ATP! Interview: Frank Iero
When the band called it quits last March, Iero said he wasn’t entirely prepared to let the band go right at that moment. But his solo work is in no way a desperate hope to hold on to the past, or to keep himself busy in the wake of The Black Parade. Iero has been writing since he was a teenager, even before the birth of the band that made him famous.
The EP is a dark echo from the gallows of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and Johnny Cash’s “Walk The Line,” a smoky take on two of Iero’s favorite songs. But for all its darkness, Iero himself is quite lovely. The EP "for jamia…" is named after his wife and created as a birthday gift for her. Its release date, December 10, is the date the pair found out they were having kids. And the songs he chose to cover are family favorites.
How does such massively tense sound come from such a cheery family man? Iero discussed that disconnect with ATP! as he introduced his first solo release to the world.
Alter The Press: The reception to your new EP has been unreal. Presale already sold out. Can you talk about why you chose the songs you chose to cover, and why you chose to cover songs in the first place, as opposed to releasing original material?
Frank Iero: The idea behind it was basically to do something for my wife for her birthday. Around the time I was doing this, we were getting the kids into music that we really love, and the idea just opposed up. I woke up one day and was like, ‘I wanna do this song.’ ‘Be My Baby’ came first, and it’s been one of my favorites since I first heard the song. It was one of those songs that I kind of felt I could do something with my own little spin on it. So I recorded that first and did everything myself. My friend and I recorded it together. That kind of sparked the idea. I enjoyed the way it came out so much that I was like, oh man, I should do a record and do this for her.
I’ve also always been a fan of vinyl. There’s something about the ritual of it. Something about it holds its gravity, for some reason. I was having this conversation actually the other day, about how sometimes you’ll put on music and the music fades into the background. But when you take that vinyl out and put it down, the music becomes the conversation as opposed to being the soundtrack to it. When doing this for her, I wanted to make it more of a heavier statement then just releasing the songs online. I wanted to be directly speaking to her. That’s why I was like, I should wax this.
Originally this was a place where I could just make a couple songs for her and I to have. That was the original idea, but I thought to myself, well, if I’m going to be doing all this stuff, the new chapter I want to pursue, it feels right to me to do this as the first release. The first one is the one that you remember, I guess. I figured, fuck it, let’s sell it. The release date is actually the day my wife and I found out we were having kids. And it was one of those things that just kind of worked out that way. That day was available, everything came in the mail in the right amount of time, and the stars aligned a little bit on it. It’s very much a personal triumph to have this all come together – and all come together so well, thank God. But I say that now and then everything gets lost in the mail!
ATP: Speaking of, are you mailing all of those EPs out yourself?
Frank: I did! It was one of those things where I feel like the release was my gift to her and my own personal thing. I felt that handing that over to anyone else just felt a little empty. This had to be something that I did. Everything short of literally pressing the vinyl, which I didn’t have the capability of doing. I did the artwork, I did the sculpture that I took a picture of that became the artwork, the layout, the inserts, that was all hand-done. And then the mailing, which ended up being the most work! I packed everything and did the mailing. It was fun.
ATP: People are purchasing the record through Be Calm. What exactly is that? Is that something you started yourself, too?
Frank: Yeah, I wanted a place where I could start to release stuff, whether it be music or written or art. Be Calm is the place where I can create things and release them.
ATP: You said earlier you wanted to put your own spin on these covers. You have a very distinct style – very dark, almost Avant-garde. But in real life you actually seem really cheery. You love your wife, you’re obsessed with your kids, so where do you think that disconnect comes from? How do you think that style developed?
Frank: I don’t know, to tell you the truth. It’s not something that I really thought about, it just kind of comes out of me. I feel like the personal me and the artistic me are separate, but connected. It’s almost like a Jekyll and Hyde thing. As much as you try to keep them apart, they end up together.
I’m very much aware that when I’m miserable on the creative side – if I can’t make things work a certain way – it really detracts from being the father I want to be. So in order to ultimately be a good father and the man I want to be I know I need to keep my creative side in check, or at least a little bit happy. It’s weird how it’s intertwined that way.
But as far as how the style develops, I guess it’s just a culmination of influences and experiences that I’ve been though. It’s a matter of taste, and I tend to like things a little bit broken. I’ve always been a fan of making ugly things beautiful, and vise versa. I think that’s a theme that always comes through.
ATP: Are you planning a full-length?
Frank: So far I have a bunch of songs written and, for the most part, recorded. Some things are mixed. Other than the final stages of pulling that altogether I guess my focus now is in the aftermath of it, where a good home would be for that project. I’m a bit picky about certain things because it’s super personal for me.
ATP: Well, you have to be picky.
Frank: Yeah, it’s the first time I’m doing all of this. I never in a million years expected to do this. Now that I’m doing it I’m being super careful.
ATP: You mean you never expected to put our solo work? But you’ve been writing your own music for years now.
Frank: I guess what I’m referring to is that solo stuff. I’ve always been a fan of the band setting. I’ve always been a believer in bands, and I’ve always been in bands. That’s where my comfort zone is. So to stand outside of that, that was never my intention or goal. I never had the dream of, ‘I’m gonna go into all these bands as a spring board for my solo work.’ But life takes you on different journeys sometimes. I ended up playing a bunch of songs and some of them I really liked. So what do you do? Do you pretend it’s a band? Do you just say ‘fuck it’ I’m gonna be honest about it? This is my truth.
ATP: I don’t want to make this about My Chemical Romance, but we have to put this in context. I don’t know how you feel about talking about it but I have to ask -
Frank: It’s alright, I’ll answer what I can but sometimes it gets a bit boring [laughs]. Here’s the thing: I’m in no way, shape or form ever trying to run away from my past. It’s a chapter in my life I’m really proud of. But at the same time, it’s still freshly closed, even though it’s closed.
ATP: Well, I wanted to put this into context because some musicians, if they close that chapter in their life but don’t want it to end, they’ll start making solo albums. But with you, this is different. You’ve been writing before My Chemical Romance even started. Are you guys still in touch? Have they said anything about your EP?
Frank: Well, we talk and stuff like that, but we haven’t discussed the EP. We’re actually in talks about the greatest hits album that’s coming out.
ATP: So that’s still happening?
Frank: As far as I know. Who knows? The world could end tomorrow. So barring that, I would say yeah.
ATP: And about touring? Will you ever go on a solo tour?
Frank: That’s one of those things where time will tell. Very rarely do I create things and feel like I don’t want to recreate them in a live setting. It’s a completely different world, but at the same time that’s where I’ve always come from. Enjoying that give-and-take from a live audience, there’s a large part of me that’s looking forward to it, and creating that relationship again. Especially with some of the new things I’ve been working on. I think that would be something that would happen. But as far as when or with who or anything, I’m working on it now but like I said, things change on a day-to-day basis, especially in this industry.
ATP: If you could take anyone on tour with you, be it an opening act or for your backup band, who would you want to take?
Frank: My kids! That would be pretty amazing. However I would never put anyone through that Partridge Family stuff.
- Carolyn Vallejo
for jamia... is out now and can be purchased via iTunes.