DFW Music News

Nick 13 on the Similarities Between Country and Punk: "They Are Both About Pure Emotion."

Best known as the leader of the psychobilly outfit Tiger Army, Nick 13 took a bold step by releasing a solo album of traditional, old-school country back in June. 

No longer content to wallow in the retro-rock and punk stew of his own band, Nick apparently decided to go way back and listen to the classic country sounds of the Grand Ole Opry. The resulting, self-titled album drips with hillbilly authenticity. Songs like "Nashville Winter" and "Restless Moon" sound like songs from another time and that's exactly the intent. 

Speaking from his home in Los Angeles, and in anticipation of Thursday's night performance at Dada, Nick 13 talked to DC9 about his new direction and what it might mean for the future of Tiger Army.

Why did you decide to do a straight up country album?
I've been a fan of traditional country music for a long time. I think my music draws on a lot of elements and country music is just one of them. I think all of Tiger Army's albums have some country influence on them. The more country-influenced songs were always some of my favorites to play live. Fans started asking me if I would do an entire record in that style. It was an idea that rattled around in my head for a long time. I got more and more interested in doing it. Country music has a rich tradition, especially from the '20 to the '60.

Do you say that because most country from the '70 to now kind of sucks?
[Laughs.] They certainly don't make them like they used to. Not that there aren't a lot of great artists in the Americana world making great country music. These people are just kind of hidden. I mean, Dale Watson, he should be on the radio all the time, but he is essentially some kind of underground singer. Stuff like Dale Watson should be the mainstream of country, but it's not.

There are several key cuts on the new album such as "Nashville Winter" and "101." Is the latter just your classic driving song?

That song obviously draws a lot, musically, from the Bakersfield Sound. Everybody knows that Texas and Tennessee are the centers of country music, but California is right up there. I'd like to remind people of that, remind everybody that the West Coast Sound is a great sound. Lyrically, "101" is about me being from a really small town and driving into Los Angeles. That same freeway, the 101, runs between the two places.

Could these new songs be played in the context of Tiger Army?

I think so. A song like "Restless Moon" is pretty rocking, so that one would be easy. Tiger Army covers a lot of ground. The fans are not thrown off by a country song.

Is there a reason why the album was released by Sugar Hill Records, a label associated with Americana?

Yes, that was definitely a conscious decision. We felt that putting it out on a rock or indie label was something that people might expect. We knew that the Tiger Army fans would check it out regardless of the label. Because it's not a rock-influenced record and it's not a heavy record, we wanted reach some new people who listen to another type of music. Sugar Hill really seemed to get what I was doing.

The record has a very authentic, old-school country vibe. Did it take a lot of work to achieve that sound?

That kind of just grew out of how much time I took making it. To say I did research makes it sound like something I had to do. I wanted to get drawn into that world so deeply. I wanted to get into the history of country. I watched videos of the Grand Ole Opera from the '50s. I went to Nashville and checked out a lot of great music. I got drawn so deeply into that world that the record took so long to record. All that experience ended up on the album.

On this tour, you're basically playing the entire new album. How do you fill out the set list?

We do a few covers. We basically do the whole new record. It turns out just about right. We do "Outlaw Heart" from Tiger Army quite a bit. Of course, both "Cupid's Victim" and "In the Orchard" are on the record and they are Tiger Army songs as well.

Social Distortion's Mike Ness has made solo country albums and I know you are a big fan of both he and his band. You're also a huge Misfits fan. When do you think we can expect a country album from Glenn Danzig?

[Laughs.] You'd have to ask him!

But you have toured with Danzig in the past, right?

Well, that was [my friends] in the band AFI. We had the drummer for Samhain play in Tiger Army for a while.

Of course, Danzig and the Misfits are hugely influential on Tiger Army...

The Misfits were definitely a big influence growing up. One of the things that always drew me to them was that they were drawing on 1950s rock 'n' roll and rockabilly. That was always making me want to go backwards. Listening to the Misfits, X, the Ramones. Even the Pistols and the Damned, British acts, had the '50s rock 'n' roll energy. It was just a little more revved up.

Will there be another Tiger Army album?

I think so. I am just figuring out this solo thing right now. The sound of Tiger Army has evolved with every record we have made. Playing solo is part of that evolution.

Is there some kind of cosmic connection between country and punk?

Yes, there is. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find two genres that are more emotionally honest. Whether it is punk from the '70s or honky-tonk from the '50s, they are both about pure emotion. They are both the real deal.

Nick 13 performs Thursday, September 14 at Dada

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers