A Vigil, On Birds and Glass.
I woke up this morning still dreaming, or not fully aware of myself just yet. The sun poked through the windows, touching my face, and then a deep sadness overcame me, immediately, bringing me to life and realization- My Chemical Romance had ended. I walked downstairs to do the only thing I could think of to regain composure- I made coffee. As the drip began, in that kind of silence that only happens in the morning, and being the only one awake, I stepped outside my home, leaving the door open behind me. I looked around and began to breathe. Things looked to be about the same- a beautiful day. As I turned to step back into the house I heard sound from within, a chirp and a rustle. And I noticed a small brown bird had flown into the library. Naturally, I panicked. I knew I had to see the bird to safety and I knew I had to retain the order of things in our home, and he very well couldn’t take up residency with us. I chased him (still assuming he was a he) into my office, where I have these very large windows. Just then, and luckily, I heard Lindsey’s footsteps coming down the stairs, and naturally being composed as she is, she grabbed a blanket and stepped into the office. He was impossible to catch, and I began to open the windows, via Lindsey’s direction, only to find out they were screened. The bird began to fly into the glass, over and over and in all different directions. Smack. Smack. Smack! I heard another set of footsteps, Bandit’s, running down the stairs in anticipation of the new day. Her entrance into the situation caused just the right amount of chaos (she was very excited to meet the bird) and we found ourselves chasing the bird into the living room. Knowing that this where it could potentially get sticky, being the high ceilings and the beams to perch on, I opened the front door as Lindsey did her best to encourage our new friend out the door. After some coaxing, flying, chirping, a wrong turn back into the library and a short goodbye to Bandit, he simply hopped out the front door- taking off on the fifth leap. We cheered. I was no longer sad. I didn’t realize it, but I stopped being sad the minute that bird had come into my life, because there was something that needed doing, a small vessel to aid and an order to keep. I closed the door. I decided to write the letter I always knew I would.
It is often my nature to be abstract, hidden in plain sight, or nowhere at all. I have always felt that the art I have made (alone or with friends) contains all of my intent when executed properly, and thus, no explanation required. It is simply not in my nature to excuse, explain, or justify any action I have taken as a result of thinking it through with a clear head, and in my truth. I had always felt this situation involving the end of this band would be different, in the eventuality it happened. I would be cryptic in its existence, and open upon its death.
The clearest actions come from truth, not obligation. And the truth of the matter is that I love every one of you. So, if this finds you well, and sheds some light on anything, or my personal account and feelings on the matter, then it is out of this love, mutual and shared, not duty. Love. This was always my intent.
My Chemical Romance: 2001-2013
We were spectacular. Every show I knew this, every show I felt it with or without external confirmation. There were some clunkers, sometimes our secondhand gear broke, sometimes I had no voice- we were still great. It is this belief that made us who we were, but also many other things, all of them vital- And all of the things that made us great were the very things that were going to end us-
Fiction. Friction. Creation. Destruction. Opposition. Aggression. Ambition. Heart. Hate. Courage. Spite. Beauty. Desperation. LOVE. Fear. Glamour. Weakness. Hope.
That last one is very important. My Chemical Romance had, built within its core, a fail-safe. A doomsday device, should certain events occur or cease occurring, would detonate. I shared knowledge of this “flaw” within weeks of its inception. Personally, I embraced it because, again, it made us perfect. A perfect machine, beautiful, yet self aware of it’s system. Under directive to terminate before it becomes compromised. To protect the idea- at all costs. This probably sounds like something ripped from the pages of a four-color comic book, and that’s the point. No compromise. No surrender. No fucking shit.
To me that’s rock and roll. And I believe in rock and roll.
I wasn’t shy about who I said this to, not the press, or a fan, or a relative. It’s in the lyrics, it’s in the banter. I often watched the journalists snicker at mention of it, assuming I was being sensational or melodramatic (in their defense I was most likely dressed as an apocalyptic marching-band leader with a tear-away hospital gown and a face covered in expressionist paint, so fair enough). I’m still not sure if the mechanism worked correctly, because it wasn’t a bang but a much slower process. But still the same result, and still for the same reason-
When it’s time, we stop.
It is important to understand that for us, the opinion on whether or not it is in fact time does not transmit from the audience. Again, this is to protect the idea for the benefit of the audience. Many a band have waited for external confirmation that it is time to hang it up, via ticket sales, chart positioning, boos and bottles of urine- input that holds no sway for us, and often too late when it comes anyway.
You should know it in your being, if you listen to the truth inside you. And voice inside became louder than the music.
<At this point, I take a break to receive a visit from old friends, all of which were instrumental in some way to the beginnings of the band. We talk about the old days, and we talk about music, we talk about new things. We laugh and drink diet soda. We say goodbyes, I go to bed, to resume my letter in the morning, which is->
Now- There are many reasons My Chemical Romance ended. The triggerman is unimportant, as was always the messengers- but the message, again as always, is the important thing. But to reiterate, this is my account, my reasons and my feelings. And I can assure you there was no divorce, argument, failure, accident, villain, or knife in the back that caused this, again this was no one’s fault, and it had been quietly in the works, whether we knew it or not, long before any sensationalism, scandal, or rumor.
