Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Fighting Back At The World With Hardcore Fury

Listen! Download an mp3 of this interview here .

By Deborah J. Draisin

Almost five years in the making, LeATHERMØUTH is a straight-up hardcore band born and raised somewhere in New Jersey (or possibly Europe.) The group’s hard-hitting first album XØ (released through Epitaph Records) has received respectable reviews (and a couple of bitter comparisons to Motorhead.) [Read Rich Quinlan’s review here.] This is a project that no one seems to know quite what to make of, which naturally intrigues us. Besides the name recognition of frontman Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance, it also features one of my favorite new guitar players, Rob Hughes, and a touring lineup to die for. So we asked Frank to spare a moment or two from an L.A. recording session for the next MCR album, which he was nice enough to do (eventually.)

Q: Hey Frank, it’s Deb from Jersey Beat, how are you?

F: Hey Deb, I gotta tell you: I really want to thank you; I know it’s been hell getting in touch with me for this interview.

Q: No, it’s all right, I appreciate that you’re in the studio and I guess there was a communication issue, so it’s fine. I appreciate your time, too – you’re taking time out of what you’re doing.

F: No absolutely. That’s the thing; we just got here a couple of days ago, and we’re just getting a feel yet of what the record is going to be like, and stuff like that, so it’s really just fleshing out like a couple of songs here and there. I’m really getting into the stride now, so…

Q: I checked; it’s exactly the same temperature this week in Los Angeles as it is in New York City – good plan, there!

F: Yeah, every time we’re in Los Angeles, the weather is always horrible, so it’s not weird for us when we get here. It actually just today lightened up – it’s very nice today.

Q: Oh, that’s a good thing! It’s not nice here.

F: Yeah the thing is we really spend our days just locked in the studio, so I haven’t really been outside that much.

Q: Oh, some palm trees, whatever…!

F: Yeah, I haven’t even been out of the room.

Q: Yeah, well that’s a good thing, actually, being locked up and recording is certainly better than being outside and standing in the windy weather. Okay, so this LeATHERMØUTH project took five years to come to fruition - how different is the finished product from what you started out with?

F: Insanely different! When we first started, the only recordings we really had were just from a practice studio in Jersey and then…well I guess maybe it’s not that different because now it’s just a live version of us playing in my basement (we both laugh.) We actually had time to craft the songs - a lot of that was done when I would come off the road for a week or two here and there. We’d be like “Oh, let’s try this one a little bit different.” I had the recordings for a while without lyrics and vocals – I would just sit on it while touring, and when I would finally come home, that’s when I’d record in my basement.

Q: You had two songs at the time, correct?

F: Yeah, we started with the two that were live recordings from the rehearsal studio, and we called it “Live In Spain.” It was “Murder Was the Case They Gave Me” and - at that time it was called “What’s a Pulse Got Ta Do With it?” - which ended up being “Bodysnatchers 4Ever.”

Q: Right, I remember when it was called that, actually. That’s not at all confusing, right? “Oh, it’s a completely different song!”

F: (laughing) I didn’t want to steal too many titles! I didn’t want to keep that going.

Q: Right! (laughing) Well, I know that you've stated that this is the first project where you've actually been responsible for all of the lyrics, but you've done a few here and there for other projects, right?

F: Yeah, you know, mostly ideas and stuff like that – I mean never like full verses or whole songs by any means. It was maybe a line here or there or just an idea.

Q: Mm hm. Does this sole responsibility change what you feel you are able to say?

F: Well…I don’t know if it would if I knew that the record was going to come out. See, originally, I thought I was just going to do it anonymously, so when writing for that, I didn’t care too much. I think for the next record, when everyone will know already, it may. I don’t really know, but that’s yet to be seen - I hope not, though. I’d like LeATHERMØUTH to just be what it is, and just promote people – and I think to promote people, you need to just be uncensored.

Q: Oh, I agree – I don’t think there would be much logic to a hardcore band that’s censored.

F: No, I mean like censoring your thoughts or the different things that you would talk about.

Q: Mm hm – I don’t think any artist should have to do that, actually. That’s kinda not the point of living in this country – I’m so against censorship. This is the first project where you've not contributed instrumentally, right? Is that a weird shift to make for you as a guitar player?

