Champion

Champion was a very important band to the West Coast hardcore scene in the 2000’s era, and ultimately, they became an important hardcore band on a truly global level.  One of the most special things about Champion is their commitment.  As far as I know, the main members of Champion are all still straight edge: Chris Williams, Jim Hesketh, Aram Arslanian, Todd Preboski, Andy Norton, and Timm McIntosh.  I don’t keep up on this sort of shit, and they’ll always be my friends no matter what, so I may be wrong about that.  But I’m pretty sure of it.  This is a pretty unique thing for an outspoken straight edge band to still maintain that commitment years and years later.  There’s more to life and this isn’t necessarily the most important thing in the world, but it does give a glimpse into character traits that make all of these guys very good friends to have:  loyalty, consciousness, integrity, and commitment.  These guys are my dudes, and I love them for it.

Champion – “Demo 99”My involvement with Champion can really be traced back to 1998 when I became friends with their guitarist, Chris Williams.  Chris is the most positive, friendly dude in the world – everyone loves him the second they meet him.  I actually met Chris via my best friend, Zach Harlan.  I had recently moved to San Luis Obispo, CA for college in September of 1998, but I was coming home for Christmas break, and Zach was throwing a show in Chico, CA in December 1998 for our friend Rusty’s band Falling Action from Redding, CA.  Falling Action had broken up when Azy and Jesse moved to Boston (and eventually started American Nightmare with Tim from Ten Yard Fight).  But Jesse and Azy were coming home for Christmas, so Falling Action was going to play one final show.  Chris Williams lived in Seattle, but had been friends with all of the kids from Redding, CA for a while.  So Chris drove down to California for the show, along with Jason Burden, Kelsey Yates, and possibly a couple other Northwest folks.  Shows in NorCal were always small, but by that point all the Sacramento, Chico, and Redding kids had become friends, so this show was a lot of fun, and pretty much everyone we knew was there.  In the months following that show, Chris mailed a bunch Champion demos down to Zach for all of us to check out.  Zach made sure to get me one because Matt McCall (Skones) and I tended to be the resident “youth crew type dudes”, haha.  Now, obviously the first Champion demo isn’t the greatest hardcore recording in the world, but I was still stoked on it because I just wasn’t into metallic hardcore.  I never went through an “Earth Crisis phase” or a “Victory Style phase”.  The first hardcore song I ever heard was “New Direction” by Gorilla Biscuits, and I fucking loved that record.  I wasn’t being a dick about metallic hardcore, I just never could rationalize how the more metallic stuff really related to that Gorilla Biscuits record that I played constantly, or my Minor Threat discography CD.  So I always gravitated to the straight up hardcore stuff, even if that meant the only songs on the “Victory Style” comps I could be stoked on were the later Warzone songs! haha.

So, in the summer of 1999, Champion did their first West Coast Tour, and Zach had planned to book a show in Chico, CA.  They were just touring on their Demo ’99 tape.  I was home for summer from college, and was stoked on the upcoming show.  Unfortunately, the show was cancelled because their roadie, Carrie, broke her ankle.  The poster above shows an update that Zach or someone at Humboldt studios made to the poster in the window: “Postponed – drummer broke foot!!!”.  Now, I don’t remember anything about their drummer breaking his foot, but maybe he and Carrie both broke something?  I don’t remember.  An odd coincidence about all of this – I believe that Carrie (or the drummer) had broken their ankle (or foot) at the San Luis Obispo, CA show (actually Paso Robles, CA) at the Boys & Girls Club.  Jeremy Johnson and my friends in San Luis Obispo had put on that show.  Normally if I had been down at school, this is the show I would have gone to and I would have gotten to see Champion play.  At any rate, the Chico show was cancelled, so I never really saw Champion during this period.

Champion – “Demo 2000”Fast forward a bit to 2000.  Champion changed quite a bit when Timm McIntosh from Trial joined the band.  It seemed like the band got a little more serious and committed during this time, and soon the Demo 2000 was recorded.  I always kept in touch with Chris on the internet, so he mailed me down a demo.  These new songs – “Harrison And Broadway” and “The Insider” were a huge step up from the Demo ’99 tape!  During this period of the band, Aram Arslanian also joined Champion – but he played bass (Chris and Timm played guitar).  Todd Preboski also joined on drums.  You’ll notice two different demos above.  The one on the right has a “4th song” (not really) called “O.M.J.”.  OMJ stands for “One Man Jam”.  This is just a little thing that was recorded in the studio between Timm and Jim.  Timm: “So Jimmy…”.  Jim: “So Timmy?”  Timm: “Seriously.”  Jim: “Seriously, what?”  Timm: “James is complaining that there’s no “go’s” on our record, what do you think we should do about it?”  Jim: “Uhhh, I think we should fix that. haha”  Then it’s basically some hip-hop/jazz beat with dude saying “One Man Jam, One Man Jam, One Man Jam” over and over, and then “GO!” at the end.  It’s probably some (in)famous hip-hop beat that they sampled and I’m a poseur for not knowing it, I don’t really remember, haha.  This little OMJ “skit/sample” later appeared as a secret track on the “Time Slips Away” CD that B9 released.  At any rate, they made 20-25 of these or something. You’ll notice the cassette for these isn’t professionally duplicated like the others.  Obviously they had to just tape these ones themselves since it had the extra song.  I suppose they could have dubbed over one of the professionally duplicated ones once they got them back.  Either they didn’t want to fuck around with that, or maybe they gave out the OMJ ones before they got the real ones back from the duplication plant.

