Friday, April 3, 2015

Ronnie Radke: What I Learned From The Scene’s Most Controversial Frontman

How his actions both inspire me and teach me what not to do

I could go on for hours about how music is the air that fills my lungs, a colorful decoration of time and space that gives my life purpose and makes me feel absolutely every emotion that exists and more. But if you’re reading this, there is a good chance you feel the same way, or at least understand what I’m talking about. That being said, I’m just going to write about one person: Ronnie Radke. 

Now stop. Wipe that look off your face. This isn’t what you think it is, an endless list of praises and attempts at redemption that you’ve heard a thousand times before. I am not a fan of Ronnie Radke, nor am I one of his many haters. But he intrigues me. I am drawn to the story of one of the most controversial, troubled rock stars alive today. Ronnie Radke is important to me not because I look up to him, but because I believe I can learn from his successes and failures. 

Let’s start from the beginning, when he lived out your typical underdog story. Coming from a poor, broken family in Las Vegas, he started playing music at a very young age and was in bands with his best friend Max Green. He became successful with Escape the Fate’s first album, Dying Is Your Latest Fashion. His story of starting at the bottom and rising up inspires many people, myself included. His early years teach me that no matter your situation, there is hope as long as you realize your dreams and hold onto them with unparalleled tenacity, even if you have to claw your way to the top. 

However, Ronnie developed a drug addiction during his time in Escape the Fate and was kicked out of the band. Lesson #1: Don’t get addicted to drugs. Seriously, this is a prime example as to how they can literally ruin your entire life.

Although a drug addiction might be rock bottom for some, it only got worse for Ronnie. He found himself on the run from the police and served two and a half years in prison for probation violation (although Max Green says it’s mostly because of the fact that he was addicted to a potentially lethal combination of heroin, cocaine, and painkillers). Lesson #2: Don’t get mixed up with the law. Just do your best to stay out of trouble because sticky situations can get really, really sticky. 

I think it’s safe to call this point his all time low. Sitting in his prison cell, Ronnie spewed out hate on the internet directed at Escape the Fate’s new vocalist Craig Mabbitt and his ex-best friend, Max Green. Ego unchecked, he often wrote things like “it will always be my band” and “no one can ever replace me”. Lesson #3: Hate and an ego won’t get you anywhere. Not only did fans follow his example and create conflicts with ETF, but all the hate from Ronnie certainly didn’t gain him positive attention. All the hateful energy he expelled did nothing but create a poisonous atmosphere surrounding him and Escape the Fate.

He also started a new band in prison, From Behind These Walls, which later became Falling In Reverse. However, he then did two things that apparently you can’t do in prison: got into a fight and got a tattoo. And then he found himself in solitary confinement. Fans may cringe at these parts of his history, as he seems irredeemable at this point. But it’s at this point when I think he does something truly amazing: composes a majority of The Drug In Me Is You while in solitary confinement, without the use of any instruments. Admit it, you probably like that album, or at least a few songs. Because it’s really good. And it came out of a prison cell. This is why I don’t try to deny that he’s an amazing musician, and that side of Ronnie definitely inspires me. He has a incredible talent and creativity, as well as a stop-at-nothing do-it-yourself attitude, which is something I think we all should strive for. 

Ronnie Radke, credit: Alternative Press #307.2
So he got out of prison in 2010 and, completely undeterred, began his ascent to rock stardom again, this time with Falling In Reverse. Sure, he definitely still had some low points, like throwing kids out of his shows, being accused of domestic battery (which he vehemently denies), throwing mic stands into the crowd (which caused two people to sustain head injuries), and still dishing out the hate to Escape the Fate.

But I’d like to think he’s learned from these incidents. The Bury The Hatchet Tour in 2014 with both bands did exactly what the name suggests, he and Max Green are friends again, he stopped throwing kids out of shows, and he’s promised to never throw another mic stand. This by no means excuses what he’s done and I will never deny that he has made a lot of mistakes. But I hope that his fans can look at these incidents not as something to excuse but as things to learn from. Ronnie Radke is a prime example of someone who does bad things and definitely feels the karma come back to him. He exemplifies the notion that doing the wrong thing truly does have repercussions, which is important for fans to understand. Despite his mistakes, he teaches defiance in his actions and lets nothing stand in his way. Ronnie Radke is an example, good and bad, and his actions can teach us a lot if we’re willing to learn.