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Gerard Way On Starting My Chemical Romance: “It Became My Therapy”

Brii Jamieson
Brii Jamieson 16 October 2019 at 13.31

"I wanted to build worlds with music" - Gerard Way.

Over the weekend Gerard Way made an appearance as a speaker at the Los Angeles Comic Con, with his own main stage panel.

While the panel was hosted at a convention for comic books, Gerard actually spoke at length about his entire career history - mapping the course of his multiple creative pursuits from high school, through to now. Everything from being kicked out of his first band (because he couldn't play 'Sweet Home Alabama' on the guitar), to being ready to pitch a television show to Cartoon Network on the day of 9/11, through to forming My Chemical Romance.

Covering the very early years, even before My Chemical Romance, Gerard explains how he met MCR bandmate Ray Toro through a friend at art school, and remembers meeting him and thinking "this is the greatest guitar player ever". Wholesome. 

Speaking on the moment that he formed My Chem, Gerard shared "So 9/11 happens, and I pick up the guitar again and I write ‘Skylines And Turnstiles’, and then I called Otter [Matt Pellissier, drummer] and then I called Ray, and we got Mikey [Way, bassist] in - and we just started building this momentum."

He continues, "It became my therapy from the PTSD that everyone had experienced from 9/11, and processing that."

And despite getting kicked out of his first band for not being able to play 'Sweet Home Alabama' on guitar, that never held him back in regards to songwriting, with Gerard sharing "Regardless of what skill I had at the guitar, I was always able to write songs. Even back in my old art school band I was writing songs."

He continued, speaking on his early collaborations with bandmate Ray Toro, "[He] really helped transpose those ideas that I would have into something that made sense. He’s just such a good guitar player - sometimes I would just be able to sing something to him and he could play it and make it a lot cooler. If I couldn’t play it on the guitar, I would just sing it to him. And that’s how we generated the sound of the band - we’d just sit together and sometimes I’d have a guitar, sometimes not, and then Ray would have his own ideas. He learned how to play by listening to metal records, so he would play along to Metallica records and stuff, and Pantera records, and that’s how he figured it out. So he would help get this stuff out of me, and that formed the sound."

And as for the sound they were trying to capture in the early years of My Chem? "We were trying to take bits of everything we loved, like driving and fast punk, but then it’ll have metal, and the lyrics will be like storyteller lyrics," Gerard shared. "I really liked Nick Cave and he was a storyteller, and there wasn’t a lot of storytelling happening in rock music at the time, it was very much about relationships and boyfriend-girlfriend stuff. It was about relationships, but no one was really doing this conceptual stuff, or telling stories… Pop-punk was about the high school experience, boyfriend-girlfriend stuff. I wanted to build worlds with music, and that’s what we started to do together in bringing in gothic elements, or bringing in vampires, and building this thing."

And the rest is (almost) history - and Gerard acknowledges that MCR always had a momentum, right from the very beginning.

"There was always a momentum in My Chemical Romance - we’d have our first practice and it’d work. We’d have our second practice and we’d have a new song. Third practice we’d have Mikey on bass. Every week there was a new thing that happened, and then eventually Frank [Iero] joined the band, and we never stopped. It was like ‘oh, we have a show’, ‘oh we have another show’, ‘oh, we’re opening up for Jimmy Eat World’. It all happened really fast - there was a real momentum to it."

The whole 30 minute panel is worth a watch if you have the time - check it out below:

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