Municipal Waste Smash Skulls On “Electrified Brain” (Interview)
Richmond, Virginia’s hard-partying, crossover thrash metal mutants, Municipal Waste, have unashamedly stuck to their guns since its 2001 formation and has become one of the leading bands in the so-called thrash metal revival. On its seventh full-length album Electrified Brain, Municipal Waste does what it does best, and that’s to create fast, fun, raging, ripping, punky-thrash metal. Continuing on with their vocalist Tony Foresta, guitarists Ryan Waste and Nick Poulos, drummer Dave Witte and bassist LandPhil Hall, the band preserve its signature sound on the new album.
After 21 years, Municipal Waste still know how to party—as well as put on a high-energy show. The band sounds severely lethal, a trait it has perfected since its formation. The quintet took a bit more time to craft its latest record — mostly due to the global pandemic — but they definitely used their time wisely to create 14 blistering tracks. However, after relocating to Florida a couple of years ago, Foresta found it difficult to get together with the rest of the band to work on songs. Plus, when Covid-19 hit, they found themselves even further apart from collaborating together. In fact, the sessions for this album’s recording is the first time the band reunited in person after more than a year. During a recent phone interview, Foresta talked about the writing and recording process for the new album, the band’s signature sound, its members’ other musical projects, Municipal Waste’s own beer brand and more.
The new album features more of the same great Municipal Waste anthems. What were you trying to achieve with this record?
We've never really tried to change our style, because that's not really the kind of band we want to be. I feel like we just want to improve the style that we're good at, or the style that we like playing. The stuff that we like, that we thought we were good at and that we enjoy playing, we just try to grow from that rather than trying to write some fucking bullshit.
Was there anything different that you wanted to experiment with, either with the tones or the dynamics or the tempos, that you haven't tried before?
We switch up the tempo a little bit more on this record. There's a little bit more of a heavy metal influence on this record, which we kind of delved into a little bit more because we’ve just been listening to that shit a little bit more lately. I think we wanted to have the production sound a little bit heavier, and a little bit tougher sounding than some of the stuff we've done in the past. Some of the records in the past sounded a little thinner than what we were intending it to come off as. So we were very careful as far as wanting it to sound a bit thicker.
There's a lot of thick grooves and some great chugging riffs, it seems like you're more focused on creating for the song; the song structures as a whole.
I'm not even sure how that progressed into that. But it might have a lot to do with having two guitar players, where we're locking in tighter; a little bit differently. Sometimes, when you slow the beat down a little bit, it's easier to pick it and it sounds heavier when there's two guitars doing that. So maybe that's just something that kind of bled into the songwriting that we’ve just been kind of learning now that Nick’s been an addition to the band. I don’t really think about it because I don’t really play an instrument.
Around 2018’s The Last Rager, I think you guys were already starting to write for this new album. Originally, you were planning for a mid-2020 release, but of course Covid-19 fucked that all up. But did this delay actually allow you to hone your craft and work on the song structures more?
Yeah, for the most part. We were already well into writing the album when Covid-19 hit. We were actually kind of rushing it to get it done going on tour with the Black Dahlia Murder and Testament. We were rushing to get our shit straight before that tour and then Covid-19 happened. Then Tom Hanks got Covid-19 and everything shut down! He started the panic (laughs). So, obviously we weren’t going to go on tour anytime soon. After we got over the initial depression of it setting in, we just said, “Fuck it man,” and just focused on writing music. We just looked at the slate we had, and figured out what we could improve on the songs and just kept writing and then we went back to some of the songs that we threw away and fixed them. We did take great advantage of the time that we had at home, rather than trying to push out a record in the middle of the pandemic.
I think the band sounds tight as hell on this album. What's the camaraderie or musical chemistry like between all you guys, especially once you get on stage?
Obviously, writing and playing live is a totally different beast. It's a little bit more stressful writing, but when you get it done, it's really rewarding. The first shows back were pretty incredible for us. I moved away about a year before the pandemic happened. I had already left, so when I was going to start flying back to record, the pandemic was already in full swing. By the time we actually played shows, it would have been over two years. Besides the recording session, it was over two years when I was on stage with them in the same room playing music besides the recording. So that was pretty crazy. It was almost two years in the recording session, actually. And then it was an additional six to eight months before we actually played a show again.
What was your lyrical inspiration this time around? Are there phrases or certain words kicking around in a notebook or your head for future development? How do you go about crafting lyrics to the music?
Yeah, there's definitely developmental ideas. Stuff that's on this record were ideas from about three records ago; The Fatal Feast (Waste in Space). There’s songs on The Fatal Feast that were ideas from The Art of Partying, we're just bouncing around ideas. I keep a lot of ideas in the chamber and on deck for creative purposes. There's all sorts of themes as far as the album goes lyrically. My favorite is we did one about this riot at a baseball game in Cleveland and that song's called “Ten Cent Beer Night.” It's actually a true story, which it sounds like it's a story that we would make up, but it actually happened. And of course it happened in Cleveland!
