Gerard’s interview from this weeks issue of Kerrang! As always, apologies for any typos or misspellings. I do this all by myself and I hope it’s at least readable enough for everyone. Here is a link to an easy to read google docs copy.
If you wanted to know where Gerard Way was staying on his recent trip to the UK, you just had to keep an eye out for the punk rock kids. Neon hair, holey Converse and Misfits tattoos mark the spot. They’re everywhere today, hunched in the alleyways of Soho that lead off from Dean Street, surrounding the plush Soho Hotel like a castle’s moat.
"If you see Gerard, can you ask if he’ll come sign my arm, please?" says the blue-haired girl. "We want to get it tattooed today." says the green.
"I think I’ve lost my job," says blue. "I heard Gerard was in town and I just walked out."
"It’ll totally be worth it," adds the green, giggling.
It’s nice to hear a My Chemical Romance fan laugh. For a while there, there was no laughter. No laughter at all.
March 22, 2013. The day My Chemical Romance pressed stop. The day the most important rock band of the past decade called it a day. The day the rock rainbow lost a colour. Maybe two, Maybe three. One of the most rubbish of days.
"I was in bed," Dan King recalls. "I broke the news to my girlfriend as if a family member had passed away."
"I started hyperventilating and almost fell down the stairs," remembers Dajah Brown. "It didn’t hit me until two days later when I started bawling in the middle of town," Says Aisling O’Connor. "Then I thought My Chemical Romance would want me to mourn in a creative way, so I bought a black jacket and painted it so it looked like a Black Parade jacket. It looked crap though…"
Among the tears there was anger, too.
"I felt numb," admits Mel Brehaut. "Then I felt angry. That message on the website [announcing the split] was cold. It hurt."
"I was shocked," says Andrew Worboys. "Then I felt betrayed."
"I felt pissed they did it in such a shoddy way," recalls Heggie Speller. "It felt disrespectful."
Gerard Way’s visit to the UK is a big deal, not only for Gerard, but for everyone invested in My Chemical Romance, that most fan-friendly of bands. It’s the first time Gerard will tell his side of the story not on his own terms - exclusively to Kerrang!, we might boast - and not sitting in front of the computer with an open blog or the blur of his twitter feed before him. It’s the first time he’ll hear feedback on a mas scale for his solo compositions - lead-off single Action Cat is released digitally the day that we speak - and it’s the promotion of that solo album that has seen his record label, Warner Bros., fly him in for our meeting. And at the Relentless Kerrang! Awards, 24 hours after our interview, it’s the first time he’ll personally greet the people whose hearts he broke.
"I want to give you a choice," I say to Gerard as he eases himself into a sofa. "I want to ask you about the past, but also the future - but you can choose which one we talk about first."
"Well, let’s start with the past, Gerard replies, smiling but shifting in his seat. He leans forward, nibbles at a biscuit, sips his frothy coffee.
There’s been 16 months to put together the questions that follow. There’s been 16 months picking at the carcass, waiting for answers. And so we talk and we talk and we talk some more. What follows is the first day of the rest of Gerard Way’s life.
Perhaps what hurt most about the My Chemical Romance split was that it just didn’t feel done. Anticipation for MCR 5 had been whet by the astonishingly high quality of the Conventional Weapons releases. There was a new logo for fuck’s sake. Of all the things the fans went to sleep thinking about on the evening of March 21, the break-up of their favourite band would have been far, far from their mind…
"I guess I’ll start by addressing your feeling it wasn’t the right time," says Gerard, his Sesame Street speaking voice sharp and alert. "Because that’s an important key in it being the right time. Had it been up to everybody else, it would have been too late. I think that had it ben when we were worn down, ineffective, joyless, when it had become obvious to all the fans that it should be over, that’s exactly when they’d have wished it was over. It’s too late once the fans know it’s too late. And I knew…"
"And so I guess I decided I was gonna preserve it for everybody. I didn’t want the fans to ever have the memory of it being ruined. I didn’t want you to be like, ‘Uh, are that band still around?’ I wanted you to have, ‘That was a great band.’ Even if you’re a little angry at the band - "I’m angry at them, but that was a great band.’ I’ll settle for that over, ‘These guys are washed up…’"
But you were so far from that. There was obviously still gas left in the tank…
"Yeah," squeaks Gerard.
