Falling In Reverse: Radke’s Revenge
Former Escape The Fate frontman Ronnie Radke is out of prison, just dropped a new record with Falling In Reverse and is out to reclaim what’s rightfully his, regardless of who is in the way. BLUNT’s Amy Simmons dodges the punches.
“I’m back,” announces Ronnie Radke with a sinister laugh on Falling in Reverse’s debut – a declaration he’s been dying to make since his world unravelled spectacularly in 2008.
His story starts out innocently enough: in 2004 Radke started Escape The Fate with a bunch of high school mates. Their contagious blend of pop metal peppered with post-hardcore fixtures first impressed the guys of My Chemical Romance, then Mr. Brett Gurewitz which lead to the young band signing on the dotted line with Epitaph Records. Escape The Fate’s debut, Dying Is Your Latest Fashion (2006) came next, and despite the fact that most critics had nothing but scathing words for the Las Vegas quartet, the album crept onto the Billboard Heatseeker chart and wound up in stereos all around the world.
Then came the cliché: a drug addiction, stint in rehab and numerous run-ins with the law made Radke a liability to his band. His fate was sealed in May 2006 when a fight broke out in a desert lot that resulted in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Cook and another seriously injured. Though Radke didn’t pull the trigger, in January 2008 he pleaded guilty to a charge of battery with substantial bodily harm and was sentenced to five years probation, ordered to go back to rehab and pay $100,000 in restitution to Cook’s mother. With Radke prohibited from leaving the state, he was kicked out of Escape The Fate and controversially replaced by ex-Blessthefall frontman Craig Mabbitt. In June that year, Radke skipped out on his parole officer and was sent to prison.
During a stint in the solitary confinement ward of High Desert State Prison, Radke’s new baby, Falling in Reverse, was conceived.
“I got in trouble for getting a tattoo, I got in trouble for fighting and I got in trouble for a visitor getting me in trouble, so I was in solitary confinement for a while,” Radke explains to down the cracking phone connection. “That’s where I really started writing songs because I was by myself for a long time.”
Without access to instruments, and the fact that recording of any sort is illegal in prison, Radke resorted to some pretty unorthodox methods to flesh out the song ideas floating around in his head.
“I had like 30 songs with guitars and choruses and melodies all in my head. I sang the guitars and patted my knees with my hands for the drums.”
After serving his two-and-a-half year sentence, Radke was released from prison in December 2010 and wasted no time waltzing into the studio to lay down the batch of tunes he had stored in his brain. Choosing to work closely with his long-time mate/producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette (the knob pilot behind Escape The Fate’s debut), the pair spent a month scrubbing and polishing Radke’s ideas into fully realised songs. But when it came time for Radke to step up to the microphone, he struggled to find his voice.
“At first I couldn’t do it because I didn’t sing in a long time, so it was shitty and it was weird. After four or five days my voice came back. I didn’t sing for three years, and I was on drugs before, but it felt really good, really liberating.”
Chock full of rocket launching pop choruses, slick metal verses, wailing guitar solos and uber pissed off breakdowns all packaged up neatly into radio ready structures, Falling In Reverse’s debut, The Drug In Me Is You, sounds like the rightful follow-up to Dying Is Your Latest Fashion. Was it always Radke’s intention to write his very own follow-up to Escape The Fate’s debut?
“No, it’s just you can tell who wrote Dying Is You Latest Fashion now, can’t you?” he retorts. “That’s more liberating when you say it’s the follow-up, and I didn’t have to tell you that because it is, kinda. It’s more mature in a way, but there’s still a little underage teen angst in it. I’ll always have angst. I believe I’m probably getting the credit I feel I deserve when I’m writing stuff. I’m sick and tired of people trying to say who did this and who did that, or like try and take my glory for writing stuff. That was happening during the two-and-a-half years I was in prison, they were taking my glory, taking what I created and burying it into the ground, running it into the dirt. It feels really good. It feels like karma.”
Ever since Escape The Fate gave Radke his marching orders, the two sides have been at war, battling it out through the press, their lyrics and the internet. Radke’s deposition is still a sore point amongst Escape The Fate devotees, and his arch nemesis Mabbitt has utilised every opportunity to slag him off, even going as far as telling a Warped Tour audience that Radke was caught with heroin in prison.
