Moving on from My Chemical Romance with Death Spells
Guitarist Frank Iero is one of Epiphone’s youngest and most eclectic signature artists. With his Wilshire Phant-o-matic--designed in collaboration with Frank and Epiphone--he powered My Chemical Romance's world tour supporting their hit studio album, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. Though Chemical Romance recently announced their break up, Frank is already at work on new music with his group, Death Spells.
Frank Iero's enthusiasm for his craft--and for all kinds of music--was very evident in our recent interview in which artists as diverse as The Ramones, King Curtis, Richie Havens, and the Smiths came up as influences. The Epiphone Frank Iero Phant-o-matic was released to great reviews in 2011 and continues to be embraced by both new and veteran players. It features a Mahogany body, a vintage style Varitone™ control, and Alnico Classic™ pickups in a beautiful Antique Ivory or limited Emerald Green finish. And as you'll read in our interview, Frank's Phant-o-matic never rests.
Great to speak with you again, Frank. First things first--have your kids started playing your Wilshire Phant-o-matic yet?
Every time I pickup a guitar, they are all over it too. They are definitely intrigued by the instrument. And although I have been pushing the Phant-o-matic on them, my good friend Cara from Epiphone sent them these tiny Zack Wylde Pee Wee and Vee Wee guitars. So they have gravitated towards those for the time being. It's pretty rad. They have their own little half stacks and everything. I'm super jealous.
They are officially little people now with opinions and personalities--no longer screeching amoebas--and it's blowing my mind on a daily basis. They are without a doubt the best things that ever happened to me. They make life worth living. And they love music too, which fills me with such a sense of pride (laughs). They are not the best singers yet, even though they think they are, but their interpretive dancing skills are unsurpassed. My wife and I blast the Ramones for them and you can literally see the rhythm take control like a psychotropic drug.
The last we heard, My Chemical Romance was working on a new album in their studio in LA. But after the Conventional Weapons series concluded, MCR announced their break-up. What happened?
Yea, well you know, life happened. The band ran its course. We had an amazing 12 years together, which I wouldn't trade in for the world. But it had just come time for the band to end and for a new chapter to begin.
What's next for you?
Well, there's lot's to come actually. I'm currently working on a few different projects at the moment. One of which is Death Spells, a project James Dewees and I started a few months back. We have a bunch of songs recorded, and I'm actually finishing the vocals in the next week or so on some of those. We did a short tour last month just to stretch our legs and knock the dust off the songs We are looking to get back out on the road again with Death Spells as soon as we can figure out a release schedule. But it's a really fun project. It's always evolving and I get to play and think about music in a whole different way.
I have also recently been in the studio recording for an as-of-yet untitled project. I found myself with a bunch of songs that I wanted to hear come to life and decided to just go in and do it before they killed me in my sleep. I'm unsure as to what may come of this record I'm making. It's way different from Death Spells, maybe more in the vein of what I did for the Frankenweenie soundtrack. But it feels like a crime of passion--something I'm compelled to create--ha--or destroy. We shall see who survives, the songs or me.
And then there are always a few other side projects and creative outlets I have to have going at all times. Fun death metal bands I dream up with friends, possible scoring opportunities that intrigue me, and I also started a website (www.frank-iero.com) where I've been posting my photography, poetry, and short stories. There's also some music posted there from my SoundCloud page.
Do you feel pressure to create something that's very different from My Chemical Romance?
No, I don't think that's ever really come into my head. No matter what I do next, it's going to be different from My Chem. That band was special because of the 4 guys involved. Nothing any of us do on our own will ever be what that was. And that's a good thing. There's no sense in repeating yourself
So with a new attitude and the freedom of starting again, what have you been listening to?
Jeez, how long do you want this interview to be (laughs)? I'm always listening to stuff and trying to seek out new things--or at least things that are new to me. My dad just gave me the King Curtis Live at the Fillmore West record. Wow, what a listen that is. The incredible playing aside, I've been amazed at the mixing of that record. There's such clarity and space. It's really well done. I love the sound of the new Queens of the Stone Age record. I think Josh Homme did a great job on that. The Pissed Jeans records are on repeat a lot. My friend just got me into the Mummies, this California garage rock band from the 90's that used to dress up like mummies--really rad stuff. And then the staples of course; The Pixies, The Smiths, The Stones--lots of Joy Division lately, Johnny Cash, Richie Havens. So sad about his recent passing, that really made me sad. Seeing Richie as a young kid with my dad literally changed my life, it made me want to start a band.
Have you noticed that your writing is changing, too?
It’s funny--that process is ever changing for me, especially now with having new bands and new capabilities in technology. It used to be the only way to have band practice was to turn up to '11' in a small room and just sonically punish one another. And sometimes that's still the best way--depends on the band. But the writing process with Death Spells, for instance, has been a lot of communicating online. Sending files back and forth, tweaking things in Logic or recording ideas in Pro Tools and then bouncing ideas off of one another that way. It gives us a chance to really flesh out an idea or hear the song come to fruition early on. And that's exciting.
When working on other projects where I am the only composer, working on my laptop has opened up so many doors. The fact that I can demo everything on my own relatively quick and know early on what works and what doesn't has been amazing. Also, having a digital studio at you fingertips let's less of those late night ideas slip through the cracks. This can be a great thing and a terrible thing by the way.
You've had your signature Epiphone Wilshire Phant-o-matic for over a year now. Do you use it for your writing?
Yes, absolutely. Everyday in fact. The Phant-o-matic has been my go-to instrument since the day it arrived, finished, in my hands. I love that guitar. It's everything I wanted it to be and so versatile. It feels like an extension of my body.
It's one of those things where at the end of the day, if the Phant-o-matic doesn't happen to be the perfect guitar for recording a certain song I've made, you can be sure it played a major part in that song's birth. That's why there are so many guitars in the world, a song will tell you which guitar it needs in order to become whole.
You pulled double duty at this year's Skate and Surf Festival in New Jersey performing with 2 bands on 2 days. You like to stay busy.
Yeah, it was quite a busy weekend to say the least. We did a Death Spells set on Saturday and then a LeATHERMOUTH set on Sunday. It was really hectic and crazy and stressful. But at the end of it all, it was really fun. I love playing music, especially with my friends. I have such an insatiable appetite for creating and performing that maybe it's best for me to have 8 bands going at the same time, even though I find performing and creating absolutely terrifying (laughs). I don't know, maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment.
I'm a pretty high-strung person to begin with. I worry about everything and everyone constantly. And on top of that, I have weird social anxiety/stage fright thing. My wife just laughs at me. I do it to myself though. It's kind of like how a stunt man finds joy in near death experiences. I have a love-hate relationship with music. It keeps me alive, but it will probably be the death of me. The Evel Knievel of rock and roll does have a nice ring to it though.
What can we look forward to this year? More touring?
Well, I'm in the studio now working and the plan is to have a Death Spells release out this year. I'd love to do a full tour with that as soon as it makes sense. And as far as the other projects I have going on, I'm just playing it by ear and letting the music tell me when it's done with me.