MEB guest writer Sarah McGonagle recently caught up with Martin Stewart, guitarist of hardcore punk giants Terror. They discuss the band’s current tour, their upcoming album Live By the Code, the humbling experiences of traveling the world, and much more.
MEB: Can you start by stating you name and your position in the band?
Martin Stewart: My name is Martin and I play guitar in Terror.
Can you tell us about your current tour?
I can, yeah. We only have three days left on it. It’s been about a month, and we were with H2O, Backtrack, and Code Orange Kids, who I’d never heard of before this tour, and now I love them. They’re awesome.
They have a female vocalist, correct?
Yeah, she plays guitar and sings. They’re super cool, I love them. They’re a good band and cool people. There was a short week where H2O stayed home and Bane was on the tour. This tour has been perfect. We played a show with Cruel Hand, too. It’s pretty crazy and it’s been like that basically every night.
Are you close with the other bands on the tour?
Yeah! Especially Backtrack. We did a whole European tour with them before, and before that – they’re the kind of people that when you meet them, you feel like you’ve known them forever. We’re really good friends with them. We’ve done tours with H2O also, we know them really well. It’s kind of crazy, Code Orange Kids, no one really knew them before that. Sound-wise they’re kind of a lot different than the rest of the tour but it’s crazy how they just fit right in, everyone loves them. And they’re all really young, I think they’re all teenagers still, all 18 or 19. I really like that band.
You’re about to release your album, Live By the Code, in April. Can you tell us a little about that?
Yeah. April 9th it comes out on Victory Records in the US and Canada, Century Media in Europe, and Reaper Records is doing the vinyl. We just got the vinyl today so I actually got a physical copy and got to look at it and it’s fucking incredible. We put so much work into it, every member of the band had input on everything. We did the layout ourselves basically, not technically, but all the ideas are ours, all the design ideas are ours. We put a little ‘zine that comes along with it and each member designed their own page. It’s so cool, I’m really pumped about it. And all the songs are awesome. Every member had input lyrically on the record, everything. It just feels good; you don’t see that in a bunch of bands today. It’s usually one person who controls everything but with us, for the past two records, it’s been a real band effort. It’s been a long time coming. We recorded the record last year and it’s just coming out now.
I heard it got pushed back.
Yeah there were label problems, stupid shit like that. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. But now everything is set and it’s coming.
What sets this album apart from your previous releases?
Like I said, Keepers of the Faith was definitely a band effort. I don’t want this to come out wrong – every record is a band effort. But with this record, it’s like more. Every little thing about it. Usually you give it to the label and then they make a label for it, whatever, and you say yes or no, but this was basically all done by us. And we recorded a lot of it in our drummer’s [Nick Jett] studio, he has a studio in his house, so it’s got a really DIY kind of feel to it. We really put in more effort than most bands get to put into their record.
Can you really tell what each member put into it?
Yeah, I think so. I listen to it, and I know that people that I know that have heard it have made comments like “Oh, I know where that’s from” or “I can tell this person did that” or whatever. So, yeah, I think so.
Keepers of the Faith is one of your most notable releases. Why do you think kids respond so well to it?
Man, I don’t know. It is kind of crazy to see that we’ve been a band for a little over ten years now, and to be a band for that long and still have a lot of the younger generation, teenage kids, actually into it is not that common. Usually, it’s just the older kind of stuff. We have noticed that a lot of younger kids are still into our music, and I guess what we’re putting out just really picked up. We kind of feel like we’re that young band. I’m 31, and when I’m at a show, and I’m watching Backtrack or something, I still feel like I’m 17 at a show for my first time. I think that, even though we’re a little older than most, what we put into it translates through our music and through our show into the younger kids. We still care, we definitely still care, so it makes sense.
What big things has Terror done this past year?
