After an initial lauded yet timid step as a solo artist with Frnkiero & the Cellabration, Frank Iero marks his sophomore endeavour this year, bringing his talent into the spotlight through with a new record under a new band moniker. All the while retaining his mark through his writing and playing style as well as his voice, Frank Iero & the Patience stands as a new phase for the singer-songwriter, diving deeper into the characters’ introspective nature. Recorded and created through through a session featuring Ross Robinson’s cathartic albeit sometimes terrifying studio sessions alongside Steve Evetts, Parachutes is a bare-boned record displaying raw emotions in its most potent form. I got a chance to meet up with the man behind the music on the afternoon of his acoustic solo gig in Paris to discuss his latest creative output. A couple of weeks after our meet up however, it was with great shock that I were to hear about Frank and his bandmates being involved in a serious bus crash. Thankfully news reports so far indicate that all members are all in stable condition, though not much else is known. We wish for no less than a quick and full recovery for all of the people involved in this unfortunate incident.
So this new album is to be released under the project name Frank Iero and the Patience. Why the change and what does this change in denomination entail from a lyrical and musical standpoint?
When I did Frnkiero & the Cellabration, I wanted to bring something with me that filled in the blanks and helped me along for some of my deficiencies. When I first started the solo thing there was this trepidation; I didn’t have the confidence, I wasn’t sure of myself. I hadn’t written the record for anyone else to hear, I wasn’t the quintessential frontman, so I wanted to bring in a band to detract from this role. This time around things are a lot different… I’m two years older and I feel like I’ve learned a lot about myself, what music and performing music means to me. I spent a lot of time thinking that it was just something that I did and not who I was. I think once I realised that it was so much more than that, that it was something embedded inside of me, it got me really scared and I started reach a place of peace with it. This time around I wanted to bring a virtue that I felt like I needed, that is to enjoy the moment and to have the patience to see what’s around me and not worry as much. So that’s where the name came from. Also, every time a band goes to the studio to do a new record, you’re expected to reach that next level and to reinvent yourself. If you’re going to make the same record there’s no point in doing it. The pitfall is that people are going to compare and say you don’t sound the same anymore. No shit, we’re different now ! So I figured: if it’s going to be a solo career, it’s going to have my name and I can change the name of the band because it’s a different band. If we’re going to do something completely different we have to be called something different. So I think every record will be something else that I either need in my life in that moment or something that the record needs.
So the name change creates a separation between each record to avoid any comparisons
In a way, but it’s also that I feel like there needs to be a timeline and a visible, tangible progression from record to record. It’s kind of like separating eras; we’ve got the cretaceous period, the jurassic period… there are ways to differentiate. If I’m going to do the same thing over and over again, then there’s no point in doing it, and if I’m doing something different I also have the opportunity to call it something different. Every couple of months or years, things would happen in my life and I will just change drastically, whether it be my appearance or something else, I always want this scene change as a way of shedding your skin. I don’t know if it’s for the better or not but I felt like I had to burn down the past to get to the next step
The albums’ title creates a contrasting dynamic with your logo. One one hand you’ve got the anchor pulling you down with its weight and on the other the parachute breaking your fall. How do you see these two figures interplay?
That was awesome how you picked that up, I like that (smile)! Well I’ve got this idea that we’re all plummeting through life to an eventual end. The anchor, of course, reflects the weight of everything being put on our shoulders and being rooted in places that we don’t want to be in, things that we don’t want to do, things that we need to be out of necessity, whether it be for other people or this preconceived notion of ourselves. Parachutes are anything that lessens that fall and lets you hover and enjoy the moment for a little bit. We’re all going to fall, we’re all going to land, hopefully. We’re all going to make some form of impact. Some people just go down at a blink of an eye, and that’s somehow romantic to us. With that being said, the older I get the less romantic that becomes. I don’t want to die in a hospital but I do want to be able to take in the view just a little bit. I want to see my kids grow up, I want to enjoy that. I feel like the more we push the things that we love aside and speed towards the end, the less we learn and the less we grow, the less important the flight has. So that’s how that juxtaposition works out. There’s the weight of the fall as opposed to the parachute letting it float for a little bit.
Was this an intentional to confront these two figures?
