Music News

Bill to Last

Bill, get a jump rope, get in shape and have a Coke. -- anonymous post in Rogue's guest book

"I've gotten laid more than any of these skinny guys who talk shit about me," Bill Terrell says emphatically. "I've played more shows than any of these skinny guys. I'm cooler than they are. It takes a lot of body to hold this much cool."

Although Rogue's frontman is laughing, underneath, he's seething. He doesn't mind jabs about his weight, but with everything that his band has accomplished over the past seven years, he's exasperated that he has to respond to anonymous critics at all.

"The thing is, they can't go, 'Well, you have a bad voice,' because that ain't true," says Terrell. "And they can't go, 'Well, you don't have a great band,' because that ain't true. So they have to dog on the one Achilles heel. I am overweight, dude. But I challenge anyone who thinks I'm overweight to come stand toe to toe with me on a mat for five seconds. I'll whip his ass."

Cue the crickets. So far, there have been no takers; most of Terrell's detractors are content to make their disparaging remarks while securely behind a keyboard and monitor. And the few who dare to whisper behind his back are making a big mistake, because Terrell is connected. So much so, he claims he'll hear of any insults within days of the words' leaving his enemy's mouth. While Terrell is a big fella, he's more Billy Milano than Chris Farley. And he's tired of the animosity, but he understands the reasons for it -- and is even energized by it. "You're nobody until somebody hates you," he points out.

"He's just very direct," says Rogue guitarist John Bollack. "There's no shit-talking. If Bill has a problem with somebody, the first person to know about it is the person he's got a problem with. It's been great. We can go about our business and just be happy. Bill deals with all the business issues and politics, and in a very Midwestern fashion: 'Respect me and do what you promised me and everything is great. If you don't, if you disrespect me and don't do what you promised, there's going to be hell to pay.'"

"Exactly," Terrell agrees. "But it's not even so much an ass kickin' -- it's the threat of it. There's a saying where I come from: 'You got a battleship mouth and a tugboat ass,' and that's half of this world. I'm not a talker, dude. I can make someone cry with my voice, though. You know what I mean? Straight up, it's like, 'Fuck you. I will beat your ass.'"

This unwavering bravado is a remnant of Terrell's time in Terre Haute, the Indiana town famous for being the last stop of federal prisoners like Timothy McVeigh on their way to the dirt nap, the place where Larry Bird played college hoops, and the home of Columbia House, the company that offered twelve CDs for a penny. When Terrell was fourteen, his father, a onetime kick returner for the St. Louis Cardinals, was paralyzed in an auto accident; he moved his family to the Hoosier state from Illinois, so they'd be closer to the hospital that was treating him.

"If you came home from school in the eighth grade," Terrell recalls, "and you're like, 'Hey, this kid is picking on me,' my dad would take a duffel bag, put a pair of roller skates in it and go, 'Here you go. If he picks on you again, rap him in the fucking ear.' That's how I was raised. Straight up. Out here, it's not like that. In small towns, dude, if someone fucks with you, you beat him up every time you see him. If you're fifteen and someone messes with your girlfriend, when you're 33 and you see him at a gas station, you punch him in the nose."

"There was not a lot to do there," confirms guitarist Butch Putman, who also grew up in Terre Haute. "You could drink, fight and get laid."

And make music. One afternoon when Terrell was shooting hoops in the alley, a neighbor kid stopped by and invited him over to get high. Terrell was no stoner, but as the new kid in town trying to fit in, he gladly accepted the invitation. When he got back home, his mother was suspicious -- but Terrell, who'd noticed musical equipment strewn about the neighbor's house, quickly explained that he'd been jammin'. And then, just as his mom was preparing to unleash an ass-whoopin' of her own, his new pal backed up that story when he knocked on the door and asked if Terrell could come out and play.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera