Thinking Out Loud: Frank Iero

Death Spells will release their debut album in July

Frank Iero, 34, is best known as the guitarist and backing vocalist of My Chemical Romance.

When the band split in March 2013, Iero focused on his electronic hardcore project Death Spells (with MCR keyboardist James Dewees). He also formed his own band frnkiero andthe cellabration, who released their debut album stomachaches in the summer of the following year.

Death Spells will release their full-length debut Nothing Above, Nothing Below on July 29 through Vagrant.

“My dad’s a drummer and my grandfather was a drummer. Basically, everybody in my family was a musician and everybody in my family was named Frank. If you weren’t Frank and you didn’t play drums, your name was Anthony and you played piano. They started me out on drums – I remember being three years old and playing a Smurfs kit – I went onto piano for a while, then saxophone. But I was the black sheep. I wanted to write songs, so I picked up a guitar.”

“My parents split up when I was about three and divorced when I was seven. I’d go see my dad on the weekend down in Trenton. It was cool. I was with my mom during the week, then I would go down to Trenton with my dad. Actually, my first tour was with my dad who was in a blues band. They had a couple of shows down in Virginia Beach. When I was old enough to have a learners permit, I drove my dad’s car down there and teched for them. That was my first tour. If I wasn’t watching my dad play on the weekends, or if he was playing in a club that wasn’t suitable for a child, then I’d go to my grandfather’s. He played at this old speakeasy every weekend. Every Saturday night, he’d be playing Dixieland or Big Band jazz and I’d hang out there until 1.30 or 2am. If you stayed up late enough, you got to go with the band to the diner. And that was fucking huge! I got to hang out at a diner at 3am with musicians after listening to jazz at the bar all night. It was pretty cool.”

“When my dad would drive, he’d have this old, brown leather briefcase and would play drums on it in traffic. When he finally decided to get a new one, I went and fished the old one out of the trash and kept it. The lock code was the address from my childhood house – this thing just meant something to me. When My Chemical Romance got together, we had this idea of doing something cool with the merch with something we could pop open at every show. Gerard [Way] and I went to a fabric store, and we lined that old briefcase and it became our merch set-up.”

“School was weird. I didn’t really fit in at first. It was a small school, so you were either in this set of 25 kids or you weren’t. And if you weren’t, then you got beaten up. I wasn’t like those 25 kids, but I was smart enough to know that I wasn’t going to get beat up every day. So I would pretend that I was into what they were into. I got through it. When I got to high school and it was different. I discovered music and drugs, so I’d smoke a lot of weed and skateboard. I kind of kept to myself. I was basically biding my time until I could start a band. That happened at the end of my Freshman year. I met a kid who was dating a friend of the girl I was seeing. He was a senior and played guitar and he found out I played guitar. Punk rock wasn’t cool then; I remember getting made fun of because of the t-shirts I was wearing. And nobody played instruments. If you ever found someone who played something, then you just formed a band. So I’d go over to his house and he’d come to me and we’d play guitar. He put a band together and booked a gig at the school for the Junior Dance. I had to leave straight after the show because I wasn’t allowed to be there – I remember feeling pretty cool. That was my first gig.”

“One of the reasons I named my band the Cellabration is because I’m the complete opposite of that. This is the sort of person I am: when I was a teenager, I’d hear about a party and I’d really want to go. I’d get there and go, ‘Fuck, I’ve got to talk to people’. So I’d get fucked up and sit in the corner until the party was done. I have this weird social thing. I’m not comfortable in that way.”

“It would be easier to live a life where I had more stability, where I worked regular hours and where I was around. So is there a fear that my need to be creative will go away? No. Sometimes I wish it would be gone so I could have a normal life. But I don’t see that on the cards. This is all I’ve ever known. I think it’s just wrapped in my DNA. Some kids grow up wanting to be sports stars; I grew up wanting to be in a band. I wanted to tour, and get in a fucking van. What kid grows up wanting to get in a van? I must have been fucking nuts. That’s where the mental instability started. The first time you get in the van, you think it’s awesome – and that’s when it becomes clear that there must be something wrong with you…”

“Everything moves a million times a minute inside me. It’s one thing I truly hate about myself – I can’t just enjoy the downtime. The downtime is just soaked in worry for me, I can’t just sit around and not do anything. The biggest struggle for me is keeping the creative part of me and the family part of me separate but entwined. If the creative side of me isn’t sated, then I can’t function as a father or a husband, or be the person I want to be. It totally consumes me and makes me crazy. There is a huge part of me that wishes I wasn’t like that. It would be easier to live a life where I had more stability, where I worked regular hours and where I was around. Sometimes I wish it would be gone so I could have a normal life. But I don’t see that on the cards.”

“I have small expectations. I remember driving to shows as a kid and, when you would get close, you’d be stuck in traffic and you’d hear other records being played in cars, and people would be singing along. I’d get this feeling, this excitement. I’d love my record to played like that, by people who are getting excited to go to a show. That’s the kind of success I’m looking for.”

Death Spells release their new album Nothing Above, Nothing Below on July 29 through Hassle.

Tom Bryant

Tom Bryant is The Guardian's deputy digital editor. The author of The True Lives Of My Chemical Romance: The Definitive Biography, he has written for Kerrang!, Q, MOJO, The Guardian, the Daily Mail, The Mirror, the BBC, Huck magazine, the londonpaper and Debrett's - during the course of which he has been attacked by the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bass player and accused of starting a riot with The Prodigy. Though not when writing for Debrett's.