Toby Morse On Punk, Parenting & PMA

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“The key to being positive and happy is doing what you love. I’m very lucky to still be able to do that. I don’t have a ‘Plan B’. I never really had one. I just live my life.

 Toby Morse


Tattoos. High intensity sound. Stage diving. For the unfamiliar, it’s chaos. Scary. Violent, even. But to today’s guest, being hardcore straight edge is magical — a grassroots community dedicated to art, not anarchy. Celebrating life. And making the world a better place.

Best known around the world as the charismatic, energetic and always smiling front man for hardcore punk band H2O, Toby Morse was raised by a single mom in Massachusetts before moving to New York City in 1988 with a dream of becoming a musician. Immersing himself in the burgeoning punk rock scene of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he worked odd jobs. He was a roadie. And in 1994, inspired by Bad Brains, he formed a band that would ultimately become synonymous with the Straight Edge and Positive Mental Attitude (‘PMA”) movements.

Their self-titled debut album came out in 1996. Over the years, H2O has played alongside acts like No Doubt and Misfits. In 1998 and 1999 they joined the Warped Tour. Still together, the band continues to pack venues the world over, including a recent European tour that featured Toby’s teenage son Max on drums.

A dedicated vegan who has never himself touched drugs or alcohol, Toby is also a family man, self-professed “Emo Dad” and the founder of One Life One Chance — a non-profit dedicated to inspiring elementary, middle and high school students to make healthy choices and live a drug-free life. Through public speaking engagements, Toby informs kids how possible it is to maintain PMA, break stereotypes, be a leader, and maintain self-respect.

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Toby first came on my radar a couple years ago by way of podcast favorite, Cro-Mags frontman and fellow hardcore PMA warrior John Joseph. A friend of JJ’s is a friend of mine, so I got hip to Toby’s Instagram and quickly fell in love with his consistent flow of uplifting posts. His family-centric high vibe. The gentle, beautiful and uncompromising way he celebrates individuality, honoring the misfits and uplifting the weirdos. And his unwavering commitment to serving kids with his enthusiastic message of hope and positivity.

I needed to know more.

So here we are.

Of course, this is a conversation about Toby’s life. Being raised by older brothers who taught him to skate, introduced him to the music that would define his life and scared him straight. It’s about what he learned about life from Bad Brains, Cro-Mags and Napoleon Hill. It’s about veganism. Parenting. Art. And, of course, PMA.

But most of all, this is a conversation about honoring non-conformity — exalting what makes you uniquely you. It’s about the importance of community and family. And it’s about the courage to blaze your own path.

The visually inclined can watch our entire conversation on YouTube here: bit.ly/tobymorse458 (please subscribe!) and the podcast is of course available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

One thing is for sure — I’ve found a new friend in Toby. I’m inspired by his wisdom and example. And I’m honored to share his extraordinary life with you today.

Peace + Plants,

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Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering, interstitial music and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics. Ali Rogers for portraits. Theme music by Ana Leimma.

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