In the short span of one year’s time, California psychobilly band Tiger Army have gone from playing small clubs, to supporting Social Distortion on a high profile tour, to headlining a tour of their own. I sat down with the man responsible for the music, Nick 13, before their Orlando show at the House of Blues, to find out a bit more about the nuances of Tiger Army.
First of all, I love the new record…
I notice it’s a lot slower than the one before that, is that intentional?
Yeah, I think so… I think it was intentional to some degree, I definitely am proud of all of our albums but I felt with Power of Moonlite that there were certain subtleties that existed in the songwriting in my mind that didn’t make it to the record, and a lot of that was because it was played so fast that there wasn’t room for that stuff to physically fit. So that was part of the thing with Ghost Tigers Rise, that I wanted to play the songs at a speed that I could actually include a lot of those subtleties and nuances that are in my head other than just having them glossed over on the record.
So you write all of the music as well as the lyrics?
Wow. And I’ve noticed you’ve gone through a lot of bandmember changes after what with happened to Fred [Three years ago drummer Fred Hell was shot several times when he walked in on a burglary at a friend’s apartment. Fred miraculously survived, but still has a bullet lodged in his head.] Is he gonna be coming back to the band, eventually?
He still has that bullet in his head?
God. That’s insane… Has it been going well with the new guys?
It’s been great. The first tour we did with this lineup [was] last September when we went on tour with Social Distortion, and I think… Well, it’s funny cause I say “the new guys” but at this point this lineup has done 75 shows, or something like that. So they’re not that new anymore. But anyway, Jeff and James have done an amazing job, and I’m actually happier than I’ve ever been with how the band sounds.
That’s excellent. Actually, I saw you guys when you were here with Social D. last time, and that was really cool because I had tickets for the night that Social D. cancelled and you and The Explosion went ahead and did a free show for everybody when you could’ve just taken the night off. What made you decide to do that?
Well, I had a really good time when we played at The Social in Orlando, about a year ago now. Orlando is probably my favorite place to play in Florida, and I felt that it would be a fun show — ’cause it was a really fun show at The Social. So we went ahead and did the show, and it was really cool. I think everyone had a good time anyway.
Oh yeah, everyone was bummed that the show was cancelled and then everyone got to come inside and have a show. Another thing I’m curious about is, what are your influences? Was there any one band or artist that made you say “I wanna do that!”?
Gosh, I don’t think there was any one in particular… Maybe The Ramones, they were definitely really important in my guitar playing. Johnny Ramone’s guitar style was so simple yet so cool. Ya know, when you’re a little kid you might be into something that you hear on record, on the radio, but the idea that you could play that — something that’s slickly produced and mastered and instrumentally advanced — it doesn’t seem realistic that you could play that. But there was something about The Ramones that was definitely really cool, but there was nothing going on instrumentally where you thought “I could never do that.” That was kind of an inspiration to pick up the guitar and try to it myself, I think.
And what made you go the rockabilly/psychobilly type of route?
Well, I think that a lot of the punk bands that I was initially drawn to, the 1970s/early ’80s bands from both the U.S. and England, that have that kind of connection with the original 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. It came through in their spirit and their sound. Definitely The Ramones, the Sex Pistols — stuff like that — and I think that and the fact that I always loved the ’50s rock ‘n’ roll I heard growing up. I saw punk as an extension of the same thing. So a little later on, when I was a teenager, I went back and kind of explored some of the roots of that — the original rockabilly artists. Basically as far as psychobilly goes, when I started hearing some of the psychobilly out of Europe it seemed like a very natural combination of the stuff that I was already into.
Cool. Well, I don’t want to take up much more of your time.
So, have a good show.
Tiger Army: www.tigerarmy.com