Story & Photos by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
Life on the road can be hard for a touring band – especially when bands spend six months or more and are hundreds or thousands of miles from home, missing their families to promote new albums, new singles, or just get in front of their fans. Escape the Fate was ranked one of the hardest working bands of 2018 by Norman Records because the group played 131 shows and traveled more than 81,000 miles.
Escape the Fate are on tour again, a support act for Falling in Reverse’s “The Drug in Me is Gold” Tour. During a sold out stop Monday night at The Truman in Kansas City, vocalist Craig Mabbitt and drummer Robert Ortiz sat down with CMN and chatted about life on the road, James Hetfield’s recent announcement and their follow up to 2018’s “I Am Human.”
Spending time together in proximity for months on end can have a toll, but coming together as a band and focusing on putting on a good show for fans seems to help keep the group from letting small disagreements lead to bigger issues.
“We’re just a very dysfunctional family and it works,” Mabbitt said. “We all have, I think, the same goals. We all have the same dreams. We all have a love for each other and for the band. It just depends, man. It depends on what’s going on in all of our personal lives that has a big effect of it. I feel like when we do have more time off between tours, it’s a flip of the coin. It’s either going to be a really great tour because we’ve had enough time off or it’s going to be like ‘shit, why are we doing this?’ You know? But if we’re on tour for an allotted period of time it’s like a rollercoaster you get on and you’re excited for it, and it starts doing shit nobody told you it’s going to do and you’re like ‘get me off this fuckin’ thing’ and then when you reach the end of it you’re like ‘that was pretty fun, see you guys next time.’”
Mabbitt said this tour with Falling in Reverse is “one of those short ones that feels very long.” Ortiz attributed that to the winter weather as the tour has been in the Midwest because it means the bands and crew don’t get to spend as much time outside.
“I miss my kids and I want to go home but at the same time it is kind of like, this is the coolest tour because everyone here we’ve known each other for 10 plus years,” Ortiz said. “Everybody in here, with the exception of maybe one or two people, right. Within the crews, within the bands, we’ve known each other so long that it is like one big family and it’s fun to just be able to hang out with anybody at any moment.”
While touring over the years, Ortiz said the band has done the touristy things enough and now decides to focus elsewhere.
“How many times do I need to take a picture in front of the Arch in St. Louis? Now it’s like we do tours of food. Every night we get done early and I’m off to the closest ridiculous restaurant,” Ortiz said. “I’m a sports guy though so I usually try to find a game or see a stadium.”
Several hours before ETF took the stage in Kansas City, Metallica’s James Hetfield announced the band was canceling two performances at Sonic Temple this year while he focuses on his mental health after checking himself into rehab last fall. While the legendary rockers are still playing several other festivals this summer, Hetfield’s message says he has “critical recovery events on those weekends that cannot be moved.” Fans and musicians the world over have had a positive reaction to the announcement, and Mabbitt and Ortiz can relate to what Hetfield is going to while he tries to stay on a sober and positive path.
“I think it will have, hopefully, a big impact, and hopefully a positive impact for people to really understand how mentally draining this rock star life can be,” Mabbitt said. “There was like a London university or something that did a study on it and it’s bad. And for him to get hate on wanting to take care of himself, I mean the man accomplished sobriety for … 15 or 20 years, a very long time. So to fall off the wagon and he still wants to keep his health focused, I think is admirable and people should respect that. What would you rather have? See Metallica for that one show their cancelling or have James die in five years of alcoholism.”
Ortiz shared his thoughts as well, saying the nature of the industry offers immense pressure for musicians tasked with making sure a sold-out stadium show continues no matter what. Thousands of tickets sold for millions of dollars can make it hard to take a break.
“You know, it’s good for (Hetfield) to take a step back. You obviously don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of all those types of demons and things. It’s good for him to do that,” Ortiz said.
“We have conversations as a band all the time and it’s hard because we all want the band to succeed and we all want the goal of being as big as possible and all that,” Ortiz continued. “We have to sometimes take a step back and go yeah, but we also need to understand we can’t do this all year round or we’ll go crazy. And we have, we all have. As the biggest Metallica fan in the world I’m proud of him. You’ve done it dude, take care of you, take care of your family. If you want to get back out and play some shows too for you as an artist, hell yeah, I’ll be there to support.
“Either way man, one or two shows is not a big deal compared to his life.”
The follow-up to “I Am Human,” which dropped in 2018, is due out later this year. Mabbitt said the new album will be wrapping when the tour finishes on March 7 and it will take a couple months to finish but a release date will be announced this summer.
Ortiz said on top of playing some festivals – Inkcarceration Festival on July 10 and Riff Fest on July 18 – the group has talked about playing all of July or shortening some dates dependent on the new album.
Escape the Fate is on tour in support of Falling in Reverse through March 7. For more, follow them on Facebook here. Listen to the interview with Mabbitt and Ortiz in its entirety below via SoundCloud. View our expanded gallery from the show on SmugMug.