Frank Iero, ‘I can be the hardest on myself’

Frank Iero, ‘I can be the hardest on myself’

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Frank Iero – the former My Chemical Romance guitarist – had barely returned from his lengthy UK tour supporting Mallory Knox when he spoke to FDRMX from his home in the US. The tour, which promoted Iero’s debut solo album Stomachaches, marked the musician’s first visit to the UK since 2011. He was greeted with legions of passionate fans and, of course, terrible British weather. “It was a bit cold” Iero spoke of his time in the UK, “I wore I think every single piece of clothing I brought every day at the same time.”

“It was amazing, I’ve got to say, one of the most fun I’ve had on tour was at this past UK tour. I wasn’t surprised by that, I’ve always had great shows there, but I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was, and that was really great.”

FrnkIero AndThe Cellabration – Iero’s collaborative name – played their first UK headliner before the tour began at Barfly in Camden, compelling a handful of fans to camp outside the venue overnight. “I felt terrible because like most of the time that they were waiting outside was in the rain but no I didn’t expect it,” Iero explained. “You know that’s the thing, anytime you start a new project you don’t know what to expect. You expect to put in the work, and hopefully it connects with people, but sometimes it doesn’t right away. But to have that kind of a reaction and to have people waiting for hours and hours to come to a show, it’s overwhelming you know?”

But camping outside a venue isn’t the furthest fans will go to catch a show, with some even travelling transatlantic to see Iero perform. “It’s incredibly flattering you know? I’ve never travelled that far to see anybody and it’s a testament to how they feel about the music and the thing that you’ve made and I’m very thankful.”

“I think the hardest part of that is some people go ‘you remember me right?’ and sometimes when you see a face that’s in a place that doesn’t make sense it messes with your head if you can remember or not, and then you hope to not offend anyone. It’s my least favourite question!”

Clearly, Frank Iero is no stranger to success. His debut solo album Stomachaches was met with surges of positive reviews; more than justifying Iero’s inclusion in Alternative Press’ most anticipated of 2014. “I wanted the record to feel like you were listening in as opposed to listening to and so it’s kind of makeshift in that respect.” Iero spoke of Stomachaches, “For me when I listen back I feel very much transported into the basement I made it in and I hope that translates to other people.”

But despite the success of the end result, the process was not always straight forward. “Guilt Tripping”: that song took forever, I hated every second of it.” Iero expressed “I hated it so much that when it finished I was like oh alright, this came out the best from my head to the speakers’ but the hardships that I went through to make it I almost cut it from the record. Almost out of spite!”

The transition from guitarist to front man was also something the musician found difficult. “The hardest thing is to be in that singer role. It’s weird even being in different bands dabbling in the singing of it I didn’t take it seriously, but now the actual touring behind it and trying to keep your health and to keep your voice night after night is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. Even when you were sick you could play through that and I knew how to do it as a guitar player, now it’s a completely different thing. But the transition from one band to another isn’t hard, I’ve always loved starting new bands so that’s really exciting for me.”

It is astonishing that Iero recorded the entirety of Stomachaches – bar the majority of the drum tracks – himself. “I did the drums for “Joyriding” and I hate the way I play so that was really hard” Iero laughed “There’s video of me doing it and it’s just terrible so that’s really why I didn’t – I couldn’t – play drums on the rest of the record. But as far as everything else was concerned it took a long time but I felt at ease because I had full control. I knew when I was playing well, I knew when I was playing from the heart and correctly, and I knew when it was translating the way I wanted it to translate. I can be the hardest on myself, you know?”

Although starting from square one is a monumental task, a solo career comes with the major perk of full creative control. “I’ve always enjoyed collaborating with people, so this is the first time that I’ve ever had that full creative control” Iero explained. “I think I tend to be a people pleaser to a fault sometimes, so what I find difficult is taking that ‘it’s my way or nothing’ stance and having the ability to say no.”

