The Untold Truth Of My Chemical Romance

The following article includes mentions of mental health issues.

My Chemical Romance may be one of the most influential rock groups of the 2000s, but the band might never have existed at all if not for the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. Frontman Gerard Way had previously tried to make it as a musician after outfits like Nirvana lit a fire under his teenage imagination, as he told GQ in January 2022. Although he didn't succeed with his previous groups, the musician learned to express himself through songwriting. 

"Regardless of what skill I had at the guitar, I was always able to write songs," Way recalled at the 2019 Los Angeles Comic Con, per Kerrang!. "Even back in my old art school band I was writing songs." The recent art school graduate happened to be living in New York when tragedy struck, as Spin previously revealed, and had gone into Manhattan on the morning of September 11. "So 9/11 happens, and I pick up the guitar again, and I write 'Skylines and Turnstiles,'" Way explained at Comic Con, adding that the band formed soon after. "It became my therapy from the PTSD that everyone had experienced from 9/11, and processing that."

Keep reading to find out more about the band that thrilled the world in May 2022 by releasing its first new song in eight years, "The Foundations of Decay," and how My Chemical Romance became so beloved.

MCR's biggest album was written in a haunted house

"The Black Parade" brought My Chemical Romance a new level of international fame, but the 2006 album had a rocky beginning when the band tried to write and record it in a famous haunted house.

The Paramour Estate, which had been built in Los Angeles in the 1920s, was notorious for its alleged apparitions. "The place is definitely haunted," Gerard Way later reflected, according to biographer Reinhardt Haydn's "My Chemical Romance: This Band Will Save Your Life." "Doors would slam, and the faucets would turn on. You'd get a bath drawn for you of freezing cold water in your room, and you wouldn't know why." The house was also far colder than its surroundings, and the musicians were constantly trying to warm themselves up. "We were just in this haunted house together, kind of becoming slowly depressed, and withdrawn, and isolated from the world outside," Way told Kerrang!, adding that it helped the band's songwriting. "It became a dark place, and just being in there and kind of jamming this idea together, and playing it together, and getting the original bones of the song, that was really collaborative."

Unfortunately, Mikey Way found the group's experience at Paramour Mansion to be triggering to his mental health, as it exacerbated his struggle with manic-depressive episodes, which was later diagnosed as bipolar disorder in therapy. "It was too much stimulus at once," he was quoted as saying in Haydn's book. After the bassist hastily left the mansion, the rest of the band — perhaps understandably — soon followed.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Their look was created by Tim Burton's costume designer

My Chemical Romance are known for their signature visual concepts, but what you might not know is that the group worked with the creative mind behind some of Hollywood's biggest films. Costume designer Colleen Atwood has collaborated with filmmaker Tim Burton on movies like "Sleepy Hollow" and has received Oscars for her designs on other blockbusters, such as "Chicago" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." 

In a 2010 interview with MTV News, Atwood explained her ongoing collaboration with My Chemical Romance, which started with the military style uniforms the band wore in the "Welcome to the Black Parade" music video. Noting that she and Gerard Way had hit it off and kept in contact, she reflected on the colorful costumes used in the music video for "Sing," explaining, "Because he's an artist and had a filmic idea in mind, he wanted the outfits for the guys to help create the characters." 

Atwood also mentioned that MCR's inspirations ranged from the 1970s to a dystopian "Mad Max" type of future. "Getting the balance between the four guys was the most time consuming," the costume designer observed, pointing out the difficulty of designing costumes for a band. "Each person had to be individual, but they had to look like a group."

Two members were injured on a music video shoot

My Chemical Romance put their own health at risk on the set of the "Famous Last Words" music video, which led to the band cancelling shows after suffering various injuries.

