Based in New Jersey, My Chemical Romance is an alternative pop/rock and punk-pop band that has been compared to Thursday and, to a lesser degree, Cursive. Their name was inspired by author Irvine Welsh (of -Trainspotting fame), and while many of their songs are loud, fast, hyper, and aggressive, My Chemical Romance's work also tends to be melodic and pop-minded. My Chemical Romance got started in the early 2000s, when lead singer Gerard Way and drummer Matt Pelissier decided to try writing some songs together. The first tune that Way and Pelissier -- who had been friends since high school -- came up with was called "Skylines and Turnstiles" (a post-9/11 song written after Way witnessed the Twin Towers fall while working at his animation job in New York City). Way and Pelissier both felt good about the song, and Way asked guitarist Ray Toro if he would be interested in working with them. My Chemical Romance's five-man lineup was complete when Way, Pelissier, and Toro joined forces with bassist Mikey Way (Gerard's little brother) and guitarist Frank Iero. With that lineup in place, the band started playing all around the Northeast Corridor and made plans to begin working on their first album.
In 2002, Eyeball Records (the New York-based indie for which Thursday had recorded) released My Chemical Romance's debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. The album was often compared to Thursday -- a comparison that, for various reasons, was inevitable and unavoidable. Both bands were from New Jersey, both had recorded for Eyeball, and both combined punk-pop's musical aggression with introspective, confessional lyrics. Plus, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love was produced by Thursday vocalist Geoff Rickly. But Thursday isn't their only influence; reviewers have cited the Smiths, Morrissey, the Cure, and the Misfits as influences, while the older Way has even cited British heavy metal icons Iron Maiden.
Lyrically, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love is as dark as it is introspective and cathartic; Way has been quoted as saying that the band's lyrics were a great way for him to deal with the problems he had been going through (which included severe depression, drug/alcohol abuse, and a serious illness in his family). The 2002 release included Way and Pelissier's first song, "Skylines and Turnstiles," and many of the album's other song titles were equally intriguing, including "Honey, This Mirror Isn't Big Enough for the Two of Us" and "Vampires Will Never Hurt You." In 2003, My Chemical Romance signed with Reprise/Warner Bros. and released the aggressively slick Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge one year later. Proving to be hugely popular, the album boasted several successful singles on commercial radio and MTV, including "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," "Helena," and "The Ghost of You," as the album climbed the Billboard charts.
Amid their growing popularity, Pelissier departed from the band in mid-2004, and he was soon replaced on drums by Bob Bryar; they'd previously met while touring with the Used, as Bryar was doing sound for the Utah act. Relentless touring continued to increase their fanatical fan following; the band headlined dates with Alkaline Trio, scored an opening slot for Green Day, and shared bills with Story of the Year, Taking Back Sunday, and the Used, among many others. As My Chemical Romance prepared to enter the studio for their third album, they issued Life on the Murder Scene in March 2006. The CD and double-DVD package extensively documented practically everything MCR, including demos, music videos, live footage, interviews, and more; it sufficiently tied fans over until My Chemical Romance (now boasting a sober and bleach-haired Gerard Way) issued the darkly conceptual and highly ambitious The Black Parade that October. Anticipation for the album could barely be contained at the release of its grandiose first single, "Welcome to the Black Parade," whose elaborate accompanying video looked and sounded like the result of Tim Burton directing Queen. The record went platinum by early 2007.
As the compelling, pale-faced frontman of dynamic rock outfit My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way is one of a few key musicians responsible for bringing emo and punk music into the mainstream eye at the turn of the millennium -- and successfully sparking a million conversations about what is and is not considered punk in the process. He was born on April 9, 1977, in Newark, NJ, and raised in nearby Belleville. His grandmother Elena was a huge source of inspiration and encouragement to him growing up, teaching the young Way how to sing, draw, and perform. Way's first public performance was as Peter Pan in an elementary school play, but just as that show was over, he made a conscious decision to immerse himself in art and comics (preferring things "slightly evil") rather than anything dealing with drama club. Since his neighborhood wasn't exactly the safest place, Way spent a lot of time indoors with his younger brother Mikey, creating imaginary worlds to which they could escape. Despite his passion for drawing, Way never lost his love of music and taught himself how to play guitar as a teenager. He was a withdrawn kid -- in contrast to his outgoing, life-of-the-party brother -- and Way spent a lot of time by himself sketching and listening to bands like Iron Maiden, the Smiths, the Cure, the Misfits, and Queen.
Following high school graduation, Way enrolled at the School of Visual Arts in New York to study cartooning and illustration. He spent some time interning at DC Comics, and after earning his bachelor of fine arts degree, eventually landed a gig doing work in toy design and animation; he even pitched an animated series to Cartoon Network at one point. Way had always wanted to be in a band -- especially after one particularly inspirational Smashing Pumpkins gig in 1997 with his brother -- and though he played in a few random ones over the years, it wasn't until the September 11th attacks that he really got the motivation to do something important with his life. He witnessed firsthand the collapse of the World Trade Towers from his office window, questioned how he was making a difference with his days, and soon wrote the song "Skylines and Turnstiles" about the 9/11 events back home in his parents' basement. Pressed with a sense of urgency, he confronted high school friend and drummer Matt Pelissier to start a band, and after convincing guitarist Ray Toro (whom Way felt was the best guitarist he knew), the seeds to My Chemical Romance were sown. Bringing aboard his brother Mikey on bass -- who brought with him the band's name -- and eventually rounding out their sound with second guitarist Frank Iero, My Chemical Romance recorded their first album within three months of forming. It was released in 2002 on local indie Eyeball Records and produced by the band's good friend Geoff Rickly, whose own local band Thursday Way had previously designed some T-shirts for.
