Interview: Frank Iero talks solo project FrnkIero AndThe Cellabration

Frank Iero, the man of many projects which share little in common but his name has treated the punk world to near-perfectly tracked album in his debut release “Stomachaches” under the solo project moniker FrnkIero AndThe Cellabration. Emotions run high in these lyrics, which is no surprise, considering that their composer was in crippling pain for the majority of the recording process.

Said to be kept in their rawest form possible, Iero took the album out for a test drive this past autumn on a month-long tour with The Used and Taking Back Sunday, and has been finding them very well received.

Frankie was cool enough to spare DS some time prior to his wrap-up headlining show at Metro Gallery in Baltimore to discuss fathers, zombies, trolls and oh yeah, a little bit about music as well. His interview is below (and can also be viewed on video here.)

Deborah J. Draisin (Dying Scene): Here with Frank Iero, of FrnkIero and the Cellabration, in Baltimore. (Frank waves hello to the camera) Okay, so can we get a little backstory on the songs?

Frank Iero: Sure! I started writing in like the end of 2012, beginning of 2013. It was one of those things which is just a means to an end – like I just wanted to start being creative again, you know? Just a way to kind of feel human after I felt horrible, physically. So, any time that I would start to feel really bad, I would force myself to get up and go do something positive. Before I knew it, I had written all of these songs.

Let’s pick a song at random, I don’t know…”Guiltripping,” what’s it about?

(smiling) That is a literal title. It’s about…

Feeling guilty?

It’s about making someone feel guilty.

Making someone feel guilty, so like stuff that my grandmother does?

(laughing) Possibly, yeah, something like that.

“It’s okay, I don’t need anybody, I’ll just lay here and die.”

Yeah, “Just leave me here, leave me behind.”

Cool, and “Joyriding?”

“Joyriding” is about seeing despair in someone’s eyes and there’s nothing you can really do about it.

Been there. “Stitches?”

“Stitches” is about giving up, or feeling like you’re inherently evil and coming to grips with that and actually finding power.

How does one do that, exactly?

I don’t know (laughs.)

Oh, you didn’t find the answer in the song?

You can feel like a monster, and hate yourself for it, or you can realize that that’s just the way things are, and become okay with it.

Isn’t that a daily change though, like one day you’re okay and the next…?

For some people. I’m trying to think that song, in particular – or are we going existentially? (laughs)

What it’s influenced by, you mean?

Yeah. Sometimes you can be told something over and over again, and you can only not believe it for so long, you know what I mean? So, when you come to that realization…

Something negative or something positive?

Both really. Let’s say. in this instance, it’s negative, so you can either hate yourself for either being that way or feeling that way, or you can find solace in it and own it.

Cool beans. Are you getting used to being a frontperson at all, or is that still rough?

Ah…am I getting used to it? A little bit. Does that mean I like it, or that it’s awesome? No (laughs.)

Why are you not getting drunk right now so you can deal with it? That’s what I’d be doing.

Well, one, if I drink beer, it makes me burp, and that can be horrible to deal with onstage.

Oh, that can be awkward.

And I like to be more present than that when I’m playing.

You like to be engaged.

A little bit. A little bit!

Just a little engaged, not too engaged – it can get out of hand?

It’s weird, yeah. I have a regimen of medications that I take that put me in the right state of mind.

The last time that we spoke, you were in a band (LeATHERMØUTH) where you threw yourself into the crowd. You’re not doing that with this project, so…

No, I can’t get away from the mic that much, that’s the problem, because if I do that, then there’s nothing; then it’s just an instrumental.

Then the band’s just like “Uh, it’s awkward up here, help!”

Yeah (both laugh.)

Making family life work on the road, how do you balance that?

You know, when you find that window. It’s hard.

It is hard.

You look for Wi-Fi a lot more.

Do they understand? Not really.

Not really. You do like Facetime or Skype-ing, but it’s really more for you than them. For them, I don’t think it’s beneficial – it sometimes makes it harder, you know?

Because they hear you, but they don’t know why you’re not there.

Yeah, they’re like “Why can’t you come home?”

Thoughts of taking them with you, or not yet?

Well, we’re in a van right now, so probably not. Not for a very long time.

You’re not going to be “The Osbournes?” (both laugh.) Oh hey, speaking of reality t.v., what are you watching now?

I haven’t watched anything for about a month.

Well, because you’re on tour.

Because we’re on tour, yeah, but I’m excited that “Homeland” is starting again, and “The Walking Dead.”

Oh, you’re watching that? That’s a big deal at Comic Con every year.

I can imagine. I feel like it’s doing pretty well. I don’t like Carl, and that whole relationship bugs me, but I want to see where it goes.

Cool. How do you keep your stomach healthy, since you’ve said that you always get stomachaches. What do you eat while you’re on tour? Granola bars?

It depends. Like, I’ll find something that works and then that’s all I’ll eat for a month and a half. Clif bars usually are alright. There’s also this gluten free one that’s great. But sometimes, it’s like “Oh man, I just want a sandwich or something.”

