My Chemical Romance: Modern Legends
In 2001, four talented musicians from New Jersey formed a band that would take the music world by storm. My Chemical Romance was their name, and they were about to change the course of alternative rock music. Over the next twelve years, they would go through several lineup changes. They would release many game-changing albums and create some of the most iconic songs in history. But, MCR was more than a band – they were a movement. And their influence is still felt today.
If you grew up in the early 2000s, there’s a good chance you were listening to My Chemical Romance. This alternative rock band from Newark, New Jersey, was one of the most popular bands of their time. Their dedicated fans (known as the MCRmy, but as of more recently Killjoys) are some of the most enthusiastic fans globally.
Finding Comfort in My Chemical Romance
In the early 2000s, the internet was still fresh. Chat rooms and forums had existed in the 90s (thanks to low-cost dial-up services such as AOL). Yet, the early 2000s were when the internet became what it was today. Misfits alienated at school or home found solace on internet communities like VampireFreaks or MySpace. It was through these corners of the internet that many of those kids discovered a place to call home, an escape from the world around them.
Who could blame them? 9/11, Columbine, and the Iraq War were the most significant events most teenagers had experienced at the time. It was easy to believe that things would never improve. The music of My Chemical Romance was a fantastic soundtrack for those emotions of dread, fear, and isolation. Whereas Bullets became an underground hit, Three Cheers created a seismic shift in rock music. MCR’s contributions to the emo subculture changed the scene as we know it.
But, the band’s appeal extended beyond their music. MCR wasn’t a band; they were an aesthetic movement. A lifestyle. Fans, inspired by Way’s love of comics and art, pursued artwork themselves as a way of expressing their emotions. Every emo kid wanted to look like Gerard. Way was (and still is!) to emo kids of the 2000s a fashion legend.
MCR’s appearance has always been a vital component of its music and fan culture. The crimson and black makeup/suit and tie combo of Three Cheers was imitated by many. The marching band jackets of The Black Parade to K-Pop-inspired vivid colors of Danger Days were iconic. Every record by the band was like a film, with each narrative extended within its own universe and visual aesthetic.
Even today, I recall hunting for my Hot Topic-exclusive Black Parade marching jacket. Like me, my father was a huge rock music fan, but he didn’t understand my fashion choices (he thought the jacket was crazy). Nonetheless, he appreciated The Black Parade all the same.
Together, we saw My Chem twice, once at Projekt Revolution 2007 in Camden and later at a special show in New Jersey. The latter saw a surprise set from Taking Back Sunday and was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. While I’m uncertain where the jacket went, MCR was my second favorite band behind Linkin Park.
So when they announced their breakup in 2013, it was devastating.
Their breakup would not last forever. After 6 years of being apart, the band announced a reunion concert for December 2019. Fans rejoiced as they had been hoping for this day since MCR’s hiatus was first announced. In this comprehensive guide, we will take a look at everything MCR.
A Brief History of My Chemical Romance
The band My Chemical Romance was formed in New Jersey in 2001. Working as an intern for Cartoon Network, Way hoped to become an accomplished cartoonist. He developed an idea for a cartoon he hoped to have greenlit, called The Breakfast Monkey. A three-minute short was made by Way and pitched to the network.
Unfortunately, they felt it was too like another successful show they had at the time, Aqua Teen Hunger Force. They rejected his pitch. Shortly after, Way would witness the September 11th, 2001 attacks first-hand, and his life would change forever. Changed by what he saw, he started a band with Matt Pelissier. The song “Skylines and Turnstiles” was created about his experiences with the attacks.
After Way struggled to play guitar and sing simultaneously, Ray Toro became the guitarist for the band. The band then recorded music, with Matt Pelissier’s attic serving as the recording studio. It is here that the first demos for the songs “Our Lady of Sorrows” and “Cubicles” were recorded. These would be known as “The Attic Demos” by the band.
The band took their name from a book by Irvine Welsh named Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance, suggested by Way’s younger brother Mikey Way. After hearing the demos, Mikey joined the band as bassist shortly after that, along with Frank Iero. Iero was a last-minute addition and joined the band ten days before the recording of their debut album. Yet, they had known him long before that period.
