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Something More Than Ink

There’s one guy who has been amazing me for some time now. His name is Ben Wynne and he’s running a straight edge / hardcore punk website called xMore Than Inkx, supported by very popular Facebook profile. Last year he launched an amazing series of compilations called  HardCare, that became a perfect tool to support  different charity organizations and peoples’ needs. I caught him a few weeks ago to talk about his clothing line, the UK gigs, straight edge, vegetarianism, and much more.

This is more than music. Here’s my chat with xMore Thank Inkx.

Hookay, boy. Since I’m reposting about nearly every single interview of yours, I thought it would be cool to have you here. And here you are – a vegan straight edge man doing vegan straight edge things, right? [smiles] Please shoot us a little introduction about xMore Than Inkx project, tell us who’s behind it and what’s this whole partyhouse all about?

Thanks, I’m not normally on the other side of the interview table ha. xMore Than Inkx is basically a website and Facebook page that promotes straight edge and hardcore music. I run it alone from my front room. It’s also a small label, clothing line and I also started releasing hardcore compilations, with the money going to charity. The website features interviews, links to music, an edge band A-Z (which is very much a working process) and a tattoo gallery.

And you’re running it as a one-man army?

Yeah just me! Ha!

Wow, so that’s two of us. I have my man Mike in California who’s helping me a lot with the articles, but most of the work lays on my shoulders and sometimes it’s really tough to reconcile this “job” with everyday life. Do you feel tight with your time sometimes because of xMore Thank Inkx? What other activities do you do when you’re not developing this project?

Yeah it can take a lot of my time, but I try and manage my time so I can do everything I need to do. I’m busy at the moment sorting out the second HardCare compilation, so that takes up a fair bit of time. When I’m not working on xMore Than Inkx stuff I’m doing the usual; working, spending time with my girlfriend and friends, reading, watching sports, listening to music and going to shows.

What made you want to be drug and alcohol free? What does being sXe mean to you?

I went straight edge because I became disgusted with the way I acted when I was drunk, and I also didn’t want to be a part of the binge drinking society that has taken over our country. I also have a history with social anxiety and alcohol helped with that, but after I’d had therapy for that, alcohol kind of lost its appeal. I don’t need it to mask my emotions or to deal with my issues. To me straight edge is a lifetime commitment, a refusal to use substances just because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do. If you want to do those things that’s fine. Do what you want, as long as you do it for yourself.

So you’d reject the hardline way of spreading the ideas of straight edge?

I’m all for human, animal and earth liberation, abstaining from certain products for ethical and health reasons. I am not for homophobia, sexism and other forms of intolerance. I mean some misguided moron told me last week that all non-straight edge people should be beaten to death, but in the same conversation told me that it’s ok to listen to white power bands if the music is good, and that you don’t have to listen or agree with the lyrics. When I told him that his statements were ridiculous, he told me not to get ‘all left-wing about it’. The fact that people like this are associated with hardcore or straight edge is a joke.

Holy shit. Is there a problem with fascist bull shit like this where you live? Is there a pseudo-punk white power scene that blooms without regard to the resistance from regular punks?

No this was online, I should have mentioned that. I’ve never encountered any neo-nazis at shows. Someone tried to start a straight edge division of the English Defence League, but people jumped on the Facebook page and the guy backed off and shut it down. UKHC has a pretty clear message when it comes to fascist behaviour.

Good to hear that. But are there any dangerous outside hardcore punk movements that punks try to strangle from time to time? Ultra right-wing nationalists’ marches or any other initiatives that punk community fight against?

I wouldn’t say so, we have the extreme far right groups like the EDL, but I wouldn’t say punks try to choke them out, just decent people in general. Most people (whether they are left or right) don’t want these idiots spouting their misinformed, fascist and islamophobic bullshit.

Alright. Let’s leave ‘em. Tell us about the new HardCare compilation you mention before. What’s the story behind this project?

It was only suppose to be a one off thing. A friend of mine told me about a special baby care ward that his wife works in as a nurse. It is massively underfunded and understaffed. They care for the most vulnerable babies, including babies who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. So I thought that I should do something to raise money for the unit, as I had a fair few thousand people coming on my facebook page, and it was only right that I gave something back. I came up with the idea to put together a downloadable hardcore compilation and people could pay between £2-£5 and get 32 hardcore songs in return. We raised around £350, which was way beyond the target of £100 that I had set, so that was very humbling.

After the success of the first compilation I decided to put together a second edition of HardCare with the money going to Transitions Global, an organisation that helps victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia. xKINGDOMx, actually made me aware of the organisation when they were selling tapes that were raising money for the charity. I wanted to make it bigger and better the second time around and I think I have succeeded. There are 40 songs on the download this time around and it features the best up and coming bands, and also well established bands like FIRST BLOOD, WOLF DOWN, GHOSTxSHIP, NO TURNING BACK, BILLY THE KID and also legendary bands like GATHER, IN MY EYES and GOOD CLEAN FUN.

How did you managed to get in touch with all these bands and make them participate? Was it hard?

Mostly through Facebook. I either messaged the bands through their pages or tracked down members. I had also interviewed some of the bands so I had their emails so it wasn’t that difficult. I did message a fair few bands though so it was hard to keep up with who I had contacted and who I hadn’t [laughs].

Great. Do you have plans to put out more releases? Maybe you should start a label perhaps?

I hope to to do a third, and keep it going for as long as it is raising a decent amount of money. I have started releasing tapes. The first was a split between GHOSTxSHIP and NO ZODIAC, the second was THUGxLIFE’s EP and I have one out at the moment. It’s a Californian straight edge hardcore band, PROLETARIAT YOUTH‘s Demo. Tape releases is all I can afford at the moment, but I hope that I can release vinyl and cd’s in the next few years.

