My Chemical Romance can't wait to get down under

By Laura McQuillan

My Chemical Romance have already achieved plenty in a relatively short career and filling a top slot on the 2007 Big Day Out tour will count as another highlight.

"It's one of those legendary festivals that everybody wants to do and we've wanted to do it forever so we're really excited," says drummer Bob Bryar. "It's gonna be so much fun."

The visit to New Zealand will be a first for Gerard Way (vocals), Ray Toro (guitar), Frank Iero (guitar), Mikey Way (bass) and Bryar.

The band has generally been put in the "emo" category, and the younger Big Day Out revellers will no doubt flock to see them, but My Chemical Romance regards itself as simply a rock band.

Emo was originally an emotive sub-genre of hardcore, but now is an often negative label attached to the black-clad, make-up wearing, fringe-toting teenagers with lip-piercings who make up a large part of the band's fanbase.

"We like to just describe ourselves as a rock band, everything about us is just a rock band," Bryar says. "If what people have to do is to put us into a category, that's fine you know, but if you think of a traditional emo band, that's not what this band's about."

My Chemical Romance has been accused in internet chatrooms of encouraging youth to self-harm, but Bryar says people have the wrong idea and there are plenty of positive songs on the new album.

"You know, there are a bunch of things that go around about kids that like this band are in a death cult and people harm themselves -- and for somebody who doesn't take the time to really understand what this band is about, that's what they think, and that's a very, very ignorant way to think about this band," Bryar says.

He says the music has in some instances given fans something to identify with and had positive effects.

"And that's one of our goals - to help people get through really rough things.

"Any hard times that we've had have all gone away when we get to perform our songs live on stage, and that's what we live to do. If we can pass that on to other people by listening to the music, that's a great goal to have," Bryar says.

"If anybody, even one person, will listen to us and go get help for anything they're thinking of doing by harming themselves, then we achieved our goal."

Since its release in October, The Black Parade has received rave reviews, described in Rolling Stone magazine as "the best mid-seventies record of 2006".

It's a compliment the band are pleased to accept after the work that went into making the album.

"It's just something that we had all dreamed of for our whole lives, having the opportunity to make a record like this and finding the people that can make it happen for us," Bryar says.

"We had enough time to experiment with stuff and do everything that we wanted to, and everything that we had inside of us came out, and we didn't hold anything back.

"It just feels really good to be able do something and be done with it and be so proud of it."

The album's first single, Welcome to the Black Parade, went to No 2 on the New Zealand singles chart in its second week, a success Bryar attributes to the effort and emotion the band poured into the record.

"It's amazing, you know, when you kind of put yourself out there on a limb and you take a chance - and we really did take a chance - and this is something that really wasn't expected by anybody."

Bryar says the hit single is one of his favourite songs on the album.

"That's just a personal thing, because we went through changing that song a million times in the studio. It was really hard to finish ... and when we finally did it was just amazing."

Although the band's previous album, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, sold over two million copies worldwide, Bryar considers The Black Parade is musically stronger and better defines the band.

There was also greater creative freedom and less commercial pressure during the making of it.

"The only pressure that came was from ourselves internally to put out something great that we really wanted to put out, and just through having all the time and all the experiences that we've had - it's just a grand, kind of epic record."

Despite their fame, Bryar says the band are "pretty low-key people" off-stage.

"The rockstarish thing is very strange - like sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, you know, we really don't do it. We don't really party - we let everything out when we perform."


* My Chemical Romance play the Big Day Out in Auckland on January 19

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