Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Interview with Aram Arslanian of React Records

Aram Arslanian is one of the coolest people ever. He totally is! He has been in bands like Champion, The First Step, Keep It Clear and Betrayed and he runs React Records. Everybody I have interviewed who knows Aram says that he is one of the coolest people around. I had listened to some hardcore bands that my dad had (like Bold and 7 Seconds), but I had never heard of React Records or any of their bands until I went to the React Records showcase last year so my dad and I could see our friends 7 Seconds play. We now have almost every record that React has put out and every band is totally epic! You should go to the showcase happening at 924 Gilman in Berkeley. It is going to be totally cool!!!!!!

PMAKid: What are your three favorite songs (by any bands)? Why are they your favorite and what impact did they have on you?

Minor Threat- Out of step
The ultimate song for people who don’t feel that they fit in with the party lifestyle. I think that there are a lot of great ways to live your life, but being sober is the one that I know if right for me.

Embrace- Do Not Consider Yourself Free
Our world gives us conflicting messages- on one level we’re told to watch out for our fellow person, but on the other we’re taught that it’s everyone for themselves. Its seems to me that we live in an increasingly self-obsessed society where people are only interested in satisfying their own desires. When we live like this we close ourselves off to the needs of others and ignore their pain. So, for me this song is a pretty profound call for people to open their eyes to the suffering of others, and to show compassion and empathy. It also has my favourite all-time line, “So you can stay cool behind your window, and choose the view you want to see. But as long as there are others held captive, do not consider yourself free.”

7 Seconds- Definite Choice
This song inspired me when I was a kid and made me feel like I was a part of something. 7 Seconds was hands down the most impactful band for me as a kid and that still holds true today.

PMAKid: What are your three favorite books? Why are they your favorite and what impact did they have on you?

Ayn Rand- The Fountainhead
This book really drives home the importance of following your own vision and staying true to yourself. There’s some things towards the end that I’m not fully into, but overall the book really shaped a lot of my ideas about believing in my own vision and also in have the courage to follow it where ever it took me.

Mitch Albom- Tuesdays With Morrie
An amazing book about valuing life and learning to be in the present. A must read for those who have experienced loss in their lives.

Frank McCourt- Angela’s Ashes
I come from a blended family: my father is Armenian and my mother is Irish. My parents made the decision to raise my sister and I with the traditions of my father’s culture so we weren’t exposed to too much Irish culture. However, as I got older my mother started to give me books that helped me to connect to the world she came from, and this is one of them. So, beyond being an amazing story it has a very personal connection for me.

PMAKid: Last year, you were generous and donated some auction items that helped my school raise a few thousand dollars. Some of that money helped to pay for my school band teacher. How important do you think it is for music to be taught in schools? Especially at the elementary school level for kids like me?

Aram: I think that school is one of the most important things in life. Although its possible to be very successful without a college education I believe those stories are becoming fewer and further between. My father once told me that when you have a good education that you’re no longer at the mercy of business and I definitely agree with that. So, I really encourage people to go to college and go all the way to a masters, or even PhD, level so that they can have more control over how they’ll be treated as adults.

In regards to music in school- that’s definitely an important thing! I was in school band in junior high and really got a taste for playing music. Unfortunately I enjoyed skateboarding a lot more so I never practiced and sucked at my instrument.

PMAKid: React Records has been having a lot of auctions lately to raise money for new releases. My dad said a lot of these records were really rare records from your personal collection. How hard was it to sell your own records?

Aram: At first it was hard, but in the end they’re just things. In the end I’d rather put out a record for a current young band with a great message than own 11 different versions of the same record from some band from the 80’s.

PMAKid: React has a lot of new records coming from bands all over the world. Not all of them are straight edge bands and not all are hardcore bands. What are your plans for React Records with these changes?

Aram: Although REACT! is a SxE label, not every band is Straight Edge. In fact the very first release, the Get the Most demo, set that tone right from the start since GTM isn’t an edge band. Every band on the label is either HC or punk and I doubt that’ll change in the future, but who can say. One thing is for certain though, there will always be a mix of SxE bands, traditional HC, and also some progressive stuff. I really just don’t want to be some one-trick pony that puts out slightly different versions of the same band over and over.

Also, anyone who can’t hang with that needs to get a grip. I don’t put out records so that I can get approval from the internet. I put out records because I love a respect the music and ideas that my friends have put together, and I want to help them get that out to the world. Its about making a statement, not about wearing a uniform and fitting in with the expectations of what people want the label to be. Logic bomb.

