My Chemical Romance’s fearless leader talks about mocking his own concept albums and rebelling vicariously through his hair.
What are your favorite post-apocalyptic movies?
Night of the Comet, Mad Max obviously–I actually prefer the first one. A Boy and His Dog. I think those are like the three main classics.
You’ve said the new album’s “Look Alive, Sunshine” intro was inspired by A Clockwork Orange, but it also reminded me of Vanishing Point, have you seen it? It’s a 1971 car-chase flick with a guy on the radio sending messages to the driver so he can escape the police.
Yes! Vanishing Point and The Warriors were two very big reference points for the album. I definitely wanted it to feel like there was this DJ out there like, inspiring these lunatics to drive around. And I also wanted it to feel a little bit like The Warriors as well. But yeah, I love both of those movies.
So what came first, Fabulous Killjoys the album or Fabulous Killjoys the comic book?
The comic actually. Me and my friend Sean Simon–who sold our merch and was a friend of ours who just kind of volunteered to do that, he was in the van with us from the beginning. We had the idea for this comic that really was in a weird way semi-autobiographical, although had nothing to do with us and we weren’t in it. Just like, all the stuff we would make up and the way we viewed the world and all the metaphors we’d use for the world. So that was kind of the starting point. And then I didn’t realize it until [comic book writer] Grant Morrison had pointed it out that we were in fact making that album, that was going along with the comic of us.
The band on “Vampire Money” sounds very different from the band that made “Vampires Will Never Hurt You.” Are you bored with the oversaturation of vampire culture in general, or just Twilight?
You know, it’s interesting because I really have no problem with the Twilight franchise, it’s just not for me. And I think I’m mature enough now to realize when something’s not for me, as opposed to attacking it. But the interesting thing about “Vampire Money” is it’s about anything you don’t want to do, like anything people assume you’re going to do for the money and you don’t want to do it. It’s about saying no over and over and over again. Basically, saying no with a song. But you’re right, when we started out as a band we very much used that horror-movie imagery. To me it was different imagery though, it was drawing upon bands like the Damned and the Misfits and the classic horror films.
I wanted to know if you’re more of a Buffy fan.
Joss [Whedon] is amazing, I love Joss. I’m actually not that familiar with Buffy, my wife is. I’ve always had a very hard time watching TV; I still do, like I can’t get on schedule to watch stuff. Not that familiar with it, but I’m very familiar with a lot of his work. And the Buffy episodes I have seen are incredible.
I love how after a whole concept record dealing with cancer [The Black Parade], you threw in this one line “And all the good times/ They give you cancer” on “Party Poison.” I feel like each one of your albums is making fun of the one that came before it.
Totally! We’re definitely a self-referential band, and like, I especially, always end up abhorring what we did in the past. And I don’t know why that is, I think the only way I can move forward is attacking it. I like how bands growing up… like, the Beatles were extremely self-referential and at times poking fun at who they used to be. I think it’s healthy because if you dwell on who you used to be and you always cherish it and you always talk about how amazing that was, then you’re not gonna grow. You’re always going to be like, “Remember when we were the Black Parade and we were blowing up pyro and we were playing 10,000-person arenas?” And if you get caught up in that it’s no good.
Killjoys also contains lyrical references to “Search and Destroy” and “Ballroom Blitz,” and a lot of the sounds in “The Kids from Yesterday” remind me of Bowie’s “Heroes.” Are there any other 70s bands you slipped in there?
The Sweet… oh, you got that one! A lot people don’t get that one and think I’m referencing like, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, which is funny because he must have been referencing the Sweet. Mainly, it was cinema. So it was like, John Carpenter, or the sounds in Escape from New York, how he would kind of play his own music. That was kind of an influence for sure. And Bowie, with Danger Days, even the title itself was inspired by Diamond Dogs. And that was also a dystopian, kind of future-glam-punk record. Damned Damned Damned was a big influence on this record. Hmm, what else. MC5. Definitely Detroit-kinda rock.
“Sing” was recently used on Glee, which a few bands (Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon) have recently come out against. How do you feel about the show?
It’s a show about music, and we’re not ever opposed to that sort of thing. In a lot of ways, it’s the radio. So if it gets your message across, to use that kind of platform, then we’ll use that kind of platform and still say no to Twilight. ‘Cause to me that’s not a platform, that’s hawking a lifestyle whereas this is a show about music. It’s really racy and it pushes a lot of things–I know it bothers a lot of Republicans too.
It’s interesting because a lot of bands come out against it in certain ways, but I end up hearing a lot of these same bands using their songs in car commercials and stuff like that. I find that very interesting–where do you draw the line and with what? Get your music out there and get it heard, I thought that was always the point. And still you want to do that with a tremendous amount of integrity, too. Something like Glee, we don’t have any control over how they’re going to use it, but we knew that they would try and do a great job with it, so we knew it was in good hands–
Good jazz hands.
–but you might end up doing other things you feel gross about, you know?
Any plans to follow Green Day to Broadway?
That came up very early when Black Parade came out. There were a lot of offers for Broadway, for animated versions of the songs. Lots of different things came our way, and we said no because it wasn’t right for us. American Idiot it’s right for, it’s very topical. I think it works well being a young record that got that, whereas Black Parade needed to be something that lived for a long time before that happens. Or, rather than do something on Broadway I’d much rather see Black Parade be a show the way Roger Waters went and did The Wall.
What’s the story behind getting Liza Minnelli to sing on The Black Parade?
There was a line that was the only spot on the record that I wanted a guest vocal–I wanted a voice to finally talk back to me. And I wanted somebody kind of motherly, but who was also a survivor, had been through a lot, but was rooted in theater. And so… she was in! She was the first person that came to mind, and then [producer Rob] Cavallo had made a phone call to her assistant, and that was it. She did it for free and she was happy to do it.
What’s the future of your hair color?
It’s definitely uncertain. I have days where I love having it; it’s the maintenance that’s a pain in the ass. But it’s funny… having just turned 34, and having people wanting to fit us into thirtysomething rock culture, my only form of rebellion left is to fuck my hair up and look like a 16-year-old. So, it’s kind of all I got.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 21, 2011