Well the anchor has been there for a very long time and I felt like it had this push-and-pull, good luck & bad luck sign. When the parachutes thing came along, it was thought of. Again, it’s the good and evil, the light and the dark. I like playing off of those things, even musically.
The album carries a deeply introspective and cathartic feel to it. Would you say this album reflects more of a particular period in time or rather a whole retrospective outlook on your past?
The record started out meaning different things to me. When i was writing I felt the songs were about certain things, but when I started to work with Ross it all evolved.
Ross is very introspective, and he wants to know exactly where certain things stem from, and he asks questions I’ve never been asked before. Hypothetically, if I were to write a song about meeting someone, tipping over this glass of water and getting upset he would ask “well who was the person? where were you when the glass tipped over?” He goes deep into it and you start to dig past what your preconceived notion of the song was, and you realise that it’s about this emotion that you had about why you felt betrayed, and someone doing something to you when you were little which explains this reaction. Once you get there, the song suddenly is about something completely different. That happened a lot on this record, I never went that deep.
Did it lead you to make some changes in the actual songs themselves?
Yes, absolutely. Oh my god. I don’t think the songs were done until we finished record. Usually I like to have everything prepared, with sheets to show how everything is going to go. All of that went out the window when we started working with Ross. It was a very hard and wonderful process.
I wanted to touch upon your experience with producer Ross Robinson, who is known for his unconventional, extreme measures to get the most out of an artists performance. What was it like working with him on this record?
(Smiling, visibly struggling to find the right words to start) Alright… All of the stories that you hear … they still can’t prepare you for what the process is actually like. I come from a long line of self-deprecation. It’s just the way that I’ve always worked. For me, if you think that you’re not good enough it will make you strive to become better. This thought that “I’m no good at this, the things that I make suck”, will make you strive to work harder and put more time in to ultimately maybe get to an end where you will feel you did the best that you could and you made something great, or else you’d still hate yourself. With Ross it’s not like that. He doesn’t break you down to build you up, he builds you up from where you are, and I’ve never done that before, having someone say “You’re great at this, the things that you’re making are fantastic” and build your confidence from there. It sounds silly, but it was such a foreign notion to me, i’ve never been through that. It was amazing
Did it catch you off-guard? I know a lot of the stories about him talk about him insulting band members and hurling stuff at them…
Well he definitely throws stuff! (Laughs) I wonder if the process is different for each band and if he sees what each band needs to facilitate accordingly. Maybe he saw in me that I needed to be built up. He is 100% into the process, he becomes another member of the band. I’ve never tracked like the did either. Everyone is in the room at the same time doing their thing, with every instrument bleeding over in everyone else’s mic. He’s in the room, going at it, screaming along, it’s crazy. It’s not like any other person I’ve worked with in my life.
So the part of the record was recorded live?
Yeah, it’s weird. We had 17 days to do the record, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a lot of time. So when I came in I had about 18 songs written and he told me we have to narrow it down to 10, and I convinced him to do 12. I got in there and from the second we started tracking drums, everyone played live, then we went back and both guitars were played live. Some vocal tracks on the record are from the first time I sang it with the drums in the room. When you cut down those tracks you can hear everything; the guitars, singing on the snare track… it’s crazy! Every other studio experience I’ve ever been in were the dirtiest throw n’ go tracking, it seems so sterile compared to how Ross does it.
The album was co-produced by Ross Robinson and Steve Evetts. How did Steve’s working process interplay interplay with that of Ross in the recordings ?
(Laugh) The way they work together is so funny. Steve is a little more clean, more controlled, whereas Ross is just a maniac. If Ross could go through all of the tracks, he would pick the most fucked up, emotional takes of everything. He doesn’t care if it’s correct, he wants it to be right. Steve reigns that in a little bit. To have them both in the room creates this push and pull dynamic. They work so well together and they know each other so well. I’ve thought about that team for years but was too scared to ever attempt it.
The album art for the record was done by Angela Deane , who works with Ghost paintings on photography. At which point did her work come to mind when it came to using her imagery as your album cover?
