Stardog Champion. That’s the name of a band you’re going to want to remember. Two former members of the very successful band Breaking Benjamin are in Stardog Champion. Don’t think these guys are riding on their past success though. After the whole fiasco that led to the demise of Breaking Benjamin, Aaron Fink and Mark James teamed up their former band mate in Lifer, Nick Coyle. Once the dust from the Breaking Benjamin lawsuit settled, the band really began to take shape. Now, armed with their new EP Exhale, Stardog Champion has their sites set on taking their music to the people and spreading this new project to anyone who’ll listen.
Listen to the entire Aaron Fink interview below:
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Today, I’m welcoming Aaron Fink to the Unsung Melody family. Aaron is the guitarist from the band Stardog Champion. First off, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
I know you’re a busy guy, so we’ll jump right in. Exhale is the debut EP from you guys. Tell us a bit about what the fans can expect from that.
Basically, we got together about two years ago and wrote about 40 songs, give or take. We are kind of DYI’ing it at this point. We don’t have a label at the moment. There was little bit of a budget constraint, but doing an EP is kind of the way that the music business is trending these days. At first, I was against it. I was like, I don’t want to do an EP. I’m used to listening to records from start to finish from bands I like. Like the old Zeppelin records and Floyd records, you just put on and just go. I guess, the kids these days they only want to buy a song or two at a time and that’s the way people digest music these days. So, all in all it seemed like that’s what we needed to do at the moment just to get the ball rolling. We ended up picking five and our producer Neal Avron picked five. We cut them out there in Hollywood in December. I think it turned out nice. It’s a collection of some rock songs and hopefully people dig ’em and there’s plenty more where that came from. So, we hope to release something following that up right away at some point. That’d be great.
“When We Fall” is the first single off the EP. The production is tremendous on that song, well the entire EP to be honest, but it sounds like you guys knew you had something special with that one and spent a little extra time and money on it.
We didn’t really spend any extra time or money on it to be honest with you. The manager’s and stuff felt like that was a good transition from what Mark and I had been doing for the last 10 years into where this band is headed. So, that seemed like a song that some of the older fans can latch onto and then we could create some new fans with that sound. It was just a good crossover piece for us. It’s a catchy song. That’s one of Nick’s songs. Our singer. So that one turned out good.
The band formed after the demise of Breaking Benjamin. You rejoined forces with Nick Coyle, whom you guys played with in Lifer before Breaking Benjamin. Was this band something that just happened from your friendships or were there other plans before Stardog Champion took off?
No. I had always stayed in touch with Nick. He lives here in Pennsylvania with me, so I’d see him around. We stayed friends over the years. It’s interesting the catalyst for this band, Mark and I were kind of just sitting around on our asses for a bit there, believe it or not we had an acting gig. We played an acoustic death metal band called Gentle Rape, which isn’t a very nice name, but I didn’t write the script. (laughter) That was in a friend’s web series. It was called the Coxton Campaign. It was an online thing here in Pennsylvania. We got together for that and I think we left that day, after filming that, we were like, “Dude, let’s get together and write some tunes and see if the chemistry is still there and just see if we have any good songs. Let’s see if it feels right” So, the three of us tinkered around the basement for a healthy six months. Just emailing stuff, ideas back and forth. Then we finally hired Josh, our drummer to kind of round it out and start playing the songs and bring them to life. Instead of just staring at them on a computer screen. That was the catalyst for it. No, there were no plans prior for anything, but we stayed in touch and it just kind of felt good. Everybody was in a good mindset to do something fresh. We did talk a little bit about Lifer, not that we’re not proud of it, but we’re like, “Well, it’s going to be a lot of the same guys. Nick is the lead singer, so we kind of have to try and create a little bit of a new sound.” I’m sure for those fans, it has a little bit of a similar sound. We’re all older now. I think the lyrics are a lot more mature. I think the music is more mature and I think we know a lot more about our craft than we did when we were 22 years old or whenever we made that.
Coming from a band that had such a large following and sort of had the rock world where they wanted it, how big of a shock have things been starting off with a brand new band in the state of the music business?
Yeah, it’s certainly changed quite a bit in the 10 years that we were doing Breaking Ben. Back when that band got signed, we were one of the last bands to get a big record deal and get all the love from the label. Tons of radio support and Hollywood Records really helped us out, but as that band went along, we could see friends of ours getting dropped and people having to take real shitty 360 deals. Where the label keeps a piece of everything you do. Merch, ticket sales and all that stuff. So, it changed quite a bit. Then obviously with that, along came Myspace and Facebook, everything is free. You can’t even own your own mental property anymore. Things have changed quite a bit over the last 10 years since I’ve been out there doing it. Then obviously since we don’t have a label yet with this band, it’s very DYI down in the basement. I had to re-learn how to take care of myself. (laughter) The prima donna stuff’s gone. I got real spoiled. Mark and I, after that thing was off and running, we could just show up and play the shows. Letting other people pack up all our crap for us. I’m back down in the dirt here, but I don’t mind it. I’m a hard worker by nature, so it actually feels good to be in control. I feel like I’m in the pilots seat now, as opposed to just riding on the back of the plane. That’s been good. There’s 100% creative freedom in this band. So, there are some aspects to it that are quite refreshing.
