PropertyOfZack spoke with Robert Ortiz of Escape The Fate a few weeks ago for a fantastic interview. Robert and I discussed how the band is starting over, the constant struggles they have faced, trying to break into a new threshold, their new album, label changes, and much more. Read it all below!
So you guys are halfway through your spring tour with Attack Attack!, The Word Alive, and Secrets. How has the tour been?
Honestly, our band is at a transitional point right now. We’re re-inventing ourselves. So we’re just revamping and getting to know each other again. Because we’ve been through hell over the last year and a half. Actually, we’re always going through hell, it seems like. We had a nice four month period where everyone was cool. But we’ve had a tough past year and a half. We’ve had the most success that we’ve ever had the promise of being rock and roll’s fuckin’ saviors and really being the band that was going to take it to the next level. Bust out of our genre and our scene and take it to the masses, you know? But when you have such a good dynamic with such interesting characters, the problem is that some of these characters are so important, but when they start falling apart… You’ve got guys with drug problems and all that. It hampers the whole thing. It just puts a road block in front of you. And you have to overcome it until right when we’re at the cusp of everything. We’re making more money than we ever thought we could ever make in our lives and all of this is happening for us. And we can’t get along. It sucks. So this tour is more of finding ourselves. We weren’t ready to go on tour yet. We were busy working on our new album and finding ourselves there. Getting a new sound and getting ready to hit it hard later on in the year. But this was a good chance for us to get back to the core fans. Get back to the fans, rather than going to all the huge radio festivals with massive fans. This is a chance to go to the roots, you know? And that’s where we have to find ourselves again. So that’s how we look at the tour. It’s been ups and downs. Some shows have been great, some shows have been like, “Fuck man we still need to work on shit.” So it’s been okay. It’s been okay for right now. Learning, I guess. You know?
Would you say that getting so successful strained the band in ways that you guys just weren’t ready for?
That could be possible. I’ve given my whole life for that kind of success right? But the problem is that it creates a strain on you when guys can’t control their emotions. You’re growing up. We’re like twenty two or twenty three. You’re giving us a lot of pressure. I’ve been out of my parents house since I was like seventeen, touring. But I’m still a fuckin’ kid you know? And everyone grows up at different paces and everyone is learning different things. Their lives are changing. People who used to party stopped partying. And people that used to be able to party, all of the sudden are addicted. What happens with that success is that when those things become a problem, where they were like, “Oh fuck man, he fucked some bitch and he stayed in the last city. He missed the bus so we had to drive without him.” “It’s cool man he can get a ride with the girl.” That turns into, “What the fuck dude! We just missed those radio stations that stopped playing us. We just missed out on this tens of thousands of dollars. Now our whole label doesn’t want to work with us anymore!” It’s like that. It goes from being fun to being super serious real fast. Our reputation wasn’t built on an image. It’s just what we were. When you put pressure on that and you have to deliver. When you have to deliver… Yeah, I guess you could say we weren’t really ready to handle it as being mature, professional musicians. Fuck it. It’s rock and roll, you live and you learn. Like I said, this tour is about learning. How do we be our combustible selves but get the job done and deliver to the fans who actually want to watch us perform.
This tour is a pretty big tour. I guess the lineup is still in the scene you grew up in. Even though you are still working through a lot, have you guys got to a better place?
Yeah. We’re definitely moving in that direction. A band is not an easy thing to do. Looking back, we’ve already been doing it for like six years. In the music industry, that’s a long time. For us to have survived all that we have, it’s a miracle really. We should have all broken up and done something else at this point several times over. But it makes us stronger. Right now it’s a point where we’re really learning who we are, how to get along, how to be humble, and how to be I guess Pros. And how to deliver. It’s not the easiest thing. You get fuckin’ crazy on the road, man. You really do. You get bored and you want to go out and have fun. You do. The thing is definitely communicating in everything. You’ve got a group of people. You’ve got to learn to communicate. Like any marriage is difficult. Any marriage you’re going to go through problems and difficulties. You have to work through them. Now multiply that times five and it becomes a serious problem. And you’re constantly dealing with it. At this point we are working towards that and we are learning to communicate where every fight isn’t the end of the world. It used to be. Now it’s more like, “Alright cool. Now don’t fuck up anymore.” You let it go. It happens.
