David Debiak & My Chemical Romance's Mikey Way Talk New Project, Electric Century, & Overcoming Addiction
Way and Debiak's synth-rock band also shares 'You Got It Wrong,' a track previously only available on limited edition CD.
Four years ago, My Chemical Romance disbanded. Since then, each of its members have pursued solo music endeavors in some capacity: Frontman Gerard Way and lead guitarist Ray Toro have unveiled solo LPs, and rhythm guitarist Frank Iero released two -- under frnkiero and the cellebration, later adopting his current moniker, Frank Iero and the Patience.
The odd man out is bassist Mikey Way (Gerard's brother), who, right after MCR’s dissolution, actually seemed to be the the most active musician. He quickly announced a new project, Electric Century, with longtime friend David Debiak (Sleep Station, New London Fire) and in Feb. 2014, released a debut single, “I Lied.” Almost as quickly as they began, things went south for the band, or so it seemed: when Way thought he was meeting his pal to finish their debut album that same month, Debiak had other plans, and drove Way to a rehab facility where he received long-needed treatment.
Electric Century’s journey has been a complicated one of personal growth, loss and addiction. They released their debut LP, For The Night to Control as a freebie in a 2016 issue of U.K. magazine Kerrang! The album will get an official release for the first time ever July 14 via New Jersey indie label Panic State Records. It's an unusual approach to introducing a new band to the world -- while Electric Century has been around since the end of My Chemical Romance, they've actually just begun.
Confused? We were too, so we asked Way (EC's multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist) and Debiak (lead singer and also, player of several instruments) to break it down for us. Below, listen to the band’s New Order-channeling single “You Got It All Wrong” and read their first in-depth chat in years:
You guys have known each other for a long time now. How did you meet?
Mikey Way: We’ve known each other for 15, 20 years. Dave’s brother works at Eyeball Records [My Chemical Romance's label] and we immediately hit it off.
David Debiak: We shared a rehearsal space. The first conversation I ever had with Mikey, we were talking about music and I said, “Dude, want to play some bass?” He said, “Last week my brother asked me to start playing with him, so I think I’m going to give that a shot.”
The course of history could’ve changed!
Way: New Jersey, like every scene, is incestuous. A bunch of my friends who went on to start bands that are still playing asked me to play something in their band. I was always like “Me and my brother, we’ve got this plan.” There are so many instances of like, “Wow, what would’ve happened?”
When did Electric Century officially start? Was it right after My Chemical Romance called it quits?
Way: It did. I was doing a lot of soul-searching at that time. I still had a lot to say, musically. I had a lot of riffs and vocal melodies lying around. It was pretty seamless jump. There was no time between.
Debiak: We started talking about doing something together when Mikey was on the last leg of the last My Chemical Romance tour.
At that time, were you aware My Chemical Romance was breaking up?
Way: If anything, I thought we were taking break. I thought, “Now is the time because we’re taking a break.” Eventually we all decided it should be more than a break. We initially thought it was going to be a break, then we all did some soul-searching and decided, “No, this is definitely the end.”
When you started writing together, did you know that this is the sound you were going to pursue? It’s different from My Chem -- pretty goth-y, '80s, English…
Way: Yeah! Britpop, new wave. I always wanted to scratch that New Order itch. Since I was a teenager, I wanted to do my version of New Order. I was in middle school when I came up with the name Electric Century. I was in science class, I remember. I used to write band names on my notebook. I came up with Electric Century and was like, “Whoa, I like that, I’m going to remember that one!”
Did you immediately consider Electric Century a serious endeavor to pursue?
Way: Oh yeah. There was a ton of label interest. It got very serious very fast. We started getting attention that I didn’t see very often. Alternative Press had given us a cover at some point and we hadn’t ever played a show. MTV was talking to us as it was unfolding. People were excited.
“I Lied” is the first Electric Century song you released, back in Feb. 2014. That’s also when you conducted the MTV interview where Mikey told them, “I’m a drug addict, I’ve been a drug addict my whole life.” Lyrics aren’t always transparent but in that song you mention darkness, filling veins, lying -- I think lying is a dead giveaway with addiction. Was it meant to be autobiographical?
