This week I caught up with Kevin Gruft (Guitarist) and Robert Ortiz (Dummer) of Escape The Fate, one of the world’s most renowned rock bands. The group are currently touring across Europe promoting their upcoming album “I Am Human”. Interested in finding out a little bit more about their upcoming album, favourite tattoos & highest gaming accomplishments? Then read on…
1. Where did you gather inspiration from for the lyrics throughout the upcoming album “I Am Human”?
Kevin: They came from various places because the lyrics come from a lot of people in the band. For instance, Robert had a song called “If Only” which he’ll speak a little bit about.
Robert: I think we all had different life experiences happening over the last two years, and even before that. For me “If Only” is referring to my grandfather who had passed away. I actually wrote that song before we released our last album “Hate Me”. I was just kinda shy and didn’t really wanna pursue it, but then I realised you know what, I need to get this out and other people will relate to this, and the same with almost every song, each band member had a different way of reaching out to basically use this music as therapy to get those things out and hope that maybe there’s someone out there who will relate.
2. Which bands have you taken inspiration from for the music throughout the upcoming album?
Kevin: We can get inspired by a ton of artists at different times. I’m always listening to a lot of modern stuff. I like to dive deeper into classic rock and different genres. The song “Empire” is kind of influenced by a Kendrick Lemar song – with that really cool beat and feel. It can be random or it could even be subconscious, you listen to something and then reverse it, turn it upside down, and spit it out as a different song. I think that’s how musicians have been doing it for years. Motley Crue was referencing the artists that came before them and they were turning it into their own thing and that’s how music keeps on constantly evolving.
Robert: It’s like a palette of colours of your entire life.
Kevin: Yeah and it’s so interesting coz people listen to music so differently than they used to. Back in the day you’d buy a single or album, and you could just play that single record. Now you can listen to one Skrillex song, then you’re gonna listen to a Metallica song, and a Black Flag song on Spotify and different playlists. Fortunately our band always happens to be diverse and we always write different songs. We love to write super heavy metal songs, we also like to write softer more passionate ballads and stuff like that.
Robert: We definitely fought a bit over direction and I think we’re all a little bit bipolar or tripolar, quadpolar whatever, because you wake up in different moods. Some days we need to be heavy and we need to be this, and then the next minute it’s like “Dude come on, we’re good at just writing emo shit”, and then the next minute it’s like “Well lets fucking bring something new”. It just changes every day to be honest, a minute’s a minute really.
3. How was it working with producer Howard Benson on the upcoming album “I Am Human”?
Kevin: We worked on “Hate Me” with him. The band’s been making records for over ten years now so we have a vision. We know what we wanna sound like, we know what we wanna do. He was really helpful with helping us choose some of the songs. The four of us would get into heated debates… “Do you wanna do this song? or this song? coz we can only do a certain amount of songs.” You can’t do an album of thirty songs… so he would help with the song choices.
Robert: That’s the main reason why I always wanted him, because I felt like he was that voice of reason amongst us and could see things in songs. When it’s one guy wanting this song, and the other guys going “Fuck that’s stupid” he’d tell us “No dude, just trust me. At the end of it you’re gonna love it.” He was just a bit of a referee so we were not murdering each other. Truthfully though, it was frustrating. It was real frustrating for him more so than us, but I think it was just the way we went about it because the last record we wrote and wrote, and the recording process was very quick. This time they wanted us to get in there and we were not prepared. We had a few demos, so they were trying to force us into recording, and it creates this weird space where we still want more time to write, and we don’t feel like we have all the songs. Then we’re tracking these songs and we’re trying to focus on recording, it’s like different roles, now we’re done with all that. Now we’re in touring mode, performing the songs, promoting the songs. You gotta be in these different headspaces, and so it was really frustrating. For me, I was going fine. Kevin was writing like a fucking mad man all day and night, it was tough.
Torey (Interviewer): So you were still writing whilst you was recording the rest of the album?
Kevin: Yeah, it was interesting. We finished the record and the label wanted some more songs last minute, so we put together a couple of extra songs that we ended up self-producing actually. One of them’s “Broken Heart” which we’re doing a music video for, but we’re still figuring out the treatment and all that stuff, but we hope to be filming the video before the album comes out.
