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Dec 14, 2011

INTERVIEW: My Chemical Romance: A decade under the influence

by Poppy Reid

Drug addiction, highway accidents, destroyed instruments, a death hoax and a thieving drummer coloured a tumultuous 2011 for My Chemical Romance. But the band’s silent linchpin, Ray Toro – who plays guitar like Randy Rhoads and sports an afro that has multiple fan-founded Facebook accounts – is celebrating. The year that tested their tenacity more than ever is the same year that marks MCR’s decade anniversary.

“We’ve been through some tough stuff this year,” says Toro. “All those things that happened, you can take it either of two ways: you can let it get you down and defeat you, or you can rise up from it. The cool thing with us is that we’ve always risen. We’re still around now and that’s incredible.”

The most recent hurdle was in September during their US tour with Blink 182 when Michael Pedicone – the fill-in for departed drummer Bob Bryar – was kicked out for stealing and trying to frame a crew member. “We were hurt, we were deeply, deeply hurt and that’s all I’ll say on that,” Toro says dismissively. Adamant that MCR will never add another member, Toro says life post-Pedicone has never been better. “I don’t know what it is but for some reason we’ve just had bad luck, and things right now are easier than when it was just the four of us who started [the band].”

Looking back to when the New Jersey four formed in 2001, just one week after the September 11 attacks, they couldn’t be a less similar group now. In fact, each album release since their story-telling 2002 debut, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love has staged a rebirth where the band has enveloped themselves and their fans in a world of their own making. Since then, MCR have explored the deal with the devil trope (Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge), mortality and the afterlife (The Black Parade), and post- apocalyptic totalitarianism in last year’s most ambitious and meticulously-created record to date, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. This high water mark redefined perceptions and created a fresh rallying output for escape-seeking youths while admonishing their connection with the term ‘emo’.
“It felt like a power cleanser,” he says. “We were saying ‘hey, you know it’s okay to wear colour’. Danger Days opened up what people perceive of us, not only the image but also the intent behind the band.

“Ten years in, I feel the band has proven everything we wanted to prove. When we came out with our first record there were a lot of naysayers, people were very quick to lodge us into a genre and give us a timeline, and a date, and a death sentence, rather than connecting to any musical movement.”

MCR were even accused of having a hand in the death of a thirteen-year-old girl from the UK in 2007, who allegedly joined a suicide cult after becoming obsessed with the band. “I feel like those people have been proven wrong, and very wrong,” says Toro. “Out of the last ten years we’re one of the bands that people didn’t think would stick around, that did stick around rather than decide to call it quits.”

To the band, the story-telling and realm creation bundled inside each musical movement is not only an act of catharsis, personifying all they’ve experienced, but is also a method which proves more profitable the more eccentric and intense the concept.

“It’s all about momentum and capitalising on that,” admits Toro. “I guess that’s why we keep changing it up.”
Despite the recording of some demos throughout their tour with Blink, Toro says any agreement on a fifth album concept is a long way off. “I like to use the term ‘flighty’. Our ideas are always all over the place.” One thing he is certain of however, is what it will take to match the more than 4.4 million-selling juggernaut that was Danger Days.

“I know from our past concepts that it’s always going to be more than a record, more than just a collection of songs,” he says. “I dunno, it may be a whole new world or it may tap into stuff we’ve tapped into on prior records... we’re always searching for that next thing.

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