Escape the Fate’s Robert Ortiz Talks New Music, Influences + More!

Photo courtesy of Eleven Seven Music.

Photo courtesy of Eleven Seven Music.

Overall, Escape the Fate have had a career filled with ups and downs.  The band has had enough lineup changes to rival Guns N Roses, and have still managed to tour and release albums consistently. The day had just started at Uproar Festival and the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands winner had just taken the stage  when we had met up with Escape the Fate’s last original member, Slash look-a-like, and drummer, Robert Ortiz on the band’s tour bus for a quick chat about the band’s latest tours, their devout fan base, their influences, his love of Queen and of course, their new, upcoming album.  


 

The last time we saw you guys was at the TLA in Philly, and from a fan perspective – it felt as if the current lineup was the most cohesive it has ever been.

I’m not going to draw comparisons, but we’re pretty happy right now.  I’ll just say that much – to me, it’s never much about the lineup, it’s more about how we’re feeling.  Things go up and down.  Maybe in a year it’ll be like, “Fuckin’ Thrasher!” (laughs).  But we’ve been feeling good.  But y’know, that’s what was hard for us  because we weren’t too thrilled to be on the tour for various reasons and y’know – it ended up being okay.  We made the most of it, we had a good time.  And right now the band is really coming together and we’re working on new material which we are really excited about, improving the way we perform onstage.  When we’re not complaining about something, we’re working on something.  It’s an exciting time for us.  There’s always going to be a challenge and there are fans like you who’ve been around for several years, since the start – it’s hard to be a fan.  It’s hard to see it all go down but at the end of the day, if it’s working, it’s working.

In regards to what you said about the Pop Evil tour, in an interview with Alternative Press you had stated that the biggest struggle for you guys was that that particular tour was catering to mostly fans of “radio rock”, when you guys come from the Warped Tour scene.

Here’s the thing with that – and it’s cool because I get another chance to clarify this.  I don’t usually go on social media, if you see my twitter page – I’m just not into it.  But I did read a few comments on that and there was one guy, I remember him saying, “Well, if you don’t want to be doing that, then why the fuck are you doing that?”.  In essence, I don’t know if he meant it that way, but it was almost like he’s saying “You’re selling out.  If you don’t wanna do that then why the fuck are you doing that?” but it really is about expanding the band’s fan base, y’know?  Our label, our managers and even ourselves, we want to bridge the fan bases, we want to go and expand.  We can’t keep playing to the same people over and over again.  The idea is we play to those people every time and add others on top of that.  Those other people should be allowed to hear our music as well but – it’s not always fun and it’s doesn’t always work – that was the point I was trying to make.  So on that tour, it wasn’t necessarily the best fit with our two bands.  

[Pop Evil] are a great band, I’ve been watching them every night and they’ve been killing it and we’re doing great over here, but for some reason it didn’t mesh well and sometimes it doesn’t work and you get frustrated.  At that time, I was frustrated because I’m like “I’m going to be here for two months and it’s not working.”  When something else like touring with certain bands and different genres – you feel that working and then you’re getting mad because then it’s like “Why am I doing this that’s not working when I should be doing this that does?”

It’s hard to say, but you’ve gotta try different things.  You gotta have courage to just give things a shot.  If it works, it works that’s great and if it doesn’t – fuck it, you’ve tried it!

Personally, it seems as if you guys branching out is working because even the Uproar tour has a mostly a “radio rock” feel to it with bands like Godsmack, Seether and Pop Evil on the lineup, but one thing I noticed from the TLA show was that it was the furthest thing from a sold out crowd, but when you guys hit the stage it was if you guys had a sold out crowd – and most of the crowd was there for Escape the Fate and even left after you guys performed.  