I’ve been an admirer of her work for a very long time. I knew she worked on found photographs and I wanted to make it more personal. The idea, for me, came through the concept of parachutes being these lifesaving devices who’re there to protect you. The initial parachute that you’ve ever had are your parents. In that case, they’re the epitome of what we need in order to survive in the world. I wanted that incorporated in the art. Then there’s also the idea of the quintessential ghost being this sheet covering is also reminiscent of the parachute. Also, there’s also the idea that the parents need to let go in order for the child to go on and become the person that they need to be, they unfortunately need to pass on. The album outlines this whole process of them turning into the physical parachute. So that was the thought behind that. Instead of it being a found photograph, I wanted it to be a picture of my family.
I also found there to be a confrontation between the child, a symbol of newborn life, and the ghost which stands for death.
There’s always going to be that. I’m fascinated by the confrontation of dark and light, how far you can push good versus evil, birth versus death. Where does that line begin and end? Is it just completely blurred? For me I don’t know anymore, it’s one and the same. Love and hate is almost the same emotion only flipped on its head. There’s a lot of that on the record.
A few of these song titles on this record and your previous one have a somewhat cryptic, rather off-kilter quality to them. Would you care to elucidate the origin of a couple of them? Starting with “The Resurrectionist, Or an Existential Crisis in C#”.
Resurrectionists were bodysnatchers. They were these people who would go around and dig up corpses to be used again in different ways. Frankenstein was a resurrectionist for example. The song is about a person going through this existential crisis and wondering if it’s okay to feel like you don’t want to exist anymore. Say a close loved one is so negative and hates everything about themselves. Is it okay for you to be angry at them and want them to change, or should you love them for who they are, accept that, and understand that that’s the best person they’re already going to be, regardless of who you want them to be? So that’s that. And the song is in C#. The person going through the existential crisis is singing the song in C#.
How about Viva Indifference!
I love, that title, it’s one of my favorite titles of all time. Indifference is not negative or positive or positive, it’s kind of the worst emotion to have, not caring. That song is about how great it would be to just not give a shit about anything. If nothing affects you, then you can never be sad again. As we go through the song though, we find two people that care so much about each other that they can’t feel that way anymore, and they start to blame each other. It would be great now, but now I know what love is, I know what hate is, I know what sadness is, and it’s all your fault, but thank you for that. So they just ask themselves “wouldn’t it be great if we just stopped giving a shit about anything?” (laugh).
The song titles always touch upon a somber, introspective subject matter, with a somewhat more lighthearted phrasing. For example you’ve got “Veins! Veins! Veins!” or “Dear Percocet, I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”
(Laugh) Well Veins is about being the child of an addict and realising that no matter what you do, you can’t escape that predisposition. The enemy is in your blood, it’s who you are.
With Dear Percocet… Here’s the thing. You can be somber, there’re these real-life situations aren’t always humorous but they’re so fucking funny if you think about it, and if you can’t have an Oscar Wilde wit about it then you’re really just going to be really depressed. As far as Dear Percocet goes, it’s a song that strives for clarity and I know that if I’m not careful I could completely lose myself and certain things. I’ve seen it happen to people that I love, I’ve seen it to people that I don’t even know, and it’s scary. So that song is about searching for a way to relinquish these things that we feel like we need in order to numb ourselves.
Do you see these songs as a way to take a step back or rather a way to delve deeper into the subject matter?
I think the songs are my way of letting you in on a little bit of the joke and a little bit of what I’m feeling when I’m writing. I feel like they’re my decoder rings. If you read through the songs and you don’t know what they’re about, the title is a little more literal in certain respects.
The album carries an element of a raw, old-school punk rock and post-hardcore vibe, a bit of a Pencey Prep vibe to it. Was this merely an aesthetic choice for the project and the songs or does this also carry a form of rejection of “cleaner”, “glossy” production in rock and punk rock records?
First answer to that question is that I let the songs dictate what they need to sound like. I may have an idea of how I’d like them to sound like but I very rarely try to force that. I knew from the songs that we were writing that it could not sound like Stomachaches. That’s why I searched out Ross, basically. I felt like I needed that and it was finally right for it. As far as glossy production goes, it’s just not me. You can put a makeup and dress on a pig but it’s still going to be a pig. I don’t work that way, it’s not something that I listen to or like. I’ve never enjoyed listening to a record that I couldn’t tell if a human being played it. I’ve never really trusted people who were too perfect. That’s just my personal likes and dislikes. I like people that are… broken… in the best way possible.