There wasn’t even a blaze of glory in a hail of bullets…
I am backstage in Asbury Park, New Jersey. It is Saturday, May 19th, 2012 and I am pacing behind a massive black curtain that leads to the stage. I feel the breeze from the ocean find its way around me and I look down at my arms, which are covered in fresh gauze due to a losing battle with a heat rash, which had been a mysterious problem in recent months. I am normally not nervous before a show but I am certainly filled with angry butterflies most of the time. This is different- a strange anxiety jetting through me that I can only imagine is the sixth sense one feels before their last moments alive. My pupils have zeroed-out and I have ceased blinking. My body temperature is icy. We get the cue to hit the stage.
The show is… good. Not great, not bad, just good. The first thing I notice take me by surprise is not the enormous amount of people in front of us but off to my left- the shore and the vastness of the ocean. Much more blue than I remembered as a boy. The sky is just as vibrant. I perform, semi-automatically, and something is wrong. I am acting. I never act on stage, even when it appears that I am, even when I’m hamming it up or delivering a soliloquy. Suddenly, I have become highly self-aware, almost as if waking from a dream. I began to move faster, more frantic, reckless- trying to shake it off- but all it began to create was silence. The amps, the cheers, all began to fade.
All that what left was the voice inside, and I could hear it clearly. It didn’t have to yell- it whispered, and said to me briefly, plainly, and kindly- what it had to say.
What it said is between me and the voice.
I ignored it, and the following months were full of suffering for me- I hollowed out, stopped listening to music, never picked up a pencil, started slipping into old habits. All of the vibrancy I used to see became de-saturated. Lost. I used to see art or magic in everything, especially the mundane- the ability was buried under wreckage.
Slowly, once I had done enough damage to myself, I began to climb out of the hole. Clean. When I made it out, the only thing left inside was the voice, and for the second time in my life, I no longer ignored it- because it was my own.
There are many roles for all of us to play in this ending. We can be well-wishers, ill-wishers, sympathizers, vilifiers, comedians, rain clouds, victims-
That last one, again, is important. I have never thought myself a victim, nor my comrades, nor the fans- especially not the fans. For us to adopt that role right now would legitimize everything the tabloids have tried to name us. More importantly, it completely misses the point of the band. And then what have we learned?
With honor, integrity, closure, and on no one’s terms but our own- the door closes.
And another opens-
This morning I awoke early. I quickly brushed my teeth, threw on some baggy jeans, and hopped in my car. I gently sped down the 405 through the morning fog to a random parking lot in Palo Verde, where I was to meet a nice gentleman named Norm. He was older, and a self-proclaimed “hippie” but he also had the energy of Sixteen year old in a garage-rock band. The purpose of the meeting was the delivery of an amplifier into my possession. I had recently purchased the amp from him and we both agreed that shipping would jostle the tubes- so he was kind enough to meet me in the middle. A Fender Princeton Amp from 1965, non reverb. A beautiful little device.
He showed me the finer points, the speaker, the non-grounded plug, the original label and the chalk mark of the man or woman who built it-
“This amp talks.” he said. I smiled. We got coffee, talked about gold-foil pickups and life. We sat in the car and played each other music we had made. We parted ways, promising to stay in touch, I drove home.
When I wanted to start My Chemical Romance, I began by sitting in my parent’s basement, picking up an instrument I had long abandoned for the brush- a guitar. It was a 90’s Fender Mexican Stratocaster, Lake Placid Blue, but in my youth I had decided it was too clean and pretty so I beat it up, exposing some of the red paint underneath the blue- the color it was meant to be. Adding a piece of duct tape on the pick guard, it felt acceptable. I plugged this into a baby Crate Amp with built in distortion and began the first chords of Skylines and Turnstiles.
I still have that guitar, and it’s sitting next to The Princeton. He has a voice, and I would like to hear what it has to say.
In closing, I want to thank every single fan. I have learned from you, maybe more than you think you’ve learned from me. My only regret is that I am awful with names and bad with goodbyes. But I never forget a face, or a feeling- and that is what I have left from all of you. I feel Love.
I feel love for you, for our crew, our team, and for every single human being I have shared the band and stage with-
Ray. Mikey. Frank. Matt. Bob. James. Todd. Cortez. Tucker. Pete. Michael. Jarrod.
Since I am bad with goodbyes. I refuse to let this be one. But I will leave you with one last thing-
My Chemical Romance is done. But it can never die. It is alive in me, in the guys, and it is alive inside all of you. I always knew that, and I think you did too.
Because it is not a band- it is an idea.