ofyourdeath: (band2)
ofyourdeath ([personal profile] ofyourdeath) wrote in [community profile] tothetune2012-07-25 10:42 pm

Kerrang! Article

Chemical Reactions
Ten years ago, My Chemical Romance were just "a bunch of dorks" from New Jersey. Then they made debut album I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love and set off on the path to superstardom. Tom Bryant revisits the start of the romance...

Click for bigger.

Click for bigger.

Outside, there was a storm brewing. Dark inky swirls were forming above the small New Jersey studio, the sky bruised and ominous. Inside Nada Recording Studio, Gerard Way was bitching and moaning.

An abscess in a tooth had meant emergency dental work earlier in the day, and the singer had returned delirious on painkillers. Mumbling, slurring and woozy, he came back to Nada with a mouth full of blood and a temper. He certainly wasn't interested in singing.

But the clock was ticking. His band, My Chemical Romance, and producer Geoff Rickly knew work had to be done. So they his painkillers. Which is why Gerard was bawling at them.

The singer stomped around the studio, angry, upset and in no mood to be in front of a mic. And so the boss of My Chemical Romance's then label, Eyeball Records' Alex Saavedra, took matters into his own hands. He punched Gerard in the face. Hard. Then said simply: "Now go sing."

It worked.

"Gerard was red in the face, he wanted to kill because he was so mad," said Geoff. "He went and sang and it was so intense. He was on fire. He did it in one take and it sounded like venom. It sounded like someone wanting to tear himself apart."

"The punch was motivational. It was an act of love, I think," Gerard said. "I was very jittery and real nervous, there was a really crazy atmosphere and I knew I only had about an hour to do the song. He came up and gave me a hug, then he punched me in the mouth. I was fucking riled. I went up to the mic and nailed it the first time."

Howling, angry, furious and cathartic - he delivered all the pain he was feeling into that performance. Pissed off at being punched, fuming about his hidden painkillers, and incensed about the pain in this mouth, he went crazy - a performance building to a frenzy as he screamed, whispered and yelled the brutal poetry of lyrics like "someone save my soul tonight." But then...

"... Then John [Naclerio], the engineer, goes, 'Fuck, that was amazing. Could you do it again? I was just setting the levels,' added Gerard. "I was like, 'Fuck!'"

Straight off the bat, he went there again, unleashing the pain again at the mic. The results were Vampires Will Never Hurt You, the first song MCR ever properly recorded. It would form the centre-piece to their debut I Brought You My Bullets, You brought Me Your Love - 10 years old this month - the first of which began their journey from New Jersey "scumbags," as they called themselves, to stars. That punch was responsible for a lot.

“To this day, nothing bears the recording of Vampires. Even the stuff that we’ve spent a lot of money on,: Gerard has said. “We listened to it in the van ride back. It was just the loudest, gnarliest, darker most melodic song I’d ever heard. It was fucking amazing.”

When My Chemical Romance went into the studio in May 2022, they were riding a wave of excitement. They’d only been playing for three and a half months, yet had already talked themselves up to everyone in town. Somehow the chemistry between the four of them – Gerard, his brother Mikey, guitarist Ray Toro, and drummer Matt ‘Otter’ Pelissier – had them believing this was special.

“I remember Gerard talking about wanting to do it ‘for real,’ said Ray. “Most of the bands we’d ever been in had been about getting together and having fun. There was something immediate about the music in this case, though. We knew we wanted to bring it to other people.”

Gerard was the driving force.

“There was a focus to him,” Ray added. “He really wanted this to happen. There was something about this that was so right that we had to keep going.”

The singer had, until seeing the World Trade Centre attacks on September 11, 2001, wanted to be a comic book artist. The terror attacks changed that – and changed him too. He had been something of a non-entity on the close-knit New Jersey scene, a comic nerd who was more often to be found in his parents’ basement than out at shows. In fact, friends would tease his brother Mikey about his ‘dorky’ sibling. Before he produced MCR’s debut, Geoff Rickly, the singer with New Jersey rockers Thursday, was one of those doing the teasing.

