Interview: Cassie Whitt, MCRchivist & Music Journalist

Cassie Whitt (AKA “Cassie The Venomous” or “PoisonAndFire”) is the APTV Manager for Alternative Press. She is a longtime MCR fan, founded the Twitter-based chat #MCRchat and is a moderator for the official MCRmy.

When and how did you become an MCR fan?

I discovered MCR around summer, 2004 when Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge was either about to come out or had just come out. They used to show this commercial for the album on television that featured clips from the original “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” video. Before I had even heard an entire song by them and was only seeing those clips, I felt this strange draw toward them—like I needed to be or was destined to be a part of this world they were building.

After working on your blog for several years and studying music journalism, you got a job at AltPress. It seems like a very natural progression, but you started as an intern and worked up. Do you have any wise words for people who are looking to turn their hobby into a bill-paying job?

Don’t downplay yourself! And follow directions! As simple as it sounds, we get a lot of half-completed applications and people who act so aloof that it seems they don’t care at all. I recently dug up one of my first emails to AltPress from when I was in college where I was practically begging to intern for them.I was persistent and maybe a little too enthusiastic, but hey! It worked! Be fearlessly you, but take your time. Put some effort and focus into what you’re doing, and you’ll stand out from the crowd. Particularly if your hobby-turned-job is within the musical realm, you’ll be competing with a ton of egos and a lot of bravado sans substance. Show you have the substance, genuine interest and competence and you will stand out. Honest effort always win in the end, even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes.

With your job based around the Internet and your hobby kind of being your job, do you ever feel like you get too much screen time? I find there’s this black hole where if you post a lot, people expect you to post a lot. You’ve got a reputation for being a quick draw when it comes to posting MCR news – does it ever get too much?

When something MCR-related happens, I get this weird adrenaline rush. Back when news was happening all the time and my news blog was super-active, I lived in an almost constant state of vigilance and mania. That was admittedly a little exhausting. (See: nights when I set my alarm for 3 a.m. to watch them live on some Australian webcast while frantically hammering out a show recap.) When I started working for AltPress, I obviously had to dedicate my focus to a ton more artists while, at the same time, MCR were becoming less and less active. Still, nothing quite gave me the rush MCR updates did.

So while I do kind of “live online” and am a creature of the web, juggling MCR posts with everything else I do for my job is never a problem. The MCR and post-project news is more spread out now, and I still get that adrenaline rush when I’m prepping a story about them. It’s like a little treat in the middle of everything else.

Plus, I now oversee just our video content, so I’m not actively chasing news like I used to. It’s kind of full-circle: I’m able to come back and sort of focus on my own news beats, and it doesn’t feel like a work task, because I obviously love what I’m writing about.

It’s something I’m very proud of. My coverage of the guys is now seen by a larger audience, and it has the focus and care I always wanted larger outlets to give them when I was a younger fan thinking, “WTF, [insert whatever large rock magazine], how could you get that wrong?!”

You’re dedicated to MCR in the same way some people are dedicated to their religious group or social club. Have you ever experienced a downside to the time and money you’ve invested?

Besides sometimes spending irresponsibly on them and going broke, not at all. The difference between my interest in MCR and being in a social club is that for me, it’s this very personal experience. While I love to engage with and help the community, my experience as a fan is ultimately my own. It’s about how the music makes me feel and what it has meant to me in my life. I know people can easily get swept into the arguments, rumors and drama of the larger community, which definitely diminishes the experience if you let yourself focus on it.

Somewhere in the decade-plus I’ve been in this fandom, I started to see the petty things as truly petty and appreciate the bigger picture, which made it even more of a rewarding experience, and one from which I regret nothing.

People don’t always understand dedication to a band, and can think of fans as kind of brainwashed, quasi-religious sheep (until I read your fangirl article, I definitely thought that about One Direction fans. Thank you for showing me the light). Obviously the older we get, the more we realise that we don’t agree with everything a band says or stands for. Having been an MCR fan since you were 14, did you find there was a process in which you found your own identity alongside MCR, as opposed to your identity being MCR?

It’s funny because sometimes I did start to feel like my whole identity was MCR when I was really in the thick of it. Haha! While the band is a huge part of my life and I owe a lot to their art that literally turned my life around, I am still my own person. It’s literally impossible to live your life and identify as only one thing. Every tiny experience you have, especially when you’re young, creates who you are. As I’ve grown up and learned more about myself via therapy and my own explorations, I’ve started to understand the role MCR have played in my life on a deeper level. A lot of my habits, quirks and traits were created and set outside the MCR world, but their music has always been there as a parallel, acting as a source of comfort and a learning tool for me. I’ve said in the past that I learn something new through MCR every day, and I think that’s still true. So while I don’t think I’d be who I am without them, I know it was ultimately up to me to take as much inspiration as I did from them and let them be a such a positive and motivational force in my life.

A lot of fans, especially girls, are dismissed as immature for loving a band – or anything. How do you deal with people saying things like ‘you’ll grow out of them eventually’, ‘you only like them because that guy is hot’, etc.?

I think at 25, I’m now past the point of people being dismissive of my liking MCR. Ha!