The band first encountered Frank as the lead vocalist and guitarist for Pencey Prep. Following the demise of Pencey Prep, Frank joined MCR, and the original lineup was established.
The group would record I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love only three months after their start. Released on July 23rd, 2002, the record was produced by Thursday frontman Geoff Rickley. Through free downloads on PureVolume and MySpace, the MCRmy began to grow.
Major Label Debut
Word spread about this promising new act from Newark, New Jersey. Following a signing with Reprise Records in 2003, the band embarked on a tour with Avenged Sevenfold. Here they began work on the follow-up to Bullets and their major-label debut: Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge.
Recorded between 2003 and 2004, the album was produced by legendary hard rock producer Howard Benson and released on June 8th, 2004. Shortly after the release of this album, the band would part ways with original drummer Matt Pelissier, recruiting Bob Bryar in his place.
The single “Helena” peaked at #33 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after being featured heavily on MTV. Also, songs such as “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” successfully put MCR into heavy rotation. The album has since been certified 3x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
The band released a live DVD/compilation album called Life On The Murder Scene in 2006. There were two DVDs and one CD in the package. DVD 1 is a documentary chronicling the band’s early days through their touring cycle for Three Cheers.
DVD 2 featured a collection of live performances, alternate versions of music videos, and the making of videos from the Three Cheers album cycle. The CD contained live performances and three previously released demos.
The Black Parade Era
On October 20th, 2006, My Chemical Romance released their third studio album titled The Black Parade. A rock-opera concept album exploring themes of death, cancer, and mental illness through the eyes of a patient named The Patient. It was recorded between April 2006 and August 2006 with Rob Cavallo producing (Cavallo has produced many of Green Day’s biggest albums). The album was a commercial and critical success, with Rolling Stone listing it at 361 in their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (2020).
The Black Parade peaked at number two on the Billboard 200 in the United States and has since been certified 3x Platinum by the RIAA. Singles from the album such as “Welcome to the Black Parade” and “Teenagers” were massive hits.
The former became an Emo anthem. The band embarked on a world tour supporting The Black Parade, playing over 130 shows in many countries. It would become the most extended tour the band has played.
Later, they would release a live CD/DVD called The Black Parade Is Dead! Featuring live performances from Mexico City and New Jersey. This was followed by an EP titled The Black Parade: B-Sides. Finally, a unique release titled Venganza!, came out on a bullet-shaped flash drive and featured nine unseen live videos and exclusive photos of the band from their Mexico City show. It was released on April 29th, 2009.
The departure of Bob Bryar and Danger Days Era
In March 2010, during the writing and recording for their fourth album, it was announced that Bob Bryar had left the band.
“As of 4 weeks ago, My Chemical Romance and Bob Bryar parted ways. This was a painful decision for all of us to make and was not taken lightly. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors and expect you all to do the same.” – Frank Iero.
My Chemical Romance would release their fourth studio album following Bryar’s departure. Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys arrived on November 22nd, 2010. The album was produced Butch Walker and featured a more pop and electronic-influenced sound in contrast to the rock opera style of The Black Parade. Danger Days peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 chart and has since been certified Gold by the RIAA.
During the promotional period for Danger Days, Way penned a limited comic book series called The True Lives of The Fabulous Killjoys. It was intended as a sequel to the Danger Days album and featured 8 issues.
The Mad Gear and Missile Kid
On the same day that Danger Days was released, MCR put out a 3-song EP called The Mad Gear and Missile Kid. Conceptually, the songs on this EP were meant to be the soundtrack the Killjoys listened to while on the road and engaging in battle. Before MCR’s breakup, Way had expressed a desire to make it into a full album.
Yet, considering their split and the lack of conversation following up on this concept, it appears that the idea was dropped. MCR5 was on track to take a very gloomy path (more on that later). As a result, the Mad Gear concept was likely scrapped early in the writing process for MCR’s unreleased fifth album.
Notably, this EP was their first and only release to feature Michael Pedicone.
