Tony Foresta (Iron Reagan, Municipal Waste) On Political Gallows Humor and Offensive Merch
Posted on February 9, 2015
February 9, 2015 | by Nick Spacek
Tony Foresta is notable for fronting not one, but two of the most energetic and entertaining bands I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Since 2001, he’s been the frontman for Richmond thrash metal punks Municipal Waste, and since 2012, he’s also fronted the more hardcore-tinged Iron Reagan. While both bands feature Foresta’s distinct vocals and are fast and heavy, Iron Reagan are a bit more political than the splatterpunk ethos of the Waste. They’re also almost ridiculously prolific, having released two full-lengths in the last three years, as well as a split with Exhumed and three EPs. They released their second full-length, The Tyranny of Will, last year on Relapse.
Foresta was cool enough to speak with us by phone while on tour opening for Voivoid and Napalm Death about Iron Reagan’s formation, their ethos, and how starting a new band can be refreshing.
The Runout: I’m kind of curious as to how Iron Reagan came together.
Tony Foresta: We were basically having some downtime with Municipal Waste. I’d been talking about this project that I’d had in mind for a long time. It was just something I wanted to be like an ‘80s hardcore kind of band. I’d been sitting on the idea of doing Iron Reagan for years, but just never had the time, because Municipal Waste was so busy.
But, we had some downtime, and Ryan [Parrish], who plays drums – he’s one of my best friends, and we’d been talking about doing a band for years. He’d quit Darkest Hour, so we finally had a chance to do a band that we’d been talking about doing for years. Once we’d figured out what we were doing, it all came together super-fast and snowballed from there really, really fast.
It’s interesting that you say “an ’80s hardcore kind of band,” because the band’s releases are very much in that vein – putting out a split, a bunch of EPs, and even your demo before putting out a full-length.
That was just how it worked. We didn’t have a plan of doing that. It’s just like, how we do things. There was no genius plot behind it. It was just how we threw our shit together.
Now, all of those releases were on different labels – A389, Tankcrimes. Why’d you end up going with Relapse for The Tyranny of Will?
We’ve known Relapse for years, with Municipal Waste and our other bands. They’d always been real supportive of us. I’ve always liked doing stuff with different labels. It just shows how different it is, working with people, and it’s a learning experience, working with different labels and learning how they do stuff.
But, yeah: I’ve always wanted to do something with Relapse, because they’ve been super-supportive of everything I’ve done over the years. It just kind of fell into place. We played this festival called Denver Black Sky, and they were all there. We were just having some beers and talking about the band, and asking what was up, and I was like, “Well, we got an album written. You guys want to do our album?” They were like, “Fuck yeah!” and it just kind of steamrolled from there, and then we went home and recorded it.
I’ve heard several bands talk about the fact that, even when band members are individually well-known – as is most of Iron Reagan – starting a new band is still like starting from scratch. Was that the case for all you guys?
Oh, yeah. Definitely. We were burning CDs of our demo and putting them together ourselves to sell ’em at our shows. We still play house shows and stuff like that. I like that. It’s the fun part of it. Starting over humbles you, and it makes you remember how hard it is, how much work you have to put in to get somewhere with your band, you know? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would’ve been kind of bummed if it had just fell into our laps.
Do you find yourself having to win over fans in a new way being on this massive tour that you’re on right now, with as many bands as are on it?
At first, I was kind of worried about that, but then … it seems that, if it was forced, people would know it. Once we got comfortable with it, things just fell into place. It took us a while. It took us a long time to figure out what we doing with the band, performance-wise. What works for us, what doesn’t work, and I think it finally all came together.
But, no: it doesn’t really bother me anymore, because I think the best way to go about it, is just to be yourself, and that’s kind of what we did. We just stopped trying to be super-serious. Definitely trying to have meaning with the songs, and let people know what you’re angry about, but also try to have a sense of humor and not be preachy about it.
That’s really funny, because my notes here say, “Political vs. dark humor.” What’s the balancing act required to do that sort of thing?
I wanna get a point across, but I don’t want to come off as preachy. I think a lot of bands that are political do that at times, and it almost alienates their fanbase, because they’re not really connecting with them, because they’re just shoving information in their face, like “You should be angry about this!” It’s more like, you should let people know what’s going on, and discuss it, instead of just preaching at them, you know? I think a lot of the more political bands have that problem, and it makes people lose interest.
Are you motivated by specific political causes, or is it more of a sense of disenfranchisement overall?
I’d say more disenfranchised overall. There’s a lot of stuff that bums me out, but I think I’ll just use the songwriting to get that across.
That seems to be a universal theme of hardcore across the ages: being apart from something, rather than being a part of something.
Yeah, exactly. That makes sense.
What really influences you as far as the humor and keeping things from getting too serious?
Ryan’s really good at like, co-writing the more serious part of the lyrics, and the more political stuff. I’ll kind of just throw a twist on it, to make it more humorous, you know? Sometimes it’s like, “This is too serious. I don’t want to be a super-bummer.” Sometimes, I like to take it over-the-top and exaggerate something like that, to the point where it’s humorous, if that makes any sense.
Oh, it really does, and it comes through in the album art, too. It’s like a political cartoon, but the splatter version of it.
I didn’t really realize how offensive our shirts were until I was talking about our shirts on this tour, and what’s selling and what doesn’t. We’re like, “There’s only, like, one that doesn’t have somebody getting their head exploded or stabbed in the face.” Looking at it, I was like, “Shit!” I hadn’t really thought about it. The shirt that is the least offensive is [Ronald] Reagan in front of a pile of bones.
Iron Reagan is currently on tour with Napalm Death, Voivod, Black Crown Initiate, and Exhumed. Those dates run through February 28, and you can find more information at Iron Reagan’s Facebook page. For a podcast interview with questions not answered here by Tony, head to Nuthouse Punks.