Iero has inspired thousands to pursue music throughout his illustrious career, and he offered some advice to those just starting out: “I think first and foremost do it solely because you have to, because you love it so much or it has such a hold on you that you couldn’t possibly think about doing anything else. If you start this for any other reason you’re going to be disappointed. Secondly, I suppose, if you are compelled against everyone’s better judgement to do this then do it from your heart, and from the best possible place because if you don’t you’re gonna regret it, and people will see through it.”

But alongside providing inspiration himself, Iero draws his own from the live performances of others. “There’s definitely a lot of people that I look up to, and I think are just fantastic. But as far as whether that inspiration makes its way into what I do, I don’t know. I think I look up to these certain people because its stuff that I could never do, you know? I just played a show with Alkaline Trio and they did four nights, two records a night. They played fantastic, it was better than sitting down and listening to the record. In the same respect, there’s bands like Pearl Jam who go up and every night the set list is different, I think there’s around 200 – 400 songs they choose from to make each show that diverse, and I would love to be able to do that.

Right now, of course there’s no way we have that amount of material to do that, you know? We did a show last week and the guy said ‘so you guys can play 90 minutes, right?’ and we were like ‘what are you nuts? We have one record!’ So we played everything we knew and we had to learn two covers! And still it was 55 minutes.

I think being able to do that kind of thing comes from a certain kind of comfort and confidence of being on stage, and a confidence in front of your audience. I think that’s a really special and incredible thing to be able to do as a band. To have a full repertoire that you can choose from and to make it special and different every night. So I would love to be able to do that, but there is no way I could do that right now.”

It’s no secret that Frank Iero has gathered an extremely dedicated, if a little eccentric, fan base over the years. The musician was weary to shed light on what the strangest thing he’s ever been asked to sign was, expressing how “it fuels a type of game that they (his fans) then play.”

“There is this one girl, she’s been to two or three shows, and every time she comes with something stranger,” he goes on to say, “then her follow up question is ‘you thought I couldn’t come up with anything weirder and now I have!’ Then there is one girl in the UK who came with I think it was an eggplant she had me sign. So there’s weird stuff like that which is funny, I suppose.”

“But my favourite thing,” Iero explains “I don’t know how but – I feel like a lot of the kids that come to the shows are super, super talented like oh my- the artistic ability in some of these people that have shared their art with me – it blows my mind every time. From paintings to drawings to just everything you can think of, you know? Like this one girl I guess she works in stone and tile and she made the cross anchor out of that and it’s just amazing, beautiful stuff. But the thing that I’ve seen the most of is knitting and crochet which is so insane to me. I love that – I don’t know why I have an affinity for crocheted things.”

“The thing about it though is with stuffed animals and that kind of stuff I have to get rid of it right away, because one time, and this was in My Chemical Romance, we had gotten these stuffed things and we were on a fly day at an airport and immediately these drug sniffing dogs came out and they freaked out – there were like pellets inside it, the authorities just went nuts!”

“Well, it wasn’t drugs” the musician clarifies, “but it looked like it, so it just caused this huge problem. So that stuff I won’t hold on to because one: you never know what could be inside it and two: even if it is an innocent thing it has caused problems in the past. But most of it is amazing.”

With 2014 drawing to a close, we asked Iero what his favourite releases had been this year: “My top three are Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Neil Young – A Letter Home, and Homeless Gospel Choir – I Used To Be So Young. Those three records I’ve listened too way more than I should have, and to explain how good I think those records are too I haven’t gotten sick of any of them, I could still listen to all three of those albums over and over again.”

But most importantly, does he have any future writing plans? The answer was a resounding yes. “There’s this one song that came into my head right as I was finishing everything for this record” Iero expresses, “so I did some quick demos of it, and I think over the next couple of days I might try to lay that down just to see what it is. Then there’s another song that I recorded with Matt (Olsson), and that I think is going to be on a compilation hopefully coming out early next year. Then there’s a couple of other little things here and there that my brain’s mulling on.”

Lastly, Iero spoke of his future tour plans: “There’s going to be a US jaunt coming up and then I think directly after that we’re probably gonna be back in the UK. I would say the early part of next year.”

Written by
Faith Ridler is a UK based graduate, music journalist, and Fall Out Boy aficionado.