Set to release his debut solo album ‘Stomachaches’ this August under the Frnkiero and the Cellabration banner, Killyourstereo.com had the opportunity to talk to former My Chemical Romance guitarist and surprisingly positive Frank Iero about albums, press shots, dark humour…and building dollhouses.
Hi Frank, how’s it going?
I’m good man, how you doing?
Yeah I’m going well, where are you at the moment?
I’m at home building a dollhouse (laughs).
Is that your normal Wednesday night?
This is the first dollhouse I’ve ever built, my girls just turned 4 at the beginning of this month and they went away for the week with their Mum to their grandfather’s house and I had some work to do at home. So one of the things I wanted to do was to build them a dollhouse, so I’m building it for them.
Is it going well at the moment or is it one of those situations where you spend about four hours on it and you’re ready to give up?
To be quite honest, I started maybe like an hour and a half ago, and we’re doing pretty good (laughs). So far we’re doing pretty good, I can tell it’s a house.
Well that’s good, at least it’s not going to turn into a bike or something like that and they flip out at you.
It may turn into a doll shanty-house… I’m not sure just yet, we’ll see.
(laughs) okay, I wanted to ask, what’s the inspiration behind the symbol of the band?
The symbol is a graphic piece that I actually made in, I’m going to say 2006; I was working on a visual art piece around the same time My Chem was making The Black Parade. I was working in photoshop, and recreating Tarot cards, just doing this project for myself; and I began to come up with a logo for a symbol, almost like a signature, I wanted to put on all the different things I made. I started to manipulate the Byzantine cross and what I really wanted was like a Yin-Yang, a symbol for the push between good and evil, the beauty and the ugly. Kind of like this thing I’ve been obsessed with for quite a long time; finding beauty in the things you wouldn’t normally find it, in things that normally seem ugly or mundane. So anyway, I added serpents to it at the bottom kind of forming into the shape of an anchor so that it basically means it’s grounded in that kind of struggle. I started to use that on the different art pieces I made, I was working on a lot of photography and actually, if you look back to 2011, I started to release limited edition photography prints and that logo is embossed in all prints. People ask me exactly what does it mean, and I can’t explain it because it’s a representation of me pretty much, of me and my struggle. It’s basically my signature.
I feel like we’ve just gone through like a Da Vinci Code sort of thing, where you’re like “it’s been around for years”.
(laughs) It actually has! I made it so long ago and I really only started to put it on the things I started to release 3-4 years ago.
Obviously the ‘Weighted’ video is based around some pretty dark humour, have you always been a fan of that style of dark comedy?
Yeah, you know it’s funny, what makes me laugh is how dark people perceive me from how dark my humour is perceived to be. I’m kind of positive actually (laughs). But, a lot of people don’t see it that way, and that to me is super hilarious. When I was writing the treatment for the video, I had this original idea that I wrote out and I took that into the label and said “this is the video I want to make for the first single” and they read it and they were like “this is so fucked up!” Like, “we really shouldn’t make this”. So I went “oh alright” and then went and wrote another one, and they ended up going for the one where I murder five children (laughs). So you can imagine, I guess, that the first one was a little too over the top…
What was the first one then?!
I’m not going to say because I still want to make it for something, ’cause I think it’s hilarious and can’t wait for someone else to find it very funny.
Yeah well I don’t think you’ve changed that perception of you, considering you’re ripping hearts out of children.
You know, I really wanted people to have such a connection; I wanted them to be transported them into that 80’s kid gang, like Stand By Me and The Goonies, and I wanted them to be so invested in these children and draw comparisons as to how you were as a kid, and I wanted you to get so lost in it and forget how ridiculous a planet this is. So, by the time shit goes awry, I wanted people to be so upset.
I think you’ve succeeded on that front.
The album has quite a prominent bass presence in it, what was the decision in bringing that to the forefront?
I don’t know to be quite honest, writing the songs for some reason, I wrote the majority of the record on bass and electronic drums. Electronic drums because I was the only one there so I had to create beats in order to play along to, but the bass I don’t know. Maybe because I’m first and foremost a guitar player so in picking up a bass I started to become inspired by the tones I was getting out of it and it was just something new and initially I could play. But I wasn’t a proficient bass player, I definitely played music like a guitar player and I think that’s evident in some of the riffs like especially ‘Blood Infections’, that’s obviously a guitar player riff on a bass chord. So in that respect, I feel like it was maybe a new sound I was finding on the bass that I just didn’t have on guitar at that point.
How did it feel writing every part of each song as opposed to previously guitar parts? Was it that you became inspired to make new sounds?
My approach always as a guitar player though was that I tend to write guitar parts that are, in my opinion, another vocal. I think of the guitar as my way of speaking, so if you listen to my old bands I played guitar in, you can hear it swimming in between where the vocal harmony is, and where the rhythms of the guitars are. There’s this swimming in and out supporting the vocals I think. I’ve always been that kind of guitar player, and it was nice to lay down the structure of the song on bass and be able to fly in between there with the guitar stuff. The guitar plays a secondary supporting role sometimes, in a song like ‘Neverenders’ I feel like that, on that song, that vocal is a supporting role rather than the lead.