The departure of Michael Pedicone
Unfortunately, their drummer troubles would continue for the band. Drummer Michael Pedicone was let go after it was revealed he was stealing from the band:
“Some shit happened, and before the blogosphere gets all crazy with false statements and ridiculous opinions, we want the true story to come from us. But please listen close because this is the only time we are ever going to talk about this.
The relationship between My Chemical Romance and Michael Pedicone is over. He was caught red-handed stealing from the band and confessed to police after our show in Auburn, Washington. […]
…We are heartbroken and sick to our stomachs over this entire situation. The band has no intention of pressing charges or taking this matter any further than we have to. We just want him out of our lives. The people who play in this band are a family, and family should not take advantage of each other like he did.
We are currently moving forward, and hope to have a new drummer in place for our show in Salt Lake City, Utah [tonight] (September 3rd). The show must go on.
The band found Jarrod Alexander to replace Pedicone. He would remain their touring drummer for the rest of the band’s tour dates.
As the band began recording their fifth album, My Chemical Romance offered Conventional Weapons. This was a ten-song collection of songs recorded before the Danger Days sessions but never released. The group released two songs each month for five months, beginning in October 2012 and ending in February 2013.
Around the time Conventional Weapons was released, Frank Iero conducted a chat with Q Magazine. He stated that the group was working on their fifth album. In 2012, the band let slip that they created a studio to work on their fifth album. In the interview with Q Magazine, Frank Iero stated: “Jarrod is a rad guy and a fantastic player. It’s been really fun making music with him these past few months”.
Unfortunately, this fifth album would not come to be, as later that year, the band issued the following statement on their website:
“Being in this band for the past 12 years has been a true blessing. We’ve gotten to go places we never knew we would. We’ve been able to see and experience things we never imagined possible. We’ve shared the stage with people we admire, people we look up to, and best of all, our friends. And now, like all great things, it has come time for it to end. Thanks for all of your support, and for being part of the adventure.”
So Why Did My Chemical Romance Break Up?
After the band’s breakup in 2013, Way penned a very lengthy statement on the reasons for the split. An excerpt is below:
“I am backstage in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It is Saturday, May 19th, 2012 and I am pacing behind a massive black curtain that leads to the stage. I feel the breeze from the ocean find its way around me and I look down at my arms, which are covered in fresh gauze due to a losing battle with a heat rash, which had been a mysterious problem in recent months.
I am normally not nervous before a show, but I am certainly filled with angry butterflies most of the time. This is different- a strange anxiety jetting through me that I can only imagine is the sixth sense one feels before their last moments alive. My pupils have zeroed-out and I have ceased blinking. My body temperature is icy.
We get the cue to hit the stage.
The show is… good. Not great, not bad, just good. The first thing I notice take me by surprise is not the enormous amount of people in front of us but off to my left- the shore and the vastness of the ocean. Much more blue than I remembered as a boy. The sky is just as vibrant. I perform, semi-automatically, and something is wrong.
I am acting. I never act on stage, even when it appears that I am, even when I’m hamming it up or delivering a soliloquy. Suddenly, I have become highly self-aware, almost as if waking from a dream. I began to move faster, more frantic, reckless- trying to shake it off- but all it began to create was silence. The amps, the cheers, all began to fade.
All that what left was the voice inside, and I could hear it clearly. It didn’t have to yell- it whispered, and said to me briefly, plainly, and kindly- what it had to say.
What it said is between me and the voice.”
“When I wanted to start My Chemical Romance, I began by sitting in my parent’s basement, picking up an instrument I had long abandoned for the brush- a guitar. It was a 90’s Fender Mexican Stratocaster, Lake Placid Blue, but in my youth I had decided it was too clean and pretty so I beat it up, exposing some of the red paint underneath the blue- the color it was meant to be.
Adding a piece of duct tape on the pickguard, it felt acceptable. I plugged this into a baby Crate Amp with built in distortion and began the first chords of Skylines and Turnstiles…”
“…Since I am bad with goodbyes. I refuse to let this be one. But I will leave you with one last thing- My Chemical Romance is done. But it can never die. It is alive in me, in the guys, and it is alive inside all of you. I always knew that, and I think you did too. Because it is not a band- it is an idea.”