Champion – “Come Out Swinging” 7″Eventually word came that Mike Phyte from Phyte Records was going to release Champion’s first record.  I believe Chris had filled in on guitar for Good Clean Fun for a bit, so he had become friends with Mike?  I may be remembering that wrong.  Anyway, Phyte was only going to do a CD release, so a European label stepped up and was willing to do the vinyl – Platinum Recordings in Germany.  Shown here is a test pressing out of 12 copies, mine is #12/12.  The colored vinyl version of this release was clear vinyl with white mixed in, out of 300 in total.  They did a tour edition with some of these, with a Side By Side rip-off cover, mine is #42/143.  So that would leave 157 on clear/white swirl with regular covers.  There were also 900 copies on black vinyl. It was during this time that I became closer with everyone in Champion, not just Chris.  In early 2001, I rode up to Seattle with Carry On for a show in Seattle with Champion.  They had planned a weekend of shows together in Seattle, the Bay Area, CA, and Ojai, CA.  The first show in Seattle was awesome, and it was the beginnings of forging a friendship between the two bands – Carry On and Champion.  Jeff Givens and I did our usual wild routine during Carry On, and you could tell the folks in Seattle hadn’t quite seen this type of harder straight up hardcore, with all of the hard and angry moshing, haha.  They had seen plenty of metal (kickboxing), plenty of emotional stuff (heart clenching), plenty of posi stuff (weiner mosh), but never this kind of straight forward “positive hardcore” with the anger and hard parts.  Seattle is just a really isolated place up there in the northwest, but it was awesome to see their eyes light up to Carry On.  I knew for sure that Carry On was finally “spreading”.

Here’s a photo of Champion playing that night in Seattle.  Chris Williams doing a crowd buster while playing guitar, me in a bright red shirt just sitting on people’s heads after doing a flip off the stage.  That night I decided to switch with Aram and ride down to California in the Champion van, while Aram rode down with Carry On.  With Lucas joining the Carry On van (he played drums in Carry On, but had been home in Vancouver, BC for a little bit after Christmas), it was crowded, and I was excited to hang out with my friends from Champion.  I had been friends with Chris for a while, but hanging out in Seattle and the trip back down to California was also the beginning of my friendship with Aram Arslanian, Jim Hesketh, Todd Preboski, and Timm McIntosh.  I remember Aram wanting to ride down with Carry On that night because he’d spent some time with Todd Jones that day, and Aram kept talking about what a trip Todd was, how frustrated and angry he was, hahaha.  He wanted to get to know him a little better, and see what was up.  Overall, I think he was kind of intrigued by Todd, haha.  I think that was probably the real beginning of Todd and Aram’s friendship too, which has lasted for over 10 years and culminated with their band together – Betrayed.  The next night was at Burnt Ramen – a super small warehouse near the train tracks in a hard part of Richmond, CA.  It’s funny, you can trace a polarization of the Bay Area hardcore scene that lasted for years to this very show.  The Bay Area has always been either more of a metallic/heavier hardcore scene or a straight up punk scene (revolving around 924 Gilman St.).  There has not been many traditional straight edge hardcore bands from here, much less “posi bands”, as the local Bay Area folks started calling them around this time.  That night, all the hardcore kids that were more on the heavier side of things came out because they liked Champion.  Chris and Champion always did a great job of being inclusive and friendly to everyone, and it always created a cool vibe around them.  Carry On, well, they were the opposite – mostly due to the feelings they had regarding the way they’d been treated before by metallic hardcore bands in Southern California.  Anyway, while Carry On was playing, the mic kept cutting in and out, so Ryan finally spiked the thing on the ground and was visibly pissed off and annoyed with it.  This was in stark contrast to the all-inclusive “it’s all good” vibe from the dudes in Champion.  The locals at the show definitely didn’t like Ryan’s attitude on stage, or any of our attitudes really.  So there was instantly this rift between the dudes that liked the heavier style of hardcore in the Bay Area vs. the “posi kids” (as they called them), but Champion always got a pass.  This held out for what felt like forever – for years and years, and dudes like John Eightclip and I always felt like we had to go out of our way and over-compensate with everyone to prove that “hey, we’re OK dudes”, haha.  It didn’t help that the Breaker Breaker dudes were there that night and obviously on-board with Carry On, so that helped cement the rift between the “posi kids” of the Bay Area and everyone else.  Luckily, most of that division eventually went away, with the help of a lot of people involved with things like Rivalry, Allegiance, The Damage Done, For The Crown, Life Long Tragedy, Ceremony, Lights Out, All Bets Off, Time For Living, and Alcatraz, all working together and being open to what everyone else was doing.  That’s eventually what made the Bay Area scene huge for a 2-3 year period of time between about 2002-2005, because for once, everyone was working together.  Hardcore shows at Gilman were regularly 300+ people, which was unheard of.  Prior to that, you’d never get that many people for a straight up hardcore show.  But we were able to get that for locals-only shows!  Not to mention, the vibe at Bay Area shows was super cool… Don’t believe me? Check out the video of The Damage Done’s last show, or ask anyone who toured through the Bay Area during those years.  Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s stay in 2001 for now.  Over the summer of 2001, my friends and I started a band called The Damage Done, and we ended up going back to up to Seattle with Carry On to play a show with Champion in November of 2001.  A month later, in December 2001, Champion did a West Coast Tour with The First Step and Stay Gold.  The Damage Done played a bunch of those shows – in Ojai, Ventura, and Gilman St. in Berkeley.  There was also a trip to Seattle with Breaker Breaker in May 2001 that John Eightclip (later became vocalist for Allegiance) and I both went on.  We spent the whole weekend hanging out, playing baseball, and just generally fucking around with all the dudes in Champion.

Here’s a photo we took after an afternoon of baseball.  Me in the front left giving the obligatory west coast sign, Breaker Breaker dudes all around me, Jim Hesketh bottom right, Todd Preboski above Mark Kelley, John Eightclip and Chris Williams bro hugging in the middle, Timm McIntosh to their right giving another bro hug, and I think that is Aram in the NY hat in the back.  But that is weird because I don’t remember him ever wearing baseball caps, haha.  That weekend generated this stupid inside joke with me, Eightclip, the Breaker Breaker dudes, and Timm McIntosh, where we always yelled “Are you trying to fuck me off?” at people.  Eightclip and I still say that shit to this day, haha!