You know that?
You know you weren’t spent?
"Right! Because you should never get to a place where you’re spent. There was gas in the tank, I’m just not sure I wanted to end up where the gas was gonna take us."
That’s enigmatic. What do you mean by that?
"Well we could have kept going, but we might not have ended up where anybody wanted us to be, or where we wanted to be as human beings. People that had separate dressing rooms, separate car service and separate planes - people that only see each other at rehearsals."
You thought that was a genuine danger?
"Yeah," admits Gerard. "We’d already started to get really good at not seeing each other, then showing up and rehearsing and then having it all come back right away. Which is a good thing. It’s chemistry. But that sense of camaraderie was slipping, and it was nobody’s fault…"
How did you know what was happening?
"It’s just something you feel…"
Was there an attempt to salvage that?
"I think everybody tried to salvage it by being good to each other," Gerard answers.
"I think everybody tried to salvage it by still trying to be a part of each other’s lives. But people can change and grow, and I think - I can only speak for myself - I stopped growing. I felt like I was stunted, I felt like I had so much more to offer the world.
Gerard pauses, gulps his coffee.
"And I don’t just mean that, like, ‘I will break up the band so I can make a solo record!’ That is an awful reason to make a decision like that. But I felt like I had so much more to share as a human being to my daughter and my wife."
the band was starting to impact on your personal life?
"Well, the person that they were starting to come into contact with was somebody who’d become extremely detached and eternally depressed."
Gerard’s eyes begin to drift.
"Because it all comes down to being true to yourself. When you’re misaligned with who you are, and you’re not listening to the truth, and you’re trying to desperately to force yourself to do something, you get sick. And I got really sick."
In what way?
"I got sick physically and mentally because I didn’t listen to what my inner self said…"
"Which was when Parade was over, that’s the end. I always said to myself and had been relatively vocal about saying that around the rest of the band. I plan things out pretty far in advance. I sat down with a piece of paper before Bullets came out and I wrote. I wrote down titles of records, what they were going to be like and what they were going to accomplish for the band."
So you’d strayed from the plan?
Gerard nods. “I never went past the third record because to me that was the pinnacle - it was the combination of everything we had learned on one and two but really taken to some crazy extreme. That was Black Parade, and when the tour basically ended with us conquering the world, we were supposed to ride off into the sunset. I can’t think of a better ending than that. And that’s what I had internally planned for myself as a human being the whole time - this is it, that’s the end.”
The question is, why wasn’t it?
"Because it’s a lot more complicated than that. Because you get into careers, mortgages, families, crews, people, the machine itself - not to mention the expectations of a record label that invested quite a bit in you, that would like more out of you, a fanbase that wants more out of you. So I kept going, against every fibre in my being, I kept going. I went against myself and I lost…"
There is no drought or pause in my conversation with Gerard. But I’m inserting one anyway to relay what the room feels like right now.
Gerard rarely looks me in the eye while talking. He alternates between sitting up straight and curling his feet on the sofa. He wears his coat throughout - his tatty green parka - despite the weather outside being arid in the way only central London can be. At one point he lies half on and half off the couch, torso shifted down on the cushions and legs stretched out at an angle off the edge, stiff like one of those jock teenagers who filled instagram with their planking craze a few years ago. He sporadically nibbles at the biscuits. He rarely sits still. Despite all of the above, there’s no question in my mind that everything he says is… pure.
What was the moment you finally knew it was the end?
"The last show. The last Danger Days show. Everything up to that point was denial, everything up to that point was, ‘This is gonna work. I have something to say, I have something to say, I have something to say.’ I’m proud of Danger Days, I love it, but all I was trying to say in the end is, ‘I don’t want to grow up.’ Like, I became a dad, and I got married, and now I’m in my 30’s, but I’m gonna prove that I can still be rebellious! If you distil what came outta my mouth in that period, that’s kind of all I was talking about. That’s not a great reason to stay in a band or make music…"
"I guess I also felt like… I wanna see them do this. I wanna see them do something."
In the sense that My Chem were a seed that their creativity could blossom from?
