Interview with Tiger Army (Nick 13) on July 24, 2004 in Chicago, IL on the Warped Tour
- by Jeff Wegner, and Mike Cropp for www.epunk-

On July 24th in Chicago at The Warped Tour I had the pleasure to sit down with Nick from Tiger Army to discuss his new record, the bands' beginnings and where he would like to see punk/rockabilly/ psychobilly in the music scene among other things. I was pretty nervous going into the interview because it's always touch and go with bigger bands in the ability to conduct a serious interview rather than asking questions like, "What did you eat today?" and "How's the weather?", but I found Nick to be very down to earth and extremely well spoken and ended up giving me one of my favorite interviews to date. Here's how the interview went...

Jeff: The first thing I want to ask is how did you guys start out? What kind of shows were you playing?

Nick 13: Basically when we started in 95/96 there was no psychobilly scene whatsoever in the United States. I mean there were a few band here and there, but I mean there were probablly about 5 bands in the whole States at the time spread out through the entire country. So basically the decision was do we wanna play shows in the rockabilly scene or do we wanna play shows in the punk scene. We felt that the punk scene a little bit closer to where we were coming from in terms of the attitude and spirit of it. I definitely love 50's rockabilly music, but there's a lot of things that sprung up in the modern rockabilly scene...a dress code, certain musical boundaries that you had to conform to and not step outside of and that wasn't our thing. So really from the beginning of the band until the present day we've played with all kinds of different bands whether that's shows or tours or us picking the bands or going on tours with other people. Everyone from punk bands, Oi bands, hardcore bands, straight up rockabilly bands, psychobilly bands and I personally think it's cool to mix it up like that cause I listen to all that stuff.

Jeff: I noticed on your bio that you played the Hootenany in 2002 I guess it was...Do you find that your fanbase is more of an older crowd or do you get more younger listeners?

Nick 13: Umm, really it spans a pretty wide spectrum which I think is cool. We have our share of teenagers in our fanbase which I think is cool because I'd rather see kids getting into Tiger Army or psychobilly or old school punk rather than a lot of stuff that's out there now like the whole emo/screamo/post-hardcore whatever thing...I don't find a lot in that, that I enjoy. And at the same time there are people who are 25, 30 and 40 who are more fans of older bands like The Cramps, Social Distortion or things like that, that hear something they like in our music even though they don't like a lot of newer bands. So I think it's cool that it runs kinda the whole spectrum in terms of age.

Jeff: Now that you are on a semi-major label do you have any aspirations or anything that you want to work towards or have you attained the goals that you had set when you first started?

Nick 13: I would say that we've definitely achieved a lot of the goals we had when we first started, but you always get new ones. Ideally it's something that has always grown from the start and ideally it will continue to grow because our real goal is just to be able to make a living doing what we love which is playing music. And as long as that continues to happen then things are successful in my eyes, but that's not to say that we don't want new people to check us out, that we don't wanna continue to grow, but I feel that we can. We're not gonna change what we do to achieve that end, but as far as like would I like to be played on the radio...yeah I would. I'd rather that more good music was getting played on the radio, which I think has been in the last year or two. Definitely when nu-metal was the thing radio was totally unlistenable, but there have been eras when cool music got played on the radio and hopefully we'll be a part of that if it happens.

Jeff: Do you see that happening anytime soon? You look at MTV and you see atleast garage-rock, something new considering that MTV has been playing rap for the past 10 years. Do you see a time that rockabilly and psychobilly could be even more mainstream than it is now?

Nick 13: Well, I think at this point psychobilly is so underground even by the standards of punk. I think there have been cool punk bands that have been played on MTv and on the radio which is not to say that even band that gets called punk that's played on the radio or MTV is punk, but I don't think the two are mutually exclusive for punk or for psychobilly. Certainly if you go back to the beginnings of the genre a lot of bands at the beginning of punk were on major labels like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, etc. and the same is true for psychobilly. I don't think that it will be truely mainstream...

Jeff: I mean somewhat more popular than it is...

Nick 13: Yeah, I'd like to see it grow in popularity to the point where it's achieved atleast a fraction of the awareness that punk has.

Jeff: You're on tour with a bunch of emo and screamo you find yourself isolated from the rest of the people on the tour do you have a little clique that you tend to stick with?

Nick 13: For one thing, I think this is our 5th show on the tour. One thing I found is that people are pretty cool in general. One thing I found is that there is certain people who will be fans of say Tiger Army that I wouldn't expect to be based on the type of music that they play. And there is a lot of that stuff on this tour which I mentioned isn't my thing, but then there aren't a lot of bands that fit into that. There's The Casualties, Flogging Molly, Lars Fredericksen and the Bastards; there are a lot of bands that don't fit into that whole thing and we're definitely one of them.

Jeff: What are your plans for the rest of the year after the Warped Tour? Are they doing the Punks Vs. Psychos tour again?

Nick 13: Well, that just happened in the spring and we did about 30 shows on that in the States. We'll definitely be on the road this fall. We might do a headlining tour of the US which if that happens that will be all of October and November, and there's also a possibility that we might go out supporting another band which would start in late September if that happens. Either way we'll be on the road basically for the rest of the year.