Here’s another photo from that weekend.  This was taken after the Bellingham, WA show.  Jim and I are being weirdos/creeps – I’m giving the shocker, Jim is giving the “suck it”.  The others are my Vancouver, BC buddies – Avrinder Dhillon, Kelsey Yates, Sara Colliss.  We did a lot of fun things in and around Seattle that weekend, and it really laid the foundation for Champion asking John Eightclip to roadie with them on their tour that summer of 2001.  That was the tour where they sold those Side By Side rip-off covers.  That was also the tour where Timm McIntosh quit during the tour, right before the Gilman show.  So, they asked John Eightclip if he could fill in on bass for a couple shows, and Aram moved over to guitar for those last few shows.  That ended up being pretty much permanent, because Aram played guitar in Champion, along with Chris, from there on out.  I feel like I remember them asking Eightclip to be their permanent bass player after that, or maybe they just asked him to pretty much be their permanent roadie and always tour with them?  I can’t 100% remember, but I do think they were asking him to play bass in Champion, because I remember him talking to me about how he obviously really wanted to do it, but didn’t feel like he could pick up and move to Seattle or always be on tour, etc.  So ultimately he had to turn down the opportunity.  The bass position in Champion was always kind of up in the air from that point on…  I remember Lucas McFadden (drummer of Carry On and Go It Alone) playing bass for a tour or two.  There were some others that played bass too, I think.  Then their original bassist, Ben from the very first ’99 Demo, joined the band again. Ben played in Champion for quite a while, and then eventually Andy Norton, originally from The First Step, ended up being pretty much the permanent bassist once Champion started touring the world and everything.  Chris asked me to roadie with Champion on a couple of tours, but I just always had college and/or work commitments, so I could never go.  My best friend, Zach Harlan, also roadied for Champion once, on a tour in December 2002 with Embrace Today.  During all of these tours, whenever Champion would play in SoCal, specifically in Ojai, we would all crash at this beach house in Carpinteria, CA that Eightclip’s parents owned.  It was too small for that many dudes, but we would all just crash everywhere on like every square inch of floor available.  It made for some fun memories with all of us spending time together before and after shows at that spot in Carpinteria near the beach.  All of this time spent with Champion built a really strong bond between Champion, me, and my extended “Carry On / California crew” of friends.  Ultimately, the union with Carry On probably helped quite a bit in getting Champion on the radar of Bridge Nine Records.  Carry On had recently recorded and released “A Life Less Plagued” on B9, and I know the Carry On / Champion relationship probably had quite a bit to do with B9 asking Champion to be part of the team too.  That was a smart move by Bridge 9, because Champion ended up being Bridge 9’s first really big global band.  Champion totally deserved it – they were an awesome band, they were super hard workers, and they were so supportive of all the other bands – not just as a band, but each individual member went out of his way to be supportive of all the other kids on the west coast.  Champion had the foundation all put together, they really just needed someone to push them on an (inter)national level, and B9 made that happen for them.

Close-up of the test pressing on Platinum Recordings. Mine is #12/12 on the back.  I got mine from Danny at Platinum Recordings in some trade in 2002 or so.

My tour copy is #42/143.  Timm McIntosh, the guys in Trial, and other dudes in Seattle had this thing about the number “43”.  It’s kinda like Count Me Out and their thing with “110”.  So everything Timm did was always out of 43 or 143, etc.

Here is a note from Chris Williams to me in the Summer of 2001.  Chris always called me “NorKyle” (NorCal, get it?), so that’s the “Nor,” at the beginning.  But, he said that he needed more positive hardcore kids in Seattle, and was always hellbent on me moving up there, thus the crossed out “Nor” replaced with “Sea”.  There’s also a pretty sketchy double entendre going on here.  When Carry On had been up in Seattle in Spring of 2001, Graham Clise (bass in Carry On for a minute, later Annihilation Time) had thought of this brilliant nickname for me – “sieg Kyle”(yes, as in nazi “sieg heil”)  I know, so sketch.  So that became an inside joke for a long time, and Chris Williams always thought it was hilarious to whisper that every once in a while at shows.  His little double-entendre here with “sieg and Sea” is pretty clever, haha.  Anyway, the reason for this note:  at the shows on the 2001 Summer tour where they sold the Side By Side rip-off covers, he told me that he had saved me a copy, but he had forgotten it at home.  So I didn’t buy one at the shows on tour, and Chris eventually mailed me mine once he got home after the tour.  When he mentions the Gilman show, he’s mentioning the Carry On / Champion show at 924 Gilman St in Summer of 2001.  The pictures that I posted in the Carry On write-up with Jim, Chris, and myself singing along to Carry On are from this Gilman show.  When he references “this winter”, he’s referring to the West Coast Tour with The First Step and Stay Gold that he was planning for December 2001.  Little did either of us know that by then, I would have a band (The Damage Done) and we would be playing a bunch of those shows too!

Here’s the original layout and insert for the release on Platinum Recordings.  I remember being over at Timm McIntosh’s house when he was working on this slick Flash website that he was building for xchampionx.org (I think that was their website back then).  I was up in Seattle in April 2001 because I’d driven Lucas McFadden and Kelsey Yates home to Vancouver, BC while I was on spring break from college.  Kelsey had come to visit me for a week in San Luis Obispo, and Lucas was playing drums in Carry On, living in L.A.  So I thought that would be a fun trip for spring break, and would save both of them a bus ticket and long-ass 25+ hour ride home.  Anyway – Timm was working on the website, using this layout as a general theme.  This was before I’d seen a hardcore band with this level of a website – most people weren’t doing a lot of stuff in Flash yet, and it looked really sweet.  Every click had animation and all of these scenes from a boxing video, etc.  He was showing it to me because I was going to school for Computer Science, so I was mostly into more back-end shit, but we were kind of comparing notes on front-end vs. back-end web programming.

Check this out! After I posted this blog entry, Danny from Platinum Recordings contacted me and notified me of a clear/black swirl variation with blank labels, out of less than 20 copies! He said that he sent these out in random mail order when it first came out. I had never even seen nor heard of this variation before. He offered to trade me a copy for a regular clear/white swirl copy since he didn’t have a regular one anymore. That was really nice of him! Thanks Danny! A week or two later, it arrived. Here it is, another crazy rare Champion record, out of less than 20 copies.

The clear/black swirl copy from another angle.

