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— by James Montgomery

In the course of three years, My Chemical Romance have gone from New Jersey emo-punkers with a somewhat unhealthy obsession with all things spooky (eyeliner! bats! Bauhaus!) to New Jersey goth-punkers with a hit album and killer music videos.

But the ride hasn't always been a smooth one. They've had to escape the shadow of fellow Garden Staters Thursday (whose frontman, Geoff Rickly, produced their debut album, I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love), shed a drummer and struggle with the pressures of making the leap to a major label.

But through it all, they've been buoyed by an amazingly loyal fanbase and a work ethic that belies their youth. Singer Gerard Way spoke with MTV News about My Chemical Romance's past, present and future (think "concept album"). And he wasn't spooky even once.

MTV: To a lot of people, your band seemed to come out of nowhere. But it wasn't exactly like "From New Jersey to TV screens everywhere," was it?

Gerard Way: We got to our current level by constantly touring and then touring some more. And it hasn't stopped yet. In the last six months, we've played a bunch of radio shows, gone to Japan, gone to Europe, and now we're on the Taste of Chaos tour, and we're going to do Warped too. After Warped, we'll do one last [U.S.] tour, do Europe again, and then start the next record. The whole trip has been amazing. Like, I remember playing [New York's] Roseland Ballroom, and none of us could believe it, because we used to go see Britpop shows there. But touring is only part of it. We've always been so amazed and grateful for our fans. We'll always stay after shows and talk with them. There's been times where venues will get pissed because our fans won't leave, and we tell them that even if it takes all night, we're going to meet every one of them.

MTV: There's the touring and the fans, but there's also a defining visual component to your band — the suits and the mascara and the videos. You've said you want to be known as a "video band," like the Smashing Pumpkins. Your first clip, for "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," was voted best video by the readers of Alternative Press. Now you've got the video for "Helena." Was there any pressure trying to follow up your first video with this one?

Way: We never felt the pressure. We knew when we were making the "Not Okay" video, it was a pretty accurate portrayal of us. And "Helena" is kind of like revealing our dark side to people. "Not Okay" was a self-help pop song. There's more emotion and power in "Helena," this is the song that shaped what the album is about. It's the most important song on the album. So for the video, it had to be handled delicately and beautifully. There's this fine line where I use my pain and suffering to make art, but where does it reach the point where you're exploiting your pain, you know? We got some ridiculous treatments from directors, some to the point of being disrespectful and offensive. Like, I would read them and be like, "Does this person know that this song is about my dead grandmother?"

MTV: Can you explain just what your grandmother meant to you, and why you wrote this song about her?

Way: We were really close. She was an artist and taught me pretty much everything I do today — how to sing and paint and how to perform. And she bought the band our first real van, because she just knew it would make me and [bassist/brother] Mikey happy. She spent all this money to get us the van, and we promised to pay her back and then she wouldn't take the money. So the song is about all that and celebrating her. I knew I wanted the video to be a funeral, because I remember so much about when she died. I remember the church service being extremely upsetting. And at the cemetery, we put her in the mausoleum, and when we came outside it was sunny, like everything had changed, and I was like, "Wow, I'm already starting to feel OK about this."

MTV: So obviously the video must be extremely personal.

Way: Yeah, I mean, it's a funeral for a fictitious Helena. My grandmother's birth name was Elena, but everyone called her Helen. I always thought of her as Helena. The video is very somber and very depressing — it's about a girl in her 20s who died young, about a tragic young death. And we kind of knew that only Marc Webb could direct it. Marc has a way of giving you exactly what you want. Like, for "Not Okay," we said we wanted something that kind of reminded us of "Rushmore," and he went out and researched what speed of film Wes Anderson shot the film at, and studied a whole bunch of camera angles in the film. For "Helena," we were on the same page: something beautiful. It was emotional making it, so it was nice that so many of our fans could be a part of it too. Pretty much all the mourners at the funeral were our fans. We put out a call on the Web site, like 'Be in our video,' and we got a ton of responses. At the end of the shoot, the production people offered to pay the fans, and I heard they had to fight with [the fans] to take the money. The fans didn't want to take the money.

MTV: And starting in April, those fans will get to see you guys open for Green Day. How does that feel?

Way: It's amazing. I think it's safe to say that it's the biggest thing to ever happen to this band. As we become more successful, we tend to think in terms of having a career. We're still in that 'Are they gonna make it?' stage, and we want to get to the stage that a band like Green Day is at. I always cite my influences as being the Misfits and the Smiths and the Cure; those artists inspired me to write music. But Billie Joe from Green Day influenced me to play guitar.

MTV: Will he influence you and the band in any other way, do you think? Will the next My Chemical Romance album be a concept record, like American Idiot?

Way: I think it's absolutely something we would try, because we always strive to do something ambitious. But we have to be careful, because while we want to be ambitious, we don't want to alienate our fans. I don't want to get to the point where we're so into ourselves we make "Mr. Roboto." We don't want to pull a Styx. Everybody wants to make The Wall, but only some bands — like Green Day — can actually do it.

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  "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"
(live on TRL)
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge

"I'm Not Okay (I Promise)"
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge

My Chemical Romance
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge

My Chemical Romance
"Helena" (live)
Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge