Escape the Fate drummer Robert Ortiz—the band’s last remaining original member—talked about career longevity, new music and what he’s looking forward to most at Las Rageous.
Are you excited to see anyone in particular at the festival? I’m a massive Avenged Sevenfold fan. I saw them at a skate park by Sam Boyd Stadium with, like, 30 other kids. And I’ve watched them grow from that into selling out House of Blues, to selling out the Joint, to selling out an arena ... and now they’re about to go on a stadium tour with Metallica. To watch that is really awesome.I really love their music and what they do live and everything. I can’t wait to see them.
Vegas supports hard rock and metal but hasn’t had a festival like this that has survived. Do you think this can be the one? I hope so. Every city in America has these huge [rock] festivals—Rock on the Range, Rockfest, [Welcome to] Rockville—but Vegas hasn’t had that, you’re right. … I hope this one can last. It just comes down to what bands you put on the bill, what acts are there. If you put on the right ones, it will flourish over time.
That’s what impressed me looking at the lineup: It’s really diverse. No matter what kind of style of rock music you like, there’s something for that person. That's a really good observation. A band like us, we go toward radio, but our roots are in the Warped Tour and that type of scene, with the screaming and stuff. And then you have bands that are straight-up traditional radio rock as it’s been known in the past 15 years. And then you’ve got Avenged, that’s kind of transcended all of it, and another couple of bands that are doing the same thing. And there’s a couple of legendary bands that have been doing it forever. If I’m just a fan, [and] I’m not playing the show, I would have gotten a ticket, and I would have gone and watched it.
What are your observations about where rock music is in 2017? A few years ago it seemed like it might have been on life support. But I think it’s just music in general; there’s no real champion. Maybe Adele? (Laughs.) I think a lot of people just like a lot of different things now, with phones in our hands that give you access to everything. It’s not just hip-hop that rules, not just electronic music, not just country. For me, as a guy who has traveled, I think the smaller bands are having a bit tougher time, where the bigger bands are really thriving. But the Internet has given us more ways of making money and really engaging the fanbase. Those die-hard fans are far more involved now than they used to be, and they are there.
If you really look at scenes across time and history, there are always a few that stick out. If you think, ‘Oh, metal was big in the '80s,’ well, there were probably a thousand hair metal bands, and there were only like five that really kicked ass, you know? That’s how it’s always been. Every year, there’s going to be one that’s dominating or one that’s kind of fading. 2009, from our genre, Paramore took off. In 2011, Avenged had their huge, huge hit with “Nightmare.” Every year just kind of cycles with who is doing it big. And now in our scene, Bring Me the Horizon has catapulted and are selling huge. Overseas, they’re doing arenas and headlining the giant festivals out there.
I’m not convinced that rock is anywhere near going away. I think people will always look for that different outlet, just something that’s new, something that’s exciting, something that feels outside of the box and is not safe and weird and oppressive. That’s why I’ve always been a lifelong fan of rock and metal.
ETF frontman Craig Mabbitt recently said you guys are gearing up to make a new record and you’re going to go “outside the box.” We definitely want to take some chances. The beauty about rock now is, the pressure to make a radio song, something that fits in a format, just isn’t there anymore. I think our limitations now are only our imaginations. So we’re just going for it. Our heavier songs are even heavier and more brutal. I wrote a song about the f*ckin’ devil … and I wrote another song about the loss of my grandfather and how that affected me and my family.
That must be really exciting and freeing, especially this far into your career. Everyone is so involved in everything that each individual is bringing to the table. We’re so involved, and we’re fighting, but it’s awesome, because we’re emotionally attached to what we’re doing. The songs are emotional—I mean, they’re heart-wrenching. It feels liberating now, because for so long, it’s been about trying to stay relevant or whatever. But we’ve been doing it so long, now it’s kind of like, “Dude, we have fans, let’s just make a f*ckin’ album!” It feels freeing.
When you started the band all those years ago, could you have guessed you’d be the last original man standing? It’s weird. But I approach it the same way I did in high school. Escape the Fate isn’t mine, but I’m very involved, I’m very much 25 percent of the band. We’re equal; we’re partners.
Las Rageous April 21-22, doors at 4 p.m., $129-$499/weekend, $79/day. Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, 800-745-3000.