Photo courtesy of the artist
Nick Poulos is back home in Richmond, VA, after tearing Chicago several new ones with Bat at the Metal Threat Festival. On a stacked Saturday night bill topped by Canadian speed metal vets Exciter and Razor, Poulos and his bandmates—Municipal Waste guitarist Ryan Waste (on bass and vocals) and former D.R.I. drummer Felix Griffin—slayed tunes from Bat’s recent full-length debut, Wings of Chains. Instantly catchy and thoroughly satisfying, the album gives off the finest of Venom vibes. “We get that a lot,” Poulos says with a laugh. “But we’re just trying to bring the nastiness. I don’t really see anybody playing that style in a three-piece band and having a lot of fun onstage. I love running around up there and acting like an idiot.”
Poulos is now officially in three bands with Ryan Waste. They co-founded trad-metal outfit Volture in 2008 and, as of earlier this year, Poulos joined Municipal Waste on second guitar. In fact, the Virginian crossover maniacs have just started recording their sixth album. “We actually just finished the drums today,” Poulos enthuses. “Dave Witte knocked out 18 tracks in like six hours. And that wasn’t even rushing it.”
On August 6, Municipal Waste will headline a benefit show in Richmond for the widow and young children of former Waste drummer Brandon Ferrell, who passed away suddenly in May. Then in September, they’ll hit the boards at Ozzfest in San Bernardino, California. In the interview below, we spoke with Poulos about his musical background and his many, many bands.
Noisey: Are you from Richmond originally?
: No, I’m from Florida. I grew up in Sarasota, but I’ve been living in Richmond for ten or 11 years now. It’s definitely home these days. I couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of Florida when I was a kid. Richmond was an easy choice because I knew so many people in bands and some friends of mine were going to college here.
What kind of work do you do when you’re not playing music?
Up until just recently, I’ve been working at an Italian restaurant with some friends of mine. I started cooking there because my buddy, one of the owners, just needed help. But then I kinda got stuck having a full-time job. Before that, I was bar-backing and cooking in kitchens.
For people who haven’t seen you play yet, we should mention that you’re a total shredder. Who were the guitar players that inspired you when you were first learning?
Well, I’m pretty much self-taught. I locked myself in my room until I could play along with the first four Slayer records—and before that, the first four Metallica records. Metallica was a cool gateway into the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal—that’s how I found out about Diamond Head and Blitzkrieg. I started playing guitar around nine or ten years old, but I didn’t really start taking it seriously until I was 14, when I discovered pot. I just started getting stoned and playing guitar in my room. But as far as guitar players? Bill Steer from Carcass has always been a big deal to me. [Tony] Iommi—I’ve always been obsessed with him. Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth from Scorpions. The older I get, the more I lean towards the classic era of rock guitar playing.
Have you met Bill Steer at all? He’s a super nice guy.
Yeah, he’s actually a buddy of mine now. I used to sell merch for his blues band that he used to do, Firebird, in Europe.
How did that happen?
It was like ten years ago. I was a roadie for this band Alabama Thunderpussy. I used to go out with them all the time. Kyle Thomas from Exhorder was singing for them at the time—he now sings for Trouble. We were in Europe playing with Firebird and I was selling Alabama Thunderpussy merch, so Bill asked me if I’d mind selling Firebird merch as well. I was like, “Dude, no problem.” So I stay in contact with him and go to the shows when they come through. Carcass has actually played Richmond twice in the last couple of years, which is pretty cool.
Did you ever get into the over-the-top shredder guys, like Yngwie Malmsteen?
I’ve never been super into Yngwie. I love the bands that he did, but as far as his solo stuff… I’m more of a riff kinda guy as opposed to the [Joe] Satriani / Steve Vai aspect of wankery. Anybody can sit in their basement and learn how to shred their dick off. Being able to write a song is more important.
Were you in any bands in high school?
I think ninth grade was my first band. We were called Exiled. It was kinda like At The Gates meets straight-up bro metal. [Laughs] It didn’t suck, but it wasn’t necessarily good. We did about four or five shows. I had an older sister who was really into punk and hardcore, so around the time I was 15 I got into listening to UK bands like Discharge, Broken Bones and English Dogs. I cut my hair into a Mohawk for a few years, so I was in a punk band for a few years after that. We did a couple of cool gigs with bands like A Global Threat and the Unseen and bands like that. We were called Youth Of Nausea, which is kind of a play off a Rudimentary Peni song. But in Florida it was hard to find guys who could play or even had the time to do it, which is a lot of the reason why I moved. When I turned 18, I started traveling up here. When I hit 19, I moved.
What was your first Richmond band?
I start playing in a crust punk band, kinda like English Dogs meets Sacrilege. It was called Parasytic. We called it quits in 2012, but then we got back together a year or two later for a very short amount of time. We did maybe two or three shows and then our drummer just up and quit on us. Rather than find someone else to do it, we decided to break it up. It was actually around the first time we broke up that Bat started.
