RACHEL MARTIN, host:
Thanks, Mark. Last year, a teenager in Kent, England, named Hannah Bond hanged herself from her bunk bed. Her parents said so-called emo music may have played a big role in her suicide. According to her mother, the 13 year old started listening to My Chemical Romance two weeks prior to her death.
(Soundbite of song "Welcome to the Black Parade")
Mr. GERARD WAY: (Singing) Sometimes I get the feeling, she's watching over me. And other times I feel like I should go. When through it all...
MARTIN: That's "Welcome to the Black Parade," a song by My Chemical Romance. The story was covered widely in Britain, but one paper in particular, London's Daily Mail, took to calling this band, and emo music, in general, a, quote, "suicide cult." Now, the paper's coverage has My Chemical Romance fans all riled up, well, as riled up as emo teens can get really. Tomorrow, fans of the band and emo plan to march from London's Hyde Park to the offices of the Daily Mail. Here to talk about the emo rebellion is James McMahon. He is the features editor for the UK music magazine, NME. Hey, James.
Mr. JAMES MCMAHON (Features Editor, NME Magazine): Hey, how are you doing?
MARTIN: Doing well. Thanks for joining us. So you've read the Daily Mail's coverage, using this term, calling this suicide-cult music. From what you can tell, as you survey the coverage of this, is this the only paper that has used that term, "suicide cult"?
Mr. MCMAHON: Yes. I mean, more or less. I mean, the Daily Mail really has a tradition, really, of being kind of more - very reactionary, and...
MARTIN: Yes, we should put that into perspective. In the UK's media landscape, the Daily Mail is - can we say - sensationalistic, a little bit?
Mr. MCMAHON: I mean, I think - I don't think it's so - you know, if you go back to the '30s, the paper has got links with Nazis and Edward Mosley, so I don't think you can really say - I don't think it's really unfair to say that it veers towards right-wing thoughts.
MARTIN: A little provocative, yes.
Mr. MCMAHON: Yes. But I think that, you know, really, it's one of those things that, you know, the Daily Mail has always kind of preached the fear of the other, and really, it's almost like emo's turn, you know? But, you know, if you go back two summers ago, they were saying this stuff then. And I just - I think really what the march is about is, I think really fans of the music, they've just had enough. It's very frustrating being a teenager. It's a very difficult time, and I think that really that, you know, the people who listen to that kind of music are generally very intelligent, very sensitive, and I think they're really just sick of being misrepresented.
MARTIN: Well, let's talk about the music in general and the movement. How do you define it? As someone who works in this industry, how do you define emo music? It's kind of - it's been hard to peg down one definition.
Mr. MCMAHON: I mean, you know, my own, kind of, tastes and my own, kind of, ideologies, I kind of think the whole thing is nonsense, to be honest, because I think that, you know, all good music is emotional. So it seems very strange to bracket something as emo, as what would be emotional music.
But - and also I'm a big fan of kind of punk and hardcore, and I think if you go back to, kind of, the mid-'80s and some of the music that was coming out of Washington, D.C., kind of Rites of Spring and bands like that, you know, those bands were called emo back then. And bands like (unintelligible) and Fallout Boy and Panic at the Disco have very little to do with the music that was called emo in the '80s.
So it seems to be a constantly-evolving term. I suppose what you would, kind of, say is, right now, is you would talk about floppy fringes and backpacks and boys with eyeliner and all that kind of stuff. And that's all well and good. It just feels a little bit like an update of what you would probably call Goth, to be honest.
But really, you know, My Chemical Romance are kind of the figureheads of the whole scene. And I do think that band has got an awful lot to say of worth. I think that the fans of that band have responded very passionately, you know, I think that band speaks to them, which is very rare for a rock-'n'-roll band to do these days.
MARTIN: So who's organizing the protest tomorrow? I mean, is it rare that there would be such, kind of, organization in this very diverse, amorphous group of teens?
Mr. MCMAHON: I mean, I don't think so really. Because, I mean, like I say, I think generally that, you know, traditionally, the music which has got the most scoured, at least in the last 20 years, you know, metal or punk or diva or whatever you want to call it. Really, the people that listen to that music are generally very intelligent, you know.
Sometimes they can be loners or outsiders, but generally that - you know, if you're going to stay in your bedroom all night because you don't really have any friends, you're going to read books, you're going to go on the Internet, you know. These people are - they've got brains, you know, and I think that basically, there's this website called What the Frank, and it's...
MARTIN: The website, yes, whatthefrank.co.uk.
Mr. MCMAHON: Yes, obviously replacing that other word, and taking that name from a member of My Chemical Romance. And there's this girl called Abby Smith (ph), I think that - I was just reading, kind of, I was just on the website before, and they do make an incredibly strong case that...
MARTIN: What is their case?
Mr. MCMAHON: Well, really, I mean, I was thinking about this before. There doesn't seem to be any kind of case to answer, really, because, you know, people have hung themselves before My Chemical Romance existed.
MARTIN: Yes. But they for some reason feel particularly maligned.
Mr. MCMAHON: Well, I agree with - I mean, you don't blame them, really. I mean, this last My Chemical Romance album, "The Black Parade," you know, that whole record is about overcoming illness. It's all about, you know, the last line on the record is "I'm not afraid to keep on living." You know, this is a band that, over the course of history, have given out numbers, numbers for Samaritans, organizations you can call if you're depressed or if you're troubled. They do veer into that Gothic, kind of, death, that, kind of, morbidly-obsessed territory. But you know, so do some of the best bands in rock-and-roll history, you know.
MARTIN: Yes, that's kind of the ethos of rock, a little bit.
Mr. MCMAHON: Yes, no, totally. I think it's almost, you know, it's almost like Tim Burton landscape, you know. It's almost, kind of, it's just kind of interesting, like skulls are cool, you know? Like black on T-shirts looks cool, like black is a cool color, you know what I mean? It's like, it's just, you know, the fashion of it is classic, really. But I think that - I feel very sorry for My Chemical Romance, actually. I was reading a statement that they made on their website, which is basically, you know, I would say, distancing themselves, basically offering their condolences to Hannah's family. And...
MARTIN: This is the band's response. They've spoken out.
Mr. MCMAHON: Yes. You can tell that they're really very affected, you know, by what the papers said.
MARTIN: And they've actually - they've come out and said that they're anti-suicide, whatever that means. I guess they don't...
Mr. MCMAHON: Yes. Well, they've come and - well, you know, it wouldn't be very sensible for them to say that they're anything other than that. But, you know, I agree with them. Like they say, the last line on the record, "I'm not afraid to keep on living," is almost kind of - you know, their whole modus operandi, is really that, you know, they're very, sort of - it's all about overcoming sadness, it's all about overcoming problems rather than giving in to them.
I think as well, this Gerard Way, I interviewed Gerard Way about two years ago, and he was talking - and Gerard's conversation went off at a tangent. He was telling me an awful lot about his childhood and, you know, things that really kept him going, you know. And it was punk and it was comic books and it was, you know, it all the kind of that things that kids talk about today. He really is one of them, you know.
MARTIN: Well, James McMahon is the features editor at the UK music magazine, NME. Hey, James, thanks. We really appreciate you sharing some of your reporting and thoughts on this. We appreciate it.
Mr. MCMAHON: No sweat.
MARTIN: Take care.