Tony Foresta is the busiest man in the crossover scene.
Since 2001, the Florida native has fronted Municipal Waste, one of the most successful American metal bands of the last decade. He's also the singer for No Friends, a melodic hardcore band in the vein of Gorilla Biscuits and Swiz. Foresta was also one of the forces behind Best Friends Day, a music festival based out of his home base of Richmond, VA. The festival hosted such bands as Corrosion of Conformity, Propagandhi, and Against Me! throughout its multi-year run.
These days, Iron Reagan, a band that also features former or current members of Darkest Hour and Cannabis Corpse, has been taking up much of Foresta's time. Specializing in a hooky brand of crossover hardcore, Iron Reagan just released The Tyranny of Will, their second full-length album, and debut for Relapse Records.
An absolutely banger of a record, I had to catch up with Foresta and get the skinny on Tyranny and Iron Reagan.
The first thing I have to mention is the whole "project" tag Iron Reagan got labeled with when people first started learning about the band. Having lived with The Tyranny of Will for the last month or so, I think many folks will start seeing Iron Reagan for what it truly is: a real deal band and not just some "fun" thing you do in your spare time.
Thanks, man! I really appreciate that. I feel for most people that kept track of the band the past 14 months we've made it pretty clear that we are in this for the long haul. This has possibly been the hardest I have ever worked on something musically in my life, and I love every second of it. It gets a little frustrating when people say "side project" and things like that, but, really, I think it's because it is hard to tell what's going on. One band with so many dudes in other bands... I mean what else can you easily call that [laughs]? I get it. I don't think we even knew what we were getting into from the beginning anyways. Welp, here we are! Let's do this!
What I loved most about Worse Than Dead was how catchy the material was despite the speed and thrashiness of the arrangements. The Tyranny of Will is even hookier than its predecessor. How important is that aspect of Iron Reagan's sound to you?
I like "songs" [laughs]. I'm sick of every extreme band trying to out brutal each other. I think there's so much of that now that people are just forgetting the idea of songwriting at all. I mean, I guess it really doesn't matter if that's your thing, but I've always loved stuff that's super-fast yet super catchy. Like Malignus Youth or Leeway or even old school death metal. That shit has got hooks that stick in your brain. I want to be able to leave an album still humming it later, not just talking about how "insanely brutal" it is.
How tough has it been to produce the amount of lyrics you've been responsible for between all of the different bands you've been playing with in the last few years? By the way, I'm really enjoying the stuff you came up with for this new record.
Thanks. I ask for help. Plain and simple. No ego shit here. If I'm stuck, I'm stuck. I'll get like 15 songs deep and just hit a wall sometimes. I'll hit up [drummer] Ryan Parrish, or anyone in the band, to throw me some ideas or even lyrics. Fuck it. Sometimes you just need an idea to get you going. That song "Rat Shit" on the new record I rewrote three times and never even played my demo for the guys. I hated what I did. Finally I just called Ryan P. and told him I hit a wall and to try out something lyrically with the song. He did, and that was the final version we used. I didn't change anything on it. I was like, "Perfect... moving on," [laughs]. It's cool, too, when other people help out with lyric writing because it will give you a different vocal pattern that you normally wouldn't have thought of, and all around adds more diversity to the album as a whole.
I think Phil Hall is one of the best metal/hardcore guitar riff writers out there right now. The Tyranny of Will features some of his best riffs yet.
Phil is insane, but in a great way [laughs]. He dedicates all of his spare time to doing what he loves and that's creating music. While most other people are blowing money at a bar or dicking around on the Internet, he is most likely sitting somewhere either playing his guitar or bass or recording something for someone else. He is definitely one of the most talented dudes I have ever worked with. It's weird, but I think his love for old school death metal made him find out about hardcore and punk a different way than most people get into that sort of music. He was into death metal first then kind of found out about everything else later. Maybe that's what makes him such a diverse musician.
The cover art for The Tyranny of Will was done by Alexis Maybree, an artist who is better known as NevaSafe. As far as I know, Alexis lives in the Richmond area like you and the rest of the guys in Iron Reagan. Did you closely collaborate with her or did you give her a concept and let her run with it?
She lived in Richmond for a while but recently moved to Austin, Texas. She has been cranking out a ton of art the past few years and I was always a fan of it. We had a blast working together on the new album, riding around Richmond, going to thrift stores and digging through old books looking for the right imagery. For the most part, I let her run with it. Once we kind of got on the same page with the images we wanted to use I kind of just let her go ape shit. Orion [Landau] from Relapse also killed it on the layout. It would really be difficult to take all of the insane stuff she gave him and make it work for a CD and LP insert, but he nailed it. Hopefully, we can work with her again real soon if she will stop BMXing all over the damn country for a minute!
Speaking of Richmond, the city has become such a cultural hotbed in the last few years. But what really sets it apart in my view is the city's sense of community. Whether it's a musician or a business owner, there seems to be a genuine love and support for anything that is locally nurtured there.
Yeah, Richmond is truly an amazing place to live. There are so many beautiful and creative people packed into one small place that it's almost overwhelming. It's like there is almost a friendly competition between residents over who will get the most cool shit done [laughs]. It seems like ever since I lived here there has always been a current stream of new and creative people flowing through town. Maybe it's because of VCU being such a big art school, or maybe it's because of the cheap rent, but this town has always been extremely supportive of its residents and visitors.
I have friends and family that moved to Richmond and love it. The other guy I do this website with, Andrew Aversionline, also lives there. Is there part of you that worries that too many folks are going to move to Richmond and drive up the rents/home prices like what happened in cities like Silver Lake, Los Angeles and Williamsburg, Brooklyn?
Oh, yeah, I remember Andrew! But, yeah, seems like Austin is getting it the worst right now. That worries me a bit sometimes. I mean, it's already slowly happening to Richmond. VCU is gobbling up this town like crazy. Sometimes I'll ride my bike down Broad St. and be like, "Jesus Christ! Avail was right!" You wouldn't even recognize some places from 10 years ago. I mean a ton of places.
You've played in metal, punk, and hardcore bands throughout the years, but is there a different musical style you'd like to tackle in the future? Can we expect a Tony Foresta EDM album in the coming years?
I came up with a really interesting solo album concept that I want to do within the next few years. It should be really fun. But, honestly, all I really want to do is play in fast bands. What can I say? I like fast!