Interview: Municipal Waste’s Ryan Waste talks “The Fatal Feast”

The members of Richmond, Virginia’s Municipal Waste took a good long time — for them — to write and record their newly released punk-metal crossover messterpiece “The Fatal Feast.” To prepare, the band gave themselves a window of time when they weren’t under a pressing record company deadline and weren’t burned out from trying to wedge recording in between tours.

Guitarist Ryan Waste says the extra time spent preparing “The Fatal Feast” made a big difference in the band’s state of mind and in the songs.

“It was more relaxed,” Waste said. “We took a year off and got our heads together in general. We came up with stuff without being so tired from the road; we were excited to write and I think it shows.”

“The Fatal Feast” is fast, nasty and pummeling and combines traditional Waste gory dark humor (“New Dead Masters,” “Jesus Freaks” and the cannibalistic title track) with moments of Dead Kennedyesque political consciousness (“Standards and Practices”) and wacky party time insanity (“Covered in Sick/The Barfer,” “You’re Cut Off”). Musically, “The Fatal Feast” is brutal stuff, like a faster tongue-in-cheek “Reign in Blood.”

“We put the bar pretty high on ourselves,” Waste said. “I think, for our own sanity, we wanted to take a little time off and going between labels (from Earache to Nuclear Blast) was the best time to do that — and the end result is one of our best albums.”

If not as consistently politically active as the band’s last album for Earache, “Massive Aggressive,” it’s clear from songs like “Standards and Practices” that Municipal Waste has a political cutting edge. Waste said the band likes the dichotomy of mixing wacky horror tales with moments of social consciousness.

“We want to have fun — but you have to touch on the serious stuff,” Waste said. Any resemblance to the sentiments in “Standards and Practices” and the Occupy Wall Street movement, however, is purely coincidental.

“We wrote that before all of that (Occupy Wall Street) was coming down,” Waste said. “Maybe that was the Waste predicting the future.”

The album is classic Municipal Waste, Ryan Waste said. “It’s almost like a Waste best-of, with the old-school feel,” he said. “But, we’ve covered new ground and I got to do some new leads.

“There are some Motorhead tempos,” Waste said. “That has always been our specialty — its like A.D.D. speed metal.”

The band strives for its brand of musical perfection, Waste said. “We’ve never been a technical band, but we do want to keep you on your toes,” Waste said.

The band recently finished up a string of dates with GWAR and will be hitting the road for another trek across the U.S. in late May. After that, the band will play a June date in the U.K. and a few shows in France in July.

“This year is going to be the year of the Waste wasting the world,” Ryan Waste said. “We’re doing our own headlining tour and we’re going over (to Europe) to do the festivals.” When not touring with Municipal Waste, Ryan Waste will be touring with his side-band, Volture. Meanwhile Waste bassist Phil “Landfill” Hall will also be touring at times this year with his side project, Cannabis Corpse. Drummer Dave Witte, who also plays with King Generator and Birds of Prey, will also be touring this year.

Side projects, Waste said, do not interfere with Municipal Waste.

“There’s no jealousy,” Waste said. “Everyone wants to give that creative freedom. It’s what keeps (Municipal Waste) fresh.”


Interview: Michael LePond of Symphony X talks touring, songwriting and the robot revolution of “Iconoclast”

“High concept” metal can be pretentious crap.

You know it’s true, because you’ve heard “high concept” metal, too. Think of all the times you’ve heard one of Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s attempts to classy-up his albums with a bit of classical noodling. Yes, he’s stellar at arpeggios and I like some of his more straight-forward songs (“I Am A Viking!” Yea!)  … but every time Yngwie tries to reinterpret Johann Sebastian, Schubert, Sherbert or Stravinsky through his Strat, I fall asleep.

High mindedness doesn’t always translate well to metal lyrics, either. When it comes to concept albums, for every “Tommy” there are 20 “Mr. Robotos” out there. Sure, Queensryche pulled if off with their rock opera, “Operation: Mindcrime” … but W.A.S.P.’s attempt at rock opera, “The Crimson Idol” sounded … well, it sounded like exactly what you would have expected from the auteur who gave us “Animal (F**k Like A Beast).”  Hell, even Queensryche couldn’t make lightning strike twice.

So I get a bit nervous when a band goes all high art on me, but the band that did it better than anyone else in 2011 is New Jersey’s Symphony X, with their dystopian, machines-destroy-mankind magnum opus, “Iconoclast.”

“Iconoclast” works because Symphony X — unlike, say, Queensryche on “American Soldier” or the second half of “Operation: Mindcrime II,” doesn’t try to run away from their metal roots. Rather, “Iconoclast” is filled with blistering riffs and brutal musicianship.

Guitarist Michael Romeo is considered on the top guitarists in metal for a reason; the man shreds — but only in the service of the songs and never in a “listen to how clean my sweep picking is” sort of way. He’s got Yngwie’s chops, but he’s no Yngwie — and I mean that in a good way.

The rest of the band — multi-octive bellower Russell Allen, drumming machine Jason Rullo, bassist Michael LePond and keyboardist Michael Pinnella — are equally as powerful. Symphony X are thinking man’s metal with balls and “Iconoclast” is both thought-provoking and heavier than an dinosaur killing asteroid.

Don’t believe me? Then I suggest you hear for yourself.

The band recently wrapped up a sprint across the U.S. with buddies Iced Earth and Warbringer. If you missed them on that particular U.S. jaunt, you’ll have to wait — the band will be playing National Open Air Brazil on April 20 and then will cross the pond for the summer Euro festival circuit before returning home to play the ProgPower festival in Atlanta in September.

