Toby Morse's One Life One Chance


Toby Morse, singer for the NYC Hardcore band H20 has spent the better part of the last year or so building up his One Life One Chance project. Inspired by the creativity and positivity he experienced in the punk / hardcore scene over so many years, Toby decided to create a vehicle to share that message with school age children across the country. Adopting the Bad Brains' PMA (positive mental attitude) as his slogan, he spoke at schools and spread the word in 2010, and plans to do the same and more in 2011.

His message is largely his own story about being straight edge and being in the band H2O. While he does talk about the upside of sober living, the bigger point seems to be the power of positive thinking and accepting people even when they are different than you. I think this is such a better approach than the old "Just Say No" or DARE campaigns. If you work at or with a school, check this out and consider having him come speak to your kids!


  1. “I think this is such a better approach than the old “Just Say No” or DARE campaigns.”

    Better at doing what? “Sober living” is a very restricted way to exist, that misses out on a lot of the experiences only possible through substance use, from the profound to the terrifying.

    Is it too much to ask for a rational discussion with children on the risks, benefits, and complications that stem from drug use? Just a little honesty would be nice: instead of “altering your conciousness is bad”, how about “altering your conciousness makes people want to put you in prison”?

  2. Well, this is a nice step up. i also was exposed to a lot of positivity and creativity in the punk/hardcore scene. It just didn’t involve those who were running around in their H2O hockey jerseys. (^_^) H2O’s fans were notoriously jock asshole wannabes, at least in NY/CT/MA area, as well as most of the hardcore punk kids in general, so this is rather cool of him.

    To be fair, there were quite a few hardcore bands whose music and lyrics i liked. (Although H2O’s imagery and fanbase left me cold at the time.) In most cases it was their fans who would ignore all the lyrics about unity and acceptance to pick fights with anyone at a show who didn’t look and dress like them.

    1. “H2O’s fans were notoriously jock asshole wannabes”


      FSU/DMS Hardcore Crew gang mentality B.S. This kind of crap killed the scene for anyone not part of the inner circle of sneaker-core guidodom. H2O’s brand of metal brought new meaning to “close minded, self centered social clubs”.

      If you want to expose kids to what it means to be an adult making real choices about drugs, bring HR to school. If you want you kid to know how to properly peg his cargo pants, get this guy.

  3. Fuck H20 and fuck the idea of hxc being a positive scene. It is violent, ignorant and ugly. These shitheads like to venerate big amorphous ideas like unity, and honor; but they latch onto these ideas because they are amorphous and aspirational. There is not substance behind their shit mucis and shit scene.

  4. If you have a sever personality disorder that makes you unable to limit the level of mind altering drugs you consume and you turn into a jackass when you take too many, thank you for stopping and being straight edge. Everyone hates a drunk/high/whatever asshole. All of the other people without sever personality disorders thank you for clearing out of the bars and parties so that we can enjoy a alcohol, pot, mushrooms, whatever, in peace.

    That said, keep in mind that while you might be too screwed up to enjoy alcohol/weed/whatever responsibly, realize that most people are not. Most folks can knock back a few pints without losing their jobs or getting into fights. Hell, most people can occasionally drink themselves stupid on a weekend and be ready for work, friends, and lovers without any problem the next day. Keep in mind that just because you are too screwed up to do these things, it doesn’t mean every other human in the world as has your same crippling disability and needs to be saved.

    I have know exactly one straight edge guy who wasn’t a total twat. His dad was an alcoholic, he feared he had the same disposition, and so avoided substances. He was a cool guy who enjoyed the music, never gave anyone any shit for their substance use, and if pushed would only say that it is was a personal decision due to his family history. I am sure there are other straight edge folks out there who were not dipshits, but I have not many. The vast majority were either straight up aggressive dicks, or dicks whose proselytizing would put a Jehovah’s witness to shame.

    1. as a 26 y.o. who still goes to shows, and who will be 6 months sober in ten days (no free rides though), you’re welcome. …I think.

  5. When schools start inviting punk rockers to deliver motivational seminars to children, it’s no sign that the schools have figured out how to propagandize the kids.

    Kids know hypocrisy when they see it, and they know their parents and teachers are not straightedge.

    If anything, it’s a sign that punk is finally, really, permanently dead.

    Or that will be the kids’ conclusion after sitting through this crap from some pretentious old freak.

    Once upon a time jazz was scary too.

  6. The Hardcore scene = boys who were made fun of by jocks in high school and started posturing and emulating the behavior they perceive to be tough.

    I’m with AT203 I’ve seen the worst in people come out of the group mentality of the “hardcore” scene.

