I remember being 13 years old and thinking how cool it would be if my job was talking to musicians I loved. I also so clearly remember being 18 years old in a Big Day Out moshpit thinking it would never get better than My Chemical Romance live. Cut forward a decade and I’m in a Melbourne pub talking to Frank Iero about his fully instrumented solo tour of Australia. Nothing has ever felt more like an affirmation.
Welcome back to Australia! At the start of year you were out for some acoustic shows. How is it this time around with the full band?
Frank: Yeah those shows were out of necessity at first. Basically, we finally worked out how of get over here with Soundwave with the whole band for a tour, then of course life happens and it became no more. So it’s either stay home and be upset about it and not have this experience or…You know, no one can tell me I can’t go – we had a great label and great people working with us, they were like if you want to come we’ll find place for you to play. Fuck, I have a guitar – let’s get a plane ticket.
like a soft opening, right?
Frank: Yeah, the funny thing about that it’s such a different beast, coming and doing acoustic shows. I never thought these songs would allow for that – and it was the first time we did acoustic performances aside from one or two little shows, but then that kind of spawned doing a couple of shows back home. It opened up some doors. So thank you Australia for that?
Well, thank you (laughs). You’ve got a new record coming out the 28th, have these shows been a good chance to road test some new material?
Frank: You know it’s a strange time right now because, like you said, I have a record coming out in a little over two weeks and there’s all these new songs that I want to play – but we live in a day and age where if you play those songs they will inevitably end up on a cell phone and the audio will be the fucking worst. That’s just the way it is. You know, all this time and effort that went into making these songs and the way you feel they need to be put across to a listener kind of goes out the window and they’re just these shitty cell phone videos. You kind of have to hold yourself back and not play all the songs you want to play. So we started to play songs that were released a little earlier. You feel like you have this secret you want to share so bad and you keep looking at it but not yet.
The fun thing is, the songs we are playing here feel brand new to people that are coming to shows that have never experienced the band before. Even the old stuff feels new now.
I was reading that you never intended to release the older material as a record. so did writing this new album feel different?
Frank: That was the mind fuck going into this record, because I wrote these songs and I didn’t intend for any of this. My idea was ‘I’m going to write these songs because I feel like I need to write these songs’ just to get them out of my head and to make myself feel better. The only thing going to make me feel good was being creative. I figured I’d do that and put them on a CD somewhere. Lock them in a drawer, then 10 years down the line when my kids were old enough I’d be like “hey listen to these songs” and they’d be like “oh that’s fucking lame”.
But what happened was a friend of mine, who’s been my friend for years and years, got on to me and asked me what I’d been up to. I told him I’d been writing songs and he convinced me to play them for some other people – and before I knew it, I had a record deal and then I was on the road. Then I didn’t even know if I wanted to do this. Life got in the way, I got a band together, I toured and I started to have fun and then I realised ‘alright, I’ve got to do another one’.
But then I actually had to intend on making a record that people that people could hear. I started to freak out because I didn’t think I knew how to do that – because I didn’t do that the first time, I guess the good thing is it’s not like a sophomore release because I didn’t do it properly the first time.
There’s no second album pressure.
Frank: Exactly! So I could do it differently, I could call it a different band. I started thinking about those kind of things, especially thinking about how if it’s going to be under my name, it’s still got to be different. But when these creative doors started to open, suddenly songs started to come out and I realised very early on that it was nothing like the first record and I couldn’t do it by myself. I feel like in the two years since Stomachaches I’m in such a different place in life. Creatively, as an artist it’s lightyears beyond.
When I listen to the record (Parachutes), I feel like I hear a sense of growth and realisation of certain things – like strengths and weaknesses and being okay with both of them. With the first record, I definitely hear someone who has no fucking idea (laughs).
You worked with producers Ross Robinson and steve evetts. how did you find they shaped the record?
Frank: There’s a certain folklore that goes along with those two guys, the records they make, the process and the shit they put people through – and that’s what was so scary to me. Like, do I really want to go in and question everything about myself and have someone make me fucking cry every day, like do I want to do that? When I started to write these songs – and I’m a big believer in, when you write songs they tell you what they want to be and how they want to sound. These songs, they demanded to be pushed to the edge and even over the edge – so these were the guys to do it.
It’s no secret that I’ve been a fan of Ross and Steve collectively and individually for a very long time. Some of the bands they’ve helped and some of the records they’ve made have shaped my musical career throughout my life, all the way back to Korn – I mean I grew up in the 90’s man.
