Iron Reagan: Band Of The Day

By on 19 September 2014


We know jamming with your buds is always fun, but when your buds happen to be Municipal Waste and Darkest Hour it also results in some brilliantly frantic crossover. “It started with Tony [Foresta], Ryan [Parrish] and I getting together one weekend and recording the demo songs that later became the ‘Fuck You’ EP,” says guitarist [Land]Phil Hall. “We did it for the heck of it; no other reason than to make some tunes in our free time. Things started to steamroll pretty quickly so we figured ‘what the heck, let’s find a bass player and play some shows.” Steamrolling is a valid analysis of Iron Reagan’s momentum, and two years later the band (that as Ryan says, does “a great job of mixing serious with silly”) are about put a stupid grin on your face with their Relapse debut ‘The Tyranny of Will’. Warning: it comes with a hangover.

WORDS: Rich Taylor

WHO ARE THEY: Iron Reagan
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: Richmond, Virginia
FOR FANS OF: Municipal Waste, D.R.I., Stormtroopers Of Death
LATEST RELEASE: ‘The Tyranny Of Will’ (Relapse Records, 2014)
WEBSITE: Facebook, Twitter & Bandcamp

All the members of Iron Reagan have extensive backgrounds in other bands – what brought you together to form Iron Reagan, and what do you get individually from playing in this band rather than your main projects?
Ryan (Parrish, drums) : “Tony and I have been friends forever. We’ve always wanted to be in a band together and as soon as Darkest Hour and I parted ways after 15 years, it was finally our chance to make it happen. Phil had a plethora of riffs in his arsenal, so we teamed up, brought Paul Burnette (ex-Darkest Hour) into the fold on bass and suddenly Iron Reagan was off to the races.”

Phil (Hall, guitars): “I am addicted to making music and putting out records ha ha! Being in Iron Reagan gives me the opportunity to make some ripping thrash at my home studio in Richmond Va with a drummer that I have always wanted to work with; Ryan Parrish. This band is basically a blank slate so we can do whatever we want to do musically, there hasn’t been any rules or guidelines established or anything like that. We have complete creative freedom. Plus this band has two guitar players live so playing around with that is awesome.”

Was the original intention to create music of a particular style, or has Iron Reagan’s sound emerged organically from the band member’s interests/backgrounds?
PH: “It started with Tony, Ryan and I getting together one weekend and recording the demo songs that later became the ‘Fuck You’ EP, we did it for the heck of it really, no other reason than to make some tunes with the free time we had available. Things started to steamroll pretty quickly so we figured ‘what the heck, let’s find a bass player and play some shows’.”

RP: “When the original line-up of Iron Reagan got into a room together I think our main focus was to create organic, fast thrash that we knew would be fun to play. We blasted out 10 tracks the first hour of practice and every song seemed to encapsulate some if not all of our influences. Phil had a ton of insane guitar riffs to sift through and that’s one of his strongest attributes when it comes to being a musician. He’s never out of ideas or musical vision. Tony had the reigns lyrically and as we wrote more and more tunes, it was apparent that we were going to be a song writing machine. We recorded a demo, a full length ‘Worse Than Dead’, and a split 12” with Exhumed. After the addition of Mark Bronzino on guitar and Rob Skotis on bass (replacing Paul), we were touring the US and Canada relentlessly. In between (and sometimes on) tour we somehow managed to record a free EP/1-sided-flexi 7” for Decibel Magazine entitled ‘Spoiled Identity’ which is 13 songs in about 5 minutes, and our 24 track Relapse Records debut ‘The Tyranny of Will’ soon to be released to all you thrash freaks Sept. 16th, to our discography.”

Although Iron Reagan has been considered a Richmond super-group, it seems the project has taken a life of its own and become more of a serious band rather than just being a fun side project. What events have led Iron Reagan coming of age in this sense?
RP: “Personally, the fact that IR is so damn fun has made this band far more than a project. Honestly, the only super thing about our group is our die-hard work ethic and endless creativeness. Everyone involved is incredibly talented which heightens our song writing capabilities and stimulates the growth of the band. This keeps it interesting, unique, and fucking hectic! Haha! Iron Reagan most certainly has a life of it’s own and if you’ve ever seen us live I believe you can somehow connect with us on some level. Over the past two years we’ve really tapped into what we’re trying to accomplish as a band. And that doesn’t just pertain to the music. Our artwork, lyrical subject matter, and even our attitudes towards what IR represents really sets us apart from anything we’re doing or have done. It’s the perfect combo of hard working band members and long-time friends who genuinely care about one another and the band.”

PH: “A lot of really fun shows were offered to us and we were joined by Rob Skotis on bass and Mark Bronzino on guitar and things started to click. I have a lot of fun going on tour with this rad new group of people. Everything feels really new and exciting.”

