In October, Escape The Fate will be returning to Australia for their first headline tour in five years. Along for the ride will be Melbourne’s Dream On, Dreamer and that shit is going to get fucking wild, son, that’s for sure. Coinciding with tickets going on sale last week (go get ‘em here), I spoke at length with guitarist, Kevin ‘Thrasher’ Gruft.
Now, what a lot of people may not know is that Gruft also does a lot of producing and studio work on the side, something that he’s continued doing since leaving his old band, LoveHateHero (who were really bloody good, by the way) and joining Escape The Fate full time back in 2013.
“When I was in LoveHateHero, I would actually help record their demos, and that turned into full studio recordings. From there, I left that band and did a bunch of hired gun gigs, but between that I fell into a job at a Hollywood studio as a vocal engineer for high profile pop stars. After two years of that, I teamed up with Trace Cyrus from Metro Station and ended up touring with him as a DJ and backup vocalist. It was at that time that I found out that Escape The Fate needed a guitar player. So 2011 was the first ever tour I did with them, but their old guitar player came back so I went, “Okay, I’m done with touring, just gonna stick with recording!” But playing guitar is my main passion, I suddenly wanted to do touring again, and so it’s all worked out perfectly now.”
It really seems that when it comes to Escape The Fate and it’s cast of characters, everything happens for a reason. However, if the guitarist had not of joined up with the Las Vegas outfit and had just stuck with his studio work and touring, then that may have been all she wrote for ETF.
“When I joined, they were really hurtin’. I was really there to help bring the band together. It was a matter of did the band want to continue doing this, after all of the member changes? But I came in and slowly started pulling the pieces back together. We then went and recorded with Howard Benson and we left with Hate Me”.
Of course, it’s no secret that this band has had extensive lineup changes over the years, much to the debate of fans online. (Anyone remember “Team Ronnie” and “Team Craig”?) What’s interesting is there is also some crazy six degrees of separation going on with Escape The Fate. Members span from LoveHateHero, On The last Day, Falling In Reverse, blessthefall, The Word Alive, and when you consider Gruft’s work and the guest spots that singer Craig Mabbit has done, that list only continues to grow.
“That’s what’s cool about this band. Craig and I have been friends for ages. Funnily enough, when Omar [Espinosa] quit Escape The Fate, Ronnie [Radke] was actually begging me to join the band. But I was so new and loyal to LoveHateHero that I couldn’t do it then. But eventually, here I am now, playing for Escape The Fate”, the guitarist laughingly recalls.
Gruft was also very open about some of the, er, unprofessional stunts that some of the old band members would pull, the kind that would only exacerbate the band’s interpersonal issues.
“When I used to get the calls to play a gig or tour with the band, it would be about three or so days beforehand, as the other guitarist would just leave without saying anything. In 2011, the band did fuck me over a bit, to be completely honest. I did a week of practicing and rehearsing before embarking on a tour with them and on the seventh day, Monte [Money, ex-guitar ], showed up to the rehearsal space to play. There’s even a Fuel TV performance we played that Monte showed up to that he wasn’t supposed to be at. [You can find the video here]. We did that performance, and the next day, they didn’t need me to go on tour with them. Like, I had booked the next two months for that tour, but okay guys, guess not” Gruft states, but without any sense of anger or hostility in his voice.
He continues, saying “That’s the kind of thing that was going on. That’s what was screwing up their relationships with promoters and venues with them having to cancel or reschedule shows because of members leaving and coming back”.
While that is, ultimately, pretty goddamn unprofessional on the part of Monte, things have turned out rather well, even after that Max Green situation back in 2014. While Mabbit and drummer Robert Ortiz may be worn out discussing all the past members to the fans and the press, it must be hard for the band as a whole to talk so openly about their own past, right? Well, that’s not really the case for Gruft. (Don’t worry, I am aware of the irony in talking about this subject with a member of Escape The Fate… about it being difficult for the band to talk about past band members).
“Lately, it doesn’t really bother me. For the other guys, it is a sore subject that they’ve dealt with for a long time now. But I’m totally okay with it, these are all events that happened long ago and people are just very curious about it all. Maybe we would need a full Behind The Music episode for it!”
Goddamnit, I’d watch that shit in a heartbeat! But through all of that bullshit, ETF are currently sitting with a solid lineup that means an end to the unprofessionalism. Gruft puts it in its simplest terms by saying, “We have finally got our shit together!”
And with that, here we are; the inevitable discussion about touring.
The band’s appearance on Soundwave 2015 was actually the guitarist’s first ever trip down to Australia and with this upcoming tour, it will obviously not be his last (though I’m sure that 20-hour plane ride will be a motherfucker, for sure). However, as one may expect, festival crowds aren’t predominantly your crowd, as it’s the headlining tours where the die-hard fans will come out in full force. That’s why the guitarist loves when his band has their name at the top of the bill.
“It’s great to play massive festival shows in front of new people and opening for much bigger bands, but at a headlining show, you know everyone is there for you. The fans know every lyric and every single song. This time around, I’m just so excited for the places we’re hitting up”, states Gruft.
As for those places, the Melbourne stop of that tour is at the Prince’s Bandroom in St. Kilda, which much like the Corner Hotel, has this giant structural pylon right in the middle of the fucking room. Obscuring the stage view for the patrons in the back half of the crowd? Yeah, not cool. Deterring hosts of crowd surfers and stage divers may be the only positive thing about its design and placement within the venue. Oh, and you know, supporting the venue’s structural integrity! Giant eyesores and annoying columns aside, Gruft tells me about one of the weirder venues they’ve played to date.
“We’ve played in some weird places”, he recalls. “The last time we were in the UK, we played on some ship that was docked in this river, just sitting there on the water. I mean, this venue was just a boat! That thing was planted there; it wasn’t going anywhere. It was actually a crazy show and it was actually a really good-sized stage, too.”
While there may not be any boat venues (or venues on boats as the case may be) on this tour, there is no doubt in my mind that this tour will go off once Escape The Fate and Dream On, Dreamer hit the road together. October can’t some soon enough.
Escape The Fate are touring nationally this October. Deets below.