- from left: Michael Money, Monte Money, Craig Mabbitt, TJ Bell, Robert Ortiz
Always controversial, always shrouded in rumors, Escape the Fate has dealt with their fair share of hard times. A revolving door of members and being dissed by a certain former lead singer seemed like the worst it could get. Then Escape the Fate's label dropped them and the band was forced to look at themselves in the mirror and decide what their future held. Instead of backing down and giving up, Escape the Fate decided to buck all traditions and expectations to come back with Ungrateful, an album full of attitude, heart, and just enough anger to show everyone that there's nowhere Escape the Fate is going except up.
NUVO: Listening to [the new Escape the Fate album] Ungrateful, it sounds like you guys are in a completely different headspace than the last album ['10's Escape the Fate]. Could you tell me a little bit how it's been different between then and now?
Robert Ortiz: Fucking everything, basically! (Laughs) I mean, realistically, during the making of the last album aside from Max [Escape the Fate's former bassist and a founding member of ETF], he was starting to kind of hit the deep end of his personal demons with drug addiction and stuff. As far as the writing and everything went, that was probably the best process ever. Making the self-titled album, we flew down to LA to record it. We were all living next to the beach while we were working on it and writing the album and stuff. So everything was just coming together and everything was looking up and we were finally starting to come into some money that we'd never seen before, you know? We spent years trying to make a fucking dollar. Everything went so smooth during the making of the self-titled album. It was a very exciting time for us. We ended up coming out with a record that was, I don't know, we just sort of got it done. That's how we'd always done it. Make enough songs, and then release it. I don't know it's almost like our band strives on desperation, because it was almost like it was missing some of the heart and the fire that all the other albums had had. Maybe it was missing, but the songs just weren't connecting as well. There were some good ones, but for the most part, the songs just weren't quite clicking too well. This album, I mean, at this point, it was like, "Do we really want to be a band?" Everything had fallen apart. We had finally parted ways with Max after years of dealing with his problems and stuff. It was a lot going on and we went to different producers to try to find the right tone and recorded a full length album and then we decided that it just wasn't right. We decided that we needed more of that intensity, more heavy stuff. We really, really put the work in on this album and we spent a lot of time making sure it was the right vibe and the right energy. I think that that desperation was really sort of captured with the sound and it embodies our trials and tribulations. I'm happy with the way it turned out. It wasn't fun to make. It fucking sucked (laughs)! But then again I 'm proud of it, I'm very happy with the way it turned out.
Nuvo: I noticed on some of the tracks of the new album (Ungrateful) you guys self-produced. Was that the first time that you guys produced your own music?
Ortiz: Yeah, well, I guess. We were very confident with the self-titled [album] that producer we worked with then, he was really good at what he does, but at that particular time, he was just engineering more than actually producing as far as helping us be a better band and help us write better songs. We felt he was just helping us record it sonically and it kind of worked. He gave us the confidence to go in and do it on our own. This time was our first official time doing it on our own. John Feldmann produced half the album and we learned a lot, we've been through a lot of stuff and have gone through a lot of producers and we realized that the fucking demos we were making were better than all these platinum recorded artists these producers were making. So, we decided to do it on our own and we had a much better time making those songs and it went a lot more smoothly just because there was no one there to tell us what the fuck to do. If I wanted my drums to be over the top and insane, that's what they were (laughs)! There was no one telling me that I couldn't put double bass here or I couldn't put double bass over everything if I wanted to. There's more guitar solos and there's a lot more attack. Just less pop and a lot more straight up rock. Less bullshit too, I guess, really. A lot more attitude is the way I've been putting it. Less bullshit, more attitude (laughs)!
NUVO: How was working with [Fall Out Boy singer and solo artist] Patrick Stump [on "Picture Perfect" off of Ungrateful]?
Ortiz: Oh jeez, man! That guy's a fucking genius! (Laughs), I mean, I'm more of a metal head at heart, that's always been my vibe, but I always liked Fall Out Boy. I had heard some of the stuff he had did solo too and thought it was cool. But working with him just brought my respect for him, which I had already had a lot of, to this other level. Holy fuck! Dude, I can't even explain it! I'll try, but he's so good, he would make us sit and really feel what a song is about. He heard the music while we were writing it and we said that this was what we had in mind and the song we were working on was dealing with the loss of one of our friends. Also, at that particular time, my girlfriend of eight years, her grandmother had recently passed away, so I was kind of in that frame of mind as well. Patrick heard the music and what we were going for and he made us sit and write lyrics and Craig [Mabbitt, Escape the Fate lead singer] was really nailing it. Patrick made sure that all the lyrics said what we felt, you know? Usually, the lyrics kind of always had the meaning there, but he made us really dig at them and think about them and go, "What do you really want to say?" We always formed the lyrics around the music. Patrick Stump did the lyrics first, where we had always done the music first. He had us do the opposite and we went from there. He helped us shape the song into something that was really meaningful. It shows, because, the fans have connected to that song more than any other song on the record. You know, our heart and soul was in that song and he helped us bring that out and once we did and I think that's actually the best song we've ever written!
