No matter how you view straight edge or straight edge bands, it's an undeniable part of punk culture. The idea of opting out of a life with alcohol, drugs, and promiscuous sex has raised a lot of questions, and draws a long-standing line in the sand for many in the punk community. The straight edge movement effectively took over hardcore punk starting in the 1980's with Ian MacKaye and Minor Threat. The term straight edge has been redefined countless times by many different hardcore scenes. Today, many of the founders of the straight edge movement are disillusioned by the term, having seen straight edge music and the philosophy of the scene stretched to it's limits. However, straight edge culture still means something to a lot of people. Even with fewer and fewer bands repping the lifestyle–“Don't drink, don't smoke, don't fuck!”–many people are still claiming edge and practicing a life without those vices.
One Huntington Beach record label, No Sleep Records, often hands out informational pamphlets in mail orders and the owner Chris Hansen is a straight edge vegan. Although the label isn't an exclusively straightedge label, they often sell merch and stickers with the “X” logo.
Chris Hansen: I think straight edge for me is definitely a way of life. It's a good reason why I'm still here. A lot of my friends are glad that I don't drink; I would probably be a violent alcoholic. Growing up seeing some of my family not handle their alcohol well had a huge impact on me. They don't go crazy, but [I realized at a] pretty young [age] I don't want to drink and I that want to have a clear mind. I want to be me. I don't want to have to drink to have fun. I have friends that aren't straight edge, not everyone here at No Sleep is straight edge. People can do whatever they want as long as they're not hurting themselves. I sell straight edge merch, I support the straight edge and vegan as well, but I don't preach it to anyone.
Here is Chris's list of his favorite straight edge bands:
I always list this as one of my favorite straight edge bands because I love the “X-Files” TV show and the band just makes me think of “X-Files.” I don't know what label they are on or much about them, but when I was working at Revelation Records, we had their discography and I would listen to it non-stop. They are just a really good straight edge band.
I've never seen them, and I don't know a ton about them; I just loved their albums. They were on Havoc Records. “Wall of Death the System” is a great song. RAMBO is a great straight-up hardcore band. Not a lot of people think of them as straight edge, but they were straight edge at the end of the day.
8. Prayer for Cleansing
Prayer for Cleansing is an awesome band. They're on Tribunal Records. Their sound is more metal or metalcore, similar to Undying. They're a straightedge-vegan band, They're very, very heavy. I never got a chance to see them either.
Champion was just one of the first bands I heard about when I first got into straight edge. They're meaning and everything behind the songs really hit hard for me. I was going to go to one of their last shows but I wasn't able to make it up. I really regret not going now.
6. Have Heart
Similar to Champion, they are just a newer version of Champion in my mind. Have Heart is straight edge hardcore music for kids who are just being hardcore kids. Easy for someone to be into if you're into more hardline hardcore music. Have Heart just had really great songs, with really great content, plus they were an amazing live band. I saw them a few times, and caught them at the Green Turtle date of their last tour. At that show I felt like we were going to all fall through the floor. It was on the second floor of the venue, and everyone was moving around. You could feel the ground shaking.
5. I Hate You
Great band. Their discography is amazing. They have a lot of hardline straight edge songs and then a lot of songs with a more comical side to it. The song “Cram” is great– “Take that fucking beer and shove it up your ass” [Laughs.] Plus, I love that it's a Philadelphia- based hardcore band. I've never seen them. Didn't really get into them until they were already done.
4. Good Clean Fun
They're just a silly related hardcore band-Good Clean Fun is just good clean fun. They're great and there is humor to all of it. I think it shows that straight edge hardcore isn't just tough guy bullshit–that has a bad message to it. I saw them one time and it was great.
They've gone completely off from the Throwdown I remember. Just being from Orange County, they helped me become aware of straight edge [culture] and heavier music. Going to high school in Huntington Beach, that helped me get into all of it. I don't know what they are now if they are still straight edge or whatever, I'm not sure. They were a great band, and then they became Pantera [Laughs.]
Refused is probably my all time favorite band. In their later years, they weren't really considered a straight edge band. But on the first couple of releases they definitely were. As one of my favorite bands I had to put them on the list, whether they are considered straight edge now or not. If you go to their older EP's they were a straight edge band. Their old logo had a huge “X” on it. The older Refused are still fucking amazing. If you went to their shows when they got back together they were in incredible. I've seen them at the Glass House in Pomona and in San Francisco. They helped branch me into hardcore.
Just your pinnacle straight edge band. Maybe not one of my top favorite straight edge bands, but they have to be put on the list because the coined the term straight edge. I think they have to be put on any straightedge list. Obviously straight edge has gone completely away from what Ian MacKaye had in mind, anyway you look at it. Straight edge has spun off in many directions, good and bad. I love Minor Threat, but even if you don't, you have to put it in a list of straight edge bands, Out of Step is great.
OC Weekly (Lucas Chemotti): No Sleep's next release coming in September 10th is from a band with two straight edge members called Balance and Composure. This album will be the follow up to 2011's Separation.