When My Chemical Romance broke up in 2013, their bassist Mikey Way was the first to announce a new music project, Electric Century. Formed by Mikey and former Sleep Station vocalist David Debiak, the duo released their debut single in February 2014 and promised that an album would follow shortly after. However, everything was put on hold while Mikey checked himself into rehab to deal with an ongoing issue with addiction.
“I had been self-medicating for more than half my life… When the band broke up, my using had intensified, and I fell into total darkness,” he wrote in an open letter in November 2014 upon completing the program. “In the true form of an addict, I disconnected from everyone I knew and pushed away everyone I loved. At that point in my life, I was not only lost but in complete self-destruction mode. In February, I was told I should never have woken up.”
Electric Century’s Britpop-inspired debut album ‘For The Night To Control’ was properly released in 2017, but the band never toured and a period of radio silence followed. Instead, Mikey became a father and followed his big brother Gerard into the world of comic books, helping pen the Collapser series for DC’s Young Animal imprint. But late last year Electric Century finally reappeared, announcing the release of their self-titled second album (produced by MCR’s Ray Toro) and an accompanying graphic novel (published by Z2 Comics, who have also worked on books with Yungblud, Poppy, Rico Nasty and, erm, Beethoven).
With the ‘Electric Century’ album now out, NME spoke to Mikey about collaborating with his former MCR bandmates, the importance of saying something with his art and what the future holds. Here’s what we learned.
Electric Century is “a passion project”
“When I started Electric Century, I wanted it to be my full-time band,” Mikey recalls of the group’s initial formation. That mindset changed, however, as the band were readying themselves to release their first album.
”You go in thinking one thing but your frame of mind changes,” he says. “I didn’t want to tour when I got out [of rehab]. Touring was the last thing on my mind because I felt like it might have taken a negative toll on me, so Electric Century became a passion project.”
Mikey instead focused on creating music from a genre he’d always wanted to delve into. “British new wave has always been my favourite. It’s the kind of music I’ve always wanted to explore, but it wouldn’t have worked for the other band I’m in.”
Mikey wants the new ‘Electric Century’ album to help people
“Not only do I like to make something that sounds or looks cool, but I want it to hit you emotionally,” Mikey explains about the personal lyrical content of the recently released record, which sees the musician dissecting his own battles with his mental health.
“The lyrics on this album speak about redemption and the idea that it’s OK not to be OK,” he says. “In my mid-20s, I thought there was something wrong with me because I was sad so frequently. It’s very easy to feel like you’re different, defective and not good enough, but I want people to know that that’s not the case… it’s human not to be happy all the time.”
Mikey adds that he wants this album to help people if they’re in a dark place: “I want this record to be someone’s safety blanket. If it makes them feel better for even an hour, I did my job. I feel like, if you can, just make somebody feel better, or feel like they’re not alone.”
Working with MCR’s Ray Toro again was “super-great”
‘Electric Century’’s creation process saw Mikey teaming up with a handful of his closest musical pals. Shaun Simon – who co-wrote the album’s accompanying graphic novel – used to be in a band with MCR’s Frank Iero, and at one point even sold merch for MCR on tour.
The new LP also saw Mikey reuniting with his MCR bandmate Ray Toro, who produced the album. “He’s one of my best friends in the entire world,” Mikey says of Ray. “We love a lot of the same things and we have this sixth sense that comes from working together for so long; being on the road together for all those years. We have this unspoken language: I can give him a look and he just knows what I’m talking about. I tried to have no expectations but every time he sent me a song, I was blown away.”
As was collaborating with Gerard Way on a story for the upcoming Anthrax graphic novel
As well as working on the new Electric Century record, Mikey has been keeping busy with his other projects. He recently teamed up with his brother Gerard to contribute to Anthrax‘s Among The Living, a graphic novel that is being released to celebrate the legendary metal band’s 40th anniversary.
“We’re really excited. When we were kids we’d watch [heavy metal music program] Headbangers Ball every Saturday on MTV and be exposed to Anthrax,” Mikey explains. “We loved their music, but Anthrax were also one of the first bands that were like: ‘Hey, we like comics’. As a kid when that stuff wasn’t cool, Anthrax made that cool, initially. It’s nice to pay it forward ‘cos they were the original torchbearers of the whole thing.”
Discussing working with his brother on the comic, Mikey reveals: “We’ve always talked about stories that each of us has done, but Gerard and I have never written a comic together – so that’s exciting.”
Mikey’s got nothing left to prove
Growing up, Mikey was a kid who loved comic books and music. Now that he’s toured the world and released his own graphic novel, does he feel like he has anything else left to prove?
“I don’t!” Mikey says, honestly. “I used to live in skinny jeans. I lived the gimmick at one point: I looked like that [band] dude 24 hours a day, but now there are some days I go out in sweatpants. As you get older, you take solace in being comfortable. I don’t have anything to prove, and I don’t have to look cool. I’m not patting myself on the back, either. I just feel like I’ve succeeded in what I came to do, and now everything else is just for fun. I’ve been fortunate enough to be given that [opportunity] thanks to my career in My Chemical Romance, which is humbling.”
Mikey can now focus on making art for his own pleasure without worrying about the barometer of success. “I’m just doing stuff for the love of it,” he adds, before teasing that there are new projects in the works: “I’ll always have something to say, though. I’ve got more stuff on the burner that I know people will be excited about.”