Interview: Tony Foresta (Municipal Waste, Iron Reagan)
The members of Municipal Waste are a busy bunch these days. Bassist LandPhil and frontman Tony Foresta just finished a tour last month in Iron Reagan, while drummer David Witte and Brain Tentacles wrapped their Spring Fling mini-tour mere days ago. Yet, amid all the band’s many side projects, they’ve still found time to record a new Municipal Waste album, Slime and Punishment. Slated for release in early summer 2017, it will be the band’s first since 2012’s The Fatal Feast. Invisible Oranges caught up with Tony Foresta by phone to discuss the new album, new band member, and the state of modern thrash metal.
Where are you now as we’re speaking?
I was standing over Sharon Tate's grave in Hollywood right now. It was pretty cool. I was just wandering around this graveyard.
That's pretty wild. What are you guys doing in Hollywood?
We just flew out here to do press for our new record. We played a show [Decibel Metal and Beer Fest] in Philly Saturday night and then just took a couple days to do interviews and finishing touches on the new album.
Well, let's talk about the new album. It's the first for the Waste in a number of years. What's it like to be recording with Municipal Waste again?
It's fun, man. We're all kind of doing our other projects so we know how it's done and we've been working with each other for so long so we just kind of got in there and busted it out, but it took a long time to write the damn thing. We wrote a lot of stuff that we didn't like and stuff that just didn't fit so we actually wrote a whole record and then scrapped it and then wrote a whole other album, so Slime and Punishment is the second attempt at writing an album. And this one, we're actually really pleased with it.
It's always better to wait for a good project than rush a bad one.
That's exactly what we were stuck with, you know? We were in that position where we first thought "We gotta get it done!" And then we were like, "Yeah, no we don't. We've just got to get it done right."
The fans certainly will appreciate it. Let's talk about any lyrical themes or concepts on the new album. Art of Partying, and Hazardous Mutation had a sort-of theme going with Troma, comic violence, stuff like that. How about the new record?
I would say it's a little mix of those two. We definitely took it back to Troma, the weird world of Municipal Waste song lyrics. It's kind of its own planet. It’s kinda fun, but it's still pretty pissed off sounding. We did dial it back to some of the older records, I think, but the sound of it has definitely matured. One of my friends said it sounded like our grown-up album.
Between songs like "Bourbon Discipline", "Parole Violators" and the title track, I sense a pervasive theme of authority and consequence. What motivated the creation of so many songs that had that feel to them?
I'm not sure. We've always been kind of rebellious, for lack of a better word. We definitely have had a "fuck you" vibe to everything. So I don't know, maybe just a lot of pent up stuff has happened in the past five years since we've written. The better songs that we wanted to keep for the album were the more pissed off ones. I don't think it was necessarily a thing we were trying to do, have this album say, "Fuck the cops, man," or anything like that.
Let's talk a little bit about your new member, Nick Poulos. What motivated the search for a second guitarist?
For me, it was for live purposes. I thought we didn't sound as heavy live as we did on the records. I wanted to have a bigger sound as far as the guitars went, and personality-wise it helped out a lot too because he's an old friend of ours and he's real laid back and he's just fun to be around. So having an extra person in the mix to mix our personalities up a little bit more was also helpful. I think that made the songwriting process go by a little easier too. He was a helpful addition in many ways, so we're glad to have him on board. We've known him for so long and it wasn't like, "Here's a new guy in the band." It was just like, "Oh, Nick's here now." We've been friends with him for so long. Ryan's in bands with him, Phil's been in Cannabis Corpse with him, we just all knew each other really well.
When you decided you wanted a second guitar player, did you already have Nick in mind?
Man, I've had Nick in mind for over five years. Probably like seven years. And then finally, when everybody came to the agreement of having another guitar player, it was obviously he was gonna be the person that we were gonna get. Everyone kind of just agreed on it.
Municipal Waste brings everybody back from all their side projects to a thrash-metal center. What do you feel is the role of a modern thrash band in the broader metal community today?
I think there's a lot more of it now than when we started. I think when we were a band it was kind of like almost a novelty to be a thrash band. People almost thought we were a joke band because it was so ridiculous and there weren't any new bands playing that sort of music. I think it's a lot more respected now. People just said, "Oh, well, this new thrash wave's gonna die," or whatever. They just didn't really take a lot of those bands seriously. But I think we kind of survived that whole thing just with being around for so long.
I remember first hearing you guys when Hazardous Mutation came out and you're right, there weren't a lot of new thrash bands. But right after that, we had Evile and Toxic Holocaust. Toxic Holocaust are still gigging so I think you're right about thrash.
Even the old guys are more relevant now, like Death Angel. They did The Big Four tour a few years ago and everybody was just so stoked about thrash music again. It was almost like something that people were embarrassed to say they liked when we were a new band. When we first started it was almost frowned upon and mocked to be a thrash band. It was really strange. But now the old guys are back at it again. A lot of those bands reunited. Exodus got Souza back in the band.
Municipal Waste started when you were all younger and at different stages in your lives than you are now. How do you think growing older has affected your attitudes toward the music, the lyrics and the lifestyle?
I didn't think that I'd still be doing this band 15 years later. I always thought I'd be playing in bands doing punk shows and all that sort of thing. I didn't think that this would be how my life would be right now, that, I'd be just all over the world, playing shows. I'm honored. I feel really lucky to do this. It's hard sometimes. We don't make a lot of money. You don't really make a lot of money nowadays playing music. You have to tour a lot to do that. So for a profession, just been in punk bands my whole life, it just kind of sucked me in and now I'm like, "I love it." I don't really care. It's just a part of me.
You said that one of your friends said that this was certainly one of your more grown-up sounding albums, and I agree. What has led to the more mature sound for Municipal Waste?
I would say that we're more conscious now, when we write shit, if we can play it live. Where we would just kind of like throw a bunch of shit together and see what would work, you know? And now it's like, "Oh, that would be difficult to play live. Let's try it this way, it would sound better." We just wanted to tighten up the songs for like a live setting.
Between all the band's side projects you guys still found time to write two albums and record one new one. How do you find the time to do all this stuff?
It's fucking weird. We just work on our demos and write shit while we're on the road. You’ve just got to take a certain amount of time out during the day and put time aside and make sure that shit gets done and accomplished and you do it right and you don't rush it. Both bands are important to me, so I’ve got to make sure that I'm not neglecting one of them. It's tough, but I think communication is key. You have to make sure that everybody's on the same page and nobody's surprised by anything.
How does Municipal Waste fit into the hierarchy of all the things that keep everybody busy? Is it a huge priority or do you have to struggle to not pick between children?
This band's definitely the priority. It's our biggest band and there's a lot of people relying on us. It's not just the band members, there's also the fans. There's a lot of fucking people out there that rely on us. They want this shit and you got to keep in mind not to let those people down as well. And you don't wanna let your band mates down and the people that are involved, that are close to you, your record label people that actually give a fuck and the people that work hard for you. It's not just a one-man show. A lot of people are behind this, it's a fucking team, so you kind of have that on your shoulders. You don't want to blow off one band for another. You've got to make sure that things are happening for everyone.