Mike Rodriguez recently sat down with Seattle, Washington-based straight edge hardcore act, Champion. The band released Promises Kept last year and compiled two of their older EPs into Time Slips Away this year. The disc includes both the Come Out Swinging and Count Our Numbers EPs which were released in 2001 and 2002.

This past spring, the band became the first independent Western act to visit Korea since Kill Your Idols and Ensign ventured there in 2001, and the first to ever tour outside the capital city of Seoul.

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Hailing from Seattle Washington, Champion is a straight edge hardcore band that doesn’t fuck around. Champion plays blistering straight edge hardcore with something to say. They will tell you what they think, but they aren’t going to push it on you, which is how it should be done. Champion has been touring for almost a full year and still aren’t done yet. They want to play as many shows as they can and get their message out to everyone. They have, and will stay true to what they believe in and I have the utmost respect for them as band and as people. I recently had the pleasure of talking to axeman Aram and here’s what went down:

Mike: I first just want to let you know that you guys are an amazing band and that your CDs have had a big impact on my life. Please tell me who you are and what you play.

Aram: Hi, my name is Aram and I play guitar, and thanks so much for the support! The best part of playing in a Hardcore band is the chance to meet people and get your ideas out to them so it means a lot to us that our efforts matter to you or anyone else.

Mike: When and what made you join this band?

Aram: Champion as a band started 4 or 5 years ago., and I actually joined the band after they had started playing so I don’t know the exact time frame. I know the idea when they first started was a Straight Edge band influenced by In My Eyes and Chain of Strength which is the exactly what I had always wanted to do so I knew that when I started playing with them it was going to be something that I was going to put 100% into.

Mike: What are you doing now? You guys have been on tour for awhile right?

Aram: We just finished a tour with Agnostic Front, Full Blown Chaos and two of our favorite bands Outbreak and Death Before Dishonor. Now we’re just hitting some cities in the South on the way back out to California so we can play the final Carry On shows. We were excited to play those shows because Carry On was a really important band to all of us so it’ll be great to see them two more times.

Hardcore was never gone, ever. But right now hardcore bands have a lot more options and the chance to make some legitimate money which is both good and bad.

Mike: Talk about the new CD you guys just put out.

Aram: "Times Slip Away" is the title of the CD and it’s not really a new release but kinda a collection. It’d been released in Europe now for well over a year and last spring Bridge 9 decided to release it over here as well; the CD has both our, "Come Out Swinging" and "Count Our Numbers" EPs on it which are both now out of print.

Mike: How do you like Bridge 9?

Aram: Bridge 9 is one of the best labels out there right now; everyone at the label is a very good friend of ours and its great to work with people we respect and that put their best effort out for every band. Also, its an honor to share a label with bands like Outbreak, Some Kind of Hate, Death Before Dishonor, Have Heart, Blue Monday, and the best band in Europe, No Turning Back. There’s a real feeling of brotherhood at B9 and all the bands and people at the label work together so its amazing to know that at any given time there are like 30 or 40 people willing to help you out anyway they can. Another thing about B9 that I’m into is they haven’t but put out a lot of things I don’t like; I pretty much back every release and band on the label so being involved in it for the past four years has been great.

Mike: "Promises Kept" was really a break through record for you guys, what do you think about the success it has gotten?

Aram: It has been awesome; we worked really hard on that record and have done our best to make sure it gets out to people. We’ve literally have been on tour constantly since the record came out, basically been on tour the whole year, and I think we’re all really happy with the way things have come together. I’m grateful for what we’ve had the chance to do and excited for what lays ahead

I would hope that people could try to see that we’re all a part of the same thing and that ever crack that we let develop between us eventually becomes a chasm that hold us apart.

Mike: You guys have been playing together for a while now. What are some of your most memorable experience playing in this band?

Aram: Touring with bands we look up to like 7 Seconds, Sick of it All, Slapshot, and Agnostic Front and getting the chance to actually see these bands play every night has been incredible. Also, the chance to head out with bands that we love and respect like Down to Nothing, Outbreak, 100 Demons, The Promise (RIP), Comeback Kid, Allegiance, and Death Before Dishonor. Beyond that we’ve also had the chance to travel all over the world we’ve hit up Japan, Australia, Europe, and South Korea which is surreal. Listen, all of it has been great, but NOTHING beats the feeling of seeing kids stage diving, and singing along with X-ed fists… small show, big show, basement, whatever…. Hardcore for people who love Hardcore… that’s what matters to us and the chance to witness it for other bands and to be a part of it ourselves… that’s been the best.

Mike: Hardcore is back. What do you think about the resurgence of hardcore?