Danger Days Was Not Originally Planned…
To some, Way’s epiphany may appear to come out of nowhere. In reality, it was never his original plan to continue My Chemical Romance after The Black Parade. In a 2014 interview with NME, Way said:
“I plan things pretty far in advance, and before we’d even done the first record, I’d written out titles of things,” Way said. “I definitely knew I had the title of the second album before we’d even recorded the first… by the time I got to the third album, which didn’t have a name, I felt like that was the end.
Basically, the time spent after Black Parade was me fighting against that instinct, fighting against myself. The end of Black Parade felt like a very natural end. To go beyond that felt like betraying some sort of artistic command that I had within myself.”
Post-breakup, the band released the greatest hits album May Death Never Stop You in 2014. This was followed by a 10th-anniversary re-issue of The Black Parade in 2016 titled The Black Parade/Living With Ghosts. The latter featured live performances, b-sides, and early versions of songs from The Black Parade.
Despite the finality in Way’s comments and the suggestion that “My Chemical Romance is over,” the group gathered in secret in 2017 to “see what would happen.” My Chemical Romance returned two years later, and the emo community rejoiced once more.
On December 20th, 2019, a reunion concert took place in Los Angeles, and since then, many shows have been scheduled. Unfortunately, many of these dates have been postponed due to the Covid pandemic.
While fans wait for an announcement of new music (one can only pray), here’s what the band was up to while MCR was on hiatus:
Solo Projects (Current Members)
After the breakup of My Chemical Romance, Way released his first solo album, Hesitant Alien. The album was announced with the advance single “Action Cat” and went on to produce two more singles, “No Shows” and “Millions.” The album was released on September 29th, 2014, through Warner Bros. Records.
Featuring a brit-pop sound instead of the Alternative Rock style generally associated with Way’s works with My Chemical Romance, it was well-received by critics. It currently has a score of 75 on Metacritic, indicating “generally favorable reviews.” As a solo artist for this album cycle, he performed with a touring band dubbed Gerard Way and The Hormones during his live performances.
Since then, he has released a few more solo songs. On October 28th, 2018, Way debuted “Baby You’re a Haunted House.” The song featured Mikey Way on bass. On November 15th, Way released another song, “Getting Down the Germs,” which he co-wrote with Ray Toro. Way issued a third single, “Dasher,” featuring Lydia Night of The Regrettes.
On January 24th, 2019, Way released a cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” by Simon & Garfunkel. The song was used in the Netflix television series adaptation of Way’s The Umbrella Academy trailer. On February 8th, 2019, Way released a cover of “Happy Together” by The Turtles. The song is also featured on The Umbrella Academy.
On July 8th, 2020, Way released an original song called “Here Comes the End,” featuring Judith Hill and featured on The Umbrella Academy’s second season.
Way, who began as a comic book artist before pursuing a music career, has cultivated his creative talents through several successful comic books. He created the popular comic book mini-series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. In addition, he authored the acclaimed comic series, The Umbrella Academy.
The latter has been adapted into a successful Netflix series. Way is also the co-creator of Peni Parker, an alternative version of Spiderman, and the founder of DC Comics’ Young Animal Imprint.
Iero’s debut solo album, Stomachaches, was released under the moniker “frnkiero andthe cellabration”, on August 25th, 2014. Iero played every instrument on the album, except for drums handled by My Chemical Romance drummer Jarrod Alexander. His second solo album, Parachutes was the first to feature his backup band The Patience, which led to a moniker change to Frank Iero and The Patience.
He would follow his sophomore release with a 2017 EP called Keep The Coffins Coming For that EP, Frank worked with famed producer Steve Albini, a producer known for his work with The Pixies Nirvana and more. A big fan of Steve since his pre-teen years, Frank described working with Steve as “a dream come true” in our 2017 interview.
In addition to his work with My Chemical Romance and his solo projects, Iero also fronted the punk rock band Leathermouth. The group released their debut album “XO” in January 2009 but is currently disbanded.
