A Black Friday Spent Record Shopping With My Chemical Romance's Frank Iero
We talked about his new projects and how much he hates "American Pie"
Remember My Chemical Romance? For most people my age, My Chem’s emotional hardcore (like any true fan, I'll never call it emo) provided the despairing soundtrack for the inevitable break down of our first poorly matched six-month relationships, their stone-cold images glared back from bedroom murals via Kerrang! posters. If you're anything like me, you spent three years carefully recreating their glue-sniffer style pink eyes with a Collection 2000 colour palette and bawling "I’m Not Okay" into a pillow until you got a headache and a snotty face.
While Gerard Way was the scene poster boy of the band, Frank Iero, the guitarist, was the punk guy in the background: the nervous, smiley one everyone fancied, who played on the wings, feeling a bit uncomfortable.
My Chem’s split last year could have spelt the end for the non-Gerard members, but Frank is something of a creative genius. He’s frontman of hardcore punk band, LeATHERMOUTH and in electro-hardcore band, Death Spells. He also dabbles in writing, art and photography (he’s always suffered from anxiety, as well as chronic stomach pains, and uses art as a release). Now he's a full time frontman. His new solo project, under the name frnkiero and the cellabration, has put out Stomachaches, the result of a tummy pain so painful it inspired the whole album. It’s also one of the best punk rock releases of the year.
I met up with Frank on Black Friday, so I asked if he wanted to go pick up some records on the cheap. We met at a little store that’d just opened, Flashback Records, just off Brick Lane, to avoid laceration by remorseless Rough Trade mobs.
We were both wearing the punk rock uniform. I’m just grateful I decided not to wear my Vans that day.
Noisey: When we spoke before you said you were nervous about being a frontman and preferred being in the background. How’s that going?
Frank: I always wanted to be in bands. But now there’s nothing to hide behind, I can’t just hang with my eyes fixed in the corner, even if I’m having a bad night. It’s very nerve-wracking, but I am enjoying it more than I thought I would.
So, how did you get into collecting records?
My father gave me one of those small box-sized travel players when I was a kid and just a handful of records that he had. Zeppelin IV was one. The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, which is just about the worst record ever – you can’t hear anything, just screaming in the background. I think there was maybe like an Animals record. And I just listened to them over and over again.
Lots of people love vinyl since the revival. It’s more unusual to hear of younger people that have always been into them.
I hear ya. It definitely ruins things for the collector because now a lot of stuff is a lot harder to find. I do feel like people have started to not value the music but value the packaging and art and how they consume the music. It’s a hard thing because you wish that they’d value the music as much as the rest. Though it’s nice that in a suffering industry, something still holds value.
Are you going to pass records down to your kids?
Yeah, I hope so. I don’t know how into it they’re going to be. Or how relevant they’ll be anymore. Maybe it’ll go back to 8-tracks or whatever. Man, I got really lucky with their taste. They like great stuff. They’re really into The Smiths. My one daughter’s goth as fuck. It’s incredible. [Picks up Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane over the Sea] Oh, I love this record.
Me too. Why do you love it?
I guess the makeshift quality about it. I think my least favourite thing to listen to is perfect songs, perfect performances. They don’t feel human to me and in that respect they lose any kind of sincerity. I don’t know why, it’s just my ears. So I like it when things are a little off, you know. And this record’s a little off!
What else is your goth daughter listening to?
The 22.214.171.124’s. My daughters will dance to that all day long. And actually that’s what I hope for them, is that if they ever do god forbid follow their dream and play music for a living, they’re a Japanese garage girl band.
That’d be sick. Speaking of sick, how have your tummy aches been?
I have good days and bad. I actually have a sack full of medication here [he opens bag and shows me a washbag of meds] so this is my regiment for days. Dairy’s real bad. Even if you’re not celiac you can be gluten sensitive or whatever. No red meat. I started to incorporate poultry and fish in for protein. I don’t eat too much soy either. It’s a delicate balance.
What have you been eating over here this week?
Let’s see. I have a stock pile of gluten free bars. It’s hard. A lot of PB and J on gluten free bread.
