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Aram Arslanian - Champion, Betrayed, Edgeman, Swatch Guard Wearer ...
-- Tuesday, September 19, 2006
What can be said about Aram that hasn't already been said? Plenty, I'm sure, but none of it would be true. This dude is just down. Down for the core, down for the edge. What else could you ask for? All right, here's a story.
Back in 1999, Aram was playing with a band called Face Tomorrow. Now, I recall at the time, that was a little controversial because one of my good friends, Joey C, had a zine called Face Tomorrow. Regardless, I saw these guys play one hot night at the Palladium in Worcester. After the show, they needed some place to crash out for the night. I lived 5 blocks from the Palladium so offered up my apartment.
Leaving the club that night, Aram tells me, "Ok, we don't have any headlights, but since you live so close, it won't be a problem." We stuff way too many people into a van with way too few seatbelts and head off. Literally a block from the palladium, I see a cop aiming right for us. I tell the band to take a turn in hopes of avoiding them a ticket. Doesn't work, the cop goes right for us. Flashing lights, the whole works. And still, only a block from the Palladium. I'm sure kids were thinking, "jesus, those canadians are a rowdy bunch ..."
The cop checks out the van, sees the people sitting on the floor, and hears the sob story about their headlight situation. I tell him they are going to my house which is right up the road. He thinks it all over, and then does the unthinkable. He offers us a police escort back to my house. Off we go, like foreign diplomats of high importance.
They crash out at my house, kick back and watch movies (Aram will later claim that they found mad sketchy porn at my house, but he is confused. No such sketchy porn existed). I tell them I have to break out early the next day, and to just lock the door on their way out. Seems real hardcore of me to invite complete strangers into my home with valuable records, stereo shit, a million shirts, computers, ... But that's what you have to do for a touring band.
I break out the next day and when I get home, I'm convinced they had stolen one of my super rare Swarm shirts. I was furious, I was heated, I was pissed. I was thinking, "Canadians love canadian bands. Of course, they are going to steal my rare canadian merch. Those assholes." For months, I stewed over Aram and his band. Waiting for retribution.
When I moved out of the apartment at the end of the summer, I found the shirt wedged into a trunk that it didn't belong in. No idea how it got there, but I suddenly became ashamed of my malice towards Aram and Face Tomorrow. Fear not, I immediately discarded the voodoo dolls, and called off all curses.
Yeah, that's Aram to me. One of the best dudes around.
1. Dude, how's your edge?
- My edge is hard and sharp. I just turned 32 been sXe for over 10 years and I've never felt better about The Straight Edge
2. How about a little background? How'd it all begin for you: metal, skating, ...?
- I grew up in Calgary Alberta which is right above Montana; its pretty isolated so growing up there wasn't a ton of bands coming through and not a lot of great record shops so you really hard to work for it if you wanted to learn about bands. I was a skater and read Thrasher religiously so I'd always check out the bands they'd interview or review and whenever they put out one of their Skaterock tapes I'd make sure to get it and that's where it really started; it was through the whole skate scene that I started to listen to bands like Minor Threat, COC, DRI, SNFU, The Accused, and then later start to discover bands like Uniform Choice, 7 Seconds and YOT. I did a lot of tape trading back then and was always looking out for new bands and trying to spread the word about bands I was into. Back then it seemed like every week I was discovering another great band.... that was a great time of my life. One crucial band for me was a local called Beyond Possession, they had a self-released EP called "Tell Tale Heart" and a full length on Metal Blade called, ".... Is Beyond Possession" all of which is now on one CD called, "Repossessed"... this one of the first bands that really made an impact on my life.
3. What about the edge? When and where did you decide that it was the right way for you?
- Well back home there wasn't a Straight Edge scene, at points there was a really huge thrash scene, but nothing that had anything to do with sober living. All we did was skate, listen to music, get into fights with head bangers of jocks, and get wasted all of which was great at the time until we started to get a bit older. In our late teens/ early 20's it all took a turn for the worse and we started spending a lot less time on skating and music and a lot more on drugs and alcohol until we wouldn't do any activity unless some kind of substance was involved. At that point things started to really spin out of control in my life, I had a lot of anger about my family and my childhood, a lifestyle that revolved around getting wasted, a dead end job, and a shitty relationship and I didn't feel that there was anyway out so I started to drink really heavily just to be able to deal with my life.
