Some who have been following Escape The Fate since their first album This War Is Ours will remember them playing local venues over the past ten years; others may be newer to them or only just discovering them now as they return with their seventh studio album Chemical Warfare.
There have been a few line-up changes over the years, however, Craig Mabbitt (vocalist), Thrasher (lead and rhythm guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), TJ Bell (rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals), and Robert Ortiz (drums, percussion) have been playing together for over 6 years and are very much owning their sound. It is purely heartwarming and nostalgic (for some) to hear Escape The Fate play their own shade of emo on this new album.
On Chemical Warfare you can expect to hear themes of mental health, relationships and substance abuse. More on this below from Thrasher however Craig Mabbitt recently explained; “We want people to connect deeply with the music and disappear in it. Get lost and then return from the album, or show, feeling inspired about themselves. We want to make people feel better about life, to know they can take on all of its hardships. That’s what the music does for us as a band. That’s what we want it to do for the audience, too.”
We put in a call to ETF guitarist and engineer (for Travis Barker) Kevin ‘Thrasher’ Gruft to find out more.
Hi Thrasher, where are you based these days? How is it going over there?
Thrasher: I’m over in Los Angeles! It’s going incredible, I’m working in the studio every day producing, making records, going crazy. I’m always working [at the moment]. I work in a studio with Travis, mixing and writing.
So you’re over in Los Angeles, are you guys on lockdown over there due to the pandemic?
Thrasher: Restaurants are open, I went out the other night with my lady and we got a little bit of food out on the patio. Things are not open, but it’s not a full-on lockdown. My life has been different since this pandemic, I’ve been working every single day in the studio. Our [Covid] tester says we are the safest group in LA because we get tested almost daily.
That’s great practice, it’s good to be safe. When was the last time you played a live show?
Thrasher: It was last year around February. We played at the famous Whisky A Go-Go. A bunch of friends came out it was so fun, it’s right here in Los Angeles, we all went to the Rainbow [Bar and Grill] after and partied. Then we had a final date in Arizona… and who would have thought that would be our last show until whenever. Who knows when it’s going to open back up, right?
Are there any signs over there of when things might open back up or nothing at the moment?
Thrasher: Nothing at the moment, unfortunately, not to be too negative about it. But we had some festival dates and a date in the UK booked, but we’ve just had an email saying that they are moving it to September. How everything going to change by September, I don’t know… What about you? were you going to live shows all the time?
Yeah! And being from the UK, the pub too. We don’t have any restaurants open, you can get a takeaway that’s about it. No shops are open apart from supermarkets, it’s been a long run of lockdown for us in the UK.
Thrasher: Do you guys have Amazon?
Yeah, we do luckily, they always deliver the smallest items in the biggest box though.
Thrasher: Yeah they are out of boxes or something and are like ‘let’s use this refrigerator box for your single hand sanitiser’.
So true! Escape The Fate are about to release a new album Chemical Warfare. Overall how are you and the band feeling about this album release? I’ve listened to it and it’s pretty good, pretty upbeat!
Thrasher: Sick! Yeah, I’m really excited about it actually. It’s one of my favorite Escape The Fate albums and it does have that, like you said, upbeat, high-energy feeling throughout it. It doesn’t have a bunch of mid-tempo songs, they all kind of have a good rhythm – that’s due to the great drummers who we had play on it and just being in a different headspace and not wanting to repeat ourselves. Whenever I’m in the studio, almost to a fault, I’m trying not to reinvent the wheel, every song I’m trying to add something that we’ve never added before when I probably don’t have to work that hard.
Yeah you can definitely hear the progression in this album.
Thrasher: Yeah! No matter what it’s like even if the record before is amazing, I just don’t want to do the same thing over and over again.
Exactly and people don’t want to hear the same thing over and over again.
Thrasher: Yeah but sometimes it seems like people online do. They are like “why doesn’t this sound like their last record”? And I’m like because this isn’t that record!
True, you sometimes have people in a few camps: those who want you to sound the same and those who don’t want you to sound samey. And then there’re people who want Escape The Fate to sound like a classic album from 2008! In fact, that’s exactly what the opening of this album made me feel, emo nostalgia from the ’00s, it’s got that fun energy to it. The opening to ‘Lighting Strike’ was giving me My Chemical Romance’s Danger Days’ vibes but a lot faster!
Thrasher: Sick! That was my goal with that song. I was influenced by a bunch of different things for that song, I was producing this artist called Them Evils they are a rock band from Orange County. We were doing a whole bunch of rock n roll riffs *Thrasher mimics riffs* and one of the songs I did with them was called ‘Crash’, it kinda went off that vibe for this Escape song, I wanted to do this Strokes/Jets meets old My Chem vibes.
Yeah, I definitely picked up on that. ‘Lighting Strike’ is a great first track on the album, it prepares you for what the album is all about, and while each track is unique the upbeat vibe does remain throughout.
Thrasher: Yeah we had our good friend Brandon Saller (Atreyu) play the drums on a lot of the record and then we had our other good friend Travis Barker play the drums on the rest of the record. It was so sick.
The title of the album is Chemical Warfare, is this a themed album?