"Yeah, because that was the goal of it! It was just seeds, it wasn’t supposed to be, ‘Oh now I’m, like, a role model.’ I’m the last person in the world that should be a role model, for anybody…"
Punk rockers never feel easy with expectation. It’s the whole Kurt Cobain thing…
"Yeah, but I’m not," he sighs. "None of My Chem wore that well. I know I didn’t. It was very uncomfortable - we’re punk kids, we’re not role models. We don’t have the answers, we have the answers for ourselves. Maybe that relates to you, but it got to the point where I didn’t want to say the wrong thing to a kid who had been cutting themselves. I’m not qualified to help them. What if I say the wrong thing? There was one female fan who I met, where I was like, ‘you’re gonna stop cutting, you’re never gonna do this again.’ It was less aggressive than that in my memory. But if I had even been slightly aggressive, who am I to say that that’s the right way to talk to somebody to get them to stop cutting? It might have made her cut more."
Gerard’s eyes aligns with mine.
He looks down at his shoes.
"I’m not authorized for any of that shit…"
Let’s return to music. I think it’s interesting, that even 16 months on, you keep referring to My Chemical Romance as ‘we’. Does it still feel like ‘we’?
"Hmmmmm," he ponders. "I like to say ‘we’ because My Chemical Romance was such a ‘we’. I feel a really strong connection to it, and I think that’s also a result of ending it the way it ended: amicably, and because it was the right time. I think a lot of interviews for my solo record are gonna go a lot differently than the other guys’ interviews for their solo records when they come out of a band. My interviews aren’t gonna be filled with anger, and spite, and resentment, and ‘I won’t talk about that,’ because none of that exists, because it ended right."
Do you think the other members of My Chemical Romance have that anger, spite, and resentment?
"No. We all still talk. I love them so much and I wanna see them do great, too. I wanna see them grow, and I like to think they wanna see me grow, and all do great work…"
I don’t mean to be intrusive, because it was obviously a private moment, but what happened when you told the other guys everything you’ve told me?
"Well, we weren’t all together, but we were on a phone call. I wrote this thing. It’s the only way I could say it."
The thing with the bird? That you put on the website?
"No! This other thing. It was really brief, and it was very direct, and it was about how I felt and that was kind of the way it went. The bird thing would have taken far too long! It wasn’t impersonal, but it was very quick and I think it was something people needed to process. It wasn’t something to talk about a lot. It wasn’t a therapy thing; it wasn’t something to sit down with each other and talk about. Maybe in our dreams we’d hoped it would be like that at the end, like we’d all be together in a bar somewhere, but I don’t think life happens that way."
Was there anyone that went, ‘No, don’t finish saying this…’?
"No. No. People may have felt that way, and I know people have…"
Gerard shuffles in his seat.
"Without really getting into this too deeply… Because I don’t want to get into the psychology of the end, and there’s probably some things better left private for people involved…To be honest, I think I’ve almost gone too far in saying it was even on the phone…"
We can talk about something else, if you would prefer?
"Mmmmm, it’s not that I don’t wanna talk about it 0 I just don’t know that anybody else in the band will wanna talk about it later. So I don’t wanna put my ammo out there for anybody to have to speak about it."
It must have been hard telling your brother, Mikey, that he didn’t have a job anymore…
"Well, it didn’t feel like a job, it felt more like saying, ‘This is the end of a big adventure,’ and he just understood. He could see it, he could see it on my face, he could see what had happened to me physically over the course of, like, three and a half years. So he knew. I can’t speak for anybody else - I don’t know if they knew - but he knew. And I think he knew he had to find his own way. Mikey accepted it."
Did you follow the fallout of the announcement? Did you go on twitter at all?
"No, actually. My lasting memory of the break up is that I saw such an amazing outpouring from all different corners, all different music outlets, and how much they loved our band. That’s my memory of it."
And the fans?
"On the fan front, I stayed away from that for at least a couple of weeks. But having said that, I knew for my sake and theirs that I needed to go back and reconnect with them. I think they needed somebody to talk to, and I needed somebody to talk to. I felt like that was good for us… Until it wasn’t good for us."
Should we talk about the future now?
Gerard lets out a deep sigh. “Let’s talk about the future…”