The cover art created by James Bousema is really cool and the colors really stand out. He’s a relative newcomer of an illustrator compared to Ed Repka, Andrei Bouzikov and others who you’ve used on previous covers. How did you decide on him, what was the concept and what direction did you give him?
Our friend Gerardo told us we needed to check this dude out. His artwork is killer and we were lurking on his Instagram. This guy can do multiple styles, and is very versatile and creative as well. That's how Andrei Bouzikov is, too. And that's what we were kind of looking for, just someone fresh in there who was a fan of the band as well. So that was really cool. Once we threw the idea out at him, he had the cover done in about a month. I think it was a really fast turnaround. I think we only had to go back and forth with him a couple of times, where sometimes with artists you have to go back a lot. Especially me and Ryan, art wise, we're the most picky human beings on the planet and we’re kind of a pain in the ass to work with in that aspect. But, it comes out cool. Everybody seems to be happy with it. I really love what James did. He was definitely one of the easiest people we've worked with.
All of the Municipal Waste members are also involved in other projects such as Volture, Cannabis Corpse and your own band Iron Reagan. What’s the latest news on it? The last full-length was 2017’s Crossover Ministry but you also did a split with Sacred Reich in 2019.
This record took a lot out of me. We really poured our hearts into it and worked our asses off on this record. I didn't want to get distracted with other projects. We already put Iron Reagan on the back burner in 2019 anyway, just because me and Phil were just kind of overworked already. (With) me relocating to Florida also puts an extra workload on what I'm trying to do. The main thing was definitely getting situated, moving down here and getting my life in order, focusing on my shit. And Municipal Waste’s new record. That was all I've been focused on. I don't really think that Iron Reagan is going to be active for an extremely long time. That's not even in the cards right now. Everyone else is working on new projects; Ryan's doing BAT, and Phil has a new black metal project coming out. And I'm doing a new band down here. I have my own little Florida band with Paul (Mazurkiewicz) from Cannibal Corpse. We'll be releasing a song in a week or so; everyone's just kind of growing in different directions.
How did you get Mark “Barney” Greenway from Napalm Death to guest on “Putting On Errors”?
That song and a song called “The Bite,” where we have Blaine (Cook) from the Accused doing guest vocals on it. That song is kind of funny lyrically, it's got a funny theme. Obviously, it’s a play on words, it’s about doing your own shit and not worrying about other people's expectations of you, especially society's expectations of what's right and how people should act. I thought it'd be a funny song. If you knew Barney, he's got a good sense of humor and definitely has his qualms about society's expectations. We thought it'd be a cool song to have him do guest vocals on. It’s one of those punkier, fast kind of songs. It's kind of cool to hear him sing and do vocals on a song of that style.
The album was produced by Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Code Orange), who has produced a lot of bands. What were you going for sound wise?
We always tell the person recording us that we want to sound like we sound live, but heavier. Everyone always wants it heavier. Our live sound comes off pretty aggressive, and we want to capture that. Arthur has as a background in hardcore punk and metal and heavy metal, which is all the kinds of shit that we're into. So I think it was the best idea to have him do the record because when we tell him shit like that, he knows exactly what we're talking about. I think he was able to get what we had in mind. I think I really liked what he did with the drums, too. I think the drums sound pretty fucking crazy on that record. It sounds like it has a big ol’ butt on it! (laughs)
I believe you’ll have a new beer offering from Three Floyds Brewing soon. The most important question is, how many free cases do you get from each batch?
Three Floyds is one of our favorite breweries. They do Zombie Dust, Dark Lord. They have a ton of killer shit. We’re very excited to have killer fucking beer coming out again with those guys. It’s not our first beer we’ve done with them, but hopefully it won't be the last as well because we're really stoked on. The artwork is insane. I can't wait for people to see it. I think this is more of a sit on the beach and drink, or sit in the backyard chugging kind of thing. They hook us up. Not only do they give us our own beer, but they fucking load us up with their other beers, too. And that's good company to be in.
With this new album just freshly released, what's next for Municipal Waste, including touring plans?
We’ll be in your area in mid-August with At The Gates; we’re doing a little full run of the US with them. And then we're playing a festival in Virginia. Then we're going to shoot over to Europe and play with Anthrax. We're going to do six weeks over there with them. That should be a killer tour. That's pretty much what the plan is right now, and that's enough for us, especially just for the rest of this year. We don’t even know what we're doing next year yet.
Electrified Brain released on July 1st via Nuclear Blast.