NUVO: What happened with the song you guys did with [Motley Crue's] Mick Mars?
Ortiz: Oh yeah, yeah. We did that one before we headed into the studio for making the self-titled album. I don't know, we just weren't all that happy with it, to be quite honest. We weren't feeling it too much, we didn't have a lot of time to work with him and I don't know, sometimes it's a miss. The riffs are there and they're bad ass sounding, but the vocals weren't quite connecting with the riffs. It just didn't work, maybe we'll bring it back and try it again in the future. I'd love to go work with him again. He's always been a fucking gnarly guitar player. We've learned a lot from him. Mick takes the opposite approach to guitar that we've always done. For us, we'd make a riff. For him, it's like, just bad ass sounds. No matter what anyone says, his sound always sounds as fucking dirty like he wants it and it always sounds really cool. So, that's what we took from him, but as far as the song goes, it's not going anywhere anytime soon.
- from left: Robert Ortiz, Monte Money, Craig Mabbitt, TJ Bell, Michael Money
NUVO: What has the difference been between working with [record label] Interscope in the past and Eleven Seven Records now?
Ortiz: The difference is that from this basically this point on, both record labels have been really into what we've done musically, they are all on board. As soon as we gave them the first batch of songs, they were all 'Fuck yeah! Let's go!' Both labels have supported us heavily on what our music was. They didn't really try to change that, and I mean, it's not like we were going to change for them anyway! But it's from this point on that this is the way we promote this record and the amount of energy we give towards it. Interscope did well, they spent a lot of money on us and everything, (laughs) but I felt like they were just going in the wrong direction as far as where to spend the money. They weren't promoting us in the right places or helping us to do all the right things, I mean, I used one example in another interview where they wanted to put some dubstep remix out of "Issues" [lead single off of 10's Escape the Fate] and it's like, dude! We're a fucking rock band! Go put that on a bunch of other band's songs, they'll probably like it! I remember, they gave [ETF lead guitarist] Monte, who usually writes the majority of the music and they gave him a list of Top 40 songs and told him to make songs that sounded like them! So, it's like, fuck you! They were thinking pop and our idea was that we can be our own kind of rock band and become a pop band because pop will shift towards this way not that we'll shift towards what pop is now. We won't change to become pop. Pop can change to become our kind of music. We wanted to take our kind of rock to the masses and their idea was, "Well, that doesn't work with us." At that time I think Lady Gaga was number one or Taylor Swift or some singer like that and they told us, "Well, you should probably sound more like that." They wanted us to be some kind of R&B dance club shit. We just kept saying that we're a fucking rock band! Promote us as a fucking rock band! We'll get bigger! They weren't into that, they were interested in promoting a fucking teeny bopper group and that's not what we are. That's the difference with Eleven Seven. Eleven Seven, they are going to do the best to promote a fucking rock band. And the bigger it gets, the more boundaries we can cross, and we can stretch over into those pop radio stations and shit, but we won't change for anyone. That's the main difference. That's what I love about Eleven Seven, they're a fucking rock record that can attack radio, but they get us, they get out lifestyles, they get where we come from, the scene we came from, you know?
NUVO: I feel the same way. I feel like too many rock bands are just blindly following what their record labels are telling them will make them big and they're selling out their souls and hearts and selves. They aren't putting their hearts into their music anymore because all they want is to make that Top 40. I don't feel like many rock bands have that attitude anymore.
Ortiz: That's basically the main difference. Ultimately, we're not going to sell out! We experiment a lot, I mean, don't get me wrong, we have respect for all types of music. I listen to Top 40, I listen to some country, I listen to fucking everything, because, I love music! But, I'm in a rock band and my dream is to play rock music. So, I'm not going to sell out and be something I'm not! That's who I am, that's my identity, that's my band's identity, that's what we do. That's the difference between where we were at then and where we're at now. We've got a label that believes me when I say that, you know? We're not looking for the short money.
NUVO: I know that [rhythm guitarist] Michael [Money] toured with you guys and played live with you guys for a long time, but how come he wasn't ever an official member of Escape the Fate before this album?
