INTERVIEW: Frank Iero at Slam Dunk Festival 2017

Frank Iero

My Chemical Romance alumni Frank Iero has been doing the rounds as Frank Iero and the Patience, formerly frnkiero andthe cellabration, since early 2014. The first album after their re-design, Parachutes, was released in October 2016 to critical acclaim worldwide. We caught up with Iero at Slam Dunk North to chat all about Parachutes, going solo, and the advantages of taking risks.

Did you enjoy the festival yesterday?

FI: Yesterday was amazing. The show was great, I got to see all my friends play and the weather held out really nice. I thought it was going to rain but it didn’t and I feel like half way through our set all of a sudden the sun just came out of nowhere. I always bring the rain so it was the opposite of what I’m used to. It was fun, I made a set list specifically for yesterday and I feel it went off pretty well.

Today I’m going to change it up just a little bit. I’m really happy, really happy. You never know what to expect when you go into a festival. You’re always going to run into those normal festival problems but I feel like it was run really smoothly and everyone was just really rad and it was a great time.

This is your first time playing Slam Dunk – had you heard much about it before?

FI: I heard it was called ‘Slam Drunk’, and I get it now. I think after yesterday I get it. I heard that it was really fun. Some festivals aren’t put together very well and there’s always issues but I’ve heard good things and yesterday I think was proof of that so it was nice to get involved.

Your latest album, Parachutes, came out in October 2016. How do feel this album differs from your last?

FI: It’s the first time I sat down to write a solo record and so that was very different for me. I didn’t know if that was something I knew how to do so it was pretty scary but it was also really inspiring and empowering to be able to do that.

I think the first time around, on Stomachaches, was a happy accident. I was just writing songs and they ended up getting played to the right people who wanted to put the record out and all of a sudden I had a record deal. I didn’t ever sit down and be like “Oh I’m writing a record”.

I did it all myself this time around. I ended up working with Ross Robinson and Steve Evetts and that was enormously different than just me sitting in my basement kind of fumbling around and trying to figure things out.

I think it’s way less makeshift and it’s definitely one of those things where I feel like as an artist you get maybe one project every ten years that you’re like “Holy shit, this came out just like it was in my head, maybe even better” and this was one of those. I think it’s the proudest I’ve ever been of a record I’ve made.

Doing what I do is so gut-wrenchingly hard and disappointing but at the same time those few moments where you do get it right, that high you chase forever. It’s something that very rarely ever loves you back.

You obviously have some very dedicated fans — some of which will follow you across the world to see you play. How does that feel?

FI: It’s amazing. I mean at times, if you let it, the pressure can be hard because you feel like you have to live up to some image or expectation that they have in their head to travel that far to come see you, and sometimes you just have an off night, and you feel like shit about it.

The greatest gift that you can be given as an artist is for someone to tell you that you’re not crazy and that what you’re doing is worth it and that you’ve hit the mark. As artists, we live in this world of self-doubt and you’re always questioning yourself like “Am I crazy, is this worth chasing? Is it good?”

When you submerge yourself that much into the art sometimes it’s hard to figure out but when you strike a chord with somebody that you don’t even know and they feel the same thing that you feel that’s what’s so amazing about music and art in general. It works beyond language barriers and geography and age and all that stuff. It just speaks to people and that’s what you’re chasing at all times.

Is this something you ever expected to happen when you started this project?

FI: No, definitely not. I never thought I would go into a solo career. I always wanted to be in bands ever since I was a little kid that’s all I ever wanted to be. Some people want to be baseball players or cops or firemen, and I just always wanted to be in a band. So when My Chemical Romance ended I figured “I did it”, and I had another project with my friend James (Dewees) Death Spells.

So I thought “I still have another band that I can do, but I think I want to do something completely different, do a 180” and then all of a sudden I found myself back in it and as a solo artist.

If you would have asked me ten years ago “Do you think you’ll ever be a solo artist?” I would have said absolutely no way, that’s the last thing I want to do. It’s kinda crazy.

Have you found the writing process more difficult by yourself?

FI: It’s different. I think what you don’t get is this immediate reaction or inspiration from others around you, you don’t get that spark. But, the fact that everything that’s on that record starts and ends with you is pretty amazing. You don’t get that within a band.

From music, to lyrics, to art, to everything about it, it all comes from you, and when it fails there’s no one else to blame so that’s kind of crazy. But when it works you can pat yourself on the back a little bit.

You recently worked with a fan on a merchandise project. What made you decide to do this and is it something you’d do again?

FI: Absolutely! That’s the thing — for the longest time I thought that you made something and then when you were finished with it, it stopped. Then I started to realise that the final stage of any kind of creation, any kind of art creation, is that you release or relinquish control of it and release it out into the world and then hopefully it inspires someone else and sort of carries on and lives on. It becomes this entity instead of something that’s just inanimate.

To see people that are inspired by or fans of the band create things on their own that are so amazing I don’t want that to be the end of it so I figure that if we can somehow collaborate then it just continues that process of art and hopefully inspires someone else and keeps going.

You’ve been frnkiero andthe cellabration and now you’re Frank Iero and the Patience — is there a reason for this change in name?

FI: I felt like when you’re in a band and you’re making music you go into the studio and you have to reinvent yourself and create something new every time. So to come out of that and be a different band but call yourself the same name is troubling to me and I felt like since it’s my name in front of the band name there’s no confusion. If I wanted to change the band name I could just do that and once I came to the realisation that there are no rules if it’s my project, I can do whatever the hell I want, that opened up so many doors for me.

The first time around I named the band ‘Cellabration’ because I felt like I needed something distracting almost, celebratory and in a way to take away from my deficiencies as a front man.

Then I got kind of used to that role and felt more at home in doing what I was doing so I felt like I didn’t need that anymore and also the band just didn’t sound the same so I thought “All right well what do I need right now, what do I want to bring with me?” and the virtue of patience came about — that ability to kind of take a step back and appreciate the now.

I think I have what the next one’s going to be too. It’s going to keep changing, always, every record. If you don’t take risks then you’re just dead in the water. We didn’t get into this to be safe, might as well just get a desk job somewhere.

You have a lot of projects including Death Spells and Leathermouth— do you find it hard balancing all these and how do you decide which to focus on?

FI: Life, in general, takes control of that. Sometimes if I hit a creative wall I’ll jump to another project and it opens up a door which is nice. I very rarely ever set up a schedule of “Alright, this will be time that I work on this”, it just happens. I just jump back and forth.

Your projects have very separate sounds — do you find having multiple outlets lets you send different messages?

FI: It’s strange to me when people have multiple projects and they all sound the same. That wouldn’t work for me. I definitely see elements though of things where — inspiration that you have or creative outlets that you have are never going to change — so one project will always inspire another one but I feel like it needs to sound different, I need to be doing something different otherwise there’s no point, I don’t want to repeat myself ever.

Performance wise — are there any acts you take inspiration from?

FI: Yeah, all the time. I think everything that you do or experience changes the way that you act. You tour with bands and you see little tricks or little things here and there. I feel that just as people our personalities are really this amalgamation of little ticks or tendencies that our parents had or people that we were friends with had and we’re basically just hoarders of other people’s things. That becomes our personality.

What does the rest of the year hold for you?

More touring, possible EP release, and then hopefully a little bit of time at home with my family.

What did you think of our interview with Frank Iero? Let us know @CelebMix.

Written by Faith Ridler

Faith Ridler is a UK based student, music journalist, and twenty one pilots aficionado. Follow her on Twitter @FaithLRidler!

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