This was initialy for a new issue of Speak My Mind magazine. Since I don't see myself finishing and financing that in the near future I decided to drop some of the interviews online. This one was done a while ago with Aram and Todd from Betrayed, they have a new record out on Equal Vision. This interview however mainly focuses on their first ep 'Addiction'.
Todd Jones and Aram Arslanian have been friends for a long time and were always talking about doing a band together. ,,We both just got to the point where we were really not satisfied with what was going on with the current hardcore scene and decided to finally get our project together”, says Aram. The initial idea was that Todd would sing and Aram would be playing guitar. ,,But I just felt like I had a lot I wanted to get off my chest”, says Aram. So Todd and he switched roles.
As Aram is the singer he also writes all the lyrics. For instance the first five songs on the Addiction ep are all related to Arams’ job as an addiction counselor; ,,and the struggles I watch people go through on a daily basis”, adds Aram.
After working for the past three years Aram felt that he really wanted to get some ideas out about the lifestyle and struggles of people who are suffering from addiction to drugs and alcolhol. ,,This band has really helped me let go of a lot of things that had been building up for the past few years”, he says.
Because of the lyrics Betrayed profiles itself as a straight edge band. Both Todd and Aram know that this might alienate some people but they don’t really care. ,, Yeah I think it limits our audience”, says Todd, ,,But I feel Aram's straight edge lyrics aren't spiteful lyrics so I can get behind them. I think they are good lyrics. I wouldn't want to have "stabbed in the back" type straight edge lyrics or lyrics that are negative.”
,,We started off as a Straight Edge band and we will end as a Straight Edge band and I have zero regrets about that”, says Aram. ,,I think if anyone reads our lyrics they’ll be able to see that we talk about a lot of topics beyond straight edge and the LP will focus on that a bit more, but there will always be a very strong straight edge message in anything we do.”
Aram doesn’t think that straight edge limits the band in any way, he does think that some people will pay less attention to Betrayed because of it. ,,But do I care? Nope. If someone won’t take the time to check out the band because we’re straight edge then that’s their problem not mine. I’m not trying to win people over or apologize for what I believe in.”
Aram does hope that people will be able to take the time to read the lyrics and listen to the music before they pass Betrayed off.
So what do these guys think and feel when a close friend sells out?
,,I don't care. I think it's funny, actually. When I hear of current straight edge bands with member who sold out, I just laugh, says Todd. ,,That's really all. I don't have any hatred or sorrow or whatever you want to call it. People can live their lives, I don't give a shit. It makes their band look like a joke, but it doesn't effect me so I don't trip out on it. Have faith in yourself and your friends, not someone in a band that you don't even know. That's what I believe.” Aram doesn’t care if its people he doesn’t know very well. ,,But I’ll be honest. It does bother me very much when people I know give up straight edge. This is something I believe in very deeply.”
Aram hasn’t seen very much good come out of the use of alcohol and drugs and absolutely no good from smoking. ,,I support the people I love in whatever they do as long as it isn’t hurting me or the people around them; if someone decides that they want to drink and they do it responsibly then although I don’t agree with them I’ll still support them as a friend.”
If someone close to Aram makes the choice to use and loses control he’ll get involved and try to work on the situation with his friend. ,,I won’t give up on anyone, I’m not in the business of quitting, so I’ll stand by them and hopefully we can work it out together.
One of the strongest songs on the EP is Understand a song about one of the consequenses that comes from the physical and or mental abuse of children; the abuse of drugs and alcohol which children turn to as an escape from the pain they live with. ,,The line a lifetime of abuse faced in so few years was written about of of my clients that had faced more hardship and more horror than most adults I know. I could understand how this kid just needed to find anything he could to escape from the things that haunted his life”, says Aram. The song is also meant to take it from another perspective, Aram is not judging people who use. ,,No, I’m rather saying I see your struggle and I want you to know that many people have been through the same thing and have made it through.”
Aram worries that one of the major downfalls of straight edge is that people tend to look down at those who abuse drugs and alcohol. ,,I personally feel that if you’re serious about straight edge then you should approach addiction with compassion and try to see through the abuse and try to find a little understanding.”
Aram believes that Understand isn’t exclusively tied to the topic of abuse as a road to addiction. ,,Addiction is a consequense of a lot of hard roads that people have to walk down”, he says. Overall the song is meant to relate to the general feeling that many people have faced in their live of being so lost and hurt that they’re desperately trying to find some kind of answer. ,,Often people turn to substances because they need to escape from the uncertainty and desperation”, says Aram, ,,My reply to that feeling is that I’ve been there, I faced it, I lost myself for years and in the end I made it through so it can be done and you can make it as well.”
Aram believes that the Government needs to put more money into building people up and making them feel that they are worthy people. ,,That means more money to education, housing, job training and health care. These type of things give people options to live fuller lives which in turn takes pressure off families and leads to less abuse across the board.”
,,I never doubt the straight edge, but as I get older I sometimes question myself and my direction in life. I think it’s good to question yourself from time to time and really look at what you’ve done in your life and what you plan to do to make sure that you’re on the right path”, says Aram about the song Proud To Be, which is about questioning your commitment to straight edge once in everywhile.
Todd believes each person should question themselves in anything they do. ,,I do. Over the past 10 years I've definitely have had thoughts like "I'm straight edge, is this really the right thing for me, would it mattered if I drank a beer"...you know, shit like that. I like being straight edge.”
,,I definitely look at the straight edge differently as I get older”, says Aram, ,,I see other sides that I may not understood before and that’s a great feeling because I can see how it’s a philosophy that I can grow with in my life.”
For Aram straight edge is more important to him now that I ever was when he was younger. ,,Most people talk about all the pressure put upon kids to drink and use drugs, that pressure is there for sure but I feel that the pressure to use only gets greater as you get older.” Aram has the idea that peer pressure gets worse when you get older. ,,Adults feel very uncomfortable when they see that you don’t use and they often try to get you to drink. My advantage is that I’m alwyas polite about refusing and never get in people’s faces about it. Nine out of ten times the guy who’s really trying to get me to have a beer ends up respecting me for not doing it and often goes out of his way to be friendly to me in the future.”
Aram now sees more positive sides to being straight edge besides the escape from the cylce of addiction. ,,I gives me a clear edge in my work relationships, social relationships, and personal life. I’m at a point in my life where many of the decisions I have to make will have a major impact on the rest of my life so I’m very lucky that I can face them with a clarity of thought.” Aram is now 31 years old and has been straight edge for over nine years. ,, I was always very into hardcore but I had developed a really bad problem with alcohol. When I was 22 I just hit a very serious point of struggle and I knew that if I didn’t give it up I was going to lose my life to it, so I gave it up amd never looked back.
Betrayed have recorded at God City with Kurt Ballou from February 2nd - 16th. The record entitled Substance will be released on Equal Vision Records, not on Bridge 9 the label that released the EP as well as records of Champion and Carry On. ,,I've always released my music with my friends”, says Todd. ,,Sometimes those people aren't as responsible as you need them be, and it's hard to get angry at them because they are my friends. Bridge 9 is a great label, but it's no secret that they have a lot going on. Sometimes they have too much going on to cater to all their bands as much as their bands want them to, so I wanted to try something new for Betrayed. Steve, Dan, and Bill at EVR have been really responsive in our dealings so far and I feel like we made a good choice. Like I said, Bridge 9 is a great label, I'm not bashing Bridge 9 at all.”
The new songs are more melodic but not really in a dag sort of way Todd says; ,,The melodic songs got more melodic and the hard songs got a lot harder...but definitely not hard in a "nyhc" sort of way. You'll understand when you hear it. Or maybe you won't? Our EP definitely had a huge Dag Nasty influence with the riffing, but not really this time around.”
Between being in the now defunct Champion, The Vows and Betrayed Aram doesn’t seem to have lots of time to spend with this family, how does he cope with that? ,,Between the two bands I was on tour for ten months out of this last year so it can get hard. My girlfriend is very understanding and supportive so that part seems to be working out.”