Thrash seems to be getting pretty big these days and coverage of modern thrash is something we’ve been somewhat lacking in. When Earache’s publicist presented me with the opportunity to meet up with Municipal Waste, one of the longest running bands in the modern thrash scene, I had to seize the opportunity. Here’s a transcript of my conversation with Ryan Waste before the Seattle leg of their tour with Lamb of God, Suicidal Tendencies, Children of Bodom and God Forbid.
Chris Slack – So first off, what is the question you are absolutely sick of getting during interviews?
Ryan Waste – What’s your craziest tour story. We also get bombarded with shit about partying ‘cuz we did that party record so that’s kind of old. I still get drunk so I can definitely roll with it though.
CS – You definitely have gotten that reputation.
RW – In retrospect we should have wrote that record a long time ago with the way we’ve been coming up and terrorizing.
CS – You guys have been thrashing for a long time now. Over the past couple of years the thrash thing has gotten pretty big and keeps getting bigger. It seems like everyone’s getting a thrash band together now. What are your thoughts on this?
RW – I feel like we caught it on the cusp. Before the internet was making bands popular we were booking tours by phone, doing the DIY thing. We came from the ground up playing basements, people’s houses, warehouses, broken down burned down houses, wherever. Just to see it come from that small scale to where it is now I feel like we put a lot of hard work in and I’m waiting for it to pay off. We’re still in a van, were not in a tour bus, no road crew, still lugging our own shit. I got out of load in to do this interview so that’s kind of cool. We’re proud of the response we’ve gotten from everybody but we’ve definitely worked for it so we’ll take all the credit.
CS – What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a band?
RW – Playing fast and still keeping it fresh and interesting with the formula we’ve created for ourselves. With the short songs, balls out intensity, just to keep not writing the same record over and over again. I think that with the new record we have stepped it to different dynamics. It’s not any lower or anything but I think we’ve progressed into something that’s not like a normal thrash band. We have elements of heavy metal and elements of straight up punk rock. We didn’t listen to any thrash and just wrote a fuckin’ record that sounds like the roots of all that.
CS – So have you finished recording the new album then?
RW – We finished like a week ago. We were checking the final mix just the day before this tour so we knocked that out just in time. We’re so happy with it. Every band says “this is the best one we’ve ever written” but I definitely think this is the top one so far.
CS – Do you have a lot of touring scheduled to support the new one?
RW – We have a lot of touring scheduled before the record even comes out. We’re going to be in Europe like four times playing festivals this summer. Once the record comes out we’re going to be doing our own tour headlining. Cheaper shows, Waste tour in the US, so we’ll be back around.
CS – So you ‘ll be playing some smaller shows…
RW – Yeah, for sure. We’ve got to mix it up; we can’t even fill this place (referring to the 3000 seat Paramount Theater). We like the intensity of the smaller shows where people can jump off shit.
CS – If Municipal Waste was a movie what movie would that be?
RW – “The Stoned Age” maybe (laughs). That’s tough man. shit. “Rivers Edge” and “The Stoned Age” mixed together (more laughs).
CS – Good choices. Which of the characters in each movie would you be?
RW – I would be Feck (Rivers Edge) and Hubbs mixed together. Michael Hubbs is the guy driving the blue torpedo in “The Stoned Age.” Not that we’re stoners, it just reminds me of my high school years cruising around for nothing just looking for chicks and beer and never really getting anywhere with it. Well, maybe every once in a while (laughs).
CS – “Dazed and Confused” seems to get more praise but I think “The Stoned Age” is a much better depiction of that lifestyle.
RW – Much more cult, I can recite that movie front to back, pretty damn good.
CS – So what’s the music scene like in Richmond (Virginia) nowadays?
RW – It’s amazing, it’s so diverse there. Everyone who’s in a band knows each other, it’s a really a small, tight knit community. That’s how we’re out with Lamb of God, they’re from Richmond and it’s like hey, come on the road. Bring Richmond out on the road. Two totally different styles of music but people wise everyone seems to click. There’s not really any separatism there, it’s like everyone is in the music community. They work together and know each other so that’s really cool. There’s not just a bunch of bands that sound together in the town which is really cool. There’s really no other thrash bands in town.
CS – Any up and coming bands we should keep an ear out for?
RW – My friends band, Parasitic, they’re from Richmond. They’re pretty straight up heavy metal meets punk kind of shit. I’m doing a traditional heavy metal band, a Judas Priest/Motorhead style of band with some of the same members. I have to plug my own band, we don’t even have a name yet but we have two songs. There are some good hardcore bands, Wasted Time, Government Warning who are friends of ours. I dunno, I’m never there so I can’t keep track of who is who’s new. The hardcore scene’s really cool there.
CS – On this tour you’re playing in large venues like this one, how does that compare to the basements and small clubs?
