Bat – Streetbangers At Large

Thursday, 2nd May 2024

Photo: Howlermano Photography

The purity of traditional metal never loses momentum especially in the hands of acts like Bat. The US three-piece embraces a classic sound full of velocity, energy, and intensity – featuring Municipal Waste members Ryan Waste and Nick Poulos along with latest drummer Chris Marshall. After being a part of the Hells Headbangers roster for their debut album Wings of Chains and the 2019 EP follow-up Axestasy, they’ve joined the Nuclear Blast roster for the second full-length Under the Crooked Claw. Listeners will enjoy a whirlwind effort that captures influences from the US/European movement of the 80’s to bring them to a newer generation with the same spirit, passion, and angst that put this style on the map.

We reached out to bassist/vocalist Ryan Waste on a busy press day to discuss the making of the new record, his love for videos, if he will resurrect his Living Fast YouTube channel that highlighted many obscure metal bands, thoughts on what young musicians need to pay attention to as far as record label contracts, balancing the work of Municipal Waste with Bat and remaining sane, plus future plans including work on a heavy metal horror movie.

Dead Rhetoric: The latest Bat album is Under the Crooked Claw – five years after your previous Axestasy EP. How did this latest set of material develop, what were the recording sessions like, and do you believe the extended downtime from the pandemic played any part in drilling deeper into these songs?

Ryan Waste: The pandemic was the only way we were able to sit in the room and write these (songs) with my touring schedule as it’s been. That played a huge part. We had a new drummer on this one, Chris Marshall who lives in Richmond, Virginia, so we were all in one room – Nick, Chris and I with nothing else to do except write music, you know what I mean? It kept us happy and sane during that time. We recorded up in Philadelphia two years later with Arthur Rizk, who is a good friend of the band. Still towards the end of the pandemic, everything was a crazy time. There were a lot of good positive things that came out of it.

I feel like this album is a step up in a different, dynamic direction. We did stuff that’s a little less straight forward, but still sounds like Bat. We are always pushing ahead; it’s supposed to be raw and nasty, and I feel like we accomplished that.

Dead Rhetoric: I love the cover art that conveys a lot of old school aesthetics and textures that mirror the musical output for the band. How did the process develop from initial ideas to the final work we take in?

Waste: It was interesting. I commissioned this guy Brandon Holt who is a tattooer and an illustrator out in Minneapolis. I really dug his work; he is more of a black and grey stippling kind of guy. We had him do the original inking and then we had Margaret Rolicki who is a creature fabricator, she did the actual bat in our first music video for the album. There’s a full costume and she did the bat based on the first album Wings of Chains which was done by Christoph Breit of Infected Arts. I wanted a more action shot of him in a three-forced profile which is menacing to me. We got that accomplished. It’s a 3-D reference I can send to any artist. I want this to be our mascot, the same character each time but in a different position. Kind of like Snaggletooth for Motörhead. I sent him those references; she knew what to do as she made it, so she painted it after he inked it. It’s a collaboration and I love the end result.

Dead Rhetoric: You are now a part of Nuclear Blast with Bat after spending time on Hells Headbangers. Did this seem like a natural step forward, given the fact that you’ve been on Nuclear Blast with Municipal Waste for well over a decade – and do you believe they have a proper understanding of the right promotion channels and philosophy behind this group that may differ from your other band(s)?

Waste: Yeah, I trust Nuclear Blast. They are people that I’ve worked with coming on fourteen years. Some people have come and gone, but there’s definitely a core group of people that I’ve worked with. You have to trust your label; they’ve never really pushed anything on us that’s not our own ideas. People have the idea that labels try to force you to do certain things – it’s been quite the opposite. Everything we have creative control on, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You couldn’t tell me what to do (laughs). I’m not very employable in that regard. I trust them, they know what to do with the ever changing, digital world we live in. We just got control back of our Spotify, and Bat is a very hard thing to search for, if you can imagine. Now you can find it, that’s huge. I’m glad I have this team in Germany and Los Angeles and London, everywhere that are helping us now.

It’s been a big help. Bat has been one of these bands that’s been in the underground. As cool as that sounds, you still want people to hear it, you know? It’s getting out there a little more now. I’m always trying to push vinyl on them – with Municipal Waste as well. I want it on record, I like LP’s, that’s what I want to make. I don’t feel they make enough of them, maybe we can convince them to press more. It’s a good problem if they are selling out real fast.

Dead Rhetoric: Tell me about the video shoots for “Rite For Exorcism” and “Streetbanger” – where do you see the importance in the visual medium in getting across the lyrics, messages, and imagery for the band?