Way: When we were writing that song, Dave saw what was happening. Drug addicts are notorious liars and at the time, I was a notorious liar about my addiction, that I didn’t have a problem. I was in denial for decades. It was fitting that it was the first song anyone could listen to and that it was released while I was getting admitted into rehab. All of it was this weird cosmic joke -- art imitating life imitating art.
Electric Century spent most of that year in the dark. Later, Mikey, you revealed that it was because you went into rehab.
Way: I came home [to New Jersey in February] but I wasn’t there to record. [Dave] was going to take me to a facility. I thought we were going to finish the album. I woke up at Dave’s house, we went for coffee and I said, “When are we starting?” and he said, “You’re not here to record.”
Debiak: I lured you out here with the thought process that we were going to record and on your way out I researched what facilities were available and who had room. I drove you that day and not for a second did you put up a fight. It was more important for you to get help than for us to finish the album.
Way: It was a relief. It was something I put off for a very long time. That’s the thing about Dave, he cares about me like we’re from the same parent. You don’t run into many people like that in life.
Mikey, do you think the end of My Chemical Romance, something so tied to your identity, acted as a catalyst for your self-destructive behavior?
Way: 100 percent. The band ended, and I was going through a divorce at the same time. I do the most stressful things in clumps. The way I knew how to deal with that, through life, was to self-medicate so that’s what I did. The tail end of My Chem was so dark for me -- I was in a fog. Life caught up with me at that point, and I was getting by. I was in the ocean with the water by my lips. I was trying to stay up and I was failing. I had always self-soothed through narcotics from an early age.
When you get out of rehab, especially as much damage as I had done to myself, you’re basically starting over. You’re standing outside of this house that you built, you’re lighting it on fire and you have to start over again. You have to learn how to get back what you had without being high. For me to be me, sober, that was the true journey afterwards. When you get out of rehab, that’s when the real s--t starts.
Debiak: I came up to visit you in rehab and we did “Let You Get Away.” We borrowed someone’s old school boom box to play music on and we talked about that song a lot.
That song is the next one you shared, in 2015. Then you released a self-titled EP for Record Store Day -- it reads like you were easing back into the project post-rehab. Were you testing the waters, gauging interest, or is that how you work -- you release things when you have songs to release?
Debiak: Both. Watching Mikey come back together again -- he had to rebuild his life -- I was in no rush to make him do that faster than he needed to. As he started feeling better, we starting talking more Electric Century. There was a period were we didn’t talk at all because he was going through the pains of growing and learning how to be sober. That was more important than Electric Century.
Last year you released your debut LP, For the Night to Control, through U.K. rock publication Kerrang! It seemed like you wanted to make something temporary because it’s limited edition and only a few people would ever hear it.
Way: I was trying to emulate the excitement of when we were teenagers. Like, “Ok Computer comes out at this time, let’s go to the city and wait in front of HMV and we can buy it at midnight.” The only way to do that is to couple it with something. I wanted to give it away. The money thing isn’t a factor. I thought it was more of a statement. We’re releasing it to one part of the world. It’s still not out yet, technically. If you bought the magazine, you have a copy, but it’s not out.
Why give it an official release now?
Way: I was waiting until my life finally made sense again. I woke up one day last summer and it was like, “Yo, there he is!” I had finally gotten myself back 100 percent. Prior to that, I started to creep back into it. I did the Alternative Press Music Awards where I played bass with [Black Veil Brides’] Andy Black. Over the summer I had secretly gone out and played bass with Waterparks on their U.K. tour. I was doing things again. I was re-establishing myself with music again. We didn’t immediately jump back into the machine, which would’ve been a mistake. It’s purely for the joy of it.
What’s in store for the future?
Way: Me and Dave are working on the second Electric Century record. We’re planning two shows: one in New Jersey and one in L.A. It’s a matter of when. I think, down the line, I would love to play the U.K. and Japan with this. I could see us touring this, but I don’t want to jinx it. The project has been around so long, but it’s still new to us.
For The Night to Control is available for pre-order here.