Tag Archives: Gerard Way

Just Expat Things – Day Four. Old Friends

day_4

04/09/2015

Worlds collided today.

Edinburgh, 2010.
“I’m from Ukraine!” [that was me] – Oh! Wow! *high-five* [that was him]

Kyiv, 2015.
Good morning from Ukraine! [that was him] – “Wow, so this is surreal.” [that was me]

Ukraine! I heard a rumor that people weren’t sure I was going to show up in Kiev. We are here. We are ready to rock. 

I heard no rumors, but wasn’t surprised for a second. I was expecting it to fall through. Safety, politics, whatnot. For x’s sake, the man was heading to Russia next.

Don’t miss it because I don’t know when I’ll be back. ❤

If I’m honest with myself, this show was the reason I flew back here. Were it not for him, I don’t know when I’d come here, myself.

A crowd of 500 or so in a venue meant for 3-4 thousand. Looking a bit lost. I’m at the back – which in a crowd this size, is not far away at all, laughing increasingly hysterically every time the frontman of the opening band refers to the headliner as “Mr. Way.” The man will never be a Mr. Way, he’ll stay Gee until he dies.

Disbelief. Through the opening act. Through the painfully long stage change. To the very last moment. To absurd. To the point of when the guitarists and drummer appear, I expect one of them to say that “Mr. Way” couldn’t make it.

Mr. Way made it. I was just hoping that the reception would not make him regret it.

It took a few songs for everyone to get into the swing of things. It was like a first date. Perfectly pleasant. Perfectly awkward. Both parties permanently out on a limb.

Then, a third of the way into the set, something happened. It also happened to happen with the start of my favorite song. Being a live punk rock  aficionado, I don’t use the words ‘the crowd went wild’ lightly. But boy, did it go wild.

After that, it only got better. Gone was the awkwardness. There was no room for pleasantries anymore, either. Just sheer passion. From audience to stage, from stage to audience, endless self-perpetuating cycle of energy, the kind that lifts you up, turns the air thin, and the world transparent and golden.

Last songs. Curtain call. Two more songs by way of encore. Another curtain call. I know the show protocol enough to know that one won’t get answered.

I was three steps away from the venue exit when a voice announced from the stage there was going to be an autograph session in a few minutes.

Impossible!

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a sweetheart who pleads with every venue to let the fans stay inside for long enough for him to meet everyone who wants a word or a hug, and when even cooperative venues call time, he’s known to hang outside until 3 am till everyone has had a chance to see him.

But surely, not here? Not in the capital of a country with an active war zone. Sure, Kyiv of all places is safe, yeah, except two days before he got here, a live grenade killed three people in the downtown.

Surely, there were explicit instructions from the music label to get in, perform, and get the hell out?

Maybe I’ll get to ask him one day.

The queue is long, and moves fast. Everyone gets five seconds, tops. He signs and offers high-fives. Looking very focused, but lighting up like a lightbulb whenever a fan says something to him.

My turn. I ask him to write ‘Keep running’ on a piece of paper for me. An old message, and one I intend to wear on my skin.

“You wouldn’t remember this…”
[he’s writing]
“…but I met you after a show in Edinburgh in 2010, and told you I came from Ukraine…”
[still writing]
“…and you traded me a pack of cigarettes for my yellow goggles.”
[he looks up. a spark of recognition] “Oh! Good to see you!”

Worlds collided today.

It was beautiful.

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A Song of Four Months and Four Years

In my last post, I talked about a song. In this one, I talk about a song again. But this one’s been sung onto paper.

song_for_my_brother

A Song for My Brother. A long-form comic book or maybe a graphic novelette.

A story about sounds that shape things, and change things, and even heal things. Sounds that are life, because to lose them is to waste away.

A story about siblings who threw away old homes and new lives for the sake of saving each other. Because to lose each other was to lose it all.

A story, sung onto paper by two sisters who wouldn’t have each other now, had it not been for music.

When I put it like this, it all sounds so… neat. Convenient, even. Siblings, music, healing, saving, yeah, I see what you did there, very clever… You don’t have to believe me when I say none of this was contrived, devised, or orchestrated. People say, write what you know. For me, it’s not an instruction, it’s a fact of life. I always write what I know, even if I don’t know it at the time, even if I don’t know that I know it.

Fiction is a much streamlined version of real life, where connections and symbolism are brought into the foreground in a way that makes the story make sense. But even in real life, certain narrative forces come into play now and again. Perhaps they are the reason this book exists. Perhaps they are the reason that this story, and none other, is our comic convention debut. The reason that a shipment of these books, printed, arrived at my sister’s doorstep exactly four years after I’d arrived there myself, flying in to attend the most important concert of my life.

Today marks four years since the day I met the man with the brightest eyes in the world. October 25, 2010. The day I, in my characteristically pretentious manner, like to think of as the day I was born as an artist. By deciding to be one.

Making this book took us four months.

Making ourselves into people who could make this book took us four years. And counting. Because unlike any piece of our work, we can never be done, complete, perfected to a solid state. Such is the beautiful tragedy of being an artist, nay, a human being. You stop when you die, and die when you stop.

But even if you’ve got the words ‘keep running’ tattooed into your brain, you’re allowed to catch your breath after a four years’ sprint… and take a look at the road so far. Speaking for myself, I’d say it’s all been worth it.

P.S. We’re going to see the bright-eyed man less than two weeks from now, and bringing the book with us to give him a copy. I hope he likes it.

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‘Brother’ by Gerard Way, or Hour of the Wolf and Wet Asphalt in Streetlight

Hesitant_AlienI’m supposed to write another Cried But Did The Thing Anyway blog. In fact, I was supposed to write it last night, but I was having a tough evening, so I told myself I’ve got another twenty-four hours. Now, it’s less than an hour before this is no longer a Monday post, and I’m still drawing a blank as to what to write about. I know what next week’s post is going to be about, but this week’s?

So instead, I’m going to talk about a song from Gerard Way’s new record Hesitant Alien. It’s the fourth track on the album, and the first one I got properly stuck in. I’m going to talk about this song, titled Brother, and about three in the morning.

Because that’s what it sounds like. Brother is a song that sounds like streetlights reflecting off wet asphalt at three in the morning.

Listen while you read, why don’t you…


Three in the morning. The Hour of the Wolf.

This is the time when it’s bad luck to be awake – and I speak from experience, not superstition. This is the time when the top of your head opens, and the universe pours in, smashing through too many doors that you normally keep closed, and leaving you to deal with the resulting mess. I night-owl frequently, and I’ve come to think that one of the reasons humans are largely diurnal is to protect them from the hour between three and four am. Our tiny minds weren’t meant for that time of… night? morning? Neither. Too far into the night to be late. Not far enough into the morning to be early.

This is not what Brother sounds like.

Not the heavy, cramped three in the morning of a room lit brightly in an attempt to shut the night out, but only serving to emphasize how dark it really is outside of it. Not the nowhere-hour of paralysis spent holding on to whatever it is that gets you through the night (and at this point, hell knows what it is, because all the usual things are failing you, breaking in your hands, or turning against you).

Like I said, it sounds like streetlights reflecting off wet asphalt. Outside. Where the night feels less dark, between the yellow glow of streetlights overhead, and a thin film of gold underfoot. It’s still three in the morning, but out here, it’s the kind that will eventually turn into four, and then five, and then dawn. It’s a morning that you chase from the other side of night, and when you catch up with it, your eyes are tired, but your mind has that weird dizzy clarity of an all-nighter that ends with a walk outside.

The universe withdraws from your brain, leaving it shaken but intact. Maybe, a few hours later, you’ll look back on the hour where every door in your mind was flapping loose, and see something that suddenly makes sense. Or maybe you’ll shake your head, and shrug the shreds of hour-of-the-wolf thoughts off your shoulders. But that’ll come later. For now, you’ll walk on wet asphalt, under slowly fading streetlights, towards four, and then five, and then dawn.

And this, to me, is what Brother sounds like. The heaviest piece of night that glows from the inside with the golden promise of a morning.
wet_asphalt

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The Ocean at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange

(Warning: this post will make the most sense to someone who has a) read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman; b) has ever been deeply impacted by someone’s art. (a) is not obligatory, but recommended. (b) is highly desirable, for your sake more than mine.)

ocean_edinburgh
This spring, I came back to Edinburgh, for the first time since a very memorable night in 2010. That was the night I met Gerard Way for the first and, so far, only time (I’ve seen his band My Chemical Romance play once before then and three times since, but never got to talk to him again). We exchanged a few words and two-and-a-half high-fives (nerves play havoc with my hand-eye coordination). The whole encounter took no more than two minutes. To date, my only tangible proof that said meeting took place is a packet of cigarettes with a Californian tax stamp, which Gerard had traded me for a pair of goggles that were part of my costume.

Out of context, the meeting itself was hardly anything special. But in the context of my life at the time, it was one of the ‘shining moments’ that make their way into poetry. A perfect alignment of time, space, heart, and soul.

It wasn’t something I could see right away. Moments like that are too big to see when you’re close to them. At the time, all you feel is overwhelmed. Deep down, you know that something strange and wonderful is happening to you, but all you’ve got to show for it is the vague feeling that somewhere, the proverbial stars aligned, the proverbial cogwheels clicked into place.

But as time passes, you look back, and realize, with ever increasing clarity, that you were right. If your life were a universe, that moment was the fleeting instant of perfect universal balance. Bodies in every orbit, from an atom to a galaxy, each in a place that’s inexplicably yet unequivocally right.

Continue reading

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Whatever Gets You Through the Night


If Satan screams out loud
And violence is the only sound,
When the engines come squealing,
Demons reeling,
The dance ground,
Just a mask among the crowd.
You need to hold tight to
Whatever gets you through the night.

Beyond the cover,
Pages give you color.
That ink will never run dry.
Killjoys…
Killjoys never die.

(Gerard Way, Shaun Simon –
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, #1
)
[I own nothing]

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