RW – It’s definitely weird and if we didn’t do that GWAR tour we wouldn’t know what the fuck we were doing. We were playing similar sized venues on that tour and that was like three years ago. We’ve done it before and we kind of know the ropes a little bit but it’s still kind of overwhelming. You get out there and the crowd’s so separated from you. It’s kind of hard to connect, you just have to yell fuck, metal, pussy and they cheer. You can just have that intensity of people up on stage with us like we are used to. It’s a tough adjustment but we hold our own in these big places.
CS – It certainly cuts down on the stage diving.
RW – Yeah, we have to get either circle pits going or crowd surfing, that’s about as close as it gets.
CS – So what the plan after this tour?
RW – We’ve got some festivals over in Europe like Sweden, Spain, UK, we’re playing Bloodstock. Just tons of European stuff like short runs over there which always treats us well. Then we’ll be back over here in the fall doing out own tour, taking out our own bands. Hopefully coming back here to Seattle.
CS – When you’re in Europe doing festivals and stuff does that give you more time to see the sites and get into the culture?
RW – Yeah, we’ve been over there quite a few times now and I’d rather do tourist stuff over there. It’s hard to get a minute in to do that because you’re always doing interviews, festivals, stuff like that. We do get some chances though, we went to the Giger museum once, we’ve seen Stonehenge, all the random tourist stuff. But really we just end up drinking a lot over there and I can’t remember anything.
CS – What would you say is the most difficult aspect of being in the music business?
RW – Being force fed free booze every night (laughs). Just being away from your loved ones and home all the time, It wears on you after a while. It’s like you’re not in reality when you get back home because we don’t really work, well at least I don’t. so it’s like what do I do?
CS – So if you could tour with any single band, living or dead, who would that band be?
RW – God, that’s a tough one. I’m obsessed with old New Wave of British Heavy Metal, I’d take it back to ’79 or so/ Someone like Holocaust or Satan, early, early Priest would be amazing to see how that went down as I’m a big fan of that. Thin Lizzy circa ’74 would be cool too.
CS – Not counting any of your own records, what would you say is the single greatest crossover record of all time?
RW – It’s all in my brain but I don’t really listed to much of that stuff any more. I’m sure the fans don’t want to hear that. I think DRI’s “Dealing With It” was it, it was the perfect mix of the punk and a little bit of the metallic edge. Crumbsuckers “Life of Dreams” is a great one. Excel’s “Split Image” that’s up there. I’ll give it to “Dealing With It” though.
CS – When would you consider Municipal Waste to be a completely successful endeavor?
RW – When I get my own tour bus and only ride around with the people I choose to (laughs). Nothing against that, I just hear about bands whose members have their own buses, that would be incredible. I’d just get off on the luxuries of it, if it comes I’d live it up to the fullest. I would have some ridiculous demands at that point I think. I don’t ever see it getting there though. We’ll see.
CS – Sort of on the same thought, you guys are in the van, driving from town to town, what do you do to keep cohesive and not kill each other?
RW – We know each other so well and we know each other’s personalities that if we wanted to get under each others skin we could. For the sake of being on the road we just keep our distance if we need to. We’re a really tight unit, like everyone gets along. We don’t hang out so much outside of touring when we get home just because you need to separate yourself no matter who you are from people that you’re with in a van for the majority of the year. We actually get along really well and it’s amazing that we do. So yeah, giving yourself distance makes it work.
CS – What do you do to pass the time when you’re on the road?
RW – I like to sleep, I don’t get enough sleep on the road. I’m a record collector, I get into obscure heavy metal stuff. I like playing music for people, I guess disc jockeying for lack of a better word. Just putting together music and playing it. I’m nowhere near this guys scale but you know how Alice Cooper has his own radio show worldwide? That’d be my dream after the band, just to play tunes for people and tell stories. That would be an amazing job.
CS – Outside of music what do you do for fun?
RW – I like to cook, I like to work on my house. I own a house, and have renovated the whole place. We’ve got a pre-civil war house in Richmond and I’m redoing floors and ceilings, making it my own. It kind of started out as a crappy house, so I’m just working on my place. I like organizing and setting things up. I’m a big fan of getting all my things surrounding me. It’s not quite there yet.
CS – So what do you listen to on the road?
RW – Old music, even like some shitty light rock shit that’s just funny on the road. A lot of dirty hip hop, anything stupid that we can find that’s not metal or punk we listed to in the van just basically to pass the time. A lot of comedy, a lot of prank call stuff. When you have a ten hour drive it’s more important to make people laugh on the road than blaring music all the time.
CS – What was the first record you ever bought?
RW – “Thriller,” by Michael Jackson. Isn’t that weird?
CS – Not really, it’s one of the best selling records of all time.
RW – Well they got me as a kid.
CS – Are you happy with your current underground status or do you wish that you were more popular than Jesus Christ?
RW – No, I feel like it’s getting weird because we’ve always been kind of an underground band and to see our shit in stores is still weird for me. It’s cool but it’s hard to keep a happy medium between that.
CS – What’s better than Slayer?
RW – Priest (laughs)