You’ve spoken about needing to stay creative, always. But what was the driving force that was pulling you back to this whole concept in particular?
“When Electric Century was all about to kick off, I went to rehab [in 2014], and by the end of that 30 days, I was like, ‘I don’t wanna tour anymore.’ I wanted to take care of myself, and I think it kind of set the stage for this project – in my head, it was like, ‘How can I make this fun and not have a conventional record cycle?’ I always respected what Gorillaz did and thought, ‘Well, they make it work and they’re living in a ‘fictional’ world…’ And it made me realise that it could be done. I put a pin in that for a bit, and then around 2018, towards the end of the year, Z2 reached out and were like, ‘Hey, we’d like to make a graphic novel for the next Electric Century album,’ and I was listening to them pitching it to me and the guy said, ‘Hey, I kinda see this project as something like the Gorillaz!’ and it hit me like a lightning bolt, as I’d never said that to anybody before. From that moment on I was like, ‘This is what we need to do,’ and it kind of informed the project. I want Electric Century to exist in this almost Twilight Zone world.”
Did having such a big project to meld together drive you a bit mad at points?!
“Um… no! I had a lot of help from people – one of my best friends Shaun Simon co-wrote the comic with me, Dave and Ray were there to help me make the music… I feel like with an ambitious project like this, I also had ambitious people with me. Some of the most creative, hard-working people I know worked on this, so I never felt overwhelmed. I felt like, if there was ever a moment for me to feel overwhelmed, somebody would be like, ‘Yo, I’m gonna help you out!’ It was a great tag-team effort.”
How did Ray get involved when it came to production?
“We were unsure of what we were going to do with it. Dave had somebody that he loved working with, but they both felt it wasn’t a good match for the project – it was a mutual thing, which is fine. So then the first name that popped into my head was Ray – I was like, ‘Oh, Ray! He can do this!’ He did a tester song with Alive, and Dave was sold – we were just blown away. It’s funny about that song, too, because when I was in rehab [in 2014], Dave came to visit me – he brought a tape recorder with a cassette in it with Alive, and it was just him and an acoustic guitar. And I listened to that thing for probably a month straight – I was just lost in it, and I kept imagining all the things we could do with it. I kept roadmapping it in my head. That was the one that I kept going back to – I was like, ‘It’s got to be the song.’ And I think we succeeded with that; I think Alive is the anchor of the whole thing.”
Were there any conversations with Ray about, ‘Hey, you can tweak things as much as you see fit’ because you have so much trust in him?
“Oh yeah, we let Ray do whatever he wanted! We were like, ‘Get as crazy as you want.’ We were excited to get his guitar on there, and his vocals are on there a lot as well. There’s a ton of Ray Toro on that album, and I’m super-excited about it. Just getting to hear his solos makes me happy – he’s one of the greatest guitar players on planet earth, doing what he does best. Getting to hear that on a record again made me so happy. He’s one of the best there is, and everybody knows that.”