A lot of bands have an embattled relationship with social media — in some respects outlets of that ilk help bands “make” it, as well as provide access to legions of supportive fans with tweeting fingers tuned to praise. In others, well, social media — and the anonymous feedback that it allows — can be irritating and hurtful. Ronnie Radke of screamo band Falling In Reverse is only too aware of the ups and downs of the Web at large — especially if you’re just as outspoken as your thousands of followers.
This Music Meter Monday — a feature highlighting bands climbing the MTV Music Meter charts — we spoke with Radke, formerly of Escape The Fate (a band that he’s not currently on the best of terms with) and current frontman of Falling In Reverse. Radke started Falling In Reverse while serving a two-year prison sentence for violating probation (Radke was given 5 years probation as a result of a high-profile altercation in 2006).
Since emerging from behind bars in December of 2010, Radke has yet to slow down — Falling In Reverse released its debut album, The Drug In Me Is You, in July of 2011, and a slew of extremely popular music videos have followed.
Fresh off his last tour, Radke took some time out from playing video games and prepping for the Vans Warped Tour to chat with the O Music blog about Twitter, the ins and outs of screamo singing and the massive game of telephone that is the Web.
I just watched your new video for ‘Raised By Wolves.’ I really like how all your fans are so integrated into it.
That was just our normal show. Someone just brought really good cameras and filmed it. There was really no ‘stop, go’ — we played our set and they filmed that song.
Yeah, I was wondering how organic it was. I liked the part where the kid comes up on stage.
That was natural. The weird thing was that at that show the security was terrible. No one would help us. They wouldn’t help us block the kids. So there were real fans actually jumping on stage and actually singing the songs.
Is that something you usually condone?
They can jump up there whenever they want. I brought half the crowd once on stage on the tour before that. The whole crowd was covering the stage. But as we go to bigger rooms there’s more barriers and professional security, so they try to prevent that as much as possible. But when a fan jumps on stage I embrace them.
Yeah, I’m really interested in talking to you about your fanbase, because they seem so supportive and active. Reading your Twitter feed is always really fun — seeing you talk to everyone. You’re so unfiltered.
Yeah, I’m kind of rude. I have some anger issues toward people — I feel like there’s not that many brave people that will do that. They’re afraid that they’re going to get people mad at them, but I don’t really care. I don’t really care if people get mad at me. I don’t even think I should be on Twitter. I think I need to give that to my managers or something, because I go crazy on there sometimes.
I don’t know. I think it’s refreshing when you can tell that a band is tweeting, instead of their managers.
Yeah, you’re right. But then I go crazy and say really rude things to people and then I’m like, ‘Ehh, I feel bad…’ after the fact. I need some metal gloves so that I can’t type. With locks on them.
I think there’s a service that stops you from tweeting. But I think it’s if you’re drunk.
I think it’s called Social Media Sobriety Test.
[Laughs] That’s funny! That’s so funny!
Yeah, but the test is kind of too hard for sober people to do. Like saying the alphabet backwards — who can do that?
Yeah! That’s funny.
With our blog, we obviously cover social media a lot. How has your experience with social media changed over the years as a musician? You’ve been in a few bands over the years.
It’s at a higher level now, but it’s always been there. My band was at the forefront at the beginning of social media. Literally when MySpace started — our band formed before that — we didn’t realize what MySpace was actually capable of.
I’m just in that generation I guess, in the new wave of music and how it gets to fans. Shit’s always been like that — my old band until now. Talking to fans over the Internet, putting out music, selling tickets — that’s always been online.
My old video on YouTube has 35 million views from the old Escape The Fate days, and my new videos have 8 million, 4 million — they just came out like five months ago. I don’t understand, because there’s some of these bands that are way bigger than me that don’t get any views, barely. I don’t understand sometimes. I’m kind of confused, really, how I get so many views on my videos and there are bands playing arenas that don’t get that many views.
Do you think it’s the age of your fans, maybe?
Yeah, yeah, but I think they just keep watching [the videos] over and over or something. They’ll watch it like 25 times per day each or something. They watch these YouTube videos — they just go crazy. Like the first video came out and it got 100,000 videos per day; my second video got like 2 million views in a week — ‘I’m Not A Vampire.’ So they’re watching, for sure. Someone is.
So your music obviously appeals to kids who grew up with the Internet — what they call ‘digital natives.’ What do you think it is about the content of your music that appeals to these kids?
I just write from how I feel. As an outlet. When I was a kid I would listen to songs and they would be talking about certain things and I would just, somehow — even if it wasn’t accurate to my life — relate it to myself. I would somehow change certain things and relate it to me. I think a lot of kids do that in general when it comes to music.
If they look up to somebody they’re going to somehow relate it to them and their lives. I also sing about my mom leaving me a lot — a lot of kids have their moms or dads leave them, so they relate to that. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I think that’s what the kids love.
I can definitely see that. A lot of your followers on Twitter are always congratulating you for being so open.
I think it’s a sacrifice that you have to make, because you lay yourself open for people to accuse and disrespect you. But it’s worth it. It’s worth it because not too many people are too honest anymore.
Only a handful of people are honest when they sing. A lot of people sing about very vague things, or they’ll sing about someone breaking up with them, but a lot of people don’t go too deep into their past and stuff, because they don’t want it to be let out. I just do it anyway.
So how do you handle being so open when people lash out at you?
It’s just Karma, so it’s like, ‘Oh, I deserve it. I just told you all to go f**k yourselves. Obviously you’re going to say something mean to me.’ What really bothers me, what gets me mad, is when people don’t know the story, but then pretend like they know the story. That’s what bothers me. That’s what makes me mad.
But there’s nothing I can do about that, because kids want to pretend they know everything about everything. When I was younger I would do the same thing. I would argue with my friends, like, ‘No, this is what that song means because that certain person, he wrote it about him, because blah blah blah.’ I remember doing the same thing, so I can’t be mad at them. It kind of gets under my skin.
You mean like the content of this record being about your last band? [Much of The Drug In Me Is You is about parting ways with his old band, Escape The Fate.]
Yeah. A lot of people say, ‘They did this because of this.’ It’s like, ‘Be quiet. You don’t know anything. Just sing along and keep it to yourself. Don’t tweet at me about it,’ you know?
So you’re the kind of person who would rather not explain what his songs are about?
What I mean is like blatant stuff. The lyric blatantly says this, but then they’ll say something totally off the wall that it means. So what I’m saying, in a nice way, is that some kids are retarded in this generation coming up. Kids are getting less intelligent. It’s so quick and easy to — like Wikipedia for example. There’s so many lies on there about me. What? You go on there and everything’s a lie almost.
It says that there were like six different band members in Falling In Reverse before. No, there were not! Stuff like that. So the kids will go there and they’ll see that they’ll automatically assume… That’s what I’m talking about. No matter how many times you say it, they’re not going to believe the actual person.
It’s like ‘Ronnie Radke murdered someone, went to prison for two years, and now they released him.’ They released a murderer — gave him two years in prison because he murdered someone. C’mon, man. Stuff like that. That’s what I’m trying to say that makes me upset.
So if you could set the record straight for all these kids on one thing, what would it be?
I didn’t kill anyone. I’m not a murderer. I went to prison because I violated my probation.
That’s a pretty good thing to set straight.
Yeah, like kids will stand outside my bus after my show. It will be raining outside, so I won’t come out to sign stuff. Because it’s raining and I have wet hair from the show and I don’t want to get a cold. And then they’ll get mad and they’ll tweet, ‘You didn’t come out! I knew I should have listened to my mom. She said you’re a murderer and I couldn’t go to your show, but I went anyway.’
Oh, man. Those are like those moms who called KISS Satan worshippers.
Yeah, exactly. Wow, you just enlightened me. I hadn’t thought about it like that. It’s been going on for years.
It’s, funny, too, because those same moms were probably not allowed to go to shows for the same reason.
Exactly! It was probably the moms that went to go see KISS.
Now I’m curious, and this is kind of just a general genre question — how do you sing and scream all in the same song? How does that work with your voice?
A lot of bands now — not too many people sing and scream. There are lead screamers and their guitar player is screaming. I think I just got lucky. I practiced a lot when I was younger.
Photo by Ashley McGuire & Edited By Devin Taylor of Bleeding Star