Like you mentioned, before this tour you guys recorded a new album with John Feldmann. That was somewhat soon after the album before that. What made you guys want to record a new album so soon?
Because we had so many problems and so many fuckin’ issues. We’re super proud of the self-titled album. When I first saw the songs I said, “Wow. Dude. I can die peacefully now.” This was the album I wanted to hear. Growing up as a kid, this was the album, for me. To some people it sounded arrogant, but to me, I meant it more as in… Who else is going to be my biggest fan, but myself? If I don’t like the music that much, than no one else will. I absolutely loved that album. But we had to put it behind us; we had to move forward. Because a lot of things were going on for us. So it was like, “Well fuck, dude. Let’s just get a fresh start.” We’re were going to be working with a new label and we got a new manager and everything. It’s just fucking crazy. So it was time to come out swinging and get fresh juices with everything. We’re always creative. And it’s not totally done yet. The album’s not done yet either. We still want to learn and switch some things. We definitely want to record a couple more with John. Because we’re just excited. I think this time is really buckling down. This is what we need to sound like. I look back on the album all super powered, but it really was more of one side of Escape The Fate, rather than explaining in detail through our songs what we actually really are. It was more leaning towards one side, which is the darker and more electronic based. All that shit. It was rad, but it was more like just one side of Escape The Fate. Now it’s like each song fits together and sounds like one band. And that’s what we’re about. This album is just about being us.
So you guys are off of the major label now?
Well we’re in the process of switching right now. So there’s no telling right now where we’re going to be. But a major is definitely great in theory. They can do a lot for you; they have a lot of fuckin’ money. They can do a lot of shit, but it gets at forces to do things that didn’t represent the band very well. They just weren’t what we’re about. You fear what fans call “sell-outs” and shit. It’s like, “No dude, I just want to get my music to as many people as possible.” But they were, at times, trying to get us to do things that we just didn’t want to do. And were spending money on a bunch of bullshit stuff that they think… They made us do a whole fuckin’ remix album/EP thing for issue. Like, “Dude, we’re a fuckin’ rock band. Why are we wasting money and time putting out some bullshit electronic album?” Sure some of it will sound okay, but we’re a rock band. Shouldn’t we promote the rock side of us? So at the end of the day we’re just wasting a bunch of time and money. We weren’t having it. We argued with them every step of the way. They weren’t equipped to deal with what it is to be in a band. Major labels are different now, they’re not what they used to be ten years ago where they could just pick up any artist and go out and sell a million records. It doesn’t work that way anymore. So they got rid of their whole rock side. They just don’t want to deal with it anymore because people aren’t buying records anymore. I don’t care who you are, you know? Even the top artists in the world. And you’ve got a few artists who still go platinum. Those are the pop fucking Lady Gaga’s and Katy Perry’s of the world. That’s great for them, but they don’t know how to deal with a band, who you have to develop. There’s a certain way and a certain scene in this whole fuckin’ rock band. You can’t sell like Lady Gaga’s. I don’t know man. It’s great to have freedom again. We could still go with another major, but we have to be ourselves and they have to know that. So it’s all about finding the right team right now to go behind us.
You guys have a little more to finish up on this album. What are you thinking, like late summer?
We’re trying as hard as we can to get it late summer, early fall. Like September-ish. Maybe as late as October. We’re really trying for September. We’re super anxious. We just want to get everything new and fresh and hit it hard, you know?
What’s the direction of this record? Compared to the last one?
It’s more straightforward and more stripped down. Not more raw, it’s just that the songs are more focused. We were really into production last time. We were into experimenting with sounds and creating a world to suck you in. But we kind of missed the mark. Some of the songs were like, “This song sounds really fucking cool, but what is it about? What’s it doing?” So this one is more straight at you but still fucking big. We don’t compromise on those sounds. That’s why we went to Feldmann, because we knew what we wanted. We knew what our sound was like, and Feldmann helps us get that. He’s very important and he helps us chop down the bullshit and make a real song. So that’s what it’s about. I don’t know, it’s a fuckin’ rock album. That’s what we’ve always been about. We’ve never been a hardcore band, we’ve never been a punk/emo band, we’ve never been anything. That’s why we always call ourselves a rock band. It’s fuckin’ rock. Sometimes its heavier, sometimes it’s not. So I can just tell you that it’s more focused.
