For all My Chemical Romance’s undoubted qualities, there was one thing they could never get right consistently: drummers. Despite featuring a vast array of fine sticksmen, none of them lasted with only the founding member Matt Pelissier playing on two consecutive albums. He was their first, forming the band alongside singer singer Gerard Way and recording the earliest My Chemical Romance demos in his attic, but was booted out shortly after they completed work on second album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge.
His successor, Bob Bryar, was in place as they found success, playing on their hit third record The Black Parade but even while he was the incumbent drummer, he was replaced on a couple of occasions by Saves The Day’s Pete Parada and Thursday’s Tucker Rule as a result of injury or illness. A string of session men followed, before the beefy Mike Pedicone seemed a full-time answer … right up until the moment he was allegedly caught stealing from the band.
Somehow it seems fitting that just as they found a permanent substitute for him, Jarrod Alexander, My Chemical Romance broke up – almost as though the minute they found that solid backbeat, the quest was over and it was time to pack it all in.
Helena (Matt Pelissier) The drummer for My Chemical Romance’s first two albums, Matt Pelissier, was also a founding member of the band. However, his contributions were never much valued by those who worked alongside him. On My Chemical Romance’s debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love, the band’s then manager, co-producer and Eyeball Records label boss Alex Saavedra said “Matt was fucking terrible … the timing is so off on that record, it speeds up and slows down.” By the time the band recorded their second album, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, things had not improved much. The record’s producer, Howard Benson, said: “He was so inconsistent”. However, on the album’s opening track – Helena – his drums drive the song, a frenzied beat delivering chaos and control in equal measure. Even Benson conceded, “nobody liked the guy but he still played a great record.” However, by the time the band recorded the track’s video, he had been fired.
Under Pressure (Branden Steineckert) For a period, following a joint tour between My Chemical Romance and The Used in 2003, the band’s two singers Gerard Way and Bert McCracken formed an inseparable bond (with Way writing You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison about his relationship with The Used singer). To help raise funds for the relief effort following the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the two bands joined forces to release a cover of Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure, with The Used drummer Branden Steineckert joining forces with My Chemical Romance’s new drummer Bob Bryar behind the kit.
Famous Last Words (Bob Bryar) Pelissier’s replacement, Bryar, had been the band’s sound technician, touring with them on a miserable trip around UK following the release of Three Cheers… “The mood around them was ruining them and I think it came from the old drummer,” Bryar noted. “They wouldn’t even look at each other when they played. They just weren’t happy.” Bryar was rapidly drafted into the ranks, seeing out the Three Cheers album cycle before recording the smash hit follow-up The Black Parade. While his early upbringing as a jazz drummer informed some of the more theatrical tracks on the album, the out and out beef of his playing underpinned what became the band’s biggest album. It was while filming the video to what is arguably the album’s best song, the closer Famous Last Words, that he made his biggest sacrifice for his new bandmates: as the video set was torched at the clip’s conclusion, he was a touch too close to the flames and suffered third degree burns to his leg.
Welcome To The Black Parade (Cheech Iero) My Chemical Romance’s guitarist, Frank Iero, was the son of a drummer (who, in turn, was the son of another drummer). Frank Sr was a session player who gigged and jobbed around New York and New Jersey and was known largely by his stage name of Cheech. One of Iero’s earliest memories is watching his father beat time when stuck in traffic. “My dad had this old, brown leather briefcase,” said the guitarist. “When he would drive, he would have the briefcase on the passenger seat and he would put a towel over it and he would play drums on it in traffic.” When it came time to record My Chemical Romance’s third album, the grand and theatrical Black Parade, in which the record’s title song Welcome To The Black Parade features lyrics about being taken to a parade by your father, it seemed only right to ask Cheech to add military percussion to the song’s marching beat, complimenting Bryar’s work on the kit.
Bulletproof Heart (Dorian Crozier) Following the success of The Black Parade, My Chemical Romance struggled for direction – wanting to ditch the concept and themes that had so informed their previous work and instead play a simpler, more direct rock ‘n’ roll. Bryar had been asked to leave the band, with My Chemical Romance coy as to their reasons for doing so, and the band had started work on a doomed fourth album they would later shelve. One of the songs they worked on was called Trans Am, about a boy and girl running away from home, and it would resurface as Bulletproof Heart on Danger Days, the record MCR wrote following the scrapping of their fourth record. Without a full-time drummer at that point, they relied on a session musician Dorian Crozier, who had previously worked with My Chemical Romance’s producer Rob Cavallo and has the most un-MCR-like credits of having worked with Celine Dion, Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato.
Na Na Na (John Micelli) The unlikely replacement for Bryar on the rest of the Danger Days album was the then near-50-year-old drummer for Meat Loaf, who had never listened to My Chemical Romance before but flew in, laid down his tracks and then flew back out again. He had worked with Cavallo on Meat Loaf’s 2009 album Hang Cool Teddy Bear, was available, talented and professional. “John flew in and was sweet, cool and accommodating,” said MCR’s bassist Mikey Way. “No attitude. Our music wasn’t something he listened to, but he was as excited as us we were making the record. He was totally in the trenches with us.”
F.T.W.W.W. (Mike Pedicone) Included in the boxset version of Danger Days was a curious three-track EP of raw garage rock ‘n’ roll, by a band purporting to be called The Mad Gear And Missile Kid but which was, in fact, My Chemical Romance simply cutting loose. Frank Iero said that the three songs were intended to represent the soundtrack that the Killjoys, the post apocalyptic gang alter ego the band took on as part of the elaborate concept behind Danger Days, would have been listening to. The three tracks feature the man the band had hoped would replace Bryar as their full time live drummer, with Gerard Way saying of Mike Pedicone: “He makes us sound like animals!” It wasn’t to be. By September 2011, Pedicone too had been sacked after the band claimed they had found evidence he had been stealing from them.
Fake Your Death (Jarrod Alexander) Pedicone’s replacement was Jarrod Alexander, a much respected, much travelled drummer with a number of hardcore bands. After stints in The Suicide File, A Static Lullaby, Death By Stereo and more, he was airdropped onto the My Chemical Romance drum stool to replace Pedicone and was an immediate fit. He might, perhaps, have felt that he had fallen on his feet: finally finding a band who were not only successful but who appeared to have a bright and stable future ahead of them. Instead, what he found was a group struggling for direction and who would disband within a year-and-a-half of his arrival. “Out of everybody, I feel the worst for Jarrod,” said guitarist Iero. “Oh man, I feel terrible for him. He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met in my life and he was talented as fuck. But the band was so beaten up at that point – it was just over. Poor Jarrod.” His sole recorded contribution was on Fake Your Death, the one new track the band released following their split. He has since worked on Iero, Way and guitarist Ray Toro’s solo work.