My Chemical Romance

My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way slammed the door on a commercial art career and an internship with Curious Pictures following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York City. At that point, creating art seemed useless.

Instead, Way’s interest in comic book art along with personal struggles worked its way into songs he was writing, and another door opened. He recruited his brother, Mikey Way, on bass, friends Ray Toro and Frank Iero on guitar and drummer Bob Byar to form the New Jersey- based band.

As one show led to another, the buzz on My Chemical Romance grew along with its fan base.

“We kind of anti-promoted. We would play shows and not say our name,” Gerard Way told Pollstar. “We didn’t make stickers, we didn’t have merch. The first thing we had was a Web site. I just felt like we were doing this for a reason.”

The band caught the attention of indie label Eyeball Records, leading to the release of its 2002 debut, I Brought You Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love. Tours of North America and overseas with Taking Back Sunday, Story of the Year, A Static Lullaby and others soon followed.

Brian Schechter, of Riot Squad: A Management Company, was a tour manager when he first heard MCR’s demo and a light bulb went on overhead.

“I always listened to every demo the bands I used to tour with would get,” Schechter told Pollstar. “I knew right when I heard it that if there were a band I was going to stop touring and put everything I had in to, it was My Chem.”

Schechter and the band members started discussing a partnership during a tour with The Used in 2003. Shortly after, Schechter launched Riot Squad with MCR as its flagship artist.

“The tour gave me a great chance to see the drive and determination they had to be the band that they are,” he said. “They’ve always had a very clear vision of who they wanted to be, so we were able to figure it out together.”

The group spent most of 2003 on the road before going into the studio to record its 2004 Reprise Records debut, Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. And as the tours got bigger and MCR’s popularity grew, Way faced a dark truth he couldn’t ignore; his drug and alcohol use had gotten out of control as he tried to adjust to the spotlight.

The frontman called Schechter and asked for help.

My Chemical Romance

“He made the active decision. He picked up the phone and called me at one of his darkest moments and said, ‘This has got to stop,'” Schechter said. “And he has remained very certain and very true to it.”

Way took the time he needed to get past his addictions and adjust to performing sober with his manager’s and others’ support.

“He’s the guy who got me clean and sober. It was a really big risk; I don’t think they knew how bad I was,” Way explained. “I knew it was the only way I’d stay alive.

“I felt like I’d created something that people expected and it gets overwhelming. I felt like I’d taken away my only safety net. The best thing right now is I’m really clear-headed.”

Way finished recording the vocals for Sweet Revenge, then headed to Detroit to meet his bandmates for the start of another tour in spring 2004, and MCR has hardly been off the road since. Treks on the Face To Face, Taste of Chaos, Nintendo Fusion and Warped tours and an opening slot for Green Day brought MCR to a more diverse audience.

“Every time they play, there’s more and more kids singing along, and they meet more and more kids that say, ‘Your band’s helped me through some of the hardest, darkest times of my life,'” Schechter said. “That’s why they started the band – to help kids the way that music helped them when they were having tough times.

“Sometimes they get inundated with press requests and radio requests and meet-and- greets and promos. They get a little frazzled by it but they never complain.”

Recording Sweet Revenge also brought Way back to the art world he had pretty much abandoned. His drawings are featured on the album inserts.

MCR kicked off its first headline tour in mid-September that will take the band through North America and back to the U.K. and Europe through late November. The tour then makes stops in Canada from late November to mid-December followed by a short Australian tour with Green Day.

The band members are also using road time to work on the next album thanks to a recording studio on the bus.

“It’s been a pretty wild ride, especially being a first-time manager with the band and them being a first-time major label band,” Schechter said. “To remember moments and look back at everything we’ve done together and what the band has done to get to the point that they are, it’s just an incredible feeling.”