So you think this album is a more instrument driven work rather than vocal driven, would you say?
At times. At times I think it is, yeah. I mean, that’s because I feel like I never think of myself as a vocalist. I really just started to touch the surface and learn the instrument of voice; for me, I’ve always loved records where the vocals are mixed in as if it were another instrument. I like that play off of the human sound as opposed to the ripping distortion or the string sound, I like that play off between those two things. But definitely I’ve very much been a person who writes the music first, and then usually the vocals will be secondary in that and everything else will come in later.
On that writing process, the album sounds extremely similar in process as that of Caleb Schomo’s from Beartooth, have you both talked at any point about it?
I’ve heard the band name, I’m not 100% familiar with the music and I don’t know Caleb personally so I don’t know how to answer that sorry.
Oh sorry that’s perfectly fine, it’s just because with the writing process both of you would go down into the basement when you weren’t feeling well and started writing tracks so I thought there might be some similarity. But that’s all right.
Holy shit really? That’s awesome. I’ll have to check that out! Interesting.
We’ll move onto something different then. The press shots have a teddy bear featured in them, what’s the story behind that?
(laughs) did you say the teddy bear in the press photos?
Yeah, you’ve got a teddy bear with sunglasses and stuff like that on.
Oh man. You know, kudos to you man for looking through that and picking that stuff out, because everything in that shot is something from my life. So the teddy bear is my wife’s childhood stuffed animal, and it’s wearing her sunglasses. Basically I set up like a hobo camp kind of thing in the woods with my friends and we took some photos there and I wanted to include a lot of things from my childhood and from my life. So there’s a lot of different elements in that shot so if you were to take a gander at it, like you did which I’m very happy someone did, that’s awesome, there’s a lot of things in there.
Sounds a bit sad that I’m the only person who has at this point.
Well I mean maybe they have, but you’re the first person to ask me, that’s all.
Oh, cool! So what’s your opinion on music piracy and illegal downloading?
Oh geez. We all know it’s wrong to steal from people you know? We all know that. Whether we justify it or not, whether we do it or not, we all know it’s wrong. We’ve all done it, whether it be when you’re a young kid and you tape shit off your friends or what not, but that’s the thing; being a music fan and a music obsessed kid and a collector, it’s a fucking expensive habit, it really is. You could work a 40-hour week and spend all that money on records, I mean, I get it, it’s hard to do.
At the same time, we have to all know that if we’re stealing from an artist or from a band or whoever, we’re taking away the money and opportunity for that artist and that band to be able to create and do things you’re a fan of. There used to be this argument of “I’ll steal their music but I’ll buy a t-shirt” you know? I think it’s still fucked up to do that, it’s still wrong, you’re still stealing. But I understand that justification, “this much will still go to them”, but we’re in such a day and age now that so many people have stolen so much music, and people are taking more of a cut off that. So bands really aren’t making that amount of money they used to off a t-shirt, labels are signing bands with 360 deals and taking more of a cut off things and taking a cut off music as well, which used to be unheard of, they would only tax costs. Now when you sell a record, you have to pay up to them too, it’s like “holy shit”, so many hands are in the pocket, so the artist is really having a hard time just breathing. It’s rough, I know that the real artists aren’t going into the music industry to be a fucking millionaire, that’d be stupid. Nobody’s making any money. But in order to just be able to survive and do the things you love to do and hopefully support families so you can go out and do things, that’s the rough part. You sacrifice your time with the ones you love so you can go out and tour and create this music that hopefully touches people, and at the end of it, you come home and you wanna be able to enjoy that time and be able to support the people that you love with all the hard work and freedoms you had.
If you think about it, people at home that have normal jobs do the same thing, but nobody’s going to your construction job where you’ve worked fucking 60 hours a week and you’re away from your kids and your back hurts from lifting shit and people are taking money from your pocket you earned.
Are you sick at this point of people pronouncing your last name wrong, and is there any possibility that there will be a My Chem farewell tour maybe hitting up Australia?
Well the Iero thing I’m not sick of it because I know my name has entirely too many vowels for most people to pronounce it correctly. It is pronounced ‘I-eer-o’, but if you get it wrong, what am I going to do? You know? That My Chem thing, I mean, probably not. I don’t think so.
That’s a shame.
Well you know, here’s the thing: anything’s possible. The world could end tomorrow, I can’t tell you without a shadow of a doubt these things would never happen or not, but who knows, anything can happen. But is it in the cards right? Is anyone discussing it or planning it or in anyone’s minds? Definitely not.
Well we’ll put it down to a maybe at this point then.
(laughs) okay man, whatever.
I was just trying to get a good headline.
Yeah yeah, I know. If that’s the only thing you get as a headliner after everything we’ve said, that’s ridiculous.
Yeah, that’s probably selling you a bit short hey?
Yeah. Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk man, I had a good time. Really appreciate it.
Have a good day man, bye.
Frnkiero and the Cellabration – ‘Stomachaches’ is out August 29 via Cooking Vinyl Australia.