Gerard Way Talks Independence, Alternative Influences & Making Art
A little over a year after the disbandment of My Chemical Romance, frontman Gerard Way surprised his fans with a solo album, Hesitant Alien. The full-length was totally different from anything Way had done before, a move he considers to be very meticulous.
"I’ve played with concepts so much in the past that it became a bit of a crutch. I thought the biggest way to challenge myself was to not have a concept and kind of tie a visual concept together," the singer told Fuse. "The visuals…I did a bunch of these drawings...even before having the title, I was able to kind of nail down the look from being such a big fan of [David] Bowie and Iggy Pop and ‘70s glam. I honed in on that and I added a little bit of Roxy Music and then the title kind of came out of that, too. The thing about 'No Shows,' the song is about independence. It took me a minute to really realize that’s what it was about. It’s about this fierce independence from a greater machine or a scene or even something that you built. The human connection is the most important thing. The concert’s not as important. The person on the stage is not as important. I was stressed out for a minute when I was coming up with a set for the live shows. I realized that I just need to be up there sharing and doing my thing. I only have an album’s worth of material so what am I going to do?"
The few songs he released were inspired by surprising influences. "The mix of the album is very reflective of alternative in the ‘90s. It’s very reflective of the things I grew up listening to—The Smashing Pumpkins, things like that, Pixies, but also shoegaze where the vocals were mixed a lot lower and bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain and things like that," he explained.
"It’s to create a sonic experience that you’re just getting full, pure melody. It’s not melodies fighting each other. It’s not a competition. It’s not the vocals sitting on top of the guitars, you’re just hearing one sound come out, the guitar and the vocals are just mixed in. Through radio and things like that, we’re getting so conditioned to hearing the vocals so on top that you’re not hearing any instruments anymore."
It's not just the music of his adolescence that inspired Way, it's the business of it, too. "Public Image Limited is really an amazing thing because you have John Lydon going from Sex Pistols into something very different and playing with the ideas of marketing and packaging and things like that. It was such a contrast to what the Sex Pistols were. I just always loved that idea," he continued.
"A lot of the spirit is a little Public Image Limited and even the look, too, the orange hair and the blue, things like that. David Bowie has been one of my biggest influences for my entire musical career and my life. Everything down to his theatrics and his 'Spaceman,' and his songs. Iggy and Bowie spent this period in Berlin together that was really prolific and really great for them and they made these weird records that are just awesome. I drew a lot of inspiration from those records, from the Berlin period."
Watch the exclusive interview above and check out our gallery of Gerard's ever-changing looks!