MUNICIPAL WASTE – Monster With Four Faces
It was publicly announced on June 16th, 2011 that Richmond, Virginia-based thrashers Municipal Waste had inked an album contract with Nuclear Blast Records. Inaugural outing proper Waste ’Em All arrived in January 2003 through Six Weeks Records, and was preceded by a self-titled EP in 2001. Full-lengths two through to four had been issued via Earache Records, namely August 2005’s Hazardous Mutation, June 2007’s The Art Of Partying, and August 2009’s Massive Aggressive.
“We had finished our contract with Earache, which was for three records,” explains Ryan Waste, guitarist and co-founder of Municipal Waste. “We decided to move on, and Nuclear Blast had been actually talking to us for a long time. We had developed friendships with people at the label, and it was just pretty much a no-brainer for us. They wanted to let the band be more creative and give us control over what we’re doing, and give us better distribution. It just seemed like a win-win situation for us.”
Such comments suggest that Municipal Waste were given less creative control in the past, but the axeman replies that this isn’t the case. “No,” he insists. “I felt like we were limited though. We always had creative control, but we always wanted to do more vinyl releases and stuff like that and work with smaller labels. Nuclear Blast is letting us do things like that; we’re doing records on other labels and split records. They’re into letting us have more output as a band, whereas we were limited before.”
April 2012 record The Fatal Feast is the first Municipal Waste affair to be issued through this fresh agreement. “We actually took a year off to write this record, which we’d never done before,” Ryan discloses. “We had always been on tour, and we were just rushing through the studio. We never really had time to sit down, and focus on writing and recording. We made a point of ‘Hey, you know what? This is a transition for the band, and we’re switching labels. We have time. Let’s just take our time for once.’
“The year 2011 we dedicated to writing, so we went into the studio really refreshed and actually dedicated the time we wanted towards the record. It made us have our own sanity. It’s like a mental thing – it’s less stress. When there’s a time limit on things you start to stress out, and you end up losing years off of your life thinking about whether you could have done better if you had had the time. I think it’s just more of a mental thing, just to have more time. I think it really shows with this record.”
In rushing to compose and record an album, musical parts sometimes surface which might not have otherwise. “There’s always something you want to change,” the musician agrees. “You always go ‘Oh, I wish I did this differently,’ but with this record I don’t have that. That doesn’t even exist on this record, and that’s a first for me personally. I’m very proud of everything we’ve done, and we’re such a fast-paced band that there’s really no room for looking back anyway. Some parts are over before you know it. It’s hard to pick out certain things, but I’m the only one that does anyway.”
The Fatal Feast was self-produced. “We’ve never worked with a producer, and we probably never will,” Ryan proclaims. “We knew what we wanted it to sound like. Municipal Waste is the producer of course. Our bass player Land Phil (Philip Hall) is currently working on becoming an engineer, and he’s actually recorded demos of us this entire time. He’s just learning as he goes. He’s actually probably becoming someone that could be an engineer, and that definitely helps the band because it’s all practice for him.”
By its given title 2009’s Massive Aggressive featured aggression, though its successor possibly has a greater claim to the moniker. “We try to raise the bar for each album, so we tried to basically outdo the record that was before it,” the composer surmises. “We did Massive Aggressive in 2009, and I actually feel this record is more aggressive than Massive Aggressive. We’re always trying to outdo ourselves with the intensity in the songwriting. We try to step it up; I guess we try to make an angry sounding record every time. I’m definitely happier with this album.”
The Fatal Feast’s artwork was designed by Justin Osbourne. “If you look at the album cover, it’s based on the title track which is actually a concept we’ve had for about ten years – ‘The Fatal Feast’,” Ryan divulges. “It’s about a space voyage gone wrong where the crew become cannibals and eat the captain for lack of food, and they begin to disembowel and eat his intestines out. They actually live as cannibals in space after that. We thought it was a cool concept, and we always wanted to see the artwork come to life.