At that point, you were already playing with Ryan in Volture. How did that evolve into the two of you playing in Bat together as well?
Ryan had already been talking to Felix and he just asked me if I wanted to play guitar. I already had a couple of cool songs that I was jamming in my basement with a roommate on drums. I didn’t really think I’d end up using them for anything, but it worked out for Bat. From there, Ryan and I would come up with songs in his room, put electronic drums to them, and then send them to Felix in Texas. When we had like five songs, we flew him out for a few practices and then we recorded that demo on analog tape.
There’s an analog studio in Richmond?
Yeah, this dude Garrett Morris, who plays guitar in that band Windhand, had a quarter-inch [tape] machine in his practice space. Unfortunately, it’s not there anymore. We actually did the last Parasytic record with him on tape, too. Super nice guy. He didn’t even want money. He wanted to get paid in wine and, like, snacks. There was some sort of cracker that he liked, and the Italian restaurant I worked at had this table wine called Masciarelli that was his favorite shit, so that’s what we did. Volture ended up practicing in his studio room for a while as well and we also paid him in wine and snacks.
How would you compare playing in Volture to playing with Bat?
Well, the first thing is that Bat is a three-piece band, which is one of the most fun things I’ve ever been a part of. You have so much room onstage and in a playing sense. It’s that classic three-piece vibe, no holds barred. You can almost be as sloppy as you want and it still sounds rad. But we’re actually a tight band. Felix is one of the tightest drummers I’ve ever played with. He’s all single-kick, too—he doesn’t have a double-bass pedal. And stylistically it’s pretty different from Volture, which is like classic heavy metal. In Bat, we write shorter songs that are heavier and harder. Around the time we did the second Volture record, we were just thinking too much. We were writing these songs that are like five minutes long. They’re great tunes, but you can only play so many songs in a set, you know? So it’s cool be able to play short and fast again. I’ve always been a fan of fast and snotty.
How did Ryan hook up with Felix?
I think they would hang out when Municipal Waste would pass through Austin. Felix is a big Municipal Waste fan so he’d come to the shows. I guess Felix told Ryan that he wanted to do something different than what he’d been doing—I think he was doing that band Blunt Force Trauma, which has more of a hardcore aesthetic—and I think he wanted to do more of a nasty Celtic Frost thing. They started trading ideas back and forth and that lasted for a few years, honestly. Then Ryan asked me to jump in, and who’s gonna say no to doing a band with Felix from D.R.I.?
You filled in on guitar at a D.R.I. gig once, didn’t you?
Yeah, it was a South American show in like 2011, I think. [D.R.I. guitarist] Spike [Cassidy] was in the hospital dealing with his stomach cancer. Tony Foresta from the Waste kinda handed me that gig. He was in Austin recording some guest vocals for [D.R.I. vocalist] Kurt Brecht’s side band, Pasadena Napalm Division. D.R.I. basically needed a guitar player in three weeks’ time. So Tony called me and an hour later I was on the phone Kurt hashing out the details. Three weeks later, I met them down in Ecuador to play a show. There was actually supposed to be three more shows around South America but they fell through. That was before I met Felix, actually, but it wasn’t long after that when Bat got rolling.
How many songs did you have to learn for that D.R.I. gig?
I learned 36 songs in three weeks—and we didn’t even have a practice, dude. We had a soundcheck for like an hour where we ran through like half of it. Then I hung out in the hotel with the drummer and Harald [Oimoen], the bass player, just kind of going over the songs in the room. But it went great. I felt like I was more familiar with the tunes than they were, honestly. [Laughs] But I’m kind of a weird OCD perfectionist.
You recently joined Municipal Waste as second guitarist. What’s the story there?
I think it was something that Tony and Dave had been throwing around for a while. I was in Cannabis Corpse with [Municipal Waste bassist] Phil [Hall] for a long time, too, so I’ve got plenty of history with these dudes. I think Ryan basically said he didn’t wanna do it unless I was the other guitarist, but they were like, “Duh.” So he approached me maybe six or seven months ago, and right away we started jamming new material. Meanwhile, I had to learn a shit-ton of back-catalog stuff, so I was kind of doing double duty there. It was the worst kept secret in Richmond for a while. [Laughs] We were trying to keep it under wraps, but everyone got excited about it. I did my first three shows with them in April, followed by the European tour we just got back from.
How’s it working out so far?
Oh, man—I love it. It’s definitely an easy fit. I kind of contributed a little bit to the last two Municipal Waste records, anyway. I wrote a solo for Ryan and then he let me play one on Massive Aggressive, and then I wrote another one and played another one on the Fatal Feast record as well. I’ve got a couple of small album credits with them, so it’s not a complete shock, I guess. They’ve been my buddies for the past ten years, so it’s very comfortable. I love these dudes.
J Bennett is a writer without Twitter, if you can believe it.