Gerard Way has always been a champion of subversion. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that in the post-My Chemical Romance world, he continues to hold a middle finger high to the radio standards of 21st century music and what listeners expect from modern rock. We chatted with Gerard before he heads down under for Soundwave 2015 about his hotly anticipated new record Hesitant Alien, his fuzzy pink sidekick Lola and whose shows we don’t need.
Hey Gerard, how are you doing?
I’m good, how are you?
I’m good, thank you.
Not long now until Hesitant Alien drops. What do you feel like fans can expect from it?
Obviously they’ll hear something that’s different from what they’re used to hearing from me and My Chemical Romance. But I think they’ll also have a different experience from what they hear maybe from modern rock. You know I think that with My Chem they’re probably used to hearing things mixed a certain way or sonically sounding a certain way and I was going for something very different. You know, for example, the vocal is mixed in pretty well with the guitars. A lot of my favourite bands actually, they’re mixed that way and that’s what they sound like. So I think, sonically, they’re definitely in for something different than maybe they’re used to.
I read some comments where you were talking about how criticism of the way that the record was mixed was actually valid.
Yeah, completely valid. And I think a lot of that has to do with the way that people are used to things being presented to them. I think it’s kind of a standard and I personally don’t adhere to that, I don’t find it really acceptable that there’s a certain standard that everything should sound [like]. So I think one of the things I tried to do with this record was really push that.
What was the period between ending My Chemical Romance and starting the project like? Do you think ending My Chemical Romance had an influence on the way that your solo project sounds?
Basically, I was making music because I felt compelled to make music again. I think that the end of My Chemical Romance wasn’t something I was thinking about because I saw the two things as being very unrelated. Like for example, I didn’t feel like I ended My Chemical Romance to make a solo record. The two didn’t feel connected at all. So I don’t think it impacted it, other than a couple of abstract elements making their way into the lyrics. And obviously on this record I’m talking about things that have happened to me, or things that I’ve been feeling. So there are some of the feelings I was feeling in the music but you know, I don’t think that it affected it that much. I know it didn’t sonically.
Throughout MCR you always had a really vocal message of hope and self-belief. What does Hesitant Alien have to say?
You know what, this will be the first time I don’t necessarily exactly know what it’s saying and I think that that’s okay. I don’t think it has to say something. I think it has to do something, I think it has to excite you, and I think it needs to challenge you, and I think it needs to show you things you haven’t heard before, and maybe by that that inspires you to do something, but I don’t know that it’s saying anything. And I think that’s one of the things I love about it.
Speaking of challenging in music, when you did your warm up show before Reading and Leeds, fans had to surrender their phones. What was behind that decision?
Probably the fact that nobody had heard this record period, and I wasn’t playing any old My Chem songs and it was only gonna be the stuff from the album, so that was probably a big element, maybe that. I know we can’t control it at festivals, but I wasn’t really aware of that going into it, you know. But it was nice to have an audience that wasn’t watching the show through their phones, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s nice when you can do that.
Definitely! You’re coming down to Australia for the Soundwave festival early next year. Do you think you’re going to do any sideshows?
I know I’m available to. I know that nothing has been booked in terms of sideshows yet, but I’m totally willing to do them and excited do them. I like sideshows, I think they’re fun.
You’ve also been engaging with fans a lot lately on Twitter, and you won a Kerrang award for it.
What do you like about communicating with fans on social media like that?
It’s immediate, you know? I I don’t feel like I’m performing when I’m using it, but it has the immediacy of like, going to a punk club or something. This kind of real time free form thought process happening for millions of people and I find that really exciting. So it’s the way you kind of directly connect –if you want to you can make somebody’s day. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at using it; I’ve gotten a lot better about certain elements of it. You know what it is –I like sharing, and I feel like Twitter is the way to immediately share stuff. I feel like Instagram is cool, like now that I’ve used all of them, I’ve found that I’m still using Twitter more than anything, I’m still just wanting to share. Even though there’s like a log of stuff, I don’t know how important it is to have a big log of all the stuff I’ve posted or put out, I think it’s kind of like yeah, it’s up the minute of just what came out today. If you missed it, then you missed it. I don’t know. I like the immediacy of it.
I do remember when you guys posted blogs up on the MCR site. Everyone’s wondering about this –why is everything haunted?
You know, like a lot of the things like the cat thing, I say something because to me it’s just really funny. And it continues to be funny, well past the point of it being funny for somebody else, but it’s still funny for me. And it’ll be funny, and the more times that I find people that are frustrated with it, it’s even funnier.
And the tree people! You had all these weird people made of trees and plants up there.
Like covered in moss and stuff?
Yeah! Is there an explanation behind that?
Not really, that’s what I like about Twitter. It’s so immediate that it was like, that’s literally what I was thinking of that minute, was like people with moss growing on them. So I just looked up pictures and I just put them out there. That’s how fast it is –there’s nothing calculated about it. It’s cool, like it’s not like a blog where you’re sitting there and you’re kind of constructing this thing and you’re building your case and you’re selecting images to go along with your blog and stuff, which I dig, I think there’s a place for that. But with Twitter it’s like, oh I’m just thinking about taking pictures of raw meat and making polygons out of them so I’m gonna do that right now and you know, it’s just to get people looking at stuff and thinking about stuff. Maybe there’s hidden meanings in it sometimes. Maybe I wanna be covered in moss, I don’t know.
Subconsciously! Did you see the Bullets documentary that popped up a couple of weeks ago?
I did, yeah. I remember when it was shot pretty vividly.
It was so good. And the moments when you’re in the vocal booth were really special.
You know, it was intense! What was cool about watching that footage –I remember all of it –I remember being in the vocal booth for the first time and just how raw [it was] and how much there was to discover in there and it was a really special time. Just this self-discovery of like ‘oh this is what I sound like’, ‘this is what the band sounds like’, and I was really happy about that.
You just announced some Japanese tour dates after Australia. Do you have a plan for the rest of next year?
I think the idea is to try to go to Europe after all that –I’m not positive, but I think that’s the idea –to go back to Europe.
They’ll be happy to have you there.
Yeah, I’ll be excited.
Can you explain who Lola is for everyone?
Not really because there’s not a lot to explain with Lola! One of the things about this album is that there’s not a lot of overthinking and there’s not a lot of long planning. I just felt like I wanted a friend, so I made one up. And I think that there are things about Lola that we’re learning all the time –I think that’s fun and exciting, so I’m kind of learning about Lola at the same time. But I couldn’t tell you who Lola is, or what gender Lola is; I couldn’t tell you any of that.
Did you see the rumour going around about a re-release of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge and The Black Parade on vinyl? Can you shed any light on that?
I have no idea. I know we’re always talking about putting vinyl out, so maybe somebody heard somebody talking about something. I know that we like having vinyl, I know that we’d like there to be a Bullets vinyl because we know it’s really hard for people to get. Nothing’s come to my attention about a re-release of Three Cheers or Black Parade but that would be exciting, you know, that would be fun to do.
Okay one last question: whose shows don’t we need?
You don’t really need anybody else’s. You just need your own.
Is there anything else you want to say to your fans?
Just thanks for listening. You give me a reason to do it, you give me an opportunity to do it. You guys give me a voice and I really appreciate that. I don’t take any of that for granted. So I’m gonna keep making stuff. As long as you’re listening, I’ll make it.
Thank you so much for doing the interview Gerard.
Thanks for having me.
Hesitant Alien drops September 30 through Warner Bros. Records. You can currently stream it here.
You can catch Gerard Way on the Soundwave Festival next year. Details here.