always finds some moment – sometimes not the best moment – to say a joke. [laughs] So it’s pretty funny. It’s a cool way to, again, for us to communicate. Sometimes we actually use it to communicate with security. We see kids kind of going down and our security guy Mattie will get the message from us. But also, too, it’s a way to communicate if we need different things in the monitors and, again, just kind of tell each other “that was a great show, this is awesome” and kind of pump each other up. It’s nice that in front of so many people, to have something that’s just ours.
Bobby: Have something that’s a bit more private.
Ray: Yeah, yeah.
Bobby: Have you ever made the mistake of saying it into the wrong microphone?
Frank: Ummmm no. They’re very far apart. The real microphone faces the crowd and the fake one, at least mine, faces the drummer. I think it would be really cool if we had those cufflink ones – I think that would be amazing.
Bobby: Like the secret agent?
Ray: That would actually be kind of cool. It’s a lot cleaner that way. I’d like that.
Bobby: I want to talk a bit about vinyl because April 16th is, of course, Record Store Day and you guys are releasing a seven inch vinyl of Na Na Na Na. Who’s idea was it to release that on Record Store Day?
Frank: In conjunction with the label. I think that it’s amazing that there is such a thing as Record Store Day. I was doing an interview not so long ago and we were talking about it and it’s crazy to me that kids these days don’t have that opportunity or the means to go to the record store and just flip through records. Half the fun of getting into a new band was finding them along the way or finding the first indie record of the band you just fell in love with. Searching and searching and searching for it. Our generation loved record stores so much that when we would play shows at VFW halls, there would be dudes that were called distros and they would bring cases full of records and you would shop at the show. Nowadays, it’s like two clicks and you can find the discography of anybody.
I think it’s a little weird because buying a record is like a relationship. You see it from across the room, you’re not sure if you’re going to like it but you spend some time together and you learn to love each other kind of thing. Now there’s no more of that. You don’t have that time anymore because there’s like five hundred bands on your iPod.
Bobby: And even with that – like you said – you see it across the room. What catches your eye? The artwork. That was it. Now you have it on the iPod…
Frank: You can’t even see that shit. It’s unfortunate.
Ray: As much as possible, we try to make the packaging special for that sake. It’s weird, it’s one of those things that’s a double edge sword because that immediacy of how you can get music out there is great and the immediacy to find things right away is great; but then you lose part of the experience.
I mean, hopefully record stores – at least enough of them – still stick around so you can have those experiences. It is sad; I remember when we first started touring…. I guess when we first started touring is when record stores first started plummeting but they were still there. That was actually a really fun thing for us, to go to a record store and find our record there. That was one of the most exciting things. But yeah, I would bet a lot of those stores are closed now.
Frank: Do you remember on those first couple tours, half your suitcase was basically a CD book?
Ray: [laughs] Yeah, I know, yeah!
Frank: You’d just bring records out that you could listen to on the road. Now, it’s just underwear and socks.
Bobby: So you guys are obviously big vinyl fans then, I’m just wondering – what was the first vinyl you remember picking up and what was the first vinyl that really left a mark on you?
Frank: For me at least, it was my dad’s copy of Sgt. Pepper’s. He was a drummer, so my job on the weekends – I would go visit him and he would play shows on Saturday and Sunday night and during the day he would work. So I would go to my uncle’s house and I would have to clean the cymbals. That was my chore but I could listen to his records so I would just go through all these records and I would listen to the Beatles, BB King, Buddy Guy and all this stuff. I remember picking that record up and just staring at it for hours – not doing any of my chores that day  - just trying to figure out who was on that record cover and just listening to that record and really blowing my mind.
Ray: I’m trying to remember which record it was. It was either Zeppelin Three or Four. I can’t remember. The album was, for the most part, white and there was this spinning picture disc inside the cover so you could spin it. There were all these little holes in the cover so when you would spin it, all these different pictures would appear in the hole. My brother was huge into Zeppelin and Hendrix and classic rock; so he had a nice collection of records. I remember just listening to that and just looking and – again, same thing – the artwork was so big and there’s just so much to discover.
Bobby: And the interactiveness of it.
Ray: Yeah, I love that! It’s the same thing for, I think it’s for In Through The Out Door, where there’s this apartment building and each window you can open up and there’s a different image in there and you could change them and sometime it was them inside the window looking out at you. It was fucking awesome. There was a sense of wonder and discovery in those records.
Bobby: Yeah, yeah. It’s something very tactile about it.
Ray: The smell of old records is great.
Frank: Yeah.
Ray: Kind of musky.
Frank: There’s a little bit of fungus that you shouldn’t be breathing in…
Bobby: But you want to anyways.
Ray: yeah!
Bobby: Now the b-side of the Na Na  Na Na seven inch is the unreleased song Zero Percent. Is that a b-side from the Fabulous Killjoys studio session or is that an unreleased cut from the twenty-eight songs that got scrapped before that?
