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
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
Q: Oh, that’s a good thing! It’s not
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
F: Yeah, that’s what we were kinda going
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.
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,
Q: (laughing) I’m not here, I’m just
walking behind this amp!
Q: You've done lot of shows now already, with
this band – what’s your favorite moment
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
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
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
F: You think so?
Q: Yeah, it’s usually never what you think
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Q: Yeah, you definitely don’t need to know
like, where the dude went shopping today; that’s
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
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
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!