Practice Pad: Robert Ortiz Of Escape The Fate

robert ortiz
robert ortiz

Band: Escape The Fate
Album: Ungrateful
Song: “You’re Insane”

Among many other things, metal should be motivational. The new album from Las Vegas hard rockers Escape The Fate, Ungrateful, absolutely accomplishes that.

Take a listen to the relentless track “You’re Insane,” and the first thing you’ll be motivated to do is tell the psycho in your life to take a hike – immediately. The next thing on your to-do list should be to play the drums, in the slightly schizophrenic style of Robert Ortiz. “I want kids who are just starting to pick up some drum sticks to say, ’Holy crap, that’s the sickest thing I ever heard!’” says Ortiz. “That explains some of the flair and double bass that goes into this song.”

And while that may sound like the ravings of an ego-driven drummer, those flourishes actually represent the extreme for Ortiz, who strives to balance flash and simplicity within each track. “I’m always trying to find that middle ground: ’How do I shred in a simple song?’” he posits. “That’s always our goal in Escape the Fate.”

There’s zero waiting to hear Ortiz’ drumming philosophy on “You’re Insane,” where a fast-driving shot of straight sixteenth-notes on the snare come charging out of the gate accompanying a razor-blade guitar line that stretches for 15 seconds until the first verse. “The intro needed a big buildup, and the momentum building gets heavier and heavier,” he says. “Right before it’s about to bust out [into the verse], I do a double-kick pattern underneath the snare – it just climaxes there, right as it’s about to explode.”

At 0:15 what Ortiz calls “the bust-out” prior to the verse slams in: Picture a bigger, fuzzier Mötley Crüe mainlining distortion. Ortiz is bulking up the beat with a hidden ingredient. “The kick is going the entire time – it’s four-on-the-floor, doubling up with the snare to make it super chunky and fat,” he explains. “I had all these amazing drum fills ready, but our guitarist, Monte Money, said, ’No, dude, just chug with me.’”

Then verse one officially begins at 0:21, and Ortiz reinforces it with a hard, tough rock groove where quarter-note hi-hat timekeeping is punctuated sparingly with heavy double bass chunks.

The 0:36 mark hears ETF enter the prechorus, and you can hear a subtle shift to Ortiz’ beat: the feel becomes a little funkier, but with double bass shots still sprinkled in. “We just wanted to open it up a bit more, so it has that feel that the chorus is coming and that we’re building up to something,” says Ortiz. “The whole song is about something waiting to explode, and that’s kind of the vibe right here – opening it up to get to the next groove, and here comes the chorus.”

Ortiz’ fill going into the straight-head chorus beat is a short pattern of snare strokes, and it’s intentionally streamlined. “It’s something quick to set the chorus up,” he says of the fill. “You need that break to separate the parts, but without stealing the show. Not using the kitchen sink – that’s usually the lesson you’ve learned with the producer who makes you cry and says, ’No, that fill won’t be a part of the album.’ Sometimes it’s the drums turn to shine, sometimes it’s the vocals, sometimes it’s the guitars.

“The chorus beat itself is very simple,” he continues. “It’s just a part where we said, ’Let’s keep it driving and keep it moving.’ There’s the feeling of a certain groove that we’re trying to maintain – the drums are locking in with the rhythms of the guitar, very straightforward so we can all sing along.”

At 1:02 you’ll hear a halting snare fill that hits your ears like a double punch – a distinct fill motif that Ortiz repeats as every chorus concludes. “The vocals are very staccato there, ’I’m not the reason that you’re insane,’” says Ortiz. “There’s a pattern I do there on the snare and China that locks in with the vocals, although not exactly. The double kick keeps going underneath, so the momentum isn’t lost – it’s rolling and stabbing at the same time.”

Another pre-verse/verse/pre-chorus/chorus sequence follows. Since chorus #2 goes double the length of the first one, Ortiz applies a subtle technique to change it up at 1:52. “There’s a trick there that we learned from John Feldman [who produced several of the tracks on Ungrateful],” he explains. “I switch from keeping time on the ride to open hi-hat when the chorus repeats. When I’m on the ride, I’m not playing full-on pingy-ness or crashy-ness – it’s in between so you can hear the accents, but also the washes. Then, by switching from the ride to the hi-hat, it lifts the song and carries it over. You’re not playing the same thing twice, so it changes the feel.”

Ortiz helps inject space into the pre-bridge with a simple open hat that rings out, starting at 2:05. Then, at 2:19 is where Ortiz finally gets to bust out, turning out punchy double bass chunks like a Harley Davidson chopper revving up under the high-strung guitar solo. “Oh, man, that part’s fun!” he laughs. “It was just the time to make that solo explode with really intricate double kicks. I’m doing heel-and-toe quad beats leading with my right foot, in triplicate. With ETF it’s not always, ’Let’s shred the whole time,’ because we absolutely love songs. But sometimes you have to take things to the next level, go outside of your comfort zone, and remember why you started – I went for broke.”

From 2:31—2:36, you can’t miss an ongoing, everything-but-the-kitchen sink fill – an intricate combo of snare and double kick hits – that finishes off the bridge and leads to the final chorus. “What happened there was basically a pedal-to-the-metal, full-on, everything-is-exploding, the-world-is-coming-to-an-end feeling – that was the idea,” says Ortiz. “It’s double kick going underneath the whole time. Although the drum fills usually balance what the guitars do, Monte also likes to go with what I’m doing sometimes – so he’s actually mimicking me on that part.”

Dig in from there, as the final chorus leads to the heavy outro. Ortiz’ big solid beat returns, dotted with just enough space to let the live audiences bang their heads to the maximum. After one last big tom/flam pattern, two China crashes ring out at 3:17 with a lasting sustain into distorted guitar heaven. “There needed to be an epilogue to end that song,” Ortiz says. “It needed to end not at the climax, but let you down slowly. Overall, the drums captured exactly what the song is: powerful and straight to the point.”

"You're Insane"

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