Frank: That’s actually from the Killjoys session.
Bobby: Okay, what made you scrap it from the Killjoys album?
Frank: It was on the record for a long time up until I think maybe the last couple of weeks. It’s weird too because that song started as a thing where we were thinking about the website and we were leaking clues and things. I wanted to write a ring tone that went along with it so I started to play on this little akai keyboard and wrote that thing and then we got a song. These guys told me it was better than just a ring tone, so we made it into a song.
Ray: Yeah, it’s one of my favourites. It’s so heavy, it’s really cool. Frank: It’s kind of retarded heavy.
Ray: It was tough because he’s right, it was on the record for a long time. Then songs like Destroya came about after and Kids From Yesterday and it gets so hard when you’re trying to put a track list together. A lot of times, one of your favourite songs you have to  axe out. It’s nice to get it out there on b-sides.
Bobby: I want to talk a bit about the scrapped album. In an interview with NME, you said that you had wanted to scrap it because it kind of sounded like generic My Chem. I think Gerard said that. What do you mean by that?
Frank: I think what it is that we weren’t re-inventing the wheel. I think we were kind of playing it safe a little bit. The music was still coming from the heart; we were still writing and having a good time but at the end of it all, it was like “alright, we could put this record out and tour on it for a year and I think it would be okay but it’s not the best we could do.” I don’t know.
You know how sometimes you hear a band and, say they’ve put out three records, and then if you just put their discography on shuffle and you hear a song and you can’t really place it on any record. That kind of bums me out.
Bobby: You want the distinctiveness.
Frank: Oh totally. This is from later on, this is from early and you can tell. That was one of things where we were like “okay, these are My Chem songs, they’re not bad songs but they’re not the best we can do. We’re kind of just running in place.”
Ray: I think too, actually now looking back on it, it definitely seems like we didn’t know what we wanted to do in the worst way. I like Danger Days because it’s very eclectic but there’s a cohesiveness in it because of the lyrics, the energy and the vibe. With the scrapped record, it was very disjointed. There were maybe five or six songs that kind of had Vampire Money type of energy mixed in with…. There were some good songs in there but they didn’t gel the right way. You can tell that the band was still unsure what the complete work was and we like to work on a complete thought and this definitely wasn’t.
Frank: I think it was more that we were so excited to get back together to play again that we mistakenly were writing a record when we should have just been jamming together, not writing songs. By the end of that process, we ran out of time and were like “oh shit, well I guess we have to put out a record.”
Ray: Which is never good. That’s what happened. We ran out of time in the studio. I don’t think anybody felt like that we had finished a full record.
Bobby: It was kind of like you just rushed into the studio instead of into the practice space.
Ray: Yeah, exactly.
Frank: We were writing them out, then into the studio and then there was no time left and it was like “oh shit, where’d all that time go?” There wasn’t a sense of accomplishment; it was more like “oh fuck. We’re out of time – what are we going to do?”
Bobby: One thing I always find interesting about you guys is how you have a very theatrical element. You look at the Black Parade which was very theatrical right down to the marching band suits. With Danger Days, you have the whole sci-fi theme through a lot of it. I read that for the scrapped album, before you decided to scrap it, you had already done photo shoots and started getting some artwork together. What was the theme for that?
Frank: That’s the thing. That’s why it was so hard was because we didn’t really have one.
Ray: There was no identity.
Frank: There was no identity to it and I think that was adding to our feelings of uneasiness about it. It was like “what does this record want to be? Does it have a personality?”
Ray: Right. That’s the thing. It’s weird; the artwork has always been like a circular thing. Where the artwork gets inspired by the music, the music gets inspired by those ideas. For this… the only thing I think that we did have was the idea of muscle cars. It’s funny because some of that stuff ended up in Danger Days. I remember…
Frank: In the desert.
Ray: In the desert, yeah. I remember at least one mock up cover of, I forget what kind of car it was, driving off the edge of a cliff. I think it was painted up like the American flag a little bit or something. There was a daredevil sense to it, but you know, that ended up working out in Danger Days.
Bobby: Yeah, like you have the muscle car in the Na Na Na Na video and all that stuff.
Ray: Right, yeah.
Bobby: Speaking about the videos, I like the thematic elements of the phasers, the bald guy, the monkey masks and the kid with the giant afro. But what I found interesting was that was with Na Na Na Na and Sing but then with Planetary (Go!) you just sent with a live video. What made you decide to go for a live video and will you continue the story of the kid being taking away in the white van?
Frank: Yes. Basically the story line is going to be a trilogy. You got the first two, the last one is going to come out when we feel it’s the song that ends that story. When we decided to do Planetary as a single, we wanted to… I think we were ready to show the band playing.
Ray: Right, because we hadn’t shown any performance at that time. Frank: We hadn’t shown the band playing. I like how you boiled down the story line to bald guy, kid with an afro and white van. So it will be finished, it’s just a matter of when singles link up to what we want the story to end on. I just kind of felt like we could’ve mashed the storyline into Planetary, but it wouldn’t have worked.
