“I don’t know how it works—I should probably ask my lawyer because you, you're the enemy, although I don't see you or Alternative Press as the enemy; I love Alternative Press. You're the enemy if I allow you to be, you know what I'm saying?” Escape The Fate drummer Robert Ortiz says, nervously laughing. It’s a good way to lighten the tension but it’s also true to a degree, given the band’s history. Ortiz is one of two original members left in ETF, along with guitarist Bryan "Monte" Money, and to say the band’s existence up to this point has been anything but perpetually tumultuous would be a lie (“Basically, we've gone insane [in the past],” Ortiz admits. “We've all dealt with a lot of crazy emotions and at some point all of us have ended up in the hospital. But at the end of the day we’ve all come back together as a team and said, ‘Let's keep it going.’”) From the acrimonious departure of original vocalist Ronnie Radke, to the exit of rhythm guitarist Omar Espinosa, to the troubles of now former bassist Max Green, an ominous black cloud has followed Escape The Fate wherever they’ve gone—even to unseen heights like lucrative tours and an album on a major label. Now though, after nearly a decade of ups and downs, the band appear stronger than ever, retooled as a quintet and ready to break their months-long silence.
Green’s departure was a tough reality to face for Ortiz and vocalist Craig Mabbitt. During this series of interviews they both emphasized their love for Max and their collective hope that he’d get better. “I love the kid. He's such a nice guy and he's super cool and everything, but your own inner demons work against you [sometimes] and there's just not much I can do to help him anymore,” Ortiz continues. “That relationship just can't work anymore and I can't put my personal feelings into mending that relationship, because I still have a band to think about, you know?” Mabbitt chimes in, “We cancelled tours for the guy and the shitty part about it is that for someone so self-destructive, he's also the nicest person. So it's a weird combination, because what do you do? You just feel horrible no matter what happens.”
What Ortiz and Mabbitt can publicly say about Green is a legal grey area—Green’s lawyers worked out a legal split with the band earlier this year so Green could release new music sans contractual obligation. What they do offer, however, are stories of tour cancellations, last-minute fill-ins and onstage tribulations. “We brought him [Max] back for the Uproar Festival and it was the biggest, most hyped tour we've ever been a part of,” explains Mabbitt. “We bring back Max but now Monte doesn't want to be on the road [with him] so we have a hired-on guitarist, Max back, and then during the tour Max flies back to L.A. to take care of a DUI and you know, here's another thing but we were just so used to it at this point. [But then] he just doesn’t come back; he said he didn't feel welcome, that everyone was watching him like a hawk when it's like, ‘Come on dude, obviously we're gonna be watching you—it's because we care about you.’”
“Luckily this band Black Tide was on Uproar, and their bassist had filled in for us numerous times before when Max was unable to perform, so luckily he was there to fill in but it was just a really gnarly point for us especially with only me and Robert being there. [After that] we played this festival in the band's hometown of Vegas, and I remember going up there onstage and being like, ‘What's going on, Vegas? This is the band's hometown where Escape The Fate originated—well, Robert did,’” Mabbitt continues, laughing.
“The first headlining tour we did for our self-titled album, obviously it was the full band, two weeks into it Max shows up 20 minutes before our set and we go on stage, and you can tell something's off. We get to the last song, the lights are going, and within the last 45 seconds I notice something's missing and I go ‘Where the Hell is Max?’ Like 45 minutes later there was a video up on YouTube of just him passing out [onstage]. You watch it and it's like he's not even playing bass, he's kind of standing there and stumbling and then all of a sudden he just kind of hunches over, our stage manager runs up and he just falls on the ground.”
“This event happened after we had cancelled a European tour so he could spend some time in rehab,” Mabbitt goes on. “We rescheduled a few shows, but we had already put the band on hold so many times before this. The tour before that we'd hired a—I can't remember what his official title was—but he was like a sponsor and he just stayed with Max all the time and talked to him, like a sober counselor almost. We had so much other stuff happen prior to this that our label and management flied out one night for an intervention. We just tried for so long, and after that night we just realized, you know, he's not gonna be getting better being out here on the road. We’d just had so many things come to us—we're on a headlining tour for our new album with Interscope, we’d just signed to a major label and we're already canceling tours, this label is already wondering what the hell is wrong with us.”
Both Ortiz and Mabbitt seem to be at peace with Green’s exit, and according to Mabbitt, they’re still on good terms—Green even attended a recent show by the band in Los Angeles. “I still send him emails saying, ‘Look man, just because you're not part of the band anymore doesn't mean you've lost a friend,’ and we're still on good terms—we actually played House Of Blues Sunset and he was there in the crowd and I was like, ‘That is so weird, what are you doing here?’”
“Basically right now for the band we're just cutting out all the shit we don't need anymore,” explains Ortiz. “We're no strangers to drama; we've done it all before and [know] what does and doesn't work and we tried to keep something going that wasn't working for so long. I feel for our fans but the reality is it just couldn't go on any longer with Max.”