    You create intricate rituals to allow yourself to touch the skin of other men. – Barbra Kruger


  7. @Meatking
    “I’m with AT203 I’ve seen the worst in people come out of the group mentality of the “hardcore” scene.”

    That’s too broad. I belonged to the hardcore scene in my area for a couple of years and although I can see where you’re coming from the general scene was always one of positivity. People pulling each other up in the pit, very little actual violence (unless you count fucking kung-fu dancing) and most of the shows were cheap and all ages. The general music scene has a lot to learn from this.

    But I’m with you on the hxc kids. I met a couple early on that I would still call good friends, although I haven’t seen them in ages. But the ones I met after that, especially in Germany and France, were sanctimonious, violent assholes that wouldn’t know a good time if it bit them in the ass. I’m starting my day with a Bloody Mary in their honor.

  8. Telling kids not not use drugs is like telling them to not have sex. They’ll ignore you or they’ll lose out on some fantastic experiences.

    Either way telling them ‘not to do it’ is pointless or negative, however you put it.

    Experiment with drugs, and experiment with sex; but in both cases, play it safe.

  9. I was under the impression that Bad Brains cribbed the PMA idea from this guy:

    From the article: “Stone emphasized using a “positive mental attitude” to succeed. His motto was: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve with PMA.” In 1960, Stone teamed up with Napoleon Hill to author Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude.”

  10. Funny I used to hang out with Toby a bit back in the day. I knew he didn’t really drink or anything but never realized he was strictly straight edge. My problem with straight edge is that it is a path few can follow. Most of the straight edge kids I knew became terrible alcoholics or junkies. I think moderation is a better lesson and would be the one I would teach my kids. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, balance is the key to success in most endeavors.

  11. I find it pretty amusing that the comments thus far are filled with either “hardcore kids were mean to me” or “straight edge is dumb” when I pretty clearly noted in the post that this isn’t about preaching straight edge (many of OLOC’s most public supporters are *not* straight edge, see Travis Barker, etc..) but rather talking to kids about being positive and keeping your hrad up. Which is pretty hard to find fault in.


  12. wow a lot of you have some strong opinions on the subject. if his pitch really is about “positive thinking and accepting people even when they are different than you” as the main post states then i think that’s great. if he uses his experience being involved with hardcore to explain his message then that’s great too.

    my experience with hardcore was largely positive and i attribute a lot of who i am today to the things i learned during that time. To this day i still have a lot of time for the DIY punk/hardcore scene and i think it can really be very beneficial to the community as well as to the individual, and if he turns some kids onto that then it might well be good for them.

    I just hope he really is doing it all for the right reasons.

  13. I met Toby when I was 13 after a serious of deaths in my life. I started heading down a destructive path when my brother took me to an H2O concert. After the show, Toby came out into the audience and talked to everyone. We talked for a long time and he asked for my address. We exchanged letters for a few years until I went to college.
    He signed every letter with “Stay Positive, Toby”
    While I understand that the hardcore scene has its issues (as does every music scene), Toby helped me keep my head up.

  14. Now the bad news. I know we all think we’re way cooler than our parents ever were, but for today’s schoolkids this is going to be about as relevant as being lectured on the evils of Communism by Lawrence Welk.

  15. I don’t even know where to begin, so many comment’s above me I wish I had the energy to address today. I think it is great what Toby and H2O is doing. I have been in the MA punk scene since I was a teenager and know many of the MA bands well. I take my son who is , let’s just say not even a teen yet to any show I can.

    That being said I am not really sure as to what people mean by the “clicky” H2O fan’s causing fight’s etc. I have never been to ANY punk show that did not have at least one fight.

    I also don’t understand why people would want to knock such a positive program. I can only assume that you guys don’t have children of your own. My son would sure as hell listen to Toby or Travis before a cop standing in front of him. As far as the comment saying that most of the punk scene, and most H2O fan’s are not sober … I can agree with that. However, there are many musician’s, VERY popular lead singer’s who do live a sober lifestyle they are just not as open about it.

    The original point of punk, straight edge, hardcore was so people (kid’s) who were different, kid’s who didn’t conform could go enjoy music in a NON “JUDGEMENTAL” environment. Most of you are probably much younger than me on this board, and it seems that any “punk” band that makes it into the main stream gets dumped on because they are “selling out.” This is a very immature outlook. As any true musician would want more people to be exposed to their music/message.

    You guy’s also have to understand that just because Toby lives a sober lifestyle and again MANY other highly successful punk band’s do as well; does not mean that they look down upon people who do drink or use. I know of two or three punk band’s that have gone main stream that have band member’s that drink and or use, yet a few other’s (in the same band) that live a sober lifestyle.

    As far as Travis being involved in this. Why not? He has always been vocal about his partying day’s (past tense) in interviews. Now he is in his 30’s. Do you guys know him personally? I didn’t think so .. keep in mind that this cause may be something he wanted to get involved in after losing a very good friend; as well as having three children of his own to raise.

    I could go on forever, let me just finish by saying that “PUNK” , at least for us veterans does not mean judging people, partying all night, or not contributing to society.

    It means “TO US” FAMILY (that includes friend’s), living every day to the fullest, as a majority of us have lost good friend’s and family to drug’s or alcohol, ACCEPTING different people, YES EVEN DIFFERENT MUSIC.

    With that being said … Toby can come speak to my son and his school any day. PEACE N’ LOVE

  16. Count me as another former HC kid who feels that the scene had a really positive impact on his life. I grew up in NYC, and while I recognize others have had different experiences, for me the SxE bands of the 80’s were a great counterbalance to the constant, oppressive, in-your-face pressure to drink/smoke/drug as a means to be cool or prove your manhood.

  17. Mr Bonner, do you do posts without a “straight edge is, like, so cool” slant?

    Because honestly, as a 40-year who grew up in the 80s hardcore scene, this type of MRR positivism was already tiresome twenty-odd years ago. See, what most of us (older) folks don’t like is the constant preaching… it works for you? Great. Different things work for different people because, surprisingly, different people are… different.

    As for the program in question, bearing in mind I neither know nor care who H2O, or their singer, are, when you juxtapose it with “Just Say No” and its ilk, the image that forms in my mind is that this is about as effective as a Catholic priest doing sex ed.

    Now, if they had Jello or Gibby or Buzzo in schools.

    Oh, and before you waltz into that “haters will… yadda yadda” spiel again, I actually have friends who were/are straight-edge. They’re cool, but they’re cool because they’re … cool, not because they’re straight-edge. Read: they do not self-define primarily as members of a punk offshoot which is by and large more closed-minded than any of the others. Or, correlation does not imply causation.

    Think for yourself.

    1. Sooorrreeeey Mr 40-old man, I’ll quickly get my only 36 year old ass off your lawn.

      No, every single post I’ve ever written for BoingBoing is about straight edge being cool. Obviously. That said, perhaps you should read my post or see what I’m talking about before jumping to your heavily jaded conclusions, since I specifically note that “Just Say No” was dumb for all the same reasons you are informing me of here, and my point is OLOC isn’t doing that same thing.

  18. I find it very ironic that people are dismissing Toby’s message of “power of positive thinking and accepting people even when they are different than you,” with negativity.

  19. So often people react to straight-edge exactly like when someone doesn’t like your favorite movie: no matter why they think they’re doing it, you know they must be trying to insult you and your whole way of life.

  20. I think what Toby is doing with OLOC is great. He really believes in something and is stepping up and walking the walk. It’s real easy to judge and dismiss this but you don’t have enough perspective to really do anything but put your foot in your mouth. I have seen the affects of his program and there are kids in each school that this makes a real difference to who really need some positivity in their lives.

    I’m not sure how kids these days come on board with hardcore but when I was a teenager I was lucky enough to find out there was a group of people I fit in with and there were great role models that made me not want to drugs, become a vegetarian etc. And if not for that who knows where my life would have ended up, probably not too good based on how the lives of the people I was friends with in high school ended up. I’m proud of Toby for trying to spread some positivity into the world and give back the same gifts that were given to him.

  21. My name is Adam and I play bass in H2O and have done for the last 15 years. We aren’t a straight edge band and we have never claimed to be. Toby is straight edge and has been his whole life and, in 15 years, I have never seen him once judge someone based on their lifestyle choices. He isn’t going into these schools to shove straight edge down their throats, he is merely showing kids that there is an alternative and that you can say no to intoxication and other potentially negative influences without missing out on the fun of life.

    The program focuses a lot on more keeping a Positive Mental Attitude that is does on telling tales of drug addicted and booze soaked horror. Anybody who can’t see that this is a positive message that kids can benefit from hearing is out of their minds.

  22. . H2O’s brand of metal brought new meaning to “close minded, self centered social clubs”.

    Metal?? have you ever listened to our band??

    We sing about unity, positivity, open mindedness and standing up for what you believe in…we don’t preach violence or intolerance and we accept neither at our shows.

  23. The only thing more annoying then preachy straight edge kids (of which H20 and Toby are not) is the jaded I hate any mention of straight edge crowd. I mean 70% of the comments on here are putting the guy down for trying to do something positive for kids. Bunch of negative nancy’s and Debbie downers!

  24. Have *ANY* of you (besides Adam Blake) witnessed Toby’s full presentation & immediate impact in person?

    I rest my case.

    -Patricia Hannan

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