Tony Foresta of Municipal Waste reflects on 21 years of Waste ‘Em All and the evolution of the band

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PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WOUB) – Virginia thrash band Municipal Waste has been consistently churning out great records for over 20 years.

With a discography spanning seven studio albums, four EPs, and four splits. The band has garnered a loyal fanbase and built a strong identity around the simple concept of having fun, with records such as 2012’s The Art of Partying.

While 2022 saw the release of their newest studio album Electrified Brain, the band is starting 2024 by celebrating the 21st anniversary of their debut album Waste ‘Em All, hitting the road with Ghoul, Necrot, and Dead Heat.

WOUB’s Nicholas Kobe spoke to vocalist Tony Foresta before their show in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 16 at Union Transfer (1026 Spring Garden Street). Find a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity, below. 

A press image of the band Municipal Waste.
Nicholas Kobe: If you had to describe Municipal Waste in one sentence, what would you say?

Tony Foresta: Tooth-chipping thrash.

What makes you say that?

Foresta: Because that’s how I describe Municipal Waste. That’s just how it is. It’s music to chip your teeth to.

I am talking to you guys as you guys are touring to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Waste ‘Em All. What has it been like touring in honor of that first record – looking back at where you guys were during the creation of that record?

Foresta: Well, we haven’t done the shows yet. This is the first of it. We started playing some all songs from on the last tour we did out in the UK with GEL and Undeath, It has been really cool and it’s like a blast in the past and it reminds me when I was way younger and those songs were way more of a train wreck and all over the place. It’s just a lot different with how we write music or especially my vocals. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at writing music since I’ve grown over the years.

Any particularly fond memories that have kind of come up from the process of getting that first record together?

Foresta: Oh, for sure, man. Especially going through the song lyrics. I actually moved recently, so I was able to unearth a bunch of boxes from that era. Dude, I found scribbled song lyrics that I have old artwork that our drummer who passed away, Brandon, drew. So we’re actually bringing back a couple T-shirt designs on this tour that he drew from really back in the early days of Municipal Waste. It was just pure luck that I found that artwork and a lot of these old designs. It was just perfect timing to be able to combine all that stuff. It’s been opening a treasure chest of fond memories for sure.

What has changed about how you guys in Municipal Waste operate then versus now?

Foresta: Well, we used to not practice. I mean, we were kids. Brandon was 17 years old on that record, and we were young. I was in my early twenties, maybe 20, I can’t remember. We were just kind of, green or whatever, we didn’t know. We didn’t care. We were more punk kids that were just playing metal. We were fans of metal, but we didn’t really know how everything worked. So even just recording that record going in the studio, we didn’t know how to professionally record an album. I think we did everything in a day and then we came back for half a day and mixed it.

I don’t even think that record got mastered when we put it out. Everything was just kind of, I wouldn’t say thrown together, but it wasn’t like how a normal metal band would create a record, but I think that’s what the magic of it is. That’s what makes the record so raw and crazy. It was also done on reel-to-reel. We thought since tape was going, this is the one take we get. A lot of that stuff was done in one take. It definitely wasn’t like a Pro Tools kind of job.

Yeah, definitely doing it in one take kind adds a level of stake and kind of urgency to your playing that you wouldn’t if if this take isn’t good, you can just do 500 more.

Foresta: There’s definitely a sense of urgency in the record, and I think that was just nervousness in our youthfulness of just wanting to go as fast as possible and blast through it. So some of those songs that were written are played at twice the speed in the studio because we were nervous. I think that’s what that makes it really cool to go back and listen to.

How long were you guys writing the songs that wound up on Waste ‘Em All as a band before you got into the studio to record the album?

Foresta: I’m really bad at remembering the time spans but it definitely wasn’t long. I would say four months maybe or something like that. We did that record the second year we were a band, maybe the first year. We actually had a couple EPs and splits and were writing stuff pretty fast at that time. That was right when Brandon joined the band, so we were writing way faster. So maybe a few months was probably when that record was written. We cranked that one out really fast.

Yeah, quick turnaround. Would you say the writing process and recording process is a little bit longer for a record like Electrified Brain?

Foresta: Yeah, definitely. The band definitely has grown significantly in maturity, writing wise in ways. We take our time now. We thought everything was rushed back then. When you’re young, you feel like a pressure to be like ‘oh, I got to get this out. Oh my God.’ In reality, me and Ryan learned over the years that you’re on your own time. Just make sure it’s right and you don’t rush things. I tell younger bands that are starting out, if they need any advice, I’m just like, ‘don’t rush, man. If somebody’s pressuring you to get something done fast to where it’s not how you want it, don’t listen to ’em. Just do it at your own speed and just make sure it’s right.’ That’s the only takeaway I get from a lot of our early stuff – I wish that we weren’t rushed. I wish we weren’t rushing ourselves, and I wish we weren’t being rushed by outside entities.

Fair enough. What about Municipal Waste on a record like Waste ‘Em All allowed you guys to persevere all the way through the present day?

Foresta: I would say the fun. Just the attitude of people and seeing people over the years be so stoked about what we’re doing and how something that we created in a dingy garage has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people. A lot of blood, a lot of sweat, and lot of tears. It just kind of has grown into its own thing that’s even beyond the band members at this point. It’s an honor to be a part of it and I hope it persists for another 23 years.

You guys are known for cultivating an atmosphere of energy, of fun. What are some of the craziest stories or just experiences from a Municipal Waste concert that you guys have been through?

Foresta: I get asked this question a lot and I always try to tell a different story. So one that pops into my mind that is when we did a tour with Agnostic Front. We were playing outside of Chicago somewhere, probably when The Art of Partying came out. We never have fights at our shows. I think one of these shows, it was outside of Chicago we played this more of a hardcore [punk] leaning show.

Agnostic Front was significantly bigger than us at the time, so we would play some shows that were pretty hardcore heavy. We saw the biggest fight at one of those shows, it looked like one of those Western fights. I’ve never been at a show where I actually had to run and duck behind the bar because bottles are flying. That’s never happened really much at our shows, but that was really one of the funniest times because I was like, “am I in the Looney Tunes right now?”

So you guys are kind of big on incorporating lyrical themes into your songs. How do you come up with your lyrics and the concepts for your songs?

Foresta: At this point, some of the stuff has storylines that we wrote from the Waste ‘Em All era, Substitute Creature and all that stuff. That’s a song that’s based off a story from the first seven inch. We have running themes like that. If people actually pay attention to our lyrics, they can catch on pretty fast. Most of our stuff is our own world that we’ve created, that builds upon itself. We also write about Kurt Russell movies and social issues. We kind of just keep it all across the board or whatever’s more interesting for us. We definitely have created our own world lyrically where we can branch out and do a lot of fun stuff and still make sure it’s a Municipal Waste song.

What’s next for Municipal Waste?

Foresta: I think it’s kind of like a year that we’re going to go a little lighter than we normally do, except for this big tour. Actually, I don’t know what I’m talking about. When I say “go lighter”, it means that we’re just not going to play in the United States as much, but we’re probably going to be going overseas a lot. I think we have Australia in the works. We have definitely a big European tour planned at the end of the year, and in the meantime trying to write music a little here and there. We’re dipping our toes right now into the writing process. Like I said, we’re not going to rush any writing, we’re just going to go and see what we want to do and how good it feels. If we want to write an album, we’ll write an album, if we do another EP, we’ll do another EP. Whatever works out is good. If we start rolling, we’ll roll with it.