What are the touring plans looking like? I know you guys had a South America tour that got postponed. What should we expect in terms of touring?
We’re heading to South America. We are going to make that up. Unfortunately Wetzal, the drummer of Attack Attack! was very sick so we couldn’t really do it. So we said, “Let’s go back,” and we’ll make sure it happens. And we’ll do it even bigger. So we’ve got that coming up. And in the fall, we’re looking to go tour some. I can’t say exactly , it’s too early, but definitely want to tour with some big bands. Some of them we grew up loving, some of them our friends that we’ve toured with before. But huge fall tours and then we’re looking to take this thing international. So when it gets announced, it should be huge, but it’s not finalized and I can’t really say. But we’re trying to get some huge tours. We want to get this album to as many people as possible because this is it. This is go big or go home for us, you know?
I think some fans have been concerned about the stability of the band with lineup changes and the continued drama. Was there a point where things might have looked like they were coming to an end? Or do you think now, with this new album, that this is the third chance?
Dude, way more than third chance bro. That’s why we keep going. I spoke with Synyster Gates of Avenged Sevenfold. Anyone that knows anything about me knows that’s my favorite band. I grew up listening to them and went to their shows. But anyways, I talked to him. This guy is my idol. And one bit of advice that he gave me is that he said that, “You’re band is unique. Fuck everything you’ve been through, fuck everything you’ve seen or your favorite bands. What they do. What worked and what hasn’t worked. Fuck that, dude. You’re band is good. You’ve just got to do it. You do your best. And people connect to it.” And they do. That’s just how it works. Every artist is unique. There’s no specific formula. Some bands blow up in one album and you never see them again. Some blow up instantly and have a sustained career for the rest of their lives. Some sell a few, and no one hears about them until ten albums later. Like Kings Of Leon. There’s no formula. So you just keep going. I love Max. I would call that dude a brother. We grew up together. He would come to my house, hang out with my parents. My parents fed him dinner every night. There was even times when he was bouncing around houses where he would stay at my house. We went through all of that together. We grew up and we would sit before shows and just try on outfits. He’d be like, “That’s fuckin’ cool” and I’d put on a big cheetah coat and he’d be like, “Fuck dude that looks cool,” when everyone else is laughing at me. “Fuck what they say,” you know? We grew up together. We became a band together. I love this kid. It hurts me, more than anyone else in this world, to have to let him go. It hurts me more than any of our fans could ever understand. That dude is my brother. But at the end of the day, he’s killing himself with his addiction. I can’t be around to see that. I just can’t. He’s got a drug problem. It’s no secret. I’m not badmouthing him and I’m not saying that he’s a bad person. Max is a great person. But I can’t be around to see that guy die. It’s just really sad and it scares me. I’ve done everything. I’ve done the intervention thing. I’ve told him I loved him, I’ve told him I hated him. I’ve told him I’ve done this and I’ve done that. I just can’t do it anymore. My last resort to save the guys life is to go, “I can’t fuckin’ help you anymore. You’ve got to help yourself.” And helping if himself means reaching out to me for help, then cool. But he’s just not doing it and I don’t believe a word he says anymore. It’s sad to see and I love him to death. But I can’t be around that any more. So in Escape The Fate there were some moments like, “Yeah, this thing is done. It’s just not going to work anymore. It’s too fucking hard. I need to go make money selling something or working anywhere. I could be a drummer for any band, it’s whatever.” But Escape The Fate’s my heart. I’m not ready to let it go. Max was never part of the sound. He was part of the group and the energy on stage, but he was not a part of what Escape The Fate sounded like. So my hope is that the songs that we’re writing, with the original writers of the band (Mostly Monty and Craig), that’s what we need. Clearly it’s about music, right? So if the guys that make the music are still there, than just keep it going. The fans are really concerned about that. And I don’t blame them, I see it with my favorite bands too. But I’ve got to keep going man. And if it doesn’t fucking work, well fuck it. In with the good, out with the bad. But I’m not scared of any of the lineup changes. I’m not scared to show our fans the new music. I’m not scared of any of it. I hope we fucking get it. It’s going to take time to rebuild something and build it stronger, but I believe that we are going to.
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