Interview: Ray Toro – 'When you're working in a band, you're one part of the larger puzzle and when you're solo, you get to be the whole puzzle'
My Chemical Romance guitarist on his solo album Remember the Laughter
'And now, like all great things, it has come time for it to end.' It was with these words in 2013 that My Chemical Romance announced their split. It wasn't the end though – not really. Instead, it was the start of more: three of the four embarked on solo pursuits across music and comics in the first while, and 3.5 years later, it's a full house.
Ray Toro had spent the last decade or so the guitarist of one of rock's most ambitious and influential bands, and going solo took time. 'One of the benefits in taking this amount of time is that I got to experience a lot of life,' says Toro, on why now was the right time to release an album. 'I don't think I'd have anything to write about otherwise!'
'One of the coolest things about working solo is that you get to show more of what you can do,' he continues, 'as a musician and songwriter. When you're working in a band, you're one part of the larger puzzle and when you're solo, you get to be the whole puzzle.'
His album Remember The Laughter is a tale of family and memory, with a sense of optimism and legacy strong throughout. It seems fitting, then, that his family were key as he dove into new influences, from classical music, to blues guitar. 'The last song "Remember the Laughter" sums up the entire record,' explains Ray. 'It's a father on his deathbed, talking to his son and explaining that it's going to be okay when he passes. That was something I thought about soon after having a son. He's just turned four, so he and my family are very linked to the album, the writing process - they were part of it, they sung on it. I used some of my kid's percussion toys on some of the songs. It's definitely a family affair. '
'It encapsulates that love and family generational passing of time, passing on lessons, and I hope that's what my son carries on to his family as well.'
The album is a memory box, full of trinkets and clippings that capture a moment in time, allowing him to step beyond family to the world around him, with one song touching on the shootings and unrest in Ferguson. 'We've continued to see violence and just a lot of strife between certain communities,' he says. 'I just kept thinking of some of the newspaper headlines – maybe it's a newspaper clipping that's inside this box, or the son or the father remembers seeing that on the news. I think it's the same thing with 9/11 – that's something you'll remember forever, and that's how I felt about Ferguson.'
Many of these songs first came to life as melodies and lyrics sprung into his mind while washing dishes – 'I love to wash dishes!' – but the next step is working out how to take an album with so many layers out on the road, but Ray's excited by the prospect. 'I've worked so long in my home studio alone – it has sort of been like my dungeon for a while,' he laughs. 'It'll be nice to bring the songs to people in that way and get back into the world.'
Remember the Laughter is out on Fri 18 Nov, self-released.