The phone just kept ringing out and going to Tony Foresta's voicemail. We tried a few times, on each occasion considering leaving a "horny message" at the beep, as requested by the Municipal Waste frontman. It feels now like an opportunity missed. Ach, no matter, it was all cool. Foresta wasn't dogging the call, obviously, he was busy preparing for a Superbowl half-time show with YouTube cranked up "I’ve been learning Disturbed and Limp Bizkit lyrics; I’m about two songs in," he says. "We’re playing in this joke band for half-time show during the Superbowl. We dress up as rappers and it looks really stupid. We do it once every couple of years, it’s like a big joke, and play for ten minutes. Whenever they get a shitty half-time artist, like Madonna, we do our thing… Anyway…." Yeah, anyway, this was beginning to sound like it had a bit of mileage in it, but we were working to a brief: we wanted the details on his new hardcore crossover project, Iron Reagan.
Featuring fellow Waste dude, Phil "LandPhil" Hall on guitar, drummer Ryan Parrish and bassist Paul Burnette (both ex-Darkest Hour), Iron Reagan is a sort of throw-and-go, ferocious one-take crossover band, no beer jokes and pissed at life's injustices etc. They just played their first show the other week, and are trying to commit as much material to tape as possible before the touring cycle for new Waste LP The Fatal Feast consumes all of messrs. Foresta and Hall's spare time.
When/how did you start Iron Reagan? Everybody in our band doesn’t take time off; we just start other bands. Me and Ryan Parrish, the drummer, grew up together and we’ve talked about doing a band together for like 20 years. It’s like finally. He’s just quit Darkest Hour and I’ve had a lot of time off, it was like, “Let’s do a fuckin’ band!” And me and Phil wanted to do more, well a faster sort of band. But Paul, we didn’t realize—we were like trying to get a bass player and then thought why no get Paul. We all love him; we’ve all played with him and toured with him.
Did you know what you wanted to sound like before you started the band? I wanted to see Ryan play that type of music on drums. He’s a really good drummer and he hits really hard, so I’ve always wanted to do a metal/punk band with him. It had to be really fast metal songs with a punk vibe to them. I guess when we went in there we had a sound that we wanted—it worked out good. Some of it is really fast.
Yeah, but it sounds a bit more punk than metal—it’s more Negative Approach than Slayer. I love Negative Approach. Yeah, this definitely leans more to the punk side than Municipal Waste. Municipal Waste has a lot more of a metal influence because that was what we were listening to whereas this has got the hardcore element. The songs that are on the demo lean a little bit more to the metal side but it’s still real fast [hardcore]. I don’t think any song lasts longer than two minutes.
You’ve been recording a full-length at the moment: how many tracks do you have? We thought it was going to be 25 but we cut one. Yeah, we have no idea what we are going to do with it now. Like, we have so many freakin’ songs we just booked studio time and recorded it. We’re recording it in some dude’s garage; he has put out some punk bands’ demos around here and it sounds really cool and raw. We didn’t wanna put like too much time into it because a lot of times some of the abrasiveness and rawness and the spontaneity of it gets lost when you start over-thinking songs. We just wrote songs as fast as we could, busted out some songs and went to record them. It was pretty cool—it sounds good, too.
Who is producing it? His name’s Bob. He plays in a band called Dry Spell, here in Richmond—they’re a pretty awesome hardcore band.
How did your first show go? It was awesome. We opened for Weekend Nachos, Full of Hell… It was definitely more of a hardcore show and we were more metal. It was a lot of fun and the response was huge. I couldn’t believe how many people turned out; it was almost sold out. It was on a Sunday afternoon at like 5 o’clock and it was packed to the walls.
There’s something nice, not civilized but nice about going to a matinee show. Yeah it’s cool, younger kids are able to go to them who ordinarily wouldn’t be allowed in a bar show. Richmond has this weird law where the all-ages shows have to be over by 11 o’clock at night, and the 18 and up shows have to start at like 10 or 11, so you either have to do an all-ages show that has to be over super-early, and all-ages shows are generally not very well-attended in Richmond—Richmond’s a late town—so most of the time people just do 18 and up shows so more people will come. It’s a college town. It’s a bummer that they have laws like that. I remember when I first started going to shows in Richmond I was just able to go to an all-ages show and leave at one o’clock or something and it was fine. About 10 years ago they changed the lucks—it sucks.
That’s the challenge about the 18+ shows, growing the bad moustache and getting fake I.D. to get in. Haha, yeah, the peach fuzz moustache! And the live show is all important too. If the kids miss out on the live experience, they miss out on a huge part of what metal/hardcore’s all about. That’s what we’ve tried to do with Municipal Waste and Darkest Hour; we’re like touring machines. We’re used to just getting out there and playing. Municipal Waste is getting real busy in the coming months so Iron Reagan are like trying to play as many shows all round that stuff. We’ve got three shows coming up; we’re doing as show with Casualties and Toxic Holocaust, and then we’re playing with Deicide a couple of weeks later.
That should be fun. We’re going to stick out like a sore thumb.
How’s Phil getting on with guitar? Well it’s different what with him playing bass in his other bands but that was part of why he wanted to do Iron Reagan too; he wanted to play guitar in a band because he’d never done that except for when he was a kid. We just want to do something that’s like Cro-Mags influenced, and he was like “Yeah, I wanna do that and play guitar!”
The common denominator in all your projects is that they seem like a lot of fun. That’s why I play music.
But, in saying that, would you say Iron Reagan is a bit angrier, more serious lyrically than Municipal Waste? Oh yeah, the lyrics are way more serious, and I would say a little bit smarter than the stuff I write for Municipal Waste. Iron Reagan is probably a lot more pissed off than any other band I’ve done.
Is it a political band? A little bit, there’s a little bit of that going on in some of the songs, and more than any other band I’ve done before. There is a lot of social issues too, like a lot of hardcore bands.
Are you aware you are under a bit of pressure in that no band with the word “Iron” in their title sucks? That’s true! Iron Maiden, Iron Lung…. Iron Monkey—that’s a great one. We’ve had the name Iron Reagan for years. Like we’ve wanted to do a band called that for ages—it’s worked out great. With Municipal Waste, you’ve been a bit more serious of late, certainly on Massive Aggressive it was more serious: is that a conscious thing or is the tone all accidental? Umm, maybe it’s just getting older or a question of how many songs you can write about drinking beer. Though I still do it, man, every day, I still wanna write about something different. It just calls for whatever you’re feeling when you hear a song. If the song sounds fun to you then write something fun but if it sounds darker then go there—I dunno, that’s how I feel when I think about what I want to write about.
What’s the plan for Iron Reagan—do you have any idea who might put it out? We’ll find someone to put it out, that’s for sure. But, it’s more like, we just want to have fun with it. We’re definitely going to play out with it. Whenever the Waste isn’t touring we’ll be out there playing shows. In the long run it’s looking like a side-project but we’ll end up playing more shows in a few weeks than other hardcore bands play in a year. That’s the way we do things; we just try to play shows. In the long run, well…. We ain’t going anywhere during the deadtime except for playing shows. People are going to see a lot more Iron Reagan shit in the next couple of years. We’ve already got a cassette of the demo and Tankcrimes is gonna put that out. We wanna do a 7” and maybe an LP but all these songs sound good together so maybe we’ll just out out a 20-odd song LP… I dunno, we just wanna put out a bunch of different shit.