Is it hard to start a tape business in digital world like the ones we happen to live in? [smiles]

How did you team up with a Polish band to do something together? [smiles]

[laughs] Yeah, but tapes seem to be cool at the minute so it’s not too bad. I don’t make many, only 50 at the minute, I might make more in future, but I think it kind of depends on the band. I love THUGxLIFE, and Mike from xCURRAHEEx put me in touch with Adam from the band and it went from there. I have a good relationship with Robert from Refuse who released it on vinyl and he was happy with the idea. I never thought I’d have a tape out with Refuse Records logo and mine side by side [laughs].

Well well well, we know the same people, my friend [smiles]. Yeah, it’s very nice of you to keep it going. So I guess you’re not saying no to releasing some vinyls?

Just no for now. I definitely want to release something on vinyl in the future.

Ok. Let’s talk about the distro. How big it is? Do you sell stuff at shows?

It’ not massive. I just get in what I can afford. I don’t really sell at shows, which is a bit stupid really, but I would rather experience the show in the pit [laughs]. I should have a table at shows more often really but I sell most of the stuff online.

And what about the clothing line? Tell us more about that…

There isn’t much to tell really. After the facebook page was running for a couple of months, a few people encouraged me to start a clothing line, especially given the fact that there are hardly any straight edge clothing lines in Europe, so I gave it a go. I try and do things a little differently to other lines, but I know it’s not some people’s kind of thing. I’ve been accused of stealing money from bands because people spend their money on my gear instead of going to shows and spending it on band merch. I’d much rather people spent their money supporting bands, but at the same time, people are allowed to wear other items of clothing besides band shirts.

Wow. Ridiculous. Hope you’re not taking it personally. I’ve just visualized a merch guy sitting next to your merch table and stabbing you before the last band takes the stage [laughs]. Nonsense [smiles].

Let’s move on. Is vegetarianism/veganism part of straight edge for you?

[laughs] No. Half the people are plastic punks who go to shows with their parents money, the other half just play the part of a moody hardcore kid, whilst they sit in their bedroom looking for the next thing to complain about.

Yes and no. I wouldn’t be vegan if I wasn’t straight edge. What I mean by that is that I was straight edge first, but through that I was exposed to bands like EARTH CRISIS, 7 GENERATIONS, GATHER, YOUTH OF TODAYPOINT OF NO RETURN etc. I read through their lyrics, and literature that came with the albums and stuff that members of those bands wrote, and that made me question my diet and my outlook when it came to animal rights. Not just animal rights, but stuff like politics, human rights, sexism and so on.

Do I think you need to be vegan to be straight edge? No. Is my veganism linked to the fact that I’m straight edge? Most definitely.

And what’s your opinion on the edge breakers, who have still their X’s tattooed and band running? I’m thinking CHAIN OF STRENGTH, for instance.

If they have x’s tattooed and they break, then they need no help from anyone else to make themselves look like idiots [laughs]. I am disappointed when friends break, but they are still friends. It’s not for everyone at the end of the day and I don’t want to police other people’s lives. I do think that it’s a bit hypocritical that former straight edge bands get on stage and sing songs about straight edge, but I don’t lose any sleep over it.

Reaper Records printed a nice shirt showing their transformation [smiles].

Anyway, what bands and musicians do you respect for being sXe and supporting this path the most?

Where do I start? [laughs] Bands like EARTH CRISIS, HAVE HEART, TRIAL, FIRST BLOOD, KINGDOM, IN MY EYES, TEN YARD FIGHT, YOUTH OF TODAY, GORILLA BISCUITS, MAINSTRIKE, 7 GENERATIONS, GATHER… I could go on forever. I do have a few straight edge role model; Greg Bennick is one of them. He has been very helpful, especially with the first HardCare and he is very approachable.  His lyrics also made me question the world around me. Toby Morse, Karl Buechner, Pat Flynn, Sweet Pete are also inspirations. My straight edge friends are a testament to this way of life too. My best friend has been straight edge for around 15 years.

So what were some of the best shows you remember? And what bands gives you the real goose bumps at gigs nowadays?

The NEGATIVE APPROACH, PUNCH, VOORHEES and SSS show I went to last year is probably one of the best I’ve been to. Every band killed it, it was packed from front to back and there was a good atmosphere. The best feeling I’ve had at a show was H2O a couple of years ago.

How are the kids at shows in your area? Spoiled? Dedicated? Hyperactive? [smiles]

Just the usual mix really. The scene is very small, but if I go a little further a field to Manchester it’s better. Whenever there is a ‘local’ show it’s usually me and about 5 other people. The bigger bands attract a more diverse crowd, but that’s the same everywhere.

What was the biggest kick on the ass you got on a show? Tell me about some of the injuries you experienced.

[laughs] I’ve been lucky so far because I’ve had no serious injuries. A few kicks to the groin but nothing debilitating.

Lucky man. Do me a favor and don’t break your elbow, it really hurts like hell [smiles].

Ok. Before we finish up. Would you like to add anything else? What’s your message for all the kids out there? Do you have anything else cooking up in your headquarters?

I’ll be putting on some shows this year with a friend of mine. One of them has NO ZODIAC headlining and the other show next month is a secret [laughs]. Just until it’s all confirmed, so keep a look out. I plan to really step it up this year with music releases and there will be plenty of shirts and stuff out too.

The only message I have is that being yourself, and ignoring what others think of you is the only way to be happy. Changing who you are to fit in never works. Oh and fuck hardcore elitists. Hardcore is for everyone with an open mind. Thanks to you too Karol, you do a lot of good things with IDIOTEQ.

Thank you! Have a good one with your projects, bro! 

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