Keepers of the faith

Los Angeles hardcore veterans Terror live by the code

Some time in the first half of the 2000s I was watching local hardcore bands at North Vancouver’s fabled Seylynn Hall. In the washroom I overheard an exchange between two coremen: “Hey man have you checked out the new Terror merch yet? They just updated their website!”

The dialogue which involved detailed descriptions of new items in the Terror merch store (back then there was only one while now they’re spread out across countless websites) and how they planned to fill their credit cards. That’s because along with being one of the most popular hardcore bands in the world Terror are also ostensibly a streetwear brand.

“We need money to live” says the band’s outspoken frontman Scott Vogel pointing out that the band’s rooms span anywhere between 100 and 500 kids — not a ton of income once the cost of travelling around the country factors in. “When money gets split up you’re counting on your merch money to survive so we’ve got to be on top of our game when it comes to the merch.”

Of course there’s also the fact that this particular subset of hardcore kids love their merchandise. “As time goes on and you build your relationship with your merch companies you say ‘let’s make a Terror watch’ and they say okay and you say ‘cool we have fucking Terror watches.’ Then you say ‘What else can we make? Cool a Terror towel.’” The dream merch Vogel says would be some official Terror Nikes. I offer that they should call their collaboration Terr Force 1s. “Wow that’s great!” he says. “We have a little bit of a Nike sponsorship where they give us free sneakers every once in a while. It’s nothing crazy where we get free sneakers all the time but maybe I’ll drop that on the guy.”

That’s not to say the band’s just sitting around and letting the merch money flow in. Since forming in 2002 they’ve released four EPs (including their instantly classic debut The Lowest of the Low ) and five full-lengths with evocative titles like Always the Hard Way Keepers of the Faith and this year’s batch of hardcore anthems Live by the Code . Part of that code for Terror includes touring around the world all year long.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to [call touring] a prison sentence I would say that it sometimes now feels like a job and I actually get very sick of the travel” Vogel says. “If you could teleport yourself that’d be one thing. All the travel though… it makes you kinda bored and annoyed by the people around you and you eat at rest stops. That part sucks.”

In the end it’s still worth it to Vogel. “The good part [of touring] is playing great shows travelling and making a living. Bands that make music such as ours that totally has nothing mainstream about it at all we don’t have a look we don’t have one singing part. For us to be able to play our music for 12 years or 11 years and live off of it you kind of have to work hard and stay busy.”

All of it boils down to hardcore as something much more than music and more along the lines of a lifestyle mentality and even belief system. “I think the word hardcore has been put on a lot of bands just as a word” he says delivering the quote I knew he was definitely waiting to deliver. “And to me… it’s a lot more than just a word or a description of a sound. It’s a lifestyle and a community and there are a lot of bands that I think use the word and don’t really care about the word. People that actually care about the word and support the word get my vote.”

Vogel’s belief in hardcore as a way of life is admirable. It’s also something he talks about a lot onstage often in unintentionally hilarious non sequiturs that have come to be known as Vogelisms. As immortalized by fans at vogelisms.com he encourages stage dives (“let’s see some bodybags in the pit!”) wild mosh pits (“This shit’s positive! Let’s fuck this place up!”) and crassly hypes equality (“I don’t care if you have a dick or a pussy this is for everyone!”).

Vogel who hasn’t drank in seven months admits there have been many times he was too drunk to remember what he said onstage. “I would say too that the focus on all the stupid things that I say kind of just made me stop talking because I don’t want the focus of my band to be on the goofiness” he says. “There is a goofy vibe and I want to have fun but I also want Terror to be a very serious thing so when people start focusing on the goofiness then I decide I’m not going to say stupid shit anymore.”

Before you hop on the message boards however note that Vogel hasn’t claimed straight edge. “No no no never never never” he says. “That has never been me and never will be. I’m all for that I think it’s a fucking great thing but it’s just not me. I’m just not straight and I’m definitely not straight edge.”