Iron Reagan Wants to Stab You in the Eye
Frontman Tony Foresta discusses eyeball gore, shitty kids and the death of GWAR mastermind Oderus Urungus.
It’s four o’clock in the afternoon when we rouse Tony Foresta from his slumber. “Municipal Waste played out in Denver last weekend and we just flew in last night,” the vocalist explains groggily from his pad in Richmond, VA. “I’ve been sleeping off and on all day.”
And who can blame him? In addition to Municipal Waste, the hard-touring thrash outfit he’s fronted for over a decade, Foresta and Waste bassist “Land” Phil Hall recently started crossover brigade Iron Reagan with Paul Burnette and Ryan Parrish, both former members of DC metal squad Darkest Hour. Burnette has since left the band and been replaced by Rob Skotis, who joins new second guitarist Mark Bronzino to play on Iron Reagan’s latest album, The Tyranny Of Will—their second in as many years.
We spoke with Foresta less than two weeks before Iron Reagan is scheduled to play the fifth annual GWAR-B-Q—an event that will doubtlessly take on a more somber tone this year after GWAR founder Dave Brockie (a.k.a. Oderus Urungus), died of a heroin overdose earlier this year.
Is being in two full-time bands exhausting, or what?
Tony Foresta: It’s not exhausting, but it’s confusing sometimes. [Laughs] We didn’t think Iron Reagan was gonna take off or be as busy at it is. But now there’s a lot of, well… managing stuff. This isn’t what we planned. We were just doing it to have fun, but then it was like, “Oh, wow—everybody’s interested in us.” That’s actually why Paul [Burnette] quit the band. He couldn’t keep up with the touring—he’s got a kid and stuff. So it’s been a little shocking.
You’ve been on the road with Iron Reagan for about eight months. Was that time you were planning on taking off from Municipal Waste anyway?
We took time off from Municipal Waste touring to write a new album anyway, but that’s gotten extended a little bit. We didn’t wanna overdo it with Municipal Waste because it was going full-speed for like 13 years. So yeah, the time off got extended a little bit because everyone’s projects got busier—Iron Reagan, plus Phil is also in Cannabis Corpse, and even Ryan [Waste] and Dave [Witte]’s projects. But it’s not holding anything back. No one’s bummed or anything. We just take a long-ass time to write. We’re still only like halfway done with the Municipal Waste record. I think everyone’s enjoying their time off to do other stuff creatively.
It’s not like you’re actually taking time off, though. You’re working your balls off.
If I wasn’t doing anything, I’d probably lose my mind. The more constantly creative I am, the better the stuff is. If I take a break for a while and get stagnant, it takes me a while to get back in the swing of writing and being creative.
What’s up with the new Iron Reagan song “Eyeball Gore?” Which movie were you watching when you decided to write a song about people getting stabbed in the eye?
[Laughs] I was drunk one night, and I forget what movie I was watching, but there was a good shot of someone taking it in the eyeball. So I started complaining that there isn’t enough of that in movies these days. “They’re not doing enough eyeball stabbing!” My friends were like, “What the fuck are you talking about?” But my point was, that scene got the best reaction out of everyone in the room. Everyone was sick to their stomach, you know? Eyeball gore causes a reaction; it spurs an emotion. So I decided to write a fucking song about it.
What about the “Eyeball Gore” video? It’s brutal.
The lyrics to that song are some of my favorite lyrics I’ve ever written—they’re just so ridiculous—so I wanted to do a lyric video for it. Then we stole footage from all our favorite movies that have scenes like that. I’m really surprised that YouTube hasn’t taken it down. I just looked at it earlier today and it’s almost at 20,000 views. I mean, it’s total copyright infringement. [Laughs] We blatantly stole footage from Goonies and all these other movies. And on top of that, it’s horribly disgusting. But you know what’s funny? If our video had titties instead of impaled eyeballs, it would’ve been banned the second it went up. If it was a titty gore video? [Laughs] Forget it. But it’s OK if it’s just eyeballs getting sliced side to side. That’s fine. But no titties. Not even side boob!
