Reading off the tattoos from H20 front man Toby Morse’s skin is a lot like flipping through the artists on his iPod. “I probably have like 30 different band tattoos, man,” he says from his California home, scouring his legs for examples. “I’ve got 7 Seconds, Murphy’s Law, Madball, Kill Your Idols, Dag Nasty, Minor Threat. I have like eight Sick of It All dragons. … I even have a portrait of Madonna. They’re all bands that have inspired my life.”
For the first time since 2001’s Go, Morse is feeling that inspiration. He recently released a new H20 full-length, Nothing to Prove, which was produced by Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory and released by Boston hardcore label Bridge Nine records. The band’s line-up hasn’t changed and, according to Morse, neither has the attitude. “We did the whole record in two and a half weeks, just like we did for the first couple.”

Because of their increasingly melodic sound and close association with New York’s heaviest acts, many people have a hard time classifying H20. “I consider us a hardcore punk band,” explains Morse. “When people say that the last record was too poppy, I tell them to go back and listen to the first seven-inch. ‘I Know Why’ is a poppy love song with a breakdown. We’ve always had melody.” They also have plenty of friends as demonstrated by the fact that Nothing to Prove has more cameos than the average hip-hop record. Appearances include Roger Miret of Agnostic Front, Freddy Cricien of Madball, and even Morse’s 5-year-old son Max, who already has an abundance of scene points. “Right now he’s a straight edge vegetarian that plays drums and draws Sponge Bob tattoos on himself,” Morse laughs. “Which means he’ll eventually rebel and become a drunk politician. If not, I’d love to get tattooed with him when he turns 18—if I have any room left.”
But don’t expect to see Max’s dad open a tattoo shop like other members of the New York hardcore scene. Morse has a different venture in mind for when he puts down the microphone. “I’ve always wanted to open a barbershop here in California. The barbers here don’t even shave your neck with a straight razor. All we have are Supercuts.” When I remind him that there currently is a Supercuts in the same spot where legendary New York hardcore club Coney Island High once stood, all he can say is, “Yeah, man. That’s sad. That’s just really sad.”

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