How did it happen?
Well, I met Gerard a few years ago at an awards dinner, and he told me they had grown up with Queen music, and the band were very inspired by what we had done. At the time I wasn’t familiar with MCR, but a while later I heard their great version of “Under Pressure”, which was enough to make me go out and buy their current CD. The next thing I remember was catching a great video on TV … “Welcome to the Black Parade”. I think that was the moment when I really started to understand the connection – the fact that we shared a lot of the same spirit and attitude to our art …
So I gradually became more and more aware of them as an evolving force. Then about 2 months ago I got an E-mail from Gerard inviting me to appear with MCR at Reading. I felt very honoured that they’d asked me, and excited at the prospect, and we immediately started planning how it would be. And I started learning “Welcome to the Black Parade”! One-offs like this are always very challenging. It’s one thing to play along with a track at home and roughly ‘get it’. It’s quite another to be well-enough prepared to get up and do it in front of 120,000 people at a festival of mud! For me it’s a fine line – I never want to take the core of spontaneity out of it, by planning every single note; but you have to do enough work to really know your way around the material in order to be confident enough to step out there. And since it’s totally live and it’s the only time it’s ever going to happen, there’s always a finite risk that one might mess it up the climax of the show for them if one went too far off the rails. In the end, you do your work, and interact before-hand, but then it’s in the Lap of the Gods. In this case we gave ourselves a particularly good chance of enjoying it and making a good job of it for the audience. The guys came round to my house as soon as they flew in to the UK, and we did a talk-through and a (relatively) quiet rehearsal, trying some ideas out. Then we were set. At Reading we also had a rare opportunity to sound-check on site, but that necessitated getting out of my house at 8am! From that time to about 11.15[pm] when the ‘moment’ happened it’s – a long day! But the bands on the bill were great, so I got to hang out with a lot of my kind of people and see some great performances. For me, it’s a treat … there is the adrenaline going the whole time, knowing that you’re going to land up on stage at the end of the night with a huge expectation … but that’s probably what makes it even more special for me. I’ve learned to deal with that kind of stress … it’s a bit like knowing you’re going to go on the biggest roller coaster in the park at the end of the day.
The Band? The Chem Boys The nicest bunch of guys you could possibly meet … dedicated, inspired, modest, appreciative, considerate, and with all the crackling electricity of a touring unit just reaching a peak of perfection. That goes for the entire crew too … who all made me feel totally at home – even making triply sure that I knew where the pyro was going to go off, and where I needed to be to be safe. This band, in my opinion, is very talented. And they have the courage of their convictions. They have had, like us in the early days, more than their fair share of negativity hurled at them … but that goes with the territory … the territory of revealing yourself in your art. Gerard as a front man is magnificent, of course – his honesty and vulnerability – along with the right kind of instinct for being a hero – connects instantly with the audience, reminding me quite a bit of a certain other great front man I worked with for many years.
And the band are all masters of their craft … their vocabulary is one that I understand. They’re young, but they’ve already been there, experienced the terrain, and developed the skills to take touring in their stride; and cheerfully pay the price it costs in terms of family life. They are a family, and I was very happy to be a part of it for a magic moment.
I’m on the plane now … off to a new adventure – another complete ‘first’ – a one-off surprise on USA TV, the gist of which, it seems, has already been ‘leaked’.
But more of that later.