Someone sent this great song to me recently: Paws – "Sore Tummy". In my mind, it’s about anxiety and having chronic tummy aches. You should check it out.
I will! That’s what some of my medication is for. You know, I feel like I’d probably be alright if it wasn’t for the music. It makes you live in your head. With anxiety, it’s so hard to pull it back.
Yeah. I feel like, sometimes, I picked the wrong career for this. Everything I love about what I do I hate at the same time. When you get up there and do the thing that I do, you have to be purely yourself. That put-on-an-act-shit makes me very upset and I never want to do that, you know. But at the same time, getting up there and doing this takes its toll sometimes. That make sense?
It makes sense. Hey, you’ve got a serious pile going on down there.
This is the most dangerous interview I’ve ever done. The good thing is I can tell my wife it’s my job. I had to go record shopping today.
Have you had an interview yet where someone hasn’t talked about My Chem? Seriously.
This could have been the one!
This doesn’t count!
Alright, you can be the one interview. I think people are starting to become a little reluctant to bring it up now. Or find it awkward. You got to understand, I grew up with those guys. That was my schooling, you know. That was 12 years of my life and I'm extremely proud of everything so I have no problem with people bringing it up.
Cool. Well What have your top records of the year been?
The latest Against Me! record. I think that’s fantastic. I will go with Homeless Gospel Choir. That Twilight record with Thurston Moore on it, III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb. That’s phenomenal. The La Dispute record. The latest Godspeed record. The Joyce Manor record – which is brilliant.
Do you have any special vinyl in your collection?
I have "Purple Rain" on purple vinyl. Oh Grinderman 2. I think you should get this.
I will because you said so. You need to get a Shoreditch beigel while you’re here by the way. It’s a London rite of passage.
A London beigel, eh? Okay, I will. Oh my god! American Pie! THIS IS MY LEAST FAVOURITE RECORD IN THE WORLD. I hate it. This has one of my two least favourite songs on it. I very rarely like to talk shit. Very rarely. But. My two least favourite songs are "American Pie" and "Hotel California" by Eagles. It’s something I can’t explain.
Do they grate on you or is it something else?
You know that feeling when you chew cotton? Like when you put your shirt in your mouth and chew it…
Wait I’m going to do it right now. [Sucks shirt]
Even just watching you do it is making me… It’s a shock right?
It’s making me feel a bit sick.
Right! Right. That’s how I feel every time I hear those songs. God, this interview has put me in a hole.
A financial one. [Flicks through emo section].
What do you think about the “emo revival”?
All the reunions and stuff right? I think we’re hitting that point now where a lot of newer bands are starting to sound similar. So I think people are looking back and searching for something that they can’t find anymore. I think just trying to grasp something fresh but also go back to where everything started. Like, where did this new genre that I’m sick of start?
What’s the last thing you’ve heard where you’ve gone, fuck, this is genuinely different. Mine was probably Babymetal.
Babymetal? I haven’t actually listened to a record, I’ve seen the YouTube clips. They were actually on our plane over here.
I really don’t know much about the band, but I’ve heard so many rumours that I don’t know what to believe. [Looks serious] I heard from someone that if one of the girls gets too tall, she gets kicked out and replaced. Does that happen?
I hope so. Fuck tall people. Shall we go buy these now?
Please stop me. In America, Black Friday is like second Record Store Day, so we could have been stuck in a queue for hours. I thought it’d be packed.
I’m looking forward to Grinderman.
I hope you like it. If you don’t, it’s going to be awkward. Send it to me.
I’ll wait til you come back over and play and confront you.
Or throw it at my head while I’m playing.
I’ll Frisbee it to the neck.
“Your taste sucks!”
What Frank bought:
Yuck - Glow & Behold
Muddy Waters - Live at Newport 1960
The London Muddy Waters Session
The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
Albert Collins - Ice Cold Blues
What I bought:
The White Stripes – Self Titled
Grinderman – Grinderman 2
Follow Hannah on Twitter: @HannahRosewens