Nevada rockers Escape The Fate are set to drop their new album, Chemical Warfare, on April 16th through Better Noise Music. From start to finish, the journey the band has been on to make this album has involved a pandemic, sobriety, acting debuts, collaborations, and reuniting with legendary producer Jon Feldmann. Through all that though, the end result is an energetic, heavy, positive collection of songs and, as we found when we spoke recently, guitarist/producer Kevin “Thrasher” Gruft couldn’t be more excited about the release.
The new album is due out in April. You’ve released a couple of tracks so far, are they a good indication to fans of what the rest of the record will be like?
Kevin ‘Thrasher’ Gruft: “I think the songs we’ve released already are a good indication of what is on the album, but there is a lot of different genres and different vibes on the record and a lot yet to be heard. You know, there are some of my favourite songs that aren’t released yet. I’m excited about that. There are some heavier songs. There’s a super-vibey programmed song on it called ‘Erase You’ and that one is really sick. There is definitely a lot more to unpack when you finally listen to the record.”
Do you think there will be anything on there that will surprise fans, especially those who’ve been with you since day one?
“Well, I never think so but the internet always has something else to say. I feel like ever since the band started with (2008’s) This War Is Ours which some fans would say is our heaviest album, has some of our poppiest songs on it. I feel like we’ve hit every genre but we’ll wait and see how people react.”
You’ve always had a special connection with your fans. How are you keeping that connection going?
“On Instagram, and I was on Twitch for a while but I got so busy working in the studio on other records where I was working like 16 hours a day for the last year. I was on Twitch for a bit connecting that way. I know (drummer) Robert (Ortiz) and (lead singer) Craig (Mabbitt) are on Twitch a lot. I plan on doing a lot more Twitch live streams because it’s a great way to connect with fans because it’s like an open platform where you can just chat with people and share whatever you want.”
You reunited with Jon Feldmann on this record. What prompted that and what do you think he brings to the Escape The Fate party?
“We originally did This War Is Ours with Jon Feldmann and it was Craig that was really into bringing him in. He has a good relationship with Feldmann. They’ve always talked and Craig was going through sobriety and Feldmann was the catalyst to that and helping him. I’ve never worked with him personally but I was really excited to because he’s always been inspirational as a songwriter or a band person who went into songwriting and producing which is what I do. We ended up co-producing the record which was a great collaboration.”
From your own perspective as a producer yourself, what did you learn from working with him?
“A lot actually. Just to be efficient. His strongest point is songwriting so I learned a lot of great songwriting tips and tricks. I feel like he’s such a big energy and it’s really great to be in a studio with him as he brings that energy to the table. Just seeing how he will coach a singer in the studio. There were some things that I would maybe overthink as a producer that he would just go for and rip on. He also brought the relationship with Travis Barker into the mix. Travis then ended up playing on two songs and I’ve been working with Travis since last year on several records.”
In a recent interview, Craig described the record as a brand new chapter for Escape The Fate. Would you agree with that and what do you think the band means to fans in 2021?
“Yes, I do think it’s a new chapter. Sonically, and as an artist, we’re always trying to write better songs and make better records. I feel like this is our most put-together record and, if you listen to it from front to back, it sounds like one unit as opposed to a load of collected songs from a load of random song writes.”
Looking at album titles like Ungrateful and Hate Me they’ve got darker, negative connotations to them but, with Chemical Warfare you’ve said you want it to be an album that inspires fans and makes people feel better about their lives. What prompted that change?
“It’s a feel-good record. Consciously, we’re all getting in better places in our heads. Between Craig and his sobriety and I’ve also been sober, we’ve just done this for a long time and wanted to spread a positive message of hope in the songs. There are also darker songs on the record like ‘Erase You’ which is real-life shit that has happened. We talk about toxic relationships in songs like ‘Not My Problem’ and getting out of that sort of thing. We’ve had some cool messages from people who’ve been relating to that and sometimes you’re stuck in toxic relationships with people that maybe bring you down and sometimes you just need to break free from that.”
How much of this new positive energy has been fueled by Craig’s, and your own decision to go sober?
“I think so but, at the same time, as far as the songwriting goes, a lot of it is real-life situations and real feelings. We would get in each day and do a song front to back. We would write all the lyrics, Craig would track all the vocals and we’d agree on it then I’d stay up all night on the productions for the songs making them sound sonically the way I think I heard them.”
A lot of bands have said the forced break has given them a chance to recharge the batteries of both the band and personally. Can you relate to that?
“Definitely. It’s changed my outlook and given me a pause in the touring life and my personal life as well. We were doing almost 200 dates a year on average and that’s a lot of time not being at home. In that time I’ve worked on so many records. At the same time, I did feel the recharge but then I’ve been working really hard on another part of my life. There’s no balance (laughs).”
Did space away from touring and playing 200 shows a year give you the opportunity to spread your wings and try other things musically? I’m thinking of things like the collaboration with Lindsey Stirling?
“Yeah, I think that sort of thing definitely prompted it where she would have maybe on tour. We’ve been trying to get her on a record for the last two records and we finally brought her in. It was actually Feldmann’s call to bring her into the track ‘Invincible’ where I’d done all the crazy production you hear on that song and we got word that Lindsey was going to come in and play on something and I thought she’d play on something like ‘Walk On,’ or ‘Erase You,’ or ‘Unbreakable,‘ but she ended up playing on ‘Invincible’ and it ended up being a really cool collaboration.”
It’s a great collaboration. Were you surprised at how it worked out?
“Very. It ended up being really cool. She ended up playing along to the guitar riff then she added some really magical moments in the bridge and outro. She’s amazing to work with as well.”
Does that open you up to maybe working together in the future?
“I would rather almost write a song from scratch with her and make this really beautiful bed of music to write vocals to.”
You mentioned Travis Barker earlier. Was he someone you’ve tried to work with in the past or was that collaboration purely down to Feldmann?
“Jon really was a big catalyst in bringing him in and the energy Travis brought in on the songs that he played on was a completely game changer. The drum parts he writes are absolutely insane. Whatever you think something should be, he’ll go and do the complete opposite. He’s really creative and doesn’t overplay on the songs where a lot of really talented musicians would just come in and show off.”
Speaking of showing off, Craig has his acting debut soon in The Retaliators. Do you have any plans to follow him into acting and, if so, is there a role you’ve see where you thought that would be you down to a tee?
“Oh, wow. No. I’ve no plans to go into acting but, if I did it would probably be something like The Wolf of Wall Street at this moment. Leonardo Dicaprio! What can you say?”
Thanks for your time and good luck with the album. Over to you for the final words…
“Awesome man, it’s been great talking to you. A lot has changed over the next few months in terms of touring so I think the plan is to do a livestream of us playing the whole album front to back. We miss all our fans and wish we could be on the road to support the record but we can’t wait for everyone to hear it. Stay safe out there!”