Gerard Way knows people miss guitar music
Research indicates that the age of 14 marks a sweet spot in our cognitive development when the pop culture we gravitate towards – movies, books, fashion and most importantly music – informs our tastes into adulthood. . Songs and hormones interweave in the gray matter, marking our teenage years and shaping our sense of self in the process.
Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance was 14 in 1991 when Nirvana released “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, the first single from the band’s second album. It does not matter. Her hazy and punchy music video aired 24 hours a day on MTV that fall; Way caught him one afternoon watching TV after school, and it opened up his budding interest in punk and performing. Kids who dreamed of forming their own band went to pawn shops to find battered guitars like Kurt Cobain’s.
A decade later, in 2001, Way co-founded My Chemical Romance – and if Nirvana had been an answer to the ’80s hair bands, then My Chem was an answer, as he told me on the phone from Los Angeles in October, “the T-shirt and the jeans” alternate era of the late 90s and early years. They stood out in the MySpace era: macabre, glamorous, exuberant. Way, now 44, thinks taste is cyclical; that, essentially, what’s in it comes and goes from “hippie to punk, hippie to punk, over and over,” he says. “You never know what’s going to connect with people, who they’re going to gravitate to, who they’re going to seek to be a voice for them.” The pendulum continues to swing, and you can see sons of Nirvana and My Chem in the currently ascending Soundcloud bedroom sing-rap and bedroom pop generation. You can see the thread in the acts from Post Malone to Lil Peep at PinkPantheress. Ditto for their style; Kid Cudi has worn homage dresses for Kurt twice this year.
These days, My Chem is set to launch a world reunion tour in the spring; Way is also executive producer of the Netflix show based on his comic book series. The Umbrella Academy, whose third season is slated for release next year. And he and his wife Lindsey, also known as Mindless Self Indulgence bassist Lyn-Z, are close friends of Kurt and Courtney Love’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain; in 2019, she called Gerard and Lindsey “adoptive parents”.
Speaking of cycles: Fender revives the Kurt Cobain Jag-Stang, a guitar Kurt imagined in 1994 that combines his favorite elements of Fender’s Jaguar and Mustang models, which he preferred during the It does not matter time. As part of the festivities, Way discussed Nirvana’s legacy, why we hear guitars in pop music again, and what made her want to dress like a vampire.
GQ: Tell me a little bit about your introduction to Nirvana and Kurt, and how it impacts you both through music and style.
Gérard Road: My first real music I got into was hair metal in the 80s, Cinderella and Poison and all that. Someone showed me Iron Maiden, and that changed everything for me. I was really a full-fledged metalhead until college, when a really cool friend showed me all kinds of really cool music that I had never heard before, like Sonic Youth, and I discovered tons of punk bands like Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. But I remember sitting upstairs at my grandparents’ house – we lived in a duplex, my grandparents lived upstairs – and I was sitting in my grandfather’s chair watching the TV after school before he got home from work, and I saw “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time. I was really blown away, like “Wow! It’s kind of like the stuff I listened to, but it’s been channeled or changed in a different way. I was immediately on board with Nirvana. I think I asked for it for Christmas that year.