Thrasher: It’s not necessarily a themed record or a conceptual album. Each song does tell a different story. There are songs that have extreme feelings of hopefulness and there are some classic more party vibe songs. ‘Lightning Strike’ was kind of just feel-good vibes. I would put ‘Lighting Strike’ on before going out probably. I feel like it could be a good song to play at a football game or something.
Listening to the album as a whole I wondered if it includes themes of relationships, mental health, and substance abuse… would you say any of those are in the right area?
Thrasher: Yeah you’ve checked all the boxes, these are things we all go through, that we’ve all been through… each song is a little different. I was in a weird toxic relationship, that I had gotten out of right before doing this album. ‘Not My Problem’ was an ode to that for me.
‘Chemical Warfare’ was a song that I wrote with my friend Matt McAndrew from the band Slaves. I had started an instrumental track, which I sent to him while he was on the way to my studio and he had the idea for the track. We were pondering it and going through lyrics and stuff. We related it to the warfare of chemicals in your brain, like the different chemicals that get released in your brain rather than just straight drug chemicals. But then also relating it to alcohol as a depressant, and those different feelings that you get after doing drugs or doing alcohol, or whatever, drinking too much.
Yes, that makes sense, this concept did cross my mind as I was listening through the album. I see on the cover there are some words etched into the gas mask saying “Build A Throne From The Ashes” and “ No Future”.
Thrasher: So those are the main tag lines of the song ‘Ashes’ that I wrote with my buddy Matt as well. I’ll burn it down… burn the wall down, but then build a throne from the ashes, kind of like a phoenix rising from the ashes. So that was sketched in by the artists who made the album art. I was like whatever we do I want to harden up the album art as Craig had the idea for the gas mask that he submitted to the artist, I think he just thought it was really cool imagery, I was like ok we can take that and then let’s just add some punk shit on it too, so we added like the anarchy logo on it, and futures like some classic punk swag, just kinda like what’s cool.
You released a new video for ‘Invincible’ and Linsay Stirling (who is an amazing Violinist) features on the track, we covered her on RAMzine a while ago and the photos were amazing! Have you ever seen her play live before?
Thrasher: I have on YouTube, she’s insane, she’s like an acrobatic and full blow dancer.
How did that collaboration come about?
Thrasher: We’ve been trying to get her on our album for a few different albums, the last two albums I believe. There was this one ballad we had that we really wanted her on. We sent her this song that I had written with John Feldman and Craig Mabbitt and she really took a liking to it. So she came into the studio, listened to it, I kinda showed her the main riff on guitar and she played it on violin, and we just started stacking her violins all over the song, we completely filled it up with Lindsay violins, multi-tracked.
Yeah it fits in really well and it’s good to hear the violin on a track like this, it’s quite different.
Thrasher: Without the violin and without the production it’s a really heavy track, and it changes the landscape with the added instrument.
‘Invincible’ is on the soundtrack to the new movie The Retaliators which Craig will star in as Ario Garcia. I was looking at the cast list and spotted Tommy Lee, Ivan Moody, and Chris Kale…. How’s Craig feeling about this role?
Thrasher: I think [he’s] good, I haven’t really talked to him about it too much. I know that he was really excited about filming in a movie.
Looking at the cast list this looks like it’s going to be one hell of a horror film for rock and metal fans!
Thrasher: Exactly yeah, I forgot that Tommy Lee was in it, that’s really cool, I can’t wait to see it. I’ve not seen it yet.
Which is your favourite track of of Chemical Warfare?
Thrasher: There’s a few I guess, but I would say ‘Not My Problem’ is one that I’m really loving. ‘Erase You’ is a stand-out track in my opinion, it’s got this really programmed feel, I think that I added just one little guitar in the whole thing, the rest was programmed. There’s a bunch of cool songs… it’s hard to say one favourite. ‘Chemical Warfare’ has one of my favourite bridges on the album. Yeah, it’s hard [to pick] it depends on the day probably.
Probably yeah and I’m sure it will change over time as well. Is there one track that you found more challenging to write than the others?
Thrasher: I guess this song that’s coming out soon called ‘Unbreakable’ – it was a little bit of a challenge, but I ended up cracking the code for it. I kinda built it backwards. Then I guess also ‘Walk On’ was a little bit of a tricky song, just to figure out the balance of coming up with this acoustic guitar and bringing drums in later, and making feel like it was building up to this epic ending. But you just keep on working on those kinda things and they eventually come together.
Once lockdowns are eased and tours start up again, will the band be back over to the UK for a tour?
Thrasher: Never again! Just kidding. Yes I hope so, man I love the UK, it’s almost tradition at this point to go overseas and to Europe once a year. I’ve done it for the last 10 years of my life.
Yeah and it’s tradition for the fans to go to the shows.
Thrasher: I know right! We recognise the same fans year after year and they bring their friends, family, parents, and eventually, at some point, they’ll start bringing their kids to the shows. You know that you’ve been in a band for a long time when your 15-year-old fans grow up and bring their 15-year-old children.
Despite not being able to play any live shows, does Escape The Fate have anything coming up that fans should look out for?
I think we’re just all on our Twitch stream[s], mine is twitch.com/kthrash666. On top of that as a band, we’re probably planning a live stream eventually.
Escape The Fate will release Chemical Warfare on 16th April 2021 via Better Noise Music.