"There are tons of rumors and allegations floating around, and we want to clear it up for all of you," a statement on MCR's website read in 2006, per MTV News. "Gerard [Way] tore multiple ligaments in his ankle and [drummer Bob Bryar] received a bad burn to the back of his leg." The group went on to clarify that these were completely accidental injuries that had been the result of a chaotic shoot. "The pain was overwhelming," the band added, explaining that they couldn't perform without putting their bodies at risk. "So there you have it, there were no car wrecks, monster attacks or alien abductions, but there were serious injuries that required this to be the way." 

Bryar unfortunately had the worst outcome from their disastrous shoot, as he eventually developed a staph infection from his burns, and his recovery had to be monitored in the hospital.

My Chemical Romance had a feud with Glenn Beck

After their hit song "Sing" appeared on the TV show "Glee" in 2011, conservative pundit Glenn Beck warned parents against allowing their children to listen to My Chemical Romance's music. "Pay attention to the lyrics," he advised in part on Fox News (via MTV News), claiming, "This is propaganda ... it's an anthem saying 'Join us.' How can you and I possibly win against that?" Beck further insisted that the song was part of a larger war against traditional families, alleging that "our whole culture right now is set up for you and the values you grew up on to lose."

For context, Genius breaks down the tune's general meaning as "call[ing] for people to stand up and fight for what they believe in" — and the members of MCR fittingly refused to apologize for the empowering message or defend themselves in response to Beck's criticism. "It's stirred up what it needed to stir up — the fat cats in America," Gerard Way explained in part, according to BBC News, adding that they had given "Glee" permission to use their music for a reason. Bassist Mikey Way echoed this sentiment, noting of the subsequent controversy, "I feel like it was validation that we're doing something right. If we're getting reaction from people like that we're doing something right."

They fired a drummer for allegedly stealing

In 2011, My Chemical Romance's replacement drummer was fired mid-tour after he was allegedly found stealing from them. On the band's blog, per E! News, Frank Iero wrote that Michael Pedicone had been "caught red-handed stealing from the band and confessed to police after our show last night in Auburn, Washington." 

The guitarist also emphasized how betrayed the band felt, claiming that Pedicone had let them down on a personal level. "We are heartbroken and sick to our stomachs over this entire situation," Iero continued, comparing the band members to a family. My Chemical Romance decided not to take legal action against Pedicone, however, with Iero instead noting on behalf of the group in the statement, "We just want him out of our lives."

The drummer in question responded in a since-deleted tweet, apologizing to the band. "What happened is more complicated than it sounds but I did make a mistake," Pedicone wrote in part (via E! News). "It was never my intention to hurt this band or all of you." In a later interview with Kerrang! (via MTV News), Pedicone claimed that he had only been trying to frame a roadie he'd clashed with by making him appear incompetent, but admitted with regret that it was "the poorest decision of my life."

My Chemic Romance turned down Twilight

Although My Chemical Romance served as an inspiration for the "Twilight" franchise, the band turned down the producers, who offered them a lot of money to write a song for the second film's soundtrack. As author Stephanie Meyer told Entertainment Weekly, the song "Famous Last Words" was particularly influential when it came to her writing the teenage werewolf character of Jacob. ”This band is so in touch for me with Jacob's character," she reflected, speaking about the "really raw, uncontrolled emotion" of MCR's music. But the feeling wasn't reciprocated: "It's not something we'd be huge fans of," guitarist Frank Iero told MTV News in 2009, admitting that none of the band had read the books.

When they got the call about creating a song for "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," My Chemical Romance opted to write the tune "Vampire Money" instead, criticizing Hollywood's corporate greed. "A lot of people around us were like, 'Please, for the love of God, do this movie.' But we'd moved on," Gerard Way explained to NME in 2010 (via Elle). "That's why the song 'Vampire Money' is on our new album, because there's a lot of people chasing that money." 

They had also moved on from their admittedly vampiric look, which combined goth with punk. "We did it because we had one mission, to polarize, to irritate, to contaminate," Way observed. "But then that image gets romanticized and then it gets commoditized."

They broke up partly because of...Obama?

