Web Exclusive: A conversation with Nick 13 of Tiger Army

October 21, 2009 by Lucy Albers

Web Exclusive: A conversation with Nick 13 of Tiger Army

This year has been a fairly easy one for California psychobilly act, TIGER ARMY. With only a handful of live appearances throughout 2009, it’d be easy to assume the band had gone M.I.A. But after nonstop touring for their 2007 full-length, Music From Regions Beyond including that summer’s Warped Tour, the band definitely needed some time off. Their appearance at the four dates of their own Octoberflame Festival this week will be the only Tiger Army shows in the world this year. While it’s been made clear that the act are not breaking up, frontman NICK 13 has been making good use of the free time to concentrate on his solo act. He gave us the scoop on it, along with Tiger Army’s next plan of attack.

INTERVIEW: Lucy Albers

What have you been up to?
I’m at home in Los Angeles right now. I’m getting ready to go to practice for Tiger Army. I practiced for my solo thing yesterday. [Tiger Army] are getting ready for some shows. We did one show in Las Vegas in the spring and we have four shows in Southern California coming up [for the second annual Octoberflame Festival]: two in Los Angeles and two in Orange County [for Octoberflame]. Those will be the last shows of the year, actually.

When we do Octoberflame, we try to put in a lot of work in the practice room. There’s always pressure in SoCal because we’ve played there more than anywhere else, and we always want to top what we did before. Because so many fans are so hardcore there, we really try to dust off some obscure stuff for the set list. That way, we can play stuff for someone who might have seen us five times during the past five years who hadn’t heard it before. As a music fan, that’s what I was always into. Going to see an artist, if you saw someone one year and again the next year, and they had the same set list, it’s kind of a disappointment. It kind of reflects a laziness on the part of the artist, really. I understand it’s more fun to relax and stuff in the rehearsal room, but ultimately this is more fun for us.

Why haven’t Tiger Army toured much this year?
Well, we worked really hard with our last record, Music From Regions Beyond, and the process of recording that and going on the road and staying on the road for about two years total was exhausting. I wouldn’t say I got burned out, but I pushed myself right up to edge of it. We were definitely ready for a break after that. We kind of finished up with a bang by doing five shows in Orange County for last year’s Octoberflame. This year has been my first real break in, like, five years. It’s nice to just lay back and recharge the batteries a bit. The other part of it was to write a country-like solo album and get that going. That process has been taking a little bit longer than I had hoped, but it’s all coming together and it’s probably going to come out of the gate next spring. That’s the main thing I’ve been working on. I’ve been rehearsing on and off for that since last spring. I went up to Nashville, Tennessee, to write songs and hang out and get inspired by the music and the atmosphere there. [The project will] probably just be called Nick 13.

Why a country album?
Well, if I go all the way back, punk was the first music that grabbed my heart as a little kid. I’ve always been interested in roots of things and where things come from, and my investigation into the roots of punk brought me back to ’50s rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly. When you start listening to a lot of ‘50s rockabilly, the country element is a huge component. As a teenager, I wouldn’t have thought that country music would be something I’d ever really be into. But the further I got exposed to rockabilly, I started going further back into like ‘40s bluegrass and ‘50s honky tonk. I think it’s the same story with a lot of genres. I think there are some genres that are completely terrible today, but if you go back to the roots of them, they’re very cool. I think that kind of, sadly, explains the status of country music today. What they call “country” on the radio really has nothing to do with country music anymore than what rock music of today has to do with real rock ‘n’ roll. So I kind of just went back to the roots of where it all started. Country has always been an element of Tiger Army’s sound. Going all the way back to our [self-titled] first album in ’99, we’ve had a vintage country influenced song on every record. We’ve always loved those songs and playing them. So, although it’s always been in Tiger Army’s sound to a degree, the whole sound and feel of this album will be a completely different vibe.