Waste: Definitely. It’s my favorite thing to do, film stuff. My partner Norman Cabrera, who I worked with on “Rite for Exorcism”, he and I have been working on a film script for the last five years. We are making a heavy metal horror movie called Exit Stage Death. We are looking at these videos as a precursor to what we can do. He is a practical effects artist out in Los Angeles. He did the videos for “Slime and Punishment” and “Electrified Brain” for Waste, and we are doing two videos with him – one’s not out yet for “Revenge of the Wolf”. It’s like a short film in itself. We shot that and the “Wolf” video, two videos in two days, an insane schedule I wouldn’t recommend. We are still doing some pick up shots for the “Revenge” video. We did the “Streetbanger” video right here in Richmond, Virginia with my buddy Jeff Howlett, who is a documentary filmmaker. He made the film about Death, not the death metal band but the punk rock band. He is a friend of the band, we recently got in touch and he’s a photographer, documentary guy, and we asked him to shoot a video for us. We walked around town, smashed shit up around our practice space, it’s barebones. I got to edit it, we got to do a band performance and people are digging that too.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you enjoy most about the power trio format for this group? What have been some of your favorite power trios over the years – be it heavy metal or otherwise?

Waste: I love a power trio because it’s less people to deal with! (laughs) It’s easier to operate, you can ride around in a van and still bring somebody with you to help out. Musically, you have to be on your game because everyone is out on their own. If someone is doing a lead, I have to hold the rhythm down, almost like a guitar player. Everyone brings it to the table in this band, Chris is a crushing drummer, Nick is an incredible lead player. Have you ever heard of Motörhead? There’s a good power trio. Triumph, there are so many, man. What you see is what you get, no room for error up there. If there is an error, we say that we did that on purpose, like Venom, it’s supposed to be sloppy.

Dead Rhetoric: Can you discuss the challenges of performing in an old school heavy/speed metal-oriented act like BAT to sound fresh and convincing while not necessarily treading too close to what’s already been done and accomplished by the originators back in their heydays?

Waste: We try to always do our own thing. We are inspired by bands, of course the two that I mentioned Venom and Motörhead especially. You want at the end of the day to be your own thing. I want to sound like Bat, I don’t want to emulate anyone. You can’t help but have your heroes and your influences in the back of your head, but you should always make it your own thing. Copycats, anyone can do that. It’s good to stand out. The longer you keep a band going, the more you end up sounding like yourselves.

Dead Rhetoric: Years back you developed a killer video channel via YouTube called Living Fast – where you exposed people to your love of heavy metal, your record collection, fun little segments with band interviews, and so forth. Do you have any plans to resurrect this down the line, and what are your favorite memories of this time?

Waste: Yeah, I always say I’m bringing this back. I actually am bringing the show back, it’s really been about my schedule being fast for lack of a better word. I’ve been on tour non-stop. I started filming stuff on tour, and I want to keep it fun. I don’t want to do this for a job, I never did this to make any money, I did this to spread to word on bands that I like. Yes I do want to bring it back – when it’ll happen, I don’t like putting a timeline on it because any time I say I’m going to do it, it takes like five years. I will do it in a more refined format, just like on Instagram. Film it on my phone in this room, do some walkthroughs talking about some albums and movies, keep it real simple. When I start making it a big production, I get obsessed with it, and it starts taking too long. I’m an obsessive-compulsive person, so I have to tread lightly with that kind of stuff.

The movie is taking over that part of my brain for the last few years. The movie will have a lot of these theatrical elements. Like the first episode of Living Fast, John Gallagher pops out of my bathroom while I’m holding the (Raven) record, that’s the kind of stuff I like doing, the cinematic stuff. If anything, the movie will get people’s rocks off that are missing the show.

Dead Rhetoric: When you did those record segments where you were exposing people to some lesser-known bands out of your collection, did you ever back from any of those former members?

Waste: Yeah. The band Warhead, the US metal band, they contacted me. It was a little too late, I wanted to see if they wanted to say anything, then they reach me six months later. Where were you when I wrote to you back then? A lot of these guys, they are not clued in as much as young people would be to the internet. I don’t blame anybody. It’s tough getting ahold of people, but it’s really cool when they do. It’s an honor when you hear back from these people, and they tell you they can’t believe I knew about their band. Some people will send me a rare demo, they try to catch me, something I’ve never heard – which I am always open to. Please, send me stuff I’ve never heard, I’m always trying to dig further into the past. Someone sent me this tape of a band Idle Threat the other day, it’s cool stuff you know. I don’t pretend to know everything – so please, show me some other stuff.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you balance the activities with Municipal Waste, BAT, Volture, and spending time with friends, family, relationships? Are there specific rituals or things you implement in your life to unwind and recharge your batteries when necessary?