Ray Toro has released one solo record outside of My Chemical Romance, titled Remember The Laughter, in 2016. The record was recorded primarily in his home and featured Toro on vocals and many of the instruments. Toro has also contributed to tracks by Reggie And The Full Effect and Voltaire.
Mikey Way, the bassist for My Chemical Romance, has released two solo albums and one solo EP through his band Electric Century. The band was formed alongside Sleep Station vocalist David Debiak. Their first EP was self-titled and was released on Record Store Day in 2015.
They followed this release up with their debut record For The Night To Control, released only through Kerrang! in 2016 before its official release a year later. The band’s second studio album (again self-titled) was released in 2021.
Mikey has also contributed bass on two songs on Andy Black’s (Andy Biersack) solo record The Shadow Side and bass on Waterparks’ Cluster EP.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is My Chemical Romance working on a new album?
While the band’s comeback tour has fueled hope and speculation among fans about a new album, the fact is that more than two years since announcing their reunion, there is still nothing to state that the group is working on one. No new music was played at the 2019 reunion show, despite a lot of promotion leading up to this comeback (trailers, new logos, imagery, etc.).
While the band previously premiered and unveiled The Black Parade via live performances, the setlist for the reunion show only featured pre-released material.
One might think the reunion show would’ve been the perfect opportunity to premiere new music. After all, there was the scrapped MCR5.
The Paper Kingdom
Before the breakup, the band worked on a fifth album, titled The Paper Kingdom/MCR5. The concept for the album was said to be based on a group of parents who have lost their children in a terrible way.
They soothe themselves by visualizing their children in a forest, fighting a witch. It was reported to be extremely dark, and the album’s darkness caused it to be abandoned. Way said he felt “all the joy was gone” and that it was “not a story I wanted to tell.”
Why was MCR5 so dark? Well, while contemporary fan reaction to Danger Days has been far more positive, it wasn’t always that way. Some fans were dissatisfied with the poppier tone of Danger Days at the time of its release. So MCR5 was said to be dark to make up for that fan reaction.
Yet, according to reports, it was said to be the band’s darkest work and that the members lacked joy in writing it because of that. As clever a concept as The Paper Kingdom may appear on paper, we wouldn’t want MCR to release anything that made them unhappy.
Years later, Way wrote a song called “I Am The Hag” and stated intentions to release it in 2019. It never came, but what did come was the announcement of a My Chem reunion. Most will know that a “hag” is another term for a witch.
With their reunion imagery based around witchcraft, perhaps The Paper Kingdom may finally be released. Maybe Gerard discovered a method to convey the tale that did not feel miserable or self-destructive. We’ll have to wait and see how things turn out.
What was the story behind the alleged feud with Bert McCracken and Gerard Way?
There are a lot of conflicting reports surrounding the supposed feud and whether it even exists in the first place. From MCR’s early days, Bert and Gerard were close pals who toured together during the Taste of Chaos tour. The two performed Queen’s “Under Pressure,” and for many years, they seemed inseparable.
Yet, in a 2005 MTV interview, Bert McCracken hinted that he and My Chemical Romance had drifted apart:
“Um, I’d prefer not to say anything about My Chemical Romance, except that we did have a falling out. We don’t speak at all anymore,” he sighed. “It’s got nothing to do with their success. I’m completely comfortable with where our band is at. We used to be very close, but no more. We had a falling out. The rest of my band, they’re still mates with all the guys in that band. But I’d prefer to say nothing more about My Chemical Romance.”
In an interview with Blunt Magazine, McCracken stated his dislike for My Chemical Romance was “not a publicity stunt,” that he felt their heads were made big due to fame, and that the collaboration was over.
In an interview with Blender in 2006, Way stated: “He was standing with a megaphone trying to get kids not to watch us; we just hit the feedback and drowned him out.”
However, it wasn’t soon after that Way laughed off these rumors in an interview with BLUNT magazine, stating: “The thing about Bert is that he likes to joke,” he says. “He’s a joker. He makes up a lot of stuff. I read that thing. It’s not true, so…” “I feel like anybody who would engineer a feud is money-driven,” Way says, taking aim at mainstream media and record labels.
“All it takes [between bands] is to pick up a phone and settle something. You don’t need somebody to find out on a website that they’re not your friend, you know what I mean? That’s just clearly a press situation to draw attention. There’s nothing wrong with me and him. As far as real beefs, there was never anything real about it.”
Joke Or Not?
The truth is, we may never know what happened behind the scenes or whether there was any truth to the feud. Even so, rumors persisted over the years despite Bert and Gerard’s occasional efforts to avoid discussing it in interviews. The flames grew even hotter when fans began to believe that The Used’s 2007 Lies For The Liars track “Pretty Handsome Awkward” was penned about Bert’s fallout with Gerard.
McCracken denied these rumors, but during a 2019 performance of the track at the Rockstar Disrupt Festival, he proceeded to add fuel to the stories by mentioning Way at the start of the song.
It’s possible that, as Way suggested, McCracken engineered these previous comments, including the shout-out in 2019, as a joke.
After all, in an appearance on The Green Room with Neil Griffiths, Bert had nothing but wonderful things to say about Gerard:
“It was like we just saw each other yesterday.
We exchanged numbers and stuff with plans to get coffee and stuff, but everything was crazy – him being super busy and me being super busy. I honestly didn’t know anything [about the reunion].”
He continued the praise in an appearance on Shane Told’s Lead Singer Syndrome podcast:
“”I think we made a big deal about the relationship from the beginning,” McCracken says. “I’ve been friends with Gerard [Way] since the band broke up.[…] I saw him at a Frank Iero show about four years ago, and that’s when we reconnected. I do like to tell jokes from stage, but I texted him and was like, ‘Dude, I hope you guys know that these are all just jokes to make us smile, but we would all be honored to tour with you.”
If it ever existed, consider this so-called feud (or potential lack thereof) a thing of the past.
Did ‘I Brought You My Bullets’ and ‘Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge’ Have A Concept?
Although the band has not confirmed ‘Bullets’ to be a concept album, it has many similarities to Three Cheers, prompting many to speculate that the two albums may be linked. Way intended Three Cheers as a horror story but ended up writing about loss as well (Helena is about his late grandmother):
“The story of a man and a woman who are separated by death in a gunfight and he goes to hell only to realize by the devil telling him that she’s still alive. The devil says he can be with her again if he brings the devil the souls of a thousand evil men, and the man agrees to do it, and so the devil hands him a gun. That was the idea behind the concept, the record ended up being much more about loss and real-life than anything, so I would say it’s a good split.”
Given the overlap of some lyrics between Bullets and Three Cheers, many fans have inferred a connection between the two albums, forming part of a concept. While Bullets was also a very personal album with many lyrics dealing with Way’s despair over a failed relationship (to the point that he apologized to his ex in the liner notes of the album), many refer to the fact that the artwork from Three Cheers is called “Demolition Lovers II” as a sign the albums are connected (Bullets’ last track is Demolition Lovers).
What is the song Vampire Money about?
Twilight fever was gripping the masses about a decade ago, with many bands recording songs for the movies’ soundtracks. Given My Chemical Romance’s reputation of helping bring goth imagery to the masses, many felt that Twilight was a natural and perfect fit for the band. Everyone, except My Chemical Romance themselves. Annoyed and frustrated with how goth and punk had become glamourized, they declined an opportunity to appear on the soundtrack.
In speaking with NME, Way stated: “That’s why the song ‘Vampire Money’ is on there because there’s a lot of people chasing that fucking money. Twilight? A lot of people around us were like, ‘Please, for the love of God, do this fucking movie.’ But we’d moved on.”
What is Gerard Way’s vocal range?
My Chemical Romance is a band that changed the lives of so many kids in the early 2000s. Their dark aesthetic, deep lyrics and theatrical stage show spoke to outsiders and misfits worldwide. Over four albums, they left behind an incredible legacy of music that continues to be influential to new alternative rock artists coming onto the scene. Even now, their reunion has many people excited for what’s to come. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for My Chemical Romance.
I hope you enjoyed my comprehensive guide to My Chemical Romance and if there’s anything I missed, please let me know! Also, feel free to let us know the reasons why you love MCR in the comments as well!