Given the choice, bassist LePond would spend much more of the year on the road.

“I’m the guy who likes touring the most,” LePond said, during a quick phone interview on the second-to-last stop of the Iced Earth tour. “As long as I can stay healthy and well, I could tour constantly. The other guys have wives and kids.”

The ominous concept for “Iconoclast” — machines replace, enslave and destroy humanity –came from a rather innocent twist of the knob in the recording studio while the band was working on song ideas, LePond said.

“Michael Romeo was messing around with these robotic little sounds — not industrial, but almost,” LePond said. “We experimented with that. As we put the songs together, we came up with a concept where technology goes too far in striving for perfection and the machines take over.”

But are we already slaves to technology, even without a “Robopocalypse” style machine takeover? LePond said the argument that we’re already enslaved by our electronic “helpers” could easily be made.

“It seems that way. Things have changed so much; when you go out to dinner with your friends, everybody is staring at their phones,” LePond said.

Those kinds of questions come readily to the Symphony X fans LePond meets on the road. While broadening minds is not explicitly the band’s goal, LePond said he appreciates fans who take the band’s interpretations of “The Odyssey” and “Paradise Lost” and then do their own research.

“A lot of them will hear an album and read the lyrics and go back and read Homer and John Milton,” LePond said. “Our fans like to be challenged. They like to learn and listen to the music. They’ll always ask questions.”

Musically, the band is every bit as intricate as the literary sources of inspiration.

“People come to me and say, ‘wow, I’ve listened to that album and I have to keep listening, because every time I hear something new,” LePond said. Considering the amount of music packed into each song, it won’t surprise fans when LePond say the music can be difficult to play.

“They’re very challenging. It takes a lot of practice,” LePond said.

National Open Air Brazil — which also features heavyweights like Exodus, Megadeth and Venom — will put Symphony X on stage in front of 80,000 screaming metal fans.

“It’s going to be the biggest show we have ever done in our career,” LePond said. Over the summer “we’ll go and do Europe for about 10 days; then in September, we’re going to do a show in Mexico City and them we’re playing ProgPower. Then we’ll be in full writing mode for another record.”

“Iconoclast” was released in 2011; before that, the band released “Paradise Lost” in 2007 and “The Odyssey” in 2002. Does that mean fans can expect the band’s next album in 2016?

“I certainly hope not,” LePond said. “What we’re shooting for is, hopefully, this summer we’re going to start working on songwriting. I think the next recording will come out in 2014, hopefully.

“Just putting together the songs takes a lot of time,” LePond said. “That’s the thing we feel bad about — we’d like to put out the albums quicker, but we don’t want to put out any filler.”

All black metal artists confess: “We just want to be happy!”

Associated Press — OSLO — In a statement that is sure to send shock waves through throngs of corpse-painted, winter-woods-loving nerds and D&D worshippers everywhere, the entire black metal community confessed Sunday that, in essense, the entire “black metal” movement was created as “a jokey bit of fun.”

The statement is signed by members of every well-known black metal band in the world — 12 bands, to be exact — and by thousands of other former bridge trolls from bands no one outside the scene knows exists. The statement even contains the name of a Scandinavian black metal icon who was believed murdered in the early 1990s, who said Sunday he faked his own death because “I was tired of the joke and just wanted to get back to my career in animal husbandry.”

The statement says: “We, the members of every ‘black metal’ band that has sold more than 15 copies of our records, must now come clean about the true nature of our music and intentions. In short, the whole “movement” was just supposed to be a jokey bit of fun — like Halloween, but all year long, and instead of scaring grandma, scaring everyone in sight with out ‘evil’ personas. It was never meant to be anything more than a little giggle — and we don’t understand why anyone doesn’t get the joke; we mean, come on, have you heard that screeching cat noise we’ve been putting out as “music”? Did you really take that crap seriously?

“For the record, we had nothing to do with any burnings of churches in Norway of anywhere else,” the statement says. “Really, we don’t know how those happened. Could it have been faulty wiring? It’s possible, we think; after all, those churches were old.

“Finally, we don’t worship Satan or demons or Quetzlcoatl or whoever it is you think we sacrifice black cats to at midnight,” the statement says. “Personally, we all love cats — and babies and daffodils and the sound of the church bells on a clean Sunday morning. We’re not “evil;” we just want to be happy!

“We apologize to anyone who was swept away by our little practical joke. But, again, how could anyone have possibly believed we were serious in the first place?”

The statement has, according to preliminary reports, wrecked havoc with black metal dorks across the globe. Hospitals in the United States, France, Germany and Norway have reported over 300 cases of corpse-paint wearing dweebs attempting to overdose on Red Bull and Nacho Cheese Cheezits. Record burnings were organized via the Internet in Chicago, New York, Oslo and Berlin — but since almost no one has ever actually bought any black metal albums, only a handful of albums and CDs were actually burned.

Terry Van Draught, also known as Lord Satan0domizer of the Dubuque black metal band Putrid Nun, said he was heart broken by the statement.

“Black metal was my life,” Van Draught said Sunday, while waiting his turn to play in a “Pokemon” tournament at a Dubuque comic book shop. “I mean, before I discovered black metal, I was happy and popular and made good grades and had lots of dates. Black metal taught me to give that crap up and tromp around in the winter woods like a gawddamm troll and to abuse my ears nightly with horrible music in the spirit of something “grim” and “trve”  — but now they tell me they were just playing a joke? I’d still be first trombone in marching band if it wasn’t for those bastards! They’re gonna have to pay!”

A civil suit has been discussed by at least one nationally known lawyer, but since black metal musicians never make any money, a lawsuit is just a waste of time, the attorney said.