What inspired the song “Your Kid’s An Asshole”?
I wrote that one when I was on a plane next to this French couple. I was sitting in an aisle seat, and the mom was to my right. Her husband and her kids were next to her, and they would just let their kids run all over the airplane. It got to the point where the entire staff of the plane had to walk over and tell them to control their kids. But they wouldn’t listen. One of the kids was like sitting in my lap, climbing all over me and screaming at his sister—in French, which pissed me off even more. [Laughs] I was just losing it. I hate how some parents think their kids are the most beautiful things in the world and are somehow more entitled to shit than everybody else. So yeah, it was a Grumpy Tony song.
You gave me the Iron Reagan demo 12-inch in January last year. By this coming January, the band will have two-full lengths and two EPs out. How are you working so fast?
[Laughs] It seems like a long time ago for us, but when the band members changed, it was kind of like hitting restart. We wanted to write with the new guys as quick as possible and get them involved creatively. That was pretty much right after [2013’s] Worse Than Dead came out. We were just touring a lot, and once those guys joined, everyone had riffs and everyone wanted to start doing this shit. It was something that everyone was extremely excited and passionate about. But it’s crazy. These dudes just write songs really fast.
I guess it helps when the songs are only like a minute long.
[Laughs] Right, yeah. But I mean, the second we were done with the first album we were talking about the next one.
Do you ever get writer’s block?
No, not really. On the last Municipal Waste record, I kind of hit a wall. When that happens, people will step in and give me ideas or write their version of the song and I’ll go in and fuck with it. So when I hit walls, I’ll ask for help. I’m not cocky like that. I always wanna hear what other people have to say. With Iron Reagan, Ryan Parrish will jump in a lot. He’s actually more responsible for writing the more political side of the Iron Reagan lyrics.
That’s something that comes up a lot: Iron Reagan can be more serious, lyrically, than Municipal Waste. In addition to eyeball gore and shitty kids, you’ve got songs about greed and health care and politicians. Did you always wanna write about more serious topics?
Yeah, definitely. But you can’t really do that with Municipal Waste because no one’s gonna take you seriously when you’re singing about a fucking shark in one song, beer bongs in the next, and then you try to do a political song. It’s like if Murphy’s Law started doing serious songs, I’d be like, “What the fuck are these guys talking about?” [Laughs] You know what I mean? So Iron Reagan is a good outlet for me to do that.
Did you and Ryan go to high school together?
We went to rival high schools down in the same area of Virginia, like 30 minutes south of Richmond. In that area, there was maybe like two punks at each school. [Laughs] So all the kids who were into metal or punk in that five or ten-mile radius all knew each other. When we were coming up, he and I used to play shows in our punks bands together. He was also in this insane death metal band called Disinterment. He was my favorite drummer. I actually remember watching Disinterment with the guys from Darkest Hour—I didn’t know them, I was just standing near them—but I said, “Watch this fucking drummer.” A couple of months later, they hit him up and got him to join their band. That was over 15 years ago, probably. Maybe even 16 or 17.
As far as heavy music in Richmond, GWAR was the only game in town for a long time. Then Lamb Of God and you guys came along. And now it seems like there’s all kinds of heavy bands coming out of Richmond that are operating on a national level. Why do you think that is?
It’s weird, man. When we started, bands like GWAR and Avail had put this touring aesthetic in people’s heads. Like, you gotta get on the road in a shitty van and sweat it out for a few years before anyone’s gonna respect you. I think that mentality just blossomed and influenced other people. But it’s also the location, too. There’s an art school; it’s cheap. For a while, all kinds of killer bands were coming out of Austin, Texas, but now it’s getting more expensive to live there. But Richmond is still super cheap. The mortgage on my house is like $600, you know? You can live semi-comfortably here for like $300 a month. And you can tour, because there are a lot of local businesses that will hire you, let you tour, and then come back to work. It’s just known that a lot of people here are in fuckin’ bands.
Earlier this year, you released a flexi through Decibel magazine that included 13 songs in under five minutes. Was the idea to cram as much material as possible onto that thing?
[Laughs] Yeah, totally. We wanted to write as many songs as we could for one side of a flexi. We had a bunch of short songs because we were already writing for the new album, The Tyranny Of Will. All that stuff was written at the same time, so we just put all the shortest ones on the flexi. We wanted to outdo Agoraphobic Nosebleed, because they had 12 songs on their flexi. And then we got [Agoraphobic Nosebleed guitarist] Scott Hull to master it. We beat him!
A few of the songs from the flexi also turn up on the new album. Did you include those because theDecibel flexi was a more limited release?
Yeah, I think we put two or three of them on the album. A couple of them are my favorites from the flexi. They also fit the aesthetic of the album, too. And one song was about Dave Brockie, so we wanted to get that on the album.
Which one is about Dave?
“The Living Skull.” It was like this joke we had with him when Iron Reagan went on tour with GWAR. The Living Skull was one of his characters that would show up during Iron Reagan’s set and throw liquor bottles at us while we were playing. If you caught it, you had to drink it. [Laughs] There’s footage of it somewhere. He did it for a couple of weeks straight. He’d just stand on the side of the stage in a ski mask throwing shit at us.
You’re playing he GWAR-B-Q in Richmond in a couple of weeks. Is that gonna be weird now that Dave’s gone?
It’s definitely gonna be sad. But it’s been a while, so we’re used to it now. We went to the memorial service a couple of months ago, and it was really well put-together. One moment we were crying, and the next moment we were laughing. So, I don’t know. It’s definitely gonna be a little weird because he was a friend of ours. But I’m looking at it as more of a celebration of his life. It’s gonna be sad as fuck, but I’m trying to look at the positive aspects. We had a hard time when that happened. Going out on the road right after he died was weird. Everyone was on edge and stressed out. It took a while to get used to.
Both Iron Reagan and Municipal Waste toured a bunch with GWAR. What kind of relationship did you have with Dave?
He was a big fan of Iron Reagan. I mean, he helped us write shit. There are songs that he came up with that are on the new album. “Bill Of Fights” is a Dave Brockie song. We’d be drinking on tour, just shooting ideas back and forth, and he was like, “You gotta have a song called ‘Bill Of Fights’!” And he’d sing the chorus to us. [Laughs] I’ll never forget that. Him yelling that shit at me is buried in my brain, it was so funny. He was like the extra member of the band. We did the last two GWAR tours in the US with him, so we spent nine weeks on the road together. Municipal Waste toured with them three times, too, so it’s like losing a family member to me. It was tough, man. I spent New Year’s with Dave. Me and him and [Mike] Derks from GWAR and their girlfriends got a beach house in Nags Head at the end of tour and just sat there for a week. It was one of the best New Year’s of my life. So it’s sad, man. He shouldn’t have been gone so early.
He wasn’t even that old.
He was only 11 or 12 years older than me. I was right down the street at my house when I heard. I was off tour and they had just got back from Japan. I took a nap and woke up and my phone was just ringing off the hook. He fucking called me that day, too, wanting to hang out. He’s not a junkie—I know assholes are saying that shit, but he wasn’t. He probably just did that shit because he was fucking bored, man. Seriously. He was off tour and had nothing to do. That’s just how he was. He was fearless and always up to something. It was shocking as fuck.
You’d never heard of him doing heroin before.
Not at all. Being around that guy so much, that’s how I know he wasn’t a junkie. I guarantee he was just bored one day. I know that his roommate was out of town that day. Dave was probably just sitting on his ass, going, “Fuck, what am I gonna do today?”
If you go out on tour with someone for three or four weeks at a time, you’d know if they were a junkie. That shit is difficult to hide in those situations.
Absolutely. And just watch a fucking GWAR set on YouTube, you know? The energy it takes to wear all that shit and stand up there and be funny as fuck every night for like ten weeks straight, driving ten hours a day to do it? You can’t be a fucking junkie and do that. It doesn’t make any sense. So it was a total shock to everyone. But we’re looking forward to paying tribute to him at the GWAR-B-Q. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but we’ve got something up our sleeve.
J. Bennett shared a burrito with Dave Brockie once.
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