Published in The Music (NSW, QLD, VIC, WA) and theMusic.com.au, Nov 2014
The solo debut album from ex-My Chemical Romance vocalist Gerard Way is crafted in a somewhat deceptive way. Daniel Cribb tries to untangle the puzzle.
With judgemental eyes fixated upon Gerard Way’s every musical decision since My Chemical Romance disbanded in 2013, his first solo record, Hesitant Alien, tells quite a story. It begins with singles Action Cat and No Shows, which sound like they could have been plucked from the past, easing fans and sceptics in with familiarity before slowly tip-toeing into unrecognisable and experimental realms as things begin to wind down with Maya The Psychic and Get The Gang Together, and when the experimental lo-fi sounds come flooding in, listeners have already let their guard down.
“The most important thing to me was to get a really great start and a really great bridge from what I used to do and what I’m going to be doing,” Way begins. “I think where I’ll end up as a solo artist is going to probably be drastically different to what we’re hearing now. I’m already writing new stuff and the new stuff’s pretty different…it feels a little less fuzz rock and feels like a little more garage. There are some elements that feel a little like The Cramps, but you know it feels like it’s darker, but not dark music. It definitely feels different to the fuzz rock from this album.”
Bleeding creativity, a new musical endeavour was always going to surface quickly. Even in the brief period between bands – not that there wasn’t a moment Way wasn’t penning music – he was still working on other projects. Including writing an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! in 2013 called The AntiBats!, which resulted in a Daytime Emmy Award nomination and further collaborations.
“The episode I wrote features two of the people in [my backing] band – Ian [Fowlers, guitar] is one of the stars of The Aquabats so he was obviously in that episode, and Matt Gorney [bass] played one of the bad guys, so it’s funny the two of them ended up being onscreen at the same time.”
A new line-up was also accompanied by a more liberating and loose take on songwriting, an element that’s firmly stamped on Hesitant Alien. “I’m not overthinking the process; I’m just getting it down. I think towards the end of My Chemical Romance there were some pretty conventional song structures there. Like one of the things we made work really well was the big, sweeping, super epic chorus and I don’t feel like I was going for that this time. I feel like I was trying to find a new way to get you into a chorus, to get you out of a chorus and almost make the whole song feel like a chorus.”
The choice for Way to embark on a new path under his own name was a means to ensure he didn’t make the same wrong turns he did with MCR. “I kind of felt like by starting another band I’d be trying to create another scenario or I feel like I’d be just trying to fix any mistakes I may have made in the past. It was important for me to move forward into something new. I couldn’t just move forward by starting another band.
“When you’re in a project as big as My Chemical Romance, there are always things you maybe wished you could do a little differently, but I can’t fix any of that…I’ve never been a fan of the glamour side of things. I feel like I was pretty vocal about that.”
With a new outlook on music, it seems Way has just begun to scratch the surface of his creativity. Unfortunately for fans of his past efforts, it’s unlikely we’ll see a reunion. “It was hard and it was emotionally difficult. But at the end of the day, coming out of it, it was fine. I accept a lot of it and I’m really proud of it so it’s something I can move on from. There’s no anger there, there’s no resentment. Me and the guys all still talk…[a reunion] is not something I could see down the line. I mean, if you ask me today, I definitely don’t think that’s something I would do again.”