Yet another angle.

I believe this was the very first Champion shirt. Well, there are probably earlier shirts from the “Demo 99” era. But I do believe this was the first shirt of the “Demo 2000” era, when the band really transformed into what we remmeber them as today.

The first Champion hoodie of the “Demo 2000” era. If you saw me or John Eightclip anytime around this era, chances are that we were rocking this hoodie.

Champion – “Count Our Numbers” 7″This is a note that Chris Williams sent me in March of 2002 with a burned CD copy of the new Champion recording that they had just finished – which ended up being the “Count Our Numbers” 7″ for Bridge 9.  Chris always called me “NorKyle” (NorCal, get it?), so that’s the “Nor,” at the beginning, haha.  The reference to “DxDx” is The Damage Done, and our upcoming East Coast Tour that we had planned for June 2002.  Coincidentally, Champion’s B9 debut “Count Our Numbers” ended up being available for the first time while we were out there on that East Coast Tour in June of 2002.  Anyway, when Chris sent me this CD, I was fucking blown away.  Their new recording was a huge step up from the “Come Out Swinging” 7″, and I was already a big fan of the first one!  I remember listening to this burned CD about 3 times through, and just totally excited about it.  I hopped in the car and drove across town in San Luis Obispo to Voegtli and James’s apartment where we all used to hang out.  I had to find someone to share it with because I was pumped that my friends had just made this record – I knew big things were ahead for the dudes.

Here’s a photo of me singing for Champion!  Haha, well not exactly.  You can see Ben on bass, Chris Williams hidden behind him, and Jim walking away after he just threw me the mic.  I used to hop up and sing the end of “The Decline” sometimes, starting at “Now only a whisper remains, of the person I once knew….”  Notice how empty it seems at Gilman?  Well part of the problem was it was a Sunday matinée.  But regardless, just like I’ve written many times here and in the Carry On post – my friends and I had to work really hard to build the traditional hardcore scene here in California that we finally started to see really blossom later from 2002-2005.

Here’s the complete set of the “Count Our Numbers” 7″.  Test pressings are out of 16 copies, mine is #5/16.  The record release cover is a rip-off cover of Youth Of Today “We’re Not In This Alone” with white vinyl, numbered out of 116 – mine is #48/116.  In the same way that Timm McIntosh had a thing with the number “43”, and Count Me Out had a thing with “110”, Champion eventually ended up having a thing with “16” because of the song on this record called “One Sixteen”.  The rest of the 1st pressing was: blue marble vinyl out of 250, white vinyl out of 384, and black vinyl out of 1250.  Later, B9 re-pressed 250 on  purple vinyl that had special “Time Slips Away” labels to go along with the new “Time Slips Away” CD that B9 released in 2005 which had both Champion 7″ EP’s on one 13-song CD.  Some of the purple copies came out blue. It’s hard to see in the photo above, so see the photo below when holding them up to the light.

When making the purple vinyl, they mix blue and red to make purple, so there are a few that came out blue. Blue on left, purple on right.  The pressing was 250 copies in total.  I got my blue copy from Aram a couple of years ago.  He told me it was probably something like 60 or less on blue, the rest on purple.

The test pressing, mine is #5/16.

Close-up of the record release, white vinyl #48/116.  Chris saved me one of these, and mailed it down to me after the record release show.

I love, love, love the layout and imagery of this record.  It’s like In My Eyes “Nothing To Hide” goes to Seattle, haha.  It’s nice and clean, with that metallic blue silver ink.  I love when hardcore/punk resembles it’s region, and this layout is perfect for Seattle and the “Emerald City”.  It’s kinda cool that Jim’s brother, Danny Hesketh, made the album cover, too.  Danny went on to sing in Sinking Ships.

The photo on the back cover of the Seattle skyline is amazing.  Seriously great photo!

Promo poster for the release.  I told you, I love this layout!

Here’s a quilt of shirts that I paid a women in my neighborhood in 2007 to make for me out of all my hardcore shirts that didn’t fit me anymore.  There’s a cool Champion “Count Our Numbers” shirt right at the bottom/middle of the photo.  There’s another Champion shirt in the upper right hand – just a black shirt with a silver splotch and Champion cut out in black.  I’m a size M or L, so most of the shirts in this quilt were either size Mediums that were really on the small side, old XL shirts that I never could wear anyway, or just shirts I didn’t like wearing but wanted to save for nostalgia.  This quilt is awesome – it’s a double-sided queen sized quilt, with 8 shirts down the side and 7 across the top. So, 56 shirts on each side, for a total of 112 t-shirts.  Fuck yeah!

Champion – “Come Out Swinging” 7″ (Bridge 9 re-release)Early in 2003, Bridge Nine re-released “Come Out Swinging” on CD and vinyl.  I think Phyte Records had basically stopped doing releases, so to keep the release in print, they re-released it on B9.  There was a rejected test pressing out of only 3 copies and an accepted test pressing out of 8.  The Positive Numbers Festival 2003 is an edition on green vinyl, blank stamped labels, and “eagle” cover #/116 (duh).  Mine is #69/116.  The regular 1st pressing was 300 on green and 700 on clear.  The greens vary, so I’ve got a “mint green” copy and a nice darker green copy.  Aram sent me the “mint green” copy a couple of years ago.  But either way, they are all solid/marble green.  The orange vinyl is out of 250 with special “Time Slips Away” labels and was pressed at the same time as the purple vinyl “Count Our Numbers”.  These were made to go along with the release of the “Time Slips Away” CD in 2005 that compiled both EP’s onto one 13 song CD.  I bought this orange vinyl copy at Posi Numbers Fest 2005.  You may be wondering about the transparent green copy with completely blank labels on the top row?  Yeah, we think there are only 3 copies in existence.  See below for more info.