What are the goals you want to accomplish as solo performer Nick 13?
I don’t know. I’m not really too goal-oriented with it. I grew up with the guys in AFI and have known them for years. I watched them do Blaqk Audio and the way they just wrote the songs and had a great time doing it. They didn’t really care what happened with it. I just thought that was a cool thing; to just step away from your primary life’s work and do something different for fun. At the same time, it’s something that’s very important to me. My goals, initially, are just to write a great record and record an album that will hopefully stand up to--and maybe surpass--other stuff I’ve done. I also want to change it up a bit and play with different musicians, which is always a fun experience.

Will you tour as a solo act?
I want to. I want to play different kinds of places than I’ve played with Tiger Army. There are probably some rooms that wouldn’t be appropriate for Tiger Army because, really, any place that you can’t slam dance is inappropriate. But I’m looking forward to going into different towns and playing different rooms. There are a couple places from the music circuit in the ‘30s and ‘40s and ‘50s that are removed from the world of rock. I love Tiger Army; it’s my life’s work and it’s definitely not over. I’m just getting excited to do something different and this will give me opportunity to do that. This is far from a whim. It’s basically what I’m going to be doing for the majority, if not all of 2010. And I imagine by the time I do this record and tour it, I’ll be chomping at the bit to do another Tiger Army album. So I’m excited about that, too. Who knows what will happen? In my mind, I see me doing an album with this and tour on it, and then do an album with Tiger Army and tour on it. We’ll just see where it takes me.

Anyplace specific you’d like for it to take you?
I would like to go everywhere with it. We’re going to do the Stagecoach Festival, which is put on by the same people as Coachella. It’s the biggest country music show on the West Coast. It’s probably going to be the first live appearance of Nick 13 in Southern California. I’ll be doing a couple songs at Octoberflame, but it’s not a full set. There’s going to be some stuff that I’m not crazy about [at the Stagecoach Festival] like mainstream country, but there are some really incredible people playing too--like [headliner] Merle Haggard and Ray Price, who is a country singer from the ‘50s. I believe he’s in his eighties now. There’s going to be really good and legit stuff that we’re excited about.

So will you really be thinking about Tiger Army at all until you’re finished touring on your solo project?
These Octoberflame shows are our last of the year. We always have bands from many genres all over the world as support acts. We always go all out. I would hope or like to do Octoberflame for a third year in 2010, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the next thing Tiger Army do. I’d also imagine that around that time, I might be coming off the road from Nick 13 solo and will want to take a little break and start writing the next Tiger Army record.

What do you think Tiger Army fans will think of the solo music?
I think they’ll enjoy it. When I wrote the Tiger Army song “Outlaw Heart” [on 1999’s Tiger Army]--I suppose it was about ’97 or ’98 that I wrote that-and a lot of our audience was really based in the punk scene. I just thought, “You know, this is a country song and everybody’s going to hate this.” But that wasn’t going to stop me from putting it on the record. I didn’t anticipate people would get as crazy about it as they did. I was pleasantly surprised that it’s become a favorite track on the record for a lot of people. This style is already something that our fans know and appreciate from us. There are a lot of Tiger Army fans who I’ve heard are excited about this. By the time we did the song “In The Orchard” on our second album, [2001’s Tiger Army II: Power of Moonlite], there were people suggesting that we do an entire project or record like this. I think fans probably suggested it before it became an idea to me.

Is this what you plan on doing for years down the road?
Unless I get tired of it, yes. But I still enjoy it; I still love playing live. Tiger Army have played a lot of shows and been all over the world. It’s kind of crazy for me when I step back and think about it. I’m very lucky that I’ve always played the music I want to play and people still care. A lot of bands have come and gone since we started; even bands that were really huge when we started aren’t around anymore. I’ve just kind of been doing my own thing, kind of removed from it all. I’m lucky people still care. I would never make a record if I didn’t feel it was something new or something different or felt I had something to say. I would never play live unless it was fun for me. But things haven’t changed in more than 10 years, so as long as that’s the case, I’m going to keep doing it. alt

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