One thing that always sticks out in my mind in 2012, is that we got to play this festival in Germany called With Full Force Festival. It’s mostly hardcore and punk and metal and stuff like that. They have a lot of big festivals over there, but they mix everything together. They’ll put crazy shit, like Ice Cube will play along with Pennywise and then Madball. But there’s this one that’s really dedicated to hardcore, metal, and punk, and it’s really big. They invited us to play there on the main stage, and there were probably around 25,000 to 30,000 people watching us. Not just like standing there watching us, but we could actually feel that it was a crazy show. Everyone seemed to receive it really well and it was the biggest thing we’ve ever done in our lives, to play something like that. The response was really good and it was unbelievable for all of us, and now we’re playing there again this year, so we must have done something right. That’s the one thing that stands out. People were taking photos and stuff, and I showed my mother and she just couldn’t believe it. She was like “This is what you’re doing over there?!” and I’m like “Yeah, I guess so!” That was the craziest thing ever.
You guys are known for your love of stage dives and crazy antics on stage. Is this a really important part of your live show?
I feel like it is. It was something that was really important to me, too, when I was first going to shows. That’s what sets a lot of this music apart from other music. It’s not like, band, separation, crowd. It’s not just performing for the crowd. It’s a group effort. A stage dive is just as important as a fucking guitar chug or something. It all mixes together to make what it is that we do. In my personal opinion – and I’m sure some people wouldn’t say that – but for me, and I can speak for the other dudes in the band, yeah, for sure.
How would you define your live performances?
If I’m telling someone who’s never seen anything like this before – raw energy is a must. There doesn’t have to be thousands of people there, or even hundreds of people, as long as the people that are there are feeding off of what we’re giving, kind of like a mutual relationship. That’s what our show is – the crowd picking up what we’re giving out and giving it back to us. Like I said before, it would just feel weird to stand there and perform as people just watch you perform. Crowd participation, that’s the number one thing I think a Terror show is about.
So you feed off the crowd as much as they feed off of you?
Yeah. We’re going to give it regardless because I know we all love playing the songs that we play and being in the band that we’re in. But when they give it back, it just elevates it to a whole other level of craziness. You’ll see it, too. I’ve played so many shows where it’s just like “shit.” Nobody’s mad, but there’s so much energy going on that we’ll just throw a mic or David (Wood) a lot of times will throw his bass down and jump into the crowd, crazy stuff like that. If you have a chance, we just released a new video for the title track of the new record, “Live By the Code,” and it was shot at this one show we played in Germany, and that is, to me, the embodiment of everything that Terror is. It’s a really short song, but it’s a perfect portrayal of what we feel the band is.
You’re about to begin a tour in Germany, can you tell us a little about that?
In March we head to Europe with Madball, Comeback Kid, a band called AYS that’s from Europe, and Your Demise, which is a kind of newer band from the UK. It’s 12 shows and it’s just going to be awesome. Touring in Europe is cool in its own thing, touring with Madball is cool in its own thing, and putting those together along with all the other bands that are on it, it’s going to be sweet. I can’t wait. We’re all pumped for it.
What do you like the most about reaching fans overseas, as opposed to staying in the US?
Being able to experience a different scene and a different country, it changes your perception of the regular world. Just visiting, like traveling, around the world in general will make you think differently about your life at home. You see poverty and stuff like that in other countries, you see the way other people live. And then actually going to a hardcore show in one of these other places, it just really opens your eyes, and it kind of humbles you. It humbles you to see that, we think we have it all over here in the US, and then you go over there and you see that they’re self-sustaining in their own way. You go to Europe and they have all their own bands, which unfortunately a lot of people here will never get the chance to see or hear, but they’re there doing their own thing. At this point, they don’t really need us. It’s cool that we have this working relationship where we all do this together, but they are self-sustaining, they have their own bands, they book their own shows, they do everything themselves. It’s humbling, it makes you realize that this is definitely a worldwide thing. Even though it kind of was born, in a sense, here, it’s totally exploded everywhere. Everywhere in the world, really. It’s cool.
You guys are going on tour with Hatebreed this spring, and one of your former members, Frank Novinec, plays with them. How excited are you for that?
Very excited! I mean, we love Hatebreed. When I first was listening to hardcore music, Hatebreed was a band to me that I just fell in love with, and I’ve loved them ever since then. So, it’s that kind of weird feeling like, “Dude, I used to listen to you when I was a teenager and now we’re playing shows together.” And being with Frank, Frank is one of the coolest dudes on earth. If it wasn’t for him playing with Hatebreed, I would have never joined Terror, because when he stepped into Hatebreed I stepped into Terror. I thank him eternally for the opportunity. We all just love each other. There’s other good bands on it, too. Every Time I Die is on it, they’re some of our really good friends. This Is Hell, too. It’s going to be cool. We’re really, really excited. And April 9th is the first day of the tour and that’s when the record comes out, so it all fell into place.
So Terror has been a band for over ten years, and you’ve been a member for a majority of that time.
Actually, my anniversary show, celebrating seven years, will be here (the downstairs Worcester Palladium). My first show ever with Terror was right there on that stage, playing there at New England Metal & Hardcore Fest. For me, it was fucking terrifying because I had never played anything even close to that big before, so it was an overwhelming experience. We play here on April 20th, the last day of that tour with Hatebreed, and that’s my seven-year anniversary.
Are you excited to play Metal Fest again?
Oh yeah! Absolutely. I always want to play it, obviously you can’t play it year after year after year, but I get jealous in a way when I see the lineup and we’re not playing, like “Fuck, I wish I was playing that, it’d be so cool.” I’m pumped to play it again.
What’s in store for Terror?
Tour, like always. The record comes out, and then we’ll just try to play those songs for as many people as humanly possible. We have stuff already planned up until summer, and we’re already planning beyond that. We’re going to go to Costa Rica for the first time and play a show there and hang out and go to the beach and stuff. We’ve got two shows in Russia on this next European tour. We’ll just try to play places we haven’t been yet. We’ve got offers to go to a lot of places, like South Africa, Israel, and India, we were just talking about. It’s kind of crazy to think there’s places we haven’t played yet, because we fucking go everywhere, but there’s a lot of places still that we need to go that I want to go, that we all want to go really bad.
How have you grown as a person since joining Terror?
Seven years is a long time, so I have grown up in this band. Like I said before, I’m a lot more humble, because doing as much as we do and seeing what we’ve seen – the world is so large. I just feel so tiny compared to everything and it makes me unbelievably grateful and thankful to be able to do what I do. I don’t have enough time to be at home and work at a regular job, so I haven’t done that in seven years, thanks to hardcore music. I tour the world and I have friends everywhere, over the whole world. So it’s seriously made me a better person. I’m more appreciative of everything, and I’m open to anything, I don’t judge people. I feel like it’s shaped me as a person, into the man I am today, which I think is a good thing. Honestly, I have bad things about me – everyone does – but overall I feel like it’s shaped me into a good person.
Would you do it all again?
Oh, yeah! One hundred percent, yeah. There’s life experiences that I’ve had with this band that can never be duplicated and I would love to relive. We’ve done some crazy stuff.
You guys are very opinionated-
(laughs) Yeah. Yeah we are.
You’ve had some rough opinions and some that have seemed controversial. Is that something you stand by?
Definitely. You know, it’s funny, I tried to explain this today. It’s like, when you’re in a relationship with someone, say you have a boyfriend, you invest all your emotions into them because you love them. And when things upset you, it’s more upsetting because of all the emotion you have invested, and you might explode in a fight and say “fuck you!” to their face, but you don’t really mean it one hundred percent, but you do have those angry feelings. That’s how I feel, and I know that’s how other dudes feel with hardcore music. It’s very special to us, so when we see something that upsets us, or we feel something upsetting, it’s very upsetting because it’s like, dude, I care about this. From love comes the hatred. I‘ve said a lot of things, Scott (Vogel)’s definitely said a lot of things because he has the mic, but I stand by what he says. We feel the same. I feel that everything that comes out of his mouth is directly from me, too. I do stand by what he says, and I do feel the same way about a lot of things. I may say things a little differently, because I’m a more diplomatic person, where Scott is just raw energy, which I love him for. I don’t think that he should ever have to bite his tongue because someone might be in another band. We’re still all people; just because we’re in bands doesn’t make us any different from other people. I would say this about that person is they’re doing something I don’t like, and whether they’re the fucking president, or they’re in a band, or they’re someone’s parents or something, they’re still a person and if you’ve got to say something, you might as well say it.
It seems like it’s really important for you to bring your personality into the music.
Yeah, of course! If you don’t, then it’s just music. And that’s why this is not just music, it’s everything combined.