INTERVIEW WITH CRAIG MABBITT BY JEREMY SAFFER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEREMY SAFFER
Escape the Fate has had many ups and a few downs over the years, and now with the band’s strongest and most solid lineup yet, the quartet is celebrating 10 years of This War Is Ours, Craig Mabbitt’s first album with Escape The Fate. With a 10 year anniversary tour and continuing support of the band’s most recent album, I Am Human, vocalist Craig Mabbitt brings us up to speed with all things Escape the Fate.
I Am Human has been out for over a year now. How has the reception been to the new songs?
Reception has been fantastic. Fans seem to react very well. We had a rocky release to the first track off the album called “Empire,” but we added it to the set list of the tour we are currently on and it seems to be going off. The crowd seems to like it, so all the songs seem to be doing well. The videos seem to be getting a good reaction. “Broken Heart” is another song off the album that has skyrocketed in views more than most of our videos in the past few recent years, so it’s exciting and it makes us excited to start working on the next one.
What were some of the biggest musical changes between Hate Me and I Am Human?
Going into I Am Human I remember having a conversation where we were not every song has to have a solo, and we tried to focus more on melody for songs like “Broken Heart,” which is doing really well. It seems to have worked out for us in the best way possible.
When is the next album going to start in terms of writing and recording?
Oh, I don’t know. Kevin [Gruft, guitar] has already been writing some stuff. I’ve already been writing some stuff. I’ve even been going back to Erik Ron’s studio back at home and working on some things. Robert [Ortiz, drums] has shared some ideas and some songs with me. We were on tour with Papa Roach, and we randomly came up with a song that I hope Kevin still has on his laptop—it sounded pretty cool. It was a little poppy number. We’re always constantly writing and working on stuff, whether it be something fun and funny like a track that nobody will ever hear or something that could be a contender for the next album.
How do you pick and choose what’s going to make it on the album?
That is a process almost as difficult as choosing a set list when it comes to this band (laughs). Sometimes we’ll have a song that everybody immediately is, “Yes!” And then sometimes we’ll be split down the middle. Because it’s a full-on democracy, sometimes there’ll be two of us who like it and two of us that don’t. And it will take some conversations and some convincing and comparisons. “This song reminds me of this other song from the Escape the Fate discography that people really like,” so it just depends.
Would you ever go back and take some of the songs that were cut and put out a B-sides record kind of thing?
I definitely think that would be cool. We talk about everything all the time. There have been talks about, “Should we self-release an EP? Should we self-release an entire album?” B-sides?” It’s always in the works and always in the talks, and the beautiful thing about it is even on the last tour, Kevin was jamming some songs on his laptop that didn’t make the cut of the last album. And we were, “Dude, this one’s actually pretty fucking good. Should we reconsider this?” There’s always material being created and material being reincarnated. I just love creating. It’s fun.
You’re on tour right now with Attila, and their new record is self-released. Is that something you’re really thinking about?
It’s something we’ve talked about. And then obviously being on tour with Attila and hearing how excited they are and how happy they are with how well it’s going for them, it definitely stokes the idea a little bit and makes it more of maybe we should really do this. There are just so many factors that go into it for us, so we talk about anything and everything all the time. Everything is always a possibility.
Do you think in this day and age Escape the Fate needs a record label?
I don’t know. Record labels bring a lot to the table when it comes to things like radio play and really getting you out there, but it just comes down to what type of artist or band do we want to be. Do we want to be this self-sufficient, self-releasing money-making band? Do we really want to shoot for the stars and make a pop record and be on the Ellen Show? Or do we want to make a super metal thrash record and please the super hardcore fans who really like the heavy music? We just never know. So, anytime we finally get into a studio setting where everyone is allowed to showcase their material and we start figuring out what we want the album to sound like, it just always turns into what do we like at the time.
“I NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS THOUGHT I WOULD END UP BEING ONE OF THOSE BANDS THAT WAS DOING A 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY TOUR”
I Am Human has a good mix of everything. It’s got the heavy songs, and it’s got the softer songs.
And that seems to be the formula that’s worked for us for so long. I remember just starting touring and seeing bands doing 10 year tours, and I never in a million years thought I would end up being one of those bands that was doing a 10 year anniversary tour and it selling and it being successful and it doing well. Us still being able to be here is so amazing. That again is another one of the factors that goes into the thought process of making a new record. Do we completely change up the formula and risk pissing a lot of people off but also roll the dice that it’s going to be really successful, or do we stay true to ourselves? Do we try to please the label? There’s always so many factors that go into it.
Escape the Fate has been around a long time and has gone through so much. How tied do you feel to the old sound, when the band was developing and moving forward?