The name Stardog Champion is a song from Mother Love Bone and I believe that band was actually sometimes referred to as Stardog Champion in their early days. I want to ask this question, because I’d hate to see you guys spend all of your time and efforts to get this off the ground, only to be forced to change things up because an attorney felt frisky. Were there any hesitations about naming your band that?
(laughter) There’s lots of bands that have song titles and movie titles as their band names. Black Sabbath was a movie. Incubus was a movie. I think the Rolling Stones got their name from an old Howling Wolf song or something, I don’t remember off the top of my head. There’s been lots of bands, if you dig into it, you can tell that they got their name from something else. So I’m not really worried. Also, you can name your songs the same as other peoples songs. There’s a million songs that have the exact same name. So, I don’t think that’s a big issue. Also, it’s a bit of a tribute to those guys and that whole scene. So, it’s also done in a very loving fashion. It wasn’t like, we just ripped them off or what have you. We are all the perfect age for when grunge music came out. When all that stuff hit in like ’91 or ’92, I was around 13. So, that music hit me and I loved all that stuff. I still love it. That’s to me my favorite periods of music. The 70’s and the 90’s, that’s all the stuff that I love and it still holds true to this day. It doesn’t sound corny. Most of that stuff has worn well with time. We’re big Pearl Jam fans too, so it seemed right. We thought of a million other names too, but everything was taken or not all four of us agreed on the name. It’s kind of what we all said, “Oh, that one’s cool. Let’s do that.”
I’m with you on the classic rock and the grunge. It all seems timeless. It doesn’t really get old.
Yeah, a lot of the 80’s stuff doesn’t go well with me. A lot of the production values and the school of thought with those guys. It was all about making money and getting chicks. That mindset never was my mindset, so I didn’t have anything in common with the 80’s stuff. Not much of it. Although, I like some 80’s pop music. I loved INXS and Depeche Mode. Those two that came to the top of my head.
INXS is a band that I honestly really enjoyed, but you don’t hear a lot of people give them much credit.
I thought they were great. Even their guitar riffs were amazing. (audibly mimics The Devil Inside guitar riff) That’s genius. It’s so simple. It’s almost like a Zeppelin riff or something. It’s great. Obviously, Michael Hutchence was a badass frontman. One of the best of all time. God rest.
I agree. I only see one date on the tour schedule at the moment.
Yeah. Isn’t that sad. We’ve got to do something about that.
I’m sure with this release there are many more dates to come, any plans you can discuss at the moment?
No, there’s a couple things in the works. We’re kind of in the process of getting a booking agent. This EP just came out a few weeks ago. So, we’re just getting started. I’m not that worried about it. We have to kind of get the word out about people. Get the word out to the old fans and make some new fans. Get some radio airplay to kind of stir the pot a little bit and get this thing up and running. We’re just starting out. Things will come. That tour schedule is a little pekid at the moment.
A lot of bands think the music video is a dying medium, what are your thoughts on that for this band?
It might be. I think it’s good to have something on youtube for people to go to. To have a presentable image as opposed to a shaky cell phone with the distorted music from a concert from 50 yards away. There’s got to be something more than that. But, we did our video with a real low budget. A friend of mine, Jim McCabe has this company called Fantasy Camp and we bounced ideas off of each other and came up with this little, kind of like a Robert Palmer video. The song where all the chicks look the same.
Addicted to Love, I believe it was.
We didn’t really bring up that name, but when I saw the video, it kind of reminded me of that. We didn’t think about that in the pre-production stage, but once I saw it, it was a little bit like that. All these chicks doing stuff and they all kind of look the same. It turned out alright. It wasn’t bad. I like it.
Alright, I always end on a random question. You have a song called “Nothing to Lose“. So, I thought I’d flip that and ask you what’s the one material thing you can’t afford to lose?
One material possession?
Probably my guitar collection. Some of them are dingers. Some of them I might put in the burn barrel, (laughter) but I have a lot of guitars that I’m really attached too. I’ve put in a lot of time with them through the years and stuff. There’s about six or seven that I really like, that I can’t live without. As far as material possessions, that would be the one thing.
Weapon of choice. I like it.
What else did you think I was going to say. Come on. You knew the answer to that one. I don’t have a Lamborghini, so.
I didn’t know if you had bought into the whole society thing where everybody seems to want to gravitate towards, “Oh, I couldn’t live without my phone or my laptop.”
Oh, I could care less.
I was hoping you would go to that to be honest with you.
Aaron, I thank you so much for speaking with us. We wish you all the success in the world.
Yeah. Hopefully we can come out to Lexington. We used to play out there years ago. We used to play with, Black Stone Cherry. They’re from out around you.
They’re from the Glasgow/Edmonton area. A couple hours from here.
Oh okay. I didn’t know exactly where they were from. We used to play with them, when they were first getting started. They were like little kids. They were like 16 or 17. They’ve done quite well for themselves.
Their first show after they signed with Roadrunner, I used to be a talent buyer in Lexington. I actually gave them their first show after they signed with Roadrunner. So, I’ve got a long history with those guys as well.
Oh, well there ya go. John Fred.
John Fred is hilarious. He’s a maniac.
Alright brother. Thanks for the interview.
Preview or purchase your copy of Exhale below:
Check out the video for When We Fall below: