With his wild onstage antics and upcoming “sleazy Detroit rock” album, My Chemical Romance’s frontman is a true disciple of The Stooges. “I didn’t want the girls to want to f–k me, I wanted the straight guys to want to f–k me,” Way says. “I got that from Iggy.”
SPIN: Gerard, when did you first hear Iggy’s music?
GERARD WAY: This is kind of a crazy story. There was a cartoon I saw as a child called Rock & Rule.
IGGY POP: Oh my God! Somebody saw it!
WAY: Yeah! It had a huge impact on me. It was set in the future and starred [the music of] Iggy, Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, Cheap Trick, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
POP: I remember my song was called “Pain & Suffering.” [Sings] “Red wine turns to blood / A cow floats upside down in a river of mud!”
WAY: It scared me, but I was drawn to it. I rediscovered it in middle school, right when [Iggy’s pop hit] “Candy” came out. I’d been a metalhead, but then I got into punk and the Ramones, and through that I got into Iggy.
POP: They were good to me that way, the Ramones. I just saw a picture of a night at CBGB’s in 1975 when they held a party for me. We all had that same bowl haircut! Five of us with a bowl. Mine was platinum and theirs were dark.
SPIN: The Ramones were from Queens; Iggy, you’re from Michigan, and Gerard, you’re from Jersey — three of the most disrespected places in America. Do you feel a connection because of that?
POP: Yeah, real knucklehead places. Allen Ginsberg is from New Jersey, from Paterson, and it’s a pretty ugly town as he paints it.
WAY: I’m from Newark, which is pretty much Paterson. Paterson is a fucked-up place.
POP: I always liked Newark because it was so embattled. I like semi-torn-down places where I could get nestled in and get something done without anyone bothering me.
WAY: Definitely. We practiced in this factory there where there had been murders. It’s in the deconstructed, destroyed cities where people will leave you alone so you can create yourself.
SPIN: Do you both carry your hometowns with you in the art you make?
POP: I certainly do. If I’m in Paris and the people get very French, I find my drawl thickening, like [adopts heavy Detroit accent] “You know what there, Froggy…”
WAY: I wouldn’t have been able to move to L.A. if I felt I was going to lose my identity as a New Jerseyian. My accent has gotten thicker since I’ve lived here. L.A. people might hate me for saying this, but when [my wife] Lindsey and I moved, we thought, “Everyone here is so polite. If a bunch of people moved out from the East Coast, they could fucking run this place.” Like the person I’m getting coffee from, he’s definitely motherfucking me and is going to say something when I’m gone. Not like in New York, where they’ll just motherfuck you to your face.
POP:“Heyyyy, man, great to see you! You’re a beautiful cat!” But seriously, there’s some highly capable assassins out there. So hats off to ’em.
SPIN: I wanted to talk to you both about influential concerts in your life. Iggy, you’ve spoken about seeing Jim Morrison and the Doors in 1967.
POP: It was the homecoming dance at the University of Michigan, and it was an intimate setting, sort of like the prom scene in Carrie. When the dude appeared, Morrison, he lurched onto the stage, and people probably thought he was drunk. But I knew that cat had had three or four hits of acid. His pupils were totally dilated, and he had on a sort of Hedy Lamarras-Delilah outfit, and when he opened his mouth, he sang only in falsetto baby talk. There was no applause. No approval. No comprehension. It was a visibly unsuccessful evening, and that’s what I loved about it in retrospect. Afterwards, I was vibrating with this feeling that I have no excuse not to get our miserable, good-for-nothin’ band out on the stage.
WAY: All of the performances that mattered to me were the shows I couldn’t go to because they’d already happened and I was just a kid. In a lot of ways, my band has always been in response to stuff. Seeing bands like Thursday and At the Drive-In, they were plugged into what I like to call “Motor City motherfuckin’ rock,” channeling the Stooges, channeling the MC5. During this one performance, ATDI were wearing catsuits, crawling under the stage. It was sexy and challenged your sexuality. I guess all I added to that was eyeliner. I wanted to challenge gender, abuse the audience. I didn’t want the girls to want to fuck me, I wanted the straight guys to want to fuck me. I think I got that from Iggy.
POP: Maybe you should give John Mayer a call. [Laughs] I think whatever it is you’re doing, if you’re gonna get up and do it in front of the public, it’s going to blow unless you give free rein to your emotional truths. Otherwise you’re going to look like you’re pandering.
WAY: I’ve always loved Lust for Life-the whole record for me is perfect. You’re not pandering at all. I started to feel on the last [My Chemical Romance] record like I was pandering, and that the money had put me in stasis. It’s like a trap: Stasis is death, and I started to make safe decisions. But then on [2007’s Projekt Revolution] tour, our last one for [The Black Parade], a journalist told me we were like the fucking Stooges up there. That’s what we’re trying to get back to on this new record, what we had on that one tour.
POP: A lot of young musicians get the money at the wrong time. They get it for something they don’t feel great about, and it’ll make you feel so bad it’ll destroy you and kill you. Musical types tend to combine the burden of the author with the burden of the actor.
WAY: I never thought about that, being author and actor. We were going to these cities where there were hate crimes directed at the kids listening to us, the kids wearing all black. I retreated and stopped being on the crusade. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt. The light at the end of the tunnel was a friend reminding me I didn’t wear a Public Image Ltd. pin on my jacket in high school because I wanted to get spit on, I wore it because I wanted to wear it. Our kids are the same way: It’s their fucking choice. I can’t protect them. I need to give them what they want.
POP: If you give a good performance, something that gets some feeling across to people, that’s such a rare gift. It’s underestimated at this point in history, when the music biz is inevitably turning into a kind of politics. It’s good to withdraw at certain times. A steady diet of it is rough on a person.