Beyond that, I think the tide is really turning on the band’s public perception. They’re now starting to gain the respect they should have had all along. To fans who are 14 now, the Revenge and Black Parade eras are basically just the stuff of legends. They’re hearing about these amazing moments in music on the same sort of timeline as 20-somethings were hearing about Nirvana. Not that I can necessarily speak to what a person a decade younger who was raised with boatloads more technology than me is thinking, but I imagine to some degree, it has to feel the same way it felt to be four years old, hear Nirvana then, then hear people raving about them for the rest of your life the way I did. And no, music elitists, I don’t think it’s blasphemous to put MCR on the same level as Nirvana for the sake of this argument. Haha! In addition to that, the people who were 14-17 when MCR were taking over the world are now entering the workforce and becoming larger voices in society, and many of them are reminiscing aloud about the importance of the band. It’s all a perfect cocktail to create this widespread, long-awaited respect for them.

But if you do happen to be a fan who is getting shit for liking the band, I’d ask you to reflect inward. Think about what they mean to you and hold tight to that. As long as you know how important the music is to you and you treasure it, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Their bitterness is not about you, but about themselves. While it’s difficult, you just can’t take it personally.

You’ve talked about receiving messages from other fans demanding to know how you’ve seen 20+ MCR shows or how you’ve met the guys so often. Does that sort of behaviour ever get easier to read and deal with?

It’s not that anyone’s asking that in itself is a problem or at all bothersome, but sometimes people would get really aggressive and entitled about it—as if they were angry at me for having had those experiences and I owed them an explanation. Luckily I don’t get that anymore, but in the past, there were people who would actually make up rumors about me or say that I was spoiled and bragging, which really hurt my feelings. I stopped answering the questions and sharing my stories altogether for a long time because the last thing I wanted was for someone to feel hurt because of something I had experienced.

I think with age and experience, any sort of negativity coming from another person is easier to deal with, but at the time, I had found this quote that really helped me deal with it: “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” I would repeat that to myself all the time to remind myself that I didn’t need to cater to someone else’s assumptions and anger as long as I and the people who really mattered in my life understood the truth.

I have to ask. How did you get to 20+ shows and meet the guys so often? Do you have a summoning spell?!

No summoning spell, but I believe people do what they’re taught to believe they can do. When I was 15, I was very fortunate in that my mother drove me and my best friend all over the U.S. and to Canada to see MCR live, so that became my “normal” and within my range of possibilities. When I had my own driver’s license and the ability to sell off band merch to make it happen myself, I continued to follow that path. The universe had a way of working things out in the end if I tried as hard as I could. A lot of times, I went to the shows without money or just barely scraping to make it there and back, but I wanted it, believed it was a possibility and somehow made it work, even when it was almost impossible.

Working at AltPress you couldn’t avoid seeing the MCR guys start their new projects, and you often work with them directly. Has that helped you get into their new stuff and process the end of MCR, or do you think you would have been into new work and ‘gotten over’ the break up anyway?

I still don’t know if I’m quite over the break up, but I understand why it had to happen. I think would have understood regardless of my professional proximity to them, because I always saw them as a group of human beings who had their own lives and needs beyond the band. I also always understood from the way that Gerard talked about the band that it was there to serve a purpose and that when they felt had done what they set out to do, it would have to end.

There are some bands who drag themselves on and on and ultimately into this awful creative purgatory long after they feel they have something to say. MCR left their legacy untainted and saved themselves from continuing without that purpose they’d always believed in.

It’s hard to believe in something that doesn’t believe in itself. Half the magic of MCR is that they loved it perhaps even more than the fans did. I would have hated to see that magic just fade. If they are happy, I’m happy and I will continue to support them through their various endeavors.

When MCR ended, everyone who loved it had different ways of grieving. You’ve talked about how glad you were that you were offline the week it happened, so you didn’t have to see any finger-pointing or arguing. Do you think that online communities, especially on sites like Twitter or Tumblr, can lead to as many problems between fans as they do community spirit?

Anything where anyone feels strongly about one central idea is going to spark conflict. I mentioned earlier that being a fan, while it’s largely about finding a community and a place you fit, is nonetheless a very personal experience. No other person in the world has lived your exact life and they will therefore draw from completely different reference points when they interpret a song, or something one of the artists has said. But because you feel so strongly about it, that logic just *poof* disappears sometimes, and it becomes a conflict, because not only does everyone believe they’re right, but it’s something they care about deeply, so they believe they’re really right, and anyone who believes something different needs to be silenced or condemned.

I wish there were a solution to the conflict, but the only thing you can really do is combat the bad vibes with good ones. For every negative you see, there’s something positive—even if it’s something super-tiny—you can do to foster goodwill between fans.

Sometimes being part of a large fan base can actually feel similar to being part of a huge club or even a religion. Everyone has a different interpretation and reason for loving MCR, and some people think that their ‘version’ of loving it is the one everyone should subscribe to. Do you have any thoughts about cohesion within MCRmy as a whole and what it means to ‘be’ MCRmy?

I think to “be MCRmy” you don’t need to believe any certain thing, much less one cohesive thing. The band always wanted us to find ourselves and express our individualities. You just have to love the music. Just be a decent human being.

One time when I saw MCR at Warped Tour, Gerard screamed at the crowd that if any of the people in it were racist, sexist, homophobic or hateful in any way that they needed to break their MCR CDs into tiny, little pieces because they didn’t want them there.

If there were any rules for being a part of the community, they would be to just be: Remain kind and respectful to others and don’t be a bigoted piece of shit, because hate has never been welcome here.

If you could change one thing about the MCRmy, what would it be?

It takes all kinds to make a community, so I wouldn’t really change anything…. Except maybe some of the old rumors that get dug up every few years and passed around all over again. I’d like to put some of those to rest for good. Haha!

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