I was still really involved in HC during this period but because the local scene had died down so I had to travel pretty far to get to see bands so I did a lot of flying out to Vancouver and road trips down to Seattle. In those trips I got to know a lot of people who were involved in Straight Edge and they gave me a whole new perspective on the lifestyle; up until that point the very few people I'd interacted with who were Straight Edge were pretty in your face about it, but dudes like Greg Bennick and Dave Larson were just down to earth guys that believed in the ideals and were down to talk about it without being judgmental. The time I spent with those guys was pretty pivotal in my life because for the first time I realized I had a CHOICE... I didn't have to be this person, I didn't have to use a bottle to deal with my life, and I didn't have to live a life that I hated. I know it sounds weird to say that I didn't realize that I had a choice, but growing up in Calgary drinking and drugs... that's just what you do, so to NOT do it was something that was almost alien to me. I gave it a lot of thought and after a few more months of really struggling to get a grip of my drinking I just decided to give it up entirely. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, but it was the thing that allowed me to actually take control of my life and live it to the fullest.
4. Are you Canadian or just a Northwestern US man? What's up with Canada anyway? Speaking of Canada, what current Canadian core should I be spinning?
- I'm indeed Canadian and what's "Up" with Canada is that we're literally "up" above the US and holding it down for the core. There are some great bands in Canada right now like:
Final Word (or if you're like me and enjoy swearing then Final Fuckin' Word) from Montreal are awesome, have a NYHC vibe to them, and provide a good mosh... they have a killer EP on Indecision Records so check it out
Risky Business, a Lockin Out style band from the Halifax and have a record on Rock Vegas Records that's great
Go It Alone, fast HC in the vein of Count Me Out and Battery... some of the best dudes around and have an LP and an EP out on Rivalry Records that people should check out.
Get the Most, this Vancouver unit my new Canadian favorite and they provide some crucial Youth Crew core in the vein of Insted and have a great new EP coming out on Crucial Response Records
In Stride, Vancouver band that rocks a mix between early American Nightmare and Right Brigade. They have a brand new record coming out on Bottled Up Records which is Jeff from Start Today Fanzine so you need to order it!
Comeback Kid, love them or hate them, but you can't deny that this Winnipeg band has left an impact in the core that time will not erase. Great guys, great band
Fucked Up, I've never heard a Fucked Up record but everyone loves this Toronto band, they're on one of my favorite labels (Jade Tree), and have been at it for a quite a few years
Keep It Up, another Ontario band that rules, fast HC with great breakdowns... I know that's the worst description ever but this band is GREAT
About to Snap, new EP out on Specimen 32 Records.... Negative Approach style hardcore with great lyrics.
Recently we saw the end of Vancouver's Blue Monday who was one of the great bands of our time and I'll miss the hell out of them but you know that great new bands will rise up from the break up and that Canada will rep the core to the fullest.
5. I read the Champion 1998-2006 article in At Both Ends. That turned out real well. Were you all psyched on it? Also, should I know the dude who writes that zine? He keeps going on tours with Bane, but I have no idea who he is (and after all, I am Mr. Bane*)
* Trademark Dylan Press
- Yo, Mr. Bane you're slipping.... The 411 is that ABE is done by Steve Fallas, an all around solid dude and current tour manager for BANE... get your shit together man! Yeah I was psyched on that article, I really felt that Champion ended on the best terms and I'm super happy that our friends cared enough to be involved in that article... its definitely a time we'll remember
6. Have you seen Tre's beard lately? What the hell is up with that?
- Tre is gross
7. What's up with the sudden end of Betrayed?
- Todd and I have been friends for a long time and the band was just an extension of that. It got to a point where we wanted to do different things and it was just better to end the band rather than let it cause stress between us. I'm happy with what we did and I think we made a difference.
