Growing up, how did you make your first connections to music?
My parents didn’t have records, they didn’t have radios, and they didn’t listen to music. My grandmother was my main connection to art and music. She could play piano very well, and she had perfect pitch. She’s the one who pushed me to try out for Peter Pan, and I ended up getting the part. When I tried out, I realized I could sing, which was pretty interesting.
How do kids connect to your music?
I’ve always seen My Chemical Romance as the band that would have represented who me and my friends were in high school, and the band that we didn’t have to represent us — the kids that wore black — back then. When I was in school there wasn’t much other that the Smiths and the Cure, which was great, but a lot of those bands had since broken up, or didn’t tour. There was no new wave of music that represented us.
How would you describe the kids that love your band?
Extremely creative, intelligent, expressive and very individual, aside from liking to wear black. They come from all over the place, and in their hometown they’re probably the only kid who looks like that, but when they get to our show they’re all the same. One of the best compliments I can get from one of them is, “I met my best friend at one of your shows,” or, “I met my best friend networking on the Internet, trying to get to your show.” That’s cool, because I didn’t have that. I couldn’t find any NOFX fans in my area.
Internet technology seems to have helped your music. How has it hurt music?
Even I miss going to the record shop. In the next five or ten years, kids who are growing up will have never been to a record store. That’s a crazy feeling. It makes the music a little more disposable, it makes the artwork and the packaging a little bit invalid, which is a drag. There’s nothing better than holding something physical. I loved the discovery of buying music solely off the packaging, the name of the band, the names of the songs. The Pink Floyd albums always got me — Wish You Were Here, Animals, Dark Side — or a Good Riddance 7″, with a photo of a distorted baby on the cover. I remember falling in love with [Smashing Pumpkins’] Gish, and then counting the days until Siamese Dream came out, then taking the hour-long roundtrip bus-ride to the mall to buy it. It was an incredible feeling, it was something I had invested in.
What one artist do you see as important to the future of music?
Conor Oberst. His lyrics are phenomenal. I think he speaks for our generation. He started out as an angry young man from Omaha, Nebraska. From there he went out into the world and toured, and then that stuff crept into his lyrics, and now he’s going back to being a little more human, with less social commentary. I love it all. He speaks to me.
What are the most important problems facing the world today?
I could bitch about certain political figures, I could talk about war, weapons and global warming, but it boils down to how people treat people. That’s the problem. People have evolved into something selfish, greedy and intolerant. People are unaccepting, because of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation… I’ve seen it in punk clubs and I’ve seen it in the world.
As a former drug abuser, how do you gauge the mantra, “sex, drugs and rock & roll”?
It’s a dinosaur in itself. If we, as musicians, could evolve past that, maybe we could make something worthwhile. That’s not just me speaking as somebody who got clean and sober — that has nothing to do with it. When I was abusing drugs, the allure of self-destruction kept me in it. There’s something very romantic about self-destruction and sabotaging your life, and taking a hammer to it. Honestly, it’s bullshit. That doesn’t mean we can’t be crazy and expressive and amazing or that we have to behave, because we’re all artists and we’re all nuts in some way, but you can treat people with respect and yourself with respect.
Are you optimistic about the future?
Completely. I always have faith in the world. When I was fifteen, I got held up with a .357 Magnum, had a gun pointed to my head and put on the floor, execution-style. No matter how ugly the world gets or how stupid it shows me it is, I always have faith. The events after 9-11, the moments of tragedy when people show their colors and pull together, have renewed my faith.