Gerard Way has bleached his locks into a pale blond color. But the mane modification wasn't purely aesthetic.
In fact, at a staged press conference posted online over the weekend, My Chemical Romance's frontman insisted he went for the dye job so he could better channel "the Patient" — the fictional figure whose story will be told through The Black Parade, the band's forthcoming third album. Way said that the LP, the follow-up to 2004's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, will land in stores in October. The band will perform the album's first single, "Welcome to the Black Parade," at the MTV Video Music Awards' "Red Carpet on the Rock" preshow on August 31 (see "My Chemical Romance, Fergie Performing At VMA Preshow" )
It seems like MCR have made good on their promise to emulate Green Day, not only in their choice of collaborators (producer Rob Cavallo) but also in terms of content: Green Day's American Idiot followed the story of an imagined character all the way through (see "My Chemical Romance Enlist Green Day Producer For 'Dark,' 'Wicked' New LP"). However, Way's group seems to have taken the idea one step further.
Way said he wanted "to look like this guy, the Patient, who may have gone through chemotherapy," so that he could infuse "that energy into my vocal performances." But that's not the only alteration the band has undergone: they now have an alter ego named the Black Parade.
The online video starts off showing a pitch-black concert hall as an announcer reveals that My Chemical Romance will not be able to take the stage due to "unforeseen circumstances" — an event that actually recently befell the group (see "My Chemical Romance Explain Injuries, Missed Street Scene Gig") — and that the New Jersey rockers have asked an act called the Black Parade to fill in for them. Of course, when the lights go up, they reveal the members of MCR, performing "Welcome to the Black Parade."
"This was a really difficult record to make," Way explained during the video's interview portion, during which questions appear on a black background to the sound of beeps from hospital machines. "And there was a certain point where it was so dark for us that it felt like we needed to become much more than brothers. We had to be there for each other in many more ways and we also needed to become a new band. Normally, a band says that every time they make a record, in some ways, they become a new band. But we really did it this time, and became a different band. Make no mistake — we are My Chemical Romance still. It's just our alter ego for this record."
The ubiquitous term further serves as the ambitious album's thematic muse. " 'The Black Parade' is the very basic premise of the record, which is when you die, I'd like to think that death comes for you however you want," Way said. "And I feel that it's your strongest memory, either from childhood or adulthood, and for this particular character in this record, his strongest memory is of being a child and his father is taking him to this parade. So when death comes for him, it comes in the form of a black parade."
My Chemical Romance didn't elaborate on what illness this Patient might be suffering from (although in addition to Way's chemotherapy comment, one of the album's tracks is called "Cancer") and barely revealed much more about the album's concept. But they did answer questions that seemed to originate from their fans regarding the album's overall sound.
"I feel that the thing about My Chemical Romance is that every time they make a record, they jump very far ahead," said the singer, curiously referring to his band in the third person. "It's almost as if we got into a time machine and made the sixth or seventh record. The Black Parade is an epic, theatrical, orchestral, big record that is also a concept album that has a very set story in it," he continued. "But also, as you listen to the album, the layers of that story peel away, and what you're left with in the end is a story about mortality."
Guitarist Ray Toro explained that the band toyed with unfamiliar instrumentation for the effort, including piano, which "unlocked a whole new form of songwriting. The album is very symphonic sounding, like five guys playing together more so than they ever have in their lives. It's this tapestry of great sounds, and it's really, really epic."
"We've gotten to a point as a band where we feel we could stop holding back a little bit," Way elaborated, saying the boys were "encouraged by Rob Cavallo to do whatever we wanted. It's a record that's so full of life, so risky, daring, fun. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry." According to Way, "Welcome to the Black Parade" is "the one song that sums up the sound for the record, and all the risk we took jammed into one mini epic." But, he promised that the Parade "still retains everything that made us special."
In addition to "Welcome" and "Cancer," the MCR revealed titles of a few other tracks: "Famous Last Words," Sleep" and "I Don't Love You."
The Black Parade will also feature an unlikely collaboration between the Garden State rockers and legendary singer Liza Minnelli. Way said that he was inspired to work with the icon because she was his late grandmother's favorite performer.
The video went live on the band's Web site over the weekend. My Chemical Romance were performing at the U.K.'s Carling Weekend festivals at the time, and were reportedly pelted with bottles and other projectiles during their set. The band was also honored by Britain's Kerrang! magazine as the Best Band on the Planet at their annual rock awards.