It carries off a sense of genuineness.
I think so. Here’s the thing: deep down we all want to be cool but not try. The people who I can tell are trying too hard I don’t trust.
Could you name one of your favorite albums, movies and books?
Alright, so my albums are a tie for 3, and it’s been that way for a very long time. There’s Sgt. Peppers, which I feel is the first perfect record. Then there’s In Utero by Nirvana and Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by the Wu-Tang Clan. They’re masterpieces. I love the way records make me feel, and that’s all I could really ask for with a record.
Did you get to hear the Steve Albini Mix compared to the final mix of In Utero? What is you opinion on that whole affair?
Here’s the thing: earlier this year I got to do a session with Steve. It was amazing. That was also unlike any experience I ever had before. I had a long conversation with Steve about why he is the way he is and the way he works. I feel weird telling his story, but in a nutshell : when he was a young guy, he went to the studio with his favorite band and he watched the producer come in and change the band. “Don’t use this amp you’ve been using your entire life, it’s broken. Use this one!”. He said everything he love about that band was taken away and he promised himself he would never do that ever again. So when you go into the studio with Steve he wants you to use all of your stuff. Whatever it is that you have, even if it’s broken, if it’s yours you’re using it. Also he will not give you an opinion. At first it is very hard to take and swallow. He doesn’t want to taint whatever you have in your head, your vision of your song. Even if you’re like “Hey, was that a good take?”, he’ll be like “I don’t know, was it?” (laugh). “Awww fuck, Steve! Can you just tell me if I played it good?”. He won’t tell you anything. That gave me incredible insight into the records that I love that he’s made, because I know how purely the band it is. If I had to go with a mix, it would be Steve’s mix. Basically he’ll just mic things up, brings the levels up at the start and just leave it there. What you hear is what was there. He doesn’t do anything else. If he needs to fix up a mix, he feels like he did something wrong.
Would you see yourself potentially working on a full record that way ?
I know I couldn’t have made this record with him. I wasn’t that confident. I needed a partner on this record. Down the line I don’t know. I would love to work with Steve again. The longer we were together, the stronger the rapport and we got each other a lot more. It depends on the songs really. If the songs are completely done and there’s no way in hell you’re changing anything about those songs, then I think Steve is a great person to deal with. If you want to flesh things out a little bit more and to find out more about these songs that you’re writing, then Ross is the right choice. Both are some of the smartest and most talented people I’ve ever met in my entire life. I’m still immensely impressed with both.
The sessions with Steve were done in February. We’ll probably release it at some point but it was more of a bucket list thing for me. I was 12 years old when In Utero came out. I already knew at that point that I wanted to be in a band, but that was when I knew that I wanted to record with Steve Albini. It was a 23 year odyssey to get to hang out with Steve and do this session.
Back to the initial question to finish off, could you name one of your favorite movies and books?
(Hesitating) … See, my favorite movie is something like Die Hard (laugh). I think it’s because when that movie came out I knew I was’t allowed to see it, so when I finally did I was like “This is the greatest!”. You can’t get better than Bruce Willis in Die Hard. It’s one of the greatest movies of all time. For those who ask why, just go watch it and tell me it’s not! (laugh).
In terms of books Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is always a go-to. Also, Slaughterhouse-Five, anything Kurt Vonnegut has ever written I find to be a comforting blanket. If I ever feel real homesick or just too negative to feel okay, there’s also great interview he did that I just google and immediately feel better after watching. He talks about how he likes to take walks and mail things. He’d go out and find a mailbox. It wasn’t about what was going on that day or the thing that he had to do, it was about the people he would meet along the way and the experiences he would have. He was such an amazing soul, I connect with everything he writes.
I noticed your “Bookworm” tattoo on your hands. I’m guessing you read quite a bit?
(laugh) I try to. Now that I have 3 kids it’s hard. They don’t give a shit if you want to read (laugh). I’ve always enjoyed reading. I’m able to shut things off around me and fall into a story, it’s one of my favorite pass times. It really helps on tour.
A huge thank you goes out to Frank Iero and to the staff at Him Media for making this interview possible.
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