My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Published Nov 27, 2010My Chemical Romance needed four years to follow-up their million-selling concept album, The Black Parade. That album, a rock opera that followed the death of a cancer patient and saw the band assume an alter ego called the Black Parade, was nothing if not ambitious. However, it took a toll on the band that they were hoping to avoid with their new album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Little did they know it would take them two shots at making it. "I think the first attempt at this record was a reaction to the ambition of [Black Parade] unfortunately," says frontman Gerard Way. "But Danger Days ended up being a rebellion against that rebellion, like saying 'We have to do this again if we really believe in this and each other.' So it was definitely a reaction to the toll it took, but we took it and turned it into something really positive."
Because The Black Parade was such a dark record, MCR decided they needed to lighten up a bit. Danger Days finds the band dropping the black-clad, gothic theatricality for something that sounds like it was recorded in Technicolor. Way says it was done so they could "go on a really fun, bright, colourful dance party adventure. Then we get to live that every night. We don't have to live something so dark."
What are you up to?
I'm playing Fallout: New Vegas, that's literally what I'm doing right now. Fall Out 3 was one of my favourite video games ever, and I haven't had a chance to play in a while, till we were done our record release show last night. So I'm at home playing video games.
What are your current fixations?
This is going to sound weird too, but I just got a bunch of books off Amazon about Chaos Magic. Grant Morrison kind of turned me onto it. I don't really get involved with magic or any kind of mysticism, but I got the books because I was interested in reading about it. I've barely cracked the books, but for this record I got in touch with a bit of mysticism, I guess that would be accurate.
Why do you live where you do?
[In Los Angeles] for the sun. Mikey and I grew up in a basement, and even in the band spent a good ten years in the dark wearing black. So I came to California because I really wanted the sun to be a part of my life.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
To bring up Grant Morrison again, my favourite of his books, The Filth, is very mind-altering. That pretty much goes for The Invisibles too. They're packed with tons of crazy ideas, conspiracy theories and different ways to look at the world. It's pretty amazing stuff.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
I saw Blur at Roseland when I was about 16 or 17, on their Great Escape tour. It was just really inspiring. I think the new record has a lot to do with that live experience.
What have been your career highs and lows?
Any time the idea has come together. For example, shooting the trailer to the record with the music to "Na Na Na" and being in the desert with my friends, my heroes, my inspirations and everyone really close to me, dressed up as crazy as we were, doing what we were doing. That was a real career high. Just seeing something that was in your brain for so long come to light and become physical. Or walking on the set of "Black Parade" or "Helena," a lot of it has to do with the video interpretations of what we've done. Right now feels like a real career high. It feels so pure and so us right now. The band really feels like ourselves. It's light and refreshing. I'm not carrying around a weight anymore or playing a character.
Career lows would probably be the over-touring on the Black Parade. Just getting trapped in a character where I wasn't allowed to make my own decisions. I feel like I wasn't in charge of our own fate. And also the first attempt at making Danger Days, the creative paralysis, what that felt like was a career low.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
We were about to play a show in London and I got a copy of Time Out and some journalist was doing a preview for the show and wrote, "If you ever want to watch a 25-year-old whine about his dead grandma for two hours…" That was probably the meanest thing I've read about us. I vowed that if I ever met that guy I'd break his nose.
What should everyone shut up about?
Reality TV. People that have absolutely no ability yet are monumentally famous. There's really too much of that right now.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I like my ability to find individuals really special. I can really bring out the best in people on an artistic level. I've always felt that I can see vast potential in people and can help them facilitate it, I guess. I don't like how I let nervous energy or fear creep into what I'm doing. My best moments are when I'm operating on zero fear. So when I over-think stuff I procrastinate and end up dreading it. I wish I just faced things quickly instead of putting them off sometimes.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
At home with my wife and daughter, hanging out with them. Maybe go out, get some lunch, go to the park and then sit and watch a little TV together.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
When we were doing the uniforms for Black Parade, our designer Colleen Atwood said, "Can I age these and make them look beat up and dirty?" And I said, "No, I think I want them really clean and polished." Fast forward to a couple years later, we were on stage in completely destroyed looking versions of that costume because she was right. I feel like the Black Parade should have looked like a bomb had gone off. And also, she said, "Why don't we make these not wool so you guys won't be too hot?" And I said, "No, but the wool looks good." I should have taken that advice.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of hockey. I think of probably the really dumb, stereotypical American versions. Strange Brew. Really whacked-out television. I think the craziest senses of humour and TV personalities have come out of Canada. Like You Can't Do That On Television, SCTV. All that stuff. That's what I associate with Canada: snow, maple leaves and really funny people.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Poison's Look What The Cat Dragged In. It was on vinyl and I picked it up at Sam Goody in a mall. You could tell my dad was so disappointed. Like, "This is what my son listens to?" I was young, probably ten. It wasn't long after that when I discovered Iron Maiden, so for me it was a gateway to heavy metal.
What was your most memorable day job?
Working as a toy designer. It was the job I actually had to quit to start doing music. I got to sit around all day and do a ton of drawing and crank out a lot of turnarounds on Spider-Man toys and have to develop new toys.
How do you spoil yourself?
I buy a lot of leather jackets and boots. I think I buy too many.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
I would definitely be an artist in some capacity. Either drawing, writing comics or painting maybe. It's funny because now that the record's out, my immediate instinct is to dive right back into the art.
What do you fear most?
I used to fear failure, but now I fear stasis more than anything. Getting stuck, running out of ideas. A creative block is more scary to me than anything else.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Sex questions are weird. How about a Nintendo Power Glove?
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I have a really awesome memory, when I met LeVar Burton. It was a really cool experience. We were all getting on a flight to London to play Reading and Leeds. I had seen him at LAX and I freaked out, and I don't usually for anybody, but I loved everything he's ever done: Reading Rainbow, Roots, Star Trek, I'm a big fan. It seemed like he was leaving, but when I got on the plane I sat down in business class and he was in the sleeper next to me. It was a long flight, so I introduced myself but said I wasn't going to bother him, and I really like his work. But then we just hit it off in a huge way. We hung out for the whole flight, had dinner together, started referring to each other as Mr. Burton and Mr. Way. It was a surreal moment. We both went to bed and then woke up in the morning and talked the whole way there. We traded info and we're still friends.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
I know I was just talking about him, but I've been wanting to have LeVar over for dinner for some time now. We still never met up and have dinner. I would ask him if he's a vegetarian and if he was make him something like that. If he wasn't then we'd probably have chicken.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Calling her more, probably. It's been a rough few years, recording and touring. But she loves what I do. She's at every show we play in Jersey and she's really proud of Mikey and I.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
I've always said "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" by the Smiths. Although Lyn-Z has recently turned me on to early Dr. John, so maybe one of the old New Orleans standards because it's happier.