4. Favourite song to play live off the upcoming album?
Kevin: For me, right now it’s “Do You Love Me” just because of the crowd reaction. As soon as the intro kicks in the crowd has been singing every single word, and it’s got a cool bounce that we don’t typically have in our songs. It’s got a little bit of everything… big riff, catchy vocals, and some leads. What about you Robert?
Robert: I simultaneously love and hate all the ones that we’re playing right now because I get nervous every fucking time and I still don’t feel comfortable yet. I think at least four years it’s gonna take me, fucking us to be done playing it for me to actually get it together, but I like them all. I think “Do You Love Me” was a song that I was very much not into, the other guys loved it, and I was not really feeling it. Just performing it and seeing how people are actually absorbing that song, reacting to it, and how they feel, made me appreciate it far more and actually made me like the song. So that’s been really helpful.
Kevin: Another song for me is “I Am Human”. Me and TJ are playing some different styles on guitars, we’ve got really cool and ambient tones happening. It’s another thing that’s a bit different from what we’re typically doing live, I tend to like when my things are newer and changed up and tight. That’s why we wrote the song “Empire” because we’ve never written a song like that, it’s like “Fuck it”, you just wanna do something different sometimes.
Robert: The songs are different in terms of what style we’ve played previously, so it’s a challenge.
Kevin: Like Robert’s saying, it is a little bit of a challenge because when you’re playing songs you don’t wanna think about it, you wanna have them down. We just wrote these songs and recorded them. They havn’t even been released fully yet, but it’s been fun.
5. Which city are you most looking forward to playing on this tour?
Kevin: Obviously Manchester! And also Germany, I love it. Robert loves France because of the food there.
Robert: Yeah, I mean each city has it’s own energy and vibe. I find that Germany has become this other home for Escape The Fate. They get us a lot, so I’m looking forward to it and they’ll be some big shows there.
Kevin: Paris always treats us really well too, those fans go nuts.
Robert: And truthfully Manchester is pretty cool too, I like it. I dunno man, everyday’s a new adventure when we’re doing this. I could say this city, but then I’ll remember this and that’s cool. You’re still a tourist so you look forward to doing those types of things.
Kevin: Yeah last time we were here we went to the museum… the one with the dinosaur in it, that was tight. Dinosaurs are tight!
6. What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you on tour?
Kevin: The weirdest thing… the dumbest thing, weirdest dumbest thing was my bad on the way out here. We went from Los Angeles to Boston Massachusetts, and in Boston we were rushing and I went to TSA and I freaking lost my laptop. I’d left it at TSA. Fortunately they found it, but I was an hour from landing in Ireland and I was like “Let me play on my laptop real quick and just check something out”, I opened my zipper and was like “Oh fuck!”… and then you punish yourself, that was kinda weird.
Robert: I dunno, there has been some weird times but I usually keep it pretty mellow.
Kevin: Or else they’re off the record weird.
Robert: We’ll discuss those over a drink.
7. Do you decide as a band what designs you’d like to see on your tour merch?Kevin: Yeah, this tour actually in particular is the one that we’ve been most stoked about merch. We’ve got a lot of different items. We’ve got big flags, flannels… which we’ve never had before with album art on. Windbreakers… which is kinda cool, and then two different hats.
Robert: I think Craig is really cool-headed. We go back and forth a lot on styles we like, and I think the album cover particularly from the new record lends itself to being some dope ass merch. We wanted something simple, we wanted something that was basically like emojis essentially. A symbol that you get what it means. You know who the fucking band is, what the records about, what the concept is. That’s what we got with the theme, the balancing of your heart and your mind, that’s life and so that’s what the records about.
Kevin: That’s why this record’s so emotional, it’s so deep.
Robert: And that translates onto our merch. Craig was adamant about not just having t-shirts with these cool designs, but actually cool fucking merch that you’d actually wear, like flannels, fucking long T’s, and just unique stuff. Craig’s wearing it right now.
