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Schuster, the soft-spoken bassist, nods in agreement. He and Bollack, kindred spirits, met in high school and have been playing together for over a decade. Their first outfit, Jesteel, was together for two years. Not long after it disbanded, the two met the audacious frontman who changed their lives.
In May 1988, spurred by his appetite for destruction, Terrell packed a suitcase full of spandex, left Indiana and headed for the Hollywood jungle. He never made it past Colorado, where he'd stopped to visit some friends. "I was always talking shit about how I was going to go somewhere and do something," he remembers. "And everyone thought it was just that -- talking shit. Now I go back and they have tickertape parades for me."
But before he could make a triumphant return to Terre Haute, Terrell had to find a group who would appreciate his brazenness. Every early attempt seemed to end the same way. "I've been fired from every group I've ever been in," Terrell confesses. "I always got fired for the same reason: They always thought I was trying to be in charge -- and I was. People just got tired of hearing that they were in Bill's band."
But in 1995, Terrell found some guys who didn't mind being in Bill's band. At the suggestion of Tread bassist Joe Van Schoyck, Terrell joined forces with Schuster to form Rogue. Kimzey, who'd played drums in one of Terrell's previous bands, and guitarist George Lopez (later succeeded by Derek Nissen, then Bollack) rounded out the original lineup. Over the next two years, the quartet built a large local following with an unusual tactic.
"I drank my way into popularity," Terrell explains. "I mean, it takes years of hard-core partying to get the base we have in Denver. People say, 'How do you have so many friends? How do you have so many fans?' I've gotten fucked up with every one of them, that's how. I've paid for this following with my liver."
Bollack joined Rogue in 1997, and Terrell then gave the band exactly six weeks to pull together for its first show with the expanded lineup. During that time, the members penned and rewrote enough material for an inaugural full-length, If I Were God. Released in 1999, the album was the prototype for Rogue's metallurgy: Bollack's pulverizing riffs rip and tear like a serrated blade, revealing the tendons of Kimzey and Schuster's three-legged interplay, and Terrell's terrorizing baritone -- equal parts Phil Anselmo, Oni Logan and Sebastian Bach -- rubs alcohol into the pulsating material.
Live, Terrell plays a similar role. During Rogue's early days, he'd yell "Get the hell out of the bar!" at more stoic members of the audience who failed to clap -- and then he'd drink their beers. But a pugnacious frontman and a strong following didn't instantly lead to bigger gigs. Rogue spent the first few years "getting turned down for everything," Bollack recalls. Terrell got tired of people not keeping their word and started kicking down doors to get noticed.
"Yeah, I called people on their shit," he admits. "My old technique was walking in and saying, 'I'll pack your place.' And they'd look at you like a dumb-shit -- you know, everyone says that. And then you'd pack it. The deal with the bigger promoters with theaters, you really have to prove yourself, over and over and over again. And finally, they start paying heed to you. What finally got us over the hump was we've always had the mentality that if you act big, you'll be big. So we've always put ourselves on a pedestal. Not that we want people to kiss our ass; it's just if you look at yourself like 'We're okay,' you're going to be okay. Nobody wants to hear 'Come see my band, we're okay.' You know what I mean? 'Come see us, we'll kick your ass.' And that's how we've been."
Peter Ore at Nobody in Particular Presents gave Rogue its first big break. "We finally broke the threshold and got some of the bigger NIPP shows," recalls Bollack, "and proved that we could do that on a bigger scale than in a bar." But as soon as Rogue made the transition to a theater-sized act, the haters started surfacing.
"It's jealousy, man. It's a fucking business," says Terrell. "You can't tell me that a quarterback sitting on the bench watching some guy start doesn't hate his teammate. He fucking hates him. And that's just how it is."
Rather than let itself get clotheslined by critics, Rogue channeled its energy into two more records -- 2000's Subliminal and 2002's Rogue Nation -- and continued to improve on the original template. But there were other obstacles on the road to respect. In November 2000, Bollack was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and the disease sidelined him for nearly a year. He urged the others to move on without him, but they refused. Their patience paid off: Bollack is able to play again, and now, with the addition of Putman, who moved to Denver in November 2002 and worked as Bollack's guitar tech, the group's sound has gotten even thicker and more polished. The most striking development is Terrell's vocal prowess. He's expanded his range, augmenting his larynx-shredding scream theater with Geoff Tate-style falsetto trills and modulations. That voice, coupled with Terrell's outrageous stage antics, has earned Rogue its reputation as a killer live act -- in more ways than one.
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