You know, I’m not really gonna touch on that too much – but it does work and this tour alone is kind of an example of that with certain things.  The show in Syracuse at the State Fair, it was raining and it wasn’t a big crowd.  It was just, it was kind of weird and we’ve never been there, ever.  In my ten year career, I’ve never been there so for me it was like, “Holy shit, do they not like us?  Why are we doing this tour?”  and then today, walking in – literally I didn’t even know the doors were open – the first two fans in line, front row center, the first two fans ran up and hugged me and said “We love you and we’re here for you!” So it’s like that our fans are here and they are devoted.  I’ll repeat something I said in the AP interview which is I was used to a certain group of bands where fans would tell us, “We love you!  And we saw you with this band or that band and bands that you’re familiar with in Alternative Press and stuff and now it’s just like, “We love you and Seether!” and it me it’s just like huh?  When did that happen? (laughs) But it works dude, because it’s rock music. It’s rock music – certain people are going to get it, certain people aren’t.  But it’s all rock music and the idea is that certain people aren’t going to get it, but we’re going to give it a try.  

You mentioned that you guys are going to be working on new material – is there anything you guys are listening to that you’re using to help influence you in writing that new album?  

It’s always a bunch of different things.  It’s weird because all of our guilty pleasures – they’re crazy.  The rest of the guys listen to a lot of like, club music/dance because they like to party, so they do their thing.  I listen to a weird mix of music that makes me feel like a child (laughs), like stuff I used to listen to when I was a little kid.  I’m really pushing Thrasher, because – I don’t know if I want to call him a guitar virtuoso but his influences on guitar – he loves guitar – so some of his influences are those solo virtuoso guitar players like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai and stuff like that.  He fucking shreds and everyday when we’re hanging out back here in the back lounge on the bus we’re just working on ideas and riffs and just laying out roadmaps and we always are recording things on our phones at any given moment, but he’s been playing all these solos and I’m just like, “Dude, you gotta do that.  You gotta fucking do that.”  So it’s kind of that drive to just play and impress yourself almost.  

Then, there’s that stuff I will always listen to – all of the rock music, and those bands find their way into our sound.  I don’t know – there’s no direct influence right now but rather just a mix of a bunch of different things now and then for an idea of where we want to go.  

Then there’s bands like Avenged Sevenfold – I love that band – they’re an influence on the whole band actually.  We love what they do and the newest record – you can hear their influences pretty clearly (laughs).  It’s hard when you’re so entrenched and you have an idea of what you want to sound like.  Then it’s like “Fuck, is that too much like this?”  Because then It’s really an homage, it’s a good thing.  Like “I want to sound like Metallica.”  Well you do. so then you did a good job.  I think it’s great.  The Hail to the King album is a great album.  I love it, I listen to it not every day – but when it came out I did! So I think it’s good they’re an influence on us, though I feel our mix is a little more eclectic.

Craig is so much on one side and then I’m so much on another side and that’ll kind of mesh into the sound that we make.  That’s what Escape the Fate’s always been – this weird, discombobulated assortment coming together to form the sound.  And y’know, we’re not opposed to writing songs with other people – that’s something we’ve always done.  It’s always about learning and bettering your craft by seeing how other people do their craft.  We’ve been talking to Josh Todd from Buckcherry who we wrote “Ten Miles Wide” with and he’s down to write again – just jam and have a good time.  We’ve talked with a bunch of different guys to just jam with – some of it might make the record, some of it might not.   It’s really just about having fun at this point.  That’s what we want to do.  We want to get to our roots, we want to get in a room and jam and feel the music out.  It’s really kind of going backwards for us so we could move forward.  We really want to get back to what it was like being teenagers , whether we were teenagers together, we all had the same mentality which was work it out, jam, work really hard and give it everything we got.

What I noticed on the last two albums – specifically the self-titled album, was that there was that meshing of sound where it sounded like the old-school Escape the Fate, and then there’s songs like “World Around Me” that I used to call “the new Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Well, that’s blasphemous to me!  But yeah, there’s always gonna be a mix.  Sometimes, we may want to write an opus one day and the next day we may just want to write a straight-ahead rock track.  And then the next day?  Fuck it.  Let’s fucking shred and try to be metal as fuck so that people can’t talk shit on us so that we can show them we can do it – we don’t always want to, but we can so fuck you!  That’s always been our mentality and we’ll continue with that mentality going forward.  

You mentioned the “Ten Miles Wide” collaboration with Josh Todd.  Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future that you haven’t worked with yet?

I don’t know, man. Y’know, you have dream artists that it would be awesome to get to play with them.

Who are the dream artists?