F: Yeah, but I think it helped me vocally, because I definitely did things I wouldn’t normally have thought of, you know? Taking such a step back from that, it kept me in an open mind.

Q: Fair enough. Everyone gets asked about the song or band that made them want to play - do you have one that made you completely reconsider the business?

F: No…even the rough spots, when you see things that make you want to give everything up, you kinda take a step back and realize that’s not why you’re doing it. You’d like to think that you would be in a band even if there were no other bands out there, or any kind of music - like you would be creating even if you were just drumming on a rock. That’s the thing; I think it’s just a necessity that I have. I have to play music, I have to create or write just to stay sane – so other people’s actions really can’t dictate how I feel towards that.

Q: That’s a great answer, actually. So, the video for “Bodysnatchers 4Ever” is due out I guess today – can you tell us anything about it? (Writer’s note: At press time, the video had not yet been released to the public.)

F: Yeah! Well, really, it keeps in the style with doing everything ourselves. It orignally started as: I wanted to make a film that would go along with the record, so I went to my friend, Dane Castoro. He kind of blows me away with his talent in editing and directing - he makes short films on his own. So, we got together in my basement and backyard and started to come up with concepts for the movie. Because of time constraints and just lack of…coincidences, I think, we couldn’t finish the movie in time for the record to come out.

So, what I did was, I kinda cut out pieces from the twenty minute film and did a video out of it – so it’s highly edited. I think the storyline is very blurred right now, but hopefully in maybe another time we can finish the film and the story will actually be seen – but it’s really just a nightmare sequence. There were four people really involved – me, Dane, his girlfriend and another friend, and we just kinda sat around and filmed stuff. I’m really happy with the way it came out – it took a long time to edit it and do a lot of stuff and post. We really wanted to go for this feel where these tapes were found and let the viewer kinda interpret things about it. I’m really proud of it – I’ve never directed anything; I’ve never done anything with films before, and I’ve always wanted to. But this is my first attempt at it, so I hope it works out.

Q: Was it a weird shift to make for you or did you like totally embrace it?

F: Well, the technical side was the problem, and that’s where Dane came in so amazingly. I didn’t know shit about how to film or how to edit things; I used all his knowledge for that – that made it a lot easier.

Q: Mm hm – I’ve seen the sneak peak; it’s really interesting. It reminds me of an old-time silent movie; it’s a really cool effect.

F: Yeah, that’s what we were kinda going for.

Q: It’s awesome. What's the symbolism, by the way, behind you always being the one killed in the press photos?

F: (laughing) Well, I told Epitaph I didn’t want do press photos where my face was being seen so much – there were a few got out there that kinda weren’t supposed to be released. But I said that I would only show my face if I could have it smashed. So that was kind of the idea that me and Jamie came up with.

Q: (laughing) Oh, that’s awesome! So, you've listed the lyrics to "Leviathan" as EVP - so you're saying it was written by the dead?

F: Um, it’s more of a lend to channeling things that are around you and being almost a medium for that – and also having a breakdown as well. There’s a small sequence of lyrics that I do go back to, and they are kind of set, but for the most part, I like it to change every time. It’ll change depending on, based on everything – where I am at that point in time, what happened in my day; it’s just an open-ended thing, where I’m feeling things inside and channeling that.

Q: Ah, that’s interesting, so basically no one’s ever hearing the same song twice.

F: Right.

Q: That’s cool. Um, most hardcore band moment you've witnessed so far?

F: Hm, oh man…

Q: Come on, you have to have a good story!

F: It’s really, I mean, to me, the most hardcore moments are doing it – like traveling with no means…(chuckles) This is one of my favorite experiences: we had a show up on Long Island – this wasn’t with LeATHERMØUTH, this was with another band I was in – our van broke down just in the middle of the LIE and we had to push it to the side. So, it was either get it towed home – because we had like two miles left on one person’s AAA card – or get it towed to the show and then just figure it out. So we towed it to the show, played the show – and not all of us could fit in the tow truck, so some of us had to hide in the back of the van with the equipment. So we kind of hung out inside until the thing came, and I think we got home at like 10:00 in the morning, because he cops had to…I don’t know, we had to like finagle something to get home. To me, that was the biggest hardcore moment.

Q: (laughing) That’s definitely hardcore – that’s like trying to sneak out of another country illegally!

F: Yeah, you do or die!

Q: I guess anybody that went to that show had to go “Look what these people did just to get here, I mean, come on!”

F: (laughing) Yeah, that was a kind of funny moment, when the broken-down van pulls up behind this like sirened tow truck and then it gets lowered – we’ve gotta get out of the tow truck – and as soon the tow truck leaves, you kind of sneak the guys out of the back that weren’t supposed to be in the back with the equipment, so…

Q: (laughing) I’m not here, I’m just walking behind this amp!

F: Exactly!

Q: You've done lot of shows now already, with this band – what’s your favorite moment so far?

F: I like it when people obviously don’t get it, and are visibly annoyed (we both laugh) – those are some of my favorite moments. But, we’ve been fortunate enough that a lot of people are really enjoying it, and have been coming out; whether it’s from myspace or just hearing the record.

Q: They’re singing along, so you’ve got good fans.

F: That’s a real inspiring moment, when people are singing your words back to you. I’ve been lucky enough to experience that a couple of times, and it’s really some of the best feelings I’ve ever had.

Q: That’s gotta be incredible! Um, I actually have a few more: what I wanted to ask you is: you’re touring with a different lineup than you recorded with; was that a smooth adjustment to make?

F: Um yes, but it also wasn’t really that bad – I mean with the original lineup, we’d only really played like two or three shows, and that was spread out over at least six months. And the only reason for that was that our schedules just weren’t really working together. When I would come home from tour, someone’d be like “Oh, there’s a show, do you wanna play?” I mean, there was no real demand I guess for a tour or anything at that time, because we didn’t really have any songs yet, so both shows we played were really only like six or seven song sets. So it was just getting our feet into the water, and then when the touring lineup came together, that’s when we really started to play and get together like all the songs we had.

Q: Yeah, that first show was sort of sprung on you last minute, wasn’t it, if I remember correctly? It was a last minute decision, like “Hey, can you be here in two days?”

F: Mm hm, exactly. We did like a CMJ show. We hadn’t planned on playing a show or anything, I was just like “Oh hey, I’m in town this week.” There was an opening spot on the showcase, and I got the call. I was like “Alright, let’s see if everybody can do it” and we did it.

Q: Yeah, you pulled it out – you have to roll with it sometimes.

F: Yeah, that’s the fun of the band, and also the fun behind the record – even recording some of these songs – have the sense of urgency that you get; you have that first take and you just put it out there. I think that with the recorded aspect of this band, it needed to be that way. If it was overproduced or even thought about beyond a couple of takes, it wouldn’t be the same.

Q: Yeah, you’re right – I actually was reading a little from the people that had been following this band since the beginning, and they were hoping that it wasn’t going to deviate too far from the demos; they liked that they were dirty.

F: Right, and I think that really encompasses the band –to hear it in any other way, I don’t think it would be as special.

Q: Yeah, it has to be sort of seat-of-your-pants. How long did it take to write the rest of the tracks?

F: You know, it took a lot longer because we weren’t around each other. I don’t know how long it would take if, say, we were all in a room focusing on writing the record; how long that would take or how long it would take to record. I imagine it would probably be very, very quick, and I like that about it. That’s the thing too is that I sat with the record without vocals for a long time, and when I did finally write the lyrics and sang, it didn’t take me very long to finish up the recording process; it was only maybe about a week. And then I sat on that for months – I had the record done, finished on my computer for months and months. Then finally it came to Epitaph, and we had a meeting about it, and the record came out. So, the amount of time behind this record is astronomical compared to the time put into it.

Q: Like five years, right?

F: Mm hm.

Q: Wow! And it’s twenty minutes long – so it took you five years to do twenty minutes.

F: (we both laugh.) Exactly!

Q: I like to ask this one: is there a song you would like to go out with: just a lyric that sums it up for you?

F: As far as this record is concerned, I think the one that speaks to me the most; that comes the most from private experiences - not that the rest of the record doesn’t –
but the one that speaks to me the most is “Sunsets Are For Muggings.”

Q: Mm, because it’s personal, right?

F: Yes; I don’t know if it so much sums up the band, but it definitely sums up the feeling behind this record to me. To me, it kind of comes to a head on that song, because a lot of the topics that we cover on the record are social problems. And when the social problems seem to affect you personally, that’s what “Sunsets” is about. How you’ll sometimes feel like the world is kinda crashing down around you, and you’ll go to someone that you trust – say a doctor or something like that, and all they’ll do is pump you full of meds that are supposed to make you feel normal but they just end up making you feel even worse.

Q: Yeah, or they ask you about your dreams or “How are you feeling today?”

F: I had a very strange dream last night – I don’t really know what it means, but…it was where I was in my house, at home in Jersey, and for some reason, there were little things wrong with it. Like, one of the walls was cracked a little bit, and there was something on the floor, like a floorboard coming up, or a carpet. And I would go up to the wall and try to take something, like take it out, and behind the wall, there was like this weird mirror, and behind the mirror was a body. And I would find these things all over the house, and I didn’t know what it was. It was like some sort of crime going on and the bodies were hidden in my house behind mirrors.

Q: (we both laugh) Do you think it has anything to do with the material – like you’re haunting yourself in your sleep?

F: I have no idea!

Q: Actually, a dream book would probably tell you you’re repressing something, or something like that.

F: You think so?

Q: Yeah, it’s usually never what you think it is.

F: I know, so yeah, so like if my teeth are falling out, then you’re losing money.

Q: Yeah, that means you’re losing money, or doesn’t mean you’re getting married? No, that’s when you die, right?

F: I don’t know – yeah, something like if you die, that means a rebirth, but if you’re…I don’t know; all the dream books just end up confusing me more than the actual dreams.

Q: They are confusing, yeah.

F: So um…I guess if you wanted to look into it: would it be that I felt I was hiding myself some sort of things, like kind of like the construction of the house that I’ve built, or what? I really don’t know.

Q: Wow…

F: It was kind of cool, definitely – it was a sleuth type of dream.

Q: You had to solve it.

F: I like to watch “Law and Order” till I fall asleep, so maybe that was what happened…

Q: Maybe that’s what it was – you were actually in an episode in your sleep!

F: (we both laugh) Probably. That’s a good show.

Q: “Law And Order,” wow that show’s been on like forever – isn’t it like ten years or something?

F: Oh yeah, well that’s what they do; I mean you look back now at all these like past incarnations: there was Briscoe, then there was the fat guy, I don’t know. It’s weird, like the different main character cops change the feel of the shows.

Q: I know it started with Richard Belzer, I remember that; like fifteen years ago.

F: I love the Vincent D’Onofrio, C.I., that’s fun. I like how he’s turned into a fucking crazy person.

Q: Vincent D’Onofrio’s pretty awesome, I’m gonna give you that one.

F: Yeah, I’m way into that.

Q: So is that what you watch now, you watch crime shows?

F: Yeah, well, here’s the thing, back home they had this thing called Monsters HD, which is like all horror movies all the time on one channel.

Q: Oh, awesome!

F: Yeah, it’s amazing; even shitty movies like “Night of the Creeps” or “Night of the Demons” I, II and III – things that never came out on high definition, they play on this channel in HD, and it’s great! You know, there’s no commercials – all the content is there, and for me it’s like a fucking dream come true.

Q: Really? Do they run like the Vincent Prices, like the Phibes’ and stuff?

F: Oh yeah, anything awesome like that.

Q: Oh, they do??

F: Yeah, and the thing too that in between, they’ll have a thing called “Monsterama” where they’ll just interview people like a showcase thing? They’ll have like toys; they had one on about different collectors, even a show on makeup artists, Thompson Media, etc. To me, that’s the ultimate – I love watching that kind of thing. But the company that ran the channel – they also had like a Kung Fu channel and all these other things – they went under. So now there’s no Monsters HD, so I’m fucking bummed.

Q: Oh, that sucks, Man, I was getting psyched!