Not extremely tied, because obviously it’s very known that I wasn’t the first singer and that first album is miles and miles away from the second album. People always argue about those two albums. “This one was better! No, this one was better!” We just did a 10 year for This War Is Ours, and it was awesome, successful, and that’s what has kept this band touring for so long. Maybe we should just try that again—completely changing up the formula and see how it goes. If it’s a miss, it will be so simple for us to go into a studio and just do what we know how to do. It would be a short cycle. “Oh, you hate this? New album dropping next week!” (laughs)
You have been touring nonstop, just getting back from Europe and doing another US run. How’s this one going so far?
This one I feel like we’re all finally getting into the groove of it. I know everyone was very exhausted and tired and really not looking forward to getting on another flight and starting another tour, but we’re not on a plague-ridden tour bus and we’re not playing for an hour and a half. I feel like everybody’s getting that energy back and that excitement back. I’m definitely having a lot of fun on this one. So far it’s been good.
How did you pick your set list for this tour?
That is still changing everyday (laughs). We took songs out, and we added songs yesterday. There’s still a song we want to add, but Robert’s too scared to play it, so we have to wait for the first non All That Remains date so that he can play it, then we’ll add that one. Set lists for us are like Spinal Tap.
Yeah, I don’t even know what it’s going to be at any given moment.
That’s awesome, though. It gives fans something fresh if they go to more than one show.
“WE HAVE ENOUGH HEAVY SONGS IN THERE TO SHOW THEM WE KNOW HOW TO PLAY HEAVY SHIT, TOO”
This is definitely a varied bill with Attila and All That Remains. You got this super heavy metal rap band, a more radio friendly rock metal band, and then you guys. How has the crowd been so far?
So far, so good. That’s something that I was definitely being a crybaby about when it came to this tour. I was nervous. I didn’t want to come out here and play our poppy stuff, because I was listening to All That Remains’ new material, I already know Attila’s material, and I’m like, “Fuck man, these hardcore fans that are going to come out for these two bands might not understand or get our poppy stuff or our hits—the ones that do really well for us.” Luckily, we’re a diverse band, so we have heavier songs that we can add to the set, but with that being said, it has been really positive and the crowd has been really getting into it and the songs are doing what I had hoped they were going to do. I had hoped that people would see us and be like, “Oh shit! I’ve heard of Escape the Fate, and I thought they were just this Mötley Crüe-ish pop band.” But we have enough heavy songs in there to show them we know how to play heavy shit, too, and then hopefully that opens them up to becoming fans of our other stuff. It’s been working really well. I was just inside the venue, and fans were coming up to me and saying, “Wow! I didn’t know you guys were this fucking awesome. That was amazing, you guys have such a good mix of everything. You can do this and you can do that and the guitar player is sick and that other guitar player fucking, wow, he spins the guitar around his fucking head like a pro. You got such a good voice. You guys are awesome.” And so on, and nothing can feel better than that after a show.
This is the heaviest set I’ve seen Escape the Fate play.
Yeah, and there’s supposed to be another heavier song that’ll be a part of the set that we are going to add soon.
What’s the rest of the year look like for Escape the Fate? Do you get any time off, or are you just touring?
We have some time off coming up. We have a week in South America and some festivals that we’ll be announcing soon with some pretty gnarly artists. Then we’re talking about possibly doing South Africa. Not sure if that’s going to happen or not, but it’s definitely a possibility. And then I think everyone’s heads are just in we want to take some time off and really work hard on the next record. We really want to go for it on the next one. Try and do it on our own terms for once and really get creative. We’ve been talking about doing that whole go somewhere secluded, like a cabin in the woods, just the band.
There are so many stories of bands that did that and came out with these epic, award winning albums.
I know, and we’ve never done that. I feel like our band especially has always been on this time crunch in the studio. “We need it done by this date. Where are you?” And it’s like all day trying to get something done, and you’re rushing and you’re rushing. Every now and again for instance “Broken Heart” is doing really well off this album, and that was something that was done last minute because the label was like, “We want two more songs.” I went to Kevin’s apartment, sang it in his vocal booth, which is his closet in his studio room, and it ended up being the most popular song off that album. So, sometimes it works in our favor, but most of the time it sucks to feel rushed. You really want to take your time, and with our past few records, we all end up listening to the B-sides, and one of them should have actually been on the album, but we had to make a decision and turn it in, then it’s getting mastered, then you have no control after that. As soon as it’s turned in and it’s mastered and the label has it and they’re submitting it to iTunes or their printing it on the album, it’s pretty much done. You can’t make any more changes. So, it’ll be cool to take some actual time on a record.
If you do self-release, you can take all the time you want.
Yeah, that would be nice. We even do this thing live with “Do You Love Me?” in the last chorus where we go up a step and it sounds really cool. It’s almost like if you were able to live with a song for a little longer you could do something like that on the recorded version and make it that much better. We always end up hearing things we would have liked to do on a song later after it was released, because we’ve always been on such a now, now, now, turn it in kind of thing.
Would you ever do something like Testament, where they re-recorded some of their favorite songs off all their past records with new ideas and new vocals?
That would be kind of cool, but I feel like all of us in the band have the same personality where it’s like, “Nah, we already did it. Let’s do something new.”