As My Chemical Romance's popularity steadily grew over the next few years, especially after the success of their second album, Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge (whose cover art Way drew), Way continued to battle -- as he had for many years -- depression, alcoholism, and drug abuse. This was especially compounded by the death of his grandmother, for whom he wrote the song "Helena" as a means of coping. After suffering through some very low lows, Way finally managed to get himself sober in mid-2004. By the time of the fall 2006 release of the group's wildly popular concept album The Black Parade, Way appeared in the media noticeably several pounds lighter and with bleached-blonde hair in contrast to his prior jet-black locks. His transformation sparked many comparisons to Billy Corgan; Way denied those comments, attributing his look as merely a reflection of The Black Parade's sickly main character and its album themes of life and death. Through his band's success, Way never lost his passion for art and comics, and continued to sketch while on the road. He created a comic book series called The Umbrella Academy that was due to be released in late 2007 via Dark Horse Comics; Way wrote the story, broke it down into issues and designed the characters, leaving the actual drawing in the hands of two other artists, however. A few months after brother Mikey got married in March 2007, Way announced his own engagement.
Best known as the bassist for New Jersey alternative emo-rockers My Chemical Romance -- and, of course, lead singer Gerard Way's little brother -- Mikey Way was born on September 10, 1980, in Newark, NJ. He was raised in nearby Belleville, where he and his brother spent a lot of time in the house together creating fantasy worlds, since their mother preferred them not going outside into their crime-ridden neighborhood. Much more outgoing than his older brother, Way was involved in the local music scene, interning for a time at fledgling indie Eyeball Records. When Gerard approached him following the September 11th attacks in 2001 about joining a band he'd just started, Way jumped at the chance, even suggesting the name My Chemical Romance (taking it from a line in a book by -Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh). Eye surgery found him shedding his trademark black-rimmed glasses around the time of the 2006 release of the band's third album, the wildly popular The Black Parade. Way then married in March 2007 and took a subsequent hiatus from My Chemical Romance to spend time with his new wife while the band continued touring.
Guitarist Raymond Toro-Ortiz -- known to My Chemical Romance fans as Ray Toro -- was born on July 15, 1977, in Kearny, NJ, and attended the same high school in Belleville as his future bandmates Gerard and Mikey Way. Sharing a bedroom with his two brothers, Toro was inspired to pick up the guitar after watching one of his older brothers play along to classic rock artists like Led Zeppelin. Because his neighborhood was not a safe place (dead bodies and drug addicts were constants of the area), his mother preferred him not going outside alone, so Toro instead passed his high school years inside practicing guitar and listening to metal and classic rock. Toro had a passion for film as well and later attended college to become an editor. After the September 11th attacks, however, he was approached by his old high school acquaintance Gerard Way about starting a band with him and drummer Matt Pelissier. Though he initially refused -- he had recently started drumming with a different band -- Toro was eventually convinced, and the three became the nucleus of My Chemical Romance. After adding second guitarist Frank Iero into the fray, Toro became the group's lead guitarist. He eventually became known not only as the one responsible for most of the band's guitar solos, but also as the one with the nice afro-like hair.
My Chemical Romance rhythm guitarist Frank Iero was born on Halloween 1981 and grew up in Belleville, NJ, close to his future bandmates Ray Toro and Gerard and Mikey Way. He didn't go to school with them, however, attending a local Catholic school instead, and as a sickly kid, he suffered from constant bouts of bronchitis and ear infections, ultimately developing the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), whose mono-like symptoms afflicted him into adulthood. Iero's parents split when he was young and he grew up living with his mother, who nicely lent out her basement to her son's many band practices; his father was a musician and a big influence on young Iero wanting to learn an instrument. He first tried drums, later picked up the guitar instead, and began playing in bands at age 11. Somewhat a loner in high school, the budding musician soon discovered Nirvana and punk music -- falling in love with bands like Black Flag and the Bouncing Souls -- and eventually started a punk band with friends called Pencey Prep, acting as the group's lead singer and guitarist. (My Chemical Romance's first gig was opening for Pencey Prep at a local hall.) Following high school, he enrolled at Rutgers University on a scholarship, but when My Chemical Romance came looking for a second guitarist to round out their sound right as Pencey Prep was falling apart, Iero jumped at the chance. My Chemical Romance was one of the most exciting bands on the local scene, and he dropped out of school to join them; his punk influences wound up nicely balancing out other guitarist Ray Toro's metal-leaning instincts. On the side from My Chemical Romance, Iero runs his own company called Skeleton Crew, which is a clothing line, record label, and publishing company wrapped into one; his side band Leathermouth is also rumored to be releasing their debut in 2007.