F: I know! The thing was kinda ridiculous about it though is that all the movies that they do play on the channel, I happen to have, because I’m like an avid, retarded dvd movie collector. So it was just a matter of having them all at your fingertips and like going on random on the channel, which was so fun to me. But now, I actually have to get up and go put a dvd in.

Q: I know, isn’t that annoying? It’s like “Why doesn’t it work by itself, damnit?” I like my DVR; it just plays - I don’t have to get up.

F: Well, this is the thing is: what’s so great about coming together with the other guys from My Chem. Like, Bob and Ray are such huge media nerds – they’re telling me all these things I can do. Like, I can hook up a receiver to my DVR box and I can keep all my movies on some sort of server, so that I can watch them anywhere in the world. You can keep stuff on your DVR and then record it, like when you’re on tour; you can record off the tv.

Q: Dude, that’s badass!

F: I know, right? Well, normally I’m very scared of and leery of technology, but this is something exciting to me.

Q: Me too, but you’re a musician; like you gotta know more than I do; I can’t even operate a digital camera.

F: I fucking hate it though! Here’s the thing; I may know things, technology-wise, but I refuse to use any of them. I don’t know, I saw a great bumper sticker today that someone had – it says “Drum machines have no soul.”

Q: True.

F: I thought that was great. To me, that’s the thing; like in this day and age, where everything is right at your fingertips, no one actually knows anybody.

Q: That’s true.

F: At any point, you can go on the internet and search the person’s name or whatever and witness the most trying moment in that person’s life, you know, when they’re most at odds. You can see all these things on the internet – where people are just ripped apart, but no one actually knows anybody.

Q: Yeah, you’re like too intimate with people you shouldn’t know anything about.

F: Yeah, and it’s killed all the mystery to it, and I think that sucks.

Q: I know, I agree with you, like the bands in the 80’s, you didn’t know them, they didn’t want to know you – I don’t know that we should go back to that, but…

F: Yeah, but that’s not what it was about – you had the connection through their art, but as far as knowing them on a personal level, you didn’t, and I don’t think you need to.

Q: Yeah, you definitely don’t need to know like, where the dude went shopping today; that’s ridiculous.

F: (laughing) Exactly!

Q: There’s too much stalkerism; everybody’s just too addicted to reality tv, that’s just the bottom line.

F: Yes, however, I am addicted to this “Rock of Love Bus.”

Q: (giggling) Dude, that is the greatest show on television, I’m sorry!

F: I mean it’s really just like watching a train wreck; I’ve never seen…it’s just…anyway, I don’t want to get into that, I could talk for hours about it.

Q: No, we won’t discuss that, but that is a good show, I can’t lie, it is.

F: I know, but like if you think about it, that whole channel is surviving off of…okay you take someone who’s not a celebrity, and you put them on a show. They make a fucking disgusting and complete fool out of themselves…

Q: And they become a celebrity…

F: Yeah, and then they’re a celebrity and then, alright you know, then when they get totally fucked up and are on drugs, they go on Sober House and it’s this continuous vicious circle! You know, these people who aren’t celebrities, but I guess they’re just famous from tv or the internet.

Q: Yeah, that show is kinda crazy; I don’t know what the hell’s up with that – it’s like exploitation almost.

F: I know!

Q: It’s crazy shit. Well, you missed ComicCon, are you bummed?

F: I know! You know, I am bummed, because basically, all the friends that I have who were there got all my other friends from home in and I wasn’t able to share in any of the festivities; I’m really bummed out about it.

Q: It was a good ComicCon this year – lotta good shit.

F: Oh really? Man, that sucks.

Q: Yeah, you need to not be on the other side of the world when that happens.

F: I know – because I spent like months at home in Jersey, being like “I need to get out of here” because of the weather, and then when the one cool thing does happen back home, I’m here.

Q: Of course you’re not there.

F: Yeah, and it’s raining here, so…

Q: Perfect! My aunt is one of those people; she brings the rain everywhere she goes.

F: Seriously, and I hate precipitation, so I don’t know why. I think it’s just if there is a God, he’s playing fucking tricks on me.

Q: Yeah, he’s got a rain cloud over your head.

F: Probably!

Q: Alright, Frank, well thanks for your time, I’m gonna let you get back to recording now; you were generous with it.

F: Thank you!




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