Mon, 09 Feb 2009 08:00:11
Leathermouth is the musical equivalent of a slasher film. They make hardcore that slices and dices through the senses, leaving listeners battered, bruised and wanting more. For My Chemical Romance axeman Frank Iero, it's the perfect outlet. He screams his guts out on the band's vitriolic debut, XO, and he doesn't mince words or waste time with his vocal butchery. In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com, Iero discusses Leathermouth, '80s horror flicks and much more.
XO is exactly what a dark hardcore record should be. Was that your intention?
Going into it, a lot of people asked me what my expectations were and what I was trying to put together. Really, we simply wrote songs that we thought were good—songs that had great breakdowns and were reminiscent of the hardcore that we loved when we were young. It was something we thought would be fun to play live. They're songs we wanted to hear. I started going through lyrics, and some of the songs wrote themselves. Other ones, I had to take a step back and try to take on different personas and write from different people's points of view. That's how the record came together. I'm really excited about it. It's the first record that I've ever written all of the lyrics for. I've been with My Chemical Romance for so long. This was like going out on my own, doing something and seeing if my big brother's are proud of me.
With Leathermouth, you capture a raw energy that's rare these days. It's prevalent in bands like Amen and The Bronx, but not in many other places.
Oh wow! That's great company to be in. The reason a lot of that rawness and urgency was captured was because we did it by ourselves in a basement. There wasn't anybody behind the scenes telling us, "Oh, you messed up on that take" or "This take sounds a little off." I wanted to keep all of the good mistakes.
Each song feels like a punch in the face. What was that like for you vocally? Did you have any reservations about singing on this?
We wrote the songs together, and I really let the guys go on some of the different verses, choruses and breakdowns. The only time I reined them in was when we were actually putting the song together in an arrangement. When the vocals came through, I just sat in my basement, tape-recorded myself and let it go. There are scratch tracks left in. There's tons of different stuff in there that would normally be taken out. As far as the sense of urgency and the sense of being kicked in the face, there are voices in there coming at you from all angles, especially on songs like "This Song Is About Being Attacked By Monsters" and "Your Friends Are Full of Shit." Those were songs where I wanted multiple tracks kept in, even if some of the scratch tracks were inaudible. It gave you this sense of, "Oh my God, what's happening? We're being attacked!"
It's got that encroaching fear. How did you blend your love of horror movies with Leathermouth?
I grew up on '80s horror films. I remember getting to hang out with my dad. I would see him on the weekends. Half the weekend was music—hopefully going to see him play and talking about music with him—the other half was us just watching horror movies. To me, the two went hand-in-hand. Those are my greatest memories of childhood—watching horror movies with my dad and listening to music. Going into this record, I based a lot of the stuff that I was doing off '80s horror movies. At that point in time, the movies got right to killing. There was a whole lot less back story involved than there is in horror films these days. It was like, "You're the killer, you're running from him and everybody dies." That was the thing with this album. You turn on XO, you get a couple seconds of feedback, and hopefully it doesn't stop until the record's done.
You guys just come out and kill, but it's really emotional at the same time.
I've always felt that there needs to be emotion behind it. Nowadays, there are metal bands, and then there are hardcore metal bands or whatever. The singers do that scary monster voice. First off, I'm not built that way. I can't sing that way. Secondly, I never looked to that for any inspiration because it didn't sound like a human being or like there was any kind of emotion behind it. It's special in its own right, but it never spoke to me. Going into this record, I decided to use my own voice and whatever I could make come out of myself. In doing that, I was trying to be conscious of every word I was saying and how I was saying it on this record.
Would you say it's a really personal record?
Yeah, that was the thing that was really funny about it. Originally, I wanted to keep it anonymous because it was so personal. I felt like I was cutting myself open, taking out all of the ugly parts and showing them to the world. A lot of me didn't want people to know it was me. Things happen. You've got to roll with the punches and stand behind your work. The beauty of it is I want people to be outraged. That's the best reaction to have because it isn't pretty. It isn't for everybody. In doing that, I hope people have open discussions, and they're thinking for themselves. That's the whole point of it.
Did any '80s horror movies in particular inspire this record?
I always loved the Friday the 13th franchise and The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. I thought they had such a great feel about them. There were also movies like Pumpkinhead that really grabbed my interest as well. There was the feeling of isolation behind them and these curses that came back to rid the town of every child that was left or everybody that wronged them. I thought that was such a great concept. There's this "evil entity" coming back and purifying the entire town. I love that. Anything that has that theme to it was very important to this record.
In '80s horror movies, you sympathize with the killer because all of these other people deserve it!
Exactly! The killers almost become endearing. You're rooting for that guy.
Those '80s movies aren't meant to be Schindler's List. They're meant to be an enjoyable afternoon.
That's the thing. That whole horror movie franchise thing, when it goes to part three, it's always in 3-D, always. It has to be. There's always that gratuitous scene where—it happened in Friday the 13th Part 3—an eyeball pops out. I loved that in My Bloody Valentine 3-D where, during the first kill, the guy's eyeball pops out. I thought that movie was awesome! For the first 20 minutes, I thought I was going to throw up because my eyes don't really adjust to 3-D. I don't think it's going to win any awards or anything, but it's definitely a fun time. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It totally brought me back to sneaking into horror movies in the '80s when I wasn't supposed to be there. It was just fucking awesome.