Inside the Mind of Frank Iero

There’s one man who has managed to stand the Hard Rock Test of Time throughout the last fifteen years, and his name is Frank Anthony Iero, Jr. The former My Chemical Romance and Leathermouth man unveiled his first foray into a solo career a couple of years ago when the youthful side project frnkiero and the cellabration emerged out of whatever ashes remained circa 2013. Having toured the world relentlessly under this moniker, he one day decided to call it quits and make the switch to another project, the still ongoing Frank Iero & the Patience. With two studio albums under his belt (one with each project), Iero is slowly but surely becoming a frontman in his own right, whether he likes it or not. Having dressed up especially for our interview, we meet Iero in the empty foyer of Utrecht’s TivoliVredenburg. He’s wearing a brown jacket and a cheesy, animal-themed t-shirt as he sits down next to me with the vast Utrecht skyline in sight. Tonight he’ll be opening up for Taking Back Sunday, but now he’s got half an hour to answer a slew of questions about his new project, last year’s terrifying bus crash and what’s next for him, if anything is ‘next’ at all.

Iero live in Utrecht. (c) Dewi Mik
Iero live in Utrecht. (c) Dewi Mik

Hey Frank. How are you doing?
Great, yeah! It’s the last day of tour, and you tend to have three feelings about it. On one hand you’re excited to go home, but at the same time you’re also very stressed about getting everything done in time for load-out and stuff. On the other hand you’re also sad because you hung out with your friends for so long, and now you have to say goodbye.

And how’s the tour been?
It’s been amazing! I got to tour with Taking Back Sunday quite a few times before and it’s always a fun time. It’s rare that you get to meet a band who you’re able to connect with on a personal level as well as an artistic level.

You recently opted to change your band’s name from Cellabration to Patience. Why?
I feel like when you go into the studio to make a new record the idea, at least in my head, is to burn down what you did in the past and reinvent the way that you think about making music. You don’t want to repeat yourself, because that just doesn’t hold any excitement. To do that and then call the band the same name seems kind of foolish, and I’m in a unique position where my name comes before that of the band. I can change the band name every time based on how I feel about the things in my life that are going on right now and what I want to bring with me. I need to fulfil that experience.

I see. And I take it you’ve got the same band members still?
It’s actually different! Our friend Rob, who was playing bass in the Cellabration, decided he wanted to get off the road. He got married, bought a house and decided he want to settle down. We have a new bass player, and his name is Alex.

Iero accepts a gift from a fan. (c) Dewi Mik
Iero accepts a gift from a fan. (c) Dewi Mik

So why did you decide, of all possible options, to pick the word Patience as a descriptor for your band?
With Cellabration I felt like I needed a distraction which would kind of take away from my defect as a frontman. I didn’t feel really comfortable in that position, as it wasn’t something that I ever really wanted to be. I thought that people would hopefully not notice if I added something else to the end of my name, but I don’t see it that way anymore. At this point in my life I feel like I need the most help with the ability to take a step back and appreciate the now. That virtue of patience with myself, my surroundings, the people I love and all that comes with it. That’s easier said than it is done, though.

Do you think you’ve grown into that frontman role, or is it still a separate entity?
I think I think about it differently, haha. I had this pre-conceived notion of what that meant, like what I needed to be, what I needed to do and how I needed to act. How did I go about gaining people’s interests? And how do I continue to keep people interested? I began to realize that I don’t need to be this quintessential frontman, I can be myself. I can be awkward and introverted and still do it, y’know? It’s in my own way, and I think that’s what makes it work.

Parachutes came out last year, but can you tell me about the transitional period between that record and Stomachaches?
With Stomachaches I just wrote those songs because they needed to be written, and I recorded them in my basement. I feel like those songs wanted to sound like you weren’t supposed to listen to them, almost as if they were just little secret tracks I put together. Almost like it was just me capturing a moment in time. Now, I find myself in a band where I’m writing songs that I know will come out. I didn’t have any of that in my head the first time round.