Well, bread is the way to go, I think, for stomach issues.

Sometimes, yeah. I think if you overdo the wheat too, that affects the process.

It sucks.

Yeah. Peanut butter and jelly usually works.

Peanut butter does not work for me anymore.

No? Well, anything that’s delicious, if I eat too much of it, I’m in pain, basically.

Yeah, like Cheetos are going to make you die.

Oh God, no!

Okay, Phase II? What’s next after this tour?

I don’t know! I have some songs in my head.

Are you going to bust them out?

Not tonight. They’re only in my head

They’re still percolating.

They didn’t come out of my head yet. Well, one of them has, but I don’t know about it yet. In the immediate future, we’re playing with Alkaline Trio on October 23, I’m very excited.

Oh yeah, I hate you. I can’t believe you’re fucking going to that. Those tickets sold out in three minutes, fucking A.

I can imagine. That was the only way that I could get a ticket, is by saying that we could play it (laughs.)

Lucky asshole, fuck you.

And then we’re doing the UK after that.

And you’re doing Home for the Holidays. How fucking great are The Bouncing Souls? I love that damn band. I go every year. They’re amazing, and they’re really good dudes too, they’re like the salt of the earth.

They really are.

They don’t know they’re famous, and they just fucking pull it out. Thirty years.

That sounds like a long time.

What’s your favorite album?

You know, it’s weird, it has changed as I got older. I didn’t think that it was going to be my favorite, but I think my favorite is “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

Ah, it’s all about “Anchors” for me.

“Anchors Aweigh” is unbelievable.

It’s a fucking masterpiece.

It really is, but for some reason, I’m going to go with “Summer Vacation.”

That’s just loaded with hits, basically, like every great song that they play.

I think it’s just a feel-good record.

It is.

It really is. I mean, they don’t have a bad record, but if I could put a star on one, I don’t know why, it’d be that one.

They told me once that it was like happy, fucking really damn depressing, then okay, back to happy. That was hard on them.

I can imagine, yeah.

Okay, so you had mentioned that there was a “Weighted” video, and also a “Bodysnatchers” video that were going to be movies, is that ever going to happen?

I said that?

You did, years ago. You said that was going to be a movie that was going to happen, that you did with your friend.

Of “Bodysnatchers?”

Yep, and you also said that “Weighted” was supposed to be longer.

Alright, “Bodysnatchers,” yeah, we filmed a lot of stuff that’ll probably never see the light of day, because, cohesively, it didn’t work. We didn’t have enough funds.

Can’t you Kickstart something like that?

I don’t know, I think the story of “Bodysnatchers” is still very interesting. It’s funny, I actually talked to my friend, John, from Ghost Cow about it, and it’s a strange concept, because in order to tell the story and keep people understanding how the souls are jumping, it’s a difficult process. Is that something that I would like to chase at some point? Possibly, but right now, I’m thinking about another video for this record.

Which one, can you tell?

I actually just had a conversation with Staple about it. I wrote two treatments: one for “Stage 4” and one for “Prettiest.” I think the one for “Prettiest” is stronger, so I’d like to do that, but I think it’s a bit aggressive for the budget that we have, so we’ll see what happens.

What’s with the  horror, you just love Stephen King?

I always have.

Yeah, me too.

I think it goes back to being a kid. That’s how I bonded with my dad: through music and horror movies.

Me too. You actually like really old blues, right? Did your dad turn you onto that?

Oh my God, yeah.

My dad too. Fats Domino is our man, and he still plays. I think I’m going to take my dad for his birthday next year if he’s around.

That sounds amazing, yeah.

Do you have any of that influence in your music now, do you see it?

I think so, I do. There are certain songs, I mean the whole ending of “Stitches,” “I am the seventh son, I am the setting sun.”

Nobody knows what that is, unless they listen to Iron Maiden.

I mean, you go back to Muddy (Waters,) these are the oldest lines about Satan ever made, in the blues world, you know? So there are little things here and there. Musically, I don’t know. Blues structure is so recognizable that it’s hard to do that and have it not sound just like everything that’s been done. So, in that case, I see it, but I don’t know if you can necessarily say “Oh, yeah.”

You don’t know if it translates. Your parents are fans of yours, aren’t they? That’s so fucking cool. Your mom was at the show in Jersey, right?

Ah, yeah, she was there.

They actually like what you do, they get it, they don’t think it’s noise?

No, well, my mom’s been around it because my dad was always in it. My dad’s always been around it. My grandfather was in it. So, we’ve always been a musical family in that respect. When my parents split, I would obviously go to my dad’s on the weekends, and we would either go see my grandfather play at this Speakeasy, or I’d go see my dad play at some bar.

Your mom let him take you to a Speakeasy when you were a little kid?

Here’s the thing: it was a restaurant, but it was total Prohibition-era.

That’s so badass.

It wasn’t on the road, you had to go through the forest onto this private road. You’d get in there, and it was a restaurant, a dance floor and a bar, that’s what it was.

Your dad was like “No, we’re just eating a hamburger!”

Yeah! And I would go with my grandmother and we’d hang out there. If you stayed up really late, you could go with the band to the diner afterward, and that was huge.

That’s fun.

That was when I knew. That was just what we did, you know? I had to do that.

Do you want your kids to play, or are you hoping they don’t?

I want them to play, I don’t want them to make it their work. If I could go back, I probably would have had a backup plan, but I didn’t want that for myself. And I’m sure my father wanted the same thing for me, he said “I don’t want you to do this, it’s the worst” and it fucking is.

I’m a fucking bad parent, because I tell my kid “Go for the music, fuck college!”

No, I mean, you want them to be passionate, to do something that they believe in, that they want to do in their hearts, but I think, when you’re in it, you see how gut-wrenching and heartbreaking this is, and you don’t want that for them.

It can be.

It really can.

It’s hard, because, first of all, the lifestyle is hard, second of all, getting attached to bands is hard. I mean, you’re with your brother-in-law right now, so you probably can’t divorce your brother-in-law, but…

But you see stories about that, brothers that don’t get along.

Oh yeah, it happens. You compared the live interpretation of songs like the transition from book to movie, but, actually, movies are usually not as good as the books, so how do you feel now?

I think that was just my way of comparing two separate things, not necessarily one being better than the other. If you want to hear the record, than you listen to the record. If you want to experience the song and feel the energy of it, than you need to see it live, and I think that’s like an adaptation.

Do you have a favorite? Do you feel that there’s one that translates best live for you?

I feel like it’s all so different, I don’t know if it’s better or worse, you know?

It depends on the day?

Yeah, and also, you have to understand that these songs were written and recorded without playing them at all. I never played the songs live, and that’s very strange for me, because, usually, that’s how I figure it out: get five or six guys in a room, turn it up to eleven, and that’s how the song is written, and now I know how to record it.

Nice “Spinal Tap” reference, by the way, thanks for slipping that in. Did anyone ever catch the Jawbreaker reference (in “Stage 4: Fear of Trying?”)

I don’t know (smiles.)

You even say “Yeah, I know you’ve heard that line before.” The fanbase is young, you’ve got to turn them onto Jawbreaker, they’re a fucking great band!

I hope so. I hope I can do that, that was the intent (laughs) as much as feeding off that line. To me, it’s also a throwback to Face to Face doing that with Descendents (in “Disconnected.”) using that line, “You don’t know what you want, it may take you years to find out.” I actually quoted that: I had seen Descendents and I posted that, I wrote that line, and someone was like “Oh, Face to Face!”

What great fucking bands, Descendents and Face to Face, such a shame that it took so long (for Face to Face) to get back. So, you’re off to Britain, then you’re off to Home for the Holidays, that’s it, you’re done.

Right. Alkaline, UK, Home for the Holidays and then I think we’re probably going to a headliner early next year.

You’re going to it here, there or somewhere else?

I think here at first and the probably try to take a European tour. I would like to hit Australia at some point, we’ve just got to see if it’s viable.

Maybe hit one of their festivals?

I would like that, it’s so hard though. We’re such a DIY project that, financially, it has to make sense.

Yes, of course, if you can’t have a black line, you have to at least make it even (sorry, I’m in accounting.)


Does it get frustrating when people ask you about your former projects when you’re trying to promote this one?

No, I think the frustrating part comes in when it’s a comparison in the press kind of thing. Some comparisons are smart, but the ones that are just lazy are frustrating.

Like what? Can you give an example of what’s happened that you felt that.

A lazy one would be not listening to the record and trying to find some merits, and just being like “Oh well, you were in this band, so of course it sounds like that.”

I don’t personally think that any of your stuff sounds like anything else; they’re all different.

I feel like each project has its own life. Even if we were to cover My Chem, it’s not going to sound like it, because My Chem was the people that were in that band. I think that’s a lazy comparison, when I see someone saying “Well, I hear certain guitar lines.”

Is there an obstacle in coming from a really commercially successful band back down here? Do you feel that people react a bit differently, or is it a benefit?

People can make it weird. I don’t feel weird about it. When someone goes out of their way to make you feel awkward about it, then, yeah.

Oh, to like alienate you for it?

Or sometimes they just don’t know what the fuck to say, so they say the dumbest thing that comes into their head, you know what I mean? People forget that we’re all just human beings, and if I just meet you as a human being, that’s my first impression of you, so you could just say “Hello,” but you decided to say something offensive.

You had spoken about that: you were saying that some people on twitter just say the worst thing that they can think of to try and get attention.

Yeah, and it’s really just so that they can be noticed, and when you think about that, it’s very sad, but I get it. Some kids don’t know the difference between good and bad attention, and they don’t care, just as long as somebody acknowledged their existence.

What’s the worst thing that’s been said to you, can you say?

I think it’s when they attack people that you love or something like that.

Aw, that’s hard.

You have to come to the understanding that there are some assholes.

Yeah, but you want to keep them out of it, and it sucks.


Well, you’ve got fans to go meet, thank you for your time, Frank.

Alright, cool!

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