It’s my birthday today, so I thought I’d take a moment and talk about myself. Well, more specifically, how I came to know My Chem. Since you all, obviously, really want to know.
I was eleven, and studying for entrance exams for the school I’m at now. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I got into the habit of listening to a radio show called Music Control on Essex FM while I studied. Most of the stuff they played was pure pop, but because it was broadcast from seven until ten, and the target audience was students and twenty-somethings, they often played new releases weeks or months before the rest of the radio. So usually they’d play a track in July and by September when the rest of the word was rocking out and overplaying it, I thought it was the worst fucking thing anyone had ever written.
Anyway, they started playing this song around September or October, and I thought it was pretty cool because the structure meant that the entire song had to be broadcast, they couldn’t miss out a repeated chorus at the end if they were running short on time. There was this piano part that caught my attention at the beginning, it was really dramatic and dark, and then there was this huge noise of guitars and yelling (I think the lyrics “Defiant to the end” struck a chord) and eventually the song petered out with some nice drumming. Around the same time, autumn 2006, I was getting into the world of music television. We had two channels back then, I think. I kept catching the end of a video where it looked like the world had exploded. Oh look, it’s got that drum ending. Very tuneful.
Slowly, over the next few months, I kept catching glimpses of this strange band. Never an entire video or a name – that’d be way too easy – always snippets as I flicked. Oh look, now everything’s on fire. Hey, his hair’s turned black. Why are they falling out of clouds?
Music Control used to do an ‘[insert artist here] night’ every so often. They’d interview the band, play a few songs, maybe do an acoustic set. One evening, they had an interview with a guy from a band whose name I didn’t know because it was always said too fast for me to catch it. It was ‘Mychemicalromance’ or something, I don’t know. This guy from this unnameable band had the weirdest voice I had ever heard. I’d heard Americans in films and stuff, but never this accent (I guess there aren’t many New Jersey actors in children’s films). It was also the way he spoke; really quickly but confidently. Like he knew stuff the rest of us dreamt of learning. The interviewer goes “Where do you get your inspiration from, real life?” He said something along the lines of “Nah, I people watch and take it from there.” I’d been packing my books up or something, but I distinctly remember thinking “Thank God it’s not just me that does that!” I used to have a thing for making up strangers’ lives.
Then they played the piano song.
Around that time, my uncle was in the process of doing me a mixtape – okay, CD – of ‘rock music’. I’d mentioned liking The Killers so got their albums for Christmas, in the spring he did me a compilation. In amongst American Idiot, You Give Love a Bad Name, Last Train Home and Dance, Dance, there was a song called Welcome to the Black Parade by My Chemical Romance. Holy shit! It’s the piano song! Google Search time. Or was it YouTube?
I saw Helena and was like, that’s not My Chemical Romance. They’ve had a lineup change. Wait… No… he has the same tattoo on his neck as the other guy. Oh, hang on, same hair. The bassist’s different for sure. Can’t tell about the drummer. Woa, that’s the frontman in the Parade video! Same face. Definitely him. I think.
My memory’s a bit hazy now – I’m getting on a bit – but I think in that first YouTube session I heard Vampires, Not Okay and Ghost as well. Over the course of about a year, My Chem kept cropping up. My friend’s brother had a Revenge t-shirt. It was awesome. Gerard Way was in Sugar magazine’s Ladmag. He’d formed the band after seeing 9/11. Hey, I remember that! It’s the day before my birthday that makes me feel really guilty for celebrating being alive. He used to have a drug problem. Oh, he’s better now, that’s nice. They’re a happy looking band, aren’t they?
I used my twelfth birthday money to buy Parade, and it was the most depressing thing I’d ever heard. Over the next year, my CDs went into a box because we were decorating, and My Chem more or less went on the back burner. My friends at the time were into Disney shit, the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato and whatnot – so I was too. Around year eight it emerged some of my friends’ friends were into MCR, and I started to remember them. They’d gone into hibernation, apparently, but their new album would be out soon (would it, my arse). In June of year eight, in 2009, I was sitting on a coach on the way back from a school trip to Germany where we’d gone a bit mental and dressed as the Black Parade – I was Gerard, if I remember correctly, and my LynZ (Ruby) divorced me because I wouldn’t go to the tourist information bureau with her. I thought “You know what, admit it. This is your favourite band.” Some time along the way I’d picked up Revenge, and the band I’d coveted since the age of eight, McFly, weren’t doing much for me anymore.
Before I knew it, I owned all three albums, Parade is Dead! and Murder Scene, unicorns made me think of Mikey Way being called Frank wasn’t an insult. Incidently, Ruby first called me that because in Germany I bought a Trilby. She looked down at me, said “You look like a man again. You look like Frank. I’ll call you Frank now.” and turned away. The name stuck. I started Indifferent Ignorance in late 2009 and quickly realised how easy it was to write about My Chem – the music they made was often what I was trying to say. The rest, as they say, is history.
Over the last year or so, I’ve come to appreciate what My Chem’s done for me. I was never about to slip into a pill-induced coma when Venom came on my iPod… The band didn’t save my life. But in a strange way, it did kickstart it. I get along best with people who are MCR fans. There’s never a lack of conversation, let’s face it. Via searching the band and finding to other stuff by association, I’ve come to find and appreciate almost everything I hold dear; my friends, most of my writing, a large chunk of possessions and, most of all, the feeling that someone’s got my back. The MCRmy is a group of people who will never judge me for who I am, even though they’ve never met me – more than I can say for a lot of people I actually know. Since listening I’ve become even more defiant and determined (something I didn’t think was possible).
What My Chem says and does makes sense. Simple as. I never heard Famous Last Words and thought “Oh, he’s right.” I thought “Well, yeah, he’s right.” Of course he is. Why don’t more people say what needs to be said? This idea also explains why I’m a Mindless fan and have a blog.
Yesterday the band played a reworked version of their first song, Skylines and Turnstiles. I’m almost never moved by music, but I was touched… I think my vision might have got a bit blurry. I talked about 9/11 making me feel bad for celebrating… When I was about nine, it the enormity of the event occurred to me. How can this day be happy for me when for so many others it was the beginning of the rest of their lives? I made a habit of writing about MCR this time of year and always listened to Turnstiles. At some point it hit me that people die very day. Yes, it’s sad, but brilliant things can emerge from terrible ones (see yesterday’s post). The 12th September sixteen years ago was the beginning of the rest of my life – and I nearly didn’t make it at all, thanks to shit timing, pre-eclampsia and a collapsed lung. When I was eight or so I decided to stop thanking God and start thanking the doctors that paid attention in medical school. Life is fragile and could break at any time. 9/11 clouded that judgement for a while – but My Chem has reminded me of that, and will continue to remind me, as long as there’s life in my stereo.
So I’d like to thank them for that. I’d also like to thank everyone who’s put up with me over the last sixteen years, and who got me presents. I yell a lot, but I like you really. See? I’m smiling.
NB: I realised the guy on the radio was Gerard about three years after I heard him talk.