My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero is not only one of our signature artists but he's also one of our favorite interviewees. Frank loves to talk about guitars and music and his enthusiasm for his craft is always abundantly clear. The Epiphone Frank Iero Phant-o-matic was released last year to great reviews. Frank and his mates from MCR have been hard at work in their studio in Los Angeles on a new album for 2013.
My Chemical Romance also recently announced that starting in October, the band plans to release 2 un-heard songs every month through March, 2013. The tracks were recorded just prior to the release of their last album Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and are known among hardcore MCR fans as the Conventional Weapons sessions. "We hope you enjoy these time capsules, and that they may shed a little more light on how and where Danger Days came from, and maybe even where the future of MCR might be heading. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...and now it is finally time to lift the veil on Conventional Weapons," Frank announced on the official website. Epiphone caught up with Frank to get the full scoop on what he's been up to.
So of all the guitars you could have chosen to be your signature axe, why a Wilshire? You're so animated on stage that I would think the Wilshire is one of the few guitars that has a big sound without being a physical burden.
Frank Iero: Damn, you kind of stole my answer. It's true though it's lightweight. It's a versatile guitar that can take a beating and sounds huge when you want it to. I was using the Les Paul Elitist for a while and I loved them, but they were just so heavy and bulky. Now after playing my Wilshire Phant-o-matic, I don't think I could ever go back to the 'Paul full time.
Have you noticed any changes to your style since you began playing your Phant-o-matic?
Frank Iero: I think the sound is definitely more diverse. I can go from really big distorted chunks to very delicate almost brittle tones or stop anywhere in between. I like having that versatility all in one instrument, especially for live shows. I can get a lot of different sounds without having to change the feel mid set.
When you do switch to other guitars, do you notice a difference?
Frank Iero: Oh absolutely, there's a huge difference. But guitars are living things. They have a soul. Some don't and it's apparent. But that's the beauty of the instrument. Every guitar is different and no two Wilshires are the same. But when you go from body style to body style, it's a whole other animal all together. If I could add only one thing I would extend the neck a few frets. I have an old 24-fret Dan Armstrong, and it's nice having that extra room to go really high.
As a group, how do you like to talk about music when you're arranging and composing? Do you find you have to try to interpret non-musical ideas into something musical?
Frank Iero: Absolutely. I think we probably talk about music in more abstract terms than we do in musical vernacular. Colors, feelings, and setting--all of these come into play when making My Chem songs. We try very hard to use music to convey emotion and to transport the listener. I think that's why we reference so much film while making music. Our songs are very much tied to the visual. Sometimes we only see the scene in our heads, but if you listen hard enough maybe you can see it too.
Ok, Emerald Green is super cool. Why go green for the Ltd. Edition Phant-o-matic?
Frank Iero: You know its strange, to be perfectly honest. Green used to be my least favorite color. But a few years back while we were working on Danger Days, I had a dream about this guitar. It was my Wilshire design but emerald green with a light green racing stripe and it looked badass. So I called up Cara Hogan, my rep over at Epiphone, and asked her if there was any way we could make it for real. From then on, green has just been around me for some reason. My character in the record ended up wearing green--his symbol was green. I don't know, but anyway I really love the way the guitar looks in real life. It's pretty surreal to dream something and then actually see it become a reality.
Have you ever thought of composing music for film soundtracks?
Frank Iero: Yea, actually that is a passion I think everyone in the band has, to possibly one-day score for film. It's something we've talked about quite a bit. I would love to see that happen one day.
Many players talk about finding a guitar that becomes their voice. Is the Phant-o-matic that kind of instrument for you? We hope so.
Frank Iero: Haha, yeah, I hope so too. It's a fun instrument to play. It feels very comfortable, but I think we are still getting to know one another and that's fine by me. I find the unknown exciting.
Is there anything you find frustrating about playing guitar that your fans might find surprising?
Frank Iero: I think guitar and music in general has always been a love /hate relationship for me. I don't know if I could love it as much as I do if I didn't really hate it at times. As far as lead versus rhythm goes, I think that line tends to get blurred in our band. But I'm not the soloing type of guy. I never really wanted to do that for some reason. I kind of prefer anti-solos. I don't have anything against them, sometimes I think they are absolutely called for and I enjoy when other people play them well, it's just never been my thing.
The new record is on the horizon and we'll talk about that in the future. But can you give us a hint of how the Wilshire is influencing your attitude? More experimental, perhaps?
Frank Iero: Hmmm, I'd say there's definitely more experimentation happening. As a band and as players, we are constantly trying to push ourselves and striving to reach that next level. We like to surprise ourselves and try to impress each other. Sometimes subtlety is that hardest thing to pull off on guitar.