“We had never worked with Justin before though. He was suggested by someone at the label who had seen his artwork, and sent us a link. We checked it out; I looked at it, and the rest of the band did. We were really just impressed, because it turned out to be one of the coolest covers we’ve had. I thought it looked like old horror movie advertising; some of the artwork looked like old horror posters, and we’re very obsessed with horror movies and stuff. I got to work back and forth with Justin, and gave him the basics of the concept. I showed him the artwork for the Waste ’Em All record. I told him to recreate the character on that cover, but put it in a more futuristic setting in space, make it more intense and step it up for where the band is now. I think he totally captured that in the art. He was actually really great to work with, and I would definitely work with him again.”
Old school artwork’s presence on Municipal Waste artwork is very much a conscious decision. “It’s a very extremely conscious thing,” the guitarist concurs. “All I listen to is old school metal, and I feel like the artwork is just as important as the music. It’s a visual thing. I love LP records because the art is big; you just pick it up, look at it, and you know that this is gonna be cool. Every kid in the record store sees it, and it’s visually stimulating. I think it’s very important, but a lot of bands don’t seem to care about that as much. We have always been real big on having the old school album art though. I prefer real paintings.
“The Fatal Feast’s artwork is actually done by hand, though I think Justin did use some digital colouring in there. It’s hard to move away from that now with production, but I think it’s a mixture of both in this case. That’s futuristic, so it fits in with the album.”
Ryan is thoroughly pleased with the guitar tone he achieved in recording The Fatal Feast. “I was going for more of an organic, natural tone,” he informs. “Not super over-distorted. I wanted it to have clarity on this record, so in terms of the tone I’m really happy that I achieved it. I then did some more lead guitar work which I haven’t done very much in the past, so I’m pretty proud that there’s some solos on the record. I just try to step it up a little bit more with each album, and add some more lead guitar. We ran it through a few different amps. I can’t give away all of my secrets (laughs), but we had a few tricks up our sleeve. Yeah, I’m totally happy with how it’s turned out. It’s classic wave stuff with a little bit more of a flow.”
A long-standing assortment from the industrial fringes of Birmingham happens to be the axeman’s favourite. “My favourite band to date – and ever since I was a kid – is Judas Priest,” he acknowledges. “Without knowing it, Glenn Tipton has always been an influence in the back of my head. Whether or not it shows through in the later stuff I don’t know, but it’s definitely there. I grew up on Slayer of course, so Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman are the foundation for me playing fast, kind of aggressive speed metal I think. It definitely goes back to Slayer for me, their early albums mainly. Show No Mercy (December 1983), Hell Awaits (September 1985) and stuff. That’s how I got started off, and I think it still holds up. I love Reign In Blood (October 1986), but I’ve heard that album way too much. Show No Mercy is the one that stands the test of time for me. That’s the one I can go back and listen to all the time. After Seasons In The Abyss (October 1990), I stopped really being into them. It kinda went downhill for me.”
Growing up, Ryan was actually a bassist. “I played bass for far longer than I have played guitar, so on guitar I still feel like I’m learning a lot of stuff,” he admits. “I think every guitar player is forever learning; anyone who says they’ve got it mastered is full of shit. I think playing bass helps as a rhythm player though, and keeping time. It laid the foundation for me I guess which helps me just to stay steady, but when I play bass people tell me I play bass like a guitar player. Maybe I knew it was my calling to play guitar as well, but I still enjoy playing bass. I play bass in another band called Volture, so I’m getting to do both. It’s pretty cool.
“We’re more a band that’s based on riffs mind, so I think that as long as we can generate these riffs that make a better song then that’s what counts. I’ve always been lucky enough to be able to generate that, though it’s hard to talk about yourself and how you’ve done. I still feel like I’m improving; if I learn a new trick I’m gonna put it on the new record, and you can hear that on some of the solos that I’m doing.”
Steve Moore of space rock duo Zombi penned the intro to the title cut. “We had wanted a more horror movie soundtrack-type intro for the record, and luckily Dave Witte our drummer was friends with Steve,” the musician notes. “He was like ‘Hey, I’ll just call the guy from Zombi,’ and everyone was like ‘Perfect.’ If anyone could nail that type of sound it would be him, and luckily through Dave we knew him. We just contacted him, told him the key that the song was in, and what we wanted. I just told him ‘I want it to sound like a John Carpenter score, like from a John Carpenter movie.’ Obviously being a sci-fi / horror fan himself he knew exactly what to do, and he just created an awesome intro I think for the title track and for the album. It truly sets the tone of the record. All we had to actually do to pay the guy was buy him a bunch of fancy beer, and that was his payment for the song. It was very cool.”
