Frank Iero: Breaking Through Barriers with Imperfect Perfection

Hours before the release show of his new album, Barriers, I sat down with Frank Iero to talk about all the things that have contributed to the person and artist he has become at this point. We began by talking about the other Arts he creates in.  I found out that Frank likes to draw and paint as well as writing poetry and short stories.

Moving on to those arts that he doesn’t necessarily create in but that feed his spirit, the response took the rest of this conversation down the road I had hoped it would travel.

Film, photography, graphic artists…just life,” he says.  “Seeing things, whether it be a beautiful sunset or a billboard, how a dilapidated building looks juxtaposed in a city.  I’ll take snapshots of that thinking ‘Oh that’s important. I don’t know what it means yet but it makes me feel something and I’ll reference that later.’ That’s really inspiring to me.

“The Universe shows us such beautiful things and not for it to be this mystical thing or feeling about it but it shows us a path and we decide whether we want to follow it or not.  There are these cues that get whispered in our ears at all times and if you’re not in tune with it it’s just white noise. But if you are kind of paying attention it really does offer some amazing things along the way.  Some things people find to be so mundane and nothing, that’s where I think the magic in the beauty is.”

Learning this was a near-perfect segue into the very core of Frank and his music.  Does he feel like he was planted in the Jersey cultural “dirt” or did he just grow where he was planted?

It’s easy to hate where you’re from and I think we all do at some point,” he says.  “But I think that is because we all want so badly to see what else there is. I love where I was planted. Do I think it was part of the grand design? I don’t know but I think it was perfect for me. That does go back to the grand design, even the really shitty things. It’s hard for us to see that sometimes and that’s just because we’re human.  I think that if I wasn’t born in a place with basements, like say I was born on the west coast, where could I practice with bands for no money? How would that have worked? I mean I could have found a garage somewhere. Where there’s a means there’s a way. But I had it easy in that respect. When my dad and mom were still living together he fashioned out a basement so he could practice drums and teach out of there.  Then when he left and moved back down to Trenton there was this basement so when I grew up I had a place to practice.

“I grew up around that [New Jersey] doom and gloom and it seeps its way in and I think that’s where I find solace is in that weird Jersey filthy air.”

At this point, we veered into a little side conversation about traits that make Jersey ‘Jersey’ and of course it included diners.  For those unaware, a true Jersey diner is open 24-7/365 and serve things like disco fries. They are the place where fans and musicians migrate to in the wee hours of the morning.

And that’s where I think I learned a lot about being a musician,” he says.  “My dad was a drummer and he played in a blues band. He’d play places I wasn’t allowed so my grandfather, who was also a drummer, would take me to this speakeasy that he would play called the Marrow Inn and if I was really good and stayed up really late, til like 3 a.m. I got to go to the diner with the band. I got to watch these old jazz musicians order breakfast.  Everybody got french fries and eggs and somebody would order two eggs-one scrambled and one hard-boiled just fuck with the waitress in some way. It was an amazing experience.”

Talking about the effect of growing up close to New York City, where all manner of culture is easily accessible, revealed another piece of the Frank Iero puzzle that goes miles away from NYC and NJ and fathoms deep into spiritual and emotional strength and conviction.

Photo by Mitchell Wojcik

“I feel like we take that for granted because it is so available to us. It changes our lives so prolifically yet we don’t really notice.  It’s strange. I did my first tour when I was 17 and I’m thinking I can’t wait to see what the midwest is like. We’re playing these crazy abandoned airplane hangars and there are cornfields everywhere and you’re trying to soak in this landscape, this flat landscape and you’re like ‘Oh my god’. That was really crazy for me and I learned a lot about myself  Seeing this vast landscape was so foreign to me.

“On that first tour, we got as far as Minnesota.  I’m 17, far from home and on my own. There were no cell phones.  We had an atlas and a few quarters for making phone calls. The oldest member had a credit card. He had sold his car and bought a van so we could go on tour and it broke down every other day. It sounds horrendous but it was the best thing ever and I knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

“People say ‘what if this doesn’t work out? What if you fail?’ Yes! Fail!  Get hurt. Get scars. You need that shit. If you don’t how the fuck are you going to figure out who you really are?  If everything goes your way, did you learn anything?

Here I point out that the creative process becomes fake.

Yes.  You’re not going to know what to do with yourself when a song doesn’t come together. You need that. They’re all learning curves.  It’s such a process. This industry especially is one you will pour your whole self into and it will not love you back. So you have to be able to deal with failure. Otherwise, don’t even think about doing this.  Go find an office job. Learn DOS.”

Has it been important to encourage your kids to create?

Yes. I think it’s important.  I don’t want them to be musicians but if they want it, great.  I fear for them if they do. They have knowledge of music. I think it’s important.  I think it opens your mind up in different ways. It makes you think differently. It should be part of your education.  You’re not always going enjoy going to science or math class but you’re not always going to enjoy piano lessons or learning how to read music either.  I feel for them. Sometimes they enjoy it and sometimes they fucking hate me for it and I’m okay with that. They are so talented and I know everybody feels that way about their kids My one daughter Cherry likes to sing and she’s very good at it. Lily writes songs.  She wrote “Best Friends Forever” (which Frank recorded in 2014) He’s daughters are now 9 and his son Miles is now 7. Miles plays the piano and his dexterity is incredible but he doesn’t care much for it but he does love Sabbath and my daughters love Journey and they love Bon Jovi and they love Taylor Swift and they love the Beatles.”