“I knew them long before they were a band,” he said. “Mikey was always the more sociable one who’d come out to parties. We’d always joke with him, saying, “Is your brother still at home in his underwear, eating cereal and drawing comic books?” But when Gerard case out and I finally met him, we formed a quick friendship right away. We planned to do a comic book together one day.”

But Gerard had moved on – and rather than do a comic book together, he wanted Geoff to hear the nascent My Chemical Romance. He approached him at a New Year’s Eve party at the tail end of 2001.

“He said, ‘Me and my brother are going to start a band,’” remembered Geoff. “He said, ‘I’m serious. We’re going to be called My Chemical Romance.’ I laughed and just said, ‘Well, at least you’ve got a great name. I’m sure you’re gonna be huge…’”

Rickly brushed him off, but agreed to watch them practice. He saw, in his words, a “NOFX-type punk band.” He added: “You could tell it was their first serious band because they weren’t playing together very well. Then I went on tour with Thursday but I got a call from Alex [Saavedra\. He said, ‘Dude, I’ve got to tell you about My Chemical Romance…’”
Geoff listened to an early demo of Vampires Will Never Hurt You and was very

“It blew my mind,” he said. “I called them right away and said, ‘This is really cool. I’ve never heard anything like it.’ I heard some Thursday, some AFI and some other things in there but it was unique enough – especially for a band only a month old. When I got home from tour they asked me to produce their record. So between two three-month-long tours I had 10 days off, and had to go into the studio with them for seven of them.”

It was this kind of focus and intensity that shaped My Chemical Romance’s early years. After just over three months of playing together, Gerard felt they were ready to record an album. It didn’t matter that his brother Mikey had never picked up a bass before. “The beginning of the band was a pretty magic thing,” said Gerard. “We felt like we were on fire, that nobody could touch us. Nobody could figure out what we sounded like, they just knew they liked it. There was this energy surrounding us – we were like a gang. That’s how we were back then. We were a fucking gang.”

They had been gigging locally, playing their first set at a Veteran’s Hall alongside another local band, Pencey Prep, who featured frontman Frank Iero and bassist John ‘Hambone” McGuire. Both had been immediately impressed with MCR.

“They were a bunch of dorks,” remembered Hambone. “Then they’d get onstage and it was like, “Fuck!” You just knew they were something. It was pure energy, pure feeling.

“We had a running joke between Pencey Prep and My Chem that we would try to top each other onstage. Every night Pencey would go for it, then they would do the same – it was friendly competition. But that competition bred a certain degree of excellence. We would egg each other on, then we’d take the piss out of each other afterwards.”

As Pencey slowly ran into the ground, though, Frank would spend more and more time with My Chemical Romance.

“I’d been there for every practice and show because I just loved the band,” he said. “I was a friend but a huge fan too.”

My Chemical Romance had noticed. As they got nearer to recording with Geoff, the producer urged them to add another guitarist to their line0up. It was that fateful session for Vampires that convinced them to ask Frank to join.

“I went along to hang out and I got really, really high,” said Frank. “The song was sounding great in the studio. Ray had laid down about 14 different guitar parts – most of them at the same time – and somebody said, ‘Have you guys thought about adding another guitar player so you can do this stuff live?’ I can’t remember who answered, but they said, ‘The only guy we’ve ever considered is currently too high to get off the couch.’

“I just lay there and pretended I hadn’t heard because I was so goddamned nervous they were going to ask me to play guitar on the track. I was so fucked up I couldn’t even think about that! But that was the first time I thought it might be possible for me to play in my favorite band – and it scared the shit out of me.”

They asked him to join almost immediately afterwards. Pencey Prep had recently fallen apart, and Frank didn’t have to think twice.

“That was the best leap of faith we ever took,” said Gerard. “We just kind of knew it. I felt we were missing something and, when we watched Pencey Prep onstage, it because obvious. We already had some dynamite but we needed more; Frank was the extra dynamite.”

I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love was recorded in Nada in 10 days flat.

“We were enjoying ourselves so much,” said Ray. “We weren’t doing all this stuff because we were thinking about getting signed or anything like that; it was just because we wanted to play the music. We knew it deserved to be heard.”

The studio itself was small but, to MCR, It was a palace. Meanwhile, working with Geoff – a local hero after his success in Thursday – was a thrill.

“To get to the studio itself, you would have to walk into a basement through a washer/drier room,” remembered Ray. “If you’d been there, you would have seen a few of the guys hanging out on the couch playing Nintendo, then you would have walked into the control room where we played most of our parts. It was a lot of fun and it was all new to us. We really respected Geoff too. Because he had done it, he gave us the hope that we could too.”

Ray, the most technically accomplished in the band, found he could layer multiple tracks in the studio, rather than just play the one he was restricted to live. It put him onto something of a creative high.

“I had all these ideas ready in my head,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to experiment. It felt like a new experience we were all having together. Everybody was working really, really hard.”

He would play Frank the songs, who would then disappear to the band’s van to write his own part. The pair quickly found their contrasting styles – Ray more technical, Frank more visceral – complemented each other.

“That was really cool for me because I had never played with another guitarist before,” said Ray. “He brought a very different way of thinking and a different style of playing. I saw the way he played and tried to incorporate that and I think he did the same with me.”
Mikey, meanwhile, had only recently started playing the bass- his first-ever musical instrument. Confronted with a studio, a producer and songs he had to play perfectly, he froze.

“I was petrified,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was doing; I was just going on instinct and playing from the heart. It was all new to me – I had only really fiddled around with guitars and bass in my parents’ basement and then, here I was in the proper recording studio. It was a little scary.”

Geoff quickly realized where everyone’s strengths lay: “Gerard had a billion great ideas. Mikey had a great record collection but no idea how to play bass. Ray was the sort of guy you’d find working in a guitar shop – you know, he was one of those people who was a great player but would never normally find a band. There were times he was a bit of a pain in the ass…

“I thought about half of those songs were great and the other half weren’t,” he adds. “But they were young enough that you wanted to help them rather than crush their dreams. [Drummer] Otter especially was messy. I even told them that they should probably spend more time rehearsing or consider the fact that they wouldn’t go very far with that drummer. They said, ‘No, he’s our buddy.’”

Otter left the band in 2004. Meanwhile, Mikey may not have been much of a musician, but he did have a clear idea of what the band should sound like; “we always said things like, “wouldn’t it be great if Glenn Danzig was in The Smiths or if Morrissey was in The Misfits?’”

Gerard, too, was focused on the bigger picture.

“I wanted to be more than a band,” he said. “It was supposed to be this really intense art project because I didn’t have an outlet creatively. The band was all I had. So titled of short stories I had written ended up being album and song titles. I Brought You My Bullets… was a short story I wrote.”

“I had all these weird notebooks full of writing about how disassociated I felt in my early 20s,” he added. “Vampires…, for example, is about the early signs of my alcoholism and how I felt I was wasting my life. It was about feeling generally like a scumbag. I was really dissatisfied with where I – and everyone I knew0 was destined to end up. We were all going to end up as nothing. That’s what a lot of the band was born out of.”

Two week after going into Nada, they had a finished record. When, on July 23, 2022, they released it, the band who was been together a matter of months had a debut that would set them up for a decade.

Their next tow years were spent on the road. It was there they set about shaping the dark and intense themes on Bullets – Gerard apologizes to his girlfriend ‘K’ on the sleeve notes for writing “all this stuff about killing you” – into a visceral live show. They toured with anyone and everyone, often to tiny crowds, eventually landing a UK tour with The Used in March 2003 – on which they met both their future manager Brian Schechter and the man who would become their drummer, Bob Bryar.

“I was really sick on that tour,” remembers Frank. “It was hell. Only two of us could drive a van with a stick-shift gear and the fucking steering wheel was on the other side of the ban, so we didn’t know how to deal with that. It was fucking terrible.”

But word had spread about Bullets… and, everywhere they went, they found crowds. The band’s first UK press officer, Susie Ember, remembers their impact.

“They sounded very distinct from everything else I was being sent at that time,” she says. “I remember seeing the first photos of Gerard and thinking he looked like a punk-rock Elvis. I thought then that they were special.”

When they returned to the UK in January 2004 for their first headline shows here, the buzz had grown. The first night of the tour was at the Camden Barfly.

“It was sold out and it was an amazing gig,” says Susie. “I had spent all day with them doing interviews and they came across as a very lovely bunch of guys. But when they went onstage they morphed into a completely different entity. I didn’t expect the energy. It blew us all away. You really got the sense they were going to be huge.”

Johnny Phillips, their UK promoter, also remembers those special early shows.

“I brought them over for that first headline tour and ended up driving their van for them” he says, the band clearly having given up on stick-shifts. “They were mental. I first saw them live at the Night And Day in Manchester and Gerard ordered me something he called Rocket Fuel. It was 10 parts vodka to one part Red Bull.

“He had ripped black jeans, black boots and gaffer tape around his left knee. Before he went on, he was staring at his shadow and shouting at himself. Then, when he kicked off, it was the most incredible show I’ve ever seen. I texted my boss and said, ‘This band is going to be absolutely fucking massive.’’

It would be a few years before that prediction became true, yet when it did, it came as no surprise to anyone who saw them in those days. Their story has been a long and winding one- involving lurid Daily Mail headlines, bold concept albums, drug and alcohol issues, and both huge success and massive scrutiny – but it was I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love that started it all: an album they made in a fortnight after a mere three-and-a-half months together as a band.

And if you ask those who have known them through that time how they changed, you always get the same answer back.

“They haven’t changed at all,” says John “Hambone” McGuire. “There’s never enough time to see them because they’re always on the move. But, whenever they come home, they make time for old friends. They hang out and try to carry on as though nothing has ever happened. They’re a band who know where they came from. They haven’t forgotten that.”

And nor, wherever My Chemical Romance go next, will they forget how it all started: with a fist.

Track-by-track through MCR’s debut

The album’s introduction was a classical Spanish guitar piece played by Ray.

The first moment on which Ray and Frank’s nascent guitar partnership[ clicked. “That was when I knew it was going to work,” said Ray.

The song that gave the band their early identity. “It brought in the entire gothic thing,” said Gerard. “It made people think we were a vampire band!”

A thrashy pop-rock song, in which Gerard displays his visual and morbid touch as he sings, ‘There hands stained red from the times that I’ve killed you.”

Still a live favorite, that has some to represent unity and fellowship among the MCRmy.

Gerard credits Halos as the track that went on to inspire the sound of follow-up album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, making it a crucial staging post on MCR’s journey to the big time.

The first song Gerard ever wrote, and the very first My Chemical romance track – he used it to persuade Ray to join the band.

One of Ray’s favorites. “It’s unlike anything we’ve done since,” he said. “It’s amazing. I love the last two minutes, it’s completely freeform. I still listen to it every once in a while.”

Set inside the disturbing surrounds of a mental hospital, it represents Gerard’s desire to escape from the life he felt was mapped out for him.

Driven by Ray’s towering guitar, a pulsing, pounding, dark punk rock track, ending on the less than triumphant note: “I think I’d love to die alone.”

As closer to a straight love song as exists on Bullets – albeit one referencing pools of blood – that explodes from brooding beginnings into fully-fledged punk fury.

[From the 24 July 2012 issue of Kerrang!. Scan source.]

Please thank [personal profile] alpheratz for transcribing this for us as I woke up with some manner of repetitive stress injury and it hurt to type.
onthehill: Gravity don't mean that much to MCR (mcr-jump)

[personal profile] onthehill 2012-07-26 12:57 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks! For the scans & all that typing! ♥