Mikey Way knew he had to leave his comfort zone to help others
Mikey Way is tired, but only in the best way possible. His infant daughter has a sleeping cycle of her own, and he’s been the doting father taking care of her. It’s the best kind of tired, showing love to your children. The My Chemical Romance bassist and Electric Century co-founder will be paying that forward further this Saturday. He’ll be hosting Mental Notes, the virtual concert show created and sponsored by the Hot Topic Foundation.
The event will feature performances from Black Veil Brides, Bishop Briggs, As It Is, DE’WAYNE, Bad Omens and the Word Alive, among many others. Proceeds from the event will go to Mental Health America, a mental health initiative offering counseling and other tools to promote mental wellness. Mikey Way is a perfect representative for the cause, openly discussing his travails and still succeeding in the seemingly fraught music business.
Read more: See the first page from Mikey Way's new Electric Century graphic novel
Mikey Way told Alternative Press what he’s been up to. In addition to his dad duties, he’s readying a number of comic book projects. The second album from his band Electric Century is slated for release sometime next month, with an accompanying comic. While there are some things he can’t divulge on the creative side, he’s incredibly passionate about mental health initiatives. He considers his participation in Mental Notes a learning experience he could use.
How are you doing?
MIKEY WAY: Sleep regressions and stuff like that. My youngest, she's been waking up at 5 a.m. You read all these blogs. There's all this shit where this is going to happen, that's gonna happen. One of them is that around the time of the cycle, the kid stops being good with sleeping and starts waking up in the middle of the night crying. You know, all this boring shit that I'm dealing with. And it's just fucking exhausting.
It's the best exhaustion you'll ever experience.
Yeah! I think it's worth every second.
What things are you working on? What’s the word on Electric Century’s sophomore release?
There are finishing touches going on the book currently, and then it's all being compiled and should be done within three weeks. As far as the music stuff goes, you know how that goes with any album. The longer you listen to it, the more you're like, “Oh wait, that's going to change. Just finishing touches, mixing and mastering.
I was reading an interview you did with a comics site regarding the making of Collapser. Shaun Simon was telling you essentially, “Forget about the deadline. Get it done earlier.” When it comes to comics and making records, is there more backpedaling involved? Like, “I don’t like that color. I don’t like that comic font.” Do you find that you backpedal more over one medium than another? Or is it a natural reaction for anybody to feel that way regarding any type of artistic endeavor?
I think by nature, artists are obsessive-compulsive. I feel like you're never really happy with anything completely. It's like someone looks in the mirror. They're like, “I don't like my hair. I don't like my legs.” You're your own worst enemy. I feel like that plays a lot into artistic endeavors. You're going to see stuff that you think is quote-unquote “wrong” that no one else would. It's the nature of the beast, and it pushes you to go. You're always going to tell yourself that something's not great. Even if it is, you don't. I feel like it's a blessing and a curse having something like that.
You’ve had a lifelong relationship with comics. At this point in your life, how has that changed? What do comics offer you personally? The idea of escape? Another creative extension? A platform to support visual artists who you really love?
I think what’s challenging about comics now is making something great in regards to how much great stuff's been done. Everything's been done if you break it down to the skeleton. It's more of a challenge now to do something great. Comics have been around for 80, 100 years. Making your mark now is harder than ever. I also feel like in the internet age, there are more opinions on it. Back when we were kids and an X-Men comic would come out, there wasn't a message board to scrutinize it. There’s more pain there, but there are also more people that enjoy comics than ever, which is great. If you would have told some of us 20 years ago the Marvel Comics movies would be bigger than Star Wars? Stuff like Umbrella Academy and Watchmen are some of the biggest shows on television. That's really cool.
But yeah, as a kid, it was all an escape. I just loved living in a fictional world and sticking with a character for years. There's this ongoing story that you can dip in and dip out and checking on these characters. And it still appeals to me. It's like comfort food for the brain.
I was just going to say that exact thing. How many comics do you have currently on the table in terms of things that you're working on?
I'm working on two other comics other than Electric Century. But the way that stuff works, [publishers] don't want you talking about anything until everything's solidified. But I've got stuff I'm really excited about in the pipeline, comic-wise. Now's the perfect time when the world’s hit a pause button. People are trying to figure new ways to make art right now, which is awesome.
So finishing touches on the second EC record, as well?
Yes. I'm very happy with the songs. Some of these songs were just simple voice memo demos. Some of these songs are four, five years old. We’d hoped to put some of them on For The Night To Control. Some of them kept the theme of the graphic novel. So we were able to unearth some tracks I really loved from that first go.
Both the Electric Century and Collapser comics touch on mental health issues. And you did mention the world hitting the pause button. As the host of Hot Topic’s Mental Notes livestream event, you’ve got a well-rounded experience with how mental health is of paramount importance.
I feel like it's very important right now in light of what's happening. You're going to be sad. With what we're going through scientifically, politically and socially, you're going to be sad, like maybe a couple of times a week. For some people, that's just life. Then for other people, it's brand new for them. You know, they've never been sad before. Or they've maybe never thought about it, or maybe they didn't realize what was happening. So I feel like this is a new spotlight on mental health. It sucks to turn on the news. Some days I don't. I try to avoid it as best as I can. I keep plugging in, as you need to be. But at some point, you have to disconnect a little bit for your well-being.
I would think that Apple would be making ridiculous bank. Because people throw their phones against a wall or something out of frustration. Then they realize by acting on that impulse, now they have to go and buy a new phone. “This thing is bothering me. Therefore, it has to die.” It’s the peril of extreme gratification, for sure.
We live in an era of extreme gratification. But exactly. Now more than ever, people have to look out for each other. People have to look out for themselves, as well. The people that are always worried about other people need to worry about themselves sometimes. You’re going to learn what you're made of right now.
How did you get involved with Hot Topic’s Mental Notes event?
Hot Topic reached out to me and asked if I would host the event. Which I thought was really cool and an honor. Because any time I can get involved with this subject, it's always a great thing for me.
I've been talking to someone since I was 17. Even before that, I was talking to friends and family. I always knew I was wired a little differently. The way things affected me were completely unlike other people I knew. I still see a therapist. Again, technology: You [look at] the glass screen of your phone, and your doctor’s in front of you. There are apps and all sorts of resources now to get connected. It’s a big step to get in a vehicle and drive to someone and just admitting out loud that something's not right. Now, maybe you can do a lot of this on the internet, and you can find somebody to talk to based on what's going on with you.
I've always been vocal about my mental health. During the course of my professional career, it's come up a couple of times. And I always did my best to just talk about it so people didn't feel alone. That's a big piece of how I like to pay it forward. I like people to know that you're not alone and there are millions of people like you. That doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. It doesn't mean you're sick. Everyone's different.
So you’ll be discussing your experiences with mental health?
I'm going to give people some direction to tools that they can use to combat some of the pitfalls that people with mental health issues are trying to deal with. Mental Health America [has] all the tools you need to get started. They can really know how to put the ball in your court and give you resources. It’s a good jumping-off point if you've never broached the subject with yourself.
Will you be performing in any capacity?
I'm not. I'm doing something that, honestly, I've never done [before]. And I think doing this will be good for my mental health because I tend to be more of a private guy nowadays. So doing something like this is out of my comfort zone. Maybe I'll discover something about myself doing it, which I think is useful. [Laughs.] What’s that saying? “Life begins outside of your comfort zone.”
Mental Notes starts at noon PT Saturday, Oct. 10. Get tickets in advance here.