8. What’s your favourite tattoo on your body and why?
Kevin: My favourite tattoos that I have are the spontaneous weird ones, not even the planned out ones that are maybe a bit nicer looking. I got a roman numeral five on tour because our tattoo artist was like “Oh I’ll tattoo you for free”. Then we all have “DLTP” that we got as a band tattoo, which means “Daddy Likes To Party”. When I was in Australia we were thirty minutes from playing our set and I got a “2015 Soundwave” tattoo, so I was getting tattooed, jumped off the tattoo table, and then we played a fucking massive show with Slipknot and Fall Out Boy and stuff. You just remember those little moments and those have more memories to me. Robert has a few tattoos…
Robert: I got two and that’s it. I’ve never really been much of a tattoo guy. My father and my grandfather have the same tattoo, it’s an old school fucking gangster prison tattoo that they all used to do back on the fucking reprobation in El Paso, so I had to get it.
Kevin: Pretty sick. You guys have all the same initials. Very original.
Robert: And there you go. I’ll probably put two M’s in the middle for my daughters so it would be RMO, that was my first band too.
9. Where do you usually gather inspiration from for the tattoos you get?
Kevin: Different things. Sometimes no inspiration for tattoos, sometimes you just want a cool image. More recently I’ve been trying to put more meaning behind them. It’s like once you get started you can’t stop, it’s like you can’t get a big piece on your arm and not finish it.
10. What’s your favourite tattoo style?
Kevin: On my body personally, I like more traditional style tattoos and I think they’ll last a long time. Some of the more detailed white stuff will fade over time, so I like the big bold stuff.
Robert: I don’t know nothing about tattoos.
Kevin: Robert seems to like black and grey work, naked babies.
Robert: I was told that black and white would look good on me. I really don’t know much to be honest.
Kevin: It’s almost like you learn more about tattoos the more you get ‘em. Then you figure out your taste and you’re like “Oh, I don’t like that very much”, then you’re fucked.
11. What’s your favourite tattoo convention?
Kevin: I’ve never been to one before but I think that tattoo conventions are cool because they usually blend music and tattoos, so I’d like to maybe attend one someday.
12. Favourite video games?
Kevin: Again, mine is making music and that’s a video game to me. It’s almost like a puzzle coz you’re trying to piece together a song. It’s like maybe if you add a couple lyrics, then you gotta find the in-between parts, or finish the song. All that probably utilizes some of that brain that does the video game thing. The challenge, the problem solving.
Robert: I mean, I’m the best Mortal Kombat player in the whole freakin’ band. Halo was always the favourite growing up. No one has ever defeated me at Mortal Kombat.
Kevin: You’re one of the best video game players in the entire band I would say.
Robert: For sure, definitely. Craig likes to play er…
Kevin: He plays Words With Friends a lot.
Robert: Craig plays games where he doesn’t have to play against other people coz he knows he’ll lose against me.
Kevin: No for real, Robert’s the video game guy for sure.
Robert: Yeah, I love some sports games like Fight Night, it’s always been one of my favourites.
Kevin: I like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Super Nintendo.
Robert: Resident Evil was always fucking amazing.
Kevin: Golden Eye, 007.
Robert: Those were classic, I love them. First-person shooters are always cool. I havn’t played over the last couple of years coz I’ve kinda been in the same boat as Kevin where I’m just always creating and generating some kind of content all the time, that’s what we’ve been about.
Kevin: Yeah coz we do like video editing and audio editing and stuff.
Robert: But when I do play it’s usually Mortal Kombat, that’s the go to. I love video games where you can talk shit with your homies and you can actually hang out. Like fucking order pizza and then play against the universe, talk shit to each other… and I do like ordering pizza.
13. What’s your favourite games console?
Robert: Xbox, all day.
Kevin: Super Nintendo.
Robert: Can do PlayStation. What’s with the backwards controller, why havn’t they figured it out. It’s been fucking thirty years, like figure it out dude.
14. Which games are you currently playing on the tour bus?
Kevin: Non on the bus, no.
15. What’s your highest gaming accomplishment?
Robert: I have two. One was Resident Evil 5. I got every single medal and absolutely every possible thing you could achieve or unlock. I defeated every single aspect of that game and I logged hours, upon hours, upon hours. The other one was Fight Night. I fought for a world title, I lost though coz the guy was one of those fucking cheaters… you know how they do the same move and there’s nothing you can do at all. But you go open ranks against people all over the world, there’s hundreds of thousands of people on and I fought the best guy in the world. I lost but at least I was there, second place I guess.
16. Anything else you’d like to share?
Kevin: Our new album “I Am Human” comes out February 16th. Pick it up, there’s a bunch of pre-order bundles on pledgemusic.com/escapethefate