The Medic Droid Breaks Up

Hector Bagnod (left) and Chris Donathon, no longer The Medic Droid.

It'll break the hearts of countless teenaged emo and scene kids to hear this, but The Medic Droid is no more.

The local electro power-pop band announced the break up Tuesday afternoon through a pair of blog postings on their MySpace page from vocalist Chris Donathon and keyboardist/guitarist Hector Bagnod.

While both blogs offer scant information behind why The Medic Droid decided to call it quits (such as Bagnod writing about "Things have been very hard for the both of us lately and it has come time to just move on"), Ben Collins, the band's manager, told Phoenix New Times that the break-up was largely due to Donathan's personal issues and stress from touring and performing, which resulted in problems with alcohol and a recent string of irrational behavior. The band was featured on the cover of last week's New Times.

"Chris has been seriously off the handle lately," Collins says. "He's just in full-on meltdown mode right now."

(Bagnod declined to speak with Phoenix New Times on the matter, and Donathon could not be reached.)

The break-up and Donathan's problems were not without warning.

In my cover story from last week's issue, I mentioned how both Donathon and Bagnod were stressed, exhausted, and close to burning out after experiencing a whirlwind of fame over the past two years. The Medic Droid rose to fame after they posted their surprise hit song "Fer Sure" on MySpace in late 2006, which eventually helped land them deal with local label Modern Art Records (whose artists are distributed through Epic/Sony) and got them gigs opening for blockbuster acts like Kill Hannah and The Blackout across the U.S. and Britain.

In fact, the band spent practically all of the past year on the road, which resulted in things not being as fun for the band anymore. Bagnod indicated as much in my story.

Compounding these issues were Donathan's emotional problems, especially during their recent nationwide headlining tour, where things started piling up after the singer lost his voice due to a bout of the flu and excessive smoking. After Donathan was unable to sing for several nights during the tour, he became extremely frustrated and began acting out and drinking heavily in order to cope.

Collins, who plays guitar in local band Chronic Future, says his friend has also been dealing with emotional problems stemming from a nasty divorce in 2005, as well as a troubled childhood. Donathan's mother left his drug-addict father (who was later convicted of murder) when the singer was seven years old.

My story included a telling quote from Donathon about his current emotional state:

"Right now, I'm in such a fucked-up place. If we continue doing what we're doing now, if we keep going at the same pace, I'll explode," he told me.

I also documented how the singer came extremely close to getting in a fistfight with management of the Blender Theatre at Gramercy in New York City on Thanksgiving eve after the plug was pulled on the gig due to the band allowing too many fans onstage to sing along.

Although Donathon didn't appear to be visibly intoxicated, Collins says the singer had downed an entire box of merlot before the performance. After New York, he says, things started getting worse and Donathon began drinking and smoking more heavily, usually polishing off an entire bottle of vodka by the end of each night. (He kept his acting out to a minimum, however, and nothing similar to the near-fight in New York happened at the remaining gigs).

That is, until last Saturday in Tucson during their second-to-last show of the tour. The band was at The Rock in Tucson when Donathon bolted from the stage after the band had played just one song ("Keeping Up with the Joneses"). According to Collins, the singer "went nuts, ran out of the venue with his fiancée in tow, and sped away in his car.

"When he walked on stage [he said], 'One song is all you get,' and then after it was done, he just threw down the mic and left," Collins says. "Hector didn't know what to do."

Donathon wasn't heard from until early the next morning when he began sending "weird and accusatory" text messages to Bagnod. Management was forced to cancel The Medic Droid's performance the following evening at the Troubadour in L.A. Collins says Donathon had become "extremely paranoid and mistrustful" recently of his friends. He'd accused Bagnod of "not being a good enough friend" and believed some of his personal items had been stolen by others backstage.

"Some days he couldn't even make eye contact with people, period," Collins says. "He's just really lost it. He thinks people are trying to deceive him, trick him, or whatever."

This alleged paranoia is hinted at in Donathon's MySpace post from Tuesday:

"[I] just wanted to say thank you sooooo so much to every one that supported us and helped us grow and to all that had my back well i guess I'm finding out thats not very many but to all the peeps that were straight up with me."

Collins says Donathon's behavior has been "like a slap in the face" to Bagnod, himself, and other friends who've tried helping the singer deal with his issues.

Bagnod and Donathon conversed a few times following the incident, making a mutual decision to break up the band earlier this week. Collins says the guitarist had reached a breaking point.

"Hector's just had it with Chris and I don't blame him. He isn't going to get onstage with Chris again he gets some help," Collins says.

Ironically, Collins had repeatedly told me after the New York gig there was "little chance" The Medic Droid would break up. He admits now it was just "pure optimism" that he and the other members of Modern Art Records could keep things stable and get Donathon into counseling.

"We all love Chris like a brother, especially Hector, and having to deal with the year they've dealt with would be tough on anyone," Collins says. "But we've been pretty much demanding that he start seeing someone for his drinking and other issues. My biggest hope is that now he'll realize what's up with his life and start changing things."

-- Benjamin Leatherman
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.