Demos basically?
Not necessarily, as they were more for myself. I associate the word ‘demo’ with the idea that you’re going to work on it again and eventually release it later on. For me, those recordings were the beginning and the end for those songs. This time around, I did demo them and after that I went into the studio and fucking overthought everything because I knew that these songs were going to come out and that people were going to hear them. Now, I find myself in a completely different position as there’s an end-game in sight. At that point I felt like I could either play safe and write what I think people want to hear and veil things so that others don’t see too far into where I am and what I’m saying, or I could be brutally honest and make the record I’d always wanted to make. I could be unapologetic about it, and that seemed to be the better route for me because everything else seemed like a fucking waste of time, like masturbation. So when I decided to go for it I decided to call the person who I knew would push me over the edge, and that’s Ross Robinson. It’s a name that had always been kicked around, but I was too scared to call him. He’s worked with Slipknot, Korn, The Cure and At the Drive-In.

Iero shows off his hand tattoos. (c) Jack Parker
Iero shows off his hand tattoos. (c) Jack Parker

And also the new Suicide Silence album.
Yeah! They were actually the band before us in the studio with Ross, so we actually shared some equipment. It was nice, and they were very friendly guys.

What do you think of their change in direction? Now that we’re on that topic.
I don’t know if I have a specific opinion on that band in particular. I feel like when a band in general does something like that, it’s exciting.

It’s a brave decision.
Yeah, y’know? That’s the thing, you can’t make records for other people; you have to make them for yourself. Succeed or fail? It doesn’t matter, because you made that record for you. If you make an album for other people then it’ll smell like shit and it definitely won’t last. I applaud that. I remember being a kid too, though, and being betrayed when bands would do things like that. But I was a kid, and kids feel that. You grow up, and you begin to understand that people need to grow, change and evolve before you end up dead in the water. Some of those records that I got so upset about became my favourites.

Anyway, back to Parachutes. Is the record lyrically on a similar wavelength to your previous output?
I think it possibly goes in the same direction, because I tend to write about personal experiences or things that I’ve seen first-hand. In that respect I feel like I need to live it in order to be able to write about it. I find it better than making up stories and writing about them. I’ve been in that situation before, but it’s not something I would want to do myself.

Iero live in Utrecht. (c) Dewi Mik
Iero live in Utrecht. (c) Dewi Mik

So you wouldn’t call this a concept record?
Umm, I wouldn’t but I could see why someone would interpret it in that way. I feel like the concept is realizing things happen for you instead of happen to you, and it’s all about perception. Knowing that we’re all going to meet our end, the things that we sometimes see as the worst thing that could ever happen end up being the best thing that happen to us. That’s because we learn from it, move on and have our perceptions changed.

Do you have any examples of that?
I have tons of my own personal ones, but I don’t feel that it’s important to know away from the context of the record. There was one moment that started the record, though, and that was the idea for the track World Destroyer. For a long time I thought that this one particular moment shattered me in a certain way, because it changed the way I thought about things and changed the way I interpreted things and my reactions to said things. I think that happens to us a lot; we have these crossroads in life that influence us and affect the way that we feel about so much. It’s maybe the best thing that ever happened because it makes you become the person that you are today. A lot of the discussions that I would have with Ross would concern what each song is about and what they mean. He would be like, “are you happy with where you are today?” and I would say yes. He would then say, “do you think that you could be where you are and have what you have and be around your loved ones if this one thing didn’t happen?” And then you start to realize how much something shaped you, but in the best possible way.

So Ross engaged with you on a more personal level too?
Oh my god, yeah. Ross and I worked together for 17 days and they were some of the most introspective days that I’ve ever had. He does this thing which he refers to as ‘mental surgery’. He gets you so in-tune with what you’re writing and who you are as an artist, as well as your bandmates. It’s such a deep experience! You’re all in the same room discussing what these songs mean and relating to each other. It sounds ridiculous now, but that doesn’t always happen. I would be in bands where I wouldn’t actually find out what a song meant until months later after you’ve played on it, and I would always ask myself why you’d ever do that. With Ross’ method, you’re all firing on the same cylinders and the intent is all laserbeamed in. That’s something which really helped.

Ahead of the record’s release you wrote a heartfelt letter to your fans about how Parachutes defines you as an artist. In what way does it define you, though?
When I listened back to it I felt like the decisions I made and the things I talked about were all relatable back to their original intention when I wrote the initial song. With the process I went through to make it, I feel 150% proud of it. If someone asked me right now to put together twelve songs which defined my career, I would play them Parachutes.

(c) Jack Parker
(c) Jack Parker

Have you had any time to think about what’s next for you?
Normally I think I would have a different answer to this question, but because of the way that life has gone the past few months I really don’t know what will happen next. And I feel okay about that. Right now I feel like I’m very much living within the moment. Previously I’d spent a lot of time thinking and wondering about if I was ever going to be able play again, because there were these songs that I cared so much about live. Now I get to do that, I can’t see too far beyond it. I’m very present right now, and I’m actually enjoying that. Very rarely have I been 100% present in life, as I’m usually ten steps ahead. It’s one of the things that I actually hated about myself.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the accident if you’d rather not, but I’m just wondering how you’ve coped in the aftermath?
It’s okay to talk about it, because I’ve talked about it almost to exhaustion. I understand the question though, and that there’s a basis for it. I don’t know how I feel. Some days I feel really good, and then there’s days where I don’t feel good at all. I think that the most important thing is that I didn’t know if I could ever do this again. I didn’t know if I ever wanted to do this again. I’m still not 100% sure, but I’m doing it because it scares the hell out of me and I don’t know what else to do. You know what I mean? Like, I’ve been in bands since I was eleven years old. That’s 24 years of my life spent in this realm, and it defines you. I’ve spent more time in bands than time spent not being in bands, more than half my life. I don’t know, and like I said sometimes the good days make it worthwhile but then the bad ones make you question a lot of things. As far as I can answer the question, though: I don’t know how I feel. I know that I’m here, and that’s more than enough for me right now.

So if you were to wake up tomorrow morning and pack it all in, what would you cherish the most? In hindsight that is from across 24 whole years though, haha.
Oh man, such a long time! I don’t know if I can deliver you with an answer to that in just one go. There’s stuff that comes to mind, though. Getting to play onstage and having my kids come up and sing along was fucking dope! Lots of shows and moments are flooding through my head right now. Here’s the thing: I don’t think that I could ever stop creating. I just don’t know how much longer I can be out here and do it in this way.

Iero live in Utrecht. (c) Jack Parker
Iero live in Utrecht. (c) Jack Parker

Now I don’t want to discuss My Chemical Romance, but I do want to touch upon Leathermouth. You reunited with them once in 2013, but have you got plans to ever resurrect it?
Hmm. You see, here’s the thing: when that band started it was me joining someone else’s group. They were together, they had a singer in place but that didn’t work out. I liked them so much that I told them I wanted to work with them. So we did a record together, and then they all dropped out of it for their own reasons. I was left kind of alone, holding the bag of a band that I didn’t even start. I enjoyed doing it, but it felt weird. It feels weird to say that I’ll never sing those songs again, but as far as about doing that band I don’t think I know if that feels right. Unless those guys wanted to do it, then we would do something. Otherwise it just feels like a cover band.

Music is obviously based on feeling, and gut instinct plays a big part.
Exactly! Like, the tour that we did was great. Rob was an original member of that band, and he ended up playing in the Cellabration as well. They were also just some secondary friends and we needed to do this tour and everyone was on board. I don’t think we could ever do new stuff, though.

Thanks for your time!
No problem man, thanks so much.

Parachutes is out now. Stream it below in its entirety.