Going into that studio though, even after all of the stories I’d heard the legend did no justice whatsoever, it did not compare. Here’s the thing though, I thought that Ross was going to be this aggressive and imposing figure in the studio. An in your face, really rattle your cage kind of guy. But it wasn’t like that – it was so much more positive than anything else I’ve ever experienced. I always thought that you had to kind of break yourself down to build yourself up again. I’m from this long line of self deprecation – ‘you’re not good enough, you don’t even deserve to be here’. But just none of that ever came out, it was about being the best you could be and the greatest thing about you is that you’re you. The things that you think are deficient in you are actually your strengths, because that’s what actually makes you unique. And that’s why you’re fantastic, even though you may not think those things are good, I’ll show you why.
It was like shit, ‘we’re not going to beat each other up to get that? We’re just going to be cool?’ and the response was like, ‘why would I not tell you you’re not good enough.’ You’re here, you’re doing this, you saw your worth, you’re good enough.
Bad musicians don’t get record deals.
Frank: Exactly. That’s the thing, it was so strange, so simple. But also at the same time, the hardest record I’ve ever made. He made me cry every fucking day, but it was in a way that got to the core of things that I didn’t even know. You start to trace back why you feel certain ways about these things and to started to realise maybe things happen for you and not to you. And those things, well maybe you thought they were the worst things that ever happened but they’re actually the best things.. I can’t fathom doing the record any other way.
My chemical romance was such a huge part of the alt-rock scene. it left such a huge stamp on that genre, so is it important to you to carve out a mark as a solo artist?
Frank: I just don’t know if I give a shit. I think it’s one of those things where I thought for a long time that this was just something I did and the person that I was, was far removed and different. Then I started to realise that it’s not just something that I do, it’s part of who I am and so far embedded in my genetics. It’s like pumping blood through your veins, you don’t even realise that you’re doing it, it’s to survive you know? It’s a part of me.
I’m in this weird position in interviews as a current artist, with the reissue of a record that I wrote with MCR coming out, it’s so weird. So as far as all of it goes, it’s all part of the things I’ve made. I get why people need to distance themselves, but I just make stuff. Maybe you like it, maybe you don’t. You’re not going to like everything I make. You might like some things more than others, that’s what I do. It’s like fighting against being in high school – that’s how you got to college. You can’t fake your high school diploma. I would not have got to where I am without that. We did some amazing stuff, it’s happened.
It’s the 10 year anniversary of The Black Parade, when you made the record did you think it would have this sort of lasting impact on the alt-rock scene?
Frank: Fuck no. No, definitely not. Here’s the thing: When making The Black Parade I knew we were doing something super important. I didn’t know what that meant, I just knew it was really important. Whether it just would have been important to us or important to millions of people, I had no idea. We didn’t think of commercial success or anything like that because that was just ridiculous at that point. But I knew it was something special. The other thing that ran rampant in that studio, was that we were under the impression that no matter what we did people were going to hate it because that’s how things worked. We had a record that was underground and then popular people hated us for that. When we had an underground record people hated that too – there was no winning. Some people liked it and hated it and then the next record everyone was going to hate – so we might as well do something totally nuts. It was very polarising.
that’s my first 3 years of high school, in an album.
Frank: Living in that time, not everyone got it, there were factions of people that wanted us dead. It’s funny, you either have to die or break up for people to appreciate it. That’s just the way it goes.
I was in the car with one of my best mates when you guys announced your break up, there we absolutely tears.
Frank: We did it because of her, just to make her cry. (Laughs).
You’re halfway through your Australian tour, how have the shows been going so far?
Frank: It’s been great, it’s hard to guess what to expect when you’re playing songs in a country for the first time. Sometimes you show up and you expect no one to show up but it’s been so amazing. There’s kids there every time and they have a connection to songs that are considered old now. And even like touring the new stuff, to have people know the new stuff, I feel very lucky. I have a good feeling about that. It feels nice.
How do you feel Australian crowds compare to crowds back home?
Frank: Every time you go to a different part of the world, different cultures react in different ways and sometimes it’s weird. Do they like it? Do they not like it? Oh! Okay that’s just how they act. Perth was a lot different to Adelaide, I feel like the first show they were very reserved but having a great time but just in their spot. They didn’t want to get in other people’s spots. We’ve had great shows here, but they’ve all been different.