Iron Reagan’s Tony Foresta Lays It Down Fast and Loud
Back in the day, there was metal and there was punk, and the scenes were in violent opposition. Check out any of the multitude of books that chronicle the '80s punk rock scene — they're filled with accounts of long-haired heshers and hardcore punks getting into fistfights. As thrash began to take the world by storm, you would often see bands like Metallica and Slayer sporting T-shirts representing artists like Misfits, GBH and Samhain, hinting that there was more to life than guitar solos. You could also hear it in the music, which was a ferocious aggregate of New Wave of British Heavy Metal musicianship and hardcore punk vitriol.
Unfortunately, progress was slower for the fans. The punk scene mostly remained divided, with some brave souls venturing into enemy territory, gathering intel and digesting what they had experienced. Maybe, at long last, they realized that metal and punk had a lot more in common than they initially thought. Ironically, many of the early thrash bands dealt with similar topics as hardcore punk bands: alienation, rejection of the government and anxiety over nuclear war (remember, it was the '80s). Gradually, punks grew their hair out and started incorporating some of the musicianship that was present in thrash metal. Metalheads started playing faster and with more reckless abandon. There was room in the pit for all, and crossover was born via bands like Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I., Cryptic Slaughter, the Accused, English Dogs and S.O.D. You could also hear a crossover vibe in certain records by more prominently known hardcore bands, such as Cro-Mags Best Wishes and Agnostic Front’s Cause for Alarm.
These days, you would be hard-pressed to find a punk that doesn’t like Slayer, or a metalhead that doesn’t like Misfits. Boundaries have blurred; scenes have either cross-pollinated or splintered into a myriad of subgenres. Tony Foresta has been surfing the boundaries of metal genres for years, first as the frontman of Municipal Waste, and more recently with his modern crossover band Iron Reagan.
When you were a kid, what got you interested in music?
Oh man. I was a weird kid. I was super active. I grew up in Florida, so mainly I surfed. If there were no waves, I would skimboard. I was obsessed with it all through high school. I was also on the wrestling team [and] diving team, and even studied acting. I wasn't good at most of it, but I always wanted to try my hardest and try everything out. My high school years were all over the place. That being said, the Beastie Boys and Minor Threat were my biggest influences back then, I would say. I mean, we're taking about class of 1994 here. I loved Sonic Youth a lot, too.
In the early days, thrash bands drew a lot of influence from punk, but the scenes were mostly divided. A couple of decades later, bands like What Happens Next? and Municipal Waste emerged from the hardcore punk scene. Does it seem like most of the barriers have been broken down?
The two scenes didn't necessarily get along all the time, at least from what I've heard. There was still a lot of violence. Remember that guy in the D.R.I. “Live at the Ritz” video that is just standing on stage beating the shit out of that guy? I picture that kind of thing happening a lot back then. I always embrace that time in music, though. That's some of my favorite shit. It may have pissed a lot of punk [fans] and metalheads off, but it created some of the best music. A lot of really bad stuff, too, though.
I loved WHN? When our bands came out, it was still kind of taboo for hardcore kids and people in general to really accept thrash metal as a something serious. It was kind of widely ignored or not really taken seriously. We approached it with a more fun and honest approach. I mean, this is the same timeframe where Korn and Limp Bizkit were literally burying heavy music as we know it, and we were just reaching out to people and trying to let them know that there was other stuff out there.
The "Miserable Failure" video just hit 1 million views. Are you guys psyched?
Yeah, I was pretty surprised. I knew it got a lot of views, but had no idea it was creeping up to that much. When anything like that that happens to Iron Reagan, it’s always a pleasant surprise. We went into this band with only intentions to record and play random local shows. To see where it's grown in the past four years is really crazy to us.
Who shot the video and where was it shot? It looked like a lot of fun.
This dude that lives in Portland named Whitey McConnaughy did it. He worked on those old Big Brother skate videos back in the day, and the Jackass movies; nowadays, he's known for doing those amazing Red Fang videos. It was a lot of fun shooting. Basically, Reagan and a crew of like 30 kids took over the city of Portland for a couple days.
Between Municipal Waste and Iron Reagan, you’ve been featured in quite a few official music videos. Do you enjoy the process? Have you gotten better at it?
I love making music videos. But damn, it takes so long to shoot things. I used to always daydream about being an actor someday, but then I just recently filmed a small scene in a movie, and now I'm like, fuck that. [Laughs] Lots of standing around and waiting, sweating your ass off, and if you mess up, you have to start all over. All these extras standing around all day rolling their eyes when you fuck up — it's a lot of pressure! I respect the process very much, but I'm way too A.D.D. for that. After a couple hours, I just start biting my nails and wish I was somewhere else. Videos are more fun; I feel more natural and get to goof around more.
Mark Bronzino took a spill. Was anyone injured?
Mark's guitar was. He fucked up the top of it pretty bad. Rob [Skotis, bass] was getting a little too excited pushing him around in the store, and then BLAM — they ate shit.
Who are the guys you ran into at the frozen foods section of the supermarket?
That's Red Fang. It's a throwback from their video where they buy all the milk to smash. There's a bunch of cameos in the video. Dude from Mudhoney [Mark Arm], Phil [Zeller] from Toxic Holocaust, some of the Jackass guys. It was a really fun day. Phil from Toxic was supposed to show up on set dressed as a homeless guy. He showed up in his regular clothes and they told him he looked perfect. [Laughs]
All of you guys are in pretty well-known bands; you and Phil are in the Waste, Ryan Parrish was in Darkest Hour. What were the circumstances that drew you guys together?
Me and Ryan have been talking about doing a band together since the freaking '90s. We've known each other a long, long time. About four years ago, he quit Darkest Hour, The Waste was just coming off of a really long tour cycle, and we were trying to slow things down. Ryan and I figured that was a perfect time to start working together. It was the perfect opportunity to start something fun and local. I told Phil about our plan, and he said he really wanted to start playing guitar in a band, and had an ass-load of riffs. I think we wrote the whole first demo in the first practice.
Iron Reagan and Municipal Waste records look different. Who is in charge of the artwork and visual aesthetic?
I'm very hands-on with both bands. The last thing I want is the two of the bands to have the same thing going on visually. With Waste, a lot of the time, me and Ryan Waste bounce ideas back and forth, but for the most part with both bands I'm usually the one dealing directly with the artist.
When I think of Municipal Waste and Iron Reagan, I think of touring. Both bands hit the road pretty relentlessly. Is there a different vibe with each band?
One band smokes way more weed than the other. That's about it. [Laughs] We are all pretty experienced and we've been on millions of tours with our other bands. Everyone is pretty good at not fucking up or pissing each other off. So, it's kind of the same vibe.
Which do you enjoy more? Touring or recording?
Recording. I love both, but I like being home and writing and recording and being creative on my own time.
When is there going to be another IR recording?
We just finished a new Iron Reagan album! So, that should be coming out early next year. I'm very excited about it. It might be the best-sounding thing I've ever sang on.
Not to split hairs, but Iron Reagan is a “crossover” band and the Waste are a thrash band. How do you differentiate the two when it comes to songwriting and lyrical content?
I try to be a bit less humorous with Reagan stuff. I also let the other guys step in and contribute a lot more. It mixes it up a bit. I think people will be able to tell a lot more once the new Reagan and Waste albums drop next year. They’re two different beasts — that's for sure — and they are growing further and further apart sound-wise with the newer stuff we are writing.
That sounds killer. What are some of the difference?
You'll just have to hear it. It's hard to explain. I guess the best description I can say right now is that the Waste shit is dirtier [and] metal/punk-sounding, and the Reagan stuff is going in a more hardcore direction. Both things are working very well. Next year is going to be an exciting year.