But yeah, it was great too. That was the first time we ever did a video overseas. It was kind of fly by the seat of our pants kind of thing. I mean we had what? Maybe two weeks to prepare for it.
Ray: Yeah.
Frank: And that was it. It was pretty fun.
Bobby: Was that two weeks to prepare for the Planetary shoot?
Frank: Yeah.
Bobby: For the Sing video, that was directed by Gerard right?
Ray: Yeah. Gerard and Paul Brown.
Bobby: Was that the first time he directed a video for you guys?
Ray: Nah, he helped out with Na Na too. I mean, Na Na was really cool because he did most of it and then we always had a friend of ours, John Lethara and- I can’t remember the other guy’s name – who helped out as well. But yeah, Sing was… Gerad was great. For Na Na and Sing, he had a real vision of what he wanted them to me and we got lucky working with guys who could make that happen.
Bobby: Like you did work with Colleen Atwood, three time Oscar winner, to design the jackets which you are now selling on your website. How did you start working with Colleen?
Ray: It was back with the Black Parade.
Frank: Yeah, we did Black Parade with Colleen.
Ray: I think Gerard was just a big fan of her work and had thought up these costumes, the Black Parade costumes, and he didn’t think that there would be anybody better to make them because she’s just so talented. So ever since then we’ve just had a really great relationship with her. We love working with her.
Bobby: Speaking about the Black Parade outfits, I remember reading an interview a long time ago where Gerard was saying that someone – it must have been Colleen – recommending you guys use a lighter fabric. But you were like “no, no, no – this is what we want” and then after wearing it you were like “damn… so hot.” The same thing, you wanted it nice and clean and then after wearing it for a couple years it was destroyed and dirty and looked awesome. How was wearing it day in and day out and how hot was it those outfits?
Frank: It was really hard.
Ray: So hot. Frank: Yeah, they were full wool. They were real heavy, real stiff and we did that for a while and then we had another person come in and kind of do a similar version that was thinner and able to be worn on stage. Then I think we kind of dumbed that down to just jackets because we got so god damn hot. But the original pants came up to here *points high on his stomach*. It was legit.
Ray: They were set up to be almost period.
Bobby: And you get to the point where you’re like “people don’t see the suspenders, people don’t see the details” so why put yourself through that every night?
Frank: It was like being a fireman, basically – dressing up like that.
Bobby: On February 15th, Glee covered Sing. Have you seen the final cut of it? What was your reaction?
Frank: I didn’t see the episode; I saw the clip of them singing. I mean, those people have really great voices and it’s a crazy version that I never would have ever imagined. We never would have done that and I think it’s kind of cool to see someone else’s interpretation.
Bobby: To see it re-imagined a bit. Did you guys approach Ryan Murphy or did Ryan Murphy approach you guys?
Ray: He approached us.
Frank: They came to us. It’s flattering to be like the first rock band to be included in that show.
Bobby: What I find interesting about Glee is that there’s been a lot of different sides of it. A lot of bands are writing stuff specifically for it. Like Paul McCartney wrote an entire CD saying “here, turn these into Glee songs.” And then you get bands… like Ryan Murphy approached Kings of Leon, and Foo Fighters and Slash and they all said no and then Ryan Murphy just started swearing at them and calling them “out of touch” and “grandiose rock stars.” What do you think of all the different bands’ reactions? Either A) writing stuff specifically for it or B) saying “nah, I don’t wanna do it”?
Ray: Personal taste.
Frank: It’s their prerogative.
Ray: For us, because of the song that they chose – that song, they chose it for a reason. Lyrically, it has a lot to say about what’s going in the world and I think a lot of kids take a lot of inspiration from it in a lot of different ways. I think that’s why they picked that song. For us, part of the idea of Danger Days is about getting into the stream. You have to use every weapon at your disposal to get rock back into people’s mind set in someway and sometimes you have to do things like that. That’s why we made that decision. For other people, maybe it’s just not right and that’s cool too.
Frank: It would be different; I mean it would be really funny if they asked to do Vampire Money or something like that, but that would be a different story. Like you said, Sing is such a global song, I think the lyrics are so important that you want everyone as possible to hear that. Bobby: You also mentioned that you want to get rock back into the mainstream which is probably another reason you had Planetary (Go!) as the lead song for Grand Turismo Five. I know you’re a big video game fan right?
Ray: Yeah.
Bobby: So how cool was it having your song being the lead?
Ray: We were freaking out. It’s great too because it’s in like the opening cinema. They put it together with this amazing movie. That’s like dream come true type of stuff, you never think that stuff is going to happen but there you are. You’re playing a video game that you probably would play anyway and you’re in it! It was a little weird at first, but I don’t know, I like to race to it. I race faster when I race to it.

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