Iron Reagan focuses heavily on political and social themes – was this a purposeful decision when forming the band? What can you tell us about your lyrical inspiration and themes?
RP: “Our political stance isn’t as politically driven as it may seem. Although the issues on ‘Tyranny…’ we’ve written about have merit, I’d say it’s wrong to assume we’re a political band. It’s more of a societal awareness of what’s happening around us. I think it’s important to be awake and alert in an age where it seems things are transpiring in secret that directly affect us. You know those shitty hidden fees banks tend to get away with if you’re not paying attention? Smaller scale example, but you get what I’m saying. If you decide to dial out and be uninvolved then you run the risk of being a victim of some larger political scheme. The song ‘Class Holes’ brings to the forefront the ever-growing financial divide and inequality that seems to be absorbing lower and middle class Americans. It may be obvious to some, but there are also people who just don’t see it. And that goes for both sides. Then again, maybe no one cares. Point is, we do and it’s not a wasted breath if someone wakes the fuck up and decides for themselves.”

How does the writing process work for Iron Reagan? Surely having so much experience between the five of you must affect the writing/recording process!?
PH: “Most of the songs are written and demoed in groups, as in Ryan and I will get together and make up like 8 to 10 songs in one writing session. Once we have a shitload of songs recorded we go through them and pick out the stuff that we like. Then Tony begins to write lyrics, everyone in the band contributes to the riffs and lyrics. Writing goes very quickly because we want to keep the raw energy in there, I also record everything myself at my home studio so that gives me the opportunity to fine tune everything and expedite the entire process.”

RP: “Without a doubt. We definitely know what the fuck we’re doing? Haha. With 20 plus years of touring, recording, and being in crappy bands, we hopefully get a grasp on how all of this shit works. Our writing process seems to change with each release. For ‘Worse Than Dead’ and the split with Exhumed, Phil and I locked ourselves in the practice space a few times and grinded it out. Tony would come in to check out the songs, make changes where he thought necessary, and we’d demo it and move on. Afterward, with Phil at the helm engineering, and our buddy Bob tracking drums, both records saw the light of day in less than a year. ‘Spoiled Identity’ was the craziest, best, most interesting writing session I’ve ever been a part of. We rotated string instrument players in and out of the practice space one at a time. Meaning, while I was fleshing out ideas on a song with Bronzino, Skotis and Phil were in the hallway writing one! That’s what makes that release so insane. That’s a true peek into all of our musical backgrounds and tastes. A lot of jams never made the cut. Wonder where they are?”

Can you describe how Iron Reagan differs from your other projects? Listeners may make comparisons in sound to early Municipal Waste for example, but with the range of musicians and role changes things in Iron Reagan must be pretty different?
PH: “Having so many different musicians involved brings out lots of different ideas. Everyone that plays in Iron Reagan has many different musical interests and side projects so it’s like a melting pot of tastes. I feel like iron Reagan’s sound is slowly developing into something that has it’s own identity. We all feel excited about the future of the band and it is very exciting.”

Although the themes on ‘The Tyranny of Will’ primarily deal with more serious subject matter, there’s still plenty of tongue in cheek fun and daftness (“I want to watch one crushed by a bike!”) Is this a reflection of your personalities?
RP: “It’s such a waste of time and life when you take yourself or what you do too seriously. It’s OK to be passionate, but to elevate yourself or what you do above your peers, your friends…well, that sucks. I’d say IR does a great job mixing serious with silly. To have ‘Nameless’, a song about brainwashed terrorists suicide bombing innocent people, on the same record as a song that’s simply called ‘Your Kids An Asshole’ should give anyone an indication that we’re compassionate morons. Ha!”

PH: “We are a bunch of clowns really ha ha, it would be hard for levity not to slowly seep into our music. Joking around with each other makes everything a little bit easier on tour. We are trying to keep this band as honest as possible so jokes and things like that are going to poke through the cracks inevitably.”

With the new album about to come out you must have a few plans in the works– what’s on the cards for the future?
PH: “More touring and music, like I said earlier in this interview I am addicted! I will be making albums as long as my brain and hands still function.”

RP: “Tour, tour, tour. At least until Phil and Bronzy have riffs spilling out from their wazoo, then it’s back to practice space…”

Richmond seems to be a very vibrant area for all kinds of extreme metal – what is it about the area that helps it produce so many great bands?
RP: “That’s a great question and honestly I have no answer. We’re pretty lucky to have the talent we do walking around here. I’ve seen awesome musicians start bands on line at the Kroger. Also, with killer local acts like GWAR, Occultist, Municipal Waste… Richmond finds itself firmly planted on the metal map.”

PH: “There is a lot of creative people in this city partly because of the art college here called VCU, another reason is because the cost of living is very affordable. We get a lot of trickle down from Baltimore/Philly/New York ect. As well, now that RVA is becoming somewhat of a known force in music it is attracting more and more musicians. Thus raising the bar through healthy competition.”

Finally, why pick Ronald Reagan as your Iron president? He seems to be symbolic of all the themes you rant against!
RP: “Exactly! Bringing awareness to those who don’t know what Ronny was capable of. Google all things Ollie North and get back to me. It’s chilling.”

About Kez Whelan

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

%d bloggers like this: