ORTIZ: That really sucks with that aspect, too, because I was kind of done investing my heart in Max. I’m not hurt right now. I’m still cool with him, but I am disappointed, man. I’ll tell you why: Max may have hid a lot of shit and lied, but he knew when he was on his binges and shit back in the day that he couldn’t hide it. He would be honest with me and very open—right down to telling me which drug he was on and how many of them he took. He would be that open with me, and he would tell me all the shitty stuff he did, and we would try to work it out or whatever. He never hid anything from me, because he knew that I cared about him. To do it like this, it’s like, “Man, what the fuck, dude? Really, bro? You’re still doing shit like that?” I’m still gonna have a conversation with Max a little later tonight. I’m gonna spend some time and talk on the phone with him and just see why and how all this shit came about—because all that is still up in the air. Going with Ronnie and doing Falling In Reverse, I can understand why you would wanna do that. It makes sense. You guys cliqued back up when you did the [Bury The Hatchet] tour together. There’s a lot of trouble with our band. That makes sense to me. But I just really wanna know all the other shit that he had going on leading into it, because the last time I saw Max, he didn’t look so good, and I just wanna know from him, personally, what had a lot to do with it. What impacted him the most about wanting to leave this to do that? That’s what I would like to know. I don’t know how much I could trust him, because he’s telling everyone different things. Like I said, Max has always been open and honest with me, so I think when I speak to him, he will be open and honest. But I can’t be too sure.

MABBITT: I think it’s a situation where it was gonna be too hard for him to tell us. It got out there, and it got out of his control at some point, and he didn’t have the time to tell us. Surprisingly, I feel like we hit each other up more now than we did before when he was back in the band. [Laughs.] That just makes me believe that this was a decision he was sitting on for a while, and I don’t think he wanted to hurt us. I think this is what he wanted to do to make himself happy, and now that’s he is happy, he’s more himself. So, best of luck to him, but, like I said, the way he went about things was the wrong way to do it.

Have you thought about a replacement for Max?
MABBITT: We’re taking that decision slowly this time, because the last thing we want is another roller coaster. Band member changes are just so common these days, and when you’re a band like Escape The Fate, we try to make it less about one person and more about the entire group. As far as going into the studio, we’re already working on new music. We’re gonna go in and start pre-production. Everything’s looking good. When 2008 happened and I joined the band, Escape The Fate became my band, and it’s been my band ever since. We’ve got three records since then under our belt, and we’re gonna have a fourth coming up.

So it’s safe to say the replacement will not be Ron Ficarro?
MABBTT: No. Robert was trying to tell us about that, and we gave it a little thought, and who knows? He’s a great musician, but I don’t know. How many times can our bands be side by side with each other? It’s like a trading card game, like, “Hey, we give you Max, you give us Ron.”

ORTIZ: Craig said everything as far as the band goes. It’s his band, and we continue. We give it another try, another album, and we make some good music. Until my heart’s completely not in it, I’m gonna keep on going. And my heart is in it. If [Max and Ronnie] are gonna do it, and it works out for them, that’s great. But I want them to be careful, because those two are great friends—they have a unique dynamic—but they’re also very dangerous for one another. I believe they do know that. I think Ronnie knows that. He’ll tell you himself that he’s a drug addict. That’s something that he’s battled with for most of his life and he continues with every day. They have to lay down rules for one another. There are lines that you can’t cross, because it’s too dangerous. When you put the two of them together, it becomes very dangerous. I hope that those two can become sober companions and help each other remain that way and succeed together and grow together, because as far as jealousy and competition goes, to me, that’s all gone. I like what Ronnie does. I think he’s talented. I love Max, and I love what he does, and I think he brings something to the stage that is very hard to match. I’d rather see them succeed together than burn. I just want them to be careful and have each other’s backs.

Have either of you spoken to Ronnie since Max joined FIR?
MABBITT: I’ve spoken to him in a couple of text messages. I know he texted me right when it was announced that Max joined the band. Two minutes after it was announced, I got a text from him saying, “Hey, man, I just wanna let you know before it gets out there.” I’m literally looking at the computer screen, and I was like, “Yeah, it’s cool. You guys have been friends forever. Good luck. Whatever.” We’ve still been talking about more Bury The Hatchet tours—maybe another one in the States in the cities we didn’t hit. We were talking about doing one in Australia. Everything’s still cool. None of us are hating each other because of what happened.

Is it crazy how much people still care about your band’s lineup specifically? It seems like you guys get it worse than other bands.
MABBITT: We definitely get it worse. At this point, I’m so not interactive online anymore, because it’s just so frustrating to go on there and see a 15-year-old leave a comment, “The band were better with Ronnie.” That was literally back in 2006. At the end of the day, [Dying Is Your Latest Fashion] was one record; I’m getting ready to release my fourth record with the band. This is my band, whether you like it or not. It’s mine. If you don’t like it, there’s the door, there’s the unlike button, there’s the block-us-from-all-your-shit button. Don’t pay attention to us. Who cares? We’re still going for it. We’re still making music. Ronnie and Max are still making music. These situations are causing the fans to have more music to listen to, and I think that’s a positive thing—not a negative thing.

You said the band are having a lot of problems right now. What are some of the obstacles you’re facing?
ORTIZ: There’s a lot of legal shit. There are a lot of financial difficulties that are going on behind the scenes. We’ve been doing this for a long time. We’re still on a bus. We’re still playing to a lot of fans. We’re still relevant, which is crazy with all the shit that’s gone on. With our label [Eleven Seven Music], you may’ve seen, we’ve gone and done a couple more radio things, which is great. It’s a cool outlet. As long as you’re reaching more people, it’s cool. But we have some disagreements. We have some genuine disagreements between the label and us with the direction of the band. Stuff like Warped Tour and all that, those are tours we wanna be on. We wanna take opportunities that they don’t necessary think we should take, because we have opportunities in other places. There are things that can become frustrating as an artist when all you wanna care about is playing music live or writing music and recording it. When that’s all you care about and you’re worried about seeing numbers and legal documents and that takes up the majority of the band conversation, it becomes fucking frustrating.