Robert Ortiz (Escape the Fate drummer) Interview by Jakam Kourasanis
Las Vegas hardcore natives Escape The Fate will be heading to Australia next month for six shows starting in Brisbane and finishing up in Perth. Along the way the band will stop in Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne and also Adelaide.
The band are heading down under in support of their latest record, Hate Me (released in 2015 by Eleven Seven Music), and have been in tour mode for much of this year.
I had the privilege of talking to drummer and founding member Robert Ortiz who told me about his history and this tour.
“I’ve always been a rocker, I grew up that way,” Robert says of his youth. “That just came to me, I was born into it. Lars [Ulrich, drummer of Metallica] was always my biggest influence. When I was 10, I told my dad, ‘I gotta play the drums’.”
The influence of Metallica set Robert up for life and music became his primary focus and vision.
“I’m pretty self-taught, man. I’d put on my favorite records and just jam. I probably should’ve taken lessons and learnt some rudiments and played to a click. But I have a certain style which is [actually] pretty simple.”
“I don’t play a lot of technical stuff,” he then adds.
Robert compares his drumming technique to those used by AC/DC and Metallica.
“I always wanted to be more of an AC/DC, Metallica, sloppy, dirty, grimy drummer,” he announces.
Escape The Fate are certainly no strangers to Australia as the band toured here in 2008, in 2010 as a part of the ill-fated annual Soundwave and again in 2011 with Pierce The Veil.
This year marks the band’s fourth Australian trip and second headlining tour of this country.
“I’ve been saying this for some time that my most memorable shows have been in Australia. I don’t know why but Australia seems to be a second home for Escape The Fate,” Robert says with conviction.
“And that’s not to say that places like France or the United Kingdom [aren’t good for us] — well, it’s not like the hate us as we have dope shows there too.”
“But [Australian] people seem to get it and I can’t wait to be rock’n’rollin’ for you,” he says. “Adelaide’s got this huge whole outside mall-type situation and there’s like a grass area kind of close to that with a giant flag and the hotel I stayed at was dope.”
Escape The Fate started life in 2004 and in 2005 won a radio contest judged by My Chemical Romance which won them a show opening for that group.
The band’s line-up at this point was future Falling In Reverse vocalist Ronnie Radke, guitarists Monte Money and Omar Espinosa, keyboard player Carson Allen and bass player Max Green with Robert on drums.
This line-up recorded an EP, There’s No Sympathy When You’re Dead, as well as the full-length debut album, Dying Is Your Latest Fashion. The band’s line-up then changed for a second album, The War Is Ours, dropping Espinosa and Allen from the fold as well as Radke who then formed Falling In Reverse.
Escape The Fate replaced Radke with Blessthefall vocalist Craig Mabbit, who made his debut on The War Is Ours. The tour to promote the album also marked their first full-length venture.
Robert, therefore, remains the band’s only original member.
“I’ve been there since the beginning, man, and I’m the last one left. At times, quite frankly, it does get a little bit frustrating. It’s no secret that Dying Is Your Latest Fashion turns 10-years-old this month.”
“So when I wanna do stuff from that album I have to be mindful of the fact it is just only me. Craig [Mabbitt — vocals] and I have a whole other legacy beyond that album.”
“And there’s a whole fanbase that doesn’t care much for Dying Is Your Latest Fashion. But I still have that as part of my life and still want to perform some of those songs. So, at times, it can be frustrating but it’s cool. And when fans come up to you and say, ‘I’ve been following you since the beginning, I still love what you guys do’, it’s weird to hear.”
“I’m the drummer, man, but behind the scenes it takes a lot to make a band work and it’s really crazy to know I’m the last one. And I know I’m the connection to the beginning — not the singer or this guy or that guy. It’s me.”
Robert also makes it very obvious during our chat that he loves Australia and the band are also looking forward to touring our country. He then describes some of his favorite memories of touring here.
“Hanging out in Melbourne, seeing the penguins and seeing Sydney Opera House. It’s stuff you guys take for granted because it’s in your backyard but it’s a dream I always wanted to achieve, just to say I was there.”
“On our first trip there, there was a guy who used to wear a cheetah coat they called Robert The Tank,” he says referring to himself. “But I killed that guy off a while ago as I couldn’t function that way as a human being. I was destined to crash and burn just like my idols.”
“We were partying hard and one night we went to a club which was three storeys high. It was gnarly but we had such a good time.”
Robert then reflects on Escape The Fate’s career.
“The longevity as we’re going into our eleventh year and it’s really awesome that I can still do this and can still live my dream. I don’t have to work another job and my bills are paid. We make albums that we’re proud of, that really connect with people, we’ve been doing it as long as we have and gone through things we’ve gone through.”
“Most others would’ve quit a while ago but, for me, that’s the legacy of Escape The Fate,” he adds.
Escape The Fate will, at worst, have started work on a new album by late next year.
“It’s hard to say for sure,” Robert says. “But at some point next year we will be definitely be working on a new album. Depends on how the next couple of months go as we could end up touring again if we get the right tour”.
Escape The Fate’s 2015 album, Hate Me, was recorded without having a bass player in the studio. Instead, lead guitarist Kevin ‘Thrasher’ Gruft doubled up and performed all the bass parts on the record due to the departure of Max Green.
“It was much easier quite frankly,” Robert announces. “I think one thing we learnt was that the less cooks in the kitchen the easier it is to make a meal. There was a stint where TJ played bass live with us for a while as he was no stranger to it.”
“We knew what we wanted the bass to be and someone was there to record it. So it wasn’t a challenge at all, in fact it was a little easier.”
The band’s live bassist is now Max Georgiev.
“He’s great, man, he’s super talented,” Robert enthuses. “Max is a virtuoso on guitar and very, very dependable. The man is dedicated to the dream and he’s bought a new energy to us.”
“Fans ask us sometimes if we’ll make Max an official member. And, right now, it’s working. But having another entity there making decisions, whether they are business or creative ones, just adds more problems to deal with at the moment.”
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the drummer concludes.”
Escape the Fate Australian Tour Dates
Monday, October 3: The Triffid
Wednesday, October 5: Cambridge Hotel
Thursday, October 6: Manning Bar
Friday, October 7: Prince Bandroom
Saturday, October 8: Fowlers Live
Sunday, October 9: Amplifier Bar
Tickets at: www.tickets.destroyallines.com
Also appearing in B Side Magazine (29th September 2016): http://bsidemagazine.com.au/
Text Copyright Jakam Kourasanis 2016.