“I did a lot of push-ups when I heard about that,” he laments. “I got kind of muscular. And then that just lit my fire and I wrote more songs. That’s why you can tell most songs are kinda past tense, some of them are hateful lyrics and the songs about being on drugs and drug addiction – obviously it’s past tense. I felt like I needed to write about that. Eminem writes about being on drugs on his new record, but he’s completely drug free no? I feel like I captured my past, my present and my future on the record. And for them to do that made me kinda angry – you sing my songs and say stuff about me? That’s why I wrote such hateful lyrics. I wish people would understand that instead of being upset with me over it.”
Lyrically, nobody is safe from the wrath of Ronnie Radke on Falling In Reverse’s debut, The Drug In Me Is You. The whole album is one giant catharsis, and he doesn’t give a shit who gets hurt in the crossfire. On “Tragic Magic” he bulldozes Mabbitt (“You’re such a dumb fuck/You need to shut up/You bring a picture of me every time you get your hair cut: imposter”), his former best friend and bass player cops a right hook on “Caught Like A Fly” (“How did it feel when you held the knife that you stuck in my back a thousand time”) and he even blames his mum for the drug addiction that wrecked his life on “The Westerner” (“I spent all my teenage years searching for her love/I couldn’t find it anywhere so I turned to drugs”). The openness of the lyrics has been a point of contention with the internet elite, but Radke isn’t backing down.
“I wear my heart on my sleeve, I believe there’s a place to say that. I’d rather pay the price for wearing my heart on my sleeve and be honest. There’s something inside me – I can never fake it. I have to lay my cards on the table on everything I do, and it has to be ‘this is what it is’. I can’t be like secretive and lying about anything when it comes to music and in my daily life, too. I think people are too safe and they are scared: ‘Oh we’ve got to be friends with all these bands so we can go on tour with them.’ I say fuck that, fuck everyone. It used to be so awesome, everyone is so safe now; everyone’s so scared. What are you scared of? Who cares.”
Frank Sinatra once said the best revenge is massive success, and from a figure standpoint Falling In Reverse have been kicking Escape The Fate’s arse in every which way. First it was on YouTube with the first single garnering over 3.2 million plays in less than two months (Escape The Fate’s latest single “Gorgeous Nightmare” is hovering around 770,000) and then it was on the ARIA chart where The Drug In Me Is You landed at #21 on debut, while Escape The Fate’s self-titled album snuck in at #58 upon its release in 2010.
“I’m not gonna lie to you, I’m not going to be stupid and tell you that does not feel really good knowing that, watching those numbers. It feels amazing. It feels really good that people believe in me that much.
“It was kinda like I went into prison we’d play to a couple of thousand kids with Escape The Fate at every show, maybe 1500 to 2000,” he continues. “I get out of prison and there’s like 5-6000 people watching us. Like how the hell did that happen? I don’t even think Escape The Fate draws that many people anymore.”
Despite the fact that Falling In Reverse have only officially played a handful of shows on this year’s Warped Tour, Radke and his team are already knee-deep in planning their first ever Australian tour. “Oh we’re getting our visas right now. I am a felon, Australia has a lot of felons and is really good friends with Americans, so I feel strongly that we will be there for Soundwave in February. I love Australia, I love the girls there, I love the friendly vibes. I love everybody that’s from Australia. The girls are sexy, too.”
In the words of Radke himself: “Mothers better lock your doors and hide your daughters.”
The Drug Is Me Is You is out now on Epitaph /Warner.
Lean On Me
At one point in time Ronnie Radke and Escape The Fate bass player Max Green were best friends, but their relationship turned sour when Radke thrown out of the band and sent to prison. Over the years nasty insults and heinous accusations have flown between the two, and it’s clear they are both harbouring some deep resentment towards each other.
Late last year, right around the time Escape The Fate dropped their latest album, Green was admitted into rehab for drug and alcohol addiction, which has forced him to sit on the bench for most of 2011 in an effort to stay on the wagon. Even though it doesn’t look like there’s a teary reconciliation in their future, Radke admits still cares about Green.
You thank Max Green in the liner notes of your album, why?
Just because I don’t want him to die, I don’t want that on my shoulders. That’s why I was saying songs from my past like “Caught Like A Fly” is a hateful song towards him. I still have a place in my heart for him, I just… music is the way to express how you feel and that’s how I felt.
As a former addict, how do you feel about his recent struggle with drugs?
I just think he needed help; hopefully he’s getting the help that he needs. I just knew it was going to happen, time was gonna tell, and it made me so upset that people didn’t know, and they’d be on stage talking about how I’m a drug addict and how much of a piece of crap I am, but secretly we all have our vices, right? It broke my heart that he’d do that to me after we’d been friends for so long. I hope he’s getting the help he needs and deserves.