TIGER ARMY'S NICK 13
Interview by Vinnie Baggadonuts
Photograph by Akilla Kojima

SEEING TIGER ARMY AT WARPED TOUR IS SO UNGRATIFYING. I ALWAYS WANT A LONGER SET. THIS FALL, I'LL GET THAT AND THEN SOME, AS NICK 13 AND CO. TREK ACROSS THE U.S. WITH NONE OTHER THAN PUNK ROCK LEGENDS SOCIAL DISTORTION. VINNIE BAGGADONUTS SAT DOWN WITH THE TIGER ARMY FRONTMAN TO TALK ABOUT THE UPCOMING TOUR, THE TIGER ARMY VISION, AND THE GREATEST SPORT IN THE WORLD: PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING.

Vinnie Baggadonuts: I know you've done a few shows with Social Distortion before, but I also know that they're one of the bands you've always wanted to tour with. Are you excited about being on the road with them for two months?

Nick 13: Yeah, definitely. It's going to be one of the biggest tours we've done, in terms of length and in terms of venue size, crowd size, and things like that.

VB: Did you get a chance to hang out with any of them when you played back in the day?

N13: Johnny 2 Bags, the rhythm guitarist, is a friend of mine, and I definitely know Matt Freeman, the bass player from Rancid, who's going to be playing bass with them this tour.

VB: Oh, that's right!

N13: Yeah. And actually, I did meet Mike Ness for, like, two seconds.

Both: (laugh)

N13: But I wouldn't call it "hanging out".

Both: (laugh)

VB: Well, now that you have this dream tour out of the way, I know you want to tour with Morrissey. Is that going to be the next one you chase down?

N13: (laughs) Well, we don't really chase anything down. Luckily, things just sort of come to us. But, if anyone asked, we'd certainly want to do it. (laughs)

VB: So, I have some standard questions I know you've been asked a million times, but I want to know about the album.

N13: Okay.

VB: Overall, how's the reception for III: Ghost Tigers Rise been?

N13: Really good! It seems like some people were a little surprised by it, but a majority of the general responses have been positive.

VB: Is the surprise factor because of the slight change in sound?

N13: I guess. You know, it's funny, spending so much time with the songs in my head as I do, I'm not really as aware of any differences between album sounds as everyone else is. If anything, I listen to the previous albums to practice for tours, and those sound weird to me because they're not how I'd make them sound now.

Both: (laugh)

VB: Is it a hard thing to hear a certain sound in your head, which is so intangible, then go and recreate it physically?

N13: It can be. But sometimes it's the easiest thing in the world. Part of that comes with experience.

VB: Yeah. And when you wrote and recorded this album, did it feel different at all?

N13: Hearing a song in my head that I've written but haven't recorded is much like if you imagine hearing a song you've heard before, but rather than listening to it, you're just playing it back in your head. It's a lot like that. I can say that on this record, it's definitely the closest I've ever come to putting the songs on tape exactly like I hear them in my head.

VB: Wow.

N13: I think it has a lot to do with having been in the studio for so many hours, at this point.

VB: Are you beyond declaring influences now? Because I think you've developed your own sound, at this point. It's really Tiger Army, and nothing else.

N13: Definitely. There really were no direct influences on us for this album. I feel like it definitely became its own thing. You know, there were certain things I was a fan of when we recorded the first record, and I'm sure they're still there, but they really receded in importance into the background. And what it is at the core that's really unique about Tiger Army has really emerged into the forefront.

VB: And you also seem like you weren't really concerned with making every song sound the same. One song might have a more punk sound to it, but the next one would be more rockabilly.

N13: Yeah. Definitely, the albums are made from the perspective that they're a collection of songs that I've written and am proud of. The most important thing is that I like the album, because if I don't, I can't expect anyone else to.

Both: (laugh)

N13: Of course I want other people to like it, but there's a satisfaction in making something you're proud of, and no one can take that away, regardless whether people like it or not. If you made the record you wanted to make, no one can take that away from you.

VB: You didn't produce any of the other Tiger Army records, did you?

N13: Yeah. I produced all of them.

VB: No one else was with you? Man, I feel like an ass. I have them, and I swear this was the first one you solely produced. I had a question based on that!

Both: (laugh)

VB: Well, is that just another part of the conceptual thoroughness of Tiger Army? I mean, the albums, the live show, the video, it's all so conceptually thorough. Is that something you've intended all along, since the very beginning?

N13: I think what you're saying is just a result that I am completely involved in every step of everything we've done, whether it's a video, the album cover, or the album itself. I think the continuity comes from the fact that I'm involved in all of it. I was talking about this to someone last night. The new video we did, it's the first one I actually didn't direct, but the director was very open in letting me have my input.

VB: Well, it didn't seem foreign to what I consider to be Tiger Army. It's really well shot, too.

N13: I'm really happy with how it turned out.

VB: Are you going to work with him more?

N13: Well, there aren't really plans for a second video yet, but that's definitely something I'd like to do.

