With a new album and a headlining tour underway, Escape the Fate’s Robert Ortiz talks scene kids growing up, unicorns, and what lies ahead for the band.
When most rock fans think of Escape the Fate, many things come to mind, even before the music itself; turmoil, line up changes, and high-profile disputes can, unfortunately, take precedence. Yet, hopefully with its new lineup firmly in place and their incredible new album, Hate Me, recently dropped, critics and fans alike can once and for all leave the bands sordid history behind them and focus on the future.
That is definitely what founding member and drummer, Robert Ortiz, is hoping for. Yet, because ETF is who they are, the question still needs to be addressed;
â€œI originally tried to shy away from these questions, revolving around the band members, because yes… itâ€™s obvious that itâ€™s part of the legacy. The biggest part of the legacy really. The ability to really endure it. And Iâ€™d shy away from it because itâ€™s like â€˜fuck thatâ€™ weâ€™ve got a new album and itâ€™s great. And it’s got a lot to say so why focus on that? You already know. Why talk about it? But, it is an important part of the story.â€
What fans can be assured of is that the band is currently on very solid ground. For Ortiz specifically, he has been able to shed his role of â€œband therapist,â€ and get back to the artistic aspect of music that heâ€™s known and loved for.
â€œMy role in the past has always been far less than being an actual drummer and a performer and songwriter. I always looked at myself as more of the therapist. The guy who fucking keeps the whole thing together. The glue. That was my role. I always tried to fix problems. I was a fucking ringleader of an insane, crazy person, circus.â€
â€œBut now, with these changes, for whatever reason they happen, the team is united now. So now I donâ€™t have to be that anymore.â€ Not to say the band doesnâ€™t have its problems, all bands do, but for ETF it seems the dark days are safely behind them.
â€œNow my focus is on writing. My focus is on creating. Having that breathing room allows everyone to just fucking concentrate on the music and do what weâ€™re destined to do. Create art. Whether itâ€™s on stage. Whether itâ€™s on an album. Whatever it might be.â€
â€œIâ€™m playing better than ever now because guess why? I can concentrate on fucking playing drums again. I donâ€™t look at my drum kit going: â€˜Fuck I hate it, dude.â€™â€
But, is there any animosity with former members at this point. Certainly doesnâ€™t seem that way. â€œIt hurts and they happen and there’re growing pains and we deal with them. I wish everyone thatâ€™s ever been a part of this band luck. Whatever they do I hope theyâ€™re good at it and we do what we do.â€
Another positive aspect of ETFâ€™s new found structure and breathing room is a more collective writing environment for each band member. Ortiz has taken on a much more prominent role in the writing process, which heâ€™s really enjoying.
â€œThis time around it was such a team effort. It wasnâ€™t just me. It was the other guys too and I just contributed more than I normally do. Everyone would have an idea and we wouldnâ€™t shut each other out.â€
â€œIt helped exercise some fucking demons for us. Weâ€™ve all gone through so much, changes as human beings, that it was amazing to purge all this stuff out of ourselves and to really talk about things that weâ€™ve been wanting to talk about.â€
With the new album, the band hopes as always to appeal to their longtime fans as well as expanding to a broader audience. â€œYou just get the confidence with the new album. A good song is a good song. Fuck it. I think that there’re specific songs that certain fans are going to like certain ones and I think there’re certain ones that certain fans arenâ€™t going to like,â€ Ortiz elaborated.
â€œBut I think a lot more people are going to be able to get into it than they have in records past.â€
â€œI know that my 12-year-old niece likes it. And I know that my 60-year-old Mother-in-law likes it. My dad is my biggest fan and my biggest critic. He used to sit in the garage with a fuckinâ€™ beer can (and say) â€˜That song sucks.â€™ But this time he actually called me and heâ€™s like â€˜Son, thatâ€™s a fucking number one hit dude. This is it. You fucking did it.â€™ So if my dad likes it, then fuck it, it must be good.â€
â€œAnd then, of course, my 6-year-old niece, and Iâ€™m gonna quote her, she said â€˜I like it and I think my friends will like it and they like unicorns.â€™ So Iâ€™ve got the unicorn fan base. I think weâ€™ll be all right, ya know?â€
With the new album in mind and a new producer on board, just what influence did producer Howard Benson have in the band’s current direction?
â€œHe had the biggest influence. He did so much by letting us be us. He said â€˜You know why people trust me? Because Iâ€™m Howard Fucking Benson and I know what a good song sounds like.â€™ and heâ€™d say â€˜I tell you what guys you can record whatever other ten songs you want, but just give me this one. Trust me.â€™ And heâ€™d be that passionate about it and weâ€™d hear it after weâ€™d actually worked on it and spent time on it and Craig sings it, like passionately, and itâ€™s like â€˜Oh my god he was fucking right.â€™ He just taught us how to be a band again.â€
All great things in ETFâ€™s world it seems, including their current tour, in which they are headlining. Itâ€™s not new news to fans that the band was unhappy touring with Pop Evil, as they were in the midst of one of their notorious lineup changes, as well as feeling a bit out of place with the Pop Evil fanbase. So how is this tour faring in contrast to the last?
â€œWell this is our headliner and itâ€™s really about taking a chance and weâ€™re really trying to rebuild our foundation. But the thing is how to get those fans to pay attention again.â€
â€œThatâ€™s the hard part cuz with the problems we talked about earlier itâ€™s not easy for people to believe in us again. This tour has been great in some places and in some places itâ€™s been like â€˜Damn, we need to work on some shit and we need to do some stuff and take chances.â€™ And I think with this tour, going into the next phase, the next year, we need to take chances and tour with bands we donâ€™t normally tour with because our scene grew up. And itâ€™s not there anymore. So, we need to just take chances and go anywhere. Whether itâ€™s playing for bands younger than us, that blew up because we were just fucking around and falling apart, or playing with older bands that normally their fans wouldnâ€™t listen to us. So whatever it is that we gotta do we gotta just find it.â€
â€œFor me at this point itâ€™s just about rock. Good songs and rock. Itâ€™s not Metalcore, Hardcore, Screamo, Emo, Pop Punk, Metal, Thrash Metal, fucking whatever. Itâ€™s all rock. Itâ€™s rock. Thatâ€™s all I can say now. I think we have that broad fan base. â€œ
â€œIâ€™ve got fans that walk up to me and theyâ€™ve got that Papa Roach or that Five Finger Death Punch shirt and theyâ€™re like â€˜Yeah I saw you guys with Three Days Grace. I never heard you, but love you guys.â€™ And then the fans with like a Warped Tour shirt on, â€˜I love you guys, I havenâ€™t seen you in a long time.â€™ To me, itâ€™s just rock dude. Whatever works, works, ya know?â€
The future looks solid for ETF, and the Vegas performance inside Vinyl at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was everything youâ€™d hope for out of a rock show, complete with guest appearance by former member Max Green. The tour is wrapping up its US dates this month and will reconvene starting January 16 in Manchester, U.K., and stopping throughout Europe, until wrapping things up in St. Petersburg, Russia on Feb 19th.
Escape The Fate