No one even knew these transparent green copies existed until they popped up on someone’s trade list.  Through some detective work, it was discovered that someone who was working at Bridge Nine during the time when these were pressed found these transparent green copies when the pressing first came in, and stole them from the B9 offices before anyone ever noticed they existed.  Before long he sold/traded them, so we’ve pretty much figured out that there’s only 3 of them out there.  I suppose there could be more, but they’re kind of valuable, so they would have popped up by now.  I got my clear green copy from Scott Pesek when he was selling a bunch of his records.  He had gotten it directly from the dude who had taken them from B9.  There are also a few solid green copies out there that have blank labels, but we think those are just extra copies above and beyond the 116 of the Posi Press, so they did not get stamps.  Those are kind of a different deal than these transparent clear green ones that got stolen.

Comparing Rejected test press (out of 3) to Accepted test press (out of 8).  I imagine it was rejected due to some audio issues, but the matrix etching was also screwed up on that first rejected pressing. The rejected matrix says “Matt Pike – Modern Day Archie”.  The accepted matrix says “Matt Pike – Modern Day Archie BUNKER”, where the BUNKER is hand-written differently.  The Rejected test press also has the “eagle” artwork on the cover that was used for the Posi Numbers version.  The only difference is the banner on the eagle art says “TEST-PRESS” instead of “POSI-FEST”.

Close-up of my Accepted test pressing labels, with pressing date and catalog number.  My Rejected test pressing does not have anything written on the labels.

This is the Positive Numbers Festival 2003 version, with alternate “eagle” cover.  Mine is #69/116 on the back.

Close-up of the stamped labels.  A few people out there have some copies that didn’t get the stamp, so the labels are blank.

Orange vinyl with “Time Slips Away” labels, out of 250.

It’s cool how they had the layout done in such a way that it matches the look and feel of the “Count Our Numbers” 7″, almost making them seem like a double 7″ type thing.  That made it even more appropriate when they released the “Time Slips Away” CD with both EP’s combined into one 13 song CD, almost as if it was a full length.

Just showing the original Platinum Recordings and the re-released Bridge Nine version of “Come Out Swinging” 7″ together in one photo.

Here’s a cassette version of “Time Slips Away” that was released by Refuse Records in Poland.

Zach Harlan made this cool poster for a show in Portland on December 6th, 2002.  He was living in Portland for about 3 or 4 years during this time, and used to book a lot of shows.  This was a West Coast Tour that Champion did with Embrace Today, and coincidentally, Zach was the roadie for this tour.  The Physical Challenge “Some Still Care” EP was Rivalry Records #1 that Zach and I had released about a year earlier, in August 2001.  We later released their “I Quit” LP as Rivalry Records #9.

Here’s a photo taken of Jim and Zach Harlan screwing around while Zach was roadie-ing on that West Coast Tour in December 2002.


Here’s a cool video of Champion playing at 924 Gilman St. at The Damage Done’s last show on October 4th, 2003.   The very first thing Jim says on this video is “I want to thank For The Crown and The Damage Done”.  Both of our bands had been significant reasons why the Bay Area hardcore scene had grown so much in the past couple of years.  At 11:15 Jim mentions the first release on my brand new label, Rivalry Records.  At 22:20 you see Eightclip do a stage dive, and promptly start screaming “I know, I know, no stage dives. I thought this was the Pound. Sorry! Sorry!”, haha.  He was just dicking around, but yeah, Gilman doesn’t allow stage diving due to their insurance/liability issues. At 22:40, Todd Jones comes up to sing a cover of Alone In A Crowd’s “Is Anybody There?”. He starts talking about recognizing people from two years ago at Champion / Carry On shows and is stoked how things have evolved and straight-up hardcore is so alive in California.  Refer to my Carry On blog post to understand why this is relevant and important… I feel like the Champion and Carry On write-ups go hand in hand, and one isn’t quite as relevant without the other.  Then he mentions how cool he thinks it is that kids in the Bay Area actually fucking get along and work together.  Like I was saying before – the Bay Area from 2002-2005 was a very special place because we had all gone out of our way to be inclusive instead of using musical taste or socio-political views to be divisive.  On a lighter note – A funny thing happens after he gets done saying that… At 23:10, you hear Eightclip say “He’s nervous!” because Aram keeps tuning and they haven’t started the song. Todd turns around smiling and says in his patented Todd Jones cocky attitude, “I’m not fucking nervous, I don’t know the meaning of that word.” I mean, it’s TJ, so he is serious, but he was just fucking around because he knew it was Eightclip that was giving him a hard time. Hahaha, I love that part, because that is classic TJ persona.  At 25:15, before the last song, Jim mentions “all our friends, and all the kids that have been around for the last 3 years, that have built this up from the ground.”  That’s a lot of what was talked about in that Carry On write-up.  We’d all been banging our heads against the wall since 1999/2000, doing bands, doing labels, doing zines, booking shows, all while sometimes feeling like others were spitting in our faces.  It felt like all the hard work had finally paid off, and everyone was getting along – metallic hardcore, straight-up positive hardcore, political hardcore – everybody.

Champion – “The Truth” 7″“The Truth” 7″ came with the Bridge 9 pre-orders in Summer 2004: Give Up The Ghost 2×7″, Ramallah 2×7″ and The Distance 7″.  If you ordered all 3 records, you got a copy of “The Truth” 7″ for free, out of 500 copies.  This 7″ features an un-used 1st mix version of “The Truth” from the Promises Kept LP, while the b-side features a cover of SSD’s “Glue”.  I got my test pressing from Chris Williams.  At one point I traded him some Rivalry test pressings for some Champion test pressings.

This is the letter that came with the pre-orders, explaining the free Champion 7″.  It also discusses some serious drama with Lumberjack Distribution holding a bunch of Bridge 9’s money as “reserves” for possible returns, after B9 had left Lumberjack for Caroline distribution.  Funny thing – Lumberjack filed bankruptcy a few years later.  I think B9 finally did get the money, but it was years and years later.