John Connelly of New York City-based thrashers Nuclear Assault lent vocals to the tune. “We’ve been huge Nuclear Assault fans ever since we were young and started the band,” Ryan beams. “We played with them years ago and became friends, so we just reached out to them and called them. We felt like the riff on the song that I wrote kinda sounded like Nuclear Assault, and you could just hear his voice over it. All we did was reach out, and he was more than happy to record the vocals for it. It sounds cool.”
Directed by Jeff Speed, a music video for the title track was filmed in Los Angeles. “We did a gory version, which is probably the most gory thing we’ve done,” the songwriter reckons. “We did a lot of sci-fi / horror effects. It basically looks like the album cover. We went into a spaceship setting, and we’re basically the crew acting out the lyrics of the song.
“We also filmed a video for the song ‘Repossession’, where we’re repo men. Municipal Waste is confiscating cars, and everything. It was done with David Brodsky who did the ‘Wrong Answer’ video, and the ‘Wolves Of Chernobyl’ video. We like to stick with the same people that know how we work.”
Horror is a colossal influence on Municipal Waste. “A huge, humongous influence,” Ryan stresses. “I feel like in the lyric writing we basically created our own horror stories, and our own Municipal Waste mythology with these songs. I think a lot of the songs that we wrote could be horror movie scripts or short stories. We all grew up on these horror movies, so I think it’s always stuck with us and is always a part of us with the artwork and the lyrical content.”
Horror’s influence on Municipal Waste extends to the quartet’s introductory tracks. “When John Carpenter would do the score for his movies, that stuff influences the intro and bands like Goblin and stuff like that with the keyboard intros that they have,” the guitarist recognises. “With Dario Argento, the movie Opera has a speed metal soundtrack. Phenomena (1985) and Demons (1985), with all those movies that Dario Argento did you could tell he was a heavy metal fan. He would have Accept on the soundtrack, Motörhead, and Iron Maiden, and then Steel Grave was a fictional band in Opera. They had a speed metal band play every time the killer would come out and kill someone. This speed metal song would kick in by a band called Steel Grave, which was an Italian band that was made up just for the movie. I think that was the coolest thing ever; if the music starts, you know someone is about to die. That stuff is an influence I think. I just think it goes hand in hand; people that love old school horror movies tend to like heavy metal too, which is kind of a cultural thing I think.”
A wide spectrum of horror movies figure among Ryan’s favourites. “I like a lot of the old Dario Argento movies – Profondo Rosso (1975), Opera (1987), and The Church (1989),” he enthuses. “I also like some more campy stuff like Blood Sucking Freaks (1976). Of course I like John Carpenter’s They Live (1988) and The Thing (1982), and sci-fi based stuff like Galaxy Of Terror (1981), more obscure space horror. I like the old stuff, man. I don’t like the current state of horror. I think with new movies there’s too many pop culture references in them and too much dialogue, where they don’t leave some suspense. As far as horror movies, older movies had silence where you could use your imagination to think about what’s happening. That’s instead of someone talking to you the whole time, listening to their fucking iPod on the screen, and plugging all these companies and stuff. It just seems like so many references to pop cultures have come into play in movies now, whereas in the old days the mood was totally different and you could use your imagination more.
“It’s kind of like music; I don’t like much new music either. A lot of it is the production. It seems overproduced, and a lot of the sounds like the triggers on drums just sound so fake. I feel like everything is too clean. There’s no rawness to it, and I like analogue recordings. I listen to vinyl mainly. New music just doesn’t do it for me the way the old stuff does. I like a little bit of a raw quality to it.”