There are a lot of reasons given for taking the arts out of schools.  But the reality is, is that ‘they’ want to discourage creative thinking, that there’s more than one way out of the box.

That’s scary.  That needs to be nurtured.  I say to my kids and kids at the shows This idea of perfection is bullshit.  Why would you want to be perfect? No one is perfect. Why would you want to be like anybody else? We have that already.  The one thing we don’t have is you. What a travesty that would be not to offer that to the world. I think the things that set us apart are the things that people will tell you are your flaws yet that’s the stuff that’s really, really important.  That’s the stuff that’s unique to you. Nobody else is fucked up like you’re fucked up and that’s awesome and we need that. “Normal” people are boring and they’re not solving problems, they’re creating problems.

Since we were talking about the importance of being different I mentioned that we were entering Pride month and that this year is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.  Frank, years ago, let his feelings about homophobia be known loud and clear on a t-shirt. He shared with me the fate of that shirt and possible plans on participating in NY Pride.

That shirt stemmed from a shirt Buddy had made and I thought the message was cool and tongue in cheek so I wrote it on a shirt and a lot of people grasped on to it,” he recalls.  “We did a ‘Make A Wish’ visit 8-10 years ago, a lady was in the hospital in the UK and so I gifted her the shirt. I would love to be involved in NYC Pride.  I will be doing the Rocks Off cruise during Pride.”

Looking down at my notes, I saw a question I had meant to ask earlier regarding past history and the history of Frank’s songwriting.  Does he feel like he’ll ever run out of new songs?

I can’t see myself never writing another song.” he says  “And if I write a song I want to document it. Every time I do a record it takes so much out of me. It’s so depleting.  Even though it’s rewarding it’s depleting. Then just when you say I can never do that again you have a new idea. This record is finally out today. I can’t think that I’m never going to have that feeling again.”

We agreed it’s kind of like a woman’s childbirth experience.  She goes through the pain and work of labour and says “I’m never doing that again” and then goes on to have another child.

We ended up talking about Frank and the Future Violence playing the Atlantic City 25th Anniversary of Warped Tour Event

I know…isn’t that crazy?  I’m kind of glad it’s not the full tour.  It was getting so old. Showering out of a bag and waiting in line for sodas is not where I want to be. But you get to do a couple of dates and hang out with some old friends.  I’m really excited about that.

“I went to the second Warped Tour and will never forget seeing all of your favorite bands in one day and being sunburnt and dirty, dirt in your nose for days after.  But you had the best fucking day and you had a bag full of stickers from these tables of bands you never heard of so you had to go to the record store or ask your friends about them.  Then I just wanted to play Warped Tour so bad and I finally did and it was awesome. It is punk rock summer camp. The first band I saw at my first Warped Tour was Seven Seconds and they are still one of my favorite bands.

I couldn’t help but share my own first Warped experiences.  We discussed Thursday and their frontman, Frank’s dear friend, Geoff Rickley.  Rickley stands strong for keeping all-ages venues open, many of which are small venues. Frank clarified that basement shows tended to happen in New Brunswick and southern parts of NJ whereas in North Jersey it was VFWs and church halls, etc. This final story really sewed up where I had hoped the interview would go.  It explains a key element of Frank Iero’s creative self@

My wife, before we met, used to put on shows at the Wayne firehouse.  In one week I saw At The Drive-In, Thursday, Alkaline Trio, Hotwater Music and Jimmy Eat World. That shaped my life.”  


Barriers was released on Friday, May 31, 2019.  Check it out on FrankIero.com and experience it live during this summer’s tour. Dates below.

June 5 Pittsburgh, PA – Rex Theater *
June 6 Detroit, MI – El Club *
June 7 Cincinnati, OH – Bogarts *
June 8 Louisville, KY – Mercury Ballroom *
June 10 Atlanta, GA – Terminal West *
June 11 Birmingham, AL – Saturn *
June 13 Tampa, FL – The Crowbar *
June 14 Orlando, FL – The Social *
June 15 Jacksonville, FL – 1904 Music Hall *
June 16 Columbia, SC – The Senate *
June 18 Charlotte, NC – Amos Southend *
June 20 Virginia Beach, VA – Elevation 27 *
June 21 Washington, DC – Union Stage *
June 22 New York, NY – Rocks Off Cruise *
July 23 Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom ^
July 24 Seattle, WA – Crocodile Cafe ^
July 26 Boise, ID – Knitting Factory Concert House ^
July 27 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court ^
July 29 Denver, CO – Marquis Theatre ^
July 30 Santa Fe, NM – Meow Wolf ^
August 1 Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill ^
August 2 Austin, TX – Barracuda ^
August 3 San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger ^
August 6 Phoenix, AZ – The Crescent Ballroom ^
August 7 San Diego, CA – House of Blues, Voodoo Room ^
August 9 Anaheim, CA – Chain Reaction ^
August 10 Los Angeles, CA – The Troubadour ^

* Support from Reggie & The Full Effect (Solo)
^ Support from Geoff Rickley


Festivals
June 29 Atlantic City, NJ – Atlantic City Beach [Warped Tour] July 18 Patchogue, NY – [Great South Bay Music Festival] July 21 Mountain View, CA – Shoreline Amphitheater [Warped Tour] September 13-15 – Chicago, IL – Douglas Paro [Riot Fest]

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