VB: How hard is it to put videos together for your records?

N13: It really depends. It's a lot of work, especially if you have a limited budget, which we usually do. You're trying to get the highest possible production value out if it, and make it look as good as possible. A lot of times the result is people donating their time or doing favors for you, in terms of loaning equipment. It's a lot more work than you might imagine.

VB: When you do these, how do you come up with the ideas? How did this one come about? Did the director come to you?

N13: The treatment was written by the director, Vince Haycock, and the general concept is his, and we kinda batted it back and forth and refined some things.

VB: What was your first response when you saw the end result?

N13: I was actually seeing edits for it while on Warped Tour, so I was pleased with it all along. I just concerned myself with micro details.

VB: When you started Tiger Army, were you involved with every aspect of it on so intense a level?

N13: (laughs) It was always pretty intense. I mean, obviously, we had a lot less going on when we started. Basically, the band's always been me. Not to say that there aren't a lot of people who've helped from time to time, but it's always something I've wound up being the driving force behind.

VB: Was that just an instinct you developed in the beginning? You didn't attend school for business, did you?

Both: (laugh)

N13: No. A lot of people don't realize Tiger Army started eight years ago, so everything that's happened for us has been a slow, gradual process. You kind of learn as you go along. As far as the creative side, I think it just reflects who I am and the way I create, which is to have a really specific idea about what I want to hear and see. Other people are just helping me actualize that.

VB: I read that you grew up in a really small town, and nobody was really into the things you were into.

N13: Yeah.

VB: Did you always know you wanted to be in a band, and was it your driving force out of that town?

N13: Pretty much. And, yeah, the idea for the band definitely goes back to my teens. There was nothing other than music for me to focus on, so that's how it happened.

VB: Do you ever go back to your hometown, having achieved what you've achieved, to tell kids in a similar situation to the one you were growing up in that there's hope? Like, "Hey, there's hope! You can get out of here and do something that you want to do!"

N13: I actually don't get back there a whole lot. I'd like to, because my parents still live there. But things get really busy between touring and recording. The last time I was there was Christmas of last year, and that will probably be the same for this year.

VB: So, after this Social Distortion tour is done, are you off for the holidays for a few months? Will you be jumping into a headlining tour then?

N13: Yeah. We basically have December off. We're supposed to tour the U.K. in January, and there's a headlining tour being planned in April or May.

VB: Is any of that to support the Hellcat DVD that's coming out?

N13: No. It'd be nice if they came out around the same time, but I don't think they are.

VB: Are you guys on the DVD a great deal? What is it, exactly?

N13: I know there's live performance footage on it. The show we shot for it was in early 2002, but it's Tim Armstrong's thing, and he's always so busy with other projects.

VB: Is doing something like Tim did with Hellcat something you could see yourself doing down the road?

N13: (laughs) No, not really. Running a record label is an insane amount of work. The majority of my time goes into doing Tiger Army. I couldn't picture not doing the band. If years from now I achieved everything I wanted to achieve, and I wanted to move on and do something else, I guess that might be one of the things. But to be honest, it's a really foreign idea to me.

VB: What are some of those things in the future you'd like to achieve with Tiger Army?

N13: There are a lot of things we have done, but there are certain things I'd like to do. With all the touring we've done, we actually haven't done a full U.S. headlining tour. There are definitely certain countries I want to get to, which we haven't. And I really want to get to a point where we have a pretty decent sized catalog for people to get into. I don't know why, but I think there'd be a real satisfaction in having five or six albums. It would be really cool to be one of these bands like Rancid or Social Distortion, who are institutions in that they've made a pretty decent contribution to music.

VB: Well, I know you're big into film. Have you ever approached trying to do music for one? Has anyone approached you about it?

N13: Not really. It's definitely something I'd be interested in, because I'm so interested in cinema. There are definitely certain things I would love to happen. One thing I would love to see is some of our music used in a David Lynch film.

VB: Oh, man.

N13: It's probably not going to happen, but I would love it if it did.

Both: (laugh)

VB: Is there anything you have been approached about that is so totally weird, that you've turned it down?

N13: There are certain things we get requests to use our music in, and they kind of conflict with the band's aesthetic, so we just pass on that stuff.

VB: Now, I stumbled upon something very interesting. You seem to be big fans of something that we, here, are also huge fans of: WWE. Would you like to have a Tiger Army song be that one chosen song for a WWE Pay-Per-View?

Both: (laugh)

N13: Now there's an example! I would totally be into that! That would not be a problem.

VB: When I saw the link on your site, and read another interview where you talked about it, I was blown away! It seems like nobody admits to liking wrestling, and I don't know why!

N13: (laughs)

VB: Everybody acts like they're so ashamed of it, but deep down I know they all love it.

N13: (laughs) Yeah, it's definitely not something people put out there a whole lot.

VB: Why is that?!?

N13: I dunno. It's hard to say. (laughs)