PMAKid: You have been in a few bands like Champion, The First Step, Keep It Clear and - of course - Betrayed. Do you like playing guitar or doing vocals more? Also, were any of those bands your favorite, or were they just different and you liked them all the same.

Aram: I like singing more because I suck at guitar. However, I loved playing in both Champion and TFS and have so many amazing memories from those times. With KIC its also really fun, but mostly because that band is really Today’s Man’s baby and I just get to have fun playing music with my friends.

PMAKid: Of all the songs from your different bands, which one is your favorite to play live? Why?

Champion- Promises Kept
Just a fun song to play that really speaks to what that band was about

The First Step- Greater Vision
I think these are some of Stephen’s best lyrics and I love the breakdown towards the end.

Betrayed- Bring it to Life
I believe that these are the best lyrics that I’ve ever written and this is definitely one of the most creative songs that TxJ has ever come up with.

Keep It Clear- Alone
I get to jump into the crowd when we play this song and I love how intense the lyrics are!

PMAKid: What does music mean to you?

Aram: That’s a pretty broad question my man! It means a lot of things to me at different times. However, Hardcore always means standing up for what you believe in, speaking your mind, and striving for more.

PMAKid: Have you always been Straight Edge? How important is it to you? How do you deal with people that you know that do drink or use drugs?

Aram: Nope, I had a serious drinking problem when I was younger. I quit drinking about 15 years ago and SxE was a huge part of what kept me sober. The Straight Edge is a very important part of my life, but I also firmly believe that there are a lot of great ways to live. Not everyone has to believe the exact same thing, and it takes a mix of ideas, beliefs, and backgrounds to make an amazing community.

Something that I think is important to consider when talking about SxE is that its completely driven by the HC community. Governments pour millions of dollars a year into anti-drug programs that at best have pretty weak results. But SxE has managed to provide an outlet for thousands of people to choose to live drug free and to have a community of peers to be their support. That’s a really amazing thing and speaks to the power that people have when they are united.

I don’t “deal” with people who drink or use drugs because that sounds like I tolerate them. I have a lot of great friends who live drug free and a lot that don’t and I’m fine with both. If someone’s using affects me I just say something to them, and if it continues to be a problem then I try to help them.

PMAKid: The two times that I met you, you seemed like a really positive guy (thanks again for the free shirt you gave me last year!). How do you deal with really hard situations and still try to be positive?

Aram: I’m a pretty positive person, but just like anyone else I have good and bad days. Something that I do to help me stay positive is to not get caught up focusing on things that I can’t change. In that regard I try to stay mindful of the moment and to be thankful for all of the amazing things that I have in my life.

PMAKid: I am really excited to go to the React Records Showcase in September. This year we are going to go both days. You said something to my dad about Keep It Clear maybe playing? I sure hope so! Anyway, how hard is it to plan it? We have talked about doing something like that to raise more money for my school and have 7 Seconds play, but there is so much stuff that needs to be done that my dad said he was not sure if we could do it soon. You have a new job, you have the record label and other stuff. How do you do it all?

Aram: Planning the Showcase is pretty taxing, but I have great help from Jim, Michelle, Chris, and Alan so that takes off a lot of the stress. We also have the help of Max and the rest of the amazing Gilman staff. Finally, when the Showcase comes around the whole REACT! Crew lends a hand to make everything go smoothly. So yeah, its hectic, but I’m thankful for all the help and support from everyone!

As for all the stuff I do, yeah its been a crazy couple of years! Work, school, and the label have just consumed me but thankfully they are all things that I like to do. I’d rather work hard at something I love than be bored with nothing to do!

PMAKid: Have you thought about having Outlast from New Jersey on React? You should! They are really, really cool! How do you choose which bands you will release for?

Aram: Outlast are cool guys and a great band! But they haven’t been over to the West Coast yet, and aren’t on the label, so unfortunately we couldn’t get them on this year. The way I choose the bands is I ask every band on REACT!, a couple of bay-area bands, and then a few of our friend’s bands that are on other labels. I like it to be a nice mix and I think this year we’ve go a great line-up.

Thanks for the interview! True Hardcore lives, show the way! Straight Edge and PMA!

1 comment:

(Noting that this site is primarily run by a kid, his parents ask you to keep profanity and offensive commentary out of your posts.)