Horror might be a substantial influence on Municipal Waste, but that isn’t to say the genre wholly permeates The Fatal Feast’s compositions. “There’s one track called ‘Jesus Freaks’, which is actually based on a story that Tony (Foresta, vocals) created,” the axeman mentions. “Religious people will come and try to put their religious propaganda on you, and it’s about a guy who pretended to be into the religion. He wanted to play a joke on them basically, and be like ‘Oh yeah, this is great. I wanna be a follower of your religion.’ He gets in too deep, and finds that it’s a religious cult more than he thought. They find out that he’s being false and trying to play a joke on them, and they close in on him and try to murder him and sacrifice him. It’s a joke gone wrong. Then there’s a song called ‘The Monster With 21 Faces’, which is based on a true story about a Japanese serial killer who was never caught. He would actually write letters to the police giving clues away, and he called himself The Monster With 21 Faces. The police got so stressed out and freaked out by it that some of them started to commit suicide over it from not being able to solve the case. It just got to them so much. We have some songs like that. Some are based on reality, some are made up.”
Formerly of rock outfit Avail, vocalist Tim Barry guests on the track ‘Standards And Practices’. “He’s actually an old friend of the band’s, an old Richmond punk rocker,” Ryan reflects. “In Avail he was a metalhead back in the day, so he can definitely relate to the punk rock and the metal output that we make. Actually, our singer Tony surprised us by having him do guest vocals – we didn’t know he was gonna do that. He went into the studio, laid it down, and then we came to hear it. It seemed like it fitted really well, so we were happy with that. It’s more of a political song, a little more of a serious song. It’s about the government oppressing people, and more calling bullshit on the government. Standing up for your rights, don’t follow the mould that they’ve created for you, and do your own thing. The Occupy Wallstreet situation, it’s kind of referring to that. It’s funny though because we wrote the song before any of that was happening. It’s a basic punk rock lifestyle attitude. Tim is more of an activist type person, and into bringing issues to the table.”
More political fare will likely not become a facet of future Municipal Waste albums, though. “We try to stay away from it, to tell you the truth,” the musician confesses. “There are enough bands preaching to people, and we’ve never been a band that’s like that. We touch on this stuff on maybe one song on a record. It’s never gonna be a big mission. This band is more about having fun, and more fantasy oriented stuff. I don’t think we’re ever gonna turn into a huge political band. I definitely don’t care to.”
Municipal Waste are due to release a split vinyl with Portland, Oregon-based thrashers Toxic Holocaust dubbed the Toxic Waste split. “That’s actually gonna be out on Tankcrimes Records, which is a label of a friend of ours out in California,” Ryan tells. “I think we’re actually gonna do special vinyl releases of The Fatal Feast. We’re working on a pop-up book gatefold record where the record opens and the artwork pops up, and we’re gonna have a big packaging thing with that too with some bonus T-shirts, posters and stuff like that. That’s being worked out right now. We’re doing a seven-inch with Scion A/V as well, so we’re doing all these cool little vinyl releases which is what we wanna do.”
“I like to buy vinyl,” he continues. “I usually buy used records, but I’m not against downloading music. Some stuff you can never find on LP, or it’s too expensive. It’s old, rare stuff. I’ll download old music, but I definitely don’t buy music from iTunes and stuff like that. I don’t think it’s necessary, and I don’t actually have a problem with people downloading free music. It’s never bothered me. I mean, I do it. I don’t care if people download my music for free. It’s fine with me.”
The composer dislikes the compact disc format. “I don’t like the packaging,” he complains. “It’s just kind of crappy.”
The long play (LP) record is Ryan’s format of choice, as can be ascertained from his comments throughout this feature. “I have two Technix turntables actually. I DJ vinyl records in my spare time; I do a heavy metal DJ night and I bring my record players to the bar, so I have a whole set-up with a mixer and two turntables. I do the same thing in my house – I have it set up. It’s old school, 1980s. I have one of those big Ikea shelves to stock my LP collection; it takes up half of the room, and has 2,000 records. It’s a lot, and it’s ever growing (laughs). It’s never gonna stop growing, so it might take up the whole room eventually.”
The Fatal Feast was released in North America on April 10th, 2012 and subsequently on the 13th
in Europe, all through Nuclear Blast Records.
Interview published in April 2012. All photographs by Luz de Luna Duran.
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