Jeff: What kind of bands would you like to tour with if you had your choice?

Nick 13: If the headlining tour happens the band who will be opening that we will bring with us is a band called 12 Step Rebels and they're a psychobilly band from New Mexico. As far as a support band we haven't figured that out yet... probably something that's not psychobilly, maybe change it up a little bit.

Jeff: Do you wanna talk about what it's like to be on the Warped Tour...I mean you've only been on it for 5 shows, but I mean the general gist of what it's like to be on a huge festival tour like this.

Nick 13: Well, it's kinda strange. We've done quite a bit of touring at this point and I can say there's definitely not another tour that I've ever been on that's anything like this. You can play at any time during the day which is weird. You generally find out at about 10am when yer gonna go on. Like for example yesterday in Cleveland we went on at 11:50am. Everyone: *laughs*

Jeff: So does that deter from partying the night before or...

Nick 13: Well in general we're not really a party band.

Jeff: I heard that Fat Mike has poker tournaments at night...

Nick 13: There's definitely partying that goes on, but for me personally my main focus on tour is taking care of my boys and being able to play well and do a good show and that's really when I'm having my fun, when I'm on stage and pretty much the way I live the rest of the time is kinda keeping that in mind. We're on a bus for basically the first time with this tour which you kinda have to be due to the way it's routed. There's basically 8-hour drives every night and the load-in is at 8 in the morning. We have done it in a van, we did 15 shows on the 2002 Warped Tour and it's not too much fun. On Warped you do your set and I always try to do interviews if there are any, we do a signing every day for whoever wants to meet us at one of the tents...maybe Epitaph or maybe another one. A lot of the rest of your time gets taken up by trying to find a place to take a shower or standing in line to eat or whatever and really when I'm not doing that I'm probably watching cable on the bus. I don't have cable at home so I just hang out on the bus.

Jeff: You come from a psychobilly background...what kind of vehicle do you drive?

Nick 13: *laughs*

Nick 13: Actually the car you drive is a lot more connected to rockabilly.

Jeff: How about you personally?

Nick 13: I drive a two-door Honda V6.

Jeff: What's your dream car?

Nick 13: I don't know...maybe an Acura V6. To me, I'm like more into function...maybe like a BMW. Something that definitely performs. Because the pschobilly scene started in Europe, a lot of psychbillys over there don't even have cars or these have these little boxy cars and what kinda car you drive is definitely more of a rockabilly thing. I have 50's guitars and it's kinda that or a 50's car. The guitars is more my thing.

Jeff: Tell me about the new record.

Nick 13: That just came out about, I guess three weeks ago and it's by far my favorite thing that we've ever put out.

Mike: Well that's good, it should be.

Nick 13: Yeah, I think it's funny sometimes you can tell when a band starts making records just to tour. I don't know...maybe we'll reach that point someday, but to me I almost feel like I'd rather pack it in when I'm making records that I'm excited about and feel like there's something new there or something that's...

Mike: Well like you said that the part of the fun for you while being on tour was playing your music, that would take part of that away.

Nick 13: Yeah. I will say that I don't enjoy recording. The process is very important to me, maybe too important. Maybe that's why I don't enjoy it, but you know creating something and putting something out there that I'm really proud of is probably the most important thing to me. But it's not fun like playing live's definitely a lot more like work.

Jeff: How long did it take for the last record to record, mix and master?

Nick 13: We spent probably 4 months.

Mike: Are you a perfectionist then?

Nick 13: Yeah. *laughs*

Mike: Well you gotta be.

Nick 13: Yeah, I'm definitely a perfectionist. You know, on the one hand that's not always good, but on the other hand I really don't know any other way to do it that I'd be happy with.

Jeff: I read that Lars had gotten a copy of your demo or something along those lines and that's how you got hooked up with Hellcat Records?

Nick 13: Yeah, that was actually Tim Armstrong. We had done some demos in '96/very early '97...a couple different sessions, and a friend of ours got it to Tim for us and he basically just called me up and said, "I really like this demo and I wanna do a record with you guys." So that was pretty awesome.

Jeff: Before that did you basically do your records yourself and pay for everything yourself?

Nick 13: Our first release was just like a 7" EP and a friend of ours put that out for us. Two friends of ours had like a small kinda like bedroom label. It's funny because when that came out that was the very beginning of '97 and I think people still bought 7"s. It's funny because I did a band for two years, a punk band, between '91 and '93 and the whole time we were around we couldn't find anyone to put out a 7" for us and we didn't have the money to put it out. Not that it was that much to put it out, but we just didn't have it and within the first few months of Tiger Army we had like 3 offers to do 7"s which that was funny.

Jeff: Just one of those things where you're in the right place at the right time?

Nick 13: That I think and I think more people started labels.

Jeff: Well, thank you very much for sitting down with us.

Nick 13: No problem, thank you.

Many thanks to Jeff Wegner for allowing us to post this!

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