Forming in the early 1990s, H2O released several acclaimed records that have gone on to inspire generations of artists with their fast, energetic music paired with vocalist Toby Morse’s emotional lyrics that tackle subjects such as family, loss, friendship and staying true to your roots. Additionally, Morse is an outspoken animal rights activist, using his platform to educate others to adopt a vegan lifestyle, along with promoting straight-edge ideals and a positive mental attitude. Keeping a positive mental attitude is crucial to Morse’s story, who for the last decade-plus has brought his life lessons and wisdom to the masses. He’s spoken at high schools and community centers across the country with the intention of leaving a lasting and positive impact on the next generation.
The phrase “One Life One Chance” has become synonymous with Morse and the legacy of H2O. The first time we saw the title was with their single of the same name on their 1999 record F.T.T.W., but the legacy of the song and message has evolved into something larger than just music. In 2018, Morse launched the One Life One Chance podcast as a means to tell the story of his life and career. That soon shifted to a different format when Morse began inviting prominent figures in the music scene he came up in, along with diverse guests from several industries, to engage in genuine, face-to-face conversations in the kitchen of his Los Angeles home. The result is a podcast that feels like a documentary of alternative culture.
When did the podcast start, and how has it evolved over the years?
It started at the end of 2018. At first, I was doing the interviews over the phone because, originally, it was hard to get the guests that I wanted to come out. When I first started the podcast, I wanted to do it in chronological order of my life with my mom, my brothers and the people in my band so it would almost feel like chapters in my life. It got hard when the pandemic hit to get guests to meet up face to face, but I am proud that I never did the Zoom format because I feel like you get a much better conversation in person. Luckily, I had banked 30-40 episodes before the pandemic, and eventually, people started to take chances and came to my house to record the podcast. We would check temperatures, wear masks, but the timing was insane.
I feel like some of the most amazing episodes you have done were the ones that people wouldn’t necessarily expect such as Fat Mike from NOFX, Chad Muska and Juliette Lewis. Would you agree that’s the case?
I’ve learned so much about these people from doing the podcast because you think you may know [them] already from touring or crossing paths and having these pre-judgments. Then you actually sit down with them and see a totally different side. With Fat Mike, I’ve known the guy for over 25 years but had never sat with him and talked when he was sober. Then we had this real conversation that turned out to be one of the biggest episodes we have ever done with one of the best responses. Now we talk all the time, and he is planning to come back on the show to interview my wife and I, which should be really funny.
Mark Mcgrath from Sugar Ray was also a great example of an episode that was unexpected but turned out great. He has so much punk-rock history and roots, which I had no idea about. I also had not seen Chino Moreno from Deftones in years, but I had connected [with] him previously to be on Michael Rapaport’s podcast a few years back, and then I ran into him when they played with the Cure out here in L.A. Chino mentioned how he listened to every episode and wanted to be on the podcast the next time he was in L.A., and boom, the next time he was in town, he came to my house, and we recorded a podcast. It’s been so natural and super grassroots. You never know who may be listening.
I feel like your podcast could be seen as somewhat of a “sonic documentary,” where you do so much research on your guests and have these really informed conversations that almost feel scholarly and academic and thesis-driven. What is the process behind that?
I take notes beforehand every time a guest is scheduled to come on the show. I’ve never done a thesis in my whole life. I barely even graduated high school because all I cared about was skateboarding, going to shows and skipping school, so it is crazy to think about how anal I am about it and how on top of it I actually am. As soon as I find out someone is coming in, I will have everything stapled, organized and all together. I really love doing deep dives and finding out more things about people.
Do you feel like all the years of fronting H2O and all of the tours you have been on prepared you to be able to talk to anyone?
Yeah, it definitely helped, where I was able to make all of these relationships. From touring for over 26 years and meeting all of these diverse people in my life to working at a shoe store in SoHo to working in the mailroom at Roadrunner Records or being a roadie for Sick Of It All and Gorilla Biscuits, it definitely helped. It really is all because of H2O due to the hard work, touring and grassroots mentality behind us, and, in general, I just love meeting and talking with people.
What’s amazing about the podcast is that everything feels like it’s connected, no matter who the guest is, because of music and community. Would you agree?
Yes, we’re all connected through music. Regardless if it’s a super-small hardcore band or a mainstream pop-punk band, we’re all connected. This podcast is like therapy for me. I am so proud of the brand I have built, and the conversations are what fill my heart.
What was the process behind creating your book One Life One Chance – Life Lessons From Toby Morse Of H2O in collaboration with HE Creative?
HE Creative reached out to me after they did a book on H.R. from Bad Brains, but they wanted to do a book this time based on my lyrics and life experiences. It turned out really beautiful. I spent hours upon hours FaceTiming the creative team for weeks so we could get it right. Josh Brolin wrote the foreword for the book, and when he sent it to me, it made me fucking cry. All of my friends are in the book as well, and really the book in general is just an animated version of my life story. Each chapter represents a moment in my life and the journey from the first song we ever released. It’s super posi, and I love it. I’m really stoked to release it.
This interview appeared in issue 400, available here.