My Chemical Romance‘s upcoming fourth album, “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” went through a long journey before arriving at its final stages. After a year of work on the record, the band decided to start over, and reintroduce their high-concept, cinematic approach to rock and roll.
“The decision to scrap a year of work felt like we were holding our career over an open flame, especially in today’s business,” MCR frontman Gerard Way told Billboard.com.
Oddly enough, this decision was inspired by an interview with “Blade Runner” director Ridley Scott, during which Way realized he had to fight to the death for his art. In the end, Gerard and his bandmates are pleased with the results on “Danger Days,” which, just like “Blade Runner,” is set in California circa 2019.
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“It feels like a victory to see art win over fear or commerce,” says Way. “Art won this time, and it made me feel like I could do what I do another ten years. Before releasing our last record [2006’s “The Black Parade”], I kind of felt like the well was dry, and the inspiration was gone.”
Now Gerard himself walks Billboard.com through “Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys,” detailing what stayed from the band’s early recording sessions, and how the highly narrative, sci-fi world of Killjoys came to be.
“Look Alive, Sunshine”
“‘Danger Days’ kicks off with “Look Alive, Sunshine,” and I really like to think of the song as contributing to the idea of the album as this really crazy ride — like someone holding your hand on the way up the roller coaster, and then at the top he sort of lets go and he checks in on you from here. Also, “Look Alive, Sunshine” is heavily inspired by the language of “A Clockwork Orange.” I wanted all these phrases that you didn’t know what they meant but you got a sense off of just what the phrase was that you could guess what it means. I think it’s a good kind of introduction into ‘Danger Days.'”
“Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)”
“Na Na Na” is the song that changed everything — it’s the song that I wrote in the desert, and it came from a moment of extreme honesty, realizing that we hadn’t originally made the record we had hoped. It has probably the most direct lyrics I’ve ever written, and when we recorded it Rob [Cavallo, “Danger Days” producer] after meeting him, it was a very immediate thing. The momentum of “Na Na Na” carried us through day-to-day, propelled us, and we didn’t realize we were re-recording the album until we were four songs in.”
“Then we get “Bullet Proof Heart,” which is a song we originally recorded for the first version of the record, but we just really loved it and always kept coming back to it. I think it was the last one we tracked — it was kind of a final-hour tracking but we did a heavy amount of work on it to get it to live on “Danger Days.” When we were making the first version of the record, the song started as an early sign of, ‘Hey, maybe you guys you should do something even with a high concept – you should really use your imaginations.’ And it was an early sign that I kind of ignored. So that’s why I talked about laser beams and running from cops. It has those themes in there, and it was the first song from the first session that had those themes.”
“‘SING’ is the song I’m most proud of on the record. We had recorded “SING” fourth and that’s when we realized we were re-tracking the album. What I love about it is that it’s the band finally writing music free of genre or anything else — writing music solely as fans of music and with a very broad, direct, world view. It started with a beat. The song just took this beat and that’s how we started writing it. We kind of mediated on that beat for days. The song ended up really important, really early for us so it was pretty great. That’s when we realized, ‘Alright, we’re doing something special here. We’re finally on to something. Let’s finish this album.'”
“‘Planetary (GO!)’ is another beat-driven track, and my hope is that people will dance to it when we play it live. It’s featured on the new “Gran Turismo” game, as the game’s opening song, and it fits — there’s so much energy there.”
“The Only Hope For Me Is You”
“‘The Only Hope For Me Is You’ is another song that was off the first session, and I think there’s four total. Again, this was the hardest — we knew we loved this song. We knew it was an amazing song, so how are we going to get this into “Danger Days” world which, at this point, had become very electronic retro thrash rock album, and this needed to live on there. This went through a lot of incarnations, a lot of exploration, a lot of programming, and we settled on this version that was kind of split up the middle. It had programming, it had these big sweeping “Blade Runner” keyboards in the beginning, but then ultimately it’s a rock song and we kept that about it.”
“Jet-Star And The Kobra Kid/Traffic Report”
“Then we get the “Traffic Report,” where the narrator checks in on you again and leads us right into ‘Party Poison.'”
“‘Party Poison’ is another early song, but with the addition of Eri, the Japanese woman that speaks at the beginning. That’s what helped it live on “Danger Days.” We knew the record needed that kind of energy.”
“Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back”
“‘Save Yourself’ is probably the hardest part of the record — the most aggressive part. But again, you’re hearing this kind of science-fiction desert at the beginning of it. It’s living very much in the world. Again, lyrics are very direct. That’s the thing, the whole record has lyrics that are very direct.”
“‘S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W” was a really amazing moment. It was, again, the band doing songs for the sake of making great music. We really wanted to explore the psychedelic nature of this album. We had started to think of it as this thrashy, “Magical Mystery Tour” kind of this album. It didn’t have a story or a concept, but it had this high concept that it had all this color. “S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W” was the art piece, and where the album really started to flourish.”
“This song started with a riff that Mikey had always been working on and we kind of kept coming back to it. On “Summertime,” whenever there was a moment we would just open the file and we really felt like we couldn’t have the record without this song. It’s one of the lyrically personal songs on the album, whereas the rest of it is just me talking about my world view. So it’s a really beautiful song and again, no rules. We can have a soft song. We can have a new wave song on the album.”
“To me, “Destroya” is the other really strong art piece on the record. Again, much like “Summertime,” it really started with drums. There’s a lot of songs linked by the drum on this album, and “Destroya” was really inspired by [Hindu] Holi festival in India because it was relevant to the project. I watched a lot of video of people on YouTube of people performing in the street during the Holi Festival. What you’re hearing in the beginning of the song is about 10 seconds of these street performers that I had heard and tried to recreate. It’s a song that everybody got to play the drums on, and it’s probably the hardest song the band has ever done. The song treats religion almost as a superstition, or questions its existence. I paid close attention to organized religion and the caste system — and any religion that would put its foot down on people to keep them at a lower level.”
“The Kids From Yesterday”
“Our favorite song on the record and the last song we wrote. I think it’s the most special song for all of us because we were able to come to the conclusion that, yes, we have grown up, but we’ve done it our way. This feeling of completion and success came from that song because we felt like that. It was like, ‘Cool, it was OK to grow up. It’s OK to be in our thirties and make an album.’ But it’s our most immature mature record – the most fun but most mature. The song is really about growing up, nostalgia, finding a new way to describe an adult, which is to say, ‘You’re a kid from yesterday.'”
“Goodnite, Dr. Death”
“On “Goodnite, Dr. Death,” Dr. Death signs off, plays you the National Anthem and a blast of sound, just before we get our big end credit.”
“I’d like to think of “Vampire Money” as the end credit because originally, the record ended with just the blast of sound [on “Goodnite, Dr. Death”]. We brought in “Vampire Money,” which is the second song we recorded and it’s this pure kind of punk rock energy, channeling Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, even the originators of punk. Obviously it’s a standard 1-4-5 type of riff and you’ve heard that before, but it’s about the now for us. It feels like we’re breaking the fourth wall and saying, ‘Now we’re going to play just the four guys in the band.'”