Interview with Urban Waste vocalist Josh Waste | By Janelle Jones
“Never would I have dreamed that I’d actually be singing for this band.” That’s vocalist Josh Waste talking about his position as frontman of old-school New York hardcore greats, Urban Waste, a band who were originally around from 1981 to ‘84. Urban Waste now consist of the new vocalist; one original member, guitarist Johnny Waste; bassist Nonlee Saito, also of High Teen Boogie; and drummer Jimmy Duke, a mainstay of the N.Y. punk/hardcore scene, who plays in such bands as SQNS and old hardcore stalwarts, Ultra Violence.
Filling the frontman shoes for one of NYHC’s originators—a band who Agnostic Front’s Roger Miret has credited for getting him into hardcore in the first place—must’ve been a little off-putting for Waste. When asked if there was any apprehension when taking on vocal duties, he says, “I don’t know if there was any apprehension, but I definitely was a little scared at first, because when I first joined the band, people were under the impression that Urban Waste now was just a cover band.” He adds, “People weren’t too into the new lineup or the new singer. It’s definitely been a little nerve-wracking, filling [original vocalist] Kenny’s [Ahrens’] shoes.”
But Ahrens told Josh early on, “This band needs you. You’re the young guy in it. You can keep it going.” They have been going for a while now, and people have definitely warmed up to the new incarnation of the band. Waste elaborates, “I’m noticing now that people, when they see Nonlee, they know she’s from Urban Waste. The same thing for Jimmy Duke, and when they see me, they know I’m the singer, because I’m always at shows and seeing everybody.”
This is not an unfamiliar situation for punk and hardcore bands who were around decades ago and then start back up without every original member in tow. But Waste reiterates that people now know they are Urban Waste. “We’ve actually had a lot of nonbelievers start supporting us again, because they’re like, ‘Wow, I didn’t think Urban Waste could still be doing it,’” he says, “but we still apparently sound fast and tight, just like the original band, and that makes me happy.” The old energy and intensity is definitely evident on the band’s latest release, October 2015’s WASTECREW EP. “You can’t tell the difference,” Waste says, quoting what he’s heard from fans.
Along with releasing the EP, the band have also toured a lot, going much further than the original lineup—who had only played gigs around the tri-state area—ever did. The present-day rendition have been to Europe, Canada, down South, and up and down both the West and East coasts. “We’ve done quite a lot,” the frontman says, “and we’re totally gonna continue doing a lot when things start picking up again.”
At the present moment, widespread touring isn’t in the picture, as Duke just became a father again. Lately, Urban Waste have stuck to local N.Y. shows, including one in NYC supporting the Dead Kennedys. Likewise, the band don’t see a release happening this year, but they have been writing new material and will put out a record next year, tentatively titled Scarred Society.