Aaron Fink of Stardog Champion (Formerly Breaking Benjamin)
May 23, 2013
By: Nicole McKay
MPR: Where does the name Stardog Champion come from?
Aaron: Stardog Champion is the name of a Mother Love Bone song. If you don't know, they put out a record in the past and it kinda turned into Pearl Jam after that. They hired Eddie Vedder and carried on and that whole thing. All of us are the right age to be huge grunge fans. It was kind of a tribute to that whole scene and our youth years, the music that we were into. We thought it was a cool name and it sounds different.
MPR: It's a memorable name, guess I'm too young to have known about that.
Aaron: There ya go, a little history lesson.
MPR: Was forming a new band something you and Nick Coyle had talked about in the past? or did plans and timing just work out that way?
Aaron: Well we had a band in the 90's called Lifer. That kinda fell to pieces and then Mark and I joined up in Breaking Benjamin, I think it was in 2001 or 2002. We stayed friends over the years, no ill feelings or anything from the old band, and his band opened up for us and all that sort of stuff.
Then about two years ago he said we should get together and jam, and Mark and I didn't have much going on at the time so we got together, started writing songs and see if there was any chemistry still left there and see where everyone's head was at these days, and what kind of stuff wed be writing. So we wrote a bunch of songs and we liked where it was going, so we started writing more and we got a drummer about a year later an here we are.
MPR: How did (drummer) Josh Karis get involved with Stardog Champion?
Aaron: He played in a cover band just for fun with Mark. They were called The Best, which is a great name. But yeah when we were looking for a drummer Mark was like “I've got this guy, he's great, he's real fun to be around and a great drummer”. He's from the Wilkes Barre/Scranton area so it just kinda made sense. He liked the material as well so we hired him.
MPR: It's been a while since we've heard music from you; did you step away from music after Breaking Benjamin, or did you continue writing and playing on your own?
Aaron: Yeah I've been writing a long time, just not putting it out to the public. It takes a bit longer since it's not just a MySpace page thrown out there. We kind of have to present it properly, and record it properly. The days of just throwing stuff up on MySpace are kinda gone, although I do like that it’s very organic. But there are copyright issues and things of that nature and record labels, a lot of red tape.
MPR: Is it exciting to start out fresh, or has the music industry changed for the worse since you first became signed with Breaking Benjamin?
Aaron: It is good to start out fresh. In this band Mark and I have 100% creative freedom which we didn't really have in our last band (Breaking Benjamin). The camaraderie is really good, there's lots of laughs, so that's good.
And the second part of your question, I started in the business in the late 90's and things have changed 180 degrees since then. Like I just said you can do it organically now, and in a way without having a record label you can do a lot of DIY stuff, get people involved online and create an Internet presence to get people to come out to shows that way.
I still don't think it's the best way to do it. I think it always helps to have a record label cause you have 100 or so people nationwide that make calls and get things done. I still think that's the best way to do it. But yeah, there's a lot of opportunities now that weren't available 12 or 13 years ago. I'm kind of getting antiquated with how to do things myself, and start over basically from scratch, open for people, just do it that way. I was really well taken care of before, we had a great label supporting us.
MPR: You kind of answered my next question, but a lot of rock bands are choosing to either go independent or stay that way. Is there anything at all you prefer about not being on a label?
Aaron: I dunno. With the other band it was a lot of positive stuff. A record label can get you on the radio if they're good at that, and Hollywood Records was really good at that. I firmly believe that if you have songs on the radio that's still the best way to get people to come out and see you. I mean I guess you can go out and play at Joe's Pub or wherever down the street and 50 people will show up. That's fun, and I love to play music, but to get more than 50 people at your shows I think you need songs on the radio.
That's our goal with this band is to not be without a label, which we are at the moment. Spread the good word, you know?
MPR: I read that you have tons of tracks written, how did you narrow it down to just 5 for your EP?
Aaron: We used a grading system. We took like 25 songs and everyone graded them A, B, or C. It was very democratic. It was good to know which songs everyone was feeling.
Then we took all the A's and B's and talked about em. It's hard in a band, you'll write something and someone else won't like it. So it's good to have an objective opinion, cause a lot of times someone will write something and be like oh this is great. Yeah, cause you wrote it. So someone else might not feel it like you do. You have to learn how to explain it.
Yeah I'm a big fan of the grading system. Sometimes, I mean we have a bunch of guys in the room and the communication, it's all guys and guys don't like to talk about their feelings or whatever. So I think that kinda brainstorming gets people to say what they really feel, at least on paper. When you're in a band not every song you write is gonna blow everyone away, but I think we got five good ones. We're excited.
MPR: Can we expect a similar sound when a full length album is released?
Aaron: Yeah. Yeah we're trying to just be rock, as generic as that may sound. There's actually not a whole lot of great rock bands out there. A lot of people are doing the electro pop stuff and there's a lot of heavy metal, but not a lot of rock. We're just trying to do where we came from, write some good songs and see what happens.
MPR: Aside from one off shows, do you have any touring plans in the works?
Aaron: We do, nothing's confirmed at the moment. I don't wanna blurt something out and if it doesn't happen I'll feel like an idiot. Yeah there's lots of plans, just not confirmed.
MPR: Was it exciting to finally get back on stage and play at Pointfest last week?
Aaron: Yeah it was. People are still connecting the dots, Breaking Benjamin fans and new fans. Mark and I used to play St. Louis all the time, it was almost like a second home to us.
We just want people to hear our music and get into it and then well show up and play in their town. Even for me I can go see my favorite band and if they play like 10 songs I've never heard, I mean they can all be like "Stairway To Heaven" but if you don't know em already you're a little bit lost and you're like alright let's go get a beer. So that's kinda where we're at, just trying to get people excited about it so we can come and play for em.
MPR: Last question is extremely random, but it's always interesting to see all the different answers I get... If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Aaron: That's easy. Flying. Have you gotten that a lot?
MPR: Yeah mostly that one.
Aaron: Aw that's lame then. Yeah I like being in airplanes. The second part of your question should be what animal would you be. I'd be a bird.
MPR: Then you wouldn't need a superpower.
Aaron: You probably get being invisible a lot.
MPR: Nope not yet
Aaron: I shoulda picked that one.
MPR: Nah it's all good, I’d guess bands all want to fly so they don't have to live on a bus.