8. What do you think about the merger of the WB and UPN into the CW? Do you think they'll really bring back 7th Heaven?? Let's pray they don't.
- I back that... in fact lets get together with Sweet Pete and Pike and have a prayer circle
9. Are people ever intimidated by your baldness? What band were you playing in when you last had an unshaved head?
- My head causes a glare when I'm sweating and there are lights on the stage so maybe people taking photos are bummed out, but no one in the crowd has recoiled in horror yet. For about a year I was in denial that I was going bald so although my head had been shaved since I was 17 I decided to grow it out... this was about 4 years ago when I was playing in Champion and there are definitely some shots that reveal a) how fucking stupid I look with hair and b) how fucking stupid I look with shaggy dyed black hair with a bald spot in the back. True story.
10. Champion was a hard working, ever touring band. Of all the places you have seen, what was your favorite? Likewise, what place left a sour taste in your mouth?
- Japan was definitely my favorite with Korea being a very close 2nd. As for least fav... sorry Denmark but I won't be rushing back into your cold awkward embrace any time soon.
11. Along those lines, how did you manage to keep Champion together for 7 long years and maintain a position at the top of the pile? It couldn't have been easy as a full time touring, straight edge hardcore band. What were the high points? What were the low points?
- The thing about Champion is that we really believed in our band and our message so there was never a time when we wanted to do things half-assed. Putting out a record meant touring hard, and touring hard meant giving it 100% every night... there was no middle ground and I think that intensity and conviction is what made us be able to carry on for so long because we were always striving to take it further. High point would be going to Korea because I felt like we were actually really making an impact in those kid's lives. Low point.... Getting "milked" by the Prebosk... you'll have to get Steve TFS to fill you in on that one
12. One time I went to California and hung out with Todd Jones. Every restaurant he took us to was a chain restaurant (California Pizza Kitchen, Baja Fresh, Baskin Robbins,...). I'm curious, have you ever eaten a meal with Todd that didn't involve a chain restaurant?
- No I never have, TJ actually has an inked agreement with the multinationals that own chain restaurants so he legally can't eat anywhere else. Again, true story.
13. Speaking of Todd Jones, how is he to work with him as an "artist?" Yeah, that comes of sounding super douchey. How about this instead? What's a funny Todd Jones story? How did you meet this fine fellow?
- Todd and I met in 1999 in CA when my band Face Tomorrow was on tour. Carry On had just recorded "Roll with the Punches" and my mind was instantly blown; those guys didn't try to fit in with anything that was happening on the West Coast at the time and were arrogant as hell.... So I instantly decided that they were my favorite band and throughout the years became really tight with him and Corey. We'd been kicking around the idea of doing a band forever and it finally came together in the form of Betrayed; working with Todd musically can be the most amazing thing of all time because he has vision. He understands how to make a song work from front to back. Working Todd can also be non-amazing if your ideas of how a song should work conflict with his ideas... either way it's an interesting ride.
A funny Todd Jones story is when we were recording Substance in January in MA. It was freezing cold and for some reason all he brought out from CA was a hoodie. It was cold as hell but he didn't want to buy a coat so he borrowed a ¾ length tan leather trench coat from Kurt Ballou and had to wear it where ever he when for the next two weeks.... He looked like an arctic pimp.
14. How much do you love Starbuck's? Any funny, possibly foreign Starbuck's stories? What are your thoughts on Dunkin Donuts? Is it too blue collar for you?
- Starbuck's is so fucking good, but I'm trying to stop supporting them.... As a result Dunkin' Donuts has moved up in the ranks for my coffee fix. A non-funny Starbucks story is how gross soy milk is anywhere except North America and how it ruined my Starbuck's experience all over the world... screw you non-North American soy milk, get lost with your non-deliciousness and non-frothiness
15. You know who loves Dunkin Donuts? Matt Pike. That guy was the tour manager for Champion for many years. How did that all get set up? How'd you meet him? Do you have any funny Matt Pike stories?
- Matt loves to yell and has given me headaches but I still love him. We met through AIM when he first asked Champion to do some shows with Bane, and then we became "internet buddies" before we became friends in real life. Pike was actually our booking agent [Editor's note: fuck, that's right. I always get Pike's job confused. I can never keep it straight. Sorry, dawg.] although SKOH did do some tours with Champion. That came together because he loves the Edge and supported Champion and his effort was one of the most important things for our band. It was through him that we were able to get on bigger tours like SOIA and Agnostic Front.
16. People break edge all the time. What are your thoughts on the outspoken edgeman to blatant drunker transformation? How do you feel about edge breaking in general?
- People do what they're going to do. I'd rather be someone that makes people feel good about who and what they are rather than bad about what they're not or who they used to be. As for the actual act of the edge break.... Meh, I just don't see what's attractive about that lifestyle so generally just feel bad to see people enter that world, but such is life
17. What are your plans now that Betrayed is ending?
Work at a job I love, buy a shitload of record, hang out, drink coffee, and get married next year. Just live life and enjoy The Straight Edge
18. One time I guilted Greg Bacon into letting me eat dinner at the table he was sharing with Steb add Aaron TFS. They had an open seat, and I was by myself. Do you think this was a faux pas on my part? How's Greg doing anyway?
No that was a great thing to do, Greg needs to be taught some manners. He's as rude as a German. He's pretty good I think, he just had a birthday and got showered with myspace comments so who wouldn't be stoked?
19. Time for the top 5s.
- Minor Threat, Out of Step
- Cro Mags, Age of Quarrel
- Judge, Bringin' it Down
- Gorilla Biscuits, Start Today
- Youth of Today, Break Down the Walls
- Minor Threat, s/t
- Minor Threat, In My Eyes
- Youth of Today, s/t
- Chain of Strength, True Till Death
- Chain of Strength, What Holds Us Apart
c) Current bands
- Have Heart
- Common Cause
- No Turning Back
- Internal Affairs
d) Crucial t-shirts
- Chain of Strength, navy blue TTD shirt
- Judge, original white hammers shirt
- Floorpunch, Raw Deal rip off
- Agnostic Front, boots shirt
- Cro Mags, Best Wishes shirt
e) moz or ray cappo
Moz for sure
20. Tomorrow Sweet Pete and I are going to grab some Jordan VIIs. Well, Sweet Pete is. I can't hang with Mist/yellow Jordan VIIs. But Sweet Pete is a better man than me when it comes to things like Jordans. How do you feel about Sweet Pete?
- I love Sweet Pete, if he lived in Canada we'd be best friends and talk about Straight Edge all day long. He's a vegan you know... that's tight. He is one of the true pillars of the Straight Edge community but he has some backwards ideas about Swatch guards.
21. You just joined The First Step a few months ago and you seem to like being in a lot of bands at once so what other current bands would you like to join?
- Have Heart or No Turning Back. I plan on joining about 10 more bands this year.
22. The cover art for the Betrayed LP sure has a lot of x-rated swatches pictured. What's your opinion on the 1987 X-Rated Swatch? How do you feel when you see edge breakers selling them for tons of loot on ebay? Also, don't you think there should be a pact among edge dudes? If you break the edge, you are forced to give your swatch to an up and coming edgeman. I think that should be instated as hardcore law.
- The X Rated Swatch is one of the greatest things that I own... my lovely girlfriend got me one for Christmas and I wear it every day. As for the rest of your question..... THE INSTITUTE FOR X-SWATCH RECOVERY, this is going to happen even if you resist.
23. Ok, let's wrap this interview up. Do you have any final thoughts or shout outs? Thanks for the interview, dude.
- Listen to Resist... that's Wrench's new band and they are awesome. Listen to Guns Up! and mosh hard in your bedroom or at a show... mosh people on the streets. Listen to Have Heart and then think about the lyrics... and then mosh. Even if you are an awful stage diver like myself and B.Murph never stop doing it... fuck style, if you love it then do it. Xing up is amazing, Straight Edge is amazing, and Hardcore is amazing. Meltdown rule. I love Chris Wrenn, and I love Converge. Next time you see Tre mosh him.
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