It was May 2002, and My Chemical Romance had travelled to Nada Studios in New Windsor, upstate New Jersey, for the second time. The first time they had been there, in March that year, they had been a four piece and had recorded the vicious, growling version of Vampires Will Never Hurt You that appears on their debut I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. This time, they were there to record the rest of the album and they had someone to help them: guitarist Frank Iero had been added to the ranks. “We already had some dynamite but we needed more,” said the band’s singer Gerard Way. “Frank was the extra dynamite.”
Along with them was their label boss and de facto manager Alex Saavedra, a wise-cracking, idealist New Jerseyite who had taken the band under his wing and signed them to his influential Eyeball Records label. During the Vampire sessions he had decided that Gerard – suffering from an abscess in his teeth – was not putting enough venom into his performance, so he punched him in the mouth. This time, he brought along his film camera to video the recording sessions. Having sat on the footage for years, he has just put it online, figuring that someone may as well see it.
The results show a band in their very earliest days. My Chemical Romance had been dreamed up by Gerard in September the previous year, and played their first show in October 2001. This footage and the sessions for their first album took place just seven months later. Remarkably, they had written an entire album within half a year of forming. “The whole history of the band has felt very go, go, go,” said guitarist Ray Toro later. “It feels like we’ve never had a moment to breathe.”
When they hit Nada Studios, they were surfing a wave of momentum. Gerard had the bit between his teeth and wanted to lay down music as fast as possible. They wanted Saavedra’s best friend, and the local scene hero, Geoff Rickly – then riding high as the singer in post-hardcore stars Thursday – to produce for them. The only problem was that he was on tour. Not that that stopped My Chemical Romance.
“They told me, ‘That’s OK, we checked your schedule and you’re free this week.’,” said Rickly. “So between two three-month tours I had 10 days and I had to go into the studio with them for seven of them.”
Nada itself was a shoebox studio situated under the basement of its owner John Naclerio’s mother. They would have to take breaks when Naclerio’s mum did the vacuuming upstairs as the sound would bleed into their recording. “I actually don’t know how my mother put up with it – for eight years bands would be trudging in and out of her basement and it’s not a big house,” said Naclerio.
But it was a paradise to My Chemical Romance, who had never been in any kind of studio before. “I loved it,” said Ray. “I wished we had had more time but it was still awesome.”
When not recording, all five of the band and Saavedra and Rickly shared one hotel room – the room shown in this footage. And they had a blast. “We were rushed, and we had no money, but we had a great time,” said Saavedra. “We were like a family making a recording. We would record all day, go back to the hotel and goof off at night, talking and drinking.”
The results are I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love – a rough diamond of an album, recorded in a week but which laid the platform for My Chemical Romance’s career. Raw, emotionally-driven and howling with energy, at times it sounds full of torment. But as this footage shows, it was recorded by a band with grins from ear-to-ear and their whole futures ahead of them.
Tom Bryant’s My Chemical Romance biography, The True Lives of My Chemical Romance, is out now, and available here (opens in new tab). Check out Tom’s interview with Frank Iero, his exclusive interview with Ray Toro and his review of Gerard Way’s first official UK show.