You just don’t sit on the fence with Ronnie Radke. Whether you’re stoked that he’s made it into an issue of Metal Hammer or enraged because you’ve heard Falling In Reverse’s Bad Girls Club and it made you want to jump out of a fucking window, chances are he’ll provoke a reaction – and with good reason.
Born just outside Las Vegas in December 1983, a quick look into Ronnie’s background throws some serious light onto the troubled but talented singer’s rather turbulent personality. Poverty-line poor and with a drug-addict-turned-born-again-Christian dad and a mother who split when he was less than a year old, there was enough drama in Ronnie’s early years to fill a lifetime, let alone help shape the young man that burst onto the scene as vocalist with glam-flavoured metallers Escape The Fate.
By the age of 25, Ronnie had recorded their now seminal album Dying Is Your Latest Fashion and was being touted as the hottest frontman in America. By 26, he was fired from Escape The Fate in a hail of alcohol abuse before serving two and a half years in prison after violating the terms of a probation set following his indictment on battery charges. It was at that point, however, that Ronnie decided to leave that life firmly behind him./o:p
While incarcerated, he formed the nucleus of ideas for a new band, Falling In Reverse. Material from their debut album was written while he was still in jail, I’m Not A Vampire having to be tapped out lightly on his thighs so that he wouldn’t catch an ass-whooping from his sleeping cellmates. His incredible, English lead guitarist, Jacky Vincent, was hired from a YouTube video played down the phone to Ronnie while he was incarcerated. Since releasing their barnstorming debut album, The Drug In Me Is You, Falling In Reverse have gone from strength to strength and are currently one of the hottest bands in the US (though they are still unable to travel to the UK because of the circumstances surrounding Ronnie’s jail term). /o:p
The singer leads a sober life these days, focusing his attention on music and fitness, but there have still been moments of controversy. He was arrested for alleged domestic violence in 2012 (he was released on $30,000 bail) and for throwing a microphone stand into an audience on Halloween of the same year. In person, Ronnie is charismatic, funny and polite, but there’s an inescapable presence of danger that surrounds him; the nagging, uneasy feeling that anything could go off at any time looming large at all points. Frankly, during a time when there are accusations about there being no interesting characters in modern rock music, Ronnie Radke is the great equaliser./o:p
“I’ve always known that I’m different to everybody else,” says Ronnie, confidently but quietly. “There are a lot of bands around now that are so fake and not real and they get offstage and they are this completely different person. They want to be cool or say this or that to appeal to people and chase what they think is going to get them more fans, but we do something new and different and we do it for us. Then you see bands doing the exact same thing, and I don’t like being part of any crowd, so I take a hard left into a different direction again. The music scene is oversaturated with people that want to be something that they’re not, and it’ll always be that way. I’m different to most other people like that, for sure.
“No ‘icon’ has ever just stayed the same, they don’t stay stagnant,” he continues. “As long as the songs are there, you can look however you want to after that. You can’t have one without the other. Everyone wanted to talk about how horrible [most recent Kanye West album] Yeezus was, so any new look Kanye came up with didn’t matter. I think our songs are there and I am the way I am. I don’t change who I am for this band.”
While comparing himself to, arguably, the most controversial star hip hop has ever produced speaks volumes about where he places himself in rock’s legacy, perhaps the best insight into the mind of Ronnie Radke comes on Falling In Reverse’s new album, Just Like You. Less eclectic than 2013’s Fashionably Late (an album so utterly bonkers that we can say with confidence that no matter how big your record collection is, you’ve never heard anything like it), it includes all of the trademark shred and hooks, an array of all-new approaches and a closing track about the death of Ronnie’s brother Anthony in 2013 that’s heartbreakingly raw.
It’s the title track of the album that perhaps says the most about Ronnie, though. As well as having a chorus that is as surefire a hit as you are ever likely to hear, it also features the lyric ‘I’m an asshole just like you.’
“We can all be assholes,” he smiles, “but some people get away with it and some people have to be the bad guy that other people point the finger at. I put a picture of a skateboard on my Instagram and someone was saying, ‘Fuck you! You’re a poseur, you piece of shit! You don’t like skateboarding!’ and it just made me think about how people try to make me feel about my actions, when you have people out there who will say anything they want to you at any given time. It’s tongue-in-cheek, but there’s a lot of reality to that lyric.”
With less emphasis on beats, electronics, rap and the wackier end of Falling In Reverse’s repertoire on this album, does Ronnie think he’ll be taken more seriously this time around?
“There’ll always be critics, but I think so,” he replies. “The people who didn’t like us throwing pop, metal, rap and everything else together on Fashionably Late but like my other work will love this. People sometimes want you to be one way, doing one thing, but that’s not my way. People that think that they’re too metal for my band will never take me seriously.”
If that is the case, why bother with metal of any kind at all?
“Because our ‘metal’ is better than a lot of metal out there,” Ronnie shoots back. “We can make pop, but when we decide to make metal, we will destroy you. That’s just how it goes. Anybody who’s listened to what we do in metal knows we shred everybody. People get upset that we’re not a full metal band because when we do metal, it’s as good as any out there, but we can do that and more, and so we do. Close-minded people can’t get their head around it. You’re allowed to like a band that can shred metal and have songs with no metal on it at all. It feels like that fine line that a lot of people can’t cross.”
It’s hard to be an original when it feels like everything has been done, but Ronnie is indisputably a one-off, both creatively and among his peers. In a world where accusations of bands lacking personality run rampant, he’s a certified star; shadowed by the kind of danger and excitement that history has celebrated in its rockstars. You point to a troubled past? He’s written the novel. You bring beef? This guy will bring a fucking cow.
The face looking back at you on page 62 will be inescapable in 2015.
JUST LIKE YOU IS OUT MARCH 2 VIA EPITAPH/o:p
RON THE JEWELS
Four crazy, genre-hopping cuts from Ronnie’s career so far…
ESCAPE THE FATE: SITUATIONS (Situations EP, 2007)
The moment that Ronnie exploded onto the metal scene, this is a glam metal anthem with more swagger than you can shake an ass at, and remains one of his best moments to date. Your starting point to find out what the fuss is all about is right here.
FALLING IN REVERSE: ALONE (Fashionably Late, 2013)
Featuring a beat straight out of trap, a video that showcased the uglier, money-lead side of hip hop and a new, rap metal-infused sound that twisted everyone’s melon, this was as divisive as they come. Nobody could fuck with the chorus, though.
FALLING IN REVERSE: GAME OVER (Fashionably Late, 2013)
Ever wonder what a NES Super Mario game would sound like if it were plugged through an amp and covered by a sun-kissed rock band? No? Well, pretend you do and whack your lugs around this.
GANGSTA’S PARADISE (Punk Goes 90s 2, 2014)
Yeah. That Gangsta’s Paradise. Recorded for a recent Punk Goes… compilation effort, this cover features a section that goes all math metal, a nuclear beatdown and even more bounce. And admit it, you already know the words. Don’t lie./o:p