With a stint booked on this summer's Warped Tour, Municipal Waste were already positioned to gain more mainstream exposure — even before an unexpected mention by comedian Kathy Griffin's attorney at a widely covered press conference.
"That was so crazy," acknowledges vocalist Tony Foresta. "I was on vacation with my girlfriend. I came out of the bathroom after a shower and I saw, like, 100 text messages about the whole thing."
Foresta is referring to the recent controversy around Griffin posing for a photo holding a fake but all-too-real-looking severed head of President Trump. She was subsequently fired by CNN as Anderson Cooper's sidekick on their New Year's Eve special. In an effort to defend Griffin, her lawyer referenced Municipal Waste, Marilyn Manson and Gwar. "The band Municipal Waste has an image of Trump with a bloody gunshot to his head on a band T-shirt," the attorney proclaimed. "They're all just considered bad boys. Unlike these male artists, Kathy apologized."
"I just think it's funny that we got called 'bad boys,'" Foresta says.
As a band best known for playing rapid-fire thrash songs about hard partying and graphically violent sci-fi movies, often featuring pointedly puerile titles (example: "Guilty of Being Tight"), Municipal Waste have never been ones for political correctness. So Foresta and his bandmates — guitarists Ryan Waste and Nick Poulos, bassist Phil "Landphil" Hall and drummer Dave Witte — seem more amused than anything to be dragged into the Griffin scandal. Though the singer does feel bad for the comic.
"Why the fuck is it a big deal that she's doing what Brujeria did [on their 1993 full-length, Matando Güeros, which depicted a purportedly real gangster holding a decapitated head on its cover], you know what I mean?" Foresta says. "Maybe it's because she's mainstream. But I think everyone should have the right to desecrate Donald Trump's body. It's just fucked up that she's being victimized for it."
True to these words, Foresta's band pulls no punches on its new album, Slime and Punishment; songs like "Shrednecks," "Bourbon Discipline" and "Low Tolerance" charge forward with the kind of classic thrash licks and hilariously sophomoric lyrics that fans have come to expect. But the record is no rehash of Municipal Waste's last LP, 2012's The Fatal Feast (Waste in Space). With Slime and Punishment, Municipal Waste — a band that fans might picture spending less time crafting songs than shotgunning beers — worked hard to challenge themselves musically. They even threw away an entire album's worth of material they weren't happy with and started again from scratch.
"The thing is, everyone had really busy touring schedules with their other bands," explains Foresta, referencing Municipal Waste side projects including Iron Reagan, Cannabis Corpse, Volture and Bat. "Two and a half years ago, when we started working on the new Municipal Waste, we liked what we were coming up with, but when we looked back at it, it wasn't up to the quality that we wanted. We were all scattered and not on the same page at that point. So we ditched, like, 12 songs, and started again."
With second guitarist Nick Poulos (Bat, Volture, ex-Cannabis Corpse) onboard, Municipal Waste were able to expand and diversify their sound. In addition to integrating their newest member, Municipal Waste have strived to balance their side projects from their main gig and taken strides to break the conception some people still have that they're little more than an exceptionally talented comedy band. We recently talked to Foresta about all the above and more.
REVOLVER Slime and Punishment is another fun, furious Municipal Waste album, but it has more diverse riffs and better mosh sections. Did you have a good time making it or was it a struggle?
TONY FORESTA We matured as a band over the past five years. We did a lot of relentless touring the first two years after we did The Fatal Feast. Touring like that was hard, so to mix things up a little, we started writing an album at around the two-and-a-half-year mark of the tour. And that turned out not to be such a good idea. So when we started writing again last year and got Nick in the band, that helped focus us even more to write a great album. The hardest thing is getting everyone on the same page, but once we're all together the good stuff happens. I think this is the best record we've ever done.
You and Land Phil toured pretty hard for Iron Reagan's last album, The Tyranny of the Will, and Phil toured with Cannabis Corpse, as well. Was it hard to get back into the Municipal Waste mindset after that?
When you're working with different people, everyone has different ways of doing stuff. In Iron Reagan, we write stuff differently, but it's also refreshing to play with people that you haven't seen in a while. The frustrating part is coordinating the schedules and getting everyone to focus at the same time.
You guys recorded and then scrapped a whole Municipal Waste record.
That was when the Iron Reagan tour schedule started. It got pretty crazy so we wrote every once in a while for Municipal Waste. By the time we got together to do the demo five months later we forgot how we did the songs. So we changed things around and tried to get focused again. It was overwhelming at times. I still have demos of a bunch of the songs. They have lyrics and vocals and everything. But it wasn't clicking. The stuff didn't make us go, "All right, cool. That's a great song."
You're a crossover-thrash band with a reputation for being goofballs and drinking heavily. It might surprise people that you scrapped a whole album and didn't go, "Yeah, fuck it, that's good enough. Now, where' the bong?"
We're goofy, but we take our music very seriously and we tour really hard. We make sure our instruments are tuned and everything sounds as good as it can. We care about it, and not just for us. We really want to deliver something that people want to listen to. So, we take that shit real seriously — even though we are ridiculous human beings.
Why did you decide to bring Nick Poulos into the band?
I have been trying to get him in for years. I always wanted a second guitar player for live because it pushes the sound and makes it real heavy. There's only a few people in the world that we all get along with and want to be around, so that was always kind of an issue, but everyone agreed Nick was perfect. He helped to inspire everyone to write stuff. Plus, he had some good ideas of his own.
How do you know him?
He's been a friend of mine for over 10 years. We're both from Florida. I got him a gig for playing in D.R.I. five or six years ago when Spike Cassidy was sick. They had to play a show in South America and didn't know what to do. I said, "Look, I know a solid dude that will rip a guitar," and sure enough he learned the songs, flew down there and three days later he was jamming with them. That's the kinda guy he is. He is a stand-up dude.
You released your breakthrough album, The Art of Partying, almost exactly 10 years ago. At the time, you were lumped into a scene of retro thrash revivalists that included bands like Evile, Warbringer, Bonded by Blood and Toxic Holocaust. Did that help push you to the next rung of popularity?
I don't know, but we kinda hated that. The reason we were grouped in with them was because the label we were on [Earache Records] were trying to sign on any thrash band at the time and attach them to us. It was strange. They wanted us to be the flagbearer for them and I was like, "C'mon, dude. I don't even listen to half this shit." I think Toxic Holocaust is great, but a lot of the other bands were forced and weirdly trendy. They were way oversaturated and cheapened everything.
Was that offensive to you as dedicated crossover revivalists?
It just seemed contrived. I mean, every fucking band had a neon green logo. It made us like, "Ugh!" You wouldn't believe the amount of times that our label tried to get us to take out those bands on tour. And if we didn't want to listen to their music or tour with them, then we didn't do it. We stuck to our guns. And that's what we still do today.