Ortiz: He just wasn't (laughs). He'd always been around, he was just Monte's little brother. When we started touring with him, it was kind of like, it became more of a natural fit over time. We were going through all the changes with everything from the last record to this, it was just a comfortable change. It was always us four, the four band members [guitarist Monte Money, drummer Robert Ortiz, bassist Max Green, and lead vocals Craig Mabbitt] and we needed a rhythm guitar player to play live. He just became like, when we were trying to find one, Monte was like, 'Hey my little brother can play guitar really well,' and we were like, fuck it, we'd rather have him that we know, Monte's little brother than some random guy who was a stranger. It just progressed from there to 'Hey he's writing some stuff, he's helping us with writing, he does just as much work as we do without any of the respect from anyone else.' That was the only difference between what he was doing and what he does now that's he's officially part of the band, we just had to put his name down on paper (laughs). It was a natural fit, really.
NUVO: The video [for the title track] "Ungrateful," deals with bullying. Why did you guys choose to make that kind of like a public service announcement?
Ortiz: Well, because that's what the song is about, really. The song, "Ungrateful" started off as kind of a 'fuck you haters!' type of song, but it sort of evolved because we kept writing it and focused more on the lyrics and it evolved from 'fuck you haters' into us saying, 'Wait a second, this is a problem', you know? And, when it became time to do a video, for us, it's never been easy. The idea, it was not east to make a video with that much serious vibes about it. We actually made a statement, and it was a lot different than anything else we'd ever done. Our other videos always had a party theme to them, where we said, 'where can we drink? Where can we have naked girls?' We've had a plane ["Ten Miles Wide"], a concert ["City of Sin"], a school ["Situations"] parties have been what the videos have all is about (laughs). This time we were like, 'Let's drop all of that shit, we're not there anymore.' Like, I've been sober for three and a half years now! We still like to have fun, but we're a lot more mature at this point. We have a lot more things to say. The video for "Ungrateful," was our biggest chance to make our mark and say, 'hey, we're fucking back and we're not fucking around!" So, obviously, [bullying] something that we've always dealt with. When you have fucking long hair and wear tight jeans as a kid, at least that's how it was for me! Shit, I got fucking bullied all the time! I didn't have any friends! So, we were like, 'let's stop this cycle.' Fans come up to us at shows and they show me their wrists and they say that they fucking cut themselves, and they think about killing themselves. I dealt with it personally dude. Two years ago, I was fucking having all this anxiety and panic attacks; I was thinking about killing myself and all that stuff. To me, it's like, sometimes as an artist, you progress and it progresses into your life and it imitates your life sometimes, and you know, all the partying and drinking was me back then. And, this is me now. I have something to say and the whole band is sort of reflective of that. "Ungrateful"'s video wasn't easy for us. We weren't sure if we were going to be taken seriously or not. We believe in it though. If you believe in something, people will take you seriously.
NUVO: I know where you're coming from, I mean, I'm only 18. I became a journalist because Escape the Fate and some other bands made me stop and not cut myself or kill myself. I'm a journalist because these bands saved my life and it's the least I can do to talk about them and share them with the world. I owe them everything I have now. I want to get bands out there so maybe a kid will hear them and it will save their life too.
Ortiz: The names and faces we included at the end of the video, that's something we went back and forth on repeatedly. We took them out, then back in, then we took them out, then we put them back in, and it's just kind of like a controversial thing within our own camp. We weren't sure that that was the right thing to do. I mean, we had everyone's blessing to do it, as far as whoever we needed to ask, but it was just like, it might be too much. Then it became, you know what? No, let's put that in there because we want to get people to talk about it. Every Escape the Fate video we have ever put up has all these comments is how the band's better with Ronnie or the band's better with Craig, and dude, this video had none of them , they all just went away. It became about the video and the message and it got people talking like we wanted and argue like we wanted. We have one girl in there, her name is Amanda Todd, she's controversial herself, I mean, a lot of kids think that she did it to herself, she was a slut, she brought it on herself, blah, blah, blah. It's like, no dude, you don't get it. You fucking stop. If someone hadn't repeatedly attacked her, she wouldn't have been punished for one small mistake she made as a twelve year old child. Everyone goes through that. Everyone makes mistakes in life and they're fucking haunted by it. We don't have to contribute to that by bullying them. We can help her get past it and grow as a person. That's what the moral of the video was. Stop the cycle, how can you contribute to it and how do you stop it and how is it kept going by people? That's really what we were going for. Not so much like a victim kind of thing like, 'come on, it's going to get better.' No, look at yourself. You're fucking helping this beast keep going and taking more people done. It's crazy man; it was a gnarly ass video. (Laughs) it's hard to top it.Escape the Fate's latest album, Ungrateful, is available now in stores and on iTunes. See them this Sunday, July 7, with Hollywood Undead at the Egyptian Room at Old National Centre.