Waste: It definitely takes its toll on relationships; I’ll tell you that. It’s tough. Playing music is my love, I’m making this movie now, and it just takes all your time. I’m learning to try to chill out, but it’s hard. I just have to put a movie on and turn my phone off. People don’t realize when you play in a band, they think you just do shows, this and that – I’m on call twenty-four hours a day because I’m approving artwork, working towards the next tour as I do a lot of the managerial things for both bands. All of it for Bat and most of it for Municipal Waste. If I have a tour coming up, I’m doing all this pre-production, paperwork, tax shit, the stuff that’s not fun in a band. I’m up for the challenge and learning about it rather than having a manager that I don’t trust, learning more about the industry. Having control over my own stuff, that’s very important, because a lot of people get screwed over, and I’m not down with that.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you think younger musicians should pay attention to more in the industry that they don’t take into consideration?

Waste: Don’t outright trust anybody – get second opinions. When you are signing a contract especially, because labels are known for pulling a fast one. I’m not talking about Nuclear Blast or anyone in particular. They will try to get you for a deal that sounds cool because they want your band out there – the next thing you know you aren’t getting your publishing; you aren’t getting any royalties. We learned that the hard way and moving forward I’ve been on top of that type of thing.

Dead Rhetoric: What will the touring opportunities look like for Bat? Are you more selective due to your commitment with Municipal Waste?

Waste: I’m trying to treat both bands equally. We have a tour with Necrot coming up in the US with Bat, and then Waste goes to Australia right after that. It’s really just planning it out in advance so there is no overlap. There is really no other way to do it. My whole year is booked, we are making up for lost time because we had two years where we weren’t doing anything. The people that are hungry are just as much there as the bands when it comes to gigs, it’s a crazy time right now but we are rolling with it.

Dead Rhetoric: Have you seen a difference of audiences and philosophy coming out of the pandemic? Not just in the US, but internationally?

Waste: Yeah. There are a lot more hoops to jump through internationally, I’ve noticed. As much as it’s a pain with taxes and regulations, everyone wants (these shows) just as much out there. Bat was in South America with Exciter, and it was incredible. It was a lot of work, a lot of travel, getting to play to those guys and gals down there was incredible. You know how the love for heavy metal is down in South America, I’ll do it on no sleep, and we did it. And Exciter was incredible every night too.

Dead Rhetoric: Are you thinking the US scene is getting stronger now, especially when it comes to these festivals building up like Hell’s Heroes, Maryland Death Fest, etc.?

Waste: It took a lot of these people that put these festivals on touring Europe and seeing how it’s done to really bring it to the states. Maryland Death Fest for a while was the only one we had, and they didn’t really highlight a lot of traditional heavy metal bands that I wanted to see. You need to take notes from Europe, they know what they are doing over there. And that’s starting to happen here – I think Christian is doing a good job with Hell’s Heroes, we got to play the second one when it was a little smaller. What’s not to love about that?

Dead Rhetoric: Over your years following the metal scene, what do you believe are key elements that need to be in place for successful support from a local to a national/international movement? Do you believe the internet has been a great equalizer in the popularity of heavy metal currently?

Waste: Yeah, the internet helps. You have to look at the positives of it. It’s funny, I still feel like I want to do things the hard way. Make a record, not show it to anyone until it’s out, rather than make a single, put it on the internet the next day, expect everyone to hear it. There’s a method to it and it works, I’m just old-fashioned. You are hearing the record now because I’m doing press for it, that’s the old way to do it. We are doing these singles and videos, teasing it out there. You can take the new way and the old way and make it work.

Dead Rhetoric: Do you make a concerted effort to think about the record sequencing, track listing?

Waste: Yes, the record has to have a flow. Sometimes you will come up with the flow afterwords, I know Tony and I from Municipal Waste have talked about some of those records that could be in a different order. This record I feel like I nailed it with the song order. We even wrote the final song “Final Strike” last, Italian horror soundtrack maestro Fabio Frizzi doing the intro too, we aimed for the stars with that one. He sets it up, we knock it down.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for anything related to BAT, Municipal Waste, or other Ryan Waste-related musical activities in the next year or so?

Waste: I mentioned some of it before. We will do some headlining dates with Bat on the way out to the Necrot tour for June. Then Waste is out in Australia for July. Bat will do things in August; Waste is in Europe with Cannibal Corpse September and October. That’s the next five months right there. Hopefully we will pull more stuff for Bat before the end of the year. Exit Stage Death is the film I’m working on. We have another music video coming out for “Revenge of the Wolf” that Norman did as well.

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