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In goth we trust
My Chemical Romance are one of the hottest tickets in US rock. But is frontman Gerard Way really a Kurt Cobain for the 21st century?
Ed Power, 31 May 2006
Gerard Way does not look like the sort of kid who hangs around graveyards or fantasises about dying young and in circumstances of theatrical tragedy.
Way, frontman of dark-rock wunder-group My Chemical Romance has the sober, buttoned-down manner of a musician with an eye on the prize. Gothic angst is My Chemical Romance’s calling card yet Way, if some way short of chipper, is distinctly no nonsense. Ask him about his inner pain and he might well tell you about the time a stale sandwich gave him stomach cramp. Only the lips – sensuous, prone to pouts – suggest an otherness; one imagines him inclined to black moods and withering put-downs.
As I enter Way’s dressing room he appears on the verge of dispensing one such put-down to his tour manager. A rookie reporter has asked the vocalist if he gets off on having 13 year-old-girls in his audience, rhapsodically mouthing his lyrics, and Way doesn’t know whether to be stunned or furious.
“Man, I’m sorry about that,” coos the manager, his pallor somewhere south of corpse pale. Terror has rendered the poor guy practically translucent.
Way shrugs: it’s no big deal, he says. Being famous puts you in the firing line. He can handle it. High-fives are exchanged – mollified, the manager scurries away.
Famous? Heavens, yes. Last year My Chemical Romance sold three million records. In emo circles (a tag from which they recoil incidentally), the band bask in the sort of rarefied status Metallica enjoyed as a metal act 10 years ago. Their music is thrillingly transcendent, appealing to people who’d normally rather lie in an open grave than listen to 20-something Americans whinging in song about their dumb-ass parents.
“Emo – I don’t know what that phrase means,” mutters Way, who formed My Chemical Romance with younger brother Mikey in New Jersey four years ago. “I’ve always thought of us as a rock group. Those emo bands – some of them, I don’t think, are very real. I don’t identify with a lot of their music. It doesn’t move me.”