Fans were heartbroken in 2013 when My Chemical Romance announced that they were breaking up. "Being in this band for the past 12 years has been a true blessing," the group wrote in a joint statement on their website's blog, thanking all their supporters for helping them on their journey. "We've been able to see and experience things we never imagined possible. We've shared the stage with people we admire, people we look up to, and best of all, our friends," the band continued. "And now, like all great things, it has come time for it to end." 

At the time, the members of MCR were reluctant to name one specific reason for the band's split, but Gerard Way has mentioned that the re-election of former President Barack Obama meant their music had less political relevance. Thanks, Obama (sorry, it was right there). However, Way also admitted to The Guardian in 2019 that it was also less fun to make music when it was expected to do well commercially, noting that the success of "The Black Parade" had led to creative difficulties. The divisive election of Donald Trump, then, got the frontman thinking about the need for MCR's return.

"That's stuff I thought about when the world started to get super f**ked-up again," he told interviewer Leonie Cooper, but added, "I'd changed so much as a person. ... I didn't know how the band would fit into it any more. But you're right, the world is definitely in need of something positive."

The band's split inspired The Umbrella Academy

In addition to being a musical idol to his many fans, Gerard Way also found time to become a successful comic book writer. One of his creations was "The Umbrella Academy," a comic about an adopted family of supervillains, the onscreen adaptation of which later became Netflix's most-watched show in 2020.

As Way told Rolling Stone in 2019, the frontman was directly inspired by My Chemical Romance and their journey when he wrote the series. "Being in a band is like being in a dysfunctional family and all these personalities are really distinct and really big," the rock musician explained, adding that he considered all the road crew and technicians to be part of their big family, too. "There's little bits of me in all the characters, there's bits of some of the guys in some of those characters and the different roles that we would play in the band and how those roles would change sometimes."

The band's breakup, then, also influenced the emotional turmoil experienced by the comic's characters, who would later be played by the likes of Elliot Page and Aidan Gallagher. "We were in a big pressure cooker of fame and notoriety and the characters experience that in the comic and the show," Way reflected.

MCR's reunion was sabotaged by COVID-19

After six long years, My Chemical Romance delighted their fans by performing on stage together again in 2019. But as they informed fans on their Twitter account, the band had been planning this comeback for a while. "In 2017, we got in a room together to see what would happen," they wrote. "A couple more jam sessions and 39 days of rehearsals later, we're ready to show you what we've learned. See you soon."

Tickets to MCR's first Los Angeles reunion show sold out in under four minutes, according to Alt Press, as fans rushed to secure their places in the crowd. Their 2020 tour was sabotaged by a pandemic, however, as the spread of COVID-19 meant that all the upcoming gigs had to be pushed back. "We are deeply sad, but those emotions are only a fraction of the depth of feeling we have all experienced watching the suffering and loss of the past year," MCR stated in part at the time, per Rolling Stone, emphasizing that they wanted to look out for their fans and be responsible. The group added, "We are sorry if this is disappointing, and we really can't wait to see you in 2022."

That spring, My Chemical Romance kicked off their first world tour in years.

Gerard Way doesn't think My Chemical Romance is emo

Although many people have called My Chemical Romance "emo" over the years, Gerard Way has made it clear that he doesn't appreciate the label. The frontman sparked a lot of debate back in 2007 by slamming the emo genre and denying that his music was part of it. 

"Basically, it's never been accurate to describe us," Way told the University of Maine's student newspaper, per Rolling Stone. The singer also claimed that MCR struggled to find success at first because they didn't fit into the mold of emo bands that were popular at the time. Making his opinion crystal clear, he bluntly added, "I think emo is f**king garbage, it's bulls**t." Way went on to explain that while the media grouped them together with emo bands that got big at the same time, the music itself was very different, insisting, "All I can say is anyone actually listening to the records, put the records next to each other and listen to them and there's actually no similarities."

Perhaps further highlighting this, the MCR band members have described their own musical influences as ranging from British rock bands Queen and The Smiths to heavy metal groups like Iron Maiden to punk outfits like Black Flag and the Misfits, as Way told MTV News.