Gerard Way from New Jersey’s own My Chemical Romance is on the phone from Hawaii, and he is in the process of looking back on their days of playing dingy basements and sweaty VFW halls.
You’ll get the response in a moment, but as he’s speaking I’m wondering what it feels like for a band to go from one extreme to the next, from Eyeball Records To Warner Brothers Records, and still keep their artistic dignity intact?
Well, they have done it, as their latest single “Helena” from their new album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge proves there is life in the major label afterwards.
For everyone who thought that other bands would run with the fifth day of the week and do us all proud only to fold under pressure, here is the one that snuck up through the ranks and have proven themselves to be New Jersey’s real great rock hope.
So obviously things have gotten to the point where you guys are really, really jumping off right now. Can you explain how and why MCR are breaking through?
I think it really is the fact that we toured for two straight years and we only stopped to make a record that we felt was honest and that connects with people that are really somewhat different.
I think that we kind of shocked people in a way because we have these experimental surprises and the lyrics are dark but the music was kind of heavy. That helped a lot because you had something different and a lot of (fans) felt like as if we spoke to their problems and whenever that can be on the radio that is always good.
How did you manage to pretty much sidestep the whole categorization with the whole e-word scene?
(laughing) E-word, I like that.
Well, I mean, you did. Normally when bands start talking about problems these days and they play well, you know, they get called the e-word. How did you avoid it again for the most part?
That was something that we did pretty consciously actually. We actually come from punk roots in New Jersey so it’s kind of hard to, you know, get past certain things. I remember I took Mike to his first show at the Pipeline which was Good Riddance.
So…what did we do? Well, we said what we need is (guitar) riffs to avoid the trends and solidify our sound. After that we can be an open canvas of a band just trying to find itself and I think that consciously that’s the right thing to do.
Okay, so how do you tell Warner Brothers that you are going to come out and buck all the trends and do your own thing? Just curious.
Well, when you sign to a major label there is a certain game involved that you have to play and you have to play this game in order to win or you will spend your whole life with them fighting and you will lose.
We did not sign what you call a money deal. A money deal is where right off the bat you go and buy houses and Ferraris and shit. Our deal is based on having a career so we didn’t ask for a fuckload of money.We just wanted to work and tour and so when you make your album the label says. ‘We don’t have to bank on any hits with this band to get our money back.’
The problem is that a lot of times a band comes in, gets a lot of money and then the label says, ‘Well, now we need a lot of big radio hits and sales to make our money back and they want it now.’
The good thing about us is that we have put ourselves in a situation that we have evolved to a natural place where as far as our next record is concerned we have proven ourselves to the point where we can do whatever we want to do.
I was on the blog/music site Myspace.com and I saw where this one girl had written that you guys were the next Radiohead. How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel wonderful. It infers that she feels that we are a band that has the potential to evolve and transcend their genre. If you look at Radiohead’s first record Pablo Honey it was a pretty commercial rock record for the time, done by some artistic guys with other desires. (The next album) The Bends continued that tradition and then OK Computer just completely exploded.
Some people that know us really well as a band expect us to completely explode on the next record and while we won’t sound like Radiohead it will be a tremendous jump.
MCR is a Jersey band that has come full-circle now as a real leader amongst the bands coming up and out. What’s your take on this now that you are on the cover of The Aquarian?
It’s awesome. I gotta say it’s really different. But I also have to say that we always knew that we were a different kind of band, even when we were playing basements and halls which is a big part of the New Jersey experience.
When we were cutting our teeth we maybe did our first two shows in jeans and T-shirts and then soon we started experimenting with different things, like black clothes and eye shadow…We were just different, and I could tell because there were kids who started showing up who had friends in the scene who were just there to see us.
There were the outcasts and they didn’t really have any friends at all. They really did not fit in.
Now we come back and I remember our first Starland show and there were older people, younger people, people who like rap, metal fans, the guys who are into like oi, couples, it covers as large a spectrum as you can get now.
Final question, New Nine Inch Nails record is coming out soon, you guys seem like the perfect opener. Has there been any talk?
Wow. No. We would say yes in a second if we got that call. Actually, I know he (leader Trent Reznor) got our demos to possibly produce us and I’m not sure what he thought of us but he is such a genius and I know that the things that he speaks of and the feelings that he touches on are the same ones that we do as well.
I think it would be awesome, I really do. That would be like getting a call from Green Day. You just don’t say no. But yeah, we would do Nine Inch Nails in a second. Who knows, maybe it will happen?