Aram: Well Hardcore was never gone, ever. But right now hardcore bands have a lot more options and the chance to make some legitimate money which is both good and bad. Its good in the sense that bands get a chance to stick around longer, do more in that time, and really get their records out there, which is important if a band actually has something to say. The negative side is that it attracts people who want to commodity what we’ve spent years building, and has turned some bands into "rock acts" rather than Hardcore bands. It all boils down to this: the Hardcore scene, like every other social setting in the world, is made of two kinds of people; the first type is the sincere people that really care and are working hard to make things grow. These people are interested in making our scene grow so they find a balance between taking and giving back. The other type are the people realizing that hardcore has a level of mainstream popularity and are doing their best to squeeze every drop of glory and success out of our scene that they can without doing a damn thing to give back. The only way to tell the difference is to get out there, do your best, and give it your all. When you get burned by anyone who isn’t dedicated to what we’re all a part of, you learn a lesion, apply I to your life and move on. Trust me when I say the fakes will weed themselves out in the long run and move on to the next thing.

Mike: With hardcore is becoming ever more popular, how do you feel about the scene? You being Straight Edge how do you feel straight edge scene has been affected?

Aram: I am kind of concerned about The Straight Edge; it seems to be this safety zone for people these days rather than a statement. People are saying they are straight edge but they don’t X up, and they don’t try to get ideas out there about it. If it’s not a urgent and vital movement then it’s just becomes a title and a trend and that’s just not what I want to see happen to something that’s been so important in my life. To me The Straight Edge is not only about abstinence from drugs, alcohol and tobacco, but also about putting forth your best and trying to make some kind of positive presence felt in this world, whether that’s at shows, at school, at work, or just hanging out. Furthermore, I’m really bummed to see that kids seem to be leaving the X behind because I feel it still an extremely important thing. Its not just a sign of "This is what I believe" it’s also a sign of hope, when I kid sees an older person with a X they know that its something that can really last a lifetime, there is a path that doesn’t have to end with "True til 21". I always ask my older Straight Edge friends why they’ve stopped Xing up and they almost always say the same thing, "I just don’t have anything to prove" and I find that kind of ironic, because I find the pressure to drink and use drugs is far greater as I get older so in my mind I have more things to prove now than I did when I was younger. I personally, don’t need drugs or alcohol; I’m 31 and I’m straight edge, and its more important to me now than it ever has been.

Straight edge and Hardcore aren’t supposed to be safe or easy. The old lady in the mall is not supposed to say "Oh straight edge is great" and parents aren’t supposed to "get" Hardcore.

Mike: What do you think about the reports coming out, giving straight edge a bad name because of a few bad kids? What about Geraldo Rivera.

Aram: Straight edge and Hardcore aren’t supposed to be safe or easy. The old lady in the mall is not supposed to say "Oh straight edge is great" and parents aren’t supposed to "get" Hardcore. I’m not at all interested in social approval but, at the same time I don’t people out their ruining our name either nor do I want to be attached to random violence. The reality is that there will always be factions in Hardcore that are engaged in a struggle to build things up and to tear things down. That’s just life, but I don’t think that they way to deal with them is by doing ANY kind of interview with mainstream media.. to me that’s just people trying to get some time in the spotlight. Every time I see some kid on TV, I just have to ask myself "what are you trying to prove?" nobody in the mainstream media wants to present the real story, they want hype, so why bother dealing with them in the first place?

Mike: When you started in this band, what were your goals?

Aram: I just wanted play some shows and then put out a 7 inch; we set really reasonable goals and focused on each as they came. We recorded a demo and that was amazing, we played some shows and that was amazing, we signed to a label, and that was awesome. We just set little goals and then checked them off as we went. Right now I just think that too many people are trying to map our a "career" and I just have to say this… HARDCORE learn to love it, learn to respect it, and give back as much as you take.

Mike: What are your favorite bands right now?

Aram: Some of my favorite bands right now are, Have Heart, Down to Nothing, Triple Threat, and The First Step; honestly if a band is Straight Edge, I generally love them. Some other bands I have been listening to are No Turning Back (from Europe), Blue Monday, Allegiance, Go it Alone, Some Kind of Hate, Snake Eyes, Verse, Modern Life is War, Internal Affairs, Lion of Judah, Death Before Dishonor, Paint it Black, Sinking Ships, The Answer, Colin of Arabia, and Outbreak

Mike: Any shout outs?

Aram: I’d like to mention the following labels and zines and hope that everyone takes the time to check them out: Bridge 9, Equal Vision, Rivalry Records, Deathwish Inc, Malfunction, Youngblood Records, Bottled Up Records, Livewire Records, Excursion Records, This Blessing this Curse Records, Think Fast! Records, Organized Crime Records, Start Today Fanzine, Born to Hate Fanzine, and Not in Vogue Fanzine

Mike: Last thoughts?

Aram: Hardcore is at a weird time right now. There is a lot of division, based on sound, style, and ideals; there are so many sub groups between genres and record labels its weird and I firmly believe that it’s a really negative thing for hardcore as a whole. A good friend once told me, attitude creates division so I would hope that people could try to see that we’re all a part of the same thing and that ever crack that we let develop between us eventually becomes a chasm that hold us apart.