When My Chemical Romance found themselves up against a creative wall shortly before the band split up in March 2013, the band’s guitarist Frank Iero and their live keyboard player, James Dewees (The Get Up Kids, Reggie And The Full Effect) unleashed their frustration in a series of angry, digital hardcore songs. Some snuck out online but most were shelved because they felt too out there and weird for people to accept in the wake of My Chemical Romance’s break-up. Three years on, however, Frank and James believe the world is ready for Death Spells…
How come it’s taken the Death Spells album this long to see the light of day?
Frank Iero: “I think that if this record had come out three years ago, then it wouldn’t have made any impact. It would have been over people’s heads. Maybe it would have been too fresh off of My Chemical Romance. People needed time to expand their likes and dislikes.”
It’s veers from wild electronica to vicious hardcore, by way of WTF. Even three years on, nobody is going to confuse it for easy listening, are they?
James Dewees: “If somebody said, you know what, three years on this does sound like easy listening, then I would present them with a trophy. I would give anyone a trophy if they said to me: ‘If you had put this out in 2013, I would have said fuck you. But now? This is amazing!‘”
Frank: “When I first put Where Are My Fucking Pills up online in 2013 I got hate mail. People were very upset. They said: ‘How dare you do a band like this? I don’t understand’.”
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Did people think you were trashing the memory of My Chemical Romance?
Frank: “I suspect people didn’t understand it, and the fact they didn’t understand it so much made them angry. In some ways, that’s an amazing reaction because you either want people to love something or hate it and getting such a heartfelt response made me feel we were onto something. Now, though, the reaction has moved from hate to something else. People have told me it helps them, which is nuts.”
James: “To Me Death Spells kind of fits what’s happening in the world right now. Everything is so all over the place, it’s confusing as fuck and nobody knows how scared they should be. Musically, that’s what we’re doing. It’s just that we did it three years ago.”
What was your mood then? My Chemical Romance were trying to write, failing to, and were about to break up. Is this music a reaction to that?
James: “I had been My Chemical Romance’s live keyboard player for a long time and they asked me to become a writing member of the band. I was like: ‘Of course! I’m on the next plane.’ It felt like it was going to be easy: we wrote a lot together on the road anyway so of course we were going to write a hit record, hang out and have a good time. And that was not what I walked into. Everyone in the band needed a break but nobody wanted to admit it. So we kept grinding that wheel. I was coming in going: ‘I’ve got this idea guys! … Guys? … Guys???’”
Frank: “I was very unsure of what the future held and what was going on then. There was a lot of anger. There was some mistrust.”
Did the music come out of that atmosphere?
James: “Frank and I both live on the east coast. He had brought his family out, I was in an apartment and we were both away from what we call home. After nine months of that we just went: what’s happening? Are we doing something or not? Nine months is a long time. Both of us were going: ‘AAARRRGGGHHH’. A lot of the Death Spells stuff came out of that. We went from wanting to sing on stuff to screaming on it. The more we did it, the more we got into it.”
After Black Parade, another stressful period for My Chemical Romance, Frank did the same sort of thing with the fierce hardcore of Leathermouth. Did this feel the same?
Frank: “Isn’t that weird? Oh wow, I hadn’t thought about that at all. But yes. Wow. That’s the timeline.”
Frank, you’ve got The Cellabration, you’ve got other solo stuff, you’ve worked with James on Reggie And The Full Effect. And now there’s this: do you feel freer now?
Frank: “It’s very freeing to be able to go wherever you like. It makes it much harder for people to put you in a box. I feel like the people who are coming to see this are open to anything and I like that. They’re weirdoes, and that’s great because we are too.”
What’s the reaction to the music live?
Frank: “The first show we’ve ever played with a record out was in Glasgow a few nights ago. It was awesome and completely different from how they were before. It was like a hardcore show. People were flailing everywhere. I hope Death Spells is a long term thing, I’m really, really enjoying it.”
Death Spells’ Nothing Above, Nothing Below is out now on Hassle.