Y’know, same as Avenged.  Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, all those type of guys – Slash, Axl.    That’s the kind of stuff you dream about and everything but to me it’s really gotta be like a natural thing because if you get a bunch of people in a room – it may or may not work.  That’s why bands have dynamics. There’s usually the front guy and then there’s the quiet guy who is the one creating everything.  It’s just a mix and it’s gotta be natural.  I would love to just jam with those guys just to see what it would be like.  But no in particular comes to mind other than those dream artists.  

Maybe something like Escape the Fate ft. Slash ft. Myles Kennedy?

Oh my God!  Now you’re just toying with my emotions.  Slash and Slash Jr. in the same band? Fuck yeah!  I’d be down for that.

Now are there any dream artists that have unfortunately passed on you would have loved to work with? 

Immediately I think of Michael Jackson.  I think that guy just got it.  He’s another guy who would always write with different people and try different things.  He would just write tons and tons of albums and be influenced by everything – rock, R&B, whatever it was.  It would be cool just to get in his head and see how he worked in the studio and what works in his head and how he translated that.  The difference between him and everybody else was that what he heard in his head came through tenfold – not on paper but in the sound.  He would just capture it, whereas most people – as inane as it sounds, can’t quite capture it as well as he did – especially in rock. 

Him or – actually, I would have loved to see what it was like to work with Freddie Mercury.  That guy, he’s – I don’t know man, fucked up in the head.  How did he do that?  How did that guy just make such ridiculous, over the top music sound cool?  Like if you listen to Bohemian Rhapsody or half their music for that matter, I would be like “That’s stupid, that’s cheesy, how can anyone take that seriously?” but then when he puts it in context – like “We Will Rock You”.  Like really dude, you wanna write a sports song?  That’s stupid.  “We Are The Champions”? What is that?!  Then you take a step back and realize that’s fucking genius, that’s the most amazing thing ever.  So I would like to see how he just delivered that and how he sold it to the rest of the band, how they connected as artists.  Him with his band members, Brian May and the rest of them so I would love to just see that firsthand.  

There’s always the joke, “Freddie Mercury wrote an entire rock opera about his bicycle and made it totally fucking work.”

Exactly!  A song about a fucking bicycle – that’s insane.  And I would listen to that and I grew up on fucking metal.  I grew up on thrash metal like fuckin’ Metallica, motherfuckin’ ripped up vests, long hair, flipping off all other bands – that’s what I grew up on and Queen was still cool.  A song about bicycles were still cool – well a “Bicycle Race”, for that matter.  But I would just like to see it, but not just that but in the studio – like how does he capture it?  

Like when I’m playing, I get lazy.  I’m not a clean drummer, producers hate me.  Quite frankly, I suck most of the time because I get in my own head and I can’t like, have an idea – like I know what we worked on trying to do but I want to do something else in that moment I’m like “Ooh, I wanna try this,” and I end up fucking up.  So I wanna see how much they care about “the take”  and capturing it or did they just rehearse it and then just record it like “Well, that’s good enough, let’s move on,” Did they not want to overthink it?  Did they scrutinize it?   Queen would be like quintessential to figuring that stuff out because they’re unique.  I can talk about ’em all day. 

Last question – new album, new singles, any release dates?  How is it coming along?

Sometime next year for sure.  We’re going to go into the studio probably sometime after Christmas.  We’re gonna get home after this long, almost three month journey of touring, take a little bit of time with our families, stay at home and come up with some ideas and get back together and put them all down and see what we can come up with.  We’re also going to do Soundwave in Australia in February of next year – that’s an awesome tour and I’m excited.  So that will probably be right in the middle of our album, so we gotta go somewhere else and then come back to tour.  So if you ask me, I want to write until then, go tour so we can get in playing shape, and then come back and record.  The label is probably going to tell us “Well you gotta record it all this week”, but they don’t understand.

So to all the fans out there – come out to a show, stick around and see what the journey of Escape the Fate brings in the next year.  

 

 

About Karissa Vassallo

Karissa has been a music lover for as long as she can remember - from NSYNC to No Doubt, from Avril Lavigne to Avenged Sevenfold, she has always had a wide variety in her music tastes. After attending NYU's Future Music Moguls program, she started Read Between the Grooves to jumpstart her career in the music industry, as well as showcase her writing and her photography. She currently studies Entertainment and Arts Management at Drexel University.
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