Champion – “Promises Kept” LPChampion released their “Promises Kept” LP in September of 2004, and basically toured for 2 years straight on that album.  They toured the world, from Europe to Australia to Japan/Korea (I think).  Champion always looked out for the little guy, even when they themselves were the “little guy” on tours with Sick Of It All, etc.  They took Allegiance on tour with Terror, they always championed the new up and coming bands like Outbreak, and Chris was always bringing me back stuff from their travels, showing me what was up with international hardcore in Japan or Australia, etc.  The first mix of this album ended up not being totally to the band’s liking, so they went ahead and released the first mix at their record release on September 4th, 2004.  The record release was white vinyl out of 150.  There is a rejected test pressing that goes with that mix – it has blank white labels, with a REJECTED stamp, out of 10 copies.  Then they re-mixed it and pressed the rest of the vinyl.  The real first pressing is all along the 2nd row of the photo.  It had another test pressing, this time with yellow Erika Records labels, out of 10 copies.  The rest of the 1st pressing was 220 on blue for their first tour on the new record, 300 on maroon, and 700 on grey. The 2nd pressing was 500 on black.  The final pressing was 400 on this ugly yellow/black/white mix vinyl.  There was also a European pressing on Dead & Gone Records from the UK, which is shown on the 3rd row.  The test pressing is out of 10 copies, mine is #3/10.  The grey vinyl with blank labels was a tour pressing out of 100.  The rest is 200 grey with regular labels, 200 on white, and 500 on black.  In the bottom row, you can see the “Warehouse edition” that Bridge Nine made in 2009.  They had some left over vinyl in the warehouse, so they made these covers for the vinyl.  I have one Warehouse Edition on white vinyl from the very first rejected mix pressing (which they used for the record release), which is #10/12 – only 12 copies on white.  Then I have another one that is the “last show press” yellow mix vinyl, this one is #177/205.  Out of these 205 Warehouse Editions, some where 2nd press black vinyl, some were the final press yellow vinyl.  I’m not sure how many of each.

This is a full set of the rejected 1st mix (the only thing missing is my Warehouse Edition white vinyl #10/12).  Test pressing at the top right out of 10 copies, and 2 copies of the white vinyl.  I couldn’t make the record release show, so either Aram or Chris saved me a copy and mailed me down one of these.

Close-up of the REJECTED test pressing labels, out of 10 copies.

So why do I have 2 on white vinyl?   Well, because there is a slight difference with the screen-printing on the back.  Here is what the B9 discography says about it:  Limited to 150 on white vinyl with screen printed alternate covers. 51 have the Bridge Nine logo on the back. 99 have NO Bridge Nine logo on the back. When they were screen printing the backs of the covers, the ink gummed up around the B9 logo so they proceeded w/ the rest without it. This pressing was made from the rejected tests featuring the first mix of the album.

Close-up showing the difference. The top copy has the B9 logo at the bottom, out of 51, the bottom copy does not, out of 99.

The insert for the record release copies explains the 1st mix rejection situation.  Did no one notice that the first character “I” got cut off the very first word of the text: “In February 2004”?  They’re all like this too.  Weird.

Comparing Rejected test on the left to Accepted test on the right.  Both are out of 10 copies only.  I got my Accepted test from Aram in a trade for a Go It Alone “The Only Blood Between Us” test pressing.  I bought the rejected test pressing off Aram a couple of years ago when he was selling a lot of his records.

Close-up of the Erika labels on the Accepted test pressing, out of 10 copies.

The blue vinyl tour copies out of 220 have the same stamped labels as the record release copies, but using blue ink instead.  And obviously this is the accepted mix, whereas the record release is the rejected mix.  Jim Hesketh gave me this blue copy when he came down to a show in 2004/2005 that I was throwing at the Danville Grange Hall in Danville, CA.  His brother’s band, Sinking Ships, had come down to play it.

This photo just compares the label art across the pressings.  Top left is the rejected 1st mix.  Top right is the 1st pressing tour pressing, but used the same stamp as the rejected mix.  Bottom left is the B9 pressing.  Bottom right is the UK pressing on Dead & Gone.

This compares the inserts across the pressings.  The top left is the insert used in the rejected record release pressings (the flip-side of that insert is the explanation message that was shown earlier).  The top right is the insert used in the B9 release. I think it’s kind of a bummer that the insert is so small.  It seems like it should have been more like the one on the bottom, which is the insert for the UK pressing on Dead & Gone Records.  I remember Scott Magrath (who did the Promises Kept layout) telling me that he designed the insert to be larger.  But I think it got changed up by someone at B9 before it actually got printed.

The test pressing on Dead & Gone comes with a little one-sheet piece of paper as a cover. Mine is #3/10.

Close-up of the Warehouse Edition with the white vinyl rejected pressing, #10/12.

The cassette version of “Promises Kept” was released by Refuse Records in Poland.

“Promises Kept” crewneck sweatshirt! Damn, I still wish I had one of these, but I had to sell mine because it was wayyy too small for me. It was a size large, but fit like an extra small!

Back of the crewneck.

This show was directly after the weekend of the last Carry On shows, which were July 1st and 2nd, 2005 at the Showcase Theatre in Corona, CA.  Most of the bands that played the final Carry On shows also played other shows around the west coast during the week afterwards.  No Turning Back, Betrayed, Blue Monday, and Champion all played the last Carry On shows.  I’m pretty sure Go It Alone did not play this show.  They and Allegiance were slated to leave for tour on July 10th, so they wouldn’t have even been down here yet.  I definitely don’t remember them playing this show.  I’m not sure why they were on the flier in the first place, I don’t remember the details.

Champion – “Live In Oz” 7″The “Live In Oz” was a Bridge Nine bonus 7″ that you got for free when you pre-ordered the Champion “Time Slips Away” CD in 2005.  The CD had both Champion EP’s combined on one 13 song CD.  There were only 500 copies pressed of the 7″, and it features a live recording from one of Champion’s recent shows in Australia.  My test pressing is #12/16.  I got it from Chris Williams in a trade for some Rivalry test pressings a few years ago.

Champion – cassettesRefuse Records in Poland made cassette tapes of “Time Slips Away” and “Promises Kept”.  The top row are the demo’s mentioned at the very top of this blog entry.

The spines of the cassette tapes.

Champion / Betrayed – “Split” 7″After the Betrayed “Addiction” EP came out in June of 2005, Todd Jones and I would always kick around the idea of me putting out some Betrayed songs on some sort of split release on Rivalry Records. I had been close friends with the guys in Champion forever and it seemed natural to do a Champion / Betrayed split 7″. But the only thing we were worried about was having the release be a little stale by doing a split release with two bands where most of the members of one band played in the other too (Aram and Todd Preboski play in both Champion and Betrayed). Not to mention, a split where both bands are playing somewhat of the same style to the same crowd. We talked it over with Aram and the guys in Champion and in the end we all kinda felt like “fuck it, who cares, let’s do whatever we want”, haha. And isn’t that the way it always should be anyway?   This split turned out sweet, and was the first appearance of the Betrayed song “Bring It To Life”.  That song is sick!  It was the first appearance of Todd’s more “rock influenced” song writing that we’d see more of on the Betrayed “Substance”.  For the record release show, each band had a different color to sell, with both versions being out of 135 copies. Not only did the record release show happen to be Rivalry Records Showcase 2006, but it was Champion’s second to last show ever. Champion had announced that they were breaking up, and the only show left after the Rivalry Showcase was their final show in Seattle.  So these 3 songs were the last Champion songs ever recorded.  At the showcase, Betrayed sold the brown/orange swirl copies out of 135, Champion sold the orange/red split out of 135. There were 13 test pressings. The red vinyl with orange splatter was sold to pre-orders, out of 320. The rest of the 1st pressing was 980 on clear vinyl. We quickly did a 2nd pressing on clear vinyl, out of 1525, but the only difference is a small “II” on the b-side label. The problem was, I ran out of covers while assembling the vinyl, so 1325 of those 2nd press clear vinyl got regular covers, and 200 were just sitting there without covers. So, for Betrayed’s “last shows” I made 200 limited covers (I know, I know, they ended up playing shows again a couple of years later).

Speaking of Aram and Todd Preboski being in both bands… When we originally announced the Champion / Betrayed split EP, I had this idea to play a joke on Aram (and everyone really – most people seriously didn’t notice), and put this splash page up on my site. I was able to make this image look pretty damned good actually, because Champion and Betrayed had both played the final Carry On shows at the Showcase Theatre in July of 2005. So the photos of Betrayed and Champion that Chrissie Good took that night had very similar lighting. Splicing these together was pretty easy, and it kinda turned out perfect. This still cracks me up when I look at it. “Aram and the Aram’s”, hahahaha.

Originally, we made a couple passes at some different artwork designs, but we weren’t real happy with what we ended up with. Finally, Todd had some ideas, and he got together with our friend Bo Thompson (Snake Eyes vocalist) who he was playing in a band with and hanging out with a lot during that period. They had an idea for a story via photos, with this dude and a beer bottle and “hope/fear” on his knuckles. So they got the photos taken, and let Scott Magrath work his layout magic. Bo Thompson is the dude you see in the photos. Personally, I really love this layout, and think it turned out spectacular. I don’t know if everyone shares the same sentiment. It seems hardcore kids tend to always prefer basic live photo+logo or hand drawn layouts, but I guess I really couldn’t care less. Rivalry was my label to do what I wanted with it, and I was psyched on how this layout turned out. The reds and oranges are super vibrant, and really fit the mood of the rage in the photos and shit. The tri-fold layout looks sweet as well. Plus, it totally has a “2001 vibe” to it (Carry On LP, Hope Con 7″, AN 2nd 7″, Panic 1st 7″, etc), which was the era that Todd and I were so psyched on with Carry On and the evolution of Bridge Nine Records. So it was kind of a throwback to that era.

I made a special cover for the test pressings, just using the inner photo from the tri-fold layout. Todd wanted to make sure the test pressings were not excessive, so there are only 13 in total. We simply made one for each member of both bands, one for Scott Magrath, and one for Zach and myself. They are all hand numbered on the back, mine is #2/13.

Close-up of the “II” on the b-side label to differentiate the 2nd pressing clear copies.

The limited cover for Betrayed’s “last show” was an “out-take” from the photo session they did for the album cover of the “Substance” LP. It’s all of the dudes in “B-boy stances”. All of them look hilarious, but the Todd Jones’ “puckered-lip-face” has gotta be the best one. Haha, I love this photo, man. This cover was obviously made years after the original split 7″ came out, so at this point I had actually already used this photo on the b-side label of the Substance LP too.

The “last shows” were in October 2006. Each record is stamped with a number on the back, out of 200. Mine is #001/200. The clear vinyl that comes with these covers has the second pressing “II” on the label, as shown in the photo above.

Champion – “Different Directions: The Last Show” LPZach Harlan and I flew up to Seattle together for the last Champion show on May 27th, 2006.  Todd Jones flew up from L.A. and crashed with us at the hotel too.  The show had been sold out for months, and I think there were over 1,000 people there.  Kids flew from all over the world, including Australia and Japan to see Champion play one last time.  There was a pre-show the night before at a smaller hall in West Seattle, and it was cool to hang out with friends from all over the place for the weekend.  This LP has the full audio from the last show, and there is also a 2xDVD set of the entire show.  There were only 100 on gold vinyl, mostly given to friends, but some inserted in mail order.  The rest were 900 on clear with splatter vinyl.  Aram sent me a gold vinyl copy when it first came out.  There are 20 test pressings, and Aram had arranged for my copy to be sent directly from B9 to me.  But a funny story: Chris Wrenn (Bridge 9) decided to just bring me my test pressing to Las Vegas for Aram’s wedding, and had planned to just give it to me there.  But every time Chris had it there for me, I didn’t have a place to store it at that exact moment in the casino, so we just left it in his car.  And then every time we were at my hotel or I had a bag or something to store it in, we weren’t anywhere near Chris’s rental car where the test press was stored in the trunk.  That test pressing traveled all around Las Vegas, in and out of all sorts of casinos, but in the end we never exchanged it! hahaha.  So about 2 years later, I got a random email from Chris Wrenn, telling me that he’d found a box near his desk with a note on the box that said “For Kyle”, and of course it had that test pressing in it.  It had been sitting there for years, haha.  So he went ahead and mailed it to me.  So much for doing things in person being easier, huh?  That was nice of Chris to follow-up and make sure I got it!

