FORMER My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero's latest project FrnkIero andthe Cellabration has proven highly popular with both old fans and new. His decision to bring the band to Belfast was met with jubilance amongst those fans, who have been waiting a long time to see him back on Northern Irish soil.
Melanie Brehaut sat down with Iero just prior to his sold out gig in Bar Sub to chat about our fair city, endings and beginnings, and his constant need to create music.
Welcome to Belfast!
I believe this is your first time here since 2007?
2007 was The Black Parade, in November.
Alright. I know we – it probably wasn't Belfast – we played a festival but I think it was in Dublin. That was the last Irish shows that I remember doing. And that was probably...2011 maybe, something like that. Jeez. It's been too long!
Uh huh! Have you had a chance to look around at all?
Last night's show was amazing. We had a little bit of time to look around today: a friend of mine from Axis Of, his father is an artist an he has a a gallery opening across the street which was beautiful, so I got to see that. And I walked around town a little bit. It's weird; originally we were to do Reading and Leeds and then our day off was supposed to be here, yesterday, and we were supposed to see all the sights and then play tonight and tomorrow (in Dublin). But the show sold out so quickly, it was like "add another, add another".
So much for days off!
Does it make a difference when you travel with a smaller entourage? Do you get more spare time?
(Laughs) Um, I think it's about the same. We like to keep it kinda, y'know, just family (laughs) which is nice! Eddie likes to have a bit more help (gestures to musicians sitting behind us), but...(laughs).
What was the thinking behind just coming over for Irish dates this time?
The idea behind that was, basically we had wanted to do it on our headline run (last year). But the start date of the tour was I think, like, two days after my son's birthday. So in order to add that – it's like you have to add at least a week, basically, with set up and travel time. And we were on tour before that and then we were supposed to have, like, ten days off. It whittled down to five, and then to do that (add Irish dates) it would have just meant we had nothing. So I was like, "well, we just can't do it". And so when we got asked to do Reading and Leeds it was just perfect – it was like, now we can finally do the Irish shows.
Let's talk about 'stomachaches' for just a minute. There's some quite personal lyrics on the album. Did you ever think you'd be singing them to people, or was it more of a private, cathartic thing?
(Laughs) Never! Oh man. Yeah, no, never. That was never the intent; the intent was just to write these songs for myself – it was very selfish. I wanted to document the time that I was writing them and just hold onto it forever, kinda thing, and maybe show my friends or kids somewhere down the line. But then before I knew it, my friend asked me to play it for him, or asked what I had been up to and I played it for him, and then he convinced me to play it for other people...and now it's crazy. I mean some of those lines...oh man, y'know? (laughs). And it's weird to have those sung back to you, when they were written in the most private of times. It's nice, though, it really is. It was nerve-racking right before the release, and every night it's still a bit nerve-racking. But I think it's going to be a strange process to do another record because now I know people are going to hear it. So I wonder what that's going to be like – if I'm going to edit.
A different frame of mind?
Yeah, y'know? My world's a lot different now too, so regardless, I think it's going to be a different process and outcome. But I don't know what the editing process is going to be like. I hope I don't ruin it (laughs).
So is writing a necessary thing for you? Sort of a compulsion?
Yeah. I create because I need to create, as opposed to thinking about what, down the line, the aftermath's going to be. I hardly ever do that. I probably should start thinking less shortsightedly, but I just need to keep making things. A couple of years ago I thought "my creative side and my real life side are two different things". And I found out that they were so intertwined that it wasn't even funny. In order to be the person I want to be – happy, keeping that keel, that level – I need to be creatively satisfied.
If I could ask you briefly about your former band (My Chemical Romance)?
What was your overriding emotion whenever you split? Did it tend more towards relief or sadness?
I think the immediate feeling is sadness, you get that mourning period right? And then you start to realise that "Oh no! This is for the best because it HAS to be". And you look back and realise that it is a relief. So you go back and forth, I think. But it's like everything: it's hard to see chapters come to an end until you realise that it's so that other windows can open, or just that it needs to be done.
Did you start creating music straight away, or was there a bit of down time for you?
No, it was so seamless. I think even while My Chem were still together we were doing Deathspells stuff (another project of Iero's). It just keeps going and going and going.
Is it strange to go back to the start again? Smaller venues, smaller crowds?
Is that more your comfort zone?
Yeah, I think...I've done so many projects, even simultaneously, that it's a continuation of what I do. So that just feels natural. I think it felt unnatural to be in bigger venues. That's the only time I felt like I didn't belong.
Is there anything you miss about being in MCR?
No. It would be different if it wasn't such a large chunk of your life. We did so much, y'know? Things that I never even knew that I wanted to do! So I feel...complete on it. I don't miss anything.
So what was the first music that you heard that you really connected with; that there was that 'click' in your head?
Jeez, um...I've been around music for so long – my dad played, my grandfather played – it was just always there. So I feel like there was different connections, there was stuff I really liked. But I didn't find that kinship until I heard punk rock. That really opened the door where it was like "oh! I can do this too!" kinda thing. Before it was always I loved the blues, I love old rock n roll like Sixties soul and stuff like that, but that didn't feel tangible to me. It was stuff that my dad played, and stuff that I really enjoyed, but he was...it's weird. He was a musician and my grandfather was a musician, and they went out and and gigged and played with all these different people. But I always wanted to just be in bands. I didn't see myself jumping from project to project or just showing up and being like "we're just going to play the standards tonight". That never felt like the life for me. But when I heard kids playing music for kids, and playing in VFW halls and things like that, that blew my mind – I was like "now I get it! I can do this, and I can do this with my friends, and I can do it on my terms".
Last question: do you have any plans for your musical future, or are you more of a 'wing it' kinda guy?
(Laughs) I feel like if I had plans I would be disappointed when they didn't come true, to what I see in my head. I have ideas: I have a lot of songs in my head – I'd like to get them out; I feel very crowded right now and I'm having a hard time concentrating on one single thing! But I know that I need to go home in order to finish it. I can start many things, and I can say 'yes' to many things while I'm on the road, but I cant see them through until I'm actually home. So there's ideas, but I don't know if there's plans.
Alright, well thank you!
Oh it was my pleasure, thank you!