Interview: Municipal Waste Guitarist Ryan Waste Talks 'Fatal Feast'

When I spoke to Municipal Waste guitarist Ryan Waste back in August, right as the band hit the studio to begin recording their new album, he promised that it would up the ante on aggression from their last album.

A tall order, considering the band's 2009 effort was titled Massive Aggressive.

Still, the Waste know how to deliver, and on Fatal Feast, the band's signature brand of crossover thrash comes through louder and clearer than ever, not relenting for a second over the course of 16 tracks.

Songs like "Unholy Abductor" and the album's title track are sure-fire additions to the band's setlist for years to come, and "Repossession," the album's first real track after the "Waste In Space" intro, is a natural live opener.

Before the band hit the road with Gwar for the second leg of the "Return of the World Maggot" Tour, I caught up with Ryan Waste once again to talk about the new album, his new signature guitar from Fernandes, and why the guy being eaten on the cover of Fatal Feast looks suspiciously like Captain Kirk.

GUITAR WORLD: After being free agents for a while, you guys signed with Nuclear Blast for this album. How's that been working out so far?

It's great, they're just letting us breathe. We're getting to do a lot of different vinyl releases on different labels. They're really cool about letting us do our own thing and be creative. It's great to have a label that's open to anything we want to do; it's pretty incredible.

Before we even get to the album itself, the album's whole theme of "Waste in Space" is really interesting. How did that come about?

That theme was seriously almost 10 years old for us. We had the title "Fatal Feast" for years, even before Waste 'em All; we just sat on it. We had a different song written with different lyrics than you hear on the album, but we kept the title. With the Waste it's funny, we'll come up with an idea like, "The fourth album's gonna be the space album." It's an idea that's been around for a while, but we never got to pull it off until now. It's about time we go to space, you know?

You worked with Justin Osbourn of Slasher Design for the album's artwork, which came out fantastic. How closely did you work with him?

I always work closely with the artist back and forth, and he was really cool to work with. We had a real detailed concept about what we wanted it to look like and he just brought it to life. We worked on the character in the foreground back and forth a lot until we got it right. With the background, I described it to him and he seriously knocked it out in one try. It's my favorite album art we've had to date.

It reminds me of something Deceased would have done back in the day.

You know what it reminds me of? Those old sci-fi movie posters. That's what we were going for, anyway.

It definitely has that vibe. And speaking of old sci-fi, I have to ask, does the guy being eaten look like Captain Kirk on purpose?

That just kind of happened, man! I saw that during an interview with Justin, and I don't think even he intended it.

We had to sign around a thousand posters yesterday, so I was staring at it the whole time thinking, "Man, I don't even think it looks like Captain Kirk." If you look at it upside down, it's a little bit easier to see. It could be anybody. We don't want to kill Captain Kirk. [laughs]

Fatal Feast is your longest album to date. Did you guys go through a really fertile songwriting period?

I think we just wanted to give fans the full package and not skimp on anything for the new label. We actually recorded way more than that. We took a year off to write and record the record, which we've never done, so we ended up writing more than enough songs. We liked so many of them that we just ended up with a lot of songs on the record. We ended up recording seven more that didn't even make it on there.

Will those see the light of day eventually?

We're putting those on on different releases, like the flex-disc in Decibel and a split with Toxic Holocaust.

Did taking a year off to do the record change your songwriting process at all?

It was just way more relaxed. In the past, we were always rushed because we were always on the road, but we didn't want to put songwriting in the back seat.

For this record, we got to demo the stuff out and make changes. But we didn't really overthink anything. We just had a comfortable time to write and record, and we've never had that before. I think everyone was in good spirits and feeling refreshed.

And you're hitting the road with Gwar as your first tour back from hiatus ...

Yeah, it's great. We actually toured with them back in 2006, and sort of cut our teeth playing big rooms with those guys. They're from Richmond, like us; we're really good friends with 'em and they've always looked out for us.

Ghoul is on the tour too, and they're real good friends of ours, so we're going to be stuck in between two masked, gnarly bands. We'll have to think of some gimmick to throw at the crowd. [laughs]

Any surprises for the tour?

I can't say. I don't want to give anything away, but we pulled it off in 2006, so it should be even better this time. Maybe we'll make real shitty masks and put a half-assed stage show on for the audience and see what they say. [laughs]

When we talked back in the fall of last year, you said the title of your last record [Massive Aggressive] almost seemed ironic, because the new stuff is even heavier. Was that a conscious decision going into the album?

I think with us, we always want to step it up each time. Just because that album's called Massive Aggressive doesn't mean we couldn't get more aggressive. We're always pushing ourselves to be more aggressive. I think the time and place had a lot to do with it. We had the time to put into the songs, so things could get a bit more technical.

We're always pushing each other, but I don't think we'll ever be a technical band. It's definitely not my style.

On that note, who are the guitarists that consider your biggest influences?

I started out as a bass player, actually, when I was about 13. I was really into heavy metal: Sabbath, Priest, the basics. I didn't pick up guitar until I was 18, so my roots are in rhythm and bass, and I think that makes me a strong rhythm player.

For guitar, I listened to a lot of German speed metal: early Sodom, Destruction, Kreator, Assassin, stuff like that. And, of course, there's the obvious ones, Slayer, Anthrax ... that's what I was listening to back in high school.

I still feel like a bass player playing guitar sometimes. I'm still working out some lead stuff; I'm always learning on guitar. I don't consider myself a phenomenal player; I try to concentrate on the songwriting and the riffs.

Do you find yourself practicing a lot?

We practice so much as a band, that that's really my practice time. I'm not one of those people that sits in my bedroom playing. We rehearse a lot, and I also play bass in a band called Vulture. Switching back and forth between guitar and bass keeps it interesting. There's always room for improvement, though.

Can I assume most of the guitar on Fatal Feast is your custom MW guitar?

Yeah, I used it on the whole record! I actually just got a deal with Fernandes guitars and they're going to be making me another MW guitar, as well as a signature line of V-Hawk, all to my specs.

How about your amps on the record?

I used a Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier, which I used on The Art of Partying and on this record, through Marshall cabs, as always.

Is your pedalboard pretty extensive?

Nah, no way. It's A pedal. A mystery pedal. I don't like a lot of effects; it's just more shit that can go wrong. We've got a real high-energy stage show, and I don't want people kicking and stepping on my shit. The less stuff I have on stage, the better.

I never really liked having a lot of effects. It seems kind of useless. It's always been all or nothing for me. That's the thing about those signature guitars I've got, all they've got is an on/off switch. No volume, no tone, no channel switcher. Just a bridge pickup, and it's either all or nothing!

Fatal Feast, the new album from Muncipal Waste, is out April 10 on Nuclear Blast.

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Josh Hart

Josh Hart is a former web producer and staff writer for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado magazines (2010–2012). He has since pursued writing fiction under various pseudonyms while exploring the technical underpinnings of journalism, now serving as a senior software engineer for The Seattle Times.