Close-up of the last show test pressing, mine is #16/20.

This poster was sold at their last show.  They were screen-printed and hand-numbered.  Mine is #15/200.  I didn’t buy one at the show because Aram told me before the show that he had one saved for me.  I never got around to grabbing it from him, so he eventually mailed it down to me with the gold vinyl version of the last show LP when it came out.

This huge poster came with the B9 pre-order of the “Different Directions” LP and DVD set.

This is just a regular 11×17″ promo poster for the “Different Directions” DVD/LP on Bridge Nine.

Here’s a video of “The Decline” from the last show.  Before they start the song, Jim says, “Now we can get the other eye!”.  Earlier in the show, Jim got hit in the face/eye and he was bleeding fucking everywhere.  It was pretty impressive that he even made it through the set, just cause so much damned blood runs to your head when you’re screaming into a mic.  I think he went to the hospital for stitches immediately after they got done playing.

V/A – “Coastal Flooding Volume 1: The West Coast”A comp featuring Allegiance, Champion, Blue Monday, Find Him And Kill Him, Where Eagles Dare, and The Miracle Mile. I know there were colors pressed other than blue vinyl, but I didn’t really collect them all. I don’t believe the 2nd Volume for the East Coast ever happened.

The inside of the layout.

My Champion collection, at its peak:

  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (TEST PRESS, #12/12, Platinum Records)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (CLEAR/WHITE swirl, Side By Side rip off tour cover, #42/143, Platinum Records)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (CLEAR/WHITE swirl, out of 357, Platinum Records)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (BLACK)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (REJECTED TEST PRESS #/3, “modern day archie” etching, B9)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (ACCEPTED TEST PRESS, out of 8, “modern day archie” with hand written “BUNKER” etching, B9)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (CLEAR GREEN w/blank white labels RARE, we think only 3 exist, B9)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (GREEN MARBLE, Posi Numbers 2003 cover #69/116, B9)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (MINT GREEN, part of the green marble pressing but just a little lighter shade)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (GREEN MARBLE, out of 300, B9)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (CLEAR, out of 700, B9)
  • Champion – Come Out Swinging (ORANGE MARBLE, out of 250, Final pressing, Posi Fest 2005, B9)
  • Champion – Count Our Numbers (TEST PRESS, #5/16)
  • Champion – Count Our Numbers (WHITE #48/116, 5/17/02 record release cover)
  • Champion – Count Our Numbers (BLUE MARBLE, out of 250)
  • Champion – Count Our Numbers (WHITE, out of 384)
  • Champion – Count Our Numbers (BLACK, out of 1250)
  • Champion – Count Our Numbers (CLEAR BLUE, 2nd press, out of 60)
  • Champion – Count Our Numbers (PURPLE, 2nd press, out of 190)
  • Champion – The Truth (TEST PRESS, out of 8)
  • Champion – The Truth b/w Glue (BLACK, B9 Bonus 7″ #4, out of 500)
  • Champion – Live in Australia (TEST PRESS, #12/16)
  • Champion – Live in Australia (BLACK, B9 Bonus 7″ #7, out of 500)
  • Champion / Betrayed – Split (TEST PRESS, #1/13)
  • Champion / Betrayed – Split (RED/ORANGE SPLIT, Champion color @ RVL Showcase #3 Rec Release, out of 135)
  • Champion / Betrayed – Split (BROWN/ORANGE SWIRL, Betrayed color @ RVL Showcase #3 Rec Release, out of 135)
  • Champion / Betrayed – Split (RED w/ORANGE SPLATTER, out of 320)
  • Champion / Betrayed – Split (CLEAR, 1st press, out of 980)
  • Champion / Betrayed – Split (CLEAR, 2nd press, II b-side label, out of 1325)
  • Champion / Betrayed – Split (CLEAR, 2nd press, Betrayed Last Show cover, #1/200)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (REJECTED TEST PRESS, out of 10, original/rejected mix, blank stamped labels, Bridge 9, matrix: A=”B9R:56-A” B=”B9R:56-B”)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (WHITE, with B9 logo, out of 51, original/rejected mix, 09/04/2004 rec release cover)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (WHITE, without b9 logo, out of 99, original/rejected mix, 09/04/2004 rec release cover)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (TEST PRESS, Erika labels, out of 10, Bridge 9, matrix: A=”B9R:56R-A” B=”B9R:56R-B”)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (BLUE, 1st press, stamped labels, Bridge 9, out of 220)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (MAROON, 1st press, Bridge 9, out of 300)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (GREY, 1st press, Bridge 9, out of 700)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (BLACK, 2nd press, Bridge 9, out of 500)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (YELLOW/BLACK MARBLE, 3rd press last show pressing, Bridge 9, out of 400)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (YELLOW/BLACK MARBLE, B9 Warehouse Edition, #177/205)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (WHITE, B9 Warehouse Edition, #10/12)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (TEST PRESS, #3/10, Dead & Gone Records, UK Pressing)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (GREY, blank white labels tour pressing, Dead & Gone, out of 100)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (GREY, normal labels, Dead & Gone, out of 200)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (WHITE, Dead & Gone, out of 200)
  • Champion – Promises Kept (BLACK, Dead & Gone, out of 500)
  • Champion – Different Directions – The Last Show (TEST PRESS, #16/20)
  • Champion – Different Directions – The Last Show (YELLOW, out of 100)
  • Champion – Different Directions – The Last Show (CLEAR w/SPLATTER, out of 900)
  • V/A – Coastal Flooding West Coast comp (BLUE, Champion, Allegiance, Blue Monday, + more)
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5 Responses to Champion

  1. Pingback: They Tried To Break The Best Of Us |

  2. Pingback: A new Champion 7″ variation that I never new existed! |

  3. Justin says:

    Hey buddy are you on facebook?
    if so please message me…..
    https://www.facebook.com/justin.stierhof

  4. Jerry says:

    OMG… would you consider selling any of them. at least one of them?

  5. stephen says:

    I have this crewneck in an XL. Interested?

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