L.A. hardcore stalwarts Terror have been, in the words of the mighty Pantera, grinding that axe for a long time: nearly 20 years, to be exact. It's fitting that their fourth album is titled Keepers of the Faith because that's just what they are when it comes to hardcore.
Terror may be grizzled veterans who've seen it all, but they're nothing but welcoming when it comes to fresh-faced, up-and-coming bands trying to make names for themselves. "For Terror, it's great to be around that young energy and to ... keep in check that we are blessed to still be doing this, " frontman Scott Vogel enthuses. "And for the hardcore scene, we always need new blood and new bands to explore, learn about the scene and deliver their ideas and messages."
Considering his perspective, we asked Vogel about his favorite young hardcore bands, but we wanted to drill down even further. What traits does he look for in a new band? What advice would he give to a group on the come up? Read on.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR A GOOD YOUNG BAND?
SCOTT VOGEL I'm definitely not very musically inclined, so I could care less how good a person can play their instrument. Obviously, I can tell if the band is absolutely terrible and everything is out of tune and off time, but I don't pay too much attention to the playing or the songwriting. I'm more of the guy that focuses on the palpable energy in the room. I need something that feels like it's coming from the heart and they're putting it all out there.
Lyrics are important to me. Whether I agree with the lyrics doesn't matter, I want to feel the passion and the energy in them. On the flip side of that, too, it's pretty easy to tell when someone's pretending because I'm just not buying it. Bands can go off extra hard but if you take a good look, you can tell people are just fronting. That's the ultimate turnoff.
SO YOU FEEL LIKE PASSION TRUMPS TALENT?
For me? Definitely. I would even say dedication is way more important than talent. And what I mean by that is if I see five young kids at shows all the time, and they jump up onstage and have a new band, I'm probably going to support them. What I'm saying is when people support the scene, and give, and go to shows when their bands not playing, I'm very much open to supporting them back, even if their musical output isn't right on.
HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK AESTHETIC IS TO A BAND'S LIVE SHOW?
I think if the aesthetic works with the people onstage and the music where it's a perfect marriage then that's a home run. Don't get me wrong — every band has an aesthetic. I think it comes down to if it feels forced. Certain bands, I think you look at them and they just look corny. That's where it gets lost on me — they're trying too hard and it's like, "That's not who you are." So a cool aesthetic can definitely work and be the icing on the cake. But it can also make you look fraudulent.
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER SCENARIO? A BAND THAT DOESN'T REALLY HAVE AN AESTHETIC, JUST LOOK LIKE FIVE KIDS OFF THE STREET. DO YOU THINK THAT'S A MINUS OR A PLUS? OR DO YOU THINK IT DOESN'T MATTER?
I think it's a case by case basis. I think, for certain people, that works. And for me, I'm walking down the street right now and I could go onstage exactly like I'm dressed right now and no one would bat an eye at it because I just, that's the way I dressed when I walk around and that's the way I dress onstage. But I do look at Judas Priest onstage and say, "Goddamn, they look cool." But if I put on Rob Halford's gear then people will be like, "What the fuck is happening here?" You take someone like KISS — maybe the ultimate costume band — and they took over the whole world. How can you argue with that?
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS MORE IMPORTANT, STAYING IN THE PRACTICE SPACE UNTIL YOU'RE 100 PERCENT OR GETTING OUT AND PLAYING IN FRONT OF PEOPLE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE?
That's a good question. I'd split it down the middle. I would say definitely practice and try to become tighter so you're not embarrassing. But also I would play in your local area and maybe the cities around you pretty often and try to get out there. But I would not book a full tour and try to go to Europe until you're ready because that might be the only time those people see you. So if you go pretty far away and people are expecting, "It's coming all the way from California," and you get up there and you're pretty bad, that might be the last look those people give you. There's just so much touring and so maybe just get to that point where you can really just blow the crowd away on the first listen ... If you want to really blow people away, get tight as fuck, figure your shit out and then go out there and just lay it out.
WHAT'S ONE OF THE LAST TIMES YOU WERE BLOWN AWAY BY A LIVE SHOW FROM A YOUNG BAND?
The last time I can remember being fully blown away by a young band was the first time I saw Fury from Orange County. I was mostly jealous, like, "Yo, give me some of your energy because I used to be able to go off like that as a vocalist and now I cannot." They just had it — they went off and the crowd was awesome.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS ONE THING THAT IS MISSING FROM A LOT OF BANDS NOWADAYS?
I would say the biggest thing missing is maybe just a hint of originality. It seems like a lot of bands now go as far as just naming themselves after the song of an older band and then that's the style of music they're going to play. Hardcore is very cliquey. The minute someone does something that's kind of the original, you've got like 10 other bands trying to emulate it. Just try to do something a little bit different than everyone else is doing. I think that that's kind of the name of the game and it's hard. That's why a lot of people just go the easy route and say, "Oh shit, sound like this band." And then it's kind of easy because the groundwork, the foundations already laid down so they're just following a formula.
TERROR HAS GRINDING FOR SO LONG? IS IT HARD TO COME BACK TO THE TABLE EVERY TIME WITH A FRESH TAKE OR FRESH IDEA? DO YOU EVER GET BURNED OUT?
On the touring front, absolutely. There are definitely times in the middle of the tour where I would so much rather be anywhere but getting onstage. It's really sad because you get out there and some people that are really excited to see you and have been waiting a while for the show and you're like, "do I really have to go out there and do this?" And that's because it's so repetitive, do anything 30 nights in a row, many months out of the year for 15 years and it's going to be like, "Again?!" So on the touring front, yeah.
But when it comes to making records, we've got two main songwriters, Jordan and Nick, and they come with so much stuff that